The Letters

Context

February 2019 – Context

Have you ever been in a situation that was undesirable, boring, frustrating, or difficult? Yeah, I thought so. Me too. It’s part of life – comes with the territory. But, there’s a way to hack those experiences. How you perceive the situation from the outside will determine your level of satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, while muscling through the task. Your ability to choose whether or not to do the task may not exist; it is something that you just have to do. But the context under which you operate is a choice that you can make.

A friend of mine was applying for a grant for his organization. This was the first time he had done so, and while filling out the application he was complaining to himself about the whole process. The grantor wanted to know everything about the project and in such detail. What a painful experience.  During subsequent applications for grants, he realized that the people asking for this detailed information were actually giving money away… and that they needed to make sure the applicant was worthy of receiving the money.  This money was going to be used by my friend to fund a project that would make the world a better place.  Filling out the application was a small, necessary task that would hopefully enable him to accomplish his goal.  He realized the context that he was working under – the “Why” – and now he fills out grant applications with much less dread and frustration.

Consider this scripture with respect to context…

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18)

I believe that Paul is telling us to view our physical, daily walk here on earth in the context of being Spirit led – continually. If we are living our lives from the context of God’s Holy Spirit, we won’t be concerned and fretting about obeying the law.  Living in that context, our actions would be completely in sync with God’s will. The Spirit will not lead one to transgress the law.

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. (1 Timothy 1:8-11)

 I remember a couple of years ago or so, when I was 26… God tapped me on the shoulder and showed me enough of His Truth so that I believed.  At the time, I was fully immersed in and enjoying as much as I could, whatever the world had to offer. I was not living a healthy lifestyle.  Even though God had shown me some pretty amazing things, I was still trying to make the decision to follow Him, or not. As you might imagine, my battle was founded in the contexts that I chose to view the decision from. I initially viewed the decision from the context of “all of the fun that I would need to give up.” Something in my being cringed at and fought against this idea.  I refused to change my lifestyle such that all fun would come to an end.  Where would the quality of life come from? My life would surely be boring. Thankfully, I considered something I had observed in others and applied that context to my situation.  The observation (that literally saved me…) was that many other people I knew of had made the commitment to follow God, and they were happy!  They did not consider their lives to be deathly boring.  I knew that they were living joyful, satisfied lives, and if I made that commitment, I should also be able to. (And it turned out to be true!)

One of my spiritual mentors has a saying that pricks this concept of adopting a beneficial context in life.  He says in certain situations, “I don’t HAVE to, I GET to…”  In other words, count it all joy.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

The admonition here – for all of us – is to change the context of our operations to align with that of our Father’s.  Consider the context in the scripture below… The mom-to-be is faced with the inevitability of very real and excruciating pain. This is never something that anyone would look forward to with pleasurable, joyous anticipation. But, in spite of the real pain, there is real anticipation, there is real joy. Context can change everything.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. (John 16:20-24)

When you change your context so that you trust in God and He becomes your salvation, the promise of joy can be fulfilled:

Therefore you will joyously draw water From the springs of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)

There are many scriptural examples of people changing their context toward God’s will. Paul’s conversion away from persecuting believers, Jonah eventually making it to Nineveh, Job realizing God’s sovereignty…

Imagine the context that Paul was operating under when he was singing in prison. We should always carry such a context of joy and praise.

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; (Acts 16:25)

Consider the answer you give to folks when they ask, “So, what do you do?” Your answer tells them the context under which you operate.  Typically for me, my answer is my job – and, of course, that is the expected answer and the essence of the question.  But, is that what defines you? Is that the best description of what you do?

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)              

Peace to you and glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Obstruction

January 2019 – Obstruction

Hello folks,

I was walking with a friend not too long ago and he said something like, “I’ve found that when I get out of the way, that’s when God shows up.”  How is that possible? I cannot imagine my small being impeding the progress of God’s immense existence. But amazingly, I notice that it does happen, and often.  My thoughts, actions, and attitude are able to inhibit God from moving – flowing – in my life.

Throughout the scriptures, there are images and examples of good things flowing from God:

A river of the water of life flows in Revelation 22:1 and:

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:38)

God’s children living in unity is like the precious flow of anointing oil (Psm133)

Talk about precious flow… Blood and water flowed from Messiah in John 19:34

I have imagined for years that God’s spirit that He gives me is my connection to Him – like an internet connection.  Remember dial-up?  The first time I had a computer with an internet connection was an amazing experience – after configuring the modem and getting an Earthlink account, I dialed a number and listened to the sounds of my PC negotiating a communication channel with the world wide web. Oh, the limitless possibilities!  But, I have long since upgraded my connection to “high speed broadband.” From DSL, to cable, and now fiber optic, the connection keeps getting better and faster.  This is the continuous improvement that I seek with my connection to God through His spirit.  And, while things like viruses, malware, competing downloads, and other bandwidth hogs can adversely affect my internet connection, there are things that obstruct God’s flow in my life. No surprise there, right?

My heart is the valve that controls the flow of His love and spirit.

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17)

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

So according to these scriptures in 1John3 and Proverbs4, we need to open and protect our hearts. We need to be cautiously vulnerable, open our hearts to God and His way, but not let anything in that that would pollute the pristine springs of life. Whatever it is that we cherish, we store in our heart. My heart is the center of me, my most intimate part, and only what is extremely valuable, desirable, and TRUSTED should dwell there.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:19-24)

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)

If you read Ezekiel 14:1-11, you will get a flavor of God’s promise to us for not purging our hearts of idols – or at least trying to, wanting to.  We are weak in the flesh, but I believe that what is in my heart is more important and more powerful than what is in my flesh.  God is perfectly forgiving of my flesh when it stumbles over obstacles – but, for that to happen, I, in my heart, need to desire purity and perfection, I need to be truly repentant, I need to have a circumcised heart when I ask Him to forgive me.

“Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all? (Ezekiel 14:3)

How do I act, specifically?  What do I do in my everyday life to ensure that I am being “cautiously vulnerable?” How do I identify idols in my life and how do I prevent them from entering (or evict them from) my heart?

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

My idolatry acts as an obstruction, and God’s flow is slowed or stopped. If God’s presence in my life, His love, His spirit, require a channel to flow through, then my idolatry and disobedience will act as a kink in the hose, corrosion in the pipe, a restriction, a blockage in the artery.

We are instructed and warned to not put an obstruction, or stumbling block, in the path of a believer. This is with respect to judging others.  But, what about judging ourselves?

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. (Romans 14:13)

A circumcised, broken, and contrite heart are needed for us to be vulnerable to God’s influence, and for self-examination. A soft heart allows us to be honest with ourselves and identify things that should not be dwelling in there. We need to judge ourselves.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (Psalms 51:17)

Messiah says that simply setting one’s mind on the things of man instead of the things of God create an obstruction to the flow.

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matthew 16:23)

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)

See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18)

Don’t send up gallon jugs of prayers, let your prayers flow like a river.

Peace to you and Glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Practice

December 2018 – Practice

Hello folks,

A very close friend of mine used to say, “Today is the day to practice being who you want to be.” That bit of wisdom sticks with me today, after he has passed, and will continue to stick until I pass. There is a bit of irony in this; we don’t know when we will pass, but when we do, we will have reached a state of unchanging being.  Hopefully we will have become the person that we were practicing to be. Hopefully we were practicing and not procrastinating.

We all know what practice is – I would define it as performing tasks repeatedly with a goal of performing them more easily, with more effectiveness, and better success. When we were very small, we practiced walking.  Generally, we pretty much mastered that and, unless we have an injury, or surgery, or some other incident that forces us to relearn that task, we don’t really need to practice any more. If the goal of practice is to become an expert, then there must be a point at which we can stop practicing and just “be” the expert we’ve become, right?

No. Not really.  The best you can be at anything will always be in the future.  And you can only get there with practice.  I think that is why the term is used for various experts and professionals in their business –an attorney practices law, a doctor might have a private practice, people practice yoga because there is no such thing as a “perfect pose.” A nurse practitioner has learned their skills well enough to be able to use them on a patient without guidance. The greatest athletes and musicians in the world probably practice more than anyone – but they are certainly considered experts.  They practice because they want to get better, and they know that they can. There exists a higher level and they know that the only way to reach it is with practice.  So, what about walking… I stated above that “we pretty much mastered that,” so we don’t practice it anymore. Well, when is the last time that you stumbled or tripped over something? Hmm… me too.  I guess if I practiced more, I would get better at walking and stumble less often.  This is not a joke – we walk a lot, but do we practice it?  I mean, do we walk with the intention of getting better?  How is my posture? Are my abs always engaged to support my lower back? Are my eyes always scanning for wrinkled rugs and rogue Lego bricks? Even the semi-involuntary action of breathing, something that we “mastered” in the first seconds after being born, can be improved upon, to increase capacity, reduce stress, strengthen the immune system, etc. But, not without practice.

So, last month I asked if our goal was eternal life.  I did receive a challenge to that idea… and understandably. I think our goal could be stated in many ways, but they all lead to eternal life with our Father.  Our goal could be eternal life, or obedience, or becoming like the Messiah, or being perfect as our Father is perfect, or loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, or loving our neighbor as ourselves, or being led by the Spirit in all things, or doing justice loving kindness walking humbly with our God, etc… All of these are worthy goals to pursue. My argument is that regardless of how you identify your goal, you won’t reach it without practice. Last month’s letter ended with a command – a suggested command: Get to know the Son of God.  Certainly, this is another worthy goal to pursue.  And, as the tourist asked the NY taxi driver, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The reply, “Practice, practice, practice…”

Regardless of your stated goal, your walk will benefit from practicing certain things. Here is a short list of things to practice that I came up with, but I would love to hear from you some other ideas of things we can, and should, practice that will draw us to God and help us to reach our goals:

We should practice obeying His commands, listening for His voice, claiming His promises, trusting in Him, reading & praying & meditating & fasting, giving to others, cultivating the fruit of the spirit…

Last month’s letter was called “Hearing” and this month I am writing about “Doing.” Doing, as a lifestyle, is called practice.

Butprove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

I am intrigued with how, as I read these scriptures, the commands that we are given are to be implemented in our lives as a habit, as a continual part of our lifestyle.  We are commanded to practice the commands!

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9)

Philippians 4 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  Here in verse 9, we are given a promise.  Remember that we need to practice claiming His promises!

Whether,then, you eat or drink or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Whatever you do means how you live your life, every day, every hour, all the time. How often do we find ourselves living parts of our lives without giving Him glory? We should continually give thanks for all things… But, what does it even mean, to do something to the glory of God?  Sounds like a good topic for a letter someday…

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

There’s a goal we could pursue – become wise… seek wisdom. Be doers and not just hearers.

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8)

Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.
(1 Chronicles 16:11)

Practice seeking Him. I heard a message recently that made an interesting claim.  I am not sure how accurate the claim is, but it is something that will surely benefit us if we do it.  The claim was that “all we really need to do is ‘hang out with Jesus.’” The idea is that if we are always ‘hanging out’ with our Savior, He will influence us on all fronts; our thoughts, words, behaviors, decisions, etc.  In our walk with Him, we need to practice walking! Keep your abdominal muscles engaged and your sternum lifted, wear your armor every day, scan the floor for rogue Lego bricks, acknowledge Him in every step, practice, practice, practice…

Peace to you and Glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Hearing

November 2018 – Hearing

Hello folks;

Did you ever meet a person and you sometimes couldn’t tell if they were joking or not? Or maybe the way they explained things was very different from how you would explain the same? How about getting to know someone that hardly ever smiled and you thought that they were unfriendly –until you got to know them. Surely you have gotten a note from someone and after reading it said, “What are they trying to say here?”  I can remember one of my calculus professors in college (I had several because it took me a few times to finally get it…)She was a small Chinese woman with an amazing command of math and calculus. But her command of pronouncing English – especially l’s and r’s, was … somewhat less than amazing. Most of the time, I simply could not understand what she was saying – surely it did not help that she was using a lot of new or rarely used words in my vocabulary – derivative, integral, polynomial, discontinuity,asymptote, concavity… (I can still hear her struggling to say “limit”) These words and many others that I knew and understood caused me so much trouble; the math concepts we were trying to learn took a back seat to deciphering her English.  After several weeks, however, I started recognizing words and being able to piece together her sentences… Eventually,the challenge of understanding her nearly went away.

Communication comes in many forms and sometimes there is a challenge understanding the message.  If you get the message, then often there is a challenge understanding the meaning of the message.  Things can really go off the rails when we think we get the message, we think we understand the meaning and then we try to discern the motive… But, that starts to delve into deeper things like psychology and I am not going there today. The point I want to make here is that for two parties to understand each other’s message and meaning,there first needs to be a common language. For the most part, for us, those reading this, English serves well enough. In our western culture, there is a body language that is fairly standard and common that we all, mostly, agree on. (like arms crossed in defense, or nail biting when nervous…) I think facial expressions (another form of communication) are mostly universal among all humans… A smile does not need to be translated. Deviations from these standards tend to cause confusion –e.g. never smiling even if you’re friendly, not being able to pronounce l’s and r’s, leaving out articles or using the wrong pronouns in a written note, etc…Clear communication is paramount to successful and smooth relationships.

What is my point?

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (John 14:26)

My point is that I really do want to do God’s will, and I often ask Him what that is so that I can make the right decisions in life.  I find myself asking Him in prayer and listening for the answer with limited success.  Maybe that is because I don’t hear what I want to hear, or that I am impatient, or I am too distracted and I am not paying attention… Or maybe I just don’t know Him well enough yet.  He has promised that His spirit will help us, will teach us all things. Why does that seem so unattainable sometimes?

After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:12-13)

We need to be quiet enough in our thoughts to hear a gentle blowing, we need to believe that God does speak to us, and we need to be willing to recognize it and accept it as truth.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; (John 10:27)

Do we hear His voice? Those who have ears… LISTEN UP!

Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:29; 3:6; 3:13; 3:22, Mat 13:9,Mar 4:23, 7:16, Luk 14:35 – and more… These are scriptures that tell us to pay attention. God is not talking about our physical ears, but our willingness to use them.

And, here is a promise that we’ve been given:

Behold,a king will reign righteously And princes will rule justly. Each will be like a refuge from the wind And a shelter from the storm, Like streams of water in a dry country, Like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land. Then the eyes of those who see will not be blinded, And the ears of those who hear will listen. The mind of the hasty will discern the truth, And the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak clearly. (Isaiah 32:1-4)

In order to HEAR our God speak to us, we need to KNOW Him.  The better we know Him, the easier it is to recognize His voice.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” (Philippians 3:8-10) (ESV)

Paul strove to know God better all his life.  Being perfect and getting to know our Messiah are not discrete tasks to accomplish,these are processes that we continually work at.  We need to incorporate these goals into our lifestyle.  The next time you meet someone and they ask you, “So, what do you do?” answer with your quest of getting to know the Son of God. Paul was on that quest and repeatedly encouraged us to do the same.

“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you maybe filled up to all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

I believe that Hosea is not talking about knowing doctrine here: “Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, For the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land,Because there is no faithfulness or kindness Or knowledge of God in the land.”(Hosea 4:1) Surely if we have faithfulness, kindness and knowledge of God,He will have less of a case against us.

As we talked about in the beginning of this letter, communication is smoother and more effective when the two parties know each other well.  Get to know God, and His communication with you will be more clear and easier to discern.  Hearing His still, quiet voice takes practice.

Is our goal eternal life? That is why God sent His only begotten Son. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.(John 17:3Get to know the Son of God!

Peace to you and Glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Partnership

I was at a soccer practice recently and I was talking to some parents that I hadn’t met before. As usual, I asked, “so what do you do?” And the woman replied, “I’m human resources manager.” At that point her daughter who was probably eight or nine looked up and asked, “Mommy what’s a human resources manager?” The mom replied to her and explained how she manages people, makes sure that their abilities are well used in the organization, resolves and manages conflicts between the employees, selects people to hire for jobs that need to be done, and generally deals with the employees in the company. The little girl took a few seconds to process that and then responded, “Isn’t that just like just like what God does?

Yes, God is the ultimate human resources manager!

We are human, and certainly God is our manager. Does it seem odd to consider ourselves a resource for God?  Does the Creator of the universe need any resource other than His command, His voice, to get anything done?

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

But, we are His resources. He’s got a job to do here, and we are the tools for Him to get that job done.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. (John 14:12)

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-12)

No surprise to us, He wants to use us to get that job done.  We are to be His willful, cheerful, diligent servants.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men (Colossians 3:23)

But that’s not the only relationship that we have with God, as you well know. He’s our father, he’s our creator, he’s our provider, he’s our healer, he’s our strength, he is our protection, on and on and on. But I think there’s another relationship that we overlook sometimes. This is not my idea – I got this idea watching a video from The Bible Project. God has entered into a covenant with us. By definition, that covenant relationship is a partnership. Partnership, as we might understand it, means that both parties are on equal standing. Obviously, this is not the case here. The partnership that we are in with God is an unequal partnership – He, being superior to us. However, if we define a partnership as an agreement where both parties have a common goal and work together to achieve that goal, I think the analogy fits.

In 1st Kings, we read about Elijah, a prophet, who God chose as a partner to accomplish His goal. In chapter 18, God needed to deliver a message to the people and he partnered with Elijah to make that possible. In verse 1 God says to Elijah, “You go show yourself to Ahab, and I will make it rain.”  God also needed to convince the priests of Baal that God was sovereign and alone as the Creator. God did not need Elijah to prove that to the priests of Baal. Surely God could have thought of something to do to convince them! But He partnered with Elijah to make the message clear.

 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.(1 Kings 18:36)

Elijah’s servant went seven times to the cliff to look for the cloud before the rain actually came. The servants drenched the wood and sacrifice with twelve pots of water before God sent fire to ignite it. These are tasks that God’s partner needed to complete before God could show the results of his promises. God knows his audience better than anyone and he knew what his audience needed to see before they would believe.

When God enters into a covenant with us it is an agreement that we make – that we will both do our part to get a job done. There’s never a question about God and his ability and commitment to get His part of the job done. Those are called promises. It is a little sad, however, that our part of the bargain is always in question. Upholding our part always takes His grace and forgiveness. We regularly slip, we regularly disobey, we regularly forget, we regularly get distracted. Thankfully, God is merciful, God is forgiving, and God is patient.

When we GET that our place as a child of God is to serve – that the least shall be greatest – only then we will be considered true partners with God. 

“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)

When we achieve perfection as God measures perfection, (perfect love, patience, forgiveness, generosity, endurance, etc.) then we will be working right alongside Him.  We need to make ourselves ready for the marriage. 

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7)

The provision for us that God made in His plan is that He came in the flesh as a man. He did the perfection thing on His own – for us.  The Messiah was that partner who upheld our end of the bargain perfectly – for us. 

God saw that his creation was good. We are good. He has such confidence in that, that he sent his only son to die for us.

That is why our work is to believe in Him that the Father sent. 

Therefore, they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:28-29)

Our job is to have and exercise faith.  Our job is to dwell in Him and allow Him to dwell in us.  But, we’re sinful and He cannot dwell in sin.  So, through His perfect love for us, through His Mercy and Grace, He allowed for us to repent and be washed clean.

Our first job is to repent and accept His mercy and grace.  After that, we need to believe, obey, endure, trust… so that tomorrow, should we be considered worthy of being first fruits, we can partnership with God to accomplish a bigger job.  That is, accomplish the job of Kings and Priests.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Peace to you and glory to God.

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Pieces

Whenever we are faced with an obstacle – whether it is a trial, a project, a fear, a mystery, a conflict… etc. – there are pieces that need to fit together to create a complete solution.  Many months ago I talked about project managers in my letter on Creep – how their job is to make sure that the project stays on track.  Their job is also to locate, secure, organize, and fit together all the pieces needed to overcome the obstacle.  So, in a sense, we are all project managers.  If your obstacle is a painful and expensive trip to the dentist, then a regular, periodic project you need to manage well is brushing your teeth. The pieces required to put together that project successfully should be quite obvious to all of us reading this.

Very often in this life we are living we are faced with obstacles; many of which require pieces that are not so obvious, nor do they seem to be easily accessible. But, today I want to explore the idea that, while they may not be obvious to us, and they may not seem easily accessible, they are certainly available. We only need to know “where to look.”  Well, that’s not the whole story.  Yes, we need to know where to look; I have been known to look in the wrong place (arrogance, pride, leaning on my own understanding…)

Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)

But we also need to look.  I have also been known to simply not look (head-in-the-sand syndrome, laziness, fear of failure, etc…)

“But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:31-32)

One aspect to successfully managing a project is so obvious that we hardly ever think about it.  That is, we need to do our part.  But, sometimes we are deceived, or we aren’t remembering what our part is, or we try too hard.  Some of the pieces need to come from us and our effort.  We have a desire to overcome, so we expend effort.  Is the effort well executed? We need to put our effort into trust and obedience…

With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Other pieces come from God through His mercy and grace (blessings and miracles.)

King David loved God and desired to overcome an obstacle he saw – God’s physical house was not nearly as nice as his own.  David made a plan to build a house for God, but he wisely obeyed when his plan was scaled back by God. (2Sam 7)  David was able to provide many of the pieces needed for the solution.  He procured all, or maybe a surplus, of the materials for the building. (1Chronicles 22) But he did not build the house. Where did those resources come from? They were the spoils of all the battles that David won. Wait… who won those battles?  Yes, God was the front line and the rear guard.  Left and right flank, too! Throughout his life, David trusted and obeyed and was blessed.  Out of the abundance of those blessings, David wanted to give it back to God.  It belonged to Him, anyway… And so do we and all that we are blessed with.  Don’t forget, our very existence, our life that we live, is a blessing from God.  We are stewards, not owners, of what He gives us. God, Himself, provides all of the pieces, except that of our will.  David could have spent the resources on himself, like his son did after him, or like Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is doing today… (check out his custom private 747.)  Instead, David pleased God with his devotion.

Our devotion to God is the piece we can provide.

One more thing… Remember that inherently, we as humans tend to look at our watch when we expect something to happen.  But, God in His eternity typically looks at the calendar. One of the pieces that we always need for assembling the solution to an obstacle is patience… Patience with others, ourselves and God.  Our time is not His time and He certainly knows best when we need something.  There are approximately 28 gazillion scriptures (give or take) that encourage us (or command us) to wait.  Patience is one of the fruits of the spirit.

Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually. (Hosea 12:6)

To overcome an obstacle, we need to provide trust, obedience, devotion and patience; all of these are to be directed toward God.  His promise to us is that He will supply the rest of the pieces.  I have seen this work in my life and in the lives of others.  It really is true and it really does work.

Remember last month’s letter, collaboration? In there I talked, in a sense, about overcoming a much larger obstacle than any one person could handle – that was “making a pencil.”  Sometimes the project we are managing is so large, we cannot even see the “forest” – we only get to see the “trees.” The Father will send His Son again when the Bride has made herself ready. (Rev 19:7) Now there is a daunting task for even the best project managers! Getting the Bride ready for the Marriage Supper… sounds like herding cats! But, we are not tasked with managing that project.  We only need to worry about our little part in the matter.  We all need to bring our piece to the table and place it on the puzzle. Let’s get our pieces ready!

Peace to you and Glory to God!

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Collaboration

There exists an essay – well known in a small circle of economists – titled “I, Pencil” that illustrates the ability of a free market to produce a product that could not be made by any single entity. The story takes the reader through the numerous steps, materials, innovations and the ingenuity necessary to make a simple pencil. Sure, there are pencil factories that produce pencils, but even after all the development needed to bring a pencil design to a manufacturable state, the raw materials needed to put all the pieces together are themselves developed products. The graphite, paint, brass, rubber and even the wood are commodities that need to be produced. All these elements are produced for use in various products, not just pencils. (Graphite is also used as a lubricant and for sliding electrical contacts.) To exemplify his point, the author, Leonard Read, considers the workers that pick the coffee beans that the lumberjacks drink… Surely, one can argue that the coffee harvesters have little to do with making a pencil, but the point is well made. That is there are a myriad of contributors to any given product that we take for granted every day.

Here is an excerpt from the essay… keep in mind that the essay is written from the perspective of the pencil: “I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human masterminding! Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.”

You should know that this essay is a 1950’s commentary on economic free trade… But, the author talks of the “Invisible Hand” that guides mankind to create things.  It makes me think of a colony of ants.  Ants seem to be able to create and maintain a complex colony with both physical and societal infrastructure without “being told what to do.” Well, maybe it’s that “Invisible Hand” tells them what to do.

Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest. (Proverbs 6:6-8)

 It is common for us to get on our knees and ask God for guidance, but do we ever consider the guidance that we get that we don’t ask for – that which comes to us without our asking.  Indeed, I imagine there is guidance from God that is given to us in groups or even as The Church, His bride as a whole. But, that is not my intended topic; I present it to provoke thought.

Last month I talked about humanity and the refugee crisis.  My thoughts were on the things that I can do about it.  My list was very short and not very impactful to the overall situation. Not surprising… But, that did not prevent me from feeling inadequate.  I was thinking on Matthew 25 “’Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.‘” And asking “what can I do for any of these hurting souls in Venezuela or Syria?” Here is an answer that I found:

Be content with what you have and what you are accomplishing – The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. (Philippians 4:9-11)

There is an objective that we are given here in this life and we need to not lose sight of it.  Compassion for refugees (for example) and the desire to ease their suffering is not the objective I was given and focusing on that is a distraction from my goal. Of course, I am not saying that I should not have compassion for or a desire to help them, only that it should not be my objective.

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’ There is no other commandment greater than these”(Mark 12:29-31)

My Foremost Objective is to Love God, trust in Him, obey Him, follow Him, imitate Him – with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. When we all do that, we will have made ourselves ready to be the Bride of Christ.  We will be one body that He goes into.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. (1 Corinthians 12:14-18)

I could sell my alabaster jar of nard for money to give to the poor, or I could use it to anoint my Savior. Messiah told the disciples “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.” (Matthew 26:11) Do you think this scripture applies to us? I am thinking that God can create bread from stones – how much nard would you need to sell to provide that kind of abundance?

If I take several steps back from my situation, I see myself whining – “why can’t I help these people?” But, I am learning that my task is not necessarily to help “these people” directly.  My job is to do my small, seemingly insignificant, but entirely essential part in the bigger picture. We need to focus on the job that God gives us and trust that the small part we play is working toward His victory.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men (Colossians 3:23)

Focus on the Objective – Love God.

Be content with what you have and what you are accomplishing.

Recognize your Gift and use it. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7)

I could say that we are all working together to make a pencil.  That would be a clever way to tie all of this letter together, but it’s better than that!  The folks working their insignificant yet essential tasks to produce a pencil likely do not know what the final product will be. We, on the other hand, know through our faith that the culmination of our efforts will prevail over evil. We are battling in a spiritual warfare and our victory will result in eternal life. Yes, we’re making more than a pencil. 

Just remember that your part is essential.

Peace to you and glory to God,

Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Humanity

Humanity

Hello folks,  I hope  that your month was terrific.  Mine was.  I just returned from a 2 week vacation to Colombia, South America (and so this letter is a few days late…)  I could fill pages describing all of the wonderful things we experienced there, detailing the adventures, the cultural differences, the great food, the conversations with family and friends, the amazing examples of God’s creation that we just don’t have in the northern hemisphere, the weather, the traffic, the economy, the World Cup, social norms, the environment and ecology, etc, etc… on and on I could go. I am exhausted, but refreshed. I am also reminded that this world is a really big place with a LOT of people in it.  In Gen 9:7, After the flood, God said to Noah ” As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.” As a people, we don’t seem to have any trouble keeping that commandment.

The trouble is that greed and pride rule the hearts of many – and when the heart of a country’s leader is filled with that, many, many people suffer.  We all know some of the story of the tragedy in Syria – that is, millions of people (~12 million since 2011, half of them children…) have been displaced from their homes because of violence. Millions more are fleeing their homes in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Myanmar and others because of violence and instability.  The number of people displaced from their homes in the world today is larger than it has ever been in mankind’s history.

Reading the statistics of “how many, from where, to where, and why” is pretty easy.  But I stopped to consider what would it take for me to flee my home with my family and with only what I could carry in my hands to look for a relatively safe place where I could find food and shelter. As a husband and a dad, I shudder at that thought and I am grateful for the current peace-on-all-sides and the abundance that I have.  Much of the news that we hear in the mainstream media regarding the refugee crisis is from the perspective of the host countries (those receiving refugees) and what should be done about illegal border crossings and the humanitarian needs and resulting stress on economies and resources. 

Here’s an ironic little side note… Throughout the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, Colombia saw nearly 6 million people displaced from their homes due to conflict and violence (about the same number as that in Syria today.)  15% of Colombia’s population was uprooted from their homes.  But lately, the country is receiving many refugees from Venezuela. Things are changing for the better in Colombia, but not in the world as a whole.

Today, in the U.S., there is a lot of conversation regarding illegal border crossings, undocumented immigrants and alleged refugees – and the alleged treatment of those people by the government.  The topic is controversial and divisive, and there is good reason for that.  The issue is complicated, and I believe that if you push aside and ignore all of the persuasive rhetoric, the solution is not as simple as we might think.  But, most of the rhetoric we’re exposed to is from a secular point of view.  I want to take a look at this issue from a Scriptural perspective. That is, “What Would Jesus Do?”

First, I want to explain a “filter” that I like to use… only as a thought provoking tool.  That is, whenever God talks about Israel, the nation, I consider applying the words to myself, an individual.  I don’t think this is uncommon and I certainly did not come up with the idea myself.  But I also, at times, reverse the assignments. That is, when God mentions “me” (an individual) in the scriptures, what would it look like if that were applied to “the nation?”  There are a lot of potential questions and conversations that could come out of this – what is a Nation? what is the Church? how do I fit in as a small part of the Body? who are the Brethren? who is my neighbor? who are God’s friends? who are God’s Children? who deserves God’s mercy? who doesn’t? With all of these questions (and potentially each person answering them in their own way…) I feel that I cannot emphasize enough that I am not preaching here.  I am, however, absolutely trying to get you to think about these issues without any political or secular or pre-conceived opinion.

I have pasted here a number of relevant scriptures.  I intended to supplement each with commentary, but after reading them, I cannot think of anything worthy to add. So, I will let God’s Word speak for itself.  Read these scriptures while considering the people fleeing from their homes with no other choice.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.‘ Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.‘ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:3-5)

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. (Matthew 16:25-27)

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)

“Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:32-33)

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16)

‘When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God.'” (Leviticus 23:22)

 In John chapter 4, Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman and He offered her salvation.  She was not of the nation of Israel. When God laid down His life for us, was He certain that anyone would accept His gift?  Did He know that He would receive my love – or your love?  God speaks often of a remnant, and in Romans 8, Paul speaks of some type of predestination…  So, the answer is probably “yes,” He did know that some would follow Him. And maybe some are not welcome into the Truth.  Maybe there are some people that do not have the gift of eternal life available to them. But, I am confident that I do not have the wisdom or authority to discern who those people, children, neighbors, brothers, prostitutes, tax collectors, pagans, and heathens are.  I would  rather err on the side of compassion and generosity in the name of God, and risk being called a gullible fool in the eyes of men, than to be called an “accursed one” and be sent to the eternal fire by the Creator Himself.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

I sense that there are opposing sentiments about this issue amongst the readers of this letter, but I am ignorant to those arguments.  I am very willing to listen to and consider differing viewpoints.  If I ever desired responses to my letters, now is my greatest.  So, please, do let me know if you are convicted of a different mindset and why.

Peace to you and glory to God…

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Scarcity

I’ve heard the assumption that poor people are poor because they are unintelligent. But, I have also heard a possibly less intuitive theory that people become less intelligent when they experience poverty. In fact, this theory has a name; it’s called “scarcity mindset.” There is some scientific evidence that this latter idea is true; and I think it makes sense.  Sugar cane farmers in India are paid once per year at the harvest.  Researchers studying scarcity mindset gave an IQ test to a bunch of these sugar cane farmers two months after they were paid for their year’s labor, and then again two months before the harvest, when, after paying bills for the whole year and not having any income, they presumably had very little to live on.  They found that on average, the same farmer scored 10 IQ points higher right after harvest – when they were “rich” – or when there was little scarcity.

I think it makes sense because, when I experience scarcity, (think about the Day of Atonement, for example) my thoughts are almost continually on what I don’t have enough of.  My mental capacity for other things is just not where it could be.  And I know that breaking a fast is better for my health if I eat lightly and drink water – but that wisdom and self control seems to always elude me at sundown when it is time to eat.

Not long ago, my boys were asking me if they could get a game to play – a video game called “Fortnite.” After learning about the game, I had a great conversation with them that led me to writing this letter.  Here’s what someone else wrote summarizing the game:

“In short, it’s a mass online brawl where 100 players leap out of a plane on to a small island and then fight each other until only one is left. Hidden around the island are weapons and items, including crossbows, rifles and grenade launchers, and players must arm themselves while exploring the landscape and buildings. It’s also possible to collect resources that allow you to build structures where you can hide or defend yourself. As the match progresses, the playable area of land is continually reduced, so participants are forced closer and closer together. The last survivor is the winner.”

So, we talked about killing, violence, school shootings, and the people that do that and why, and if there might be a link to that and violent video games, etc.  I told them that I did not believe that they were at risk of being one of those shooters because they were raised with stability and love. And, I told them that, regardless of stability and love, violent video games are still a bad choice. I am lightly theorizing here that some of those troubled folks who commit such violent crimes are suffering from a severe scarcity mindset.  I think they are living with a scarcity of love.

“At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:10-12)

I get the feeling that a scarcity of love is a devastating tragedy in this world and it is far too common. Love is the force that powers all things – that is another way of saying that He who created all things is love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

But, what about the one who does not know love?  In this fallen world, there are people in that category.

Love God and love your neighbor… But, Rabbi, Who is my neighbor?

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.(1 John 4:11)

“One another” is our brother, right? The folks “in the church,” right? In fact, earlier in the chapter, John even says, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)

No, our God is bigger than that.  He is more compassionate than that. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

My encouragement to you is to realize the abundance of love that you enjoy today and share it.  Love is not something that we need to meter as we distribute it.  When you give money, or time, there is only so much you can literally give. This limitation is not true with love. Love is not just a renewable resource, it is a limitless resource.  Consider this: our infinite God, who is love, provides us with a limitless supply of it. Yet, many people live their lives lacking it.  We are His instruments, His channels, His soldiers, who are commissioned to distribute it to the world.  We are expected and commanded to do this above, in front of and before all other commandments.  Yes, before keeping the Sabbath.  Before telling the truth. Before being faithful to our spouses. Before taking only what belongs to us. Before honoring our parents. But all that sounds stranger than it really is – Messiah told us what the two greatest commandments are and by following them, we will inherently follow all the others.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.(Galatians 5:25)

and then…

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.(Galatians 5:18)

So, we have a job to do – that is, to combat the scarcity of love in the world.  But, there is another point I want to explore regarding scarcity mindset.  We are continually subject to it… not likely a scarcity of love, but of other things.  I am thinking of the other fruits of the spirit (joy, peace, patience. kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control) And there are other Godly “resources” that we can run short on – wisdom, endurance, courage, forgiveness… Wow, the list makes me wonder how I made it this far.  How can we keep it all together? I believe there are scriptures to answer each of these specifically, but in general, here’s a hint:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

Also, consider this: Contentedness is the opposite of the scarcity mindset. If you live with the mindset that God gives you enough, then you can believe that there is no scarcity.

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” (Hebrews 13:5)

Peace to you and glory to God,

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Betrayal

Surely we have all felt betrayed at one point in life. A wise man told me once something like, “Technically, you cannot offend me. You can do things that I am offended by, but in the end, the offense is my choice.  I can choose whether or not to be offended by your actions.”  I believe that our God in His infinite mercy and forgiveness does not usually take offense at our actions. The things we do against Him are odious and ofttimes angering to Him, but in His love, He forgives. (thankfully)Love is a barrier to offense.

But my title here is “betrayal,” not “offense.”  Is ‘being betrayed’ a choice we make just as I’ve proposed that ‘being offended’ is?  In both situations, the resultant feelings are often similar – anger, confusion, hurt, vengefulness, frustration, sadness… But, I don’t think that feeling betrayed is very often a choice we make.  Offensiveness is subjective, and I propose that betrayal is objective.

Betrayal results from a deliberate action, meaning the action that caused the betrayal was something that was consciously decided on.  Now, the result of betrayal may not have been considered when deciding to do the action – the betrayer may not have realized what the entire result of the action would be.  I think this is generally the case, in fact.  Most people are not evil and conniving to such extent that theywant to betray someone.

Undoubtedly, you are thinking of or had thought of Judas Iscariot.  This may be the most famous example of betrayal in the history of the world.  From our “armchair quarterback” perspective, we are hard pressed to understand what he was thinking. Well, clearly, he wasn’t. Providence aside, the realization of the enormity of what he had done came as a surprise to him after the fact.

Surely, as children of God, we should not be a perpetrator of betrayal.  Yet, sometimes our actions unintentionally result in betrayal.  A little bit of forethought, consideration, and prayer before acting can save a lot of heartache and regret later.

The prudent see danger and hide, but the naïve keep going and pay the penalty. (Pro 27:12) Are you prudent enough to see the danger in what you are about to do and prevent a betrayal?

But the wise ones took oil in jars along with their lamps. (Mat 25:4) Are you wise enough to foresee the outcome of your actions and accommodate the situation?

My language here has mostly come from the perspective ofour walk and the prospect of betraying afellow human. This is important, of course, as we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, etc., etc… But there is a bigger danger to avoid.  I mentioned the most famous example of betrayal, but I will argue that there is a more important andmore devastating example of betrayal that we need to consider. This example is ongoing and may implicate us today…

Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the LORD speaks, “Sons I have reared and brought up, But they have revolted against Me. “An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master’s manger, But Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” Alas, sinful nation, People weighed down with iniquity, Offspring of evildoers, Sons who act corruptly!They have abandoned the LORD, They have despised the Holy One of Israel, They have turned away from Him. (Isa 1:2-4)

Yes, this is what Isaiah wrote referring to ancient Judah, but it is a warning to us today, for sure, not to follow that example.  There are so many accounts of God expressing His disappointment, sadness, anger, frustration, and vengefulness over His people betraying Him. I am grateful that His lovingkindness is everlasting and His forgiveness is perfect and that His love for us is infinite. 

But why have you chosen to walk with Him? Ask yourself that and meditate on it. I experience at times the lie that seems so true at the time: “Life would be easier if I didn’t follow Him. I would be freer if I didn’t have to follow His commands.” I am ashamed to admit this to you, but I occasionally have those thoughts.  That is an example of me betraying our Creator.  I don’t need to fashion a calf out of gold and bow down to it. I don’t need to celebrate Christmas and Easter. I don’t need to work on the Sabbath.  I don’t need to weep for Tammuz, or worship the sun. All I need to do to betray my God is to believe in those lies, even to merelyquestion His promises. That is betrayal – an act that can break God’s heart.

Another easy way for me to betray God is to live a lie myself – and I do at times… (Have I mentioned that I am grateful that His lovingkindness is everlasting and His forgiveness is perfect and that His love for us is infinite?) When I act in order toseek the praise of men rather than His praise, I am betraying Him. In retrospect, it is a pretty stupid thing to do. God sees the heart and knows the truth, I know that. God is the judge, not man, I know that.  But for some reason, sometimes I feel it is so important to adjust my actions so that my fellow man does not see my shortcomings… possibly all under the guise of not “causing a brother to stumble…”  Romans 14 says that I should not DO anything that causes another to stumble.  It does not say that I should “spin a story so that another doesn’t know what I am doing…” A generic example would be to cover up a sin with my own story so that another won’t know of it.  But, not only am Inot hiding it from God, Hetells us to confess our sins to one another.  “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16) So thatI may be healed… But I choose to hide it from him for what? ForPride – another sin… yikes.

Here is Isaiah again, later in the same chapter:

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. “If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land…” (Isa 1:16-19)

Do you have empathy toward God? Can you think on, remember, and feel what a harsh betrayal is like in your heart? Can you imagine your own creation that you love more than anything simply flipping you off, turning its nose up at you, turning its back on you and walking away?  Maybe you have, in the past, conducted the thought experiment of imagining what it would be like to be beaten and ridiculed and spit on and stripped naked and insulted and then nailed to a cross… I have, and it is sobering.  What about imagining the ultimate betrayal that God has gone through, watching His beloved turn on Him. If you do it fully and properly, with humility and compassion, you will begin to realize that what you have is not deserved and that God’s love is so much more immense than we mortals can perceive. 

That is an awesome thing to realize.

Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

Peace to you, glory to God,

-Nate

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