Over the years, the words therefore and nevertheless have laid hold of me. Therefore sought me out and became my first “Word of the Year” while nevertheless was introduced by a friend. It’s funny how peripheral something can be until you stare directly at it; then, once it’s seen, it cannot be unseen. That has been my relationship with these two words. While I used to visually walk right by them, now I all but trip over them at every turn. Though I try, with pen in hand, to tag them as I read, sometimes I have to let one or two slide by (to be captured at another time) so I can focus on the words around them.
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Ephesians 1:17
What do you get when you cross an old read with an expired drink mix? A new perspective! Turns out, the best ideas are often times those that have already circulated a time or two. And so, as this newest revelation…or should I say renovation…emerged, I thought it should be pinned down (which, for me, means penning it down) so that it might remain “new” just a little bit longer.
Let me first set the stage. It’s summer. I’m a teacher. I like things orderly. Put these three ingredients together, mix until they are well combined, pour into a room of your choice, allow an activation time of two to four hours (depending on room size), and, when done, remove accumulated bags of waste. Any questions? Well, as I was doing my regular summer “baking”, I came across some, shall we say, no longer viable lemonade mix. As I looked at this container, and thought about the simplicity of the mix (just what expires in this anyway?), I also thought about my morning read. And when I did, I realized God had just given me a new mix. Its name? Knowledge-Ade! Continue reading “Knowledge-Ade”
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews12:2
As we continue this week in the glow of Easter, having been reminded again of what our LORD did for each of us on the cross…and from the grave…I want to ask that you look at your surroundings a bit differently. It’s an easy rut we fall into; annually passing by Biblical memorial stones and giving them their “due reverence”… for a day. We spend more time getting physically ready than we do getting spiritually ready. And then, once the day has come and gone, we return to our all too fast-paced walk and, more or less, pick up where we left off. Often times, none the wiser and none the calmer, and most of the time, none the keener. But this time, this year, as we pass by the memorial stone that casts the shadow of a cross, let’s see things from God’s perspective rather than from our own; this year, when we return to our pre-Easter walk, let’s gaze in wonder as we see sights we’ve never seen…things no one (but a fellow Christian) would believe…and let’s tell everyone that we saw it from Majesty’s Street!
If you’re a Dr. Seuss fan, you’re familiar with one of his classics titled And to Think that I Saw it On Mulberry Street. In this story, Marco walks down Mulberry Street every day as he goes to and from school. Longing for more than his eyes behold, Marco allows his imagination to run away with him. When pressed by his father to share what he has seen each day, Marco gives accounts that are not well received…much less believed. His father insists there are points of interest up and down Mulberry Street if Marco would just look more closely. But for Marco, nothing out of the ordinary stands out, so he creates the magnificent out of the mundane. For Marco, the familiar trek up and down the same street has caused his eyes to dull to the wonders that once danced on dew drops and burned in bushes. Now, to arouse his interest, and to give him something to talk about, Marco finds himself boasting in things that are not and telling tales that haven’t a plot!
I think we…I think I…am prone to be like Marco. I think everyone falls prey to the “it all looks the same after a while” mentality. And, as believers in Christ, don’t you know Satan aids and abets us in this type of thinking? When we first come to know Christ, everything looks new and exciting and amazing! We walk down Majesty’s Street, having crossed over from the intersection of Justice and Grace, and we gawk at forgiveness, we marvel at mercy, and we are star-struck by justification. We are excited to tell others what we’ve seen as we walk down this incredible street…and we want others to walk this path with us! And, for a while, we tell and we bring; but then, one day, we look down more than we look up…or out. Then, without realizing it, we are asked to tell what we’ve seen on Majesty’s Street…and we choke. We suddenly can’t remember what we walked by, what we looked at, what we heard or what we felt. Was there, we wonder, anything to boast of on Majesty’s Street? Perhaps, we think, we could make something up…after all, who knows what we’ve seen as we went for our walk? We might, if we’re desperate, tell tales that aren’t true…we might shift the focus to what we tried to do.
It’s a dilemma we all encounter; it’s a street we all walk. Spiritually speaking, we can find that Mulberry Street crosses Majesty’s Street. And, if we’re not careful, if we’re not looking up, we’ll take a turn onto Mulberry Street. We’ll know we’ve taken a wrong turn when our excitement dwindles and our eyesight drops; when it’s easier to make up what we’ve seen than it is to recount what we saw. When this happens, we’ll know we turned left when we should have stayed straight. But God identifies our passage with memorial markers that not only remind us of where we are, but of where we’ve been and of where we’re going. Easter is one such marker. The shadow of the cross draws our eyes up and the light from an empty tomb casts our vision out so that we, at least for a time, see clearly the road upon which we stand…and the street upon which we walk. As we pass our Easter mile marker this year, let’s look at what can be seen on Majesty’s Street. To our left, we see judgment yielding to justification; behind us, we see sin pulled over by righteousness; to our right, we see mercy merging with grace; and before us we see exits that lead to God’s glory and our glorification. And to think that we saw it on Majesty’s Street!
There’s nothing we could make up that’s more incredible than what God has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Not a zebra pulling a cart, nor a Chinese man named Bart; not a big brass band in flight nor an elephant of great height; not a Rajah on a throne, nor the longest beard ever grown! These things might be something to see on Mulberry Street, but they pale in comparison to that which is seen on Majesty’s Street. For what can be grander than love that restores? What can be deeper than mercy that pours? What can be wider than grace that abounds? What can be higher than justified ground? It’s spread out before us, on Majesty’s Street; we simply need look out as we move our feet!
As we continue our walk this week, just days after celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior, let us not fall prey to lackluster vision. Let us not resume our walk and fail to see all that surrounds us as we walk upon the very street that was designed by God’s hand, bridged by Sovereignty’s cross, paved by Christ’s blood, and widened by Jehovah’s resurrection. Our current path and our future destination lies beneath us and before us because of Easter; all believers entered the freeway of Majesty’s Street through the exit granted us at the cross. May our eyes never cease to be amazed by the wonders we behold as we walk down this street…from glory to glory. We have sights to behold and truths to recount…And to Think That We Saw Them On Majesty’s Street!
And he [Rehoboam] did evil because he did not prepare his heart to seek the LORD.
2 Chronicles 12:14
There are a lot of books worth reading once and there are some books worth reading twice…or thrice…or even twice times thrice! Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby & Claude King is one of them. I have been revisiting this text over the past several weeks and while each chapter is loaded with truths I can jog through, one sentence tripped me up…and temporarily sidelined me. It was a sprinter’s sentence with just five words; it was a marathon phrase with just two words. As I mentally ran through the chapter entitled “Joining God Requires Obedience”, I ran smack dab into this hurdle: Make me ready to obey.
I wasn’t sure why this little sentence tripped me, but I kept going back to it. Make me ready to obey; make me ready to obey; make me…obey. As I examined this stumbling block more closely, I realized it wasn’t the whole sentence that caused me to stop, but really just two little words: ready to. I realized that I, a lover of verbosity, found this sentence a trifle too long. I would rather have read: Make me obey. Yes, that sounds better. God, please just make me obey. Let’s forego the whole getting ready process and let’s jump right into the race. After all, we’re all called to join in the Great Race, right? So, shouldn’t we be getting set…so we can go?
Yep. That’s where I tripped. Right over “ready to”. It stuck out just enough to snag me; just enough to interfere with my reader’s pace. So, while I iced my torn insight, I thought about those two snaggy words. Just what is involved in getting ready to run? Well, there’s the stretching that’s needed to prepare and protect one’s muscles during the run. Then, there are the daily jogs that prepare one’s heart and lungs so greater distances may be run. Shoes…they’re always important…but especially when running a race. And the outfit? Well, try showing up for a race in a suit or a ball gown and you’ll never question the value of the right clothing again!
As I saw not only the importance but the unquestionable necessity of getting “ready to” run, I moved from one lane of thought into another. If the physical preparation for a race determines a runner’s success on the track, then the spiritual preparation for obedience must likewise determine a believer’s success in The Race. But how does one prepare to obey? Isn’t obedience something that’s pinned on us along with our race number? Shouldn’t I be able to look down at my tag and see my number, my lane assignment, the distance I’m to go, the hurdles I’ll have to jump, the water stations I’ll pass by, and there…in the perforated section at the bottom (so it may be easily removed when I cross the finish line) my detachable obedience tag?
I know, I know. I saw it too. Right after I wrote it. Detachable obedience. I had thought…hoped…that obedience was something God would just “give” me, that He would “make me obey” rather than “make me ready to obey”. I hadn’t thought about the preparation that went into becoming obedient. I didn’t think about the stretching needed to lengthen my faith muscles, the shorter daily runs…complete with hurdles…necessary to prepare me for the long distance runs, or the outward apparel designed to identify me as one who is in the race rather than one who is merely watching the race.
As I meditated on the readiness component of obedience, I began to notice that I wasn’t the only runner who struggled with these warm-up exercises. While reading in the twelfth chapter of second Chronicles, I came across Rehoboam’s pulled muscle: “And he did evil because he did not prepare his heart to seek the LORD.” There it was. A lack of preparation had led to a sidelined runner. Rehoboam had failed to do his obedience stretches and, as a result, he limped to the sidelines. The rich young ruler is another example of poor, or no, preparation. In Mark 10:17-22, Jesus gave the man a short lap to run and recommended a change of apparel, but the would be runner bolted…in the wrong direction! Both men thought they could bypass ready and move ahead to set and then to go, but when the time came to run, neither runner was on his mark.
But God did not intend for us to run in such a manner. He alone knows the course that has been placed before us and He alone knows the stamina we will need to complete the race. If we can’t physically run without preparation, then how can we spiritually run without doing the same? If what Henry Blackaby wrote is true, that we must be made ready to obey, then what does this entail? What exercises stretch our obedience muscles? Well, for warm-ups, we need to allow God to loosen our heart muscles as we spend more time with Him. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. He who does not love Me does not keep My words” (John 14:15, 24). God wove obedience and love together so that our ability to obey Him would increase…would be stretched…as our love for Him grew. We will never move from ready to set without strengthening our heart muscles.
Next, we need to take daily runs through God’s word to strengthen our core muscles of belief, trust, and faith. We’ll need to practice setting the right pace and stride to sail over the hurdles of disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment. And, we’ll need to remember that, in a spiritual race, it is prayer that hydrates the soul and dehydration that hinders the soul; failure to stop at prayer stations will result in a spiritual dryness that could cramp us up and shut us down. We’ll also have to become comfortable with not seeing around the curve or over the hill. We’ll need to become comfortable with seeing only the course right below our feet…just enough of the track to take our next step…our next stride. Other than that, our focus should already be on the finish line and not on what lies between our current location and our final destination.
As for our apparel, well, we must “stand having girded [our] waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, having shod [our] feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; taking [also] the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:14-17). While it doesn’t sound like anything Adidas would endorse, it is exactly what Adonai designed. With this apparel, we’ll not only enter the race set before us, but we’ll endure the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1).
Ready, set, go; three words that mark the beginning of a physical race. Ready to obey; three words that mark the beginning of a spiritual race. I have been waiting for the Set and the Go, giving little to no thought to the Ready. Now, not only do I see the reality of getting ready to obey, but I see its relevance as well. It must come first, or the runner will not be set; it must take time, or the endurance will not develop; it must increase agility, or the hurdles will not be cleared, and it must propel one to the finish line, or the race will have been run in vain.
“That the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born,
that they may arise and declare them to their children,” Psalm 78:6
For most of us, at least those whose lives are impacted by the schedules of children, the beginning of a new school year has sent shock waves into what was, for a season, a peaceful lifestyle. With the end of July came the beginning of school. For some, this hit like a tsunami as the milestone years of kindergarten, middle school, high school, or college crashed upon them. For others, it was yet another wave whose push and pull reminded them that, like the ocean, change is relentless. Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, or a teacher, the beginning of another school year may find you revisiting the shoreline of time and noticing, with the passage of another year, the increased change in the landscape.