Love Suffers: It Must!

Hurt, woundedness, death are all a part of love. If not, in fact, a prerequisite to it. There can be no life without death, and no resurrection without crucifixion. We hurt, wound, insult, inflict pain upon God and yet, He loves us. Hence, so we do also to one another.  This is nowhere more evident than in marriage.  Or, at least, in mine. It is a tragic mental misconception that we adopted when we equate the fact that we hurt, wound, and inflict pain upon one another as evidence that we don’t love one another.  Somewhere, with us, it became a marital more’ that if someone hurts us, they must not love us.  This is not true and not a biblical principle.  Love requires suffering.  Love is bloody and painful and hurtful. These are oftentimes the characteristics of love and not evidence that there is no love.  More often than not, it is the pain and the wound that leads to death and this then leads to life.

When I hurt Rina, she can respond in three ways: return the pain (evil for evil), attempt to control whereas to not get hurt again (witchcraft) or die!  Death in marriage, at least in mine, is an essential.  It is the only option for us that will produce life.  The evil for evil, hurt you because you hurt me option, only exacerbates the problem.  The second, that of “promise me you will never do this EVER AGAIN!”  Only puts a temporary band aid on the problem and worsens the wound the next time I rip it off without warning.  The final, death, is the only option for us.  Why is death to self the only option?  Dead people don’t care what the other person does (“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead…”(Romans 6:11)) They don’t care because they can’t care, they are dead!  It is impossible for a dead person to be selfish, they just don’t have that capability.  Only living people have it.  While we live in hurt, pain, and woundedness we react out of that power base. Death is essential and it does not come easy. It hurts. It hurt Jesus. It hurts my wife. It takes a long time and I do it without even thinking about it.

We cant help but hurt one another. We are all “by nature children of wrath.” (Eph 2:3) We innately serve this inner nature that will, by its very existence, hurt and wound and kill the very people that we profess to love the most.  It is a fact of marriage!  I will hurt her, she will hurt me, and we will do this unintentionally most of the time.  We will hurt and wound and not even realize that we are doing it.  But it will happen and I must respond to it. I must allow myself to be crucified by the one I love the most. By the very one who vowed before God to love me above all others. I must allow that person to destroy me because it is only out of that death that life can come. I am to consider self as dead.  Dead men don’t grumble, they don’t complain, the don’t retaliate, they don’t seek to control or to protect themselves against the next onslaught of inevitable emotional pain. They are simply, unequivocally, and unapologetically: Dead!

“So death is working in us…” (2 Corinthians 4:12), this was Paul’s description of the spiritual life of the apostolic minister.  When the apostle would die to self life would be manifest in others.  The rest of the verse (2 Cor 2:4:12) says, “but life in you”.  Our sacrifice produces life in others.

There is freedom in death for both parties. Death in her produces life in me and likewise, death in me produces life in her and likewise, the death of Christ produced life for us all. This is the mystery that Paul tells us. (Ephesians 5:22) If you love your wife you will be hurt, wounded, and even killed without mercy. If you love your husband, you will be hurt, wounded and even killed without mercy. Jesus loves us and was hurt, wounded and crucified without mercy. This is love: the very first description of it is “suffers long.” (I cor 13:5 ) The Greek means this: “to persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles; to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others.” This is the very first description of what love “is” in the biblical narrative.

What does love do in the face of suffering. Does it return evil for evil? Does it seek to control to prevent pain from reoccuring? No. In return, it is “kind.” When “Goodness” becomes action it manifests itself as kindness. This produces life. Love suffers insults, pain, and woundedness and in return, it is kind even in the face of insult, injury, and pain.   That is only possible for me if I am dead.  Dead to selfish reflections of pain and hurt.  Dead to the obsession over how careless she can be.  Only then, can the Holy Spirit in me manifest itself as kindness.  And she also, must be dead to the wound that I continually pour salt upon.  Dead to the empty promises and dead to the fact that this will inevitably happen again.  Dead to the fact that she will be crucified and afterwards, I will be the one holding the hammer.  Then, and only then, can she reflect kindness.  This produces life in me. But, and to the point at hand, the wound and the pain are a prerequisite.  Life from death. That is love. That produces life.  That is our marriage. That is Jesus Christ!

 

The Work of the People

This year, I’ve been reading the Eastern Orthodox Study Bible that my good friend Alan bought me.  I like this Bible because it is an updated English translation of the Greek Septuagint (LXX) as the orthodox hold it, and not the Masoretic text, as their “sacred.”  I am very excited about this fresh perspective on the Old Testament.  So, here is my first post of “stuff that I get from this book.”

In numbers 1:50, God tells Moses to take a census of the Levites so they can “minister unto the Lord.”  The Septuagint uses the Greek word “leitourgountwn” (this is a transliteration as I can’t find the Greek font on this new fangled wordpress thing) and it means liturgy or the liturgical ministry.  The orthodox commentary states, “The word liturgy means ‘the work of the people'”.  The usage of this verb is telling.

After the exodus, God wanted to make Israel a nation of priest and prophets to minster liturgically unto Him. (Exodus 19:6)  However, the people rebel and Levi was chosen (Exodus 32).  So, the Levites were called upon to do what the people should have done and thus, the priesthood was born.  But this was not the Lord’s original intention.

Again, with the inauguration of the New Covenant, God intended for all of His people to minister liturgically to Him. (I Peter 2:9)  We see this played in Acts 13:2 as the same Greek word is used here as was used in Numbers 1:50.  The church at Antioch was ministering to the Lord with prayer and fasting.  It was the people who ministered to God, not a special social class of folks identified as clergy.  It was all the church ministering unto God not seminary graduates.  It was this ministry that birthed the first evangelical mission of the Apostle Paul.  He and Barnabas were commissioned as the people ministered to God.  That’s what New Covenant Christianity is all about.  Once the people of God took their rightful place as minister unto God, the priesthood would no longer be necessary.  Messiah would be the High Priest and all of us His ministers.  And yet, a class of clergy continues to exist in every single Christian denomination doing the work that the People of God ought to be doing!  Why?  There are probably two reasons

First, the people of God continue to live in rebellion and this continues to necessitate a  priesthood to do the ministry unto God.  Secondly, clergyman are not quick to release the power and control that comes with positions of authority, respect, and esteem.  Nonetheless, I say, it is time for the people of God to minister unto Hims with prayer and fasting as the church at Antioch did in Acts 13.  It was the work of the people, their liturgical ministry unto God as priest and prophets that birthed that first apostolic ministry.  It is time for the church of God to again birth Apostles through its own work unto the Lord.

Holiness is His Job

For He Who Began A Good Work in You, will Complete It-Phil 1:6

     I’m beginning to understand that holiness is not about changing our behavior; it is about changing our hearts.  For me, it is quite simple, if I have a desire to do something, even a sinful something, I will find a way to do it.  Even if I have set up external factors that prevent me from engaging in whatever behavior I have the desire to do, eventually I will find a way to do it.  Holiness is not about controlling my external environment; it is about changing the heart behind the behavior.  The removal of the desire is rarely accomplished by my own human efforts; it must be a work of the Holy Spirit.  For me, this is what Paul is talking about in the above-quoted verse.  I think this was also on David’s mind when he composed Psalm 139.

     David writes, “You have hedged me behind and before and laid Your hand upon me.” (139:5). It seems that David is recognizing the fact that God is doing a work in his heart that he is not able to accomplish on his own.  After yielding my heart to God, such as it is, sinful and all, The Holy Spirit will be begin to remove evil desires to from my heart.  He concludes, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139: 23-24).  It seems that David is here describing the process of holiness.  He acknowledges that it is an “inside job” and requires the intervention of God.  Likewise, Psalm 141:4 states “Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works.”  David knew that the process of sanctification is filled with events.  The removal of an evil desire from the heart is an event.  A baptism in the love of God is also an event.  However, the entirety of becoming holy, for me, has been a process filled with events.  These events lead me into increasing levels of holiness.  It seems this was also on David’s mind when he writes, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

The Mundane and the Miraculous

     After writing my last post regarding revival and God’s work, I had a discussion with my good Patrick.  Patrick brought up a really profound point that I would like to share.  First, that if we can’t see God in the mundane, then we will struggle to see him in the miraculous.  Secondly, the desire we have to see miracles may be the exact reason why we are not seeing them.

     Noah Webster defines the mundane as “belonging to the world.”  It is derived from the Latin word “mundus” which means “world, universe.”  In the Latin Vulgate, this word is seen in some interesting places.  In John 1:10 we read, “He was in the world.”  Mundus or the mundane is the word deployed by St. Jerome here.  What is implied from the reading is that God is in the mundane.

    All things around us’ plants, animals, the cycles of seasons, the moon and the stars, and any other aspect of creation, God is “in them.”  When we begin to find intimacy with God in the things that are common we will position ourselves to view that which is uncommon.  Relationship with God in the mundane provides opportunities to see the miraculous.

     The children of Israel wandered in the desert a long time.  They were miraculously fed by God’s manna everyday.  The miraculous became mundane for them.  When they failed to appreciate the mundane, it altered their perception of reality.  We read, “And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” (Numbers 21:5) What they described as “worthless food” was the miraculous bread from heaven, the manna.  The children of Israel are really crying out for a miracle.  They desire to see some great work that will fulfill all the desires of their flesh.  Their desire for tasty food and beverage.  Their reality had become distorted.  They failed to see the miraculous that happened before their eyes.  Their desire for a new miracle prevented them from seeing the miracle that took place every morning.  They had lost their appreciation for the mundane.  Let us not make the same mistake.

Revive Me, Oh Lord!!

     The writer of Psalm 119 was no spiritual novice.  He was very acquainted with his God.  He was acquainted with spirituality, worship, and the study of the law.  He had “tasted and seen” that the Lord, He is good.  And yet, he prayed for personal revival.

     He writes, “Revive me, according to Your Word.” (Psalm 119:25); “Revive me in Your Way.” (119:37); “Revive me in Your Loving-kindness.” (119:88); “Revive me in Your Righteousness.” ((119:40); “Revive me, Oh Lord, according to your Word.”; “Revive me, according to Your Justice.” (119:144); “Revive me, according to Your Word.” (119:151); “Revive me, according to Your Judgments (119:156) and finally, “Revive me, according to your Loving-kindness.” (119:159). Eight times during this Psalm, he prays for personal revival according to the things of God that he has previously experienced.  And yet, he ends the Psalm with his current spiritual condition, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep!  Seek your servant.” (119:176) He is well aware that he has had a falling away from God.  He is acutely aware that he is powerless over his current condition and he seeks God for personal revival.

The Hebrew word used repeatedly in this Psalm is the word hyj pronounced “chaya.”  It basic meaning is “Life is the ability to exercise all one’s vital power to the fullest; death is the opposite.  The verb “haya”  ‘to live’ involves the ability to have life somewhere on the scale between the fullest enjoyment of all the powers of one’s being, with health and prosperity on the one hand and descent into trouble, sickness, and death on the other.” (1)  The Psalmist recognizes that life apart from God is death and that intimate communion with God according to the kingdom principles of promise, justice, loving-kindness, and righteousness is what it means “to live.”  This knowledge can only come by experience.  True personal revival presupposes a falling away.

Charles Finney once wrote, “A revival of true Christianity presupposes a falling away.  Almost all true Christianity in the world has been produced by revivals, because God has found it necessary to use humanity’s excitability to produce powerful awakenings among them before He can lead them to obey.  People are spiritually sluggish.  So many things lead their minds away from God and oppose the influence of the Gospel that God must arouse excitement in them until the wave rises so high that it sweeps away all obstacles.  Before they will obey God, people must be thoroughly awakened.  Only then will they overcome counteracting forces.  No that excited feeling is spirituality.  It is not.  But it is excited worldly desires, appetites, and feelings that prevent true Christianity.” (2)  Any relationship that involves humans will have revivals and falling aways.  It is somewhat to be expected based upon the human condition.  The enemy would have us believe that since we have fallen away, God has subsequently rejected us.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The fact of the matter is that this particular falling away has positioned us for perhaps the greatest personal revival of all time.  If only we can refrain from judging ourselves, we may be 5 minutes from a great personal awakening.  Perhaps this is the norm of Christianity and should be expected for real spiritual growth.

Endnotes

  1.  Harris, R. Laird; Archer, Gleason L.; Waltke, Bruce; “The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament” Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL, 1980, page 280.
  2. Finney, Charles G., Lectures on Revival,  Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minn., 1988, page.

“Oh Lord, Revive Your Works” (Habakkuk 3:2)

     The prophet Habakkuk makes this statement after an intense dialectical discussion with God.  Habakkuk cries out to God concerning the violence for the sake of hatred and greed {the definition of the Hebrew word hamas (smj) which he uses in verse 1:2} that is being perpetrated by his own countryman.  He cries out to God for justice.  God responds by telling the prophet that He will send the armies of Babylon to crush the unrepentant nation of Israel.  Immediately following, Habakkuk makes the above-quoted verse.  It is so insightful and relevant to our time that it warrants examination.

     To begin with, Habakkuk recognizes that something is lacking in the present state of Israel and equally lacking in God’s solution of total destruction. It is revival! The heart of Habakkuk cries out to God for revival!  The prophet recognizes that this is the only real hope in the reality between the present lawless state of Israel and the divinely proposed destruction of it.  It is the only solution that offers salvation.  Consequently, he prays for revival of “Your Works.”

The Hebrew word here is “paal” (lep).  The basic meaning of the word is “to do.”  In our present verse it means “Your doings”, “the things that you do” or “Your works.”  It means “God’s acts in history.” (1)  God’s works with the nation of Israel is wrought with the miraculous.  However, no one in scripture exemplifies the “works of God” more than Jesus.  Jesus tells us, “But I have a greater witness than John; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of me, that the Father has sent Me.” (John 5:36)  What were the works of Jesus?  He tells the disciples of John that, “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Matt11:5) These are the works of God.  The miraculous will always follow the preaching of the kingdom of God.  When Jesus sends out His disciples to preach, He tells them “And as you go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand,  heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons’ (Matt 10:7-8)  these are the works that change nations,  In the ancient world, no city was as lost as Tyre.  The Bible tells us that satan was its spiritual leader (Ezek 28:11) and it ruler was blindlessly self-exalting (Ezek 28:1) And yet, Jesus says, “Woe to you Chrazon!  Woe to you Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” (Matt 11:21) The works of God in history involve the miraculous and this is what the prophet recognizes as the only viable option between the present condition in Israel and the divinely appointed destruction of the nation.

For far too long have the Disciples of Christ not walked in the miraculous.  We have a mandate from Christ to preach the nearness of the kingdom and to validate it by the miraculous.  This is what Jesus did.  It is what the apostles of old did and it is what the church should be doing.  Jesus tells the Jews, “If I do not do the works of the Father, do not believe ME; but if I do, though you do not believe the Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me and I, in Him.” Jesus also tells his disciples, “Believe Me, that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else, believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these will he do.”  (John 14:11-12)  Jesus always pointed to the miraculous for two reasons.  First, His miracles were a public display of the works of God.  Secondly,  they were a testimony of His relationship with the Father.  Likewise, Christians ought to be able to walk as Jesus did and should be able to make the same statements to a dying and unbelieving world.  We have the same relationship with the Father as Jesus did.  He tells us, “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14: 20) This means that the public demonstration of this relationship is the miraculous works of God done through us.  That is what lights fires in the hearts of men to seek after God.  This is what fires revival.  This is what the prophet prays for.  This is what prophetic people of our time are crying out for.  Mainly, that the sons and daughters of God would demonstrate to the human world the works of God as proof of their relationship with the Father through the Son.  This is what sparks revival.  Oh Lord, Revive Your Works!

Endnotes

  1. Harris, R. Laird; Archer, Gleason L.; Waltke, Bruce; “The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament” Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL, 1980, page 730.

The Keeping of Torah Positions Us for Revelation

“Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast of restraint, but blessed Is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:18 ESV)

    This is one of those verses that just “leapt” off the page at me.  It is so ripe with meaning that a brief discussion of it is in order.  God is called “The Living God” and as such, desires a dynamic and individual relationship with all of us.  There is to be an “ebb and flow” between us and the spiritual realm.  Without this relationship, things don’t seem to go well for us humans.  We are the agents of God in the physical realm.  We were created in His Image and Likeness and we are to be everything in this realm that He is in the spiritual realm.  We are His representatives and co-laborers.  We are commissioned by Him, to loose His Will on earth as His Will exists in heaven.  This demands a dynamic relationship between us and Him.  This is “prophetic vision”.  That God will reveals His will to us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in and it is then our job to release His spiritual power into that circumstance to bring heaven on earth. This keeps us grounded as human beings.  It gives us focus, destiny, and purpose and, when this is lacking, people tend to cast off restraint.  Without this prophetic mission, human beings tend to become very human indeed.  We search for fulfillment in things that were never meant to be fulfilling.  Sin is the main dish of this diet.   However, there seems to be a lifestyle that we can adopt that will position us to receive prophetic revelation.

The keeping of the commandments of God demonstrates our great love for Him.  If we are keeping commandments for any other reason other than an expression of our love for Him, then we are either self-righteous or embracing works based theology.  Neither, of which, is capable of producing spiritual life.  But, when we keep the Torah out of a love for Him, we position ourselves to receive prophetic revelation.

The Law has a restraining effect upon the lust of the eyes, the world, and the flesh.  This restraining effect positions us to receive spiritual revelation and keeps us grounded in Him.   It is the prophetic vision of that God shows us about our lives that keeps us grounded and the restraining of the flesh by the keeping of Torah positions us for spiritual release.