Our Spiritual Engine

Sandwiched in between I Corinthians 12 and I Corinthians 14, there is a much-quoted and maybe misunderstood section of scripture. In chapter 12, the ‘spiritual matters’ in the new creation are illuminated. Chapter 14 contains the practical use of the spiritual functions in the community. In between, at the heart of this whole section, is the love of God spelled out in chapter 13.

These chapters did not fall together haphazardly. The gift of holy spirit that we have been given as a result of the new birth is the love of God shed throughout our beings. It is not just a worldly love as verse 3 indicates:

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity (love of God), it profiteth me nothing. I Corinthians 13:3

There is nothing wrong with doing good works, but it is important to know the cart does not go before the horse. Work does not come before love has established that work. The engine behind any spiritual good that we do is the originator of the gift, our Father, God.

In the Corinthians group, all those who received the gift of holy spirit could operate that gift.  It wasn’t just relegated to a chosen few. Paul wrote about how they were to keep things in order among such a spiritually endowed group in these three chapters.

In chapter 13:4-8 sits a figure of speech called Asyndeton where several things are listed together and at the end of the list is an all-encompassing summation: ‘The love of God never faileth.’

4 Charity  suffereth long (long-tempered), and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: Corinthians 13: 4-8a

This list is not something we break apart into individual bite size pieces, study and try to incorporate into our actions. This is something that emanates as we carry out the love that God powers in our hearts to do the works he would have us to do.

If, say, “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things”  or “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” is taken out of the mix, what have you got? The ‘things’ listed here refer to the things that God provides as described in his Word. If the Word is not there, what then is there to rejoice in?

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Worthy?

4 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy (axios-corresponding to the real value) of the vocation wherewith ye are called,  Ephesians 4:1

What’s the therefore there for? It is the connection to chapters 1-3 of Ephesians. Those first three chapters are a beautiful lead up to the second half (the practical) of Ephesians. It is great description of all that is involved in the summons to the high calling of God that enables us to walk practically with each other. here are just a few nuggets:

4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Ephesians 1:4

17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Ephesians 1:17-19

21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: Ephesians 1:21

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Ephesians 3:16-20

When you read through these chapters in Ephesians, the word ‘worthy’ in 4:1 takes on a powerful meaning.  The real value of our vocation and our worthiness is what we receive from God. It is not about what we do, but what God has done. We walk in that!

So how do we walk in it? The next verse tells us:

2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering (not short-tempered), forbearing (standing firm) one another in love; Ephesians 4:2

It starts with lowliness (living with dependence on God) and gentleness with humility to God. When taken in context these words are powerful and do not convey any weakness. We rise above all circumstances by staying under the wings of God. This should be no-brainer for anyone who believes chapters 1-3!

 

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Joshua: A Type

In Joshua 23-24, Joshua addressed the Hebrew leaders in a speech that had poignant meaning for all of them. It was full of encouragement, yet not without warning.  He revisited their victories and reminded them how God took care of them.  He did not leave out the sinking sand warnings of idolatry.  The culture that surrounded them could easily dupe them into accepting so much less that what God desired for their life. It had the potential to cast a shadow on the riches of God’s grace and desire for all individuals.

There is a direct call to monotheism rather than the worship of pagans gods:

14 Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood (Euphrates), or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:14-15

The  gods they had been exposed to belong to three groups: The Chaldeans, Egyptians, and the Canaanites.  Joshua gave them the choice and told them about his own choice.  The last part of verse 15 is a much-quoted verse. It means so much more when it is quoted within the context of what was said. Joshua was saying “I choose God and that is who I serve.” He also made the point that you can’t mix it up with pagan gods and serve the one true God at the same time.

Each tribe was responsible for his own dominion. At the end of the speech, Joshua sent “every man unto his own inheritance”. ‘One man shall chase a thousand’ is another much-quoted verse (23:10) in this speech. Again the context within which this diamond sits is an encouraging thought. He saw them as doers, not pew sitters. That was the kind of leader Joshua was.

Joshua was a type of the future Christ. Joshua in Hebrew is Jesus in Greek. Joshua led the Hebrews to a physical military victory. Jesus leads to the spiritual victories of the New Covenant. They both were catalysts to those around them. Joshua’s victories related to the physical and temporal, Jesus’s to the spiritual and eternal.

Joshua was an amazing leader (I really prefer the word ‘catalyst’ for ‘leader’). Idolatry exists in the world today just as it did back in his time. We see it in religion, politics, entertainment, family and educational culture and ethics, just to name a few areas where it seeks to hide. Idolatry hides today behind political correctness and tolerance. Jesus Christ’s purpose was to flush out and expose even the most subtle tentacles by which it seeks its power. Jesus Christ is the head of the church that we belong to today. Understanding this not only opens our eyes; it gives strength, comfort and resolve to deal with things around us.

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Conflict and Joshua 22

IMG_7660 (5)Three tribes of Israel, Ruben, Gad and the 1/2 tribe of Manasseh, asked Moses about settling on the east side of the Jordan.  In  Joshua 22:9, this request was acknowledged  “according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Moses”. These  tribes then built an altar that caused all sorts of angst with the other tribes. The other tribes thought of this as a turning away and that, in essence, they were starting a new denomination. It took a little conversation and practical reasoning to avert a crisis.

Living in a day and time that has something like 24,000 different religious bodies, this type of argument is ever with us and sometimes it can be quite difficult to sort out. It was determined in Joshua 22, that all were worshipping the same God and that the altar the 2 1/2 tribes built would serve as a memorial to that commitment. Phineas got involved along with the princes of the tribes. It was settled peaceably. There were other times in the history of their trek to the promised land when some of them started worshipping other gods and it was not so easy. Phineas was also in on dealing with the sin of Peor in Number 25. The results were more severe on that occasion.

So how does one navigate in the world today with different doctrines and traditions? Nothing is black and white. We all can be cajoled into going along with stuff that goes against what we believe in for “love’s” sake, but  honestly, “love” can also be standing up for what is right. That kind of “love” is not legalism. There is a big difference. It takes patience, peace, love and humility to recognize the plain path. To maintain a “righteous” attitude is to go to God with whatever is set in front of you that is disconcerting and allow God to work. Job was a great example of this. He had some pretty nasty judgment thrown out at him from 4 people, but he held out for God’s answer. That is where peace comes in, settles the heart and brings freedom from fear!

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Individuality

There is a lot of human drama in the book of Job.  Most of it is centered on long dialogues between the human players in this story. What I love about Job was his endurance to stay the course in getting the answers straight from the mouth of God.  ‘Righteousness’ is a big deal. ‘Righteousness’, when truly understood, is an individual right. It is not  a ‘group’ thing. ‘Rightness’ comes from God in working through  and in any situation. That is where Job stayed the course.

Job’s three friends had flaws in their thinking. Job had obvious questions for God , and  we are made aware of the big questions he had in his own thinking.They were all products of the world around them. In the end, God told Job to pray for for the three friends.  God does not take sides, he is all about what’s right. God’s intent was growth for all of them: Job, and the three ‘miserable comforters’. God showed himself to all 4 of them. I assume Job’s friends learned that it is about looking for God rather than sin. Job learned about ‘seeing’ God! All’s well that ends well!

There is another player in the scenario: Elihu. He disappeared in the end. When one honestly reads through his drama, he’s not someone you would like to encounter in your local bible study. Job did not answer or argue with him and it seems, despite man-made chapter breaks, God’s whirlwind swoops down, interrupts and clears the air.

The lesson of ‘righteousness’ a big theme in the Book of Job. Despite our questions and flawed thinking at times, we have the right to humbly ask for answers to life’s questions. We have the right to the throne room of God. Guilt and shame can shut the door but Jesus Christ opened it for us in the New Testament.  Guilt and shame clouded and covered the light, Jesus Christ unveiled it. We have access to God, not thru some veil, but with clear bold access we too get to ‘see’ him distinctly.

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Job’s Sufficiency and Righteousness

Again I marvel at the multitude of opinions expressed about Job’s predicament as exposed in the Book of Job. It continually seems like denominational biases try to sneak their cause into the word of God.  The Word of God will always be the Word of God and it is unbreakable. God has protected it throughout history. We can get answers to our questions about God from God himself.

Job was a man that God actually praised. Job had some catastrophic events occur in his life.  He had endeavored to live like God expected him to live. He respected (good fear, in a reverential sense) God and yet he had another type of fear, (the negative kind of fear) and felt insecure. Fear can at times eclipse the light of God. Mentally, he acknowledged God, yet his heart had some worries that ballooned into a big cloud over him:

25 For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. 26 I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came. Job 3:25-26 

In response to this, three friends visited Job and sat silently with him for a while and when they started talking they accused Job of having some secret sin that was causing his troubles.  They were joined by a fourth who added fuel to the raging fire that was going on.  It seemed like God was unreachable and yet Job never gave up. Job wanted to talk to God himself.

In the book of Job there is a lot of dialogue devoted to his three friends.  Elihu gets quite a bit of print also. It almost seems like these miserable comforters are trying actually to separate Job from God rather than bring him closer. Is God unapproachable? No? Can one ask God questions? Yes! Job loved God. He wanted answers. Can we get answers? Do we really think God wants us sitting around in the dark? God is relational, not a distant judge as is proved in the final chapters of the book. Job got  his answers!

5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Job 42:5

Job held on to his righteousness throughout the ordeal  and that is an important lesson for all of us especially in the day and time within which we live. We live under the New Testament Covenant. Jesus Christ has made the login to God much easier through the sending of the gift of holy spirit.  To live in righteousness we believe in the actual ‘right’ to access to God. God doesn’t want us stupid regarding his blessings and all that he is.unnamed

The greatest thing one can do for other humans is to encourage them to get to know God. and understand that God can become their sufficiency (not us) as the relationship develops.  The results are beyond anything we could imagine! ‘Seeing’ God at work in another is one of our added riches of life!

17 And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. Isaiah 32:17

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What is God’s Focus in the Book of Job?

The Book of Job is one of the most hypothesized books in the Bible. There are so many opinions about things contained in the book that it is mind-boggling!  As I look into some of the sections of the book and take my time, it is fairly evident that most people get it wrong one way or another. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have all the right answers either, but I can see all the contradictions of opinions that pile up with each and every theory.cloud3

God actually spoke in the beginning and end of this book.  In the beginning, he praised Job for his righteousness. In the end, God praised Job again. In between, we read a lot of human dialogue page after page, where there is a lot of mention of sin and blame, which got worse and worse before God stepped in.

when God spoke directly to Job, he set the tone with:

2 Who is this that darkeneth (dims the light) counsel (advice) by words without knowledge (discernment, thinking)? 3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand (ask) of thee, and answer thou me. Job 38:2-3

I looked up what it means ‘to gird up the loins’. The phrase is used several times in the Bible.Some historians describe this as pulling up the tunic and tucking it in to be ready to move. Job was not going anywhere physically, but spiritually he was moving ahead spiritually. In  Ephesians 6 it says:

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

After the discourse in Job 38:1-3, God asked Job question after question!  God asks questions throughout the Bible and this is the longest list directed to any individual. The questions are thought-provoking! They allowed and encouraged Job to think! (Check out Genesis 4:6, Job 1:7, Acts 9:5, Romans 8:31-39, or the first question in the Bible ‘Where art thou ?’ in Genesis 3:9). The questions didn’t box him in, accuse or blame him; they freed Job because he wanted to be freed:

5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Job 42:5

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