Your Feet

You came into this thirsty land and trod upon the sun-baked earth. In your wake you left–not dust, but healing; joy, gladness, song, and hope. God on the move, constantly seeking the one who strayed, running to meet me while I was still far away. You go forward when others turn back.

So tell me: where can I go, that you will not dare go find me? How far is too far for your feet to tread in this crazy–yes, crazy–pursuit of my soul?

I do not know the answer to it. Only this I have found, only until we nailed your feet on that cross you never ceased walking and moving on behalf of the sinner. ‘Til you were pierced for me your feet never stumbled or turned away from me. Yet though you hung bleeding and dying for me, your purpose was still accomplished. and you won back my soul.

*  *  *

I’m so tired of waiting for love to come reach me. I’ve grown weary of seeing life simply pass by. So I’m making some changes and I’ll follow your lead knowing that if I step where you step my footing is surer and my way is made smoother. So teach me to run–not to walk–and meet life with arms open. To dance and to leap and to skip if I want to. To boldly go forward and seek those in need even if it means going against a rushing current. To be on the move; stride with purpose to meet you. And for once not to run–but to fly to your arms.

Yes. Toward the light.

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God's name is in the very breath you take

Your Name

Ancient rabbis believed that the letters [that made up God’s name] were kind of breathing sounds and that ultimately the name is simply unpronounceable because the letters together are essentially the sound of breathing. Yod, Heh, Vah, He. –Rob Bell, Breathe

In the morning, still drowsy from all that gentle dreaming, I wake up and sigh your name as I stir under my warm covers and rise to greet the day.

Yahweh.

Your name–so overwhelmingly holy and mysterious that it’s become  unutterable–becomes something that is alive and full of meaning when I breathe and think of you. Did you know, Father, that thinking of you first thing in the morning is beginning to come as naturally as breathing? Is it you who is making it so that praying to you is starting to become second nature?

I am breathing, and with it I am saying your name. I am conscious enough to know that life is a miracle, and I am reminded to worship you. My worship rises up in the form of a prayer; an act as simple as thinking, and as necessary as breathing. I squint my eyes and smile when the sun hits my face.

Another beautiful day.

Father, may every word that comes from my mouth today be true to the nature of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me. Because if it is true that that your name is in every breath I take… It would be akin to blasphemy to waste it in speaking idle, hurtful, or profane words. 

And it is when I think this, that the flowing river of worshipful prayer suddenly stops…

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. -Exodus 20:7

Can it be?

Can it be that I have spent most of my life, misusing your name simply by not considering every life-giving breath I take as holy? Can it be that misusing even the air I breathe–misusing the life you’ve given me–is actually taking your name in vain?

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

In.

Out.

I am, without a doubt, guilty. And still my heart beats steady. And still my lungs draw air. And yet… and yet…

How could I have thought that I was fulfilling this commandment simply by using some stupid euphemisms whenever I was angry or surprised? How could I have thought that this was one of the easiest–that’s right–EASIEST commandments to keep?

Because now I see, God, that it is the one commandment that holds me accountable for living my life right, without wasting a single word, a single moment, or a single breath. It calls me to make good use of this life, this air, this name that I breathe.

YOUR Holy name.

Your Hands

You hands–warm, strong, and steady–have held me together these years.

You knitted me in my mother’s womb–every sinew, nerve, and bone. Down to the most intricate detail your hands made me perfect.

You held me up as I learned to walk and and rejoiced over me with song as I grew and ran with arms spread open to the sun and wind. Yes, you were there long before I even began to have a notion of who you were. From you I learned the true meaning of joy. From your hands I have received only good things.

You lifted me, when I was drowning and dark waves of terror overwhelmed me. You held me back all those years ago when an encounter with a speeding car would have surely ended my life. You hands saved me from myself and from the enemy.

Life went on, and as it surely does sunshine sometimes gave way to shadows. But in your infinite power You saved me from homelessness. You never ever failed to provide shelter and food. How wonderful you are! Yes, your hands always provide.

From you I have received and received and received. Yes, your hands are the source of all that is good in my life.

I am filled with wonder at how the hands that created this world, direct the flowing rhythm of nature, and hung the stars in space are the same hands that my sin marred for all eternity. How is it that your nail-pierced hands still beckon to me? How is it that they draw me closer and closer to you?

I can never hope to match your gifts. But I can learn from you and follow your example.

Let my hands be an extension of your own hands. May whatever they create or do be excellent and give glory to you. May my hands have the strength to lift others up when they fall. May they give more than receive, and may they be open to others just as your hands are ever open to me.

“Take Me to You…”

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

–John Donne, Holy Sonnet 14

Let’s be blunt, and say that there is no middle ground. There is no “Self” that thinks and acts on its own initiative and has no Master. The truth is that you are either a slave to Christ or a slave to Satan—that’s it.

As a slave to Christ, you are—indeed—free. But you can’t be free until he storms the castle of your cherished self, demolishes your ego, and enthrones himself in the seat of your heart. As a slave to Christ, you live day by day dependent on him, looking daily at his pure, holy, and loving character and by his grace the chains of sin that bind you are torn. The key to this freedom is the outright possession of your life by God. Apparent slavery. Are you willing to give up the control of your life?

On the other hand, as a slave to Satan you are under the impression that you have the greatest freedom imaginable (after all, isn’t the crummy Decalogue and the word of God nothing short of a yoke meant to keep you from all you really want to do?). The longer you’re under this regime, however, the more confined and debased you become. Apparent freedom is nothing more than self-destructive slavery that degrades you and your view of self, God, and the world around you.

I’ve come to realize that freedom is simply a matter of perspective, in which I must take into account whatI’m being freed from, and what I’m being freed to do. The good news of it all is that YOU choose what master you want to serve. No one can ever take that choice from you. So choose wisely.

May you choose the Master that frees you from degradation and confusion and frees you to be the person you were meant to be—free to do what is both great and fulfilling.

“For You have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love” Gal 5:13

Preventing Identity Theft

Identity Theft

I swiped my card for the fourth time, with great misgivings in my heart.

*DENIED*

“Do you want to try sliding it again, ma’am?” The lady at the register of my neighborhood grocery store said.

I nodded, and tried again, barely conscious of the fact that I was holding up the line–the customers behind me could have been very annoyed, but I didn’t care. Nor did I care about the person bagging my $30 worth of groceries–who could have been shaking his head and slowly, and ever so surreptitiously begun to unbag the groceries he’d already put in my cart. I was only conscious of one thing . . . my mounting frustration.

Later I called and complained to my banking institution. What gives? I have more than enough money to cover this measly $30! It was then that I was told that there were some questionable transactions that I needed to verify… Transactions that did not conform to my spending habits… and only THEN did I notice the recently-posted transactions on my account… it had not been 24 hours since someone spent hundreds of dollars from my debit card on some random internet purchases, and my bank had blocked my card as a safety measure.

I panicked–wouldn’t YOU if an amount equivalent to a week’s worth of work is suddenly swiped from your account by some anonymous thief?

* * *

I was studying today for a discussion I’m leading on Saturday, when I came across an interesting sermon that put the idea of “Identity Theft” in an interesting light. I want to share it with you….

One of the crimes that is beginning to take off in our high-tech, information-driven society is known as identity theft. . . . This crime is well named because as far as the credit and banking systems are concerned, the person using the information is the same person whose name is on the card or account. For all practical purposes, there has been an exchange of identity.

What identity thieves accomplish illegitimately, Jesus Christ has accomplished legitimately for believers. That is, He has affected an exchange of identity with you. Christ did not simply come to change your life. He came to exchange your life for His [1].

I hope that you are never a victim of Identity Theft. However, I DO sincerely hope that if anyone is to take over your identity, it be Christ. When he takes over your life, you don’t end up losing, but gaining much, much more than you ever had to begin with…

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20)

– – –

[1] Krell, Keith, “Courting Sin” https://bible.org/seriespage/courting-sin-1-corinthians-61-11

Wings

How much faith do you have? And when you ask for things in prayer–with “faith”–is it to proclaim the goodness of God? Or is it just to satisfy needs? This is a Bible Study based on a sermon I heard a year or so back, that brings some more truth to what faith really should be.

* * *

There is a peculiar word whose meaning I would love to share with you.

It is the Hebrew word for “corner [of garment]” = ḵânâp (Strong’s number: h3671). It is used many times in the OT (Old Testament). Such as in the following verse:

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart…so you shall be holy to your God” (Numbers 15:37-40)

In the text above, God instructed the Israelites to trim or edge their robes with blue, and at the corner (extremity) of their robes add a tassel. This was for the purpose of remembering the Lord’s commandments.

One thing of interest is that the word ḵânâp is the same word is used to denote wings, either literal (like for birds and angels) or figurative, like the border or edge of a tunic or robe, as is used in the passage.

As the OT is about to come to an end, the word appears again. This time it is part of one of the most beautiful promises pointing to the coming of the Messiah.

But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. (Malachi 4:2)

And the word for “wings”? Yes it is ḵânâp.

  • How would you interpret the meaning of this verse?
  • Would you take the literal or figurative meaning of the word ḵânâp?

Now if we take the word’s literal meaning, we could say that Messiah would rise like a (figurative) bird, with healing in its wings. It’s poetic and lovely, and I think most people would interpret it this way.

But here’s an alternate way of looking at it. For that we need to go to the NT, and read about a particular event in Jesus’ life.

While [Jesus] was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” (Matthew 9:18-21)

Obviously the language changes to Greek in the New Testament, but the word used for fringe still carries the meaning. “Fringe” used here (Strong’s number g2899), also means the same as ḵânâp “wing” “corner”, and “tassel.” Furthermore, Strong’s  emphasizes this connection between the word as found in the NT and its OT counterpart ḵânâp.

* * *

But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. (Malachi 4:2)

  • What happens if we take instead the message of Malachi as it comes: that is, the Messiah rises, and healing can be found at the corner of his garment?
  • How does that throw new light into the motivation of the woman who touched Jesus’ garment?

The woman’s act of bending down to ground level and touching the corner of his garment was not borne out of her timidity or shame at her situation (well, obviously there was some of that—but she could have also touched his back, his long hair, or his sandal if it only came to that). Her choice of touching the edge of his robe was far from arbitrary, for she remembered from the promise that the Messiah would bring healing in the corners of his garment.

Her act of faith is now seen for what it really was: It was her way of proclaiming to the world that Jesus was The Messiah which the prophets had spoken of.

Not many people in his days easily made the connection between prophecy of the coming Messiah and Jesus. In fact, most people missed the point. Is it any wonder Jesus wanted to stop and find her—and give recognition for what she had done? Is it any wonder that she is the only one of the women for whom it was ever recorded that he called “Daughter”?

For if we ask for miracles, shouldn’t their main purpose be to proclaim the goodness of God?

Based on a sermon by Pastor Garrett Speyer

While Reading the Bible, Discard the Brain (But Keep the Heart)

Most cultures in antiquity designated the heart not only as the seat of emotion, but also the seat of thought.[i] That’s why the Egyptians, for example, extracted and discarded the “useless” gray matter (i.e. brain) prior to the mummification of the dead (“Who cares what this mushy stuff is?It’s just gross… Hurry up and get it out”).

The heart, however, was jealously and carefully stored, because it was responsible for life, desires, and thoughts.

This same attribution occurred in the Jewish culture, which is why in the Bible the meaning of so many passages in which the heart is mentioned should be re-considered—there is additional depth to the heart than we can suppose upon a cursory reading. It is, therefore, convenient to re-define the meaning of heart as used in the Bible. Better yet, discard the notion/function of the brain as the seat of thought and keep the heart instead.

According to some sources, the heart was the “seat of all morality and of all moral and spiritual functions.”[1] This encompassed the conscience, and the thinking self.

In short, what came from the heart was much more than emotion. It was thought of as “the authority within.”[2] In other words, the will.

* * *

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

By the fact that “heart” is mentioned in this passage, it describes this love as being much more than a love based on emotions; it is based on a total surrender of the will and the self. A love coming from what makes you you—a conscious love, not a heedless, reckless thing.

This begs the question—how does one love God like that?  How can we, people who have so distorted the definition of love to include everything from affection, to fleeting infatuation (even erotic passion), properly respond? Is God simply asking for the impossible?

* * *

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

God’s promise is to give you a new heart—and with it a new way of thinking, a new way of making decisions, a new way of being your own self. That is what makes the promise in Ezekiel so much more meaningful than before. God wants to give you a new set of values by which you are able to live by. Obedience of his law comes natural to the new heart he gives you, because it has transformed the “authority within” you. It is no longer you, but Christ who lives, thinks, and is in you.


[i] It wasn’t until Herophilos in Alexandria (Egypt) did many studies in human anatomy by means of dissections, that the center of thought was relocated from the heart to the brain, and the mechanical connection between the heart, the pulse, and the flowing of blood in the veins was first grasped.