Friday, March 24, 2017

Chosen Instruments

This morning I am thinking about people and praying for them and ended up reading this conversation. It is amazing what God says to Ananias about Paul...

"Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, 'Ananias.' And he said, 'Here I am, Lord.' And the Lord said to him, 'Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.' But Ananias answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.' But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.' " - Acts 9:10-16 ESV

There is so much here. Three people... God... Ananias... Saul who is now Paul.

I have people I love and care much about who are hurting but God has plans for them. I don't know what those plans are but they are chosen instruments of His for some cause.

This thought comforts me today.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Unique Love

"...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8 ESV

Aren't we fortunate that God didn't expect anything from us and hold back His affection when He didn't get it.

He didn't say, 'They never call me so I won't call them.'

He said, 'They are in trouble. Son, please go to them and restore the relationship. Pay the highest price. Do all that can be done.'

Jesus, being His Father's Son, did just that.

Is there a higher love than this? A love that reaches out and gives all.

I haven't found one. Thank You God.

--

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Always A Handful Of Something Good

In the 1930s people in Baltimore were going through hard times. After the stock market crash money and food was scarce but at Thomas and Thompson's drugstore there was always a bowl of Graham crackers that anyone could eat from by the soda fountain. It would be constantly refilled. The owners did it so that those who were buying drinks would be thirstier and spend more money and so that those who had nothing could always get a handful of something to eat in a dignified way. Many a person survived that dark time because of that bowl that was always restocked no matter how many hands took from it.

"Then I said, 'Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.' I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!" - Psalm 40:7-11 ESV

Jesus comes to us in the Bible and we become a bowl that gets low at times but is then refilled. Jesus is the lamp that lights us for the dark times. Those who have get more and those with nothing get something.

It cost money to keep that bowl full. Jesus has paid the price to keep us full. Thank you God for your mercy and compassion.

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God's Method Of Supply

This is a good 'memory verse'.

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:19 ESV

The word translated 'need' is chreia (Strong's G5532) and it is more of a business need or necessity related to supply and demand.

God meets every 'transactional demand' with the 'abundant outward possessions' of His 'actual character on display' in Christ Jesus.

That is mysterious and wonderful if we let that statement sink in. Here is the context of the passage.

"Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:14-19 ESV

Paul was hoping all the Churches would work together and give a little to help the work. That way no one would be overburdened. Good plan. It made sense. It didn't go that way. No one helped and when the Philippians found out they took on a large burden and showed Paul great almost uncomfortable love. God was glorified in their sacrifical love.

Paul was saying that it was going to be that way for them also. Needs 'to do Gospel business' were going to be met but in mysterious ways.

Perhaps things haven't gone the way you planned? Take heart... and get used to it. {smile}

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Depressed? Please Don't Condemn Yourself

If you are depressed it isn't your fault.

Oppression causes depressions. There is an aerodynamic action we can live in. Eternal security protects the mind. Being given Christ's righteousness protects our heart and vital organs. Faith can block all the fiery darts that would cut us off from our supply. Don't blame yourself. Don't blame anyone. The night is dark but the dawn will come. Get help for your body if that is needed but your soul needs God's sunshine to win this battle. You are a precious needed human being. You are important. God loves you in a special way... please don't blame yourself... see yourself through God's eyes and sometime soon you will soar again.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Believing Caleb / Winning The Wolf

March 17th, 2017

Today is going to be the best day of my life. I have chosen to believe Caleb about the promised land and skip Numbers chapter 14 and all of the rest of the wanderings of that book. The Gospel gives me (us) a land overflowing with milk and honey and giants that will make a big thud when they fall.

A Rhema (divinely inspired word) for me today... We can agree with Caleb this morning when the day is fresh and new and skip to Joshua 1:2 or we can deal with Korah and Balaam for the rest of our lives.

There may be no wedding today... no babies born... no graduation planned... just the Gospel makes this potentially the best day of our lives.

------

March 18th, 2017

"But David said to Saul, 'Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears...' " - 1 Samuel 17:34-36a ESV

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." - Isaiah 11:6 KJV

"The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD." - Isaiah 65:25 KJV

Is nature normal? Seems like an odd question. Secular science says, 'Yes, Of course it is.' but the Bible says that what we see now is not what we will see later.

Wolves don't live with lambs but they will.

Dogs are canines but they live with us they are close to wolves.

I heard an account a while back on radio about an area that had a large number of dogs go missing. One wolf would appear near a dogs yard and play with him or her. Then one day the dog would just disappear. One dog can play with one wolf but then the pack shows up and that dog has no place there. It becomes food for the pack.

"When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." - Luke 11:21-23 ESV

Jesus is the stronger man in this picture. He enters the broken natural world that is influenced by fallen angels and He binds the strong man in his own fortress. He pulls the wild man out of the pack and makes him into something else. That man gets saved not eaten. He is transformed. He or she is made into a family member.

Fitting in (if it is even possible) only makes us vulnerable to a vicious nature. God wants to restore normality. Being with Him is normal and right. This world has been wrong for a long long time. It has been wrong for as long as anyone can remember.

Win a soul today and make it right again.

In this age this restoration is done one person at a time. Walk with the stronger man who isn't lying in wait to shed blood. He is a king who has taken on the role of a servant. He Is the royal lion uncorrupted by the world and the lamb who is no one's victim. He is the Savior and He has come into this world to seek and save the lost. He washes feet and wins hearts and minds with his gracious kindness. We can be 'about' His Father's business.

--

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Time In A Promise Book

Up at 3am. Got out of bed at 3:30am. Prayer and promises... a good way to start the day...

I like how David Wilkerson organized 'The Jesus Person Pocket Promise Book'. He breaks the book into three sections.
- God's Promises for your Spiritual Needs
- God's Promises for your Personal Needs
- God's Promises for your Future Needs

Then he has Key verses with supporting passages for a list of topics in each section. It is very well done.

I think I am going to incorporate a study of God's names in the Hebrew and Greek into my promise book study. God's character is intertwined with his commitment. One hinges on the other. His commitments show something about His character and His attributes (names) prove that He is capable of keeping His commitments.

"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." - Psalm 20:7 KJV

"Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth." - Psalm 124:8 KJV

I also like the idea of knowing the context of the promise. Who is speaking? Who is the speaker addressing? I don't what to quote Job's friends and say that God is speaking when God says Job's friends have wrong ideas. (see Job 42:7)

On the other hand, we can quote passages that are in the scriptures and say, 'God dealt with this person in a certain way...' and then make the claim that God may very well deal with us in the same way as long as it is in the context of grace.

God clearly deals with corporate entities (Isreal, the Church, foreign nations, etc..) differently than He does with a person. I think it is a mistake sometimes to quote a passage directed at Israel or the Church and claim that it is a personal promise or provision. The Church is not Israel and we are not structures with a mission statement. We are sons and daughters and God has mercy for us that He does not have for groups per se. A King deals differently with His child than He does with a foreign nation and with good reason.

Grace isn't for good people or nations. It is for God's people. It is for heirs. The Gospel is a grace initiation to an individual. Salvation then puts people in a place to receive grace. God's holiness and justice are going to be seen clearly by all. If salvation hasn't placed us as individuals into God's kingdom then mercy is going to be far removed from a person's experience. God has promises about that also.

"He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail." - 1 Samuel 2:9 ESV

'Ouch.' But also 'Praise God'. He is just. He is gracious. He is precise. He communicates is a way we can understand if we incline our ear to hear.

Thank You God for Your wonderful book. Thank You for your lasting commitments. You are the Alpha and Omega. You will be around to see every promise fulfilled. You have the power. You are The faithful and True One. We worship You for who You are and Thank You for all that You have done and will do.

--

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dusting Off Old Projects

Yesterday was a great day to pull out old projects and work on them. I reviewed a 'promise book' project that I put a great deal of work into years ago.

It is a colossal subject... huge... and very edifying.

I understand why people look for 'Bible codes' or other hidden messages in the scripture. People crave mystical theatrics that will solve problems all at once. I have to say after looking over my references just briefly again that there is no need to look for what is hidden. What has been revealed is just plain amazing.

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." - Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV

That last word translated 'law' is torah (Strong's H8451) and it isn't talking about rules and regulations. It is referring to inspired scripture as a whole. God's mind given to us. Living eternal ideas. We 'do all the words of Torah' when we have God's mind... when we 'think with God'.

This morning I have been looking through a small book...

'New Covenant Prophecy Edition' by International Bible Society

A man with a heart for Israel gave it to me years ago.

Wow. It is dynamite. I wish a had 1,000 of them and I could just mail you all a copy. Simple. All scripture linked to scripture with a full New Testament and references to prophetic fulfillments.

It has no price on it and no ISBN number. It was made to give away.

Sure. God has His secrets but what He has given us is amazing. I don't ever want to let what He has given sit unused and unappreciated on a shelf somewhere.

Let our minds be a little like this small book... scripture linked to scripture in a stream of understanding... of past, present and future. Oh God! Please illuminate our minds with truth that causes us to connect with You and other people... not antisocial scholars and also not extroverted idiots. Give us a balance of wisdom and love... truth and social connectedness... knowledge and sensitivity. What you have given belongs to us. We want to possess our possessions. Help us Lord. Thank You God.

--

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fined But Not Condemned

"Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment." - Psalm 51:4 ESV

"If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;" - Psalm 130:3-5 ESV

King David wrote Psalm 51 and he had a confidence about God. As the king he was accountable to no human being. No one could force accountability from him but he recognized God's authority.

'Against You and You only...'

We say this also. We are accountable to people but not like this. Not on the 'sin' level. Sin is a God thing. It is a divine evaluation that God has a right to make.

Psalm 130 is a song they sang on the way to Jerusalem for the feasts and in this inspired song they say something about God's value system towards them. He values redemption highly and He isn't numbering iniquities.

We know the reason for that. Jesus is the reason. God Is holy and Jesus has already made an account for every single sin.

God has the right to call us out but because of Jesus He doesn't. We are hidden in Christ and when God looks at His Son He just isn't thinking about sin.

If a person says to us, 'You dented my car and you need to pay for it.' that is one thing. But if they start listing our sins that is another thing entirely. No one but God has that right and He doesn't do that.

As far as this goes... we are kings and queens. No one can force us to make an account or demand worship. We can be fined and even imprisoned but we can't be condemned.

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." - Matthew 10:28 ESV

Yes. We respect the One who can and does do this. We worship the One who has mercy on many because His Son has paid the price. We trust the One who has better things to do than to count all our failures.

--

Monday, March 13, 2017

Clear Air

Today I'm thinking about 'air'. I'm not talking about physical air. I'm talking about spiritual air that needs to be cleared.

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--" - Ephesians 2:1-2 ESV

It is amazing how a short conversation can clear the air and it is equally amazing how air can form in the absence of communication.

A short kind word can clear the air.

Who is a 'Son of Disobedience'? Sonship is a reference to association or identity. In this passage it is talking about a kinship to the original disobedient One by affiliation. But, We can all have a capacity to associate with rebellion and if we do we will be vulnerable to have 'air' separate us... division... space... disconnection.

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you... addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." - Ephesians 4:32; 5:19-21 ESV

I want clear air with people. If we receive grace we also are letting go of a 'disobedience identity' that identifies with being an outsider. Someone who knows grace is an insider not an outsider. Even if all the world around them rejects them. God doesn't and what God thinks is divine reality. There is no bad air on the inside. Heaven has no bad air.

God, Give us words that clear the air today. We want people to feel welcome around us. We want people to sense You are present and that they are invited and accepted. Thank You God.

--

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Pharisee's Invitation

As I was driving home yesterday night this passage came to mind...

"One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.' And Jesus answering said to him, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' And he answered, 'Say it, Teacher.' 'A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?' Simon answered, 'The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.' And he said to him, 'You have judged rightly.' Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven--for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.' And he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, 'Who is this, who even forgives sins?' And he said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.' " - Luke 7:36-50 ESV

It seems that this invitation is an exclusive one. This woman is inquiring about Jesus' whereabouts and is told He is at the Pharisee's house. Yet this woman finds her way into this exclusive meeting.

Her love is heartfelt but the Pharisee's love is shallow and likely non-existent. She would have never been invited to come.

Her love was the lesson.

People argue and debate but I would much rather have love be the lesson.

The Gospel is a theological crisis before it is received much in the way that Jesus' declaration of forgiveness was. This woman's love was a declaration of transformation. Oh that our lives would be that also. Not by effort but just simple love and gratitude.

--

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The People We Know

The seventh volume of L. S. Chafer's 'Systematic Theology' is a 312 page book of doctrinal summaries. My friend Ray Kurowski has been reading this set of books and we talked recently about 'getting to' this volume in the set.

I decided to pull it off the shelf and start going through it again. Why? Because his life sharpens my life. He is an incredible guy. A man of faith.

I got thinking about all of the amazing people I know and have had the privilege of knowing.

My family and my wife's family blesses me so much. Each one of them means so much to me. I wouldn't know them if it were not for her. Now I pray every day for them and I'm part of their family and they are my family.

My old childhood friends from Roosevelt Island. What an eclectic bunch of amazing accomplished people. Some are not with us anymore. Others are artists, musicians and amazing people in a thousand different ways. I wish now I had more of a capacity for friendship as a child. Still our lives touched back them and are intertwined in some ways now. We share a history. We have a heritage.

Then there is my crazy Church family. Wow. If it were not for Jesus I would not know most of these people. I would have no reason to know them or for them to know me. They are gifts from God every one of them. Even the ones that have hurt me over the years. Relationships are like that joy and pain. Fun and trouble. Laughter and tears.

The books I read. The music I listen to. The God I worship. The thoughts I think and the memories that I think about are all shaped in some way by the people God has put in my path.

A man's life is shaped by accomplishment. We are just built that way. I have failed much more than succeeded. I have given up at times when I should have stuck it out and I have held on when I should have let go. Perhaps we all have. But, Oh the people I have met along the way are amazing people. God had a plan through it all.

In the end you and I will be a testimony of God's accomplishment not our own. We will revel in His glory if we have gotten to know Him through His Son. Our citizenship will be linked to that one crucial relationship. It will be the light that lights every other relationship forever.

This morning I lift the people I have known to God in prayer. He is the 'very present help'... He is the 'friend that sticks closer than a brother'... He is my lifeline to sanity and fraternity.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Breakfast Onshore

This is such a picture of Church life to me...

"Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, 'Children, do you have any fish?' They answered him, 'No.' He said to them, 'Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.' So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!' When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.' So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, 'Come and have breakfast.' Now none of the disciples dared ask him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish." - John 21:4-13 ESV

I'm going to work today but really my heart is to sit and eat Jesus' fish. I work to eat but even my ability to do that comes from God. My life is fellowship.

I get the impression that Jesus looked different somehow. The disciples knew it was Him but He was different in His appearance and maybe His voice was also.

Life is like that I think. We do what we must at times but God has a meal for us waiting onshore. We will see Jesus in the midst of the people who believe in Him. We will know it is Him but the testimonies will be unique and fresh. There will be new and old faces as time passes.

Work is work even if you love what you do... but then there is the time onshore... there is the moment when you realize God is inviting you over to the fellowship and you dive in the water to get there... that place has joy, communication and hope.

The building with the sound system isn't what Church is... those are just tools... the time ashore with God is Church.

--

Monday, March 6, 2017

Blending Faith Into The Promises

"For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it." - Hebrews 4:2 NKJV

The Greek word there for 'mixed' is sygkerannymi (Strong's G4786) and it means to blend together until the ingredients became one new organic thing. Like mixing batter or paint colors. Yellow and blue blended and blended until you have a green.

God's promises are wonderful but they will give you and I no advantage unless we know them and blend in our personal trust.

There is an advantage to be had if we find God's real commitments and trust in them.

--

Friday, March 3, 2017

Past The Thorny Crown

"Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe... So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, 'Behold the man!' " - John 19:1-2, 5 ESV

"Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain." - Mark 4:7 ESV

Thorns create a barrier of painful experience and yet Jesus endured wearing them on His head in full identification with us. That crown must have made carrying the cross that much more difficult.

I think having painful thoughts is a part of our human experience. We all have them at times. Jesus knows all about that. He led a shame free and guilt free life but He knows.

He wears a different crown today.

"I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all." - Ephesians 1:16-23 ESV

He identified with us and now we identify with Him. He experienced shame and pain and we experience glory and majesty.

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," - Philippians 2:5 NKJV

God gave us a way to handle the thorns. Jesus is the way. We think with Him. He is past the pain and He extends His hand to us to bring us past it also.

--

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Light-Hearted Quickening

Romans 8:11... eight... eleven...

"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." - Romans 8:11 KJV

We can look to God and say it like a secret code word... 'God, Do you know which passage in your book I like best right now... It's in Romans... the eighth chapter...' {smile}

You can make a little song, '

- Romans, Romans, Romans... Romans 8:11...
- That same power, power, power that raised Jesus from the DEAD...
- That power, power, power will quicken me like you SAID.

'

{Ha. God loves our bad scriptural rhymes... He might just quicken you to get you to stop singing}

'What was that verse again? It's in Romans. I think it's the 8th chapter. It is somewhere between 10 and 12... Oh Yeah... Can we have some of that right now? I want some 11.' {smile}

Starbucks doesn't have any 11 but God does... ask for it by name. {smile}

--

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fasting From The Process Of Self Fulfillment

I am reading Isaiah 58 again and again and thinking about the rhythms and step by step processes we can fall into as people.

Food isn't the problem. Having food and water is a blessing that many live without. God wants broken chains. Not appearances or expectations based on merit.

Listen with me...

"Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.

'Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?'

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." - Isaiah 58:2-14 ESV

Wow.

Some shocking promises there.

Fasting is ingenious really because it is a struggle to refrain from something very basic and fundamental. Israel had learned to fast as a religious practice but that was not impressive to God. They turned a 'don't' into a 'do' and then judged God based on the results.

I sit here being bathed in grace thinking, 'What needed to be done has been done. God, I want to fast from my rigid cycles. Help me. Change me.'

How quickly we return to snacking on our old thinking.

No. I want to take my food and give it away instead. I want to look for a way to free someone from the trap they are in. The void needs to be filled but let the step by step process fall away... just for a moment... just for today. I want to live in grace now because now is all I really have.

Then when we face God the merit system is dissolved and communion is fresh and free. Jesus has fulfilled all that needed to be done. God Is with us and we are with God not demanding anything. The sun comes up and our gloom turns into noonday brightness.

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