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Posts Tagged ‘Word of God’

Photo by Steve Fraser

Photo by Steve Fraser

Throughout history, the Word has had the power to “light the way:” scripture, inspired by God in both the Old Testament and the New. Words handed down to us through story, heroes and villains, miracles and inheritance. The Word, then, a written and verbal account of the presence of God among humankind, given to enlighten our own actions and choices, to give examples and a path toward righteousness; a template for living and a warning in the face of evil. We acknowledge: Your word [God] is a lamp before my feet and a light for my journey. I have sworn, and I fully mean it: I will keep your righteous rules. [Psalm 119:105, CEB]

God gives and we must respond, or at the very least, I am compelled to answer. This psalm, the longest single chapter in the Bible, whose author is officially unknown but most assume that either David, Ezra, or Daniel wrote it. The overall message? The Word of God is all-sufficient.

Can I swear to that and mean  it? Can I keep the laws of God? Not all, for sure; and maybe not even the ten. But if I could just fasten my heart on to the two most compelling “Words” from God, two key laws, two commandments that hold within them, the entire Law of God:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  [Matthew 22:37-39]

These two would light my journey indeed, each and every day, if I allowed them to do so, if I surrendered to their Truth and embraced them wholeheartedly, they would shine the brightest.

But I cannot. I don’t. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man [woman] of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips . . . ” [Isaiah 6:5a, NIV]

And for this reason, I cry out to my Jesus, that One who always knew and knows that I cannot follow that path on my own, no matter how much I want to do so today, tomorrow I will go astray. This I know, this I have seen in myself. Only One can cover me, can make the path wide enough for my weaving heart. Oh Jesu, my Savior, the propitiation for my weak resolve.

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farmerMy pastor loves alliteration, metaphor, and rhyme. And so, it came as no surprise a couple of Sundays ago when he referred to himself as the “Dude with the Food,” another way of saying he was the one who had the job to distribute nourishment, the “word of God” and the “bread of life.” Another food-based role for the pastor appears in the parable of the seeds (Matthew 13:1-9).

Such large crowds gathered around him [Jesus] that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed . . . [Matthew 13:2-3, NIV]

This is a familiar parable to most people about the seeds that fell on the path, or landed in rocky places or in shallow places, as well as seeds that grew but among thorns, and finally, the seeds that landed in good soil where they did what they were supposed to do: flourish.

So much has been written about the seeds and many times we have been asked to compare ourselves and our understanding of the message to one of these groups of scattered seeds. But today, I am interested in the farmer.

You see, in my mind, it is the farmer’s intention, from the beginning, to throw and plant the seeds in good soil. After all, the farmer’s goal is to reap a plentiful harvest. It is not intentional that seeds go astray. They will. They do. The farmer may spend a lot of time in soil preparation, but inevitably, circumstances and the weather may alter his best intentions. If the wind comes up or a storm, the seeds will scatter, even those that may have landed in the best of places. Seeds are challenged. Seeds are damaged.

But the key understanding for me is that the farmer is not responsible for the outcome. The farmer can plan, prepare, plant, and even encourage, but ultimately, it’s between the seed and nature (or God, in this case) to actually break down and transform into something else, like a plant. The farmer envisions the best results, but things don’t always work out that way. The farmer can pray for rain and pray for sunshine; the farmer can take out weeds, but sometimes, there are nasty critters that destroy the roots anyway. The farmer is only one while the seeds are many.

We need to stop blaming these farmers for the losses.

farmhandsSometimes, I hear people talking about their farmers who are not good administrators. I guess that means those seeds are unhappy with the size of the fields, the design of the rows, the farmhands that the farmer hired to help deliver the message. Or others say the farmer spends too much time on the fields around the house and not enough time visiting the fields on the other side of the hill, or the special little garden just for organic seeds or sickly seeds. And still others criticize the farmer for not spending enough time planning the farm, or laying hands on the seeds, or purifying the water and so on.

I’m beating this metaphor to death, I ‘m sure.

You wanna help the farmer? Be a farmhand.

 

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Photo by Kimberly Kinrade

If hearing the word is like looking in a mirror at oneself, then it must be familiar when it’s happening. I look at myself and I recognize who it is. In the same way, I must be able to recognize truth. But then . . .

James 1:23-24
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

The idea of turning around and forgetting my own image is disturbing. But isn’t it true? How often I see photographs of myself and I am shocked by the person reflected. When did that happen? The other day I did a video spot and found my neck was doing a great Katherine Hepburn impression. Maybe, what I see in a mirror is not the whole truth after all.

But that sends me off point. What I’m really trying to catch is the idea of recognizing truth in one moment and then forgetting it the next. This happens to me every day. Writing echoes to the scriptures, as I do here, is the same.

I have epiphanies and revelations as I contemplate the word, pray, and write. I hit on a crucial truth, a flowering, a rush; and then I grab my bags, get into the car, go to work and I am someone else. I am the habit woman. I have already forgotten what I saw, what I learned, what I felt.

For a season, I was quite faithful at praying the hours, but I have lost the steady practice in recent weeks. I understand why this ritual has value though, it makes me stop what I was doing, just for eight minutes, and regroup around the Holy Spirit. It was a time to remember, to reconnect, to look into the mirror of the word.

Oh Lord, forgive me. This verse is me. Teach me how to carry your reflected truth with me throughout the night . . . throughout the day.

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Mortimer's First Garden

While some folks may focus in on the correct/rebuke others portion of this verse, I’m much more drawn to the idea of talking, sharing with people with “great patience.” With patience as the umbrella, even a correction would be done with utmost concern and gentleness. That makes sense.

II Timothy 4:2
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

I hate “sparring” about verses in the Bible. Face it, there are tons of people who know the scriptures a lot better than I do and they have committed themselves to memorizing hunks of useful phrases, ready to debunk (correct/rebuke) and possibly even “expose” me and my understanding or interpretation of the words. I don’t go there anymore.

But I’m thinking today that “preach the Word” may actually mean “preach Jesus” moreso than expound on scriptures. For me, that means to speak about Jesus and his life, to explain the concept of a Christ in this world, to share the impact of Jesus and His Holy Spirit within me, to give the gift of what I personally know. When I add the words from scripture to my personal story, when I share how those words helped me understand the truth of the Christ in my life, then it’s a package of love. I am not a leader/teacher/preacher. I am no Timothy. I am just a follower of that Way.

But, what is preaching? Is it part of my role at all? Is it just proclaiming, teaching, exhorting, advocating, and admonishing or can it be all of these things? When I purposefully add “patience” to any of these definitions, the tenor of the words is much softened. It’s more like explaining or story-telling to a child, spoken with patience and even love. It’s not self-edifying, it’s not deprecating or sanctimonious. It’s not screaming or challenging. It’s not clever. That other kind of preaching/teaching is incompatible with patience, or at least, in my mind, they are not easily partnered together.

Jesus is patient; has been and will be throughout time. God is patient. Love is patient.

The other day, I read a cute story to some kids at the library in which Mortimer the mouse planted a seed and was quite disgruntled the next day when there was nothing to show for it. We all know that seeds take time to sprout. Why aren’t we as loving and patient with the Word?

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I appreciate the Amplified translation of the Bible at times like today, when the words that nudged my spirit were enriched further by this translation and its multiple English equivalents. Consider what it means to have the Word at work within us: a superhuman power.

I Thessalonians 2:13
And we also [especially] thank God continually for this, that when you received the message of God [which you heard] from us, you welcomed it not as the word of [mere] men, but as it truly is, the Word of God, which is effectually at work in you who believe [exercising its superhuman power in those who adhere to and trust in and rely on it].
[Amplified}

Two other verses that support this idea poetically come from Isaiah 55:10-11:

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

God’s Word, the message and the man, Christ Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is inside me and part of my being. I invited my God to share both with me. I believe in the Presence and its power to evolve within and to evolve me.

Sometimes I bemoan how slowly I have grown in the things of God. I mean, it’s a little discouraging to think I’ve been at it for 30 years or so and this, this human self, is all I have to show for it. But maybe that’s just the “other voice” speaking condemnation. I know I am far from the perfection that God craves for Human and yet, I am closer now than I ever could have been if I had continued on the first road.

Actually, I’m pretty sure I’d be dead if I had continued resisting the wooing of Christ.

No. My spirit is alive and thriving in my union with the Holy Spirit. OK, so I had a slow start, so what?! We are back to the tortoise and the hare and I’m going to embrace that tortoise part of me again today.

There is a promise that is coming to fruition within me. God’s Word within me is still growing and producing fruit. My life will accomplish what God desires and my life will not return to dust void.

I acknowledge the work of the Word within me. I thank you.

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The full armor of God is a metaphor. And we must remember it’s for standing (like a palm tree), not advancing into battle. And, in my mind, it works from the inside out. And for the armor to work 100%, it requires me to embrace the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 6:14-17
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The first three aspects of the armor are truth, righteousness and peace.

Like a belt, truth holds the whole thing together. This means my speaking and thinking truth as well as adopting God’s truth. When truth is bent, then the protection has chinks.

The breastplate (not commonly worn in modern times) protects the heart, one of the most vulnerable parts of the body. And how do we protect this heart? With right actions with fairness, honor, justness, and devotion to the One who embodies these traits. This typifies the sowing and reaping principle: we receive back what we give out. And the converse if true. I cannot expect my heart to be protected if I am grieving the Holy Spirit.

The third essential is “gospel of peace.” Why isn’t it just peace? Because it’s the message of peace itself that has the power. It is foundational (like feet) and carries great weight. Peace is an outgrowth (the promise) out of the mysterious work of the Christ. When I walk in peace, I bring peace with me.

The last three pieces of the armor are faith, salvation and the word of God.

Faith is called a shield for good reason, it is literally held up to withstand direct attacks. What’s interesting to me is the use of the verb “extinguish.” This means that faith can actually neutralize or put out fires. This, next to right living & behaviors, is my strongest defense.

Salvation is the description of a state of being. This state comes from my acceptance of Christ as the “head” of my life, the captain, the tactical center. Thus, the helmet is an apt description. Salvation is not about my “doing” anything. I am not to be about head-butting. It’s security.

And lastly, the sword which has been interpreted as the Bible itself and as a result, people have used this understanding as a case for aggressively cutting others with it. People memorize verses and apply them to as many situations as they can, ostensibly to cut through the circumstances. But, I think it can interpreted as the word within that comes directly from the presence of the Holy Spirit. The sword works together with the shield. The sword does not have to be an offensive weapon, it can block and extinguish as well. The word of God is knowledge and wisdom and truth. The circle is complete.

Remember: the goal here is to stand!

So, here I am Lord. Forgive me for lashing out with the sword before the rest of my armor is in place. May standing in truth, righteousness, and peace be my first priority today.

(FD 16)

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Where is this glory of the New Covenant? Some would say it is totally manifested in the Christ through the Holy Spirit. That’s fine to say, but where is it today? I have heard others say, the glory is the character of Christ. Is that all there is to it? Really? Just a concept?

II Corinthians 3:7-8
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?

This scripture references the specific glory that was reflected in the face of Moses as a result of his time with God and the creation of the ten commandments. It wasn’t just his demeanor and it wasn’t the Holy Spirit shining out from within. But it was Light and it was Power and it was evident. And according to Paul, the glory of the New Covenant, the power and light of the law of Spirit written on the hearts of believers, that message is brighter and stronger.

I think the Light has been shuttered by unbelief.

There’s so much talk about “scriptura sola” (by scripture alone) and the inerrant Word of God and yet, some of the most potent statements are tamed: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” [John 14″12] or “. . . I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” [Matthew 17:20b]

Until we are operating in these arenas, we have not experienced the fullness of the New Covenant.

Until we are loving God and loving others fully, we are not functioning according to the truth of Christ.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is Light and power and strength. But the Holy Spirit will not do battle with us either. We must work together.

I’m still going “my own way.” I confess. I make a plan and constantly ask God to bless it (or fix it when things go badly). And, in His grace and patience, God waits for me to get it, to really let go.

Dying to self [John 12:23-25] is not be just some nice poetry. It is the true “way” to the out-flowing of power, the unshuttered Light, the glory.

But to die to myself is change like no other change I have ever known or seen. It’s a total unknown. What does that dying look like? What does that feel like? What do I say or do? Or not do or say?

Some people have sought out this place of Spirit flow . . . they’ve laughed themselves silly, they’ve twitched, they’ve dropped gold dust from their fingertips, and they’ve spoken in tongues for hours and hours. But until the Glory manifests through the presence and release of the Holy Spirit, these are interpretive manifestations.

I don’t have any answers at all, but I do sense a missing piece.

Like the Kingdom that is within so is the Glory. It’s there. It’s here. Holy, holy, holy.

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