The Letters

Listen

I watched a TED talk recently on languages.  It started with the premise that by simply exhaling and making different shapes with my mouth, I can force you to have thoughts that you’ve never had before. Your brain can interpret patterns of vibrations in the air as meaningful concepts. I’ve never thought of speech along those lines before. I guess we also invented a way to encode those vibrations into shapes that we can put on paper and share thoughts via the written word.  Language is pretty cool.

In fact, there must be some language that God uses that goes way beyond the coolness that we experience. “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” (Gen 1:3) Now that’s some language…

But, let me restate something: ”…your brain can interpret…” Interpretation is a very interesting phenomenon that is potentially dangerous.  Misinterpretations are very common and have caused much of the controversy in the world. To avoid or minimize that danger, we need to rely on God’s spirit for discernment and correct interpretation.

In Mark 4, Jesus gives us, not just the parable of the sower and the seed, but some “insider info.” That is, the really important stuff – the stuff that will make or break us – will be delivered as a sort of puzzle to solve. We will need ears to hear, and not everyone “has” those ears.  Just as the parable teaches, some people don’t hear, some people get distracted, some people can’t handle the pressure and some people actually LISTEN. Listening and understanding (correct interpretation) is God’s gift to us, but we need to claim it. His spirit, or our helper, is available to us on demand for this purpose.

He starts in verse 3 “Listen!” (or “Harken!” or “Behold!” or as other more modern and loose translations might have it, “Dude!”)

Then He gives the short parable (King James version is only 120 words….)

Then “… he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. “ (Mar 4:9)

But, to His apostles (and us…) He continues and explains His method of teaching “…so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN.”  (Mar 4:12)

Then He “deciphers” the parable. (He INTERPRETS it for us)

Then, it seems that He continues right into another short parable about light (don’t put your lamp under a basket…) which seems different (light not sound…) but I argue that they are the same. (eyes to see, ears to hear…)

Then He says in 4:23 “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Finally (for my discussion) “And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. “For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” (Mar 4:24-25)

Look at this (or, more appropriately, listen to this:)

After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.(Mar 7:14-16)

So, we need to be really careful.

Paul tells the Corinthians (and us) that we are subject to being deceived. “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2Co 11:3) In other words, be careful what you listen to – Eve was deceived through her listening.

His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; His words were softer than oil, Yet they were drawn swords. (Psa 55:21) Our trust in God’s spirit will give us discernment.

But also, be careful what you SAY – what others might HEAR. You can defile yourself by simply saying the wrong thing.

There are a few places that record the Messiah saying this, but I will stick with Mark: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” (Mar 9:42) Say something wrong, defile a brother, and regret it.

How can we be Really Careful?

  • Pray to God (He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see? Psa 94:9) God will listen.
  • Read Scripture (So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Rom 10:17) Build Faith
  • Seek Wisdom (But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5)
  • Endure (Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12)
  • Obey (“You are My friends if you do what I command you. John 15:14)
  • Listen (But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. James 3:8) We have two ears and one mouth… for a reason.

Folks, we were not beside the road when the Word was sown.  Nor were we on the rocky place.  Assuming our goal is to be in the fertile soil, we have triumphed over 2 of the 3 places to avoid. The last to overcome is among the thorns. We could struggle with this for the rest of our lives, that is, staggering back and forth between the good soil and the thorny patch. Here are some good words to Listen to: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1Jn 2:15-17)

If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.

Peace to you and Glory to God,

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

High Places

You’ve heard or read the term “high places,” right? The term is used 117 times in the Bible. I didn’t count them, I read it on the internet.  So, it might not be true.  But in reading through Kings and Chronicles recently, I was struck by the number of times it is mentioned.  What I started recording as I read were the instances recounting “… king So-and-So did what was right in the eyes of God, but he did not tear down the high places.”  So-and-So was one of the few “Good Kings,” but he wasn’t perfect.  Well, after a bit of research, I think Hezekiah and Josiah were the only two kings that did tear down the high places – and they were not perfect either.  Only one King was perfect.

My first thoughts were questioning, how could these kings be doing what was right in God’s eyes, but leaving these bad things?  I mean, look at all the good things they did… why not just finish the job?  Take Asa, for example.  He banished the cult prostitutes and destroyed the idols. He deposed his mother as queen and destroyed the idol she had made. Asa left the high places and yet, his heart was perfect; he was wholly devoted, depending on your translation.

I am seeing that “high places” are not necessarily bad.  David worshipped at the high place in Gibeon. But this was before there was a temple built.  I think that the temple Solomon built can be called a high place – or maybe The High Place… the official place of worship.  The problem with the high places that were not torn down by these Good Kings is that they were generally used for pagan worship. And, many (or most, or all…?) of the high places that needed to be torn down were places associated with temple prostitutes. God so often condemns His people for committing adultery by “whoring after other gods.” (read Hosea 4) We are being prepared as a bride for the Groom.  We need to be spiritually faithful to Him just as we need to be physically faithful to our spouses.

When Hezekiah tore down the high places, scripture also tells us that “he trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.” (2Ki 18:5-6) Hezekiah trusted and clung to and followed God. And God blessed him for all his life, plus 15 years.

But what about the other Good Kings, the ones that did not tear down the high places?  They were also blessed, and their hearts were “perfect” (like Asa.)  God was not pleased with their decision to leave the high places, but He did not seem to condemn or punish them for it.

So, what does this all mean for us? We have dominion over our life and have the choice to purge our “territory” of the evil that exists therein.  Are we Good Kings, but leave the high places? Or, do we cling to Him and trust Him in all things and follow Him and keep His commandments? Is being a Good King good enough? “Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1Co 3:12-15) Does it make sense that building our house with straw is like leaving the high places where they stand?  Does it make sense that building our house with gold, silver, and precious stones is like chasing after God’s own heart?

How do we find our high places? In this season of the Passover, 1Cor 11:28 tells us to examine ourselves judging our worthiness. But, I think this should be a frequent exercise that we go through.  We would do no harm in continually examining our worthiness, considering and determining what our high places are – and tearing them down.  Here are some ideas.  First, believe that we should be chasing after God’s own heart, we should be committed to pursuing perfection – like Messiah says:

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat 5:48)

Without tearing down the high places, we will not be perfect.  If the high places are invisible or hidden from us, we need help finding them. We can get help from God:

And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. (James 1:4-6)

Or we can get help from The Body:

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)

For years I have struggled, and still do, with memories of the life I led and the sins I committed in the past.  I know in my head that God hates sin, and I should, too. But, that beastly, fleshly man that still lurks in my conscience oftentimes dredges up those carnal memories. Whenever that happens, I have a choice.  I can dwell on the memory and bask in the glorious, sensual experience I had and pine for the good old days.  Or, I can press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. It really is my choice.  I can choose to climb up and stand on the high place, or I can tear it down. Usually, I am not capable to accomplish the latter on my own. I need the mercy and strength of God and His spirit.  And I need to ask for it.  But, it really is that easy.  Ask and you shall receive.

Some great words from Paul… “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.” (Php 3:12-16)

Paul pointed out that the high places are an issue to contend with and, in this physical life, always will be. I believe that the biggest struggle we face is only finding the humility within ourselves to ask God for help when we are faced with that choice to climb up on or tear down.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph 6:12)

Peace to you and Glory to God,

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Network

String, or thread is a pretty useful thing.  Think of all that you can do with a length of twine.  Binding, securing, weaving, fishing (if you have a hook,) dragging, climbing, whipping, flossing, archery, fire starting… it’s a great tool and weapon. There’s a good reason that someone invented a “survival bracelet,” which is a long length of strong, thin cord, configured (braided?) in a way to make an aesthetic pattern that can be worn around your wrist.  I imagine it could save your life if you found yourself stranded in the woods, Naked and Afraid.  The configuration of the string can greatly vary its utility. I’m thinking of a net.  Really it is just a string, knotted in a clever way to catch fish, small game, soccer balls, butterflies, etc… Nets have been around, helping us for a long, long time.  Allegedly, the first nets used for hunting were from thousands of years BC.

It seems that the two (English) words “net” and “work” were first put together in the mid 1500’s.  Can you guess where? The 1560 Geneva Bible – Exodus 27:4  (the link takes a while to load…it’s a large PDF) The Hebrew that Moses wrote was originally two words “resheth” (H7568) and “ma‛ăśeh” (H4639) Which is literally “work net” and the passage is describing the grate in the bronze altar.

These days, the most popular use for the word by far is with reference to computers – the “inter-net(work)” and “intranets” seem to rule our lives – and a Google search for the words “net” or “network” will leave you little, if any, other reference.  If you’re searching for the type of net that is used to catch fish or soccer balls, you need to add other words to your search field.

But, it was only about 70 years ago that English speakers started using “network” with respect to people and their relationships.  Good thing it happened, though, as this is my favorite usage of the word.  I am a successful mechanical design engineer.  I am happy to use the word “successful” because my objective definition of the word is that I get to do something I love and all my bills are paid.  And, I praise God for that daily. Other than God’s blessing in this, I attribute my success to my network.  I never have to advertise, and only three times in my career as a consultant have I had to actively look for work.  Most of the time I have to say “no” to jobs because I am too busy.  Many people have heard me say, and my kids are surely sick of hearing me say, “your network is your most valuable resource.”  Others say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  Your network is a resource that can be cultivated and increased through your own personal effort.

But, just because the term was not coined for use with personal relationships until the 1940’s, does not mean that the phenomenon is at all new.  I am always intrigued with the letters that Paul wrote to the churches.  That man was a networking master, I think.  He kept in touch with all the people that he ministered to over the years – even before email!  Think about writing a letter while in a prison and somehow getting it delivered across “the world” in the days of sailing ships. I wonder how many letters he wrote that did not survive the centuries.  Toward the end of 2Cor 10, Paul makes reference to the benefit we receive when those in our network increase – and vice versa. “…but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you…”  Did you know, God has His own LinkedIn page?  It’s called the Book of Remembrance.  “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.”  (Malachi 3:16)  It doesn’t say that “those who feared the Lord” were in the same congregation, (and I don’t believe they were) yet they spoke to each other – somehow.  I hope and pray that God accepts my link request!

Years after I recognized the effectiveness that my network had on my “occupation,” I realized that the same technique and tool should be used on my spiritual walk. After all, what really is my occupation? I should occupy myself with drawing close to God. I love my profession; being an engineer is something I really enjoy. But, I am learning that my occupation is to seek an ever closer relationship with my Savior. A semantic argument, possibly, but my networking skills and habits can and should be used for both.

I am reminded of Hal Geiger’s presentation on the Sukkot – that it was made of branches that are intertwined and woven like a net.  Maybe calling him out will generate some elaboration!

Consider these scriptures with respect to networking:

“…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.  (Hebrews 10:25)

 (there’s that word again: parakaleō)

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  (Romans 12:4-5)

“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”  (Matthew 18:20)

And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? “It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” (Luke 13:20-21)

Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

For thus says the LORD, “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, And shout among the chief of the nations; Proclaim, give praise and say, ‘O LORD, save Your people, The remnant of Israel.’ “Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, And I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, Among them the blind and the lame, The woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together; A great company, they will return here. “With weeping they will come, And by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, On a straight path in which they will not stumble; For I am a father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn.” Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, And declare in the coastlands afar off, And say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him And keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.” (Jeremiah 31:7-10)

‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and will manifest My holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they will live in their land which I gave to My servant Jacob. “They will live in it securely; and they will build houses, plant vineyards and live securely when I execute judgments upon all who scorn them round about them. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God.”‘”  (Ezekiel 28:25-26)

Surely there are many, many more.  What did I forget?  We are many parts of the Body and together make a beautiful whole.  Let’s stick together.

Glory to God & Peace to you.

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Creep

February 2018 – Creep

Greetings!

The verb creep has a few definitions; we’re not going to talk about the noun here.  As a mechanical engineer, and I know there are several fellow ME’s reading this, creep is something that, if not considered in a structural design, can be devastating.  A structure under constant load may be subject to creep and thus fail at some point in the future.  Creep will weaken the material little by little over time. Creep is so dangerous, because even the best, most accurate calculations of strength can neglect the effects of creep. On paper ,the design may by bullet proof and fail safe, but if conditions allow for creep, the structure is doomed – eventually.

Project managers also are aware of the disastrous effects of creep.  I am referring to “scope creep.”  That is, when a project is initiated, generally, the people doing the work (the vendor) and people asking for the work (the client) define the scope of the work and the agree to it.  Inevitably, during the course of work, additional tasks come up that are relevant and possibly even critical to the success of the project.  But, they were not defined in the original agreement. These tasks take resources, and someone needs to pay for those resource.  The scope of the project has crept… and if an agreement isn’t made deciding who will bear that cost, the entire project could fail.

Surely everyone reading this remembers 9-11-2001, when the World Trade Center Towers were destroyed. You probably remember many insignificant details about that day. This tragedy changed the world, but it didn’t creep into existence.  It happened at once, as an event.  Events that happen can be easily witnessed, analyzed, reacted to and maybe even prevented in the future. Creep, on the other hand, is gradual and subtle – by definition. Does anyone reading this remember when nudity was allowed to be shown on TV? Or do you recall when bikinis became so small?

There are many real world examples of how, what I will call “moral creep,” has changed what society considers normal and acceptable. Most of those things we probably don’t like or approve of, but there is not a whole lot we can do to change society or to reverse the effects of moral creep.

But, what about personally? What about in your own life -are you individually subject to creep? What about in your family?  Do you set the rules for your kids? Do you set up standards to live by using God’sword as a guide? Of course, these are rhetorical questions… You see where I’m going.

Creep is the mechanism that allows me to confidently drive on the highway at 75 mph in a 65 mph zone knowing that I won’t suffer the consequence of a speeding ticket. Creep allows me to easily break the law.

Consider Num 15:32-36. Capital punishment for picking up sticks.  Really? Isn’t that a little harsh and extreme?  I think the reason for God’s strict, uncompromising enforcement of these directives (consider Uzzah in 2Sam6:6)is to prevent creep in our obedience.  Without strict enforcement, the door is left open for creep. As soon as a law is allowed to be broken, a precedent is set beyond the original intent and going back is so very hard.  Parents know this and, as a parent, I am painfully aware of this phenomenon.

Read the following scripture from Jude.  Consider how truthful it sounds if you replace the word “men” with “ideas” or “habits”or “doctrines” – etc…

For certain men have secretly slipped in among you – men who long ago were marked out for the condemnation I am about to describe -ungodly men who have turned the grace of our God into a license for evil and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)

These “men” (or “ideas,””habits,” or “doctrines…”) can creep unnoticed into our lives as well. And, just like in a mechanical structure, creep can cause devastation. Sin itself has the ability to creep into us. When we’re confronted with a temptation, wrong thoughts can lead us to wrong feelings, leading to wrong words, to wrong actions to wrong habits…  Strict, uncompromising, and swift action is the only way to stop the creep. What action? It depends on how swiftly you take action. With diligence, a sincere desire to obey (a.k.a. repentance,) some humility and the ambition to ask God for help, you can thwart the progression at the thought stage and be done with it quickly.  Let it creep, and you will be faced with a harder task.

If I ask God to help me with the temptation to buy a bag of chips while I am still in the parking lot, I have a much easier time sticking to my list and leaving the store without a bag of chips to ‘gluttonize’ on my ride home.  The longer I wait to ask for that help, the less of a chance I have of succeeding.  Because I really like chips – especially Jalepeño Kettle chips…

Immediate enforcement and strict judgment is a way to set the precedent that “this is serious and there is no fooling around.”  And this can, and should, be applied to self.

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.  (Matthew 19:26)

“And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”  (Matthew 21:22)

Peace to you…

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Deception

June 2017 – Deception

I recently gave a speech that introduced myself – it was an “icebreaker”‘ speech of sorts.  I needed to give my audience, in six minutes, as comprehensive as possible, a description of who I am and how I got to be this way. That sounded easy when I first heard the instruction.  But then, I realized that I didn’t really know “who I am and how I got to be this way.”  I spent a lot of time thinking about that and taking notes and eventually culling out the really key stuff.  Have you ever done that? I think it is very valuable and recommend it.

Of all the possibilities I could have selected, here is what rose to the top for me… I have always been convinced that God has been working with me all my life – long before I ever knew Him or His interest in me.  What I came to realize in my recent reflection is that God has been influencing who I am now since long before I was born.  In fact, only He knows how far back it started. And that leads me to wonder about the future… but that is a different story.

After thinking this over, I am feeling like I have been progressing toward an ability to better identify deception.  We live in a world of deception. “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:24)  When I say “deception,” I’m not only talking about the fake news and hyperbole that we’re being fed by the leaders and media. I’m also talking about morality. Looking around, it is pretty obvious that Satan’s work has been to dilute purity and derange truth and distract attention away from God.

What a blessing it is to have a relationship with God where He lets me see through some of the lies.  What a challenge it is for me to try to illuminate this for my kids.

But they’re getting it.  We are all slowly getting it thanks to the patience and mercy that God has.  Last Sabbath we heard a sermon on idols and the danger they present.  We need to learn to identify them in our lives.  I am still wondering what a good test is for us to use to examine and judge something in our lives as an idol.  Any ideas?

Last night,Ian (my 9 year old son) said, “So, you can pursue anything you want, but if you notice that God is not in the same direction, you better turn around.”  I think that is a pretty good test.  The key to that test is that we need to be looking for God.  If our eyes are continuously on the prey or the pursuit, we stand a good chance to not notice what direction God is in.

Isn’t deception, by definition, when you don’t see the truth? People who are deceived usually don’t know it – until after.  Not only do we need to continually keep our eyes on God and our attention trained on Him, but we should (in ours pare time…) be asking Him to illuminate deception for us so we can see it and avoid it.

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 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.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:22-25)

I am seeing that a lot of the deception that we are subject to is very subtle.  As humans, evil or loving, compassionate or callous, selfish or generous,nurturing or abusive… etc, we are all common in thinking that our way is right.  Even the most open minded folks are inherently right in their own eyes. I am seeing this as a great deception that we all suffer from.  I am not saying that whatever we think is right is not.  I am saying that we need to always look to God for what is right and with our open and humble minds,change what doesn’t align with His way.  Peter (as would most of us, I suspect) did not want to hear or believe that his beloved Messiah was to be brutally treated and ultimately killed.  But, amazingly, Peter was harshly chastised for expressing the love and compassion that he had for The Son. Why? Because his thinking was not in line with that of the Father’s.  Set your mind on The Father’s interests, not man’s.  That makes me think of another scripture:

But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.(Romans 2:29)

Praise from God is what we should be seeking – storing up treasures in Heaven.

Peace to you all,

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Bread

March 2017 – Bread

Here we are in that season approaching the Passover once again.  A couple of weeks ago, I heard a really good sermon on The Blood.  It really made some things clear for me regarding blood – in animals and humans, for life, sacrifice, cleansing, the covering and washing sin, and for our salvation.  It is that symbol we take during the Passover ceremony that has always made me a little uncomfortable – even more than footwashing. Maybe a bit of discomfort is OK, but only for the right reason. I imagine discomfort being acceptable if one is considering one’s worthiness and reflecting on the year and self examining as the Blood of our savior is being drunk…  That seems natural and healthy… But the discomfort I needed to get rid of was that which came from the gore and violence that my mind associated with blood.  I guess we can thank our society and culture for that.  I read that the horror movie industry rakes in $400M each year.  Certainly there is another perversion that the adversary has laid on us.  So I am grateful to the pastor who gave a good sermon on the blood of Jesus.

But, I gave this letter a subject of “bread.”

“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:51)

‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’ (Leviticus 17:11)

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you,unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. (John 6:53)

I love these promises that we have been given. Bread and blood give life.  Life is our goal, isn’t it?  Our salvation leads to Eternal Life.

I think we’ve all heard some of the amazing things about blood with respect to biology and medical discovery.  Those points help us to bridge the chasm between understanding our physical existence and the limitless complexity of God and Eternity.  So, I find myself saying, “wow, blood is awesome in my body and Jesus shed His blood for me, and my sins are forgiven and I can inherit eternal life… wow.” And, I am not trying to be funny here – that’s been a conversation in my mind many times. 

But, the bread.  What about the bread? 

Leviticus – The life of the flesh is in the blood.

John – Eat the flesh and drink the blood.

The symbol of the bread always seemed obvious to me. I always linked it with “‘you are what you eat…”  Simple. Eat Jesus and you become like Him in a sense.  But there is certainly a spiritual component that weighs much more than the physical that I feel like I am missing.  Our inheritance will not be a physical one – where moth and rust destroy.  So, what is with this “flesh” or bread?  For me, it is easier to make a comparison between physical and spiritual with respect to blood.  But the bread is escaping me.

So, that is what I am thinking about these days.  Do you have any ideas that might help me understand this better? 

I pray that you are all being blessed by the Father and that you are standing firm against  the enemy with all courage and endurance.

John 6:32 – Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”

Peace to you…

-Nate

www.paraklesis.net

Legacy

February 2017 – Legacy

The other night my daughter was excited by the news of the 7 exoplanets that were found (and incredulous that I hadn’t heard the news…) Maybe we will discover life on one of the three that could have liquid water!  The star is only 40 light years away.  At first she told me 40,000 light years and I when I asked about that distance, she looked it up and corrected herself.  “Wow, only 40.  That’s a reasonable number,”  I said, “It is the unit that is a problem – at least for now.”  Even 0.0000001 light years is farther than man’s longest trip in history. (round trip to the moon is ~500,000 miles , 10E-7 light years is 587,862 miles)

All we have to do is figure out how to travel at light speed…  Her quick math told her that, in 40+ years, I would be a very old man and even she would be approaching “old.”  It was the resulting age that gave her discouragement – not the daunting task of figuring out how to bend the time/space continuum, or whatever else would need to be done to make interstellar travel possible.  “ah, never mind.”she said. “Not worth it.”  What?!!?  You’re just gonna give up like that?  “what’s the point?” she asked.  And then we started talking about Legacy.

And then I started thinking about Legacy.  Who cares, really? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…Everything under the sun is vanity,chasing after the wind…  And that is true if you are considering the things we do here with respect to God’s eternal plan.  I have a friend who, years before I met him, lost his arm in a drunken motorcycle accident. When I met him, he was a drunken, sour man who hated most of the world. Somehow, I found friendship in him… But that’s a different story.  He would say – very frequently, almost as a mantra of his life – “In a hundred years, none of this will matter.”  After 25 years or so, I am still friends with him and he is still pretty sour, but thankfully, he does not drink anymore.

If my daughter discovered time warp manipulation or light speed travel, her name would be recorded in history and science books for maybe MORE than a hundred years and her legacy would far outlive her physical body.  I could donate tons of money to a local hospital and they might name a wing after me and my name would outlast me.  There are lots of ways to create a legacy so that your name carries on, but “so what?” as my daughter said. Who cares? Once I’m dead, I don’t care anymore.

I feel smarter than that.  I have been convinced that the legacy that I need to be working on is my children.  That is how my contribution will live on beyond me. As most of you know, I have taken my job as a dad very seriously and made it a priority in my life.  I am -sometimes to a fault – always considering my actions as a father and how they will affect the long term condition of my kids.  I suffer over decisions I have made that were not the best decisions.  I deliberate over decisions before making them to ensure that they are sound.  I sacrifice a lot of my will for my kids.  Pretty Noble, huh? And, I am convinced that, even with all of the regrets and fears I have, even with all the bad decisions and mistakes I’ve made, they are awesome kids and they will turn out fine. Oh, and I almost forgot – thanks be to God for that – not me…  So,what?  Do I pat myself on the back?  Good job, dad… “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? (Luke17:9)

So, I recognize that my job as a dad is very important and I am not taking anything away from that responsibility. But, I think there is a higher calling when considering one’s legacy.  I am reminded of the Rope of Hope.  Any legacy I build in this life – Discovering time travel,curing  cancer, etc. yes, even raising awesome kids who might discover time travel – doesn’t really matter.  As my  one armed, sober, but sour friend might say, “in a thousand years, none of this will matter.”  What happens after the thousand years?  What did the man do to earn the comment: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  In Mat25, the two servants who invested the talents were given this praise – and then Jesus goes on to tell of the inheritance to be given to those who were righteous.  That inheritance is eternal life.  Eternal – that is where a legacy will last.  In a thousand years, it WILL matter!  Luke 12:33 tells us to make treasures in heaven that will last for eternity. In fact, all of Luke12 gives us these guidelines.

So, how are YOU building YOUR Legacy?  Just consider, what are you making a priority in life?  I have so many times found my stomach churning while driving my car, my focus distant when sitting with my family at the dinner table,  my mind racing at 1 am when I should be sleeping, etc. etc… All because I am suffering about some aspect of life that really doesn’t matter.  Maybe, if I miss a deadline at work, I will be reprimanded or criticized.  Guess what. In a hundred years, it won’t matter.  Choose what is everlasting.  Let the rust and moths have all of that which is perishable.

I trust that God is blessing you all and if not, I pray that you claim His promises.  He set before you Life and Death and He wants you to choose Life.

Peace – Chazak!

www.paraklesis.net

old and boring armor

I have boots, a belt, breastplate, helmet, a shield and a sword… I even added gloves of sanctification and goggles of purity.  But, my armor did not seem to be doing me any good.  I was feeling empty, lost, uninspired, discouraged, mundane…  I felt alone in my struggles.  I felt like the people around me were not on the same page as me, not committed to the same things, not interested in what I thought was important.  In fact, I still do feel that way.  It is not a happy feeling.  But my story is not all sad.  I do have One who is always on my side.  I brought my discouragement to Him and, in effect, told Him what I have told you. I prayed and asked Him for His spirit of love, light, peace, patience, joy and encouragement.

He gave me His sword.

That day, every scripture I turned to gave me strength and hope and reminded me of the details of the Fight:

Identify the enemy

My role in the battle

Who my allies are

What resources I have

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12 )

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)

“Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. (Joshua 1:7)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:14-15)

Are we not Kings?  Read Psalm 21.  Here is the middle verse – the best part:  “For the king trusts in the LORD, And through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will not be shaken.” (Psalms 21:7)

I hope you are well. No news is good news?

My love to you all…

www.paraklesis.net

Fight

The other evening, I found myself alone with the three kids (7b,11b,13g) and “nothing to do.”  Ana Sophia said (half jokingly) “Let’s enjoy some quality family television.”  Yes, I laughed – that never happens, but, I thought, maybe there’s a soccer game on…  :^)  Well, we ended up flipping around and, among a couple of other interesting things, we found a UFC match.  Do you know what UFC stands for?  Ultimate Fighting Championship.  I learn something new every day.  No, I don’t live under a rock, but I do tend to shelter myself from these things.  So, I was intrigued to see that this was not boxing…  These men were something to behold – fit like I wanna be.  Fit like some special g-sauce thing.  Phit with phat pipes. Anyway, we watched a 4 minute fight and through the din of my daughter pleading to change back to “Project Runway,” my boys were cheering and mimicking the moves of the fighters.  They loved it and talked about it afterward, and even their goodnight hug to each other somewhat resembled a headlock.

The next day while driving, I was reflecting on this and the many, many scriptures that talk of “the mighty men of valor, able to wield a sword,” and “the valiant men who went out to battle,” etc.  In “those” days, the enemy was evident and physical.  The weapons were evident and physical.  The risks were evident and physical.  These days, things SEEM to be different – and they are in some respects.  We are generally soft in our living and certainly not capable of wielding a (physical) sword.  We are called to “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Rom12 – and it tells us that also in Heb 12 and many other places.  But we’re not instructed to beat our swords into plowshares – yet.  We are still at battle and need to be valiant men wielding a sword.  We need to be trained and lean and adept and deft and shrewd and skillful and strong and healthy and courageous…etc.  And both our sword and our enemy look different, too.

To those of us (myself included) who choose this cushy life of physical leisure and luxury and laziness, we need to commit to constant, hardcore spiritual training.  Are you adept wielding the sword of the Lord?  Are you arrayed for battle?

God put in us men this liking for violence.  Ana Sophia wanted nothing of watching sweaty men trying to hurt each other, while the (3) generally peaceful and loving boys in the room were fully engaged.  There is some sort of primal attraction to strength and power and skill and the ability to defend our loved ones against an enemy that I think drew us in to enjoying that fight the other night.  I think that inherent tendency has not gone away with the new covenant for a reason. Sorry, I am being facetious here – by “the new covenant,” I am sort of mocking the viewpoint of some that I have heard that says God used to be a god of anger and now He’s a god of love…  We know He doesn’t change.  We NEED this tendency toward aggression and the desire to fight and defend – not toward some angry dude in a chain link cage – nor toward some Muslim couple armed with the notion to kill innocent people.  We need to correctly identify the enemy and direct our aggression toward the enemy and exercise our courage and valor and skill toward victory.  Our enemy is the adversary.  The adversary is Satan and, I think, also our fleshly desires, our old man… that old captain of the ship whom we have decided through our baptism, repentance and acceptance of Jesus as our savior, to bind up in chains.  We are told to crucify him, to consider him dead.  But, in my life, and likely yours, he seems to only be bound and not killed.  Being bound, he still yells out orders that we sometimes continue to follow, but he is our enemy.  Identify him and attack.

God, Himself, the creator of the universe said: “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7)

My love and blessings and a wish for a terrific day of rest to all of you.

www.paraklesis.net