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Archive for the ‘Intimacy with God’ Category

Lessons from the Dust (or Today’s Job)

October 9, 2018

On Sunday, my wife and I met at our good friends’ house, a couple we have known for many years, and commemorated the anniversary of the wife’s struggle with cancer. While listening to her, she said with no uncertainty that it was just recently that she has become self-aware, humbled, and resolving life-long issues that have come to the surface from this journey, including a long standing fight with feelings of abandonment. This was contrasted with another moment on this same day she took a very earthy look at her ordeal and said at one point “I don’t care what good things or inner healing is being accomplished, I just want this pain to end!” Something she said she later regretted. These two moments were so revealing and teaching to me.

The call from the dust.

It’s hard to separate the natural human trauma of an illness, such as cancer, and the needed compassion, comfort, friendship in the ordeal, with the bigger picture of “what is going on here?” They are definitely two perspectives, and the second may only be broached by the most trusted friends. At one point I mentioned to our friend that her experiences (pain, confusion, demands, feelings of a closed heaven) were hers. And ours. She is connected to others who love her. She’s part of the body of Christ. My experience in prayer has been that in the fire, she may shout for joy. She is closer to God’s heart and goodness than at any other time. She is not abandoned, but cherished closely. There is something about living in extremity that unlocks a grace, honor, riches, and glory in the kingdom that is like no other time. These experiences are confusing. Humbling. Misunderstood. How could my Father who knows me let me travel such a path? Yet it is because we are so close, so treasured, that we are singled out. What a contrast. What a juxtaposition of extremities.

Reading in the book of Job, I see a similar story line. God’s question to Satan: “Have you considered my servant Job?” It was an invitation to the fire. And the fire came. And there Job sat, in the dust. Waiting. Wondering. Then came friends. Reasoning. Blame. Assumptions. Everything was tossed at Job, even the kitchen sink. And within that righteous, God-loved man, bubbled up offense. Impurities. Character traits which distracted and diluted the intense love of God in his life. To the surface they came. Aren’t I righteous? Don’t I deserve better? And considering God the opposer (in the face of his three friends), or less severely, the quiet onlooker (in the face of the fourth), he advocated for himself. The very impurity that held him back. There is something so totally holy and pure about the love of God — and I believe his blessing, true blessing in our lives is to experience him without the color, shading of a misinformed perspective or belief about me or him. But there is a deep risk associated with God engaging in this type of purification with his kids. Without the essential tie, connection, bond, and trust with the Father, an experience like Job’s could end badly. Very badly. The possibility of ending badly for Job is the same possibility that our friend faces. Yet, the reward is worth the risk.

I repeat, the reward, is worth the risk.

And she says after a year of this hell hole: I finally learned some things. I’ve come to term with things I never would have before this point. The goal quite possibly was not simply to endure pain in the flesh without meaning, but to be and live as the most precious one of the Lord. It’s not a pretty process. Vulnerability and exposure at every level. But… “I’ve finally come to terms with some things.”

We must embrace the now. The process. The feelings and where they lead. Yet no matter what percolates up from our heart, it must be mixed with the goodness and purpose of God. For me, I left my job in my mid-forties, wanting to resolve the “calling of God” on my life that I received when I was a teenager. I embarked on what turned out to be a very bitter journey, trusting in my faith and dedication to God. I believed he would provide. Period. I wanted to know my calling. I allowed my faith to be stretched to the breaking point in what I considered a test of my faith. If I could simply endure past these seemingly unresolvable financial issues and plunge into the fiscal abyss, he will honor my faith. And plunge I did. And my faith indeed broke. It wasn’t God that flinched in my game of chicken, it was me. Self-righteous me. Proud faith-exalting me. I broke. I was humbled. At that point, I too threw away all my Christian idealism and embraced his grace and the moment. I embraced my need to work. To engage — with my best — in the world around me offering my flesh with no strings attached. I no longer demand “a calling.” He has called me. I will live in his love. I went through a similar hell-hole when dating my wife. My very identity as a man was revamped. He put me on solid footing and delivered me out of so many delusions. But then, as it was later, through fire. Purification. The love of God in action. He, willing to let me misunderstand him for a season, acted on my behalf so that I could know him without the barnacles of life and my adversary that had so tenaciously clung to my body and mind. My tender Heavenly Father is very good at renewing me.

Where is God?

The second thing which stood out was the fact that our friend and her husband said they had not experienced the presence of God in this trial — until recently. Why? Why does God feel distant?

First, he is not distant. It’s only my perception of his proximity that I’m experiencing. But could it be that I don’t want to experience pain and I want him to change it? Obviously, our friends do not want cancer. Nor would I. At its core it represents the adversary and sin that he’s introduced in the earth. Yet, am I entitled to healing? Of course healing is a possibility — I see that when I read the Gospels and hear testimony in the church. But am I entitled to it? Well, it’s the children’s bread. Just like I’m promised life. And food. And every other good thing that is not always there when I feel like I need it. Yahweh. “I am… healing.” Of course he meets my need and I expect it. But when it doesn’t happen, what do I do?

This is something common to every man. Including Christ. Didn’t he plead in the Garden: “If it is possible, remove this cup from me?” It is possible. Nothing is impossible (it was Jesus himself who said this). Yet the answer was no. Not now. He had to go through this particular door, down this particular path. And it still lives in infamy. What he did, I’m not sure I still fully grasp. Yet it was horrible. And the taking of my sin (and separation from God) upon him is something that will abide with him — FOREVER. He was delivered. He was raised. He did recover. He is now the victory for all of us. But, he still did not want to do it. Just like Job did not want to, nor our friend, nor me.

It’s about timing. We don’t know how long and we would like to do everything in our power to change it. We want to change what the Father has put his own time (and goals) upon. Cancer? Death? Yup. But just like he established boundaries around the experience for Job, (you may not take his life), He has boundaries around every other experience of his children as well. It’s just that those boundaries are stumbling. I would never think that God would allow this kind of suffering or death.

So the thing that is standing out to me is this: When I am feeling desperate, wanting to change my circumstances, wanting to change God’s mind, wanting to claim my entitlement as a son, I become agitated and resistant to the present. Yet, the presence is in the present. It’s not tomorrow. It’s now. Is it any wonder my perception of his closeness is affected?

The turning of the tide

I love the stories of his amazing healing. Of those who have been raised from the dead. There just about every story imaginable that could describes the love, rescue, and salvation of my God among his people. The testimonies of God are deeply impacting, begging us to “do again.” His grace for my now is incredibly amazing. And when his purpose is accomplished, and his work is done within me, he, like in Psalm 18, stokes his fury against the messenger he used and obliterates him. He tosses out the tormentor which kept Job in the dust. Smoke comes from his nostrils. He is a man of war and comes to my aid. And then addresses Job’s three friends who didn’t have a clue about true righteousness of God found in this holy man. Then he returns the fortunes and favor to the man he loves. Rest. Peace. Trouble lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning. We need green pastures. Still waters.

The lesson

Our life belongs to him. Embrace the moment. Listen carefully. Be attentive to what he is saying. Be teachable. Humble. Recognize that a protected part of my heart is having it’s defenses disassembled. The very things intended to keep this type of influence out. He’s scaling my walls. Enduring the process is not an option.

But will this trouble come at the expense of his presence? His closeness to me? It may. But I don’t believe it must. It’s only when I demand something to which I feel entitled.

Our lives come with gift-wrapped opportunities every day. Yet it’s easy to look at that opportunity as the threat. Need speaks. But what is it saying? To escape? Or better, to grow? One thing is clear, his Spirit and presence will lead us in this. He’s a tender Shepherd, a Wonderful Counselor. We never are forced to consider him the adversary, just because the real adversary is given a moment.

The dust speaks.

Inheritance and vulnerability

Then the LORD said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. Numbers‬ ‭18:20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

What does it mean to have God as an inheritance? There is something unique about the tribe of Levi. When the nation of Israel was reborn under Moses the twelve tribes had grown into a very large family, but they were only familiar to indentured service to the Egyptians with no place to call their own. After escaping Egypt, the distribution of land and property in Israel was important in establishing their identity. Yet, in parceling out an inheritance, one tribe was singled out for exclusion. Why Levi? Moses and Aaron were from Levi, so their closest relatives were affected when they were excluded from owning land. Yet instead of land, beginning with Moses, they were entrusted in attending to the Presence, without which there would have been no escape from Egypt or distinction from any other nation on the earth.

At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day. Therefore Levi has no portion nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, just as the LORD your God promised him.) ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭10:8-9‬ ‭NKJV ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

There are earthly things which distinguish me from others. I empathize with the Levites, on one hand from the perspective of their possessions, they seem to have been short-changed. I can imagine the Levites feeling a sense of being left out. What does this mean for the livelihoods of their children and grandchildren? Yet, they also had a unique inheritance: God himself and whatever belongs to Him.

Earlier God spoke a similar promise to Abraham:

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Genesis‬ ‭15:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

So what does it mean to have God as an inheritance? An inheritance is something received when someone dies. That which is owned is given. It’s not complicated. But there is one small problem: God doesn’t die, man does.

The Pulpit Commentary says: Just as the priests (and in a lesser sense all the Levites) were the special possession of the Lord, so the Lord was the special possession of the priests; and inasmuch as all the whole earth belonged to him, the portion of the priests was, potentially in all cases, actually for those who were capable of realizing it, infinitely more desirable than any other portion. The spiritual meaning of the promise was so clearly felt that it was constantly claimed by the devout in Israel, irrespective of their ecclesiastical status.

A twelfth of Israel received no land, no physical inheritance on the earth. They were given the duties of the priesthood and the temple — or the Presence. From generation to generation the Presence, and attending to all the details of the Presence, belonged to this tribe. When Israel gave their offering, their wealth, the best from among the flock, the Levites were the recipients. What was given to God, was given to the Levites.

The Old Testament stories are reminders, or shadows, of something more real — the substance which is casting the shadow. The Law was a tool for running a nation and preparing them for the reality which is found in Jesus Christ. Today, I am part of a Kingdom of Priests. I am a Levite. I’ve been asked to give up land, possessions, father and mother, sister and brother, and seek his kingdom first. Jesus said that all that belongs to the Father he has given to the son. And in Romans, Paul makes it clear that I am an heir, and a co-heir with the son. The people of God are no longer centered around the physical nation of Israel, we are centered around the Christ. “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” I’m not seeking land, I’m seeking God. And in this pursuit I still must ask, what does it mean to inherit God?

Relationship.

I can imagine the scene I experience after dying, then opening my eyes… and I see him. He looks at me and says, “Here I am. I am yours. I’m your reward.” What do I have? If I’m a Levite what do I have? As I was walking at lunch this week and meditating on this, the thought impacted me: God is giving himself to me. What he is, he offers. He is not human, or flesh. He’s something so outside of my ability to comprehend, yet, he gives himself to me. The first thing I feel incredibly is — his vulnerability. God becoming vulnerable to me. He opens the sensitive, hidden, valued, personal and individual part of his heart to me. Exposed. Able to be hurt or even devastated. If I have any doubt about God’s ability to be thrashed, I simply look to Gethsemane and the cross — he aligned as one with the man Christ and experienced that devastation. The natural view of God is that He has all power. Power gives one the ultimate ability to avoid being vulnerable. Yet with God, power means just the opposite — he has an ability to give himself, freely, sincerely, without being hidden, authentically. Power is exposure. Omnipotence is vulnerability.

This morning, I’m reminded that the distinction and duties of the Levites didn’t apply to all Israel. Yet they stand as a symbol to everyone who honors and loves God that earthly success is not the end game — knowing and loving Him is. I’ve felt a unique call to pursue him, and feel very much like I’m an attendant in his sanctuary. I’m one whose inheritance is God, and I am his inheritance. There is a mutual belonging. Just like the health and well-being of the nation of Israel was seen in the ministry of the Levites — the better they did— the better Israel did, I have felt a compelling to live out a similar vocation or duty to be fully devoted and given to him — in vulnerability. In the garden, the clothes were put on. In his presence, they come off again.

Need and supply

Need speaks. Listen to it.

There is an interesting relationship between human need and supply that the Father has established on earth. Life is demanding. Our bodies need air, food, rest, warmth, safety, and beyond basic biological needs our soul needs love, affection, understanding, nurturing, and hope. We have needs, and lots of them.

Our world was created and filled abundantly to satisfy them. And when I have difficulty finding satisfaction our Father declares that he himself will be our supply. I love how God answered Moses when he asked, “I am going to the sons of Israel and will tell them the God of your Fathers has sent me but what should I say to them when they ask ‘what is his name?’ ” God responded, “Yahweh” which is the Hebrew verb meaning, “I am.” I am what? I am what you need me to be. And from this point in the Bible forward we encounter a steady list of names in which God revealed himself to Israel including: Yahweh Tsidkenu —I am your righteousness; Yahweh Rapha — I am your healer, Yahweh Jireh — I am your provider; Yahweh Shalom — and I am your peace; and Yahweh Oshea (or yeshua, or Joshua, or Jesus) — I am your salvation. He knows we need, and he knows that we would only be fully satisfied connected to him as our source of supply.

But, I am resilient. I have a love/hate relationship with need, reluctant to accept supply especially if it in-debts me to another. And for men who have stepped aside from God even more so. Have you ever worked through your hunger? Or pushed through a day on very few hours of sleep? There seems to be some virtue in working through weakness, or dismissing it and getting on with life. I don’t have a date to the office party, so I’m going anyway. I don’t have a travel companion, so why should that stop me from exploring the world? It’s easy to become routinely deaf to the things which are speaking to me. Giving me information. I am stubborn, head-strong and ignore need staring me in the face.

But need is a powerful indicator. Yes, it’s demanding, but if it weren’t it wouldn’t be a need. But it makes sense to listen to it’s voice. If you hear a rattle in your car you’ve never heard before, it’s telling you something. Either stop and address it or it will stop you —usually at a most inconvenient time. You choose —your timetable or your car’s? And if you think about it, our relationship with need and supply on earth is a very reflection of heaven and hell. What is more satisfying than having a deep, all consuming need fulfilled? When it happens, it’s a picture or symbol of heaven. In contrast, when hungry, or thirsty, or needing sleep, without the possibility that need will ever be met, it is the very picture of hell. I am convinced hell and heaven are more than locations — they are the state of our soul being connected to or disconnected from the source of supply. Forever.

So why is it so easy to ignore the need I have when it is so obvious to others? When a baby is born, he has no words to express himself. There is one universal way to draw attention to their need. Thankfully, over time words replace wails — he learns to associate this particular feeling with the need to eat, or sleep, or to be delivered from the turd monsters attacking his sensitive little bottom. “I’m hungry, is it dinnertime yet?” Is much better than “wahhhhhh!” And that is the story of growing up — I identify this strange, amorphous feeling inside and learn to verbalize it. Discuss it. Share it. Communicate nuances about it. I refine my perceptions from red, green and blue, to rhododendron, chartreuse, and indigo. There is a lot to learn, and even graduating from college doesn’t mean I have the vocabulary to frame every feeling we experience in life. Listening to and framing up what I am feeling, and more importantly identifying it and pursuing what I need is a skill that takes a lifetime to sharpen. I have a choice to pay attention to it or ignore it. Grow up or stunt that growth. But there is good news: our Father even helps me vocalize in prayer what my spirit knows is the need:

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans‬ ‭8:26-27‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays… 1 Corinthians‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬

There’s another way to look at need. Consider, for example, what if my need is a gateway rather than a threat? What if it’s really an opportunity to recognize my weakness and my own limits, and the opportunity of strength and wisdom achieved with another? Peter writes (with my comments sprinkled in):

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials (or needs) so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire (some needs are more demanding, threatening than others), may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (because he is our supply); and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter‬ ‭1:6-9‬ ‭NASB

Need ends in finding him. Connection to the source of supply. Closeness to God. And Jesus make it clear there is more blessedness in need in the following:

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. ‭Luke‬ ‭6:20-23 NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Need is directing us toward something essential. It makes me pay attention. Look for a solution. Yet it always speaks to me with the promise of supply. I have been born to look at everything through eyes of hope. And even when the hope of a solution on earth seems dim, there is a heavenly hope I may lean upon.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:31-32‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

We are complex creatures, often with mixed values and desires. When need speaks to us, it’s important to pay attention to it and pursue supply. With the Holy Spirit as my helper, I may request supply from my Heavenly Father. And in my need and my pursuit for fulfillment I find that my God not only has supply, but he uses the circumstance ultimately for great blessing.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

I need you more – Kim Walker-Smith

Asking, receiving, and living faith

Asking requires the muscle of faith. And like all muscles, it must be exercised to achieve full potential.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. ‭‭James‬ ‭1:5-8‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

This is not a mental game we play with God and faith, gauging if we are doubting or not, or measuring the faith we have as if the fulfillment of the request is within my power. It’s not. That’s why I ask the Father. He accomplishes it. Yet, am I convinced that he loves me? The gift of his son’s life for mine should help with that. Does he hear me? Want nothing but good for me? He calls us children, and a compassionate parent is always in earshot of his kids, looking out for their welfare. Does he want me to ask? The sheer volume of times Jesus told his disciples to ask should convince me of that. James makes it clear: “He gives generously without reproach” or without defamation, reviling, or insult. In other words, whatever you are asking, he will not minimize or dismiss, secretly laughing at how stupid it may seem. Quite the opposite. When your need speaks, he thoroughly cherishes it and the fact that you would come to him with it.

So the groundwork is laid: I must first believe that I may ask and he hears me. But it’s even more than that.

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself… (Speaking of Abraham) you see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected… For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. James‬ ‭2:14-26‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The natural outflowing of believing something, really believing it is true, is that you act on it. When the alarm goes off, you believe it’s time to get up for work. When a friend calls to meet you for coffee, you head to Starbucks at the time you agreed because you believe your friend will be there. When you cut your finger, you put a bandage on it and believe that given time your body will heal itself, so you do no more than protect it. The same is true of asking the Father for something. Internally, you must be convinced, but once you are, you act on it.

This is where we separate living faith from faith that is dead. God is not Santa Clause for whom I make an absurd list of requests and plop it in a mailbox with the envelope addressed to the North Pole. Quite the contrary, He’s a living being whose Spirit is dwelling in my body. We know each other. It’s a real relationship with real communication. It’s not always with words. In fact, it seldom is. He is spirit and those that worship him and speak with him must do so in spirit. When teaching Sunday School to third graders I’d liken this spirit conversation to phone lines or cell signals. It’s our means of connecting. You can’t see them, but they are real, and you know it when someone picks up on the other end. So when asking him for something, it’s a process. If I need or want something, obviously my desire is there, as well as the wishing that I have what I want. But the reality is that it is a request that I bring before him. And this is the key: at some point in that dialogue with my good Father, I believe that it’s mine and he gives it to me. Once that happens, I may act on it as though it existed, even if I don’t see it.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval (through acting on their living faith). By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. Hebrews‬ ‭11:1, 3‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬

I endeavor to take my faith out of “neutral” and shift it into gear. To actively trust in a living relationship with a living God. Asking, takes work. Connecting with my Father about my “ask” takes work. Then, once convinced, true faith results in work, or actions that synchronize with my belief. It’s time to grow up. To be the fruitful, and ask liberally and receive liberally.

John 4:14 His abiding presence

And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke‬ ‭24:49‬ ‭NASB‬‬

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” ‭‭John‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The living water that Jesus promised the woman at the well is my Father’s habitation within me, His presence and the impact that comes with it. His presence in us is a big deal. A game changer.

Imagine being a disciple when they discovered that Jesus was actually alive after being brutally killed. They had such hope that they had found the Messiah, the one all Jews were looking for. He seemed beyond a doubt to be the one. His words, teaching, authority, the miracles, obliterated every doubt — until he was taken. Their emotions went from euphoria to terror for their lives, then disbelief that he was alive again. Once convinced he was really alive, the disciples recognized the incredible moment of history they were experiencing. He was dead, now is alive. What does this mean? The weight of what was happening could easily land on their shoulders. Their contemplated, “how do we respond?” Jesus helped them:

Wait. The promise, the power, the direction is coming. Wait for Him.

The glue of human history is the Holy Spirit. A man’s influence has a beginning and an end — and in view of our history is pretty short-lived. The Father, on the other hand, is the continuity between generations, leaders, nations, cultures, and moments. Since man’s first sin, the creation has been like an old jalopy careening out of control down the highway. Bumper, fenders, parts falling off, pavement comes and goes, visibility dicey at times, so many unpredictable outcomes. On man’s best day of planning, we reduce a small percentage of the variables over which we actually have control. But the Holy Spirit helps us navigate supremely down a road that no other could predict let alone know. The only reasonable response is to listen, follow, and trust. No human effort could respond appropriately at this moment. Nor did it need to. That glue of human history was about to stick another piece of the big puzzle picture together.

The fountainhead of those waters were released on the day of Pentecost. It was an event eagerly anticipated by both heaven and earth. The moment of impact was accompanied by a rushing mighty wind and fire above the heads of those gathered. They gushed forth in other languages speaking, most likely shouting, the praises of God. At its core this was the Father taking up residence in clean, swept, waiting, praying, and available men and women. The change, as titillating as the experience may have been, was to be an abiding presence of our God — in us. A fellowship with which we are to become quite accustomed.

The resurrection and His abiding presence change everything.

Originally from November 22, 2017

John 5:20 The Father loves the son

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. John‬ ‭5:20‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Rotherham’s literal translation adds “The Father dearly loves the Son…”

As I read my way through the book of John, one thing is clear: Jesus knew that he was loved by his dad. The expressions I read are not effusive but matter of fact.

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. John‬ ‭3:35‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

And the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭NIV ‬‬‬‬

Rotherham translates it: “You are my Son, the Beloved, in you I delight.” Mark 1:10

Here is obvious affection and affirmation of the son. Does God love one more than another? Is there anything I can do to obtain more or less of his love? I have wondered if there are increments in his love and if so, how could I develop that more. Yet the questions remains: is there something in our nature that will encourage love, have affection, draw you nearer to one more than another?

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. John‬ ‭10:17-18‬ ‭NIV ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

We all have seen an affection of one person for another and have been envious of the same. Whether it was a parent, teacher, friend or sibling who showed preference and value in another — either by affirmation, special treatment, or simply a relaxed trusting interpersonal connection. Something we all want. Then, thinking about the love of God, somehow the thinking reverts to first grade t-ball games: everyone is a winner, we don’t keep score.

So let’s think about the distinction for a moment. God places a high value in people, in me, because I am a person, created in his image. He knows me through and through — both my strengths and the passions or hurts that make me vulnerable. And he loves me whether or not I am doing good. He made provision for me and all people since Adam’s first sin in the Garden. He covered us with grace and a promise. It didn’t stop the flood of hell through the gap that the sin caused, but it is present none the less. Murderer or lover, he makes no distinction. The black sheep and the prodigal, or the one that stays and does his will. They are both his children. And if personal responsibility is a value that makes the best people who they are, then God our Father takes full ownership for both the sickness and the remedy of man. Always has.

But the things I do also matter. When I do good, I bless and help others. When I am only thinking about myself, I hurt others. Even though my Father loves me, if I wreak havoc on another life, his nature of justice wants both me to own my behavior and to extend a shield of protection and remedy to the victim. On the other end of the spectrum, when I do good and love others, I extend his very heart to those that I love — and in this there is reward. But as much as I like credit for doing good, does he love me more?

The most important value in the Father’s heart is love. His love for us, and our love for him. And this value doesn’t mean a lot if it doesn’t result in the very thing it is intended: relationship. Affection, trust, understanding, bantering, laughing, rest, confidence, invincibility. This is my sweet spot as a human… in love. When I respond to love, it provides a context of growth. The person I become, the moulding of my character and nature, the years of choices I make are all things which reflect the values of my life. Yes, he loves me. But does he love me more? It’s an odd question. If a man deeply loves a woman, is she loved more when their love achieves intercourse? Is a grandchild loved more when they spend time with Grandma and enjoy each other’s company and they laugh and create memories compared to the one she doesn’t know? Love expressed and fulfilled is the life we have been called to. Not to talk about it and write about it. The choices we make either draw us toward love or away from it. And living loved make us who we are. And who we are, who we become, is a gift we may offer the father. Yes he loves us, but there is a deep affection any normal person has when they feel valued enough by another that the other person’s life is changed to reflect him or her. I love you enough to be like you.

So let’s put the answer to all these questions in perspective. God dearly loves ALL of us. Yet, something about Jesus prompted John to write that “the Father loves the son.” In John 10 we read why: Jesus did something. He agreed to give up his life. He trusted his Father and emptied himself of all the ambition that a perfect, gifted, qualified man could have embraced, and agreed to be sin’s sacrifice. He gave himself up — to trust—like no individual before him has done. If you were the Father, how would you feel about that? Yes, Jesus is a pretty special son. So, the Father has been given full control to spend the Son as he wishes. In death. For me.

Read that again.

The most valuable thing that the Father possessed, his Son, he was willing to spend on me for my health and remedy. When parents give birth to a child, they project themselves to the future and imagine what their son or daughter will be when they grow up. In a similar fashion, the very thing the our Father hoped for when he created man was standing before him in Christ —a man that loves him, revels in their fellowship, and fully trusts. And like any good father, he has plans for him. He would be the payment for life’s overdue MasterCard bill.

So, who does he love more, Jesus or me?

Silly question, huh? Yes, he’s deeply affected by what we do, whether bad or good. But the goal is to love. To have relationship with me. And that is what is reflected in the Father’s love for the son. And because of this, in Jesus there was/is an extension of our Father’s kingdom on earth in a unique way. In the context of being filled with the Holy Spirit without measure, of performing incredible signs and wonders, Jesus says in John 10 the reason for such unique delegation… because I lay down my life.

With this lack of interest in his own agenda, goals, desires, and even his experiences on earth, Jesus embodied the Father’s spirit, authority, and signs and wonders. He could hear his Father and see where he is working, and do the same. Walking on water, multiplying food, raising the dead — these things make men marvel, yet Jesus saw them and was not tickled by their novelty. In Jesus’ relationship with the Father, he could see what he is doing (present tense). And thus the next comment, “and greater works will he show him.”

So we may believe.

And so we may follow in his steps and do and be the same.

John 14:2-3 The playground of our heart

In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. ‭‭John‬ ‭14:2-3‬ ‭NASB‬‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Where does God dwell? When the sanctuary was standing, for many years his presence, his Shekina, was there. But even when the sanctuary was standing, he had his eyes on a different home. Humans.

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the LORD. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word. Isaiah‬ ‭66:1-2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

But since the Son came and offered himself and our human temple is swept and clean, he left the former temple (dramatically, I might add) and now he dwells in temples of flesh, the tents of man. My Father takes up residence within me. At the same time Jesus died on the cross, this occurred:

then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭27:51‬ ‭NKJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

This curtain was a symbol, similar to the Passover lamb. They both were shadows of the real, they pointed to something that cast the shadow. The shadow caster is Jesus. And the heavenly and earthly intersected with timing that was not coincidental.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh. ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:19-20‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

It wasn’t until after Jesus died, rose, and ascended that the Holy Spirit could fill his disciples. He told them to wait for it. He boldly promised during a feast of the Jews, loudly declaring:

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John‬ ‭7:38-39‬ ‭NASB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The Holy Spirit now dwells in man.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NASB‬‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Often when we think of where God is, we think of an ambiguous place called heaven, one described only by the most vivid imagination. We have a general idea that it will no longer involve death or suffering (and anything you translate that to mean from not having to eat vegetables to having a field day at Six Flags over California). But, there’s a real place that he dwells, and it’s definitely not here on earth. Or is it?

What does he want? This is most poignantly answered from Genesis 3:9 Then the Lord God called to man, “Where are you?” He wants us.

He longs for relationship, closeness. Nearness to my heart. Association with my brokenness. And more than that, pleasure in my joy, recovery, and my journey. The Holy Spirit fills me. He fills his other believers. He dwells in man. This is incredible. First in Christ (1 Col 1:19 All the fullness of God dwelt in him and in John 2:19 Jesus is the temple). Now in me (1 Corinthians 3:16 I am the temple of God), and eventually, us – a people connected and built together for him into a temple in the spirit (Ephesians 2:21-22).

So, I ask again, where does he dwell? Where are the all rooms that Jesus speaks of? If I attend a funeral, the minister will usually make it plain that he or she believes it’s in that ambiguous heaven zone. Sometime in the future. Something I don’t see. I understand and accept that I don’t see everything today. I’m a man in a body of flesh that has limitations. But he gives me “sprit eyes” with which to see. And, God made this body. And he made it with the intent of experiencing me in it. And me him. Jesus too had a body. And unlike me, it was not blinded by his own sin and he was able to see that kingdom without obstruction. And to dwell there. And to pull from its storehouses and share with those he taught. You knew Jesus had another source besides his family, upbringing and the education (he never received from Jewish schools), he spoke with authority and impact. He was the real deal and listeners recognized the substance which he commanded.

Thayer’s Greek lexicon says “dwelling place” means: a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode. It speaks of a comfortable place, like home. It’s used only one other place in the New Testament, later in verse 23 speaking of the Father and the Son:

“…and We will come to him and make Our dwelling place with him.” John‬ ‭14:23‬ ‭AMP‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Possibly, the many rooms of which he speaks are the hearts of those he has redeemed, and loves. Believers. There may be many places Jesus dwells. Places we do not know or understand. Wild, wonderful, miraculous, mind-blowing dwellings that have the ability to color our world uniquely and give us a perspective that is different than natural man. But he also dwells in me. Why can’t that be just as mind blowing?

It is.

The thing that is often confused from the consolation Jesus is offering his disciples is the timing. Is it another far off, pie in the sky promise of when men and women sit on clouds with golden harps? I personally believe that Jesus, who was friends in the flesh with his disciples, was letting them know that there would be a pause and he would be right back (so to speak). Later, in John 16:7, he told them it was better for them that he went away:

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. ‭‭John‬ ‭16:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

He was again pointing to the fact that they would be the new temple. Yes, their relationship would change. It would no longer be flesh to flesh, something they (and we) were very comfortable with. But as much as a relationship with Jesus in the flesh would no longer be present, he was telling them that they would experience him in an even better way. And this occurred with a rushing mighty wind on the day of Pentecost when Jesus returned and filled them all. Clearly, Jesus was saying that the promise of the Holy Spirit and God dwelling in men was coming shortly. Days away. He was talking to them like the nurse talking to the woman in labor. It’s coming.

Putting on “spirit eyes” and not trying to interpret this in the flesh, we may see Jesus in each other. As a believer who wants to value what God values, I’m being transformed daily to be more like him. Yeah, there are some parts still in progress, maybe a lot of parts, but if you can get past the unfinished and see what he has done, you may find him in me. I’m a temple for him. So are you. We may experience the presence of God in each other. I’m a dwelling place for him. So are you. There are many, many rooms in our Father’s house. And it is in these places that not only our Lord dwells, but we are invited to live. We may experience him and his kingdom and majesty in each other. In the playground of our hearts.