To the Church on the Edge of the Jordan

Dear Church,

I keep feeling this overwhelming sense of hopefulness that we are standing on the edge of the Promised Land, spiritually speaking. I keep accidentally opening my Bible to the beginning of Joshua, where the Lord repeatedly tells him to “be strong and (very) courageous”. But there’s more He tells him, as well. He also tells Joshua that He is going with him to give him victory. He tells him not to let the Bible depart from his mouth, and to mediate on it day and night, and to fully obey it in order that he may prosper and have success. He tells him not to tremble or be dismayed for God is with him wherever he goes, that no man will be able to stand before him all the days of his life. And God tells him to go through the camp and command everyone to prepare provisions, because in three days they’re going in.

Church, there’s no denying that we have been walking in the wilderness for awhile. Just look around and see the weariness and atrophy of our spiritual muscles. I’m not just talking about the past year. I’m talking about the apathy, the division, the spiritual oppression from without and within. I’m talking about the deception and sexual immorality and confusion that’s been steadily consuming the nation, our communities, and even the Church. I’m talking about the theological debates and denominational divides which have taken a greater seat at the table than our unity as one Body in Christ. I’m talking about the show-up-at-church-on-Sunday people who stab others in the back Monday-through-Saturday. I’m talking about the people-pleasing churches who have voted to set those who are knowingly practicing sin, and in direct opposition to the Bible, in authority over church congregations. I’m talking about the folks that wait for a pastor to tell them what the Bible says, when they’ve got ten of them at home, collecting dust. I’m talking about all the ways we have not been preparing for the coming of Christ.

But if you put your ear to the ground, you will hear the sound of praise. It’s getting louder and louder, like a war cry, marching over the horizon and into sight. It sounds like angels and saints, in unison crying out, “How long, O Lord?” harmonized with “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”

Get ready, Church. The command reiterated in Ephesians 6 is “Stand firm”. In Joshua, it’s “Be strong and very courageous”. Brace yourselves, Bride.

No longer cower in corners, hoping not to offend anyone. This world is perishing, and for us to hide behind “political correctness” while those who are desperately in need of eternal hope are dying of spiritual starvation and literal death, is absolutely hateful of us. There is no shame in the Truth. There is no shame in proclaiming from rooftops that Jesus is the only true and living God, the Alpha and Omega, and the One who loves His Bride all the way to the cross and back! There is no shame in saying that He is greater than all earthly treasures and pleasures, and worthy of all surrender and praise! There is no shame in calling prodigals home, because every prodigal needs to know the door is still open, and their Father still loves them!

If you’re His, you’re free, and your life down here is chump-change compared to what’s laid up for you in heaven. Live like the world’s on fire (because it kind of is, and it really will be soon enough) and you’re suspended above it, waving wildly for others to join you in the freedom of grace. Be strong and very courageous. He is coming soon! Our short lives on earth are meant to bear eternal weight. Hope like you jumped right off the pages of Hebrews 11. The King of Glory is returning soon, and we are standing on the edge of the Jordan waiting to cross into the Promised Land.

Space 1/19/21

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Sovereign in the Spirit Realm

I’ve been reading Ephesians a lot lately (I’m assuming a lot of Christians have been, especially the last chapter). In chapter 6 (the grand finale) it tells the Believer to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength o His might. Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and against the powers, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness, in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12).

Sitting at church last night, we were flipping pages back and forth between Ephesians and Colossians. Sometimes you miss stuff in the Bible until you read it out loud with others, especially those who read out of a different translation than you. So, there I am, snuggled into a padded pew, with one finger in Ephesians and one in Colossians, and we began reading about “principalities and powers” (you know the forces we are told in Ephesians 6 that we are fighting against). Well, in Colossians 2, it says two things about these principalities and powers that I have simply missed up until this point, partly because I never read it in the NKJV, which calls them “principalities and powers” rather than “rulers and authorities” (which sounds like it could be talking about the physical realm). Partly because we were made to function within a Body of believers and sometimes we just won’t see things unless another Christians sees them first. It’s God’s glorious design for Church unity. And partly because the Bible is so deep and wide that a person could read it for 800 years and still see new things. So, here’s what I saw…

The same principalities and powers that we are at war with, are the same that “He made a public display of” when “He triumphed over them” at the cross. In fact, it says “He had disarmed the rulers and authorities” (“principalities and powers”). So, basically, according to Colossians 2:15, the same demonic forces we battle with now, Jesus has already disarmed and beaten.

And the other thing we scavenged out of Colossians 2, last night, was in verse 10. which says “He (Jesus) is the head over all rule and authority (or principalities and powers).” Jesus has entire authority over those we are at war against (and let me just tell you, they HATE it!).

Folks, we are fighting the wrong war when we think we are fighting a virus, or differing opinions (even those we think affect our lives), or economic collapse, or the socialist-media giants who censor everything that doesn’t fit their rhetoric, or the corrupt politicians selling us into slavery. There are a whole lot of pawns on the battlefield. But the truest truth is that this is a spiritual war, between the impeccably good and glorious King of kings vs. the wicked, vindictive, and cruel principalities and powers.

But here’s the glorious part. God already won! He has ALL authority. When Jesus was being lifted back to heaven, to His throne, He told His disciples “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18). Then He told them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the triune names of God (Father, Son and Spirit). His final, parting words were “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”.

Now guys, this world isn’t promised to get any prettier. This war might look like the nastiest, filthiest, ugliest battlefield, and a lot of human lives might be lost. I will not even pretend to think it won’t. I won’t even tell you what my predictions are, because I don’t want you to lose sight of what is even more true than the darkness and suffering we will likely experience. And that is that King Jesus, the One true God, who reigns forever, has ALL AUTHORITY under His feet! There is not a wicked force in this colossal universe that can undermine or undo what He intends. He might permit evil for a season, but for a well-seasoned believer, we can always look back on our lives and proclaim like Joseph did to his brothers “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). TO PRESERVE MANY PEOPLE ALIVE. And for some reason, I think this time around, He is using the suffering to save people from a spiritual famine that ends in hell, rather than a physical famine as was the case in Joseph’s day.

So, let’s get to work with being bold about the greatness of God! If Jesus’ parting words were that He had complete authority, and would never leave us, and that He wanted us to be about making disciples, then the ugliness in the world around us ought not terrify us, but rather remind us that we’re running out of time down here. People need to know that Jesus is the triumphant one (not all those other idols that people call “gods”). They need to know that He is lovely and worthy and righteous and true, and that He is the one and only hope for this generation, as well as every other generation that’s ever been… and I’d say ever will be, but I’m not very confident that we aren’t the last.

Remember, those demons you are wrestling against (because that’s really what this is), they are fighting against God. If Jesus is your God, and I sure do hope He is (or else you’re on the wrong side of this battlefield), then your Papa who loves you all the way to the cross and back, is more than capable of a rescue. He’s also capable of keeping you alive in the fire, like He did for those three Jewish boys in Nebuchanezzar’s day. And if He doesn’t keep you alive, you are headed somewhere incomprehensibly better, so why fret over saying “good-bye” to this broken world?

And one more treasure from Ephesians and Colossians… Colossians 2:9 says that in Jesus “the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form”, immediately followed by “in Him you have been made complete (or full)”! And in Ephesians 3:19, it speaks of us being rooted, grounded, comprehending and knowing the love of God “that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Did you follow that? Jesus, who is the fullness of God, makes us full of Him by filling us to overflowing with His love for us.

It is so easy when we are in a battle to get weary and worn. It is easy to feel like our function of evangelists is coming from a place of stale obedience or fear of hell, when it ought to be an overflow of affection. We love others and care about their souls, because we’re been lavishly loved by God Himself. We have strength for the battle because we know the God who loves us strengthens us and gives us endurance. And we know that the God who we fight for and with has all authority, and loves us enough that He has been preparing a palace for us for these past couple thousand years. None of the sufferings we may have to endure can carry water, when our souls are cupping glory and everlasting hope!

So, a toast, to King Jesus! “To Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or thing, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

Space 1/14/2021

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Jesus Died for Bandits

I used to hitch-hike the country. I smelled like I hadn’t bathed in a month, well, because I probably hadn’t. Showers aren’t easy to come by when your sleeping in ditches and under bridges. But I loved Jesus. And that part really messed with people’s heads. We didn’t look like their preconceived ideas of what a Christian should look (or smell) like.

Jesus also happened to be homeless. He didn’t look all that much like a suit-and-tie wearing Christian. In fact, He often ticked off the religious leaders of His day, by not taking “their” Sabbath as seriously as they expected any God-fearing Jew to do. They honestly missed the point and purpose of the Sabbath, because they viewed rest through a humanistic lens.

Then there was the eliteness of the Jews. It made sense. God had chosen Abraham and his descendants as His people. He had lived among the Jews since long before He stepped into Skin (the cloud and fire, the Mercy Seat in Tabernacle and Temple, the prophets, the Scriptures). He had inserted Himself (and promised to insert Himself) in their bloodline. They were His people.

There are a whole lot of things about Jesus that were miraculous. He healed every sick or demon possessed person He encountered. He raised folks from the dead. He raised Himself from the dead. He surrendered to a gruesome death to save humanity. But there is one miracle that is often overlooked…

He opened the Kingdom of heaven to the outcast!

Jesus didn’t just come to save Jews. He came to save Gentiles. He didn’t just come to reach those who wore a suit-and-tie, faithfully attended church, and always gave their 10%. He came to save the prostitutes.

I write all of this because I think there are still some of you who see Christians and think they are too polished and perfect for you to ever become one. You think the Kingdom of heaven is only open AFTER you’ve got your life together. If I told you how much of a mess I was when Jesus saved my soul, you might think otherwise. I will scratch the surface and tell you that I was addicted to crystal meth when I fell in-love with Jesus. And Mary Magdelene was full of demons (7 of them, actually), when she got saved. Matthew was a traitor to His people when He started following Christ. Paul was murdering Christians. Need I go on?

Let me just cup your cheeks (as much as I’m able), turn your head up to heaven, and tell you, one of the greatest miracles of Christ’s life is that He opened the Kingdom of heaven for everyone… the polished and the misfit, the law-abider and the death-row-dwelling inmate, the Jew and every other nation. For God so loved the world!

If you’re hesitant to follow Jesus because you’re afraid you won’t make a very good Christian, remember Jesus absolutely loves the outcast! He chose to be homeless and live among folks of no reputation. Gaze at the lives of His followers. The guy that wrote about half the New Testament was en route to kill Christians when he became one. Jesus has a way of turning broken, bleeding, hopeless lives into Glory-stories! All you have to do is accept it! There’s not even some magic word to get you through the gate. Simply believe Jesus loves you enough that He died. And then preach it to yourself again and again, whenever your tempted to resurrect old shame- Jesus died to abolish your shame. This is a Kingdom of redeemed bandits, where the criminal becomes a poster-child for Grace!?!

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Vision #2

Awhile back I posted a vision I’d had, and said I would post more. Yet until now, I haven’t done so. For the past week or more I’ve been feeling that I needed to share this particular one, so here it is. I saw this on 2/27/16.

I was reading Chapter 4 in Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”.   Just as I was finishing the chapter, the Lord told me, clear as day, “Close your eyes” and here is what I saw.

I saw the invisible war taking place all around me.  Angels and demons fighting.  The angels were sleek, shimmering, golden and light-filled.  The demons looked like monsters, but I was not afraid at all.  The angels were winning.  In fact, not a single angel fell.  The demons were dying off.  As the demons brought in replacement troops, there were less and less of them (Two times they replaced the troops.  The first replacement was significantly less, and the second only had one giant), still the replacements were bigger in size.  At the beginning of the scene, no humans were dying, than as time went on, an angel might allow a demon to kill one here or there, but at the end, the humans were falling like flies, because the angels knew the time was rapidly approaching and the wanted to speed up the process.  When the demons would kill any human beings the angels would allow, if the human was not of God’s Kingdom, they would fall, but if they were of the Kingdom, their fallen body would rise up as a new golden creature of the Light.  It was as if many of the creatures were birthed out of the fallen, slain bodies of the saints… as though they were finally released.  They joined the angelic army, which rapidly became far more numerous than the demons, until there were no more humans and one giant demon, and the whole earth was brimming with angelic creatures.  In unison, they loosed all their arrows onto the one giant, who evidently had no foresight to understand that he had no hope of winning.  Just as the giant fell, the earth swallowed him and all of the bodies of the fallen who were not the Church, and all of the angelic creatures began to fly up to the Celestial City, but the Lord stopped me from entering the gates of the City and told me I didn’t get to see it yet.  That it’s a surprise and then He told me that it was the place where He was going to give me a crown and I was going to give it back to Him because I am lovely and He is lovelier.  I am lovely and He is worthy!  

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The Wonder of Tree Bark

I have a confession. I am enraptured with tree bark.

I suppose you might be scratching your head, confused as to why I am so wild about tree bark, of all things. It all comes down to wonder… and the majesty of details. Tree bark is kind-of like the finger prints of the tree, each and every strand and fiber different from the next, just like every finger print was uniquely designed for each individual person (what glory!). It’s how you can tell trees apart, even in the winter time, when it’s leaves lay docile, littering and nourishing the earth at it’s roots. The bark is the skin clinging faithfully, letting those that amble by know the tree’s identity.

But here is the crux of why I love tree bark… because something about it makes me want to lean into the tree and look closely, to run my fingers along it’s ridges, and fill up with wonder.

When Jesus was meandering the Palestinian deserts and towns, He told His followers if they wanted to enter the Kingdom of heaven, they needed to become like kids. For years I have pondered this, and how this plays out in my life. One of the greatest marvels of children is that they easily default to wonder. Kids are so present in the moment, so prone to letting the details accost them with amazement. I aspire to spend my life like a child, in this way… letting the wonders of the world around me accost me. Letting things like tree bark, a hefty breeze, the wafting of children’s laughter, or the feel of pine needles on the soles of my feet take my breath away, and cause me to pause, notice and savor.

So now I’ve said it. I hope you remember it. When you’re walking by some tree you’ve always taken for granted, I hope it makes you stop, lean in, maybe even wrap your arms around the trunk giving it a good hug, and then remember to run your fingers along the spines of the tree bark. And I hope it fills you brim-full of wonder!

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Hindsight is always 2020

Driving down the road, as 2020 was about to make way for the New Year, I began to pray about the ways my vision had been clarified in 2020, because this may have been a hard year, but resistance can be good for the soul. It occurred to me that hindsight is always 20/20. I guess we often don’t know the lessons until we’ve made our passage through the journey.

So I set my sights, once again, to know what exactly this year had taught me, in the deepest regions of my soul. I realized that, if there was to be one theme of this past year, for me personally, it would be a year where my grip on this world loosened, and my groping for the Eternal increased. I guess I know Jesus more intimately on the other side. And what fortune! To know Jesus better! Who could wish for a greater gift!?!

I sunk a little deeper into the seat, and into the everlasting arms of the Most High.

I would not wish for the struggle and hardship that 2020 afforded us, ever again. Yet, somehow, when I reflect on our suffering, I also wouldn’t wish it any other way. The entire world (or at least the Western Hemisphere) seemed to learn a little about stillness, our own mortality, and a whole host of other things we could wish to have learned through abundance, rather than strife. Yet, we are humans with a natural inclination towards learning the hard way.

So, here I sit, welcoming in the fresh breath of the new year, and praising the God of heaven and earth that His abundance is not limited by our easiness. And His glory will not be overshadowed by the clouds.

Space 1/1/21

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The Preparation of Solitude

I am often struck by the solitude and silence all the characters in the theatrical cast of the original Christmas story endured, in preparation for the Messiah’s entrance to the world, and also to the public.

Elizabeth, the elderly, barren mother, who would deliver the forerunner for the Christ, kept herself in seclusion for five months, after discovering that the baby she had longed for would be given to her in her old age.

Zacharias was unable to speak for the entirety of his wife’s pregnancy, because his years of want and discouragement overshadowed his trust in the Lord being able to accomplish what He had promised… to give him a son.

John “lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel” (Luke 1:80). What a place of solitude and reflection.

I can only imagine the public shunning that marked Joseph, Mary and Jesus’ lives. Mary, the virgin, pregnant before marriage. Explain that to a society. Joseph, the obvious suspect of this illicit pregnancy, since he chose to marry her anyways. And Jesus, the bastard child. We cannot fathom the public shame and isolation this seeming-scandal brought on their family.

When Mary proclaimed, with Child in utero, “From this time on all generations will count me blessed” (Luke 1:48), this is obviously true. Mary is so exalted, to this day, that there are some who border worship in their honor and delight in this beloved woman, chosen by God to carry Christ in the womb! But in the details of her day, I’m certain she also endured shame for the womb that delivered salvation to the world.

God Incarnate chose an entire life that would cause Him to endure criticism and shunning from the very people whose calling it was to lead others to God, while simultaneously reaching those who also lived on the recesses of society. Instead of the religious leaders holding their position turned their hearts from God Himself.

I’m amazed by all of this. Year after year, I ponder all this solitude and isolation, and what a blessing it turned out to be for humanity. I imagine all of the solitude prepared them. Solitude is different from isolation, in the sense that solitude leaves us alone with God, as I’m certain all of these six saints were. I can only imagine the preparatory conversations each of them must’ve had with their heavenly Father, as they took on enormous callings- to either raise or be the Messiah and His forerunner.

This year, I can’t help pondering today. This social isolation. This forced solitude. We have had a year where many have experienced a loss of job, estrangement from friends, loss of a loved one (or the inability to visit a loved one in desperate need of care and companionship), a lack of opportunities or places to gather, hug depravation, and many have even been quarantined- isolated for two week increments. And then there’s been the isolation of the public shaming coming from those with differing responses to all of this chaos. The fear and political divide that’s sent many cowering into their hobbles. It’s been hard. I ain’t gonna lie.

But I imagine it was hard on Zacharias, Elizabeth and John, too. And especially on Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

In a strange way, this gives me a lot of hope. Their isolation may have been hard, but it was preparatory towards the most transformative events and Life that would even grace this planet. All of it was. about to unveil that God had made Himself incarnate! So, I muse. And hope. And am reminded, once again, that all may look hopeless in one moment, and in the next God may just unleash His majesty on humanity. So, in this season, I rest with anticipation to see what it is that He is preparing us for, through this time of global solitude, isolation, and silence.

with welling hope,

Space 12/23/20

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The Things Which Are Not Seen

Sitting around the Christmas tree, with our last, remaining kid at home, we swapped passages of Scripture, because that’s really what Christmas is really about.

Smiles read a couple of parts of Isaiah, the prophet who told us specific details about Jesus hundreds of years before His virgin mama delivered Him to the world in between slats of barn walls.

Then I read about the birth, out of Matthew’s account, since that’s where I’ve been camping this year. And once again, it struck me, but from a slightly different vantage point, the significance of those three gifts. All three pertaining to the Temple, God’s dwelling place: Gold overlaid so much of it, especially the Holy of holies (the innermost chamber where God Himself dwelt). Frankincense, an ingredient in the incense. Incense has always represented prayers rising to heaven. Frankincense for this Toddler who would become the Mediator between God and mankind. The Great Intercessory Prayer, who continues to intercede for us, even from the Throne room of heaven. And Myrrh, an ingredient for the anointing oil, meant to consecrate the priest and specific elements of the Temple intended for worship. The Anointed One, consecrated for the work of the Priest, to make the sacrifice that would purify mankind.

I ponder this. These wise men traveling for about two years, to meet a tiny King, and give Him gifts that would foreshadow Who this Child was intended to be. And I just kinda sit there, with my thoughts, amazed. Because the wise men got it. They really understood that this baby King was otherworldly. He may have been condensed into tiny, impoverished flesh, but He was the Eternal One. He was GOD with us. The God who moved the Holy of holies into our hearts, where His Spirit would soon dwell. The God who would become the offering, and make way for our prayers to reach the ears of God Himself.

I am always amazed at the humility of God, this time of year. The God who would breathed out galaxies, yet would condense Himself into human flesh, and not just any flesh, but one who continuously chose to make Himself as lowly as possible, so that the lowliest of men would know that God had stooped to reach them, to bring heaven to the most abased of earth. But this year, I have been amazed, again and again, how God showed Himself to be the Majestic One, through the events surrounding His birth. An orchestra of angels manifest in the sky, as a birth announcement. Magi bring gifts on a years-long journey, that express the holiness and glory of the One they sought out to bestow them with. Soon after, Simeon would hold a newborn in Solomon’s temple, exclaiming that God had promised he would see the Messiah before he died, and now he can die in peace because Simeon had seen the face of God Himself. Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Lord, would be the one sent to let Mary know that her whole world was about to be turned upside down, and her purpose on earth would be of eternal worth. Plus, many more things, all of which proclaim God’s Majesty in human form.

I keep waiting for our vision to clear in 2020. 20/20 has always resembled perfect vision, but I’m not sure how a year that feels like pond sludge is supposed to make our vision clear. Still, I do remember a time Jesus leaned down, spit in the mud, wiped it on a guy’s eyes, and suddenly the blind man could see.

Maybe this 20/20 vision is clearing as heaven seems to draw nearer, and earth fades. Before I crawled out of bed, this morning, I reached down for the Book that clarifies my vision. I plopped it open, and these words spilled off the page, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).

This year has been brutal for most of us. There are bright spots, for sure, but the future feels very uncertain, and we all ought to be more keenly aware of how vulnerable and temporal we are. So the ones among us who recognize the value and authority of God, have begun to look more deeply at the things which are unseen. Maybe my year is a little like my Christmas… the vision is transitioning from enjoying God on earth to enjoying God eternal… just as the Christmas story I read year after year is transitioning in my mind from a Baby in a manger to God Incarnate who we, like Simeon, because He chose to enter our atmosphere, get to see the face of God!

Space 12/26/20

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The Hidden Christmas Star

Last night, I was so bummed the sky was overcast. I really was. How is it that almost every night, I wander out and see stars, but when there’s something over-the-top, like this “Christmas Star” or an eclipse, the sky always seems to be too cloudy to see it, even for a girl named after literal space?

I lamented. But lament is a beautiful thing, because it means we take our wounds to God, and ask Him to heal us. And sometimes explain Himself to us. I brought my grievance to the Throne last night, and walked away understanding the metaphor…

Sometimes God hides Himself. Now, none of us like this idea. Maybe it’s partially because we’re grown ups, and we forgot how to play “Hide-and-Seek”. We want everything we want, and we want it in this exact instant, and if we don’t get it now, we feel slighted… because we, grown-ups, tend to think the world revolves around us, and we’re racing against our impending expiration date (and none of us know when that is).

But do you remember how to play “Hide-and-Seek”? Do you recall the welling up of anticipation. Partly because we were playing with friends, so we trusted them to still be there when we found them, and that they wouldn’t cause us any harm in their hiding or absence or discovery. Maybe the problem is, we don’t trust God to be our Best Friend. We don’t trust that He’s still there when we can’t see Him. We don’t like the anticipation because we want the gratification, not realizing the gratification is better because of the longing-then-finding.

King David compared his longing for God like a deer panting for water. Sometimes, when God hides Himself we feel parched. We feel scared and abandoned. But God isn’t gone. He hasn’t even taken His eyes off of us. He is simply veiled from our’s for a short while, so we can learn to long, and in the finding, be surprised by greater joy.

If God, like that elusive star I’ve waited with anticipation to see, seems hidden or even absent from you right now, dear one, then please remember that sometimes His hiding is for a greater revealing, and that He is still nearer than your own skin (if you are one of His).

I am sure that, in the wisemen’s travels, they had one or two cloudy nights where they couldn’t press on in their journey… but one thing I’ve learned is that if I spend my entire life focusing on destinations, I will miss the travels… and sometimes we don’t see our own goal met at the end of our journey on earth, so if we miss the traveling, we miss everything. I sure hope those wise men had some fantastic fireside conversations and restful evenings on the journey, because cloudy nights can either feel like robbery of a blessing, create anxiety in our impatience, or we can look for the other blessings God has for us right here… right where He is hiding Himself.

God bless ya’all.

Space 12/22/20

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Worship Like A Magi

Someone recently pointed out to me that the Magi didn’t bow when they saw Herod. But they did, when they found Jesus, with His teenaged mama. Hmmm. I just want to hit pause, right there.

We are living in a time when the governments of the world are trying to make themselves seem really, really big. When the societal pressures are at a boiling point. When folks are so divided that they only seem to discuss the things they disagree with and if you don’t respond to this virus, or the government, or whatever, the way someone else thinks you should, expect to get bullied and judged.

But Herod was also a pretty big deal. And Rome ruled the world (including Israel). And the societal unrest in Jesus’ day was thick as Silly Putty. The world was divided. Some people complied with Roman rule, and some defied it. Some people clung to extra-Biblical Law and judged everyone who didn’t comply with their standard. Some were beaten to a pulp with the condemnation of others, and were famished to know heaven might be open to them to.

Enter the Savior of the broken. The Baby born as a bastard child of two betrothed teenagers, laid in a feeding trough meant for livestock. This is the One for whom the entire world still throws a Birthday Party a couple thousand years later!

These wise men knew what only the Spirit of God could teach… that this small Child was the King worth bowing to. Instead of bowing to Herod, they were on a mission to find God. Herod was just a stepping stone on the path to Him.

I also want to remember this… The times we’re in are so tumultuous, and there is much to make our knees knock together. Yet, these are only pebbles on the path leading to Him. In this year, I have seen more suffering in the lives of my friends than ever before. I am heard of so many hidden, wicked agendas unveiled that, should they fully manifest, we are on the verge of prophesied suffering like we’ve never seen. But it’s only suffering in the flesh. They are pebbles. Precursors to Christ’s return! As a Bible-adorer, I am reminded over and again, that all the impending, encroaching, violent threats of this world are putty in the hand of God. He rules sovereignly over all. I only have to bow to One.

I think the cruelty of this year is that we have almost all bowed to things we shouldn’t have. I know I have bowed to fear and frustration more times than I can count. And when I glance over my shoulder at this year, I am grieved that I wasted so much of it bowing in the wrong direction. Instead, my knees should have bent the other way… towards heaven.

The wise men knew they were coming to see the Messiah, the King of Creation. So they brought gifts. And they didn’t scoff when they saw what the Chosen One had come to earth dressed like.

Their gifts symbolize three of the greatest aspects of Who Jesus was and is… Prophet, Priest and King.

Gold was a gift for royalty. Or rather for God. The most significant use of gold in Scripture is found in the accounts of the Tabernacle and the Temple. The two places designed specifically for God to dwell. To read about these wonders, see Exodus 15-39, 1 Kings 6 and 2 Chronicles 3. In my studying, I ran across one verse that blew me away. It says “Now he made the room of the holy of holies; its length across the width of the house was twenty cubits (that’s about 30 feet), and it’s width was twenty cubits; and he overlaid it with fine gold, amounting to 600 talents. The weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold.” It was nailed together with gold! Assuming the conversion tool I found on the internet is correct, and that talents weigh the same today as they did in Solomon’s day, the Holy of holies was overlaid with almost 40,000 lbs. of gold. That’s intense!

But what is most intense is the location. The Holy of holies was the place where the Spirit of God dwelt, and only one priest, once a year was ever able to enter. The Holy of holies was set apart, and people were exiled from entering where God dwelled… until a fateful day, a few decades later, when in His final exhale on a cross, the intensely thick (and impossibly high) veil that separated the Holy of holies from humanity was torn from the top down. It’s no wonder the wise men brought a gift to the Baby who was Emmanuel… God in flesh. God among us. He was bringing the Holy of holies into the arm’s reach of mankind.

Incense, specifically Frankincense, was used in the priestly service. It was a sacred ingredient for the ceremonial incense. I don’t recall where I read it, but I recall reading incense as symbolically representing prayer rising to the Father. Jesus, the Mediator between God and man, is the merciful and faithful High Priest who intercedes (prays) for us.

Frankincense, for the record has incredible healing properties. That is not written in the Bible, but from what we know of herbal medicine. I have read testimonies of people curing brain cancer with Frankincense, and knew of someone eradicating cancer out of her lungs by putting Frankincense in a nebulizer and doing breathing treatments with it. What a parallel that Jesus spent His ministry years touching people and healing them. And that His death brought the final healing for all mankind, or at least those accepting of such mercy. So, perhaps the Frankincense straddles the prophecy of Him as Healer, as well.

Myrrh was also used in the Priest’s anointing oil (the oil strictly used to sanctify-set apart- the priests and the temple. It was also commonly used for embalming. Their gift was a prophecy of His’ death. The death of one, who, with a Prophet’s voice, would say things which made unbelieving ears and hardened hearts want to kill Him. Myrrh is also antiseptic… a cleaning agent. Another way Myrrh was prophetic of His death… the ultimate cleansing for our souls.

All of this is easy enough to hold at arm’s length and turn over, but what I want to do is press it against my own chest and ask, “How am I doing at bringing these three gifts to God? At kneeling to the One King? How am I doing at sanctifying my heart like the Holy of holies for His Highness to dwell? How am I doing at offering up prayers that are fragrant, and not just demanding? And how I am I doing at surrendering my suffering to the One who suffered to heal the entire world?” The honest answer is, “Not well”.

But on the heels of my honest answer comes the knowledge that God convicts, but He doesn’t condemn. He can use the gifts of the Magi to show me the errors of my heart and mind, but would never use them against me, or love me any less for my failures, sins, and struggles. In fact, in Hebrews 4:16, He uses our need for mercy and grace as an invitation to draw near to Him, with confidence Only one who knows they are washed pure by the cross can enter His presence with confidence!

So, there you have it folks…. How the story of a few wise men continue to breathe grace, thousands of years after they existed on earth, to some little lady in Southeast Ohio. Because as much as I have had a lot of confessing and repenting to do, God floods me with grace! Just like He flooded the entire world with grace, through that Baby born among livestock who is just about to have another Birthday Party!

Space 12/19-21/20

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