Declaring the Goodness of God

I was driving downtown this morning and saw a license plate with ‘Ps 92’ on it. When I looked at Psalm 92 to see what God might say to me, I felt like the following verses were highlighted. It is a song for the Shabbat or our sabbath which is found in Christ (our true place of rest and peace).

Psalm 92:1-2

:1 – A Psalm, a Song for the Sabbath day. It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;

:2 – To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night.

I want to elaborate on the Hebrew in verse 2. The Hebrew roots are ‘nagad’ (make conspicuous), ‘boqer’ (morning), ‘checed’ (steadfast love), and ’emuwnah’ (faithfulness), into ‘layil’ (night). Here’s how I would translate this verse: “Make conspicuous His loyalty and steadfast love each morning and carry His faithfulness into each night.” As we do this, we remain in His love, and the peace of God guards our mind and heart. The book of Hebrews declares that a place of ‘rest’ remains for the people of God. It is up to us to choose this life of the spirit provided to us in Christ. Jesus assures us that we find peace and rest as we trust in Him.

The scripture text that keeps coming back to me is Psalm 103. I call this His goodness chapter. Previously, I’ve written that we can equate His goodness with His glory (Exodus 34).

The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. In the original Hebrew manuscripts, chapter and verse don’t really exist as concepts. Those are conveniences for our reference. One of the things that I believe is that David didn’t just write Psalm 103, but Psalm 103 thru Psalm 107 as a continuous stream of consciousness. To justify my position, Psalm 104 starts and ends with the same language that we see in Psalm 103 – Bless the LORD, my soul. The big picture over the course of these Psalms is that David is declaring the goodness of God, and calling the people of Israel to remember. The entire section ends with the following in Psalm 107:

Psalm 107:13

Whoever is wise will pay attention to these things. They will consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD.

I want to draw out one particular verse in Psalm 103, as I believe it’s important for people to be in a heart posture to receive their healing.

Psalm 103:2-3

:2 – Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;

:3 – Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases;

Why does David connect forgiveness with healing do you suppose? I believe David was prophesying the goodness of God being revealed in Christ where we find forgiveness and healing.

While in America, our culture looks to everything else for understanding of why a person might be sick or diseased, those familiar with Jewish law would know that the reason why someone would be sick was because of sin (chattah) or iniquity (avon – something twisted that was passed down through generations). This is why in John 9:1-2, Jesus’ disciples would ask him the question, was “he born blind due to his sin or the sin of his parents”? In Exodus 15:26, it is written that if people would do what is right and keep their part of covenant, then they would be spared diseases which were put on the Egyptians. In Deuteronomy 28, blessings are declared for doing what is right, and curses are declared for doing what is wrong including all kinds of sickness and disease. It’s a frightening chapter to read, but important to understand what the Mosaic law required.

Often when Jesus went around healing people, he would also pronounce them as having their sins forgiven. Why is that? Do you think they could keep their healing if they felt like they deserved their disease?

I believe why many of us don’t receive healing is that deep down at a heart level (whether we’re aware of it or not), we don’t really believe we’re forgiven.

In Psalm 103:3, the word translated iniquities or sins in sloppier translations, is the Hebrew word ‘avon.’ This word, while it can properly translated iniquities, a more important meaning in context is one of guilt. With that understanding, the verse might read “who forgives all your guilt, and heals all your diseases.”

Guilt is something subtle, and like condemnation, may not be anything we can consciously put our finger on. It is a shadow resting on the heart.

I don’t know about you, but as for me, I didn’t know that I truly believed in my heart that all my sins were forgiven. Oh sure, I could tell you intellectually that I knew that, but did my heart know it? My heart still carried guilt. I’ve walked with Rheumatoid Arthritis for over twelve years. Is it any wonder that when people would pray for me (including lots of anointed healers), that nothing would happen? I write this particular ‘blog’, because I believe many are bound and not free. Scripture declares that those whom the son sets free are free indeed. What if our hearts are veiled to the goodness of God? The question of whether God was really good has plagued man since being tempted in the garden. The same temptation exists for us today.

So how to we get free from guilt and closer to understanding the goodness of God?

A fuller expression of the cross is one of a divine exchange. My guilt in exchange for His innocence. His condemnation for my freedom, purchased by His blood.

Has the cross paid the debt of your sins, past, present, and future? Was the punishment that he bore for you, enough? Was the suffering and sacrifice of Christ enough to pay for your guilt and provide for your healing? I believe it was. I believe the answers will come when the goodness of God becomes a reality in our hearts.

Meditate on the grace given to us in the new covenant. What is the message of the gospel that the disciples of Jesus (and Paul) shared with others? Spend time declaring the truth of His grace over your heart and life. Scriptures passages like ‘there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’, ‘you will never leave me or forsake me’, ‘you haven’t given me a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind’, and ‘I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.’ Thank Him for His blood that was shed for you and testifies of your innocence and right standing before God. Apply the blood of the lamb to the door posts of your heart and mind.

Meditating on what the new covenant offers me has helped me to move further down the road of being guilt-free in my heart, and I believe closer to my healing.

Make prominent the expression of God’s love and grace for you each day. Carry His faithfulness with you even into the times of darkness. His love never fails.

A Generous Tree of Life King

I recently was struck by this passage in the Message version of John 1:14 where Eugene Peterson describes Jesus as “generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

Generous is not a word we often associate with Jesus, though he obviously was. How was Jesus generous?

In John 1:16, Eugene Peterson translates the Greek text as “We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift.” The Greek word for what was translated to ‘gift’ is ‘charis’, often translated as ‘grace’; however in this text, I like the translation of ‘charis’ as ‘gift’. A gift is not something we earn, but simply something to receive and enjoy. The Greek word for what was translated ‘generous’ is ‘pleroma’, translated in other texts as ‘fullness’, but also renders as ‘abundance’, and ‘that which has been filled’.

In John 12:15, Jesus is recognized as the King of Israel, though not as they supposed, but coming in humility, riding on a donkey’s colt.

While we are given a kingdom, this king is not Santa Clause, nor a king as the world usually thinks of.

John 18:36 (The Message)

“My Kingdom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, nor the world’s kind of king.”

While the list below is obviously a subset, what does this generous king offer?

1. Has taken on the sins of the world (John 1)
2. Gives us confidence in knowing that our sins are forgiven (Matt 9:2)
3. Continually washes us clean from sin and self consciousness, uncleanness, guilt, and unworthiness (1 John 1)
4. Demonstrates his love for us (1 John 4)
5. Provides everlasting life to us (John 6)
6. Opportunities to hang out with the saints of old (Matt 8)
7. Casts out evil spirits (Matt 8)
8. Has taken our infirmities and carried away our diseases bringing healing, (Matt 8) and in fact heals every kind of disease and sickness (Matt 9:35)
9. Gives us the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out (John 3, John 14)
10. Assures us that as we receive, we can give it away to others. As we taste of the goodness of God, we’ll want to share it with others. (Matt 10:8)
11. Has given us the gift of no condemnation (Romans 8, John 8)
12. Became the curse of the law for us (Gal 3)
13. Gives us power and authority over forces of darkness and for healing (Luke 9)
14. Gives us joy, righteousness, and peace when we look to the right tree (1 Cor 1:30, Rom 14)
15. Gladly gives us the things of the kingdom of heaven (Luke 12:32)
16. Gives us spiritual gifts to steward (Luke 19)
17. Has forgiven us a debt of our sins which we can never repay and in turn, asks us to forgive others (Matt 18)
18. Lets us know that when we care for the least of these, we honor the king (Matt 25)
19. Has given us authority in prayer for what we forbid, and what we allow (Matt 16:19 NLT)
20. Has taken us from having no purpose (being lost) into discovering our identity and purpose (Luke 15)

As long as I keep my focus on the king of the spirit tree of life, I can receive joy, as he is my source. He can put a smile in my heart and on my face. We have an extravagant king who is more generous than we know. Sometimes, we have not, because we haven’t asked. Won’t you begin exploring asking for the kingdom of heaven? He’ll gladly give it you, especially when it’s from the spirit and with the right motives.

Pure grace and truly free

I’ve been greatly impacted by a book I’ve been reading called “Destined to Reign” by Joseph Prince, which expounds upon the message of grace, pointing out places where we’ve missed the message of grace and instead have made it about our own efforts. One of the applications of the book is not mixing law and grace together, illustrated by Paul’s writings in the book of Galatians and of Jesus in His parable of the wineskins.

Joseph shares a particularly profound insight regarding the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle (Hebrews 9:3-5). In this holy place was the ark of the covenant, where the manna, stone tablets, and Aaron’s rod were placed inside the box, representing the rebellion and failures of man (rejecting God’s provision, law, and leadership respectively). Above all of this is the mercy seat where the presence and glory of God rests. The sins have been covered and atoned for. The glory of God is to be found in focusing on what Christ has done (above), not focusing on man’s efforts, performance, or failures (below).

I’m beginning to see that all of scripture needs to be interpreted through the lens of grace. For example, how do we interpret these words?

Matthew 16:24
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Of course the Greek word for life is “psyche”, which is the life of the soul. The context of the text makes it clear that it’s about having God’s agenda instead of mans’. Without the lens of grace, we make it about man’s efforts and performance to live a selfless life. In charismatic circles, we make it somehow about “being on fire for God”. These words of Jesus were spoken directly to Peter. Was Peter able to deny himself out of his own effort? More importantly, can you save yourself? Peter thought he could. I think I thought I could, too. However, what if the application of these words takes on a larger swath?

What if taking up our cross is not about a religious discipline, but rather a recognition that we need a saviour? What if denying ourselves is about coming to the end of ourselves and recognizing it’s not about our efforts, our righteousness, or our performance? Isn’t that what being childlike is all about (being dependent)? What if the words that Jesus spoke were about a need to die (a cross) to self effort, and discover the grace of God, representing the unmerited, unearned favor and kindness of God?

We can only be saved (sozo – healed, saved, made whole, cleansed) by Grace in a place of believing. I’m beginning to realize how outrageous the gospel of grace actually is. It is not merely “mediocre” news. As the book of Isaiah asks, “who has believed our report?”

I’ve been struck by this message that Isaiah originally shared (Isaiah 6), and is explained by Jesus in Matthew 13:15, and John 12:37-40. Jesus explains that Isaiah saw Christ’s glory, and spoke about him (John 12:41).
The text from Isaiah 6 reads as follows:

“Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.”

To paraphrase, I want to emphasize “Understand with their hearts, turn towards my grace and be healed.”

I believe that Isaiah recognized his own condition in the presence of the King (Isaiah 6:5). He turned towards grace (represented by the seraphim, an ambassador of grace). Grace forgave his sins, took away his uncleanness, and his iniquity. It was all unearned and unmerited, and initiated by an understanding of his own inability to save himself in the presence of grace (Isaiah 6:5-7). Remember that Jesus tells us that Isaiah saw Christ’s glory!

The context of the passage in John 12 is about those who rejected the message of grace (a light into the world). The context of the passage in Matthew 13 is about Jesus speaking in parables and that the message of the kingdom is about having a heart that can receive the unearned, unmerited message of grace.

Going back to the cross, the cross represented the death of the old covenant of law (referred to as the ministry of condemnation by Paul). Only those who understood their own inability were ready to receive the free gift of grace where they would find life. The cross represented a transition from an old covenant of law into a new covenant of grace.

Roman 8:2
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

I believe the application to take up our cross is to die to our ability to perform to the laws of man including those we place on ourselves. There is no life to be found when we focus on ourselves or our performance. Freedom is found in focusing on Christ and the fullness of what He has purchased for us with his blood, his body, and his life. I believe a resurrected life looks like something. I believe it looks like being fully alive, and completely free. I believe it looks like the kingdom of heaven, walking in joy, peace, and His righteousness given to us. Can you imagine what the world would look like, with lots of people this free? This outrageous message can only be found in a place without mixture. Believing the message of pure grace.

My challenge to you today is to let the Holy Spirit help you to interpret scripture through the lens of grace, and to point you to what it means to be truly free.

Delighting yourself in the Lord

I’ve been learning about a profound inner healing tool as part of Sozo training from Bethel called the “Father Ladder”. One of the basic ideas is that our relationship to the Father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit often mirror our childhood relationships with our earthly dad (Father), siblings and friends (Jesus), and mom (Holy Spirit). Those trained and experienced in using this tool can often discern the nature of our relationship with the trinity based on our childhood experiences or vice versa. One or more of those relationships is usually weaker than the others. What is revealed is how we often have an image of God which is faulty. In the trinity, the Father cares for the body and provides identity (including your sexual identity), provision, and protection.

I come from a long line of stoics. As a result, I didn’t experience my earthly dad taking an interest in the desires of my heart. I unwittingly projected my earthly experience towards God as Father and discovered that my ability to believe that God cared about the desires of my heart was lacking.

Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.”

The word for ‘delight’ is represented by the Hebrew word ‘anag’ (H6026), meaning ‘to be soft’, and ‘to be delicate’.

So, what does that mean?

Let me give you an example. I was part of a team doing dream interpretation a few weeks ago at a particular event. We interpreted dreams for two friends on Saturday, one that went really well, and one that was difficult for the dreamer to receive. On a particular assignment on Sunday, my friend Chris went out of his way to a particular Starbucks at an REI and whom did he encounter, but the very dreamer where we felt like things were left undone. Chris wanted to buy her a coffee and discovered that her order was unusual and definitely a special order. Chris felt like he had heard from the Father for her that there was invitation for her to “ask for her heart’s desire”. “What do you want?” Chris explained to her that just like her coffee, the Father wanted to make a special order just for her.

Part of us doesn’t believe that God is really interested in our hearts and meeting our hearts’ desires. We hear so much about “not my will, but your will be done,” but that doesn’t make room for God caring about our hearts.

If we think we have to delight ourselves in the LORD in order to get something, we’ve missed the point of this verse (Psalm 37:4). I see faith as the pivot point for releasing the desires of your heart. Why? If we are not in a posture of delighting ourselves in our relationship with God, will we recognize the goodness of the Father when it comes? Will we recognize the Father’s desire to demonstrate His love towards us? The Father wants opportunities to demonstrate His love to you, personally. Our hearts need to be soft to be able to receive love.

Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Faith is the fulcrum for the rewards of your heart being released. I believe I saw that with a friend of mine just this week.

How will we know when we’re delighting ourselves in the LORD?

In His presence is fullness of joy. One of the teachings that I heard recently was that there weren’t fruits of the spirit, but fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). We don’t get to pick just one, we get the whole bowl as part of a package deal. All the fruit of the spirit are components of love. It’s about abiding in the love of God. If I’m feeling joy, I’m also experiencing His love, peace, patience, kindness, … I get to have it all.

Eric Liddell (whose Olympic event was captured in the movie Chariots of Fire) said “God has made me to be a missionary, aye, but he has made me fast, and when I run, I feel God’s pleasure”. Today, I went for a bike ride, choosing to delight myself in God, having a conversation with Him, feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin and having joy bubble up inside of me making me smile.

I think there’s a variety of expression in how we can delight ourselves in the LORD which will look different for each one of us. Some people can delight in the LORD through singing and other musical expressions. For others, it may be being outside with nature. For me, delighting myself in the LORD is something I do best being alone with God.

How can you delight yourself in the LORD and believe that he takes great interest in your heart?

Hosea, An Invitation to Know

Do you Know Adonai?

Hosea 6:6 has been rattling around in my spirit recently.  When I look at Hosea 6, particularly at verses 1-6, what jumps out at me is the call to know the Lord.  I see an invitation to know God and the ways of God.  Looking at certain Hebrew words in the passage helps give us understanding (English translations are from the NASB).  While Hosea has been called to bring a difficult message to Israel (e.g. they haven’t pursued knowing Adonai), there is also hope in the message.

Hsa 6:1 Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.

(The translation of ‘torn’ and ‘wounded’ causes us to stumble.  God does this?  A point of view which may be helpful is that that sometimes a parent has to allow natural consequences be the appropriate way to train wayward children.  Focusing on the encouragement in the verse reveals something better.  Whenever anyone turns to the LORD, they can find hope and healing)

(The word LORD, which is represented by ‘yhvh’ in Hebrew, is a relationship term for God.  God wants a growing relationship with you)

Hsa 6:2 He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.

(It is translated ‘And we shall be whole by His favor’ in the JPS Tanakh.  That which is translated ‘before Him’ is the Hebrew word ‘paniym‘ meaning face, in front of, with favor, and being in God’s presence)

(I find the metaphor for the favor to be found in Yeshua (Jesus) to be striking.  Resurrection life has now become possible.  A way has been made for us to have favor with God and live continually in His presence).

Hsa 6:3 So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

(The Hebrew for the phrase ‘to know’ is the word ‘yada‘ meaning to know or to come to know, a relational word as one comes to know their spouse relationally and sexually – Gen 4:1.  This is only possible in a place of trust and open communication).

Hsa 6:4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud And like the dew which goes away early.

(The word translated as ‘loyalty’ is the Hebrew word ‘checed‘, which is best represented as a three-fold cord of love, kindness, and steadfastness.  In our humanity and brokenness, our ability to love like this quickly fades)

Hsa 6:5 Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth.

(The word translated as ‘hewn’ is the Hebrew word ‘chatsab‘, which is used in the context of a stonecutter or quarry – Isaiah 51:1)

(The word translated as ‘judgments’ is the Hebrew word ‘mishpat‘, used in the context of deciding on a case)

(The word translated as ‘light’ is the Hebrew word ‘owr‘, a metaphor for truth and righteousness.  When stones are cut, whatever is hidden is revealed, whether flaws or beauty)

Hsa 6:6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

(The word translated as ‘loyalty’ is the Hebrew word ‘checed‘, which is best represented as a three-fold cord of love, kindness, and steadfastness)

(The word translated as ‘knowledge’ is the Hebrew word ‘da ath‘ , which represents discernment, understanding, and wisdom and comes from the root ‘yada’ as described above)

(The word translated as ‘God’ is the Hebrew word ‘Elohiym‘, which can be represented by the word ‘rulers’.  The same word as used as the ‘God’ who creates.  It is a plural word.  There is an invitation to come to know the ways of God and how light goes forth)

When we come to know God and the life that we find in the son Yeshua, we can understand that Yeshua was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  God delights when we demonstrate love (‘checed’) for one another.

Do you know Me?

Origin and Targets of Desire

I’ve been pondering this question lately, “where does desire come from?”

Obviously, the word ‘desire’ has both negative and positive connotations and my focus is on that which more noble in nature.

Why don’t we have the initiative or desire to do particular things?  These can be even seemingly good things like sending someone a letter letting them know how proud you are of them.

I wonder if it’s a combination of the overall health of our hearts (e.g. hope deferred versus a desire fulfilled), along with that which is initiated by our creative God.

Romans 11:36

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.

I’ve been in a rather low place this week.  Yet God knows how to delight my heart and bring me encouragement in a way that’s personal and unique to me.  I believe that God sent a pair of robins, who have been sitting in a tree outside my office, literally looking right at me, and singing right to me for the past four days or so.  What are they singing?  I don’t know, but I do know they are a personal encouragement from God for my heart.

There are many words in Hebrew, which have been translated as ‘desire’.  The Hebrew word ‘chaphets’ (H2654) is a good example.  This word means to ‘delight in’, ‘have pleasure in’, ‘be mindful of’, ‘be attentive to’, ‘to keep’, ‘to protect, and ‘to bend down.’

Isaiah 55:11 is a good example of this Hebrew word which brings life:

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Where does desire come from?  I believe that which is for God comes from God.  That God is the source of those desires.

Did you know the word ‘Eden’ (H5731) means pleasure?  It’s a stretch for many to understand that we were created for and in a place of pleasure.  Between a sacred and holy covenant between a man and wife, new life is birthed through pleasure.  I believe somehow, that same picture applies to our personal relationship with God.

Isaiah 51:3

For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

Psalm 37:4 is often used to describe paradigms of desire, and yet the Hebrew root is not ‘chapats’, but rather ‘shaal’, meaning an inquiry or a petition. 

 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires [petitions] of your heart.

Yet, the word for ‘delight’ is interesting.  It is represented by the Hebrew word ‘anag’ (H6026), meaning ‘to be soft’, and ‘to be delicate’.

So how do we ‘delight’ ourselves in the Lord?  When searching for an answer, I felt prompted to look at Psalm 107.  Psalm 107 has a theme regarding giving thanks to God and recognizing his goodness.  It takes a soft and delicate heart to recognize the goodness of God and be thankful when going through difficult times.

Psalm 107:1-2:

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary.

In the season I’ve been in, I’ve encountered more and more teaching focusing on the grace given through Yeshua and His righteousness (not mine), being careful not to mix-in law that can not produce life.

1 John 4 teaches that we love because He first loved us.  I am unable to love God, or love others on my own merit (law).  Perhaps when our focus is redirected to His love, the desires of our heart are satisfied (grace).

Yeshua heard the words from heaven that he was a beloved son, in whom God was well pleased.  God loves us with the same love.

John 17:23

I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

Song of Solomon 7:10

I am my beloved’s; And his desire is toward me.

You are the beloved, and God’s desire is towards you.  He wants to bring encouragement to your heart in a way, which is personal to you.

While we wait for desires to be fulfilled, I believe our assignment is to be the beloved.  Be loved.

The Extravagant Father

03/10/2012 – The Extravagant Father

Recently, I received fresh revelation on a scripture that I’ve explored many times.  The story is about a father, a younger son, and an older son.  The story is described in Luke 15:11-31.  Take some time to refresh your memory with the story.  While there’s nothing particularly profound in the language of this story, there are deep things to be discovered in pondering. 

To set the stage, Yeshua (Jesus) is addressing the Pharisees and scribes as the target of the story.  While the story is often traditionally focused on the younger son, the story of the older son is an indictment and the thrust of the conviction.  The story begins with a response to a complaint from the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes.

Luke 15:1-2

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.  Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

The revelation I received is that this story is about two covenants.  The older brother represents the old (Mosaic) covenant.  The younger brother represents the new (Messianic) covenant.

Here are some insights focused on the younger son that perhaps you haven’t considered yet:

  1. For a Jewish son to demand his share of the estate while the father was still living would have been a great insult (as it would be today).  It would be equivalent to saying “I wish you were dead so I could have your money.”  Think about how shocking this was to hear for his audience.  Think about how you would have felt as a parent.
  2. You probably already know that pigs were considered unclean animals (haunt of demons).  Did you ever wonder how pigs got that way? 
  3. The pods were known to be carob pods, which were rather tasteless but provided basic sustenance during a time of famine.  How often, do we turn to the temporary things of this world to try to satisfy us? 
  4. How did the Father see the younger son?  As unclean and demonized with the lusts of this world?  Surprisingly, when the Father saw the younger son, he didn’t see the filth, the perversion, or the uncleanness.  He saw a son.  He saw his potential to be reconciled to love and to have new life as a son as part of a family.  This reveals the heart of the Father.  The Father felt compassion for him, ran towards him, embraced him, and kissed him much.  The expression for “embraced him” is actually to “fall on his neck” which means to place your head upon someone’s neck weeping with joy.  The scripture 2 Corinthians 5:19 reflects this perspective (“in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation”).
  5. In the Jewish culture, the fattened calf would have been their best animal (there normally would have been only one), saved for a very special occasion or time of celebration.  The scripture in Hebrews 9:22 instructs us that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.   Here’s an interesting thought.  Where was Jesus in the story?  Was Jesus the fattened calf slaughtered to make a way for the younger son to be restored to love and relationship (a covenant meal)?  Perhaps the story simply showed what the Father was doing in response to the question being asked (to bring home that which is lost to love and relationship).  Perhaps the story is pointing to the finished work completed as part of the new covenant, with the blood of Jesus making the loving relationship possible.  Perhaps the story is pointing to the coming time where Jesus became the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.
  6. There has been much said about the robe, the ring, and the sandals, but a simpler explanation would be having a profound experience that you belong, you are loved, you have authority, and you are family.  Don’t we all need this experience?  Do you experientially know that you belong, are loved, have authority, and are family?
  7. How much did this cost the Father?  In the Greek, that which has been translated as “wealth” is the Greek word “bios” meaning life (Luke 15:12,30).  As a father in the story, he would have had to give up his life (only son) in order to provide the wealth to divide and distribute between us.  He was willing to give everything (his estate) to reconcile, and have loving relationship with us.

As said, the thrust in the story was exposing the hearts of the self-righteous.  Both of the sons were lost.  What can we learn about the heart of the older brother?

  1. Why didn’t the older brother go after the younger brother?  Didn’t he love his brother?  There is no love expressed through religious works.
  2. He was unwilling to celebrate the restoration of another.  There’s a place to celebrate in the saving of another, in someone going from death to life and becoming reborn.  Religion and moral conformity keep us from being able to love one another.  He judged the younger son as being unworthy of being celebrated or being restored.  How often do we fall into this with our hearts? 
  3. The older brother became angry and embittered.  Why?  Obviously his focus was upon himself and his own works.  The value of his estate would have been reduced, or so he thought.  The older brother never received the grace of God, because His righteousness was based on his own works.  Hebrews 12:15 – “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”
  4. The older brother didn’t acknowledge his younger brother as being legitimate, calling him a “Son of yours.”  The older brother didn’t want to have his reputation sullied by being associated with “sinners.”  Was he lost in his place of pride?
  5. The Father is trying to bring the older brother into a place of repentance (coming home).  The older brother is a slave to the law (old Mosaic covenant).  He says in Luke 15:29, “Look!  For all these years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours.”  This is what being a slave to religion, rules, and moral conformity look like.  Where was his heart?  Did he love others?  Did he truly love the Father, or was it about what he thought he could earn through following the rules?
  6. The Father tells him in verse 31,“you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.”  There’s a message for all the religious older brothers.  The Father’s crazy extravagant love and provision have been available through the asking and the receiving as a free gift through the love and one-time life sacrifice of Jesus.

To conclude, the story answers the question that the Father does indeed receive sinners and eats with them.  Jesus as the Son, did what the Father did.  The story is about an extravagant Father (prodigal means extravagant), revealing his nature and love for us.  Both of his sons were lost.  The younger son was lost in the lusts of this world, the older son was lost in religion, responsibility, and duty.  Through relationship, the younger son found love, forgiveness, and joy.  The older son was lost in religion and had yet to find his way.

How have we made the kingdom of Heaven more like being around older brothers instead of being loved and accepted in relationship?

Jesus shared this story to illustrate what God is like and that there is an invitation to loving relationship and being identified as a family, not a religion.  Regardless of which son we most resemble, there’s an invitation to come, be embraced, kissed much, and treated like a son or daughter as part of a family.

If I Be Lifted Up

I named this blog “Adonai Nissi,” the Lord my Banner. A banner is a standard that gets lifted up. This name for Yeshua (Adonai Nissi) is first found in Exodus 17. Moses found victory over Amalek and his army when he held up his staff as a banner. Of course, he couldn’t do it on his own, but Moses recognized that the victory was the Lord’s.

The Hebrew word for banner (H5251) is נֵס pronounced “nays”. This word is translated standard, signal, pole, ensign, banner, sign, and sail.

Yeshua means deliverer or salvation in Hebrew. There is no other means that man might be saved. Yeshua said about himself in John 12:32 that if He was lifted up, He would draw all men unto himself.

John 12:32
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

This scripture is a fulfillment of that prophesied about Yeshua in Isaiah 11:10:
In that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious.

It is interesting to me that John 3:16 is quoted so often, but John 3:14 is glossed over. I see John 3:14 as an amazing expression of the expression of God’s love for us.

John 3:14
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”

This passage is making reference to Numbers 21. In the context of the scripture, the Israelites have a complaint against the character of God and of Moses. Interestingly, this was directly after the Israelites made a vow to God and the Lord gave them victory over their Canaanite enemies. They named the place of victory, Chormah, meaning “devotion”. If you read Numbers 21 in isolation, the curse that came seems severe. When you flip back through the chapters in Numbers and Exodus and count the number of times the people of Israel complained, you’ll see that God was longsuffering. The Israelites continued to eat from the wrong tree, believing they knew what was good, apart from relationship with God. They were poisoned in their thinking and their speaking.

The curse that came their way was the following in Numbers 21:6:

The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

What is interesting in this text is that the Hebrew that has been translated as “fiery serpent” is the Hebrew word שָׂרָף(saraph), which means burning one and translated as seraphim other places. In the context of scripture, seraphim were to be feared as they normally were seen in the context of judgment (see Isaiah 6).

As the people repented, and Moses stood in the gap as prophet and priest, Yeshua provided the people a means of deliverance, foreshadowing his death on a cross/pole/tree. Bronze is a color/material usually used in the context of judgment.

Numbers 21:8-9:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.”
And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.

This death was to fulfill the death penalty that each of us deserved.

Deuteronomy 21:22
If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree.

Galatians 3:13
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A *TREE”—

Yeshua became a curse for us in every sense of the word, that we might receive every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). He was cut off so that we might be restored and come into fullness of life.

Notice that they those who had bitten into the wrong tree, received life when they saw someone else become a curse in their place. Obviously the fiery serpent was a type of the one who was to come, but it points to the fact that only God can make a way to save us.

Yeshua and the standard (the cross), become a place where a divine exchange happens as a measure of both the mercy and grace of God. Where we exchange death for life.

How do we lift Him up?

I lift him up when I recognize him as the one who saved me from all the fiery serpents from my rebellion, vows, and complaints. I lift him up when I recognize that he is responsible for every single victory in my life. I lift him up when I recognize that He is my banner. I lift him up when I recognize and remember that I am saved by grace through faith (it has nothing to do with my works). I lift him up when I testify about the power of his bloodline to redeem mine and yours. I lift him up when I recognize his goodness, and love. I lift him up when I think about all he’s done for me.

Is the Lord your Banner? Lift him up in the meditations and thankfulness of your heart.

As we ascend in our meditations, we can’t help but get wrapped around the vine…

The Smile of God

I heard a theme at a few recent outreaches lately; this theme was of them serving both a God and a goddess. Of course, I find this disturbing, but more and more common as people make up their own religions. Why do you suppose this is?

I wonder if it’s because of poor teaching. One thought is that perhaps the things of scripture and God have been presented as a men’s club.

God is spirit. There are both masculine and feminine attributes of God described through scripture.

It was this way from the beginning:

Genesis 1:27
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

In the trinity, we obviously have the Father and the Son presented as masculine. The Holy Spirit, however, forms distinctly feminine attributes. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our encourager, and our helper.

Wisdom in the book of Proverbs is described as a “she.”

Of course, in Christ, we have neither male, nor female. Christ was no respecter of persons.

The other thought I have is how was God portrayed to these people where they can’t accept His love and His kindness?

Perhaps they never understood the Aaronic blessing? The book of Hebrews indicates that Jesus became our High Priest.

Numbers 6:24-26
The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.

A countenance lifted up is a smile. Perhaps they never knew about the smile of God. Perhaps they never knew His pleasure over them, His desire to bless them and give them joy.

Psalm 149:4
For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.

If people knew that they could bring a smile to God’s heart, would that make a difference? If they knew the love of God, the kindness of God, the nurture that comes from God, does gender really matter anymore?

A New Covenant Heart

Has your heart been redeemed by a new covenant?

Without the regenerate work of Christ, my heart was sick. Scripture is pretty clear on that point. Jeremiah 17:9 tells me “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”

I realized this summer through my reading that this was how I felt about myself. I didn’t trust my heart because I believed its nature was still evil. That means I’m still living with a Mosaic covenant belief about my heart. Jesus came bringing good news; that of transformation of the heart. There’s a new and better covenant, described in the book of Hebrews. There are four key texts in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, which testify to the nature of this new covenant. They are written in the language of covenant. We’ll look at one of those.

Ezekiel 36:24-27
For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

As followers of Jesus, reborn from above, we understand that we have a new spirit within us. Somehow, we’ve missed that we were also given a new heart. That heart is good because it came from God. God is the giver of good gifts. If you have received a new spirit, it’s time to begin believing you’ve received a good heart!

That’s a spiritual reality. The question remains, why don’t I yet manifest this new heart in its fullness?

There seems to be a key later in the passage:

Ezekiel 36:33-36

“On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited. Then the nations that are left round about you will know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the LORD, have spoken and will do it.”

The issue which remains seems to be that of iniquity. Interestingly, the words iniquity and inequity (unequal) have the same basic meaning. In the English language, both mean morally unfair. In the ten commandments (Exodus 20), it is not sin, which is passed down to the third and fourth generations, but iniquity.  The context of the penalty of iniquity is the command to not make any images (idols).  The heart behind this command is that we would not give our hearts to something which cannot satisfy.  The image that is formed will be something that is served.  The scripture shows us that iniquity and idolatry are linked together.  In the Hebrew language, iniquity is represented by the word Avown’ [H5771].  Avown means to twist, to pervert, to be bent, or to be bowed down.  To get a fuller understanding of this word, Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 make great studies.

Things we serve are modeled to our children.  If the parents love and serve material things, the children will have a predisposition to love and serve material things.

One of the spiritual tools I have been trained in and taught to use is a Father’s blessing.  It’s the idea that every spirit has a longing to be blessed by their earthly fathers and their heavenly father.  The same holds true for mothers and their role in blessings.  It’s also about redeeming what’s been lost through what has been served.

I recently have been astounded by what Paul Cox and his ministry (Aslan’s Place) have uncovered regarding Deuteronomy 28.  I had been searching for a deeper truth of the cross of Jesus.  Deuteronomy 28 describes in detail, more than most can bear regarding blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience to Mosaic law.

Scripture teaches that Jeshua (Jesus) became a curse for us as part of his atoning work on the cross.  Which curses?  All the curses for our disobedience towards Mosaic law fell upon him (Isaiah 53) .  It is also important to note that we are also to be walking in the blessings of His obedience and righteousness through the work of His cross.  When we have our eyes opened to what Jesus has done for us, it awakens our spirit to a deeper understanding of what has taken place on the cross.  The cross serves as a message of transformation both in redeeming the curses in our bloodlines according to Mosaic law as well as receiving the blessings through His bloodline (see Galatians 5 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14).  We love much when we recognize we have been forgiven much.  The same applies towards receiving and the giving of blessings.

The word idol which goes closely along with iniquity is represented by the Hebew word Gillowl’ [H1544], which means log (as in round), something rolled, a trust, a commitment, to wallow, run down, on account of circumstances, and balls of dung (nice, huh).

Looking back at Ezekiel, the text suggests allowing the Lord to cleanse us from iniquity (inequity).  The first application is towards acknowledging and confessing the things we have served or are serving.  This also includes allowing the Lord to show us iniquity in our family bloodlines to confess and take to the cross.  Study Deuteronomy 28 carefully and look for the presence of curses and blessings in your own life, your children, and your ancestors.  It’s time to live in a fuller expression of freedom due to what has already been paid for.  As we allow the Lord to cultivate the hard ground of our hearts, it can become a place that God delights in (Eden means pleasure) and inhabits. This is the testimony of Jesus, the transformation of the heart.