Thursday, January 28, 2010

A "Note" on Lovingkindness

Remember Exodus 34:6&7 from our December 11th post? (Personal Study/Journey 3)

Exodus 34:6b ...The LORD, the LORD GOD, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.
Vs 7a Who keeps lovingkindness for the thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin;...

What is this term, lovingkindness?

I once heard it said that an early Bible translator coined this term because there was no English word that conveyed the meaning of the original Hebrew word. The term 'love' by itself was not enough. Nor was the word 'kindness'.

In the English, if you just use the word love, there are a lot of people who love their spouses and children but they can be harsh and unkind.

And kindness doesn't always means a person actually loves.

Our world can be such a hard place that it can harden our hearts. In fact, many of us harden our hearts on purpose in order to survive what we go through.

But God never intended for it to be that way. And often the hard heart we developed in order to survive is what keeps us from God. It is our hard-heartedness that makes us unwilling to come to Him and learn from Him.

It is also said that the term 'tender mercies' was also coined in order to give the full effect of the original Hebrew.

So much time is spent by certain teachers on the word 'submit' and so little time is spent on the real words that women really need like, 'lovingkindness' and 'tender mercies' that I'm calling on those following this blog to take a moment to meditate on these important compound words. These words are for men, too, no doubt. But the tender hearts of women need these words severely. All wounded hearts need to grasp this side of God.

God uses lovingkindness to describe Himself twice in Exodus 34:6&7. In verse 6 He says He is ABOUNDING in loving kindness. In verse 7 He says He KEEPS lovingkindness. And in getting to know Him, you won't get very far if you don't meditate on it, which we will in the next few posts.

But first, I'm getting ready to show my age here. But in meditating on this, God's lovingkindness, an old Petra song came to me which I'd like to share.
(If you don't like Petra or 80s music, please skip)

I mentioned above that sometimes we are so busy surviving, we don't know how to live. There are many who are severely oppressed that have no choice but to harden their hearts. They must harden or die. The above song is not for them. It's for those of us who are struggling with the day to day, dealing with difficult spouses or the aftermath of divorcing an abusive one. It's for me to remember God's lovingkindness toward me and to allow His lovingkindness and tender mercies entrance into my heart. It is also for me to not forget compassion for those worse off than me. To remind me that God does not only have abounding lovingkindness for me, but for others who have not heard yet, or who have heard be see nothing resembling lovingkindness from the, so-called, believers around them.

Our next series will be meditations on verses concerning His lovingkindness. It is a part of the nature of God that we must understand and learn to receive from Him. It is hard to give what you don't understand and don't know how to even receive.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hardness of Heart

Mark 3:4 And He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent.
Vs 5 And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out you hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

In some circles, people are very concerned about grieving the Holy Spirit. But I've never really heard much about grieving Jesus. Yet here in verse 5 of Mark 3, we see that Jesus is both angry and grieved. Why? Because of the hardness of their hearts. The religious people of the day were more concerned with the religious form of keeping rules. And worse than this, the Pharisees were watching Him, to try to catch Him at breaking "God's rules" in order to do good. They were 'rule keepers'. They were not good. They called the good works that Jesus did 'Evil' and could not discern the evil in their own hearts.

They were the religious leaders of the day, but according to Hebrews 5:14 they were immature.

Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Mark 3:4&5 in Context

Mark 3:1 And He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there with a withered hand.
Vs 2 And they were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse Him.
Vs 3 And He said to the man with the withered hand, "Rise and come forward!"
Vs 4 And He said to them, "is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent.
Vs 5 And after looking around at them with anger, grieved ath their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
Vs 6 And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel withthe Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Knowing God, 6

Hosea 2:19 and I will betroth you to me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in compassion.
Vs 20 And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
Then you will know me.

This one is awesome so I saved it for last.

He has so much to give to us. He has so much about Himself He wants us to know. He is rightous and just, He's faithful and true. He's compassionate and abounds toward us in lovingkindness.

He wants to show us this about Himself. When we understand these things, it is a process of getting to know Him. And getting to know what all these things actually mean deep down in our spirits rather than knowing them with a limited, religious, shallow understanding.

And it is a process.

Knowing God's love when we first give our hearts to Him is different than knowing that love after He has put up with our sorry selves for 10, 20, 30 years.

It is a growing closer, a revealing, an ascention. As the bride of Christ He wants to betroth us in all these good things. And when we get it, THEN we will fully know Him.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Knowing God, 5

Philippians 3:10 That I may know Him, and the power of His ressurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being comformed to His death.

Again, we have the Apostle Paul. He really wants to know God. He really wants to know the full spectrum of Jesus. From His lowest lows to His highest highs.

I'm not going to tarry long on this one, because to be quite frank, I'm not sure what all he means. Paul was martyred, so I suppose in that sense, he fellowshiped with Christ's sufferings.

But I wonder if the women who followed Jesus as He carried the cross were fellowshiping with His sufferings. When they were there as they hammered in the nails, I wonder if that counted as knowing His sufferings.

And for ourselves today, I wonder if fellowshiping in His sufferings might have to do with deep prayer and intercession or going to a homeless shelter to give a cup of cold water to a child, or advocating for those who have not voice...

As we do it for one of the least of these, we do it for Him.

If I'm wrong on this one, I don't mind another giving me more insight. As mentioned, this verse is not completely clear to me, but I did want to mention it because of its broadness.

We can know BOTH the power of His resurrection AND the fellowship of His sufferings. And whatever it means, there is one thing I do know. When I'm willing to accept it all, the bad with the good according to the will of God (a opposed to the will of men), God makes it worth my while. So I want to be open to this verse and trust God for the parts I don't understand.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Spark, Spunk, Freedom, Fire, and Wild Women

Jane has brought something up that I'd like to address.

She has noticed a lack of spark/life in the artwork of many Christians who blog. And she brings out the fact that many times, instead of allowing ourselves freedom of expression, we police ourselves to the point that we kill that spark of creativity within us. She makes a good point.

There is a saying I found somewhere and I keep it in the back of my mind:

"Marriage and Children can tame a young, wild woman. But who can tame an old, wild woman?"

Now, I'm going to have to define wild.
Many Christians hear the term wild and they shut down. They picture an alcoholic, party girl who sleeps around and never stays at home. But that's not what I think of.
People with addictions to alcohol and party living are not wild and free. They are controlled by their addiction, their need for constant stimulation.
To me, a wild and free woman in Christ DOES take care of her family. She doesn't shirk responsibility. But neither does she let the responsibility weigh her down and sap her life. She's connected to the Vine, her life source and lives fully, more abundantly, with spark and fire.

I read a book once. I'm not recommending it at all because I'm not sure others will get from it what I got. God used it in my particular situation. But I've seen others come away from it with completely different thoughts.

The book was called "Wild at Heart". It was written by a man for men and the women who loved them. But what the writer did not expect was that women would latch onto this "wild at heart" theme.

When I was in college one of my professors had a cartoon picture on his door of a character with a ball and chain attached to his leg and on the ball was written, "Truth". And the caption was, "I thought the truth was supposed to set me free."
At the time I saw it, it made me angry. I was young in the Lord and my relationship With Him was new and fresh and I did not understand what that cartoon meant. Now I know. Religion brings bondage. It brings bondage to women AND men. And men in bondage have the tendency to turn on their women so that the women are in more bondage than the men.

Anyway, this "Wild at Heart" book was trying to deal with the hearts of men and trying to get them to throw off religion and be the men God created them to be, and Jesus redeemed them to be. The message was good. And his intentions were totally good. He felt that if the men were wild and free then they would also release their women to be free along side them. Problem is, the message many men got was, "I'm free he-man. You, woman, respect my freedom and understand it because I'm a man! Don't get in my way. Don't slow me down. I can say what I want, do what I want, and if you don't like it, too bad."

But anyway, back to what I got out of the book. God was dealing with ME and MY self-policing and MY self-limitation. God was calling me to a level of freedom that I did not know but that was always available to me if I would turn and look to Him for it.

Oh, and the reason I put the word "Spunk" in there is because my pastor said that he likes women with Spunk. And so far, he has been open to the bits and pieces of my areas of freedom that I have shared with him. Spunk, I think for him means, freedom, spark, that part of a woman not controlled by a man that can surprise and bring joy in it's newness, freshness, unexpectedness.

So, Jane, even though I know Spark, Spunk, Freedom, and Fire are all not exactly the same thing, I still think they are related. There is an openness, a life force that we are afraid to express. We don't want to sin against God or man. But in our exuberance to keep from sinning, we stifle. And it doesn't help that there are also men who want to stifle women and put them in boxes (patriarchy). And there are other men who don't WANT to stifle but DO stifle, unintentionally because they are stifled themselves (Well-meaning but thoroughly misguided Christian men).

Are we thinking along the same lines, or am I missing your point?

Knowing God, 4

Ephesians 3:19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up with all the fulness of God.

Here's an excerpt from another prayer, this time the Apostle Paul's. In verse 16 he prays that the Ephesians would be strengthened so that in verse 17 Christ can live in their hearts and in verse 18 they can be able comprehend the magnitude of God. Then by verse 19 he talks about being able to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge so that they can be filled with all the fullness of God.

A preacher I listen to once said that a person could write "this is possible" in the margin of their Bible next to verse 19. And I have done that ever since.

Paul wouldn't tell us that we could aspire to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge if it weren't possible. It is possible if you refer back to verse 16 and know that we can be strengthened to get to this point.

Paul wouldn't tell us that we may be filled up to all the fulness of God if it weren't possible. Again we must refer back to the previous verses and understand that we need "to be strengthened with power though His Spirit in the inner man" (from Ephesians 3:16). And we get this strengthening "according to the riches of His glory".

Just like Moses prayed, "If I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways that I may find favor."

May God grant us strength in the inner man by the riches of his glory, so that Christ can live in our hearts and that we can actually know a love that is beyond our natural ability to know, and contain the fulness of God within ourselves.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Knowing God, 3

The following is the definition of Eternal Life:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they many know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.

John 17:3 are words in red in my Bible in a sea of red words uttered by our Savior and First Love. John chapters 14, 15, 16, and 17 are nearly exclusively red with a verse in black thrown in here and there. In my Bible John 17 is given the title "The High Priestly Prayer". And it is Jesus praying to the Father. It is in this prayer that we find this divine definition of Eternal Life.

Knowing God IS Eternal Life.

No wonder Moses asked God to let him know Him. No wonder Hosea urges the children of Israel to press on to know Him.
And remember the scripture in our December 9th post? (Personal Study/Journey)

John 5:39 You search the scriptures because you think in them you have eternal life; and in is these that bear witness of Me;
vs 40 and you are unwilling to come to me that you may have life.

This world is full of death. And there are those that hate us, either because we are Christian or women or both. There is one who wants to steal from, kill and destroy us and will use anyone he can to do the job, even misguided Christians. But Jesus came that we might have Life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Knowing God IS eternal life.
So press on to know Him. The more you know Him here, the more life you have, the higher you can ascend, the more you can do to make a real difference and share the Lover of our souls, the source of eternal life, with others.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Knowing God, 2

Hosea 6:3 So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.

In Exodus 33:13 Moses asked God to let him know His ways. Here in Hosea, the prophet is urging the people to press on to know Him. He assures the people that God is findable and approachable, and even willing to approach them. As sure as the dawn, as gentle as a spring rain.

The assurances in Hosea are not just good for Israel of old, but good for us today. Be encouraged to press on to know He is knowable, approachable, and gentle. The outstretched arms of an honest seeker will lure God near like nothing else. His going forth is as certain as the dawn. He will come like the spring rain that comes every year.

So let us press on in our upward climb, to ascend to place He calls us to.

"Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along..." He calls you. (SOS 2:10 & 13)

Do you say you are not beautiful? Don't you know that beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder. We are the apple of His Eye (Psalm 17:8). Praise is becoming to the upright (Psalm 33:1). And if He says we are beautiful and are to arise up and come along, then that's what we should do. We should resist the tendency to be unwilling. We should resist the temptation to be ungatherable. We should press on, even if what we press through is the belief in our own worthlessness.

Press on... Press on.
You can't make yourself worthy of Him. You can only humble yourself before Him and allow Him to raise you up and make you beautiful and worthy by His own hand.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Knowing God, 1

Exodus 33:13 Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight...

Again this is an except from the verses we read in my November 26th post, "Let Me See Your Glory."
In essence, even though we are taking a bit of a break from the Song of Solomon, really what I'm talking about in the Personal Study/Journey series and this one on Knowing God, they are both connected and intertwined.

Part of getting healed in the presence of God is getting to know God. SOS is about growing intimacy between the Lover and the Beloved. The Personal Study posts were, in a way, responding to my meditation on, "Arise, my darling, by beautiful one, and come along," (2:10&13). I was seeking Him and trying to learn how to respond to His calling by meditating on John 5:39&40; Matthew 23:37; and Matthew 11:28-30.

So anyway, we are back again to Exodus 33. Let's focus on verse 13 again.

"...if I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways that I may find favor in Thy sight."

It seems as though Moses is talking in circles. If You favor me, let me know You in order to find Your favor.

At first this can be confusing. Until you look at it in another way.
You have heard of the phrase, "down ward spiral." It is used for such things as alcoholism, and the domestic abuse cycle.
Well, if there is a downward spiral into sin and darkness, does this mean there can be a spiral or cycle upward? I maintain that it is possible.

Getting to know God is an onward and upward cycle. First we find favor, then in His presence that that favor provides, we get to know Him. And the more we know Him, the more we walk in that favor, etc.

There is no end to it, at least not on this earth. Because once you get close enough to Him, your feet can't remain on the ground.
I say this is a possiblity because of the story of Enoch who walked with God. He got so close to the Lover of his soul on this earth, he could no longer remain here. He never tasted death. He just went on home with Him. (Genesis 5:24)