Thursday, November 7, 2019

How do we determine success?

Option 1: Living in unbelief with the strength of man 

  • Is it built? 
  • Has it grown? 
  • Have they come? 

Option 2: Living in faith with the knowledge of God 

  • Did I hear and remember? 
  • Did I believe and remind?
  • Did I obey?

The freedom to be sanctified

In the pursuit of freedom, we’ve forgotten the freedom to choose to be sanctified — 

  •  To freely choose to give up our will for any pursuit other than the glory of God. 
  • To freely separate ourselves from the desires, hobbies and past-times of the world in order to live as pilgrims and wanderers on this earth. 
We’ve pursued freedom from the law, from traditions, from external works of holiness — pushing the boundaries and demanding no judgment for this lifestyle. Using blanket words such as, “religious spirit,” we’ve pursued these freedoms as though they were necessary salvation from bondage. 

 In reality, these new “freedoms” become bondage for us. A prison built with the walls of demanding the right to live compromised and still be called a container of God’s holiness, righteousness and Spirit. Pure deception! 

We can choose to live a life set apart and still be free from the demands of the law. This is the freedom for which Christ has set you free.

Jeremiah 33:3 - Strength in the unknowing

What great mystery lies in front of you? What impossible task?

Are you confronted daily with the immensity of your unknowing? Or are you content in your knowledge? 

Can you explain, define, and defend every aspect of God’s working and nature? Is your faith for defending, or is it for defying?

Is there anything left in front of you which you see in part, but cannot grasp?

Can you any longer claim an urgency in your unknowing? A desperation to call unto the Almighty God for sight you do not yet possess?

Have your eyes then been opened completely, or dare we say they are now shut soundly? Content in your blindness or dependent on Him because of it?

Does your arrogance allow for mystery, or does your humility require it?

You say, "If I cannot perfectly define every detail of my foundation, then how could I possibly stand on it?"

The trouble with a foundation of this sort is it serves to lift ourselves higher, and thus is prone to crumble.

The path to strength lies not higher, but lower. Not more definition, but more mystery. Not in our own words of human wisdom, but in mysteries unsearchable — that a God eternal, perfect, all-knowing, infinite, would extend an invitation such — call to Me and I WILL ANSWER.

Humbled in our unknowing then, or exalted in our certainty? Lord, let it never be the latter.

The paradox of the Bible - Leonard Ravenhill

“Isn’t it a paradox this book. if you want to go up, go down. If you want to gain, throw everything you have away. Lose your life, you’ll find it. Keep your life, you’ll lose it. If you ascend, you’ll be humiliated. If you humble yourself, you’ll be exalted. If you want to be a somebody, be a nobody. So foolish isn’t it?”
Leonard Ravenhill, sermon audio here

Re: vain repetition of "holy, holy, holy"

We will remember Your name in this place.
We will never forget that You are the one who caused us “to be.”
The I AM God caused us “to be” with His breath in our lungs and His word hidden in our hearts.
In response, we set our “yester” [creative, forming, imagining mind] on the “zeker” [memorial, remembrance] of Your name. (Ex. 3:15, Is. 26:3–9)
This in contrast to those who put their yester on false gods, idols, created things, and self. (Hab. 2:19, Rom. 1:22–25)
We serve a Creator God — a creative God. The endless complexities of nature came from Him; both the creation we know about and the undiscovered depths of nature that even after 1,000’s of years of searching and documenting we have yet to reach the end of.
Re: vain repetitions, crying out, “Holy, holy, holy” for all of eternity.
How can this not be vain repetition?
It’s not because of its truth, as in God is holy, and thus it is not vain repetition to say it over and over.
No, it’s because each time they say it, “Holy, holy, holy,” they say it from a brand new place of understanding — as in, we never knew Him as holy like this before.
For eternity we sing, “Holy, holy, holy,” and never run out of deeper revelation into this single attribute of God. Why? Because He is a mystery to be revealed for all eternity. There is no end to the depth of the mystery of Your holiness.
Yet we’ve settled for an imitation, a moment in time definition, formed and fashioned in our own image — what makes sense to us. And as with anything fashioned by human hands, we’ve grown old with it.
We say, “We’ve heard it all before.”
Our lives are stale. We’ve satisfied ourselves (grown fat) on moldy bread. It’s no wonder then that all our efforts for righteousness feel like striving. That we find them wearisome and thus find ourselves burnt out, fully consumed by the trials of life.
“I’m just trying to keep my head above water.”
“I just don’t have the capacity for much else right now. It’s been a long season.”
It’s no wonder our marriages suffer, that we’re sick in body and unordered in the head. We’ve hidden an inferior word in our heart, one full of mold and familiarity. Thus, our only recourse is to chase “new” and to seek fascination in the depths of “self.”
  • my gift
  • my calling
  • my ambitions
  • my passions
  • my dreams
We’ve lost the wonder of the depths of God because we no longer allow ourselves to fear Him. Reverence keeps us from sinning. Yet we don’t know how to reconcile this God with the sacrificial love of Jesus. So we choose friend over fear, entering into agreement with familiarity.
We begin to serve a God who can be known, defined and fashioned to serve our will. This is an idol. “Holy, holy, holy,” is our saving cry. Fascinate us again Creator God! Let fear replace familiarity. I take off my sandals, take my hand off the plow and turn aside from my task to see about this great and wondrous sight.

Do we truly love Him?

True love demands sacrifice.
This is not judgment, condemnation or legalism, it’s simply a recognition of what we’ve come to know about love.
Love is the most powerfully motivating force in the universe. It stays longer than a choice made in fear. It gives more than a choice made out of self-interest. It asks for less than a choice made in fairness or equity.
And thankfully, the Bible gives us the clearest picture of love’s greatest demonstration — the sacrifice of one own life for another.
True love demands sacrifice.
With those who are in love, you will notice a rearranging of priorities, a giving up of outside interests, a change in spending habits, new language and topics of speech — and the one constant through all of these changes? They will all be done willingly and cheerfully.
There is no more influential and motivating force for lasting change than true sacrificial love.
When true love compels me, nothing will stand in my way.
What do we say then of those who demonstrate no change, who refuse to sacrifice existing habits and priorities, who cannot commit to absolute faithfulness, while their significant other extends both hands openly, holding nothing back?
  • Think of the husband who places work as a priority over his family. Dedicated at all costs to the job, but impatient and checked out while at home.
  • Think of the girlfriend who keeps the boyfriend strung along, never committing but knowing she is the center of his universe and loving the feeling she gets from that.
  • Think of the marriage where the two never become one. Sure they live together and perhaps even raise kids, but neither has surrendered their will and independence to the other. They still make decisions as if they were single, and this has become their norm.
The answer to this question is obviously clear when we ask it in human relationships. We have all sorts of names, opinions, words of caution and book recommendations in these situations where the lack of reciprocal love is “obvious”, yet the answer becomes murky when we compare it to our relationship with God.
Any perceived strings attached to our love from God is instantly rejected as legalism and Old Testament thinking.
Why the shift in sentiment? Why so clear in human relationships and so uncertain between man and God?
What would those in our examples above say when confronted with their lack of true love?
  • I do love my family, see how I provide for them. See how hard I work. Why do they expect more than that? I work harder than almost any other man I know.
  • I like him, but I’m just afraid of commitment. I mean how can I be sure he is the one when there are so many other options? So many other things bring me happiness and comfort, why do I have to choose only one?
  • Don’t judge me. The way we do marriage is just different from your interpretation. We all get to interpret things for ourselves and this is the version that works for us. We have accepted this standard and now you need to as well.
Are we really much different when it comes to God? Do we not have perfectly logical and justifiable reasons for our lack of sacrifice and commitment? Don’t we have examples we can point to, both in our experiences and the experiences of others, which validate our lifestyle?
And yet deep down there is something missing: an inability to gladly and willingly surrender everything for our Beloved. Why?
Is it because we have not yet found true love?
There is a true love, as described above, the kind which elicits sacrifice, and if you asked them how they could possibly give so much, their answer would be, “Sacrifice? I’ve only willingly and gladly given what I have. It is no great price to pay for the love of this One. He deserves so much more.”
Oh let it be so for all of us. Let us not be found “unknown” as a lover of God in the last day.

Fearfully is wonderfully

There is a fear that comes when we leave Egypt.
Not to mention the leaving behind of our normal, our comfortable, our controllable. This fear is far above and beyond these momentary discomforts.
The fear I’m speaking of is a trembling, a shaking to our core as we are presented with a situation that is far too great for us to undertake on our own. The trembling is a coming to terms with our frailty. Our complete lack of ability to succeed.
And in this moment of shaking — a choice appears. A first step. Will you take it? Your promised land lives on the other side of that step, but you’ve never felt fear and inadequacy as you will in the moments leading up to that step and in all the steps that are to follow.
Have you worked out your faith with this kind of fear and trembling? Have you come face to face with your frailty yet? Have you fallen upon the stumbling stone, begging for mercy — completely dependent on Him to turn from heaven and hear your cry.
Fearfully and wonderfully made happens in these steps — as we leave Egypt for a promised land that we’ve yet to see. Not in our strength, but in our trembling.
Perfection of our faith happens when rejoicing joins with our trembling to produce a sound which delights He who hears, “Yes! Yes! Yes! No matter the cost, yes!”
Can you live as Moses — forsaking the wealth, comfort and power of Egypt — content to wander this Earth as a stranger, living for a city you cannot see?
How far up the hillside can your eyes lift? Do you yet see His help coming?
This is no safe place for the qualified, the gifted, the special, the chosen, the recognized, the wise, the clever, the strong. No, it’s quite dangerous for those who are blinded to their absolute and utter dependence on The Maker of heaven and earth in order to arrive on the other side.
See have I not prepared a place for you? A place where God and man can once again dwell as one. By faith, you enter in. By endurance, you remain.
I live today for a day when God and man will once again dwell as one. When I’ll finally see Your face.
I pray Lord, in those last days when you return, that you would find me faithfully wandering in Your rest, fearfully content to be a stranger and a pilgrim on this earth! Keep me until the end!

Wake up hungry. Go to bed satisfied.

The initial evidence is a holy dissatisfaction. Expressed in laments such as, “There must be more. Is this really it?”
Easily labeled as frustration, tension, discontent, unsatisfaction — there’s another more accurate description: hunger.
Wake up hungry. Go to bed satisfied.
This was the early language the Lord gave to us as we stood in the kitchen of our new home, in a new town, after we had relocated our family on a gentle whisper of the Spirit.
We cried out, “God, what are we doing here? Why did you ask us to leave our family and everything familiar?”
Wake up hungry. Go to bed satisfied.
The request brought to the surface another reality — I wasn’t satisfied in Christ. As I read the Scriptures, clear in their instructions, “Those who drink of Me will never thirst again.” I realized just how thirsty I was, and it had been this way for a long time.
I believed the principle of satisfaction, but I didn’t yet know it personally. I wanted it as desperately as a man dying thirst, but I had to admit I’d never tasted it for myself.
We began to sit in an in-between space, refusing to move until God made good on His promise.
I refused to discount the Scriptures, instead I questioned my own offering. What else can I give, where else can I sacrifice, what else needs to die? I died slowly for the next six months.
God answered my cry for satisfaction with revelation.
First, I’d been stuffing myself with inferior bread. Temporary meals to take the edge off of my hunger, but never able to satisfy. I couldn’t wait for God’s bread to show up in His timing, so I filled the space with meals of my own volition. I never allowed myself to get hungry enough for God to be able to satisfy me.
The core of my impatient eating lay in a root of unbelief. There are layers and layers to unpack within that statement, but for now let’s leave it as it is.
Second, satisfaction finally came once the Spirit took me deeper on basic truths I thought I already knew.
The Song of Songs love of Jesus. I just didn’t truly understand it before. And once I did, it changed everything.
The John 4 woman at the well revelation, “Come meet a man who told me everything I’ve ever done.”
To paraphrase her account, “Come meet the first man to actually know me. I finally found someone I can belong to.”
Satisfaction began to come when I put down inferior, self-made husbands in favor of a Lover designed especially for me since the beginning of time. One whose fragrance woos me away to our secret place. In His arms, I finally feel safe enough to travel up His mountain of suffering love. Whatever it takes, I just want to be with Him.
As I ascended the mountain, with no tangible proof of safety, comfort or understanding, He began to burn inside me. A burning bush unlocked inside of me. A promised land awakened by the all-consuming fire.
“I only have eyes for You,” was the cry evoked from the deepest, innermost parts of my being. I was no longer a man in search of satisfaction, I became a bride set on fire, as I yielded everything to this furious fire until it didn’t even feel like a sacrifice anymore. (Song of Songs 8)
What was it that caused me to turn aside and put down my task at hand? Wonder. What drew me away? Wonder. What kept me hidden away in this secret place for so long? Wonder.
Could this be the One?
“Could this be the One,” is the cry of the woman at the well. At first glance not the strongest declaration of faith, but it is one of deep wondering.
Could this be the One I’ve been waiting for? I must turn aside from my current path and task to find out. I. Must. Turn. Aside.
I must rearrange things to make room for this new possibility.
I must nurture this seed of wonder now awakened within me.
It has captured my attention. It holds my gaze firmly fixed.
My wonder was not betrayed. It was in wonder that a perpetual place of praise was opened inside of me. (Ps. 100:4)
A constant sentiment of gratitude, no longer based on personal preference, self, comfort, circumstances or any of the temporary things which used to dominate my reality.
I finally knew that He was the One, He was enough. He was not a withholding God, distant and indifferent, waiting an arms length away until I earned His delight through obedience.
The nearness of His delighting Presence set me free from the never-ending treadmill of getting somewhere else than I am right now.

I Arrived, Into a Garden

I was not trying to one day arrive in a place — I had arrived. Into a garden. A final destination found on the inside of me. A garden for just the two of us. “Don’t leave,” He whispered in affectionate longing. “Tend our garden with me.”
A promised land, locked away on the inside of me, made for just the two of us to live out the rest of eternity together. Never to tire of each other’s company. Never out of season. Never to grow old or stale. Free from the monotony of routine. Every moment new, better and more satisfying that the last.
My purpose finally found in a garden.
It’s not good for man to be alone. So I’ve made for you a partner.
Out of this garden reality came a new rest I’ve never known before. A place of seated intimacy, where storms and dust and rust can’t reach me. An unshakable carriage seat, with cushions covered in crimson and angelic warriors on every side.
“Come away with me.” I now understood what He meant.
“You’re home with me.”
I finally found where I belong.
A place where hunger and satisfaction meet. It’s both a garden and a mountain. As I’m consumed by fire and carried away by a river. Authority and rest exist in equal measure. And most amazingly of all — I learn that my gentle words spoken by a bride to her Husband, in the secret of covenant marriage, do more damage than my warring sword ever could.
This is the city of my Living God.
And His rule will never end.
Come take it all. It’s not enough, but it’s everything I have.
You’re worth the sacrifice. You’re worth the surrender. You’re worth the sorrow. You’re worth the wait. You are worth it every time.
In awestruck fascination, we heard Him say, “Don’t look away. See what I’m going to do next.”
I can’t help but wonder…
He grins as He beckons me closer, into another embrace, “Welcome Home Son.”
Recommended Reading:
  • Exodus 3
  • Psalms 100 
  • Song of Songs 8 
  • John 4 

Let inadequacy be our boast

Can we say, "less of me," without the self-focused downward spiral of insecurity, self-hate, and loathing that comes from a broken identity?
Can "Woe is me, I am a sinner, have mercy on me!" be a victorious cry which liberates us from the negative internal thought patterns? (Luke 18:13)
Can we lay down our boasts and our glories in self - whether that be a boast in the positive or taking glory in the negative cycles of our life?
Will we finally succumb to inadequacy - "I'm not good enough and I never will be. I'm completely dependent on You for any good and lasting thing in my life." 
Once our identity is made secure as "less of me," it frees us from the bonds of significance, attention, influence, reputation, impact.
Let's put down our labels and stories and excuses which give us a temporary shelter to call home - but will never survive the storms of eternity?
Then, let us find ourselves in a stable, worshiping a King who came in no exaltation - but in humility. 
Lower! Lower still! Less of me!
The tiresome cycle of, "Who am I? What makes me special?" never stops until you finally let it go as inconsequential.