Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Bullet of Meaning: The Expectant Life and the Godhead’s Three Words

It is far more important to be focused on our life expectations than our life expectancy. Wise Disciples first discern what our “Jesus’ Truth” is for the day rather than be a slave of culture’s mantra to extend our days! This distinction is critical if we are to turn our lives into something more than a repetitious count of our years on earth. It will benefit each of us to ask, “What do I expect to comprehend about life, get from life, see in life, feel about life and, above all, contribute to life? How much of the Father’s divine idea can I get into me while I walk the earth?” When we strive to uncover the deeper answers to these inquiries, we will start to assimilate and discern the secondary relevance of “life expectancy” and the primary urgency of “life expectations.” One of our best perceptual tools for doing so is to understand the Greek meaning for the term “WORD.” The primary Greek word is “logos” … the message, idea, the voice of deity, the divine intention, will and expression. The “Word” term is comprehensive of Who the Lord of heaven and earth truly is and the declaration of what He intends for mankind. My contention is that it has three contexts, each equally important. When we think of “the Word” we must not limit the term to the Bible only. There are three “Words” hidden in the Master’s heart that the Cross Disciple must grasp. There is the Living Word (Christ), the Written Word (Scripture) and the Witness Word (the Disciple).

The Living Word (the Christ message), the Written Word (the Scripture message) and the Witness Word (the Disciple message) are to merge into “one” to bring God’s light into the darkness of a fallen world. These three “WORDS”, or concepts, or realities, give us fantastic insight into our servant partnership with our Living Lord. “Knowing” their implications and nuances with your heart is to know God as He desires to be known! “This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, Father, the only True God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent” (John 17:3). We love the Living Word, Christ; we know the Word Mind of Scripture, and we share the Word Witness with all whom we can!

First, let us consider the Living Word … Jesus. When we become deeply acquainted with the first of these three “Words,” we will be able to sense, to see, to touch, to behold and to experience His Presence. He is really with us when we authentically believe and trust Him. Faith is not something we get but something we already have by creation. Obedience only clarifies what we believe. The results of our obediences will reveal to us the authentic source of our belief. Has our true faith been centered in Jesus or centered in a confused self or in the idols of a deceived world? Do we truly love Him or do we “just think” we love Him because of the things He does for us?

“We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The person who says, I know him, but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him (I John 2:4). But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly brought to completion in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:3-6). We can expect a vital relationship with the Living Word. He expects from us that we repeat His life on the earth! (Jn. 17:18, 20:21). For our comfort we must remember constantly that we cannot perfectly obey His commands even though it is our deep desire to do so. We will never “live sinlessly.” But we even have a “command” for our frequent failings, “… if we confess our sins … He will faithfully forgive our unfaithfulness …” (I John 1:9). Hallelujah! In my own life I probably “obey” that commandment better than any other! Hence, I can “live blamelessly.”

We come to know the Godhead in ever increasing depth as we explore what it means to live in His Presence and learn His Truth. This means to become vitally aware of His promised realities. For this we must be students of His Scriptures (His second Word). His precepts, laws, ways, statutes, decrees, words, command, etc. must flow through our minds and hearts continuously! Our first commandment to keep and our first obedience to observe is to believe what He says! Our increased believing in and yielding to the Living Word is the path to perfect God’s love in us (I Peter 1:22-23). Knowing Jesus doesn’t mean we have “a list to obey” but “a Voice to listen to!” The Living Word didn’t come to earth to get us into heaven, but to get the Godhead into us! This experience confirms that our life expectancy and our life expectations can merge into one as we discover we are complete “in Christ.” Our past, present and future are in His competent Hands! “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word was made flesh … and dwelt among us … and we have been filled with His Fullness!” (John 1:1, 14, 16). Parents don’t want a child so they can have someone to teach their rules and commandments to. They want to create a little life so that they can live with their child “in the fullness of love”! Is it not the same with our Heavenly Father Who has “put” parent love in our hearts?

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). Things present (expectations) and things to come (expectancy) are one when “put” in Christ!

Our second “Word,” where we are taught what it means to live an expectant life, is the Written Word, the Scripture. Studying this Word of God will reveal to us the mind and intentions of the Godhead. “For the Word of God (the living Christ and the written Scripture) is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (the heart is the essence of a person created and then recreated to be a Witness Word of God). Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account (for our treatment of and response to truth)” (Heb. 4:12-13). The Scripture is where we study His Mind and Will and catch the mercy of His Heart! It is in the Bible alone we find the most objective and immediate display of the Father’s intentions and affections. The Scriptures are His “love letter” to His own. We can be ready to “give an account” of our truth discipleship when our spirit, soul and body have prepared our heart to reflect the character and fragrance of the Lord Jesus. We can expect many “maxi and mini” revelations from the Written Word. Our hunger for the Scriptures will refine our thinking and excite our praise! “… Your commandments (Words) have enlarged my heart!” (Ps. 119:32).

The third Word active in the world is the Witness Word. And “who” is that to be “but us,” Cross Disciples who are consumed and filled with love for the Living Word and the wisdom of the Written Word. When Jesus was ready to return to the Father after His resurrection, He gathered His followers together for a last meeting. In His final instructions He counseled them, “… but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). He intended that the world would see a witness to His magnificence through the lives of His followers. His great redemptive plan is for His Disciples to be Word Witnesses and convey the meaning of the Living Word and Written Word to the ends of the earth!

Unless our passion for living is to be like Jesus, act like Jesus, talk like Jesus, endure like Jesus, rejoice like Jesus, think like Jesus, plan like Jesus and respond like Jesus, we have no authentic or lasting purpose for our years of brevity and struggle. To live for yourself is to live for nothing. To live for others but to never be an agent of the three Words is to still live for nothing. Without Christ Jesus our life expectations and our life expectancy are nothing. Let us hear the dear Apostle Paul, “For me to be alive is Christ!” (Phil. 1:21).

Unless we comprehend that the Father has now sent us into the world just as He sent His Son, we have no compelling and empowering authority or strength. Unless our witness is grounded in the energy of the Holy Spirit, we will have no authentic spiritual fruit from our living! We can confidently expect many daily resurrections from the Living Word and the Written Word in our cross seeking to become a Witness Word for our Messiah. Our Witness Word is not only to the wonder of Who Jesus is but to the joyous news that we have found His love and forgiveness for our failures! Hallelujah!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Bullet of Meaning: Life Expectancy

Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” Job 14:5

The CIA Factbook for 2008 offers the following estimate of life expectancy for citizens of the United States, 78.06 years. It ranks US longevity 30th in the world behind such countries as number 1, Macau, at 84.379, Japan, 82.07, Switzerland, 80.22, Canada at 80.34 and South Korea, 79.10. Swaziland comes in at the bottom of the list of 191 countries with an average age of 32.23. The world average is 65.82 years. There are 110 countries on this list that have a life expectancy of 70 years or greater. On average women live 4 years longer than men world wide.

Many factors go into life expectancy. Here are a few that came to mind: infant mortality, war, auto accident rates, health care, endemic disease, droughts or famine, stress, crime, DNA, heredity and even the kinds of technologies readily available. Although the number of years a person may be expected to live can be calculated from statistics, it is wise to remember they only apply to a mythical “average” person. Each of us has only our “day” and our own number of “days” (Job 14:5; Ps. 90:12). What matters, however, is not how long we might live but what do we expect from our living? It’s not how many years we pack into our lives but how much life we pack into our years that will determine the quality of one’s life!

“Our life is but a mist, a vapor, a brief fog that vanishes before the morning sun” (James 4:14). Nature, culture, Scripture, God’s Spirit and our own experience of aging enforces that daunting prospect. Only by joining our life to the life the Father gives us “in Christ” are we secure from the ends and emptiness of death. Once the decline and death issue is “put” in its place through the Mind of Christ, we can get on with the main business of making the most of our time! (Eph. 5:15-17).

The wise “Cross Disciple” knows how to discern and navigate four important kinds of time. The Greek “time words” reveal a new way to look at time and discern how to conquer it. Without going into language technicalities and theological implications here is my simple summary. Hora (hour) is existence time that we all live in. Chronos (chronological) is calendar time that we measure our actions by, be it in minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc. Kairos (crisis, decision) is the critical time we face when serious judgments and responses must be made about people, thoughts and issues pressing in on us. Finally, aiones (ages) is the eternal time prepared for us in the coming kingdom. My definition for eternal time is somewhat of a contradiction (eternity does not have time) but in our limited world you know what I mean by it!

We could summarize by saying “I am alive and aware in this thing we call time (hora). I live by measuring its progress (chronos) and exercising my power to meet its challenges (kairos). There is no need to worry or let time control me as the Savior is with me in it and will use it for my ultimate (aiones) good! Time is not the answer to my pressures, but Christ in the midst of my time will tell me all I need to know and enable me to overcome!”

Is it any wonder that King David prayed, “Oh, Lord, my times are in Thy hands”? (Psalm 30:15). I’m confident he meant all four of our definitions even though he didn’t fully understand their deeper time meanings! We still don’t! What can we do but also in wisdom pray the prayer of King David!

“LORD, make me to know my end; And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient (temporary) I am (on this earth)” (Psalm 39:4).

We can also be at peace and full of praise as we have the Saviors final promise, “I Am with you all the days (hora, chronos, kairos) until the completion of the age (aiones)” (Mt. 28:20).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Bullet of Hanging There: I Want to be More Ready for More Cross!

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.” Luke 23:32-33

Yes! Let us, too, learn “how to hang” with His praise on our lips and His promises in our heart … regardless of our circumstances. Let us be ready for the crosses of following in His steps. Let us then speak quickly to our Lord with that one critical request … that greatest confession that can ever come from human lips: “My Master … as I suffer from my own stupidities and the cruelties of an arrogant, hateful and blind world … don’t forget me … please include me … at that right time … when all will know … that you alone … are the King … and everything … on earth and in heaven … is your Kingdom! Please qualify me … your undeserving and unworthy servant … to be a part of it!” (Luke 23:42, HDM).

Could this criminal escape from his cross? Never! He was nailed for life. Could he triumph over it? Maybe later! When the Godhead had the final word in the age to come! Could he think above it? Yes! Now! He saw and heard in Jesus the purposes of heaven overcoming the forces of earth in the Master’s hanging and in the Master’s Voice. His heart was ignited for truth! That Voice was to him alone as his request was answered! And it was enough to seal his destiny! He could now share in the same overcoming decision our Lord had made when He accepted His cup! To “think above” is to “put” the world, yourself and the Lord in perfect perspective. Any suffering for Christ is never unto death but unto life! We know that radical reality empowers us to endure anything.

Our first and greatest single act and habit on earth is never to be connected to other people. It is first to learn how to be alone with God. Now! It is to “act on ourselves” by realizing that our primary purpose for all decisions on earth should focus on creating a “praise heart of joy” for Messiah Jesus! To be alone on our cross next to Jesus on His cross is to be alone with God and taste what was the most climatic redemptive moment of human history! This touch of wonder causes us to fall on our face in our inner heart with tears of gratitude in our eyes, with praise on our lips, with His mysteries in our mind, with His grace and truth in our vision and with a passion to yield all of our spirit to His adoration and pleasure!

We can truly seek and practice being overwhelmed by His Presence. These are those high and unspeakable moments when we know we possess peace with God, experience the peace of God and are ready to share with others our peace from God. This must have been our Lord’s heart that night before His crucifixion when He said to His few remaining followers, “…You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32).

As the Savior perceived this “repentant man’s heart of faith” on the cross, He made the response that will echo through eternity to all who will call His name and yield to Him as Lord: “Truly … I tell you my new friend … today … with Me … you will be … in the paradise … of My Father” (Luke 23:43, HDM). Our dear Savior recently spoke to me at this point in my morning Quiet Time (I call it Praise Time) and gave me the same promise: “Today H, you will see again the wonders of My will, My ways, My perfection, My mysteries, if you will keep hanging with Me! You will learn the dignity, deliverance, contentment, grandeur and majesty of the privilege of suffering with Me and for Me! Test yourself to be sure it is for Me! Be sure it isn’t for you! It is when you suffer this world with Me and for Me that you hear My Voice most clearly. It is then you will be more convinced than ever about the redemption and perfection to be revealed! Let us endure this fallen earth together and do it for the significance and glory of “our Father.” Someday you will understand how it could please Him to allow both of us to hang here. I promise you that after it is all over, we will see the light of life and be satisfied (Is. 53:10-11).”

“Think about it, H! Your highest and most empowering path for living is not to ‘escape from’ your crosses and afflictions or even to ‘triumph over’ your problems or opponents. No! My exalted answer for you concerning your cross is to do what you saw Me do on My cross … ‘think above it!’”

Yes! Today! In the NOW! I am ready my Master! At least I want to be ready! Or at the very least, I want to be more ready! My eyes are open while I’m hanging and they are looking at You! We should all remember that we can endure in praise through any darkness if we keep looking in His direction and speaking His Name! It is then we become candidates for the gift of life’s greatest force for following Jesus … “thinking above!” To do so will “put” your finite existence in touch with the Savior’s infinite purposes!

Let the light of Your Face shine upon us, Oh Lord.” Psalm 4:6-8

My heart says to you … ‘seek His face!’ Your Face, Lord, will I seek.” Psalm 27:8

“… set your hearts on things above … set your minds on things above.” Colossians 3:1-2

Don’t ignore this wonderful reality! We can “hang” anywhere we are in praise so long as we keep “thinking above” and looking at His Face!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Bullet of Hanging There: Let Us Hang With Him!

Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’" Luke 23:42-43

To those of us who truly want to “hang with Jesus” … on our own cross next to His … this promise to a crucified criminal is still in warranty … even after 2000 years. But many crushing experiences are necessary before we can grasp and receive it. For this reason, we should always rejoice when things are hard! Especially when they are hard! (James 2:2). Why? Our hits and wounds can always drive us to more truth about the Messiah! So much can be gained when we have the opportunity to learn to suffer God’s way in a suffering world. It is our only way to authentically and experientially comprehend how Jesus suffered and to follow His path to resurrection. Hence, we should rejoice when we recognize our own sinful condition of spiritual weakness and poverty. We should rejoice that we have felt the criticism and rejection of others … non-believers and Christians alike. We should rejoice in our deeper discovery that apart from the cross of Christ there is no cure for our trivia, our failures, our evil, our self-absorption, our emptiness, our regrets! We should rejoice that we have been forced to realize our own helplessness and hopelessness without Jesus!

The repentant, guilty, crucified criminal who hung next to our Lord knew he had a very brief future. He knew it would be filled with excruciating pain. He was desperate for release from his agony. No doubt he eagerly longed for the escape of death. This same experience should be true, to some degree, for all Disciples as we discover the world’s evil, ambivalence, injustice, suffering and endless struggle. This crucifixion experience is specially and inevitably true for all those who dare to embrace their own cross for Jesus’ sake! The closer we follow the Savior with a full heart, the more we see and feel the tragic horror of a sinful, crippled world. The more we despair of our own place in it! There are many moments of joy, beauty and wonder, but the default position of this earth is tragedy. However, we, too, can look over and see … hanging there with us … the Lord of Glory! He is truly the most “Incredible One” of all history! It is He Who loves us and has in His arm and His mouth the power to rule over the entire universe of creation. If we truly “hear Him” and “talk to Him” while we hang, we, too, can experience transcendence over all the lies and actions of our enemies … both within and without! (II Cor. 7:2-7).

Overcoming deliverance for Cross Disciples is a threefold option. The Master will empower us 1) to escape from the circumstances, 2) to triumph over the situation or 3) to think above the earth reality! This latter deliverance of “thinking above” is our only option while “hanging” which, in reality, can happen rather often. Our Lord didn’t seek to “escape His cross” nor did He “come down from it in triumph” and thrash His crucifiers! No! He hung there for six agonizing, humiliating hours and “thought above it.” What was in His mind and heart He revealed with His seven magnificent statements from the cross. There are three in Luke, three in John but Matthew and Mark have the same one. While He suffered temporarily on earth, His thoughts were dominated by the Father’s eternal purpose in heaven. To read His seven cross statements and make them your own is to see the Savior’s heart in IMAX.

“Escape” when you can! (I Cor. 10:13). “Triumph” when you can! (II Cor. 2:14). But, if neither are an option while you walk the earth, then “Think Above” the issue with the Mind of Christ (Isa. 53). Only your own crosses put you in the highest position to think the highest thoughts of our Master!

I spoke recently with a dear friend who leads a great ministry in India. I asked him about the severe and increasing persecution against our fellow Believers. This suffering is especially true in the Province of Orissa! Homes and churches burned; loss of all possessions; beatings, abuse, rapes, threats and even murder. There is wide spread hiding and fleeing for their lives! I ended with, “How are they responding to the suffering?” He quickly commented, “Oh, they are excited about it! They feel it’s an honor to suffer for the cross of Jesus!” He concluded by saying “Christianity is spreading like wildfire. The percentage of Indian people who claim to be Christian in the Province of Orissa has increased rapidly. It has been rising from an estimated 3% to almost 40% in that particular area. It’s incredible!” Yet it has always worked that way throughout church history! The great saying is as true as ever, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Think of it! It is when things are at their worse that our opportunities to demonstrate the overcoming wonder of the cross are at their best. It is the perfect time to “think above” rather than hoping only in “escape from” or “triumph over”! Men will be impressed with your escapes and triumphs but the Father is most pleased with your “thinking above!”

“May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). To be dead to what the world is doing to you is to come alive to what the Savior is doing for you! It takes Cross Discipleship to understand that miraculous lesson!

In all my afflictions my joy knows no bounds.” II Corinthians 7:4