On The Shelf

imageOn that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.
And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.
And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him. Esther 6:1-3

‘OTS’ – pronounced Oh-zuts as in “Oats”, acronym for ‘On The Shelf’. OTS Syndrome [definition]: a condition whereby one’s life is defined more by observation than by participation; life is put on hold like the cat who by an unseen force somehow mysteriously perched herself  on top of the living room window curtain rod, you are mostly invisible while observing life passing beneath you. (Source – Somebody’s Corny Urban Dictionary).

It is said that there is no tougher place to be then when the Lord puts your life “on the shelf”. What or why would God do that to anyone? Is there is purpose? If so, what is the purpose? In reality, there is purpose in living life mostly from an observation tower. Let’s take a look at some people whose lives were once “on the shelf” who God miraculously transfused with fresh hope and purpose.

A Man Named Mordecai

For some things, especially things concerning spiritual matters, timing is critically important. It definitely was for the Jewish populace living during the time of King Ahasuerus as recorded in the Book of Esther. Most are familiar with this often quoted line in the book: “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” The man speaking those words was named Mordecai. And he was speaking to his adopted daughter-cousin Hadassah (Esther):

And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter. Esther 2:7  

As the story unfolds, Esther is chosen Queen and takes up residence in the king’s palace. Mordecai faithfully sits at the king’s gate day after day as a palace porter, sitting on the shelf (so to speak). During the course of his duties, he uncovers a plot to assassinate the king. He sends Esther communication about the scheme, then nothing. No recognition, no award, no bonus pay, no promotion was given to him. Mordecai experienced firsthand what it felt like living on the shelf. Life and people moved on. But, he waited. God had a plan for Mordecai and knew exactly when to move him to the next phase.

And the Lord did. The king had a bad night’s sleep and to help pass the time he asked that events recorded in the chronicles concerning his kingdom be read to him. Something catches his attention. It is about a man named Mordecai who usurped a plot to take the king’s life. “Was anything done for him?” Nothing. Mordecai’s life on the shelf had just come to an end.

King Ahasuerus rewarded the good deeds of the man who saved his life and generously made up for lost time:

And all the acts of his power and of his might, and the declaration of the greatness of Mordecai, whereunto the king advanced him, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed. Esther 10:2-3

God Calls Another Life Off The Shelf

Real kings keep their promises. David made a promise once to King Saul that he would preserve his lineage and not destroy his entire family:

Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house.
And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold. 1 Samuel 24:21-22

King David’s life on the shelf while running from Saul was now a distant memory. Life was good. He was now the “big man on campus”, he even got a name for himself (2 Samuel 8:13). Amazing how success, even for those chosen by the Savior, have a predisposition to forget the One who is behind any and all good that happens in life.

As time so oftentimes proves (substantiated by our fallen nature) promises of good made to a defeated foe faded into the shadows of his memory, maybe power washed by too many wars, women, wealth and weariness. But, the Lord remembered and brought it to his attention many years later:

And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet. 2 Samuel 9:3

Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar. Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant! 2 Samuel 9:5-6

There are not many accounts of people in the Bible as heartwarming and touching as that of Mephibosheth. Being the lame son of Jonathan, he lived most of his life in obscurity and heartache not knowing that an unfulfilled promise from God rested right above his head. His day finally arrived. God saw it was time for Mephibosheth to come down off the shelf:

And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually. 2 Samuel 9:7

From that day onward, Mephiboshet’s life was never the same. He became a new man with newfound hope and purpose in life. God is especially touched by the broken, crippled, lame and bruised – on the outside and on the inside (Ps 86:15, 145:8, Is 53:5, Mat 15:32, Mark 6:34, & Heb 4:15).

The Shelf Life Produces Something Amazing

Some things in life are made better by being motionless, by just doing nothing. The process is called curing. Meats, fruits, vegetables, cheeses (and some other mysterious elixirs made from rye, barley and malt) are transformed into exquisite creations by simply left sitting undisturbed on a shelf. Such is the case with the one thing that saves us:

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Romans 8:24-25

Hope is what saves. Not love, not faith, but hope. Hope for what? Hope that God’s word is truth and will come to pass, hope that Jesus Christ is real, alive, is the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings, and that he is coming back again for his people. And if we don’t live to see it, he will raise us from the dead to make the appointment (Romans 8:11, I Corinthians 15:52). That is a hope worth holding on to.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Romans 5:10  

The interesting thing about hope, unlike faith and love, it is not a spiritual fruit or spiritual gift. The Lord does not drop dollops of hope into our lives. Hope does not come easy.

Like precious earthly metals, stones and gems, hope does not occupy shallow ground, its origins reside deep within the soul. Hope is forged by enduring the pressure and heat of God’s handiwork upon our hearts. How and why? To form something rare, beautiful, exquisite, and valuable for His glory (Malachi 3:17). Hope is essentially the byproduct of God’s mercy and grace at work in our lives.

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: Romans 5:3-4

We with patience wait for it. Our soul is preserved by the nuclear bond between patience and hope. Jesus had something to say on this subject:

In your patience possess ye your souls. (KJV)
In the sphere of your steadfastness, constancy, and endurance you shall win for yourselves your lives. (Wuest) Luke 21:19

Your soul is acquired, secured, or purchased through patience – sometimes while enduring life while sitting on the shelf.

Is My Shelf Life About To Expire?

Is life looking like a dead end? Do you feel that your “shelf life” is about to expire? Who is to say that there is not yet an unfulfilled promise from the Lord resting over your head? How will we ever find out if we don’t patiently wait for it?

The Lord could be preparing you to come down from your disaster and enter into His destiny. The shelf has prepared you for this moment in time. And when you do come down, you will know for sure that “The Lord, He is God!”.

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalms 100:3  

 

Answers From Strange Places: A Vignette of Gideon

Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. Judges 7:13 

What significance can of a lump of barley bread have? Not much by itself. But, for Gideon and the armies of Israel, it won the victory. Sometimes answers to life’s dilemmas are found in the most unusual places. Let’s see.

Just Give Me A Sign Lord!

Gideon was a humble, unsuspecting fellow. Just the kind of person God looks to perform great exploits through.  But, Gideon had some problems. Gideon had an optics problem which translated into a warped faith life. Gideon doubted God’s power and ability to work in his life. How do we know this? Because he asked God to give him signs, (not once, but three times) to prove to him that the Lord was indeed going to use him to destroy the enemies of Israel.

And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.

And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,

Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall ……

And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece….. Judges 6:17, 36-37, 39

Gideon was a sign-seeker. Why? Consider the man’s past for a moment. Gideon was carrying baggage, in fact a lot of baggage. And people who carry a lot of baggage have problems seeing things afar because to avoid stumbling they need to continually focus on what is beneath their feet.

Gideon’s Heavy Baggage

What baggage was Gideon carrying? Let’s start with his present state of oppression, and no doubt some depression in the mix. The Midianites had so weighted Israel down that Gideon was threshing wheat in fear that they would discover his protein stash and take away his family’s only food supply.

And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.

And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. Judges 6:6, 11

Strike one.

Secondly, the man had low self-esteem and was living in poverty.

And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. Judges 6:15

Strike two.

Lastly, Gideon was not from “good Israeli stock”. Gideon suffered generational curses inherited from his father. His father was a heathen, an idol worshipper:

And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: Judges 6:25

It’s not looking good Gideon. Strike three.

Eye Candy Syndrome

Gideon suffered from a malady known as ECS – Eye Candy Syndrome. He was attempting to serve with the “eye” a God who asks to be served with the “heart”. Thus the reason behind Gideon’s sign-seeking, a malady affecting hearts not valiant in faith.

“Show me God and I will believe”. How many of us have prayed that prayer? Or, “Lord, if you do thus-and-thus, I will live for you”. Or, “Lord, just let me off the hook this one time and I will get my act together and give my life to you”. This is basically asking God for a sign, something we can tangibly grasp onto to bring God into our life situation. God wants more. The Lord wants to bring us into His situation. And that is the only way Gideon could accomplish the calling God spoke into his life. It takes a God-walk to birth a God-work.

God knows and understands the uniqueness within each and every one of us. And only God knows all about the life lived in the pair of shoes named “Mine Own”.

My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Psalms 73:26

And if we’ll be honest, we all bring baggage to the table (some more than others) and it really comes to the light when the Light of the World calls you out on the carpet. You cannot hide it then. So, you have two options. Allow God to help you unload it, or keep it and suffer, and suffer a lot.

Let’s face the facts folks, we will accomplish little in the Kingdom of God while carrying a load on our backs, the load of guilt from past mistakes and failures, or beating ourselves up because of the burden of carrying generational sins of our forefathers (oh yes, they do affect us) or the ravages experienced from childhood abuses.

Thankfully for Gideon, and reflecting back on his life, thankfully for us, the proverbial light bulb lit up his brain. How? From a dream about a barley roll.

Pillow Power

Dreams and their interpretations from God are mind altering and heart transforming. Dreams can change one’s life:

And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you. Genesis 40:8

But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets ….. KJV
But there is a God in heaven who solves mysteries … The Message Bible Daniel 2:27

How many people in the Bible were given dreams from God that changed their lives, and even the course of history? Let’s name a few: Abraham, Jacob, Laban, Job, a butler and a baker in an Egyptian prison house, Pharaoh himself, Solomon, Joseph, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar, Habakkuk, Jesus’ step-father Joseph, and Pilate’s wife. And Gideon:

And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian. Judges 7:15

Gideon got a lot of mileage from his fleece test, yet he still doubted in the mission God called him to. Signs did not help Gideon’s faith, he was still unconvinced. How do we know that? There was one more turning point he needed to move him into God’s will. Then there would be no turning back. What was the turning point? Of all things, a dream about a piece of barley bread.

And it goes deeper than just the dream. The one thing Gideon feared (loosing his family’s food supply), God now turned around and used it against the Midianites. When God takes away your fear and uses it to defeat your enemy, you must know you cannot fail.

It can be said that signs whether from earth or from heaven do not always change our thinking, especially when faced with major transitions or juncture points in life (like the one Gideon faced). Jesus gave warning about this:

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. Matthew 16:4

In Conclusion

What about some other unlikely places that ushered in the miraculous of God: a mother’s packed lunch of merger fare for her little boy, empty water pots, a lady of questionable reputation standing alone at the town’s waterhole, lastly a talked about illegitimate son of a carpenter and his gruesome hanging in shame on a cruel wooden cross? Unusual places.

God will take what man’s disregards, turn it around, and use it for His glory:

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25

There comes a time when the miracle you desperately need can only be hand-delivered by a man walking on the water. A most unusual place and in a most unusual way.

A.W. Tozer penned the words, “God is looking for those through who He can do the impossible. What a pity that we settle for only those things we can do ourselves.”

Gideon could not do by himself the feat he was called to accomplish for God. But, the Lord is merciful and longsuffering. And the Lord knew exactly how to posture him for the promotion awaiting him. Have you had or heard of any strange dreams lately?  Maybe God is about to do something miraculous in your life.

 

Unclaimed Riches

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Revelation 3:11

It is estimated that unclaimed wealth in the United States is valued at over $58 billion dollars. This includes unclaimed federal and state income tax refunds, life and medical insurance refunds, dormant savings or checking accounts, payroll checks, valuables left in safe deposit boxes, and the list goes on. In 2016 alone $1B in gift cards went unused and perhaps never to be cashed.

In short, there is a wealth of earthly property and assets left lingering that will never be claimed by its rightful owner or just simply neglected. Could this also be the case with heaven’s storehouse of treasures? Just maybe.

The Godly Inheritance

There is a familiar parable recorded in the New Testament where Jesus relates the story about two sons and their father. It is commonly referred to the parable of the prodigal son. One of the sons requested that he and his brother’s share of their wealth be divided so he can take his lot and move away from home:

And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. Luke 15:11-12

As the story progresses the son wastes all of his money, falls on hard times, and upon coming to “his senses”, looks to go back home and be reunited with his father. There is one interesting facet of this parable that is worth looking into a little deeper.

In reality, the son had not just one, but two inheritances – one earthly and the other heavenly. His “portion of goods” was the inheritance he wasted. However, there was another inheritance he left intact, the more important and valuable one:

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: Luke 15:21-22

The use of the word “best” when describing the robe given the son is an interesting choice. The word ‘best’ in the Greek is πρῶτος (prōtos) means former, foremost, chief, or beginning. In essence, the prodigal son retained his royal inheritance. He may have left home and trashed his earthly wealth, but his former, chief, foremost robe, his royal covering, was held dear and protected by his father.

When the prodigal son left home he left his “royal inheritance” behind, the one not for sale on the world’s open market. And it was waiting for him when he returned. The son left his most valuable possessions behind in storage – his formerly unclaimed riches. God does not allow those belonging to Him to slip by so easily. And God is not one to waste what belongs to Him.

Heaven’s Unclaimed Riches?

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:20-21

Jesus states in Matthew chapter six that his people serving him on earth are simultaneously storing up riches and treasures in heaven. Could it be that there are mansions in heaven containing piles of treasures that keep expanding and growing? Is it possible that those on the “other side” watch as these mounds of wealth grow, waiting expectantly for their owner to arrive and take ownership?

“Wow, look at what Sharon is doing down there on earth? The Lord must really using her for the Kingdom of God. Her fabulous heap of riches here just keeps growing and growing! I can’t wait for her to arrive to claim these riches and see what the Lord has here waiting for her”.

And, what about the opposite situation?

“I wonder what has happened to Steve? Jesus was really using him when I last saw him. He was instrumental in me being saved. Steve witnessed to me about the love of Jesus, how that Jesus died for all of my sins and offered me the gift of being born again.

Man, his storehouse of treasures have remained stagnant for quite some time.  Something must be wrong. Steve must not be doing well spiritually. I sure hope he turns his life around and puts his focus back on the eternal things of God. It would be such a waste for these beautiful riches and treasures to go to someone else.”

These points are not mere conjecture. As the opening scripture states, Jesus alludes to the possibility of someone loosing their rightful, Godly inheritance. A crown is a kingly possession. A crown symbolizes authority, rulership, victory and blessing. Jesus has a crown for everyone who overcomes sin and fulfills the will he has chosen for their lives (Revelation 2:7,11,17, 26, 3:5, 12,21 & 21:7). But, what happens to someone who stumbles and falls in their walk with God like what happened to the faithful servant of the Apostle Paul, Demas?:

For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. II Timothy 4:10

What happens is addressed by Jesus in Revelation 3:11. Their crown is given to someone else. We read a similar pattern with Esau and King Saul:

And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.

And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:30-31, 33-34

And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.
And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. I Samuel 15:26, 28

Saul’s kingly crown was given to David. And Esau forfeited his inheritance to his twin brother Jacob. The Lord will not waste any of His kingships and Godly inheritances, but He will change ownership if forced to.

An Unclaimed Masterpiece

image

The picture above is a painting called “Marche aux fleurs” or “Flower Market” by French Impressionist artist Edouard Leon Cortes. The painting was sold for $40,600 in 2008 at the famous New York City auction house, Sotheby’s. But, what makes this artwork so interesting is the story behind its discovery.

This painting was dropped off (along with an old coffee pot and other household items) at a Goodwill thrift store in Easton, MD in March 2008. The owner did not know what was in their hands. It was not until the watchful eye of an employee at the store was struck by something about the painting. This was not the typical “paint by number” artwork that typically graced the doors of the thrift store. This painting was different. And indeed it was. This was yet another case of ‘unclaimed riches’.

Jesus Holds The Future In His Hands

In conclusion, we see that we have in our hands life given to us by God. And with that life the potential to access storehouses of heavenly riches. The riches of God’s love, His grace, His mercy and the greatest gift of all – eternal life. It is said that satan, the enemy of our soul, is not interested in our past or our present. The enemy is interested in our future.

Why? For one the god of this world is crafty, keenly shrewd and highly intelligent (remember he once was the highest ranking archangel?) and knows a lot of things. But, there is one area where he is ignorant, weak and vulnerable. What are we talking about here? We are talking about the future. The enemy does not know the future God holds for your tomorrows. It is beyond his capacity to discern God’s sovereign will for your life (I Cor 2:7-8). And with that he orchestrates every scheme imaginable to thwart one from the path leading to a bright future in Godly, kingdom business .

Secondly, the enemy has no future. We do. And he wants the one thing he does not have direct control over on this earth – your future. We have in our fingertips an inheritance, a Godly kingship freely available to anyone who will believe on the lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus has secured what Hebrews 5:9 calls an “eternal salvation”. Jesus’ work on the cross has wrought  a victory all of the world can partake of that includes untold riches. Don’t you want to claim yours?

Take a look in the mirror, you may be looking at a masterpiece waiting to be discovered on your hands. Turn it over to Jesus and see what His work of love, grace and mercy will do!

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 22:32

As Thyself

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22:39

The phrase “as thyself” occurs exactly seven times in the KJV New Testament Bible. Interesting. The context is the same in all seven instances; embedded in the commandment to love God and our neighbor.

The phrase’s positioning at the end of the commandment appears almost as a footnote or afterthought. It is as if Jesus assumed we would have no difficulty in loving ourselves. Love God? Most assuredly. Love our neighbor? Well, we try. Most of the time at least we take a stab at it. Love self? A given.

But, do we? Do we “love thyself” as the commandment demands? Jesus sets the stage once again for a master production. How can one genuinely love themselves when the child of God is called to: deny themselves (Mat. 16:24), esteem other better than themselves (Phil 2:3), die daily (I Cor 15:31), walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), crucify their flesh (Gal 5:24), present their bodies a “living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1), and to be non-retalitory when faced with reproach and offense? (Mat 5:39) It is paradoxical.

There has to be something else going on here. This business of loving self must be something different from what we are accustomed to. We can only reason that we must love ourselves in a manner pleasing to God and in a way that transcends human understanding:

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9 

I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city. Hosea 11:9

We can only love ourselves to the extent and degree that the presence of Jesus Christ actively lives within us (Rom 8:11). It cannot work any other way. Why? Because flesh is at best weak (Mk 14:38), and at worst not good (Gal 5:19-21).

In You or Through You?

It has been said that Jesus is more interested in what he can do “in you” than what he can do “through you“. With that thought in mind, one of the hardest things the Lord faces in dealing with people is getting them on location, positioning them at the place where He wants to do a work.

Reflect a moment on Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Jonah, Ester, Naomi, and John Mark. All of these examples are people God wanted to use, but their GPS systems were not in synch with God’s. Abraham lingered in Haran. Jacob was stuck in a holding pattern outside of Egypt. Joseph spent years in and out of prison. And consider Moses. It took the Lord 40 years to get Moses out of Egypt and another 40 years for Egypt to get out of Moses.  Jonah took a cruise away from God’s call to Nineveh.

Ester balked in standing up for her heritage and the Jewish people. Naomi reluctantly heeded the call to return to Bethlehem. And lastly, John Mark got cold feet during a missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas. What was the problem with all of them? Their problem was internal in nature. God could not work “through them” because of the internal conflict “in them”. Each of them had an imperfect love, the love “as thyself”.

In Conclusion

When we live for God God’s way we enter a zone unbeknownst to ourselves where we can fulfill the commandment to “love thyself” and be on a trajectory to fulfill all three conditions of the greatest commandment of all. Sometimes the bigger mountains are the Mt. Everest’s lying within in contrast to the one located in the Himalayan’s.

We simply cannot love God and our neighbor if we are out of sorts with our own self and our own life.

The Lord desires to do a work “in” His people:

At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. John 14:20

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. John 15:4, 7

May our prayer be that we will yield to Jesus’ work upon our earthen vessels until we have the peace within that removes all internal conflict and be able to say the words: “I love you Lord with my all and I love my neighbor as I love myself”.

Be Blessed

The God With Dirty Hands – Part I

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the
ground, and hands3breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7

But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. Isaiah 64:8

For someone to have “dirty hands” is to infer that that person has done a less than honorable deed, guilty of a crime or immoral act.

However, someone having so-called “dirty hands” can mean the opposite – someone who is deeply involved and intimately connected to a good thing.

It is this later definition of the metaphor that we wish to explore about this great, holy God we know as our Creator.

The author A.W. Tozer wrote a remarkable statement about God when he penned the following words in his book, The Pursuit of God:

“The Bible will never be a living Book to us until we are convinced that God is articulate in His universe.”

God IS very much articulate in his universe. God is not detached, distant, aloof, disengaged, untouchable or any other adjective one can describe about God’s so-called remoteness towards His creative world.

In fact, the Bible paints a very different portrait of the author and artist of Creation. God has always desired to be involved with His most prized creation – Us.

It All Began With Dirty Hands

First, we observe how God uniquely created us – with His hands. When the rest of the creative world was formed into existence by His spoken word, God decided to get His hands dirty with us.

He reached into earthen dust and mixed, mingled and molded the first man with soiled and dirty hands.

God got involved. And He still does get involved. And His hands still get soiled every time he reaches into our dirty and oftentimes sin-stained lives to fashion us into something desirable and attractive.

The Potter & The Clay

Most readers of the Bible are familiar to the passages in Jeremiah chapter 18 concerning a particular potter and a vessel he wishes to form with clay. Let’s refresh our memory:

Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.
Jeremiah 18:3-6

A potter must get his or her hands dirty to form an object from clay. It takes  involvement. It requires one to get “dirty hands”.

And God is not afraid of getting His hands dirty to create a work of art and beauty out of our lives:

And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. John 8:3-8, 10-11

No matter how dirty we are or how stained we become, God is willing to risk getting His hands dirty if it means forming something beautiful through His grace and mercy for His glory.

Part II – From Dirt to Diamonds

The God Of Miracles

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall callChristmas_star1 his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23

Christians all over the world today celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ – the Savior of the world. The world would never be the same when God slipped into the finite realm we know as time and became human.

When Jesus was born in that humble manger over 2,000 years ago God in that instance of time experienced firsthand creation as we know it.

On that first Christmas morning God became one of us. That is right, God became human in the form of a child named Jesus Christ. He would breathe the air and drink the water He created. He would feel the earth’s crust crunch beneath his feet. His hands would touch and be touched by life.

God experienced His own creation. God himself became a living soul.

Why would God do such a thing? Very simple. To save us.

Save us from what? Another simple answer – to save us from sin.

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

It was not an ordinary birth. It was a supernatural and miraculous birth. God is a God of the miraculous.

According to Wikipedia, the word “miracle” is defined as: “an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws”.

He was then and so He is today – a God that performs the supernatural.

So, at this time of year as we celebrate the birth of Jesus we remember that this child was like no other child before him.

What started out in a cradle ended on a cross thirty-three years later. Heading to the cross was the focus of that little baby born in the backwater and nondescript town of Bethlehem.

So, let’s not leave Jesus lying in the manager after today. Let’s allow Jesus to guide us along the path that he has laid out for us. It is a destination that heads towards eternity.

And his cross is the needle of the compass that points us true north on our journey.

God is in the miracle-working business. Jesus still turns water into wine. Jesus can take ordinary lives and turn them into something exquisite and wonderful for His glory!

Merry Christmas 2014

Note: Any advertisements or web links that may be listed below this blog entry are not in any way endorsed or promulgated by the blog writer.

Cloaked Daggers

But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, Cloak 1
the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.

But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh. Judges 3:15-16

************************************************

We learn about Ehud in the third chapter of the Book of Judges. Ehud was on a mission chosen by God to end eighteen years of oppression upon the Israelite’s by the Moab king, Eglon. God heard and responded to His people’s cry for mercy.

Eglon’s time of judgment had come and Ehud was the man to orchestrate the plan. And indeed what a plan it was. We are given some interesting details surrounding Ehud’s plot and his subsequent escape from harm.

Our Mysterious Heart

But, this post is not about mysterious, left-handed assassins. However, it is about cloaked daggers. Specifically, the daggers lurking beneath the cloaks of our heart. And yes, if we are really honest with ourselves we must admit that they either have been there in the past or they are most likely there now.

You might say: “Sir, you are delirious and have no idea what you are talking about”. This blogger may not, but God’s Word and Jesus himself has a lot to say on this subject.

Let’s begin with the heart. We do not even know our heart and we call the Lord a liar if we think otherwise:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

And the Word shows us it is the fool who even attempts to conquer this uninhabitable and inhospitable terrain:

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself. Proverbs 18:2

Jesus zeroed in on this heart dilemma himself:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. John 2:23-25

Jesus knows about the daggers lurking beneath the surface of our human cloaks. He demonstrated this several times in his earthly ministry. Another time is seen in his discernment of the cold daggers of ambition lying within his three closest disciples:

And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. Mark 9:33-34

The point is we have got to guard our hearts. We are living on enemy-occupied territory. The enemy is on a search-and-destroy mission to implant unholy things into the human heart. Does anyone listen to the news or read the headlines posted on any major news website?

Concealed Heart Weaponry

God does not want us to make catastrophic mistakes in our lives because of ugly things that may be harboring in our hearts. The following words are written by Peter.  In a sense, they are Peter’s version of Paul’s writings regarding spiritual fruit in Galatians 5:22-23:

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. II Peter 1:5-9

But notice, these beautiful words were penned by a man who had previously harbored some of his very own cloaked daggers.

The Bible openly exposes Peter’s infamous denial of Jesus during his trial proceedings. To his surprise and shock Peter’s daggers of pride and feelings of shame towards the soon-to-be crucified Saviour are revealed. Was this not the man who said that he would never forsake the Lord?

But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. Mar 14:29-30

So much for Peter knowing his own heart!

We see more cloaked daggers in Peter even after his conversion at Pentecost. Here we have a scene recorded in the Book of Galatians where Peter is eating with a group of Gentile converts when James and a group of Jewish believers enter. Knowing the conflict about to ensue (the Jewish moral law forbidding eating with the unclean), Peter gets up and joins his Jewish compatriots.

His infectious action causes other Jewish believers in the room to do likewise. In this instance it is the Apostle Paul who confronts the cloaked dagger of hypocrisy lurking beneath Peter’s cloak:

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. Galatians 2:11 (read more Vs. 11-14).

The daggers are there lurking beneath our cloaks and when the opportunity arises we almost subconsciously and instinctively reach into those familiar coveted compartments to pull out our weapons of choice. What are those weapons? The following is a list from Jesus’ very own inventory of concealed heart weaponry:

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. Mark 7:20-23

We Have Hope

This post is not intended to be negative. If the man who preached the salvation message on the Day of Pentecost had some cloaked daggers, where does that leave you and me?

But, there is hope for all of us just by considering the example of Jesus’ front-man, the Apostle Peter. Peter overcame his problematic heart condition and became the person God called him to be. And He can do the same for you and for me!

“O’ God, search my heart and reveal in me any hidden daggers of self-righteousness, jealousy, hypocrisy, ungodly ambition, unforgiveness, lust or unrepentant anger I may have concealed beneath my cloak. And O’ my God, create in me a clean heart!”.