Teach us to see

2 Corinthians 5:14-16
14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;
15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.

Love does not see the faults and weaknesses of others. If you love and care for someone, one can overlook their faults. You don’t even see them.  The adage ‘love is blind’ has some truth to it.  On the other hand, if you don’t like someone or even hate them, you will have no trouble seeing their faults. In fact, their faults are all that you will see.

I recently coached a volleyball team where one of the players and her mom had taken up an offense with three other players on the team, and had begun labeling them as bullies.  After a particularly difficult match, their judgments and wounds surfaced in the form of anger, tears, and blame. Both the daughter and the mom had been nursing a wound for months and had become bitter. I counseled the mother and daughter to forgive them, but they couldn’t hear me through their shared offense.  Ultimately, they ended up leaving the team as they were unable to forgive.

In seeking to understand the situation, the Holy Spirit took me to this verse.

Hebrews 12:15
15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

Even though I didn’t want to share in their offense, I inadvertently began to see the faults of these three players and began to lose the ability to see their good qualities.  I lost the ability to love them.  In the player and mom airing their judgement of the players as bullies, I became defiled by it.

There is a Hebrew idiom that talks about whether your eye is good or bad (Matthew 6:22-23).

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.
23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!”

This idiom of contrasting a good eye – ‘ayin tov’ with a bad eye – ‘ayin rah’ applies to someone’s attitude towards others.  A good eye or one that is ‘single’ is one who sees generously.  A good or single eye is an eye which sees the treasure and value in people and does not really ‘see’ their faults.  A bad eye or one that is ‘stingy’ is one who sees critically and sees the faults and makes assessments and judgment of others.

We see this same reference in Proverbs 22:9.

He who has a generous eye will be blessed, For he gives of his bread to the poor.

The reference to a generous eye in Hebrew is the same, ‘ayin tov’, or a good eye.  The eye represents the condition of the heart.

Certainly this refers back to Deuteronomy 15:7-11, which deals with our heart towards those in need.  Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Adonai Jireh (Genesis 22-14) has been unfortunately translated as the ‘God who provides’ instead of the ‘God who will see’.  When God sees our need, He will respond.  In this regard, we are called to be like God.

How will we see?  Will we see a persons’ need and good qualities through a good eye or will we see through a critical lens?

Recently at a spiritual retreat, a good friend of mine shared that “any time, we are walking in judgement of someone, fear, or anger, we have stepped out of love and are walking in darkness.”

I would suggest to you that statement is true, and encourage you to search the scriptures to confirm it.

1 John 1:7
7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

What are the antidotes to seeing in the flesh and making a bitter root judgment?  There are at least two.  Forgiveness and the sober warning not to walk in judgment.

What most of us miss are the words Jesus spoke right after teaching us how to pray.

Matthew 6:14-15
14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.
15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.”

And

Matthew 7:1-2
1 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.
2 For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

The name Daniel means God is my judge.  Humility is required to let God be judge instead of ourselves.  Without humility, we won’t find favor with God (James 4:6).

The call to each of us is to not see through the eyes of judgment (the flesh), but rather to see generously and see the way that God sees a person and their need.

As an application, I would ask God this question, “How would you like me to see this person in light of their need?”

The one who walks in the light walks in love.

LORD, help us to see the way that you see.

 

The Heart of a Servant

 

Phillipians 2:4-7

4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,
6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.
7 Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.
 

Susan Cain writes in her book “Quiet”, that in the early 1900s we shifted from an age of character to an age of personality.  It takes time to get to know someone’s character and understand their heart.  I’ve found that those who inspire me are either authentically thankful people, or they demonstrate their genuine love for Jesus and desire to serve him with their lives.

 

Recently, I learned of a common misunderstanding in scripture from Pastor Dave Love (Calvary Castle Rock).  This misunderstanding comes from a poor translation of Hebrew into English.  The context is that the Hebrew people were in slavery in Egypt for 400 years and that Moses was to be their ambassador for God’s deliverance.  Moses is instructed to speak the following to Pharaoh:

 

Exodus 7:16
16 Tell him: Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to tell you: Let My people go, so that they may worship Me in the wilderness, but so far you have not listened.

 

 The word poorly translated as “worship” numerous times in the book of Exodus does not mean to worship, but rather comes from the Hebrew word “avad” meaning to “serve“ [H5647].  The word has common undertones of bond-service and a master/slave relationship, including the ear as a symbol of their allegiance.  The picture of a bond-slave was given right after the commandments were given to the Israelites in Exodus 21, which I believe emphasizes their importance (i.e. now that I’ve set you free, this is the kind of relationship I want with you).  However, the heart of the instructions come out more clearly in Deuteronomy.

 

Deuteronomy 15:12-17
12 “If your fellow Hebrew, a man or woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, you must set him free in the seventh year.
13 When you set him free, do not send him away empty-handed.
14 Give generously to him from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. You are to give him whatever the LORD your God has blessed you with.
15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you; that is why I am giving you this command today.
16 But if your slave says to you, ‘I don’t want to leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and is well off with you,
17 take an awl and pierce through his ear into the door, and he will become your slave for life. Also treat your female slave the same way.

 

What was offered to the Hebrew in trouble and what is offered to us is this:  You have tried to go it alone, but are not doing very well.  Do you trust me to take better care of you as your master than you can do for yourself?  This is what God offered the Hebrew people after setting them free from slavery in Egypt (the world).  The same offer is given to us.

 

I can set you free from your slavery to sin and the world (Egypt).  I can give you a better life, although the way may not always be easy.  Do you trust me to be your master (Father) and provide for your needs?  If you have seen my goodness, will you trust me to care for you?  Will you pledge your allegiance to me?  Will you try to do what pleases me (serve)?

 

I get it.  If we haven’t seen the goodness of God due to life circumstances, we may not be ready to trust (Exodus 6:9).  Recently, God did a miraculous change in my heart and marriage, which has given me hope for the future.  Before this, I didn’t have this hope as an anchor for my soul.  If God can heal my heart and enable me to love, He can do anything.

 

In our self-sufficient culture, the term slave is foreign to us, and yet affects us all with the choices we make on a moment by moment basis.

 

Romans 6:16-18
16 Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey – either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness?
17 But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred to,
18 and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.

 

The point of this article is not merely about choices and serving, but rather that out of love and gratitude, we can give or serve cheerfully.  We can look at the character and the heart of Ruth in scripture as an example.

 

Ruth 2:11-13
11 Boaz answered her, “Everything you have done for your mother-in-law since your husband’s death has been fully reported to me: how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and how you came to a people you didn’t previously know.
12 May the LORD reward you for what you have done, and may you receive a full reward from the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”
13 “My lord,” she said, “you have been so kind to me, for you have comforted and encouraged your slave, although I am not like one of your female servants.”

 

Peter after his restoration, James, and Jude all called themselves slaves to Christ.  Peter eventually recognized that it wasn’t about his efforts but trusting God to do what only He can do.  Peter learned to trust.

 

Going back to our original text, Jesus took the form of the lowest slave in the household when he offered to wash his disciples’ feet.  The servants with the better positions would do things like prepare food and serve the master’s immediate needs.  The doorman would be responsible for cleaning the feet of the “important people” who got dirty with dust and the dung of walking in this world.  A lot of people don’t recognize that Jesus laid down His right to be God and God-like when He walked this earth.  He wasn’t omniscient, wasn’t omnipotent, and wasn’t omnipresent.  Even more importantly, he didn’t come to be served, but came to serve, which isn’t very God-like at all.

 

Jesus modeled a new concept of what God is like.  That God is love.  That God came to serve the needs of people out of love.  I told some friends of mine recently, that if I get to the end of my life and I am all alone and have failed to love, I have failed at life.  My life would be nothing more than a clanging gong.  A number of prophetic messengers have said that there is only one question that will matter in eternity, “did you learn to love?”

 

Serving is a picture of love.

 

The four-part believer

While at a conference recently, I heard a response that those who believe that Yeshua is LORD, are not three-part beings, but four.  This is not what the traditions of men have taught.  I thought I would search the scriptures to see if this were true.

The idea of a four-part being helps make sense of the following text:

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

Why would our spirit need to be sanctified if this was the same thing as Holy Spirit?  No, this text from Paul only makes sense with the idea that everyone is born with a human spirit, but not everyone has the Holy Spirit living inside them.

This transformation happens the moment we accept and believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough for us to be saved (2 Corinthians 5:17).  As a result, a personal prayer transacted in communion might read something like this.  “This is my body, LORD.  I recognize and thank you that I am now part of your body, accepted by you and a part of you.  You live in me as evidence that I have accepted your body, broken for me.”

One of my prayers for many years has been that “I submit my body and soul to my spirit, and I submit my spirit to you, Holy Spirit.  Have your way in me.”

We as transformed beings are four-part beings, body, soul, spirit, and God.  Christ IN you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Let’s look at a passage in the book of Daniel that has been relegated as historical, but that I believe has prophetic symbolism, pointing to a life in Christ.

To set up the story, let’s look at the context and the meaning of the players in Hebrew.

The context of the story is that the Chaldeans were bringing charges against the Jews, and a Babylonian king, named Nebuchadnezzar had made a golden image of himself, demanding that everyone fall down and worship it.  If all the people didn’t bow down and worship the image, the penalty was to be thrown into a fiery furnace.

Daniel’s three friends refused to worship this “god,” and as a result would have to pass through fire.

Daniel – God is my judge (Belteshazzar)
Hananiah – God has favored (Shadrach)
Mishael – Who is what God is, rule of God (Meshach)
Azariah – God has helped (Abednego)

Babylon – means “confusion by mixing”

Like Bablyon, I believe the new pagan names (Shadrach, Meschach, Abednego) were given to Daniel and his friends to cause them to lose their sense of identity and to forget their connection with God.

Like Daniel and his three friends, I believe we are appointed as overseers over chaos to bring God’s Kingdom order, but it may cost us to get there.

23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisers, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?”  “Yes, of course, Your Majesty,” they replied to the king.
25 He exclaimed, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of God.”

The fourth is like a “son of God.”

I believe that this is a prophetic picture of starting as three-part beings and in trusting God to save us, we become four-part beings.  They passed from death to life, trusting in the power of God to resurrect them.

The king ordered that the furnace be made seven times hotter.  Why?  Seven is the number of fullness and completion.  I believe that seven, in this context, shows that this was a complete work.  Jesus taught that our works would be tested, as if by fire.  Only what is of God would survive a trial by fire.  That which is more precious than gold was their faith (1 Peter 1:7).

28 Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent His angel and rescued His servants who trusted in Him. They violated the king’s command and risked their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
29 Therefore I issue a decree that anyone of any people, nation, or language who says anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump. For there is no other god who is able to deliver like this.”

I believe Christ was the fourth in the fire.  If Christ is in you, the revealing will convict the world, just like it did to Nebuchadnezzar.

Godly sorrow producing repentance

Godly sorrow producing repentance (a personal testimony)

2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV) Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

I don’t know how all of this works, but I believe that this was the verse that the Holy Spirit brought me to, after God did His work in me.  I testify to His work.

The Greek word for repentance is  ‘metanoia’ which means to change one’s mind.

Many people have worldly sorrow, or regret over the things that they either did or didn’t do during their lifetimes.  However, without a change of mind, they would not have done things any differently.

I have been married for twenty years, but until this turning point, I would not have told you “happily married,” as the fairy tales have proclaimed.

Over the years, my heart had become bitter and business-like without much heart-felt affection towards my wife.

At one point a few years ago, my wife and I were going through a marriage video series together.  During this time, I communicated my “non-negotiable” needs for regular intimacy with my wife.  To my surprise, the well of intimacy dried up, really in both of us.  Was this because I had not learned to be content with what I had?  Maybe.  I went through life trying to make the best of it, but inside I was not happy.

Hebrews 12:15
15 Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.

I had noticed over the past three to five years a lack of patience with people at work.  Even more so than usual, knowing that my overall life happiness probably had something to do with it.

On January 4th, 2016, I expressed my frustration to my wife on how much I felt ripped off.  I felt like there was more affection and passion before we were married than after.  I  also expressed how I have  been “miserable for the last twenty years.”

While my wife was listening to me, I believe the Holy Spirit asked me this question, “what if you have been a miserable person these last twenty years?”  After this, I realized that I have had a choice as to whether to have been miserable or not.  I blamed my wife for my misery.  Hmmm, where have we seen that pattern before?  I began to see this same pattern in my grandma and grandpa, and many other marriages.  I wondered how many other marriages were like this.  I didn’t want to keep being miserable.  I want to enjoy the time I have left on earth.  I confessed that I had been a miserable person for the past twenty years to my wife.

After this confession, the cold bitter wall that had built up in my heart came down, restoring affection and love in our marriage.  It was truly only something God could do.  Holy Spirit led me to the understanding that what just happened was Godly sorrow leading to a change of mind (2 Cor 7).  I believe Godly sorrow that leads to repentance has these key elements:

1) Honest confession of your true feelings (light can not come in when emotions are trapped in darkness)
2) A realization of the part you have played
3) A change of mind
4) Reconcilation of hearts

Where I had no hope for the future with my wife and my life as a whole, I now have hope.

I had always felt like there was more on the following scripture than I could fathom, but I thought that the text was for those “other” bitter people, and not for me.

Exodus 15:22-27
22 Then Moses led Israel on from the Red Sea, and they went out to the Wilderness of Shur. They journeyed for three days in the wilderness without finding water.
23 They came to Marah, but they could not drink the water at Marah because it was bitter – that is why it was named Marah.
24 The people grumbled to Moses, “What are we going to drink?”
25 So he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he threw it into the water, the water became drinkable. He made a statute and ordinance for them at Marah and He tested them there.
26 He said, “If you will carefully obey the LORD your God, do what is right in His eyes, pay attention to His commands, and keep all His statutes, I will not inflict any illnesses on you that I inflicted on the Egyptians. For I am Yahweh who heals you.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were 12 springs of water and 70 date palms, and they camped there by the waters.

The contrast between Marah (bitterness) and Elim  (palms), represent the bitterness that occurs when our flesh doesn’t get what it wants, versus waiting for God’s provision in His way and timing.  I believe Elim was a place of healing, after moving past the place of Marah.

I wonder how long the Israelites were tested at Marah.  I wonder how many marriages are stuck at Marah.  Ask the Healer of Hearts to do what only He can do.

Meaning of Christmas

 

I know I am in the minority, but for a number of years, I have struggled with Christmas.

First of all, let us be clear. Jesus was a Torah keeping Jew. There are no ordinances described in scripture for keeping either Christmas or Easter. In fact, both of these Holidays have pagan roots with respect to their origin and traditions. There is an ordinance about keeping Passover, but the church has lost touch with its Hebraic roots, in my opinion.

I have learned that I am not one who easily goes along with traditions without understanding the reasons why we are doing something. I have always needed to know the “why” before I can be onboard.

I have learned that I don’t want to be a “Scrooge,” nor do I want to be negative or critical. However, I do want to be authentic and I do want to be sincere.

Philippians 4:8 teaches us to focus on what is true, what is good, and what is worthy of praise. So does love for that matter.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

As I have wrestled this internal conflict this year, I have come to understand that the cross of Christ is the central event of scripture. His supernatural entry into Mary’s virgin womb made a way for that to happen, but this is an entryway into the incarnation of God for humanity and not the culmination of God’s story.

If I can’t give praise for trees, ornaments, gifts, and shopping, what can I give genuine praise about?

I can be thankful that God sent his Son into the world for me. That is the greatest gift I can ever receive. God cared enough to give me the greatest gift of all. The gift of love.

Of course, this gift is not for me alone, but for you, too. Will you discover this gift this year?

John 3:16-17
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

I believe that this is the message we should be focused on. 1 John 4:19 teaches us that we love because He first loved us. In knowing how much we are loved, we will care more for ourselves and for one another.

What could be more important than that?

I don’t know what day of the year, his birth actually fell on, but that isn’t that important when compared to love entering the world in order to redeem it.

If Christmas is to be about anything, I want it to be about being thankful. I want to be thankful for the Father’s gift of life for me. I want Christmas to be a time of reflection and thanksgiving, focused on Jesus. When our focus is there, we can love out of an overflow, not out of meeting or managing the expectations of others.

Take the time to know that you are loved. When you get it, please pay it forward.

Be loved this Christmas…

 

Markers of His Love

 

Isaiah 49:14-16

Zion says, “The LORD has abandoned me;
The Lord has forgotten me!”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or lack compassion for the child of her womb?
Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.
Look, I have inscribed (H2710)  you on the palms of My hands;
your walls are continually before Me.”

The apostle Paul exhorts us to put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:15).  When I gird my loins with the belt of truth, I remember to thank God for His love and that He will never leave me nor forsake me.  That helps me remember to abide in His love (John 15:9).

In our initial text, Isaiah uses the Hebrew root “Chaqaq,” meaning to inscribe or engrave.  I believe Isaiah is seeing prophetically into the future where Christ would have spikes driven into his hands as marks of His love for us.  Just a few chapters later, Isaiah would prophesy that he would be pierced for our transgressions (Isa 53:5).  The holes in his hands and wound in his side serve as everlasting reminders of His love for us.

Like Thomas in the gospel account of John, many of us doubt the love of God.  We need to have an experience in order to believe in God’s love for us.

John 20:26-28
26 After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace to you!”
27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.
28 Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

After Thomas’ experience, Thomas believes in God’s love for Him.  Like Thomas, we doubt the reality of God’s love for us, but the markers in His hands and His side are an everlasting reminder of God’s love.  He died for me in order to bring me home to the heart of God.

Behold the lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20, Rev 13:8).  In many charismatic circles, there is a preoccupation with the lion of the tribe of Judah.  However, there is only one reference to this lion in the book of Revelation.  Every other reference is to the lamb.  Why?  I believe the lion shows the lineage of Jesus, tying it back to the prophetic word given to Judah in Genesis 49.  The lamb used throughout the book of revelation demonstrates His personal love for me and for you.  In my opinion, That is the more important revelation with the most spiritual weight.

Our flesh wants the heroic lion to represent God; a strong, courageous, majestic king.  The God we need however is and will forevermore be a lamb.  Meek, humble, innocent.  Totally dependent.  Offered up as a sacrifice to take away the sins of the whole world.  All as an expression of His love.

I learned recently that the first occurrence of the word “love” (“ahav” in Hebrew) in the scriptures occurs in Genesis 22:2.  In this text, God is foreshadowing having to give up the only Son that he loves as a love offering. In this love test, Abraham prophetically says that God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.  Love is revealed.

It is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The end-time plan of God has the lamb as the key symbol in God’s story and plan of redemption.

Revelation 5:6 (HCSB)
Then I saw One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth.

Revelation 7:17 (HCSB)
For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Revelation 21:23 (HCSB)
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

 

I believe the “slaughtered” description is reference to how Jesus died.  The book of Revelation shows us that even in the eternal plan of heaven, Christ’s markers will be a permanent memorial to us that “I love you.”

His side, feet, and hands were all pierced for our transgressions.  These are the everlasting markers of the lamb of God.  These are the markers of His love.

For God so loved the world…

Knowing the Truth – What is Freedom?

John 8:28-36
28 So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on My own. But just as the Father taught Me, I say these things.
29 The One who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him.”
30 As He was saying these things, many believed in Him.
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.
32 You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 “We are descendants of Abraham,” they answered Him, “and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will become free’? “
34 Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
35 A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever.
36 Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”

I meet many spiritual seekers in my travels.  Some of whom are looking for the truth.  What does “the truth” mean in the context of this scripture (John 8:32)?  I would venture a guess that even more of us are looking for freedom.  How do we define freedom in the context of this scripture (John 8:36)?

I believe the context for all of chapter eight in the book of John is about a personal revelation of God as a loving Father.  A friend of mine recently shared that the goal of the gospel is not just to bring people to personal relationship with Jesus, but for them to understand who they are as sons and daughters of God as their Father.

Romans 8:15 (HCSB)
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father! “.

The word translated ‘Abba’ from the Greek text is ‘Av’ in Hebrew for Father.

Jesus always spoke to God as His Father (with one notable exception).  What was scandalous in the text was the idea that Jesus could have a personal relationship with God as Father.  For this, the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus.  I shared a message a year ago entitled “Jesus came to show us the Father.”

In order to understand the truth Jesus is talking about, we need to look at how He defines freedom.  In our American culture, and in our churches, we get the idea that freedom means that I can do whatever I want.  We celebrate freedom on July 4th, as well as say and do all kinds of things in the name of “freedom”, but I don’t believe any of that has anything to do with how Jesus defined freedom.

I believe the freedom Jesus makes reference to is knowing God as a loving Father, sets you free to do what is pleasing to Him (John 8:28-29).  A son or daughter will remain in His house which means we abide or remain in His love and His word.  Knowing how we are loved (the Son is lifted up), sets us free to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Revelation of that love that gave Himself up for our sakes humbles us.  In that place of humility and understanding, we will have a desire to submit to the good and pleasing will of the Father.

Part of what is being revealed in the verses below is whether we have the heart of an orphan (a slave), or a free heart (a son).

John 8:34-35 (HCSB)
34 Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
35 A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever.”

Yeshua tells us that everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  What does that mean?  Does that mean we can reach a place of sinlessness?  Hardly.  What the scripture seems to suggest in context is that we are not really free when we choose sin (something other than the will of the Father).  We have not received the revelation that life is really found in the love of the Father and that there is greater joy to be experienced abiding with Him than doing our own thing.  The two trees in the garden of Eden represent choices of leadership.  Only one of those choices leads to life.

I have written in previous blogs that light is a metaphor for truth.  Darkness is a metaphor for deception or ignorance (lack of light).

1 John 1:5-9 articulates this metaphor.

5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.
6 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.
7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If” we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light.  What does that mean?  I believe Jesus walked in perfect understanding of who he was as a son.  Truth is shaped in the form of a cross.  It requires humility and submission to the will of the Father.  It acknowledges our need for us to take up our cross daily and die to the desires of our own flesh.

Nobody wants to be around someone who thinks they are perfect.  It is our human need for a Savior that helps us to relate to each other (compassion).  We have fellowship when we can be transparent with one another, be transparent with ourselves, and be transparent with God.  Walking in the light means I don’t need to hide or be ashamed, and I have confidence that my Heavenly Father loves me, is for me, and is not ashamed to call me His son.

Confession keeps us honest and keeps us in relationship.  Darkness hides and conceals things because of fear, deception, or shame.  When I commit some kind of sin that affects my wife, it is generally better that I let her know rather than trying to hide it or cover it up.

Proverbs 28:13 (HCSB)
The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.

The point is not for us to become sin or confession focused.  The point is for us to have honest, transparent relationships and to have our focus on the Father and the Son.

Tying this all together, I started with the question, “what is freedom?”  Freedom is knowing the love of the Father for you, personally.  Out of relationship, freedom looks like knowing the good and perfect will of the Father and out of love, being able to love others as you love yourself.  Freedom looks like walking in transparency in all your relationships.  Not being perfect, but honest.  Walking in freedom will look like life in the spirit and will reveal the goodness of God.  Freedom will bear good fruit and bring honor to God the Father and Jesus the Son.  Being truly free means I am able to choose the Father’s will over my own.  That is the “real” definition of freedom.

In my next blog, I plan on dispelling some bad theology with regard to how we think…

The Sign of Jonah

Luke 11:29-30 (HCSB)
As the crowds were increasing, He began saying: “This generation is an evil generation. It demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.
For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.

One of the things that we often forget is that Yeshua (Jesus), like Jonah, was also a prophet.  Yeshua fulfilled the sign of Jonah.  So what does that mean?  I have been studying the book of Jonah for the past month as part of a Biblical Hebrew course I have been taking.  I have discovered some fascinating symbols in the Hebrew as part of my spiritual journey.

Today, I want to look at the book of Jonah as a typology that Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled and consider both how the type applies and how the type differs.  Let’s start with the gospel accounts and work backwards into the book of Jonah.

Like all prophets, some of what Yeshua shared was not always popular.

Matthew 12:40-41 (HCSB)
40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.
41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’s proclamation; and look, something greater than Jonah is here!

You are free to disagree with me, but I believe that Yeshua fulfilled the sign of Jonah and was in Sheoul (the place of the dead – the belly of the fish) for three days and three nights before his resurrection (being delivered from the belly of the fish).  Why?  I am more inclined to take Yeshua at his word rather than the traditions of men.  What was Yeshua doing during this time?  In the belly of the fish, Jonah had an opportunity to repent and be saved (delivered).  In like manner, I believe that Yeshua was giving the people who had died before Him a chance to repent and be saved (delivered) (Acts 2:31 – Ephesians 4:8-10).

Now let’s turn to our text in Jonah.  Since this is four chapters of scripture, I will summarize the narrative for you, and draw out key symbols and points as we go.

Jonah was called by God to proclaim a message of repentance to those living in Nineveh, as the evil of the people had risen before the face of God.  Jonah rebelled (transgression) against God’s direction, and went to Joppa to find a ship headed to Tarshish, which was the opposite direction of his calling.

Jonah literally went in the opposite direction (nearly 180 degrees), and headed due West – Tarshish, instead of East – Nineveh.  In Hebrew idioms, East is considered facing front or the direction of the Sun (Son), and West is turning towards death or away from God.  See the map posted below:

Jonah's Journey

Let’s look at some interesting names and symbols in the beginning of the narrative.

Jonah, son of Ammitai

  1. Jonah – “dove” in Hebrew.  This represents his calling (to walk by the spirit) as much as it represented a struggle for him to get there.  The dove was also appointed to be a messenger of peace (shalom).
  2. Ammitai – “My truth” in Hebrew.  Jonah was called to be Fathered by the truth found in the Son of Man (Yeshua), not his own understanding of truth.
  3. Tarshish – while a shipping hub, represented a place of commerce.  This name also has a double meaning of yellow topaz as worn on the breastplate of Aaron and may have represented the familiar and comfortable for Jonah.  An interesting implication for the name seems to be “soul urge.”
  4. Joppa – meant “beautiful.”  This was the place Jonah found a ship to go to Tarshish.  This port town may have represented a ‘gate’ for Jonah and indicated a way of the flesh.  There is a way that seems right to a man but ends in death (Prov 14:12).
  5. Nineveh – capital city of Assyria, a Gentile nation.  while the etymology isn’t clear, the most fitting seems to be from Nuna, house of fish.  Just as Peter was to become a fisher of men, Jonah was to proclaim a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh.

While on his journey, God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah ended up in the place of the dead – the belly of the fish for three days and nights until Jonah remembered God and repented (Jonah 2:7-10).  God then appointed the fish to deliver him onto dry land (vomited out of Hades, you might say).  Jonah was given a second chance to carry out God’s word and went to Nineveh to deliver the word to the nobles and king.  Much to Jonah’s disappointment, the king subsequently proclaimed a 40-day fast and repentance from evil and violence, not just for the people, but for the livestock too!  When food is withheld from cattle, they will cry out too (moo)!  LOL!  It wasn’t just the people who were crying out to God to save them, but the livestock too! God withheld his judgment towards the city as a result.

There are several verses in Jonah chapter 4 which reveal things about Jonah’s heart and about God’s heart.

Instead of pity towards the people of Nineveh, Jonah has a pity party.  Jonah, clearly doesn’t understand God’s heart towards this Gentile nation.  We don’t know all that was in Jonah’s heart, but we do know that often Assyria was considered to be an enemy of Israel.  Jonah didn’t want this Gentile nation (them) to be saved, but rather wanted them to be judged and destroyed.

Jonah 4:1-3 (HCSB)
1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious.
2 He prayed to the LORD: ‘Please, LORD, isn’t this what I said while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster.
3 And now, LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’

Jonah doesn’t want God to be a God of mercy, but one of judgment.  How often do we see that in today’s so-called prophets and churches? How often do we want God’s judgment towards those we think are our enemies?

Jonah had heard about God’s good nature (revealed to Moses and David – Ex 34:6-8, Ps 103), but didn’t really want to come to know this kind of God, especially towards those who didn’t “deserve” mercy.

John 3:17
17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

God transacts a trial for Jonah having to do with a castor-oil plant. Jonah chooses not to repent, but to stay in his attitude of judgment and pride (the flesh) versus choosing God’s way which is the life of the spirit (represented by the “oil plant” placed above him for a time).

Jonah 4:10-11 (HCSB)
10 So the LORD said, ‘You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night.
11 Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120,000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?’

The number 12 is a type which represents the fullness of a people group.  That the king, his nobles, and a town of 120,000 people would all be saved is nothing short of miraculous.
God’s heart was that none would perish, but that all would be saved through him.

  • Unlike Jonah, Yeshua was without sin and always did what pleased His Father out of a relationship of love and unity.
  • Unlike Jonah, Yeshua didn’t need to repent in order to qualify for his resurrection.
  • Unlike Jonah, Yeshua knew the compassion and goodness of God.
  • Unlike Jonah, Yeshua immediately embraced the death of his flesh (not my will) and accepted His cross.

 

  • Like Jonah, Yeshua experienced separation from this world and from God (when he took on our sin).
  • Like Jonah, Yeshua offers a message to the Gentiles for salvation and that the fullness might be saved.
  • Like Jonah, Yeshua witnessed miraculous signs and wonders when he simply did what the Father asked him to do.

Going back to our opening text, the sign of Jonah is really about God making a way of salvation and deliverance for the world (Nineveh).  This opportunity comes through Christ who died on a cross, was swallowed up in death and was raised up to life again after three days and three nights.  There is an invitation to the world to turn from evil and our violent ways and towards Yeshua and His way of love.  While the cross of Christ is offensive and foolishness to some, it is the power of God to save those who believe.

Do you ever wonder if you have avoided the really difficult things we are called to do (our Ninevehs), and instead chosen the ways that are comfortable and prosperous (Tarshish)?  I do.  I work in commerce, and sometimes wonder if I have chosen the way of Tarshish for my life, but I have to trust in the grace of God to both help me in the choosing and to work out the plans that He has prepared for me.

May the grace of God be with you all as you make your choices and help you fulfill all that our divine Conductor has set in motion for you to accomplish.

Your heart in the presence of God (part 5 of 5)

 

Dreams are the language of symbols.  Looking at what symbols might mean in the context of scripture and its Hebraic roots, often reveals interesting insights.

As a recap from part 4, we have been looking at the ark of testimony and the things inside it.   First described in the book of Exodus, the book of Hebrews piques our interest in the ark and suggests that there is symbolic relevance.

Hebrews 9:3-5
3 Behind the second curtain, the tabernacle was called the most holy place.
4 It contained the gold altar of incense and the ark of the covenant, covered with gold on all sides, in which there was a gold jar containing the manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.
5 The cherubim of glory were above it overshadowing the mercy seat. It is not possible to speak about these things in detail right now.

As I mentioned in the first of the series, I believe that the ark is a metaphor for your heart.

The ark along with your heart were created to bring glory to God and to be pure both inside and out.  The ark was coated with pure gold both inside and covering the ark.  Gold is a symbol representing purity and high value.

Your heart was created to be in the presence of God, 24×7, just like the ark.

The three items inside the ark were the pot of manna, Aaron’s rod, and the tablets of testimony.

In part 2, we established manna as a symbol for faith.
In part 3, we established the rod as a symbol for hope.
In part 4, we established the tablets as a symbol for love.

Faith, hope, and love are what is referred to be a “triad.”
There are a number of interesting triads in the new covenant.  In terms of dream symbols, the number three often represents the holy trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Yeshua said “I AM the way, the truth, and the life,” another triad.

I believe many things in the scriptures are intentional and that God knew what he was doing when he established numbers and details.  Yeshua said himself that not one jot or tittle would pass away until everything had been fulfilled.  The elements in the ark form a triad.  Are there other triads in the new covenant that we can connect with the triad in the ark?  I believe there are.

Not to get carried away with it, but there are some interesting symbols in the ancient Hebrew pictographs.  For example, the Hebrew pictograph for Father (“Ab” in Hebrew) is aleph-bet, symbolized by an ox head as a strong leader (aleph), and a house or dwelling place (bet).  The Father was to be a strong leader for His house.  “Coincidentally”, it also happens to be the first Hebrew word in the Strong’s concordance (#1).

אב

I was praying about which pictographs out of the 22 Hebrew letters would best represent faith, hope, and love, and here is what I believe I received.

1.  Faith is best represented by the cross (tav), as this is the truth that will set us free.  In the ancient Hebrew pictographs, the cross was a sign, mark, or memorial.

ת

The cross is a symbol of humility.  God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.  That is the truth connected to love and life.  It is the secret to every marriage and relationship.

2.  Hope is best represented by the seed (nun), as it correlates to offspring, heir, and sonship.

מ

This also matches very nicely to power and resurrection life. The promise of eternal life gives us hope.  Yeshua is known as the seed of Abraham, producing new life and many sons for its fruit (Rom 4, Gal 4).

3.  Love is best represented by the house (bet), as it represents belonging and being cared for as part of a family.

ב

Love is the way we are called to live our lives.  Love is what will impact others and is eternal.

 

Here are some pairings of triads which you might find interesting…

Faith  <-> Truth <-> Cross  <-> Son              <-> Manna
Hope  <-> Life    <-> Seed    <-> Holy Spirit <-> Rod
Love   <-> Way   <-> House <-> Father         <-> Tablets

See if the Holy Spirit leads you to other triads, i.e., righteousness, peace, and joy.  How do those words connect with the trinity?

It is these things in your heart which bring glory to God.  Faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.

To return to our original text in Hebrews, the scripture concludes that the old covenant is a shadow of the substance that is fulfilled in Christ.  In fact the thread of the text comes to these conclusions (Hebrews 10:19-24).

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh),
21 and since we have a great high priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.
23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works.

By believing, we have life in His name.  The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in you, if you have accepted His offer.  It is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  We are called to be like Christ who humbled himself for the sake of love.

To conclude, my encouragement to you is to spend time in the presence of God where your heart can find acceptance, hope, and your faith strengthened.  Every person is uniquely created.  As such, we experience God in different ways.  How can you creatively connect with the presence of God?  Take some time to rest in His presence, reflect, and be loved.  There, your heart will find life.

 

Your heart in the presence of God (part 4 of 5)

Tablets of Testimony

As a recap from part 3, we are looking at what Mosaic covenant symbols might mean in light of a new covenant.  Particularly, I wrote that the ark of the covenant is a metaphor for your heart.  The intended destiny for your heart is to be in the presence of God, 24×7.  Inside the ark were a pot of manna, a rod, and two tablets (Hebrews 9:4).  In this section we’ll look at the symbol of the tablets of testimony and how they map to love.

We just survived another Valentine’s Day that is supposed to be about love, but often isn’t.  I lost my wedding ring a few weeks ago.  After realizing its loss, I humbly asked people everywhere if they had seen it, to no avail.  After looking for the ring in every place I could think of, I had chalked up the loss as having been careless with it in my pocket.  As I was helping with tasks around the house on Valentine’s Day, my wife found my wedding ring on the floor of the bedroom.  As I reflected on it, it would appear that covenant (what a wedding ring represents), was God’s gift of love to me.  In new covenant scriptures, the writer John can be described as a mystic and represented by the sign of the eagle, would go on to pen that “God IS love” (1 John 4:8).  The tablets, like love were a sign of covenant, albeit with some marked differences.

As I have written about in other blogs, the law of commandments are often misconstrued by well-meaning people who take scripture in isolation and do not consider what I would call the full counsel of His word.  For example, while on hand Paul writes that the law is no longer the yardstick for righteousness (Rom 10:4), we have to consider that Jesus said that not one jot or tittle of the law would be done away with until everything has been fulfilled.  Jesus took the law and amplified it to be about issues of the heart.  Take Matthew 5:21-22 as one of many examples:

21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment.
22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.”

While I have heard many teachings about the Ten Commandments, the teachings that I had heard never sat right with me until I heard a teaching indirectly from the late Pope John Paul II.  John Paul taught about the outward appearance of the law as the ethics of the law (loving God with your mind), and the inner truth as the ethos of the law (loving God with your heart).  The law reveals the condition of both your mind and heart, and is a holy tutor to lead you to the place of needing a savior to change your mind and to change your heart.  Once your mind and heart have been sanctified, there is no longer a need for that particular law.  Love is fulfillment of the law.

With that background, let’s look at a few scriptures which reveal the supernatural creation of the tablets and what their function might be in a new covenant context.

Exodus 31:18, 32:15-16
18 When He finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave him the two tablets of the testimony, stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God.

15 Then Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides – inscribed front and back.
16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was God’s writing, engraved on the tablets.

To clear up what was written on the tablets, it was Ten Commandments as described in Exodus 20.  Deuteronomy 4:13 makes that clear.

13 He declared His covenant to you. He commanded you to follow the Ten Commandments, which He wrote on two stone tablets.

What is important is that you don’t miss that the finger of God wrote the tablets.  If you think that Moses carefully chiseled out what God told him to write, you have missed the sign.

I have a confession to make.  I got wrapped up in trying to know the form of that tablets.  There is all kinds of speculation about what the tablets were like, such as whether they were granite, lapis-lazuli, or sapphire, what form of language was used, and what was written on them.  I had a dream revolving being distracted by a blue bottle on top of an airplane that I was flying on.  It was a correction dream letting me know that I was spending my time outside the kingdom by the appearance of something (idolatry).  Doh!  Remember I have been teaching about symbols being about their function (Hebraic) more than about their form (Greek).  In seeking what the Holy Spirit would want me to know about the tablets, here are my impressions.

1) Focus on my word
2) The purpose of my word is that love is demonstrated.

I believe the closest metaphoric purpose that we have in a new-covenant context is one of fire.  His word is to burn in us like fire as love is fueled with passion.

Jeremiah 23:29
29 “Is not My word like fire” – this is the LORD’s declaration – “and like a hammer that pulverizes rock?”

Luke 24:32
32 So they said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?”

I have listed my take on the words that may have been written on the tablets, taking the Jewish perspective on the commandments.  There is debate on whether the original pictographs were used or the more modern version of the Hebrew language.  The English is for your benefit.

Loving God

  1. I AM Adonai your God.

א אנכי יהוה אלהיך

א אנכי יהוה אלהיך

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.

ב לא יהיהלך אלהים אחרים עלפני

ב לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים עלפני

  1. You shall not take the name of Adonai your God in vain.

ג לא תשא אתשםיהוה אלהיך לשוא

ג לא תשא אתשםיהוה אלהיך לשוא

  1. Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy.

ד זכור אתיום השבת לקדשו

ד זכור אתיום השבת לקדשו

  1. Honor your father and mother.

ה כבד אתאביך ואתאמך

ה כבד אתאביך ואתאמך

 

Loving your neighbor as yourself

6.  You shall not murder.

ו לא תרצח

ו לא תרצח

7. You shall not commit adultery.

ז לא תנאף

ז לא תנאף

8. You shall not steal.

ת לא תגנב

ת לא תגנב

9.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

מ לאתענה ברעך עד שקר

מ לאתענה ברער עד שקר

10.  You shall not covet.

י לא תחמד בית רעך

י לא תחמד בית רעך

 

Again, the purpose of His word is that love is revealed to God’s glory and credit.  We are able to love because He first loved us (1 John 4).

There are two important number symbols regarding the tablets.  I believe there were five commandments regarding loving God and five commandments regarding loving others as we would want to be loved.  I believe there were five commandments on each tablet.  This is also in keeping with Jewish tradition.  In terms of symbols, five is considered to be the number of grace as revealed in the new covenant.  In context, the number of two is the number of witness or of testimony.  Without grace, it will be impossible to keep the law.  It will be the grace of God that empowers you to fulfill the call to love God and love others.  If you think you can love on your own without the grace of God, you have been self-deceived. Your heart will bear witness to the grace of God enabling you to love.  There are two parts to this heart.  You can not separate the command to love God from the command to love others.  If we have one without the other, the law has not been fulfilled.  Hebrews 8:10 describes the new covenant function of the tablets of testimony and is the fulfillment of one of the most amazing prophecies written in Jeremiah 31:33.

10 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.

One of the beautiful things that is revealed in this scripture is belonging as part of a healthy divine family.  It was in the heart of God to belong and be loved.

2 Cor 3:2-3

2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, recognized and read by everyone.
3 It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God – not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.

The tablets of stone, while glorious, were hard and rigid.  Now we can know that the purpose was always to be about love, and that it was to be soft and pliable.

Love in action brings glory to God.  This is what we were created for.

To be continued (conclusion)…