John, Chapter Three. Let’s read out of the New King James Version this time.
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Okay. Hold up. He starts in by saying, listen. You’re from God.
And right away, before he says anything else, Jesus interrupts.
“Unless you’re born again, you can’t see the kingdom of God.”
Did he ask about the kingdom of heaven? Is that what he was asking?
I guess I have to assume that’s what Nicodemus’ deep question was, because that’s what Jesus answered. He just cut right to the point.
Jesus does that with me a lot, too. I guess that’s what I want him to do. When I go to a bible study or prayer meeting or church service, I want to hear truth that meets the questions in my heart- the questions and hurts that I’m actually battling. Far too often I go and hear good advice, or doctrine, or pleasant words or sometimes correcting rebuke- but it is so rarely meeting me at the point I’m actually at.
But Jesus isn’t like that. Jesus looks at us and knows, right away, what our questions and struggles are.
You know, for most of my life I’ve been reading the bible, and reading Christian books, and listening to Christian radio, and most every time I’m listening, I’ve usually got some question or burden on me, and most every time I’m listening- I’m looking for answers. And most of the time, I am the sort of person who keeps pushing until I find the answer.
But I think that lots of times people come to the church, or open their bible to study, and the message doesn’t meet them where they are at, and so they shut the book or turn off the preacher, and sadly, give up.
Are you like this? Do you try to do devotions, but nothing makes sense, and you don’t know how to make it have any application to your life? Do you go to church but the sermons go over your head, or worse, make you feel farther from God?
I have to tell you- unfortunately, this is not unusual. For hundreds, even thousands of years, people have had questions, and they go to the church, and sometimes it helps. For me, it has helped. I’ve found the Answer I’ve been looking for.
But for other people, it doesn’t help. They come in and drift out, or worse, they come in and are chased out, and leave thinking the church, and therefore God, are lies and liars.
Even in Jesus’ day.
Look at Nicodemus. He was a leader in the church, although it wasn’t called the church back then. But it was a leader of God’s people, and he was among those who were supposed to teach the people good things, and lead them to God. And yet, when Jesus came, the Son of God, performing miracles, even though he said “We know you are from God,” implying that the other religious rulers knew it, too, he went to him alone, at night. Secretly. The rest of them didn’t want to go. This is not good! This means that the God’s people didn’t want God! And it also means that they probably were no help to the people.
The reason why people ran to Jesus and followed him and looked for him at night was because Jesus met their heart’s cries. He had the word from God for them, directly, exactly what they were hungry for. The religious rulers obviously weren’t doing that, or people wouldn’t have been so hungry for it.
And do you know what? The religious rulers of the day didn’t like it. They were against Jesus, and in turn, he was against them. He spoke most harshly towards those were supposed to be his biggest leaders. They were religious, but they were not on God’s side. They were no longer doing the work of God’s people- teaching the people good things, and leading them to God.
Some people draw the conclusion that all religion is wrong. I don’t. Jesus himself said he would “build his church.” And God Almighty ordained the priests of the temple. I am not a religious anarchist.
But I do think that too often our religion, our organized and traditional methods of finding the Lord can get stale and rote and stop meeting people where they need to be met.
The solution is clear- we have to meet Jesus ourselves, not just go to the church or Christian books or Christian music or Christian this or that. Whether we are on the outside of the church, or whether we are leaders. We have to not lose touch with him. We have to go, like Nicodemus did.
We have to go, and find him ourselves, and ask him our questions. Or just go, and say anything- and let him answer the questions we don’t ask.
What are you doing tonight? Because you can go and find him. You’ve got things in your heart, I know, that bother you and plague you and stress you out, and he has answers.
This post is part of a continuing series covering the book of John, bit by bit. You can follow by subscribing above, or you can go to the lead page and take it at your own pace.
The end of the first Chapter of John. We’re in the last few verses, numbers 49-51.
Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
What a strange verse. Actually, what a strange chapter altogether. Let’s list some of the strangest things we’ve seen.
Jesus being the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
The Holy Spirit descending from heaven like a Dove.
The whole “word became flesh” thing. Actually, Jesus being the Word.
Jesus being the Son of God.
The Messiah. (What even is that?)
Okay, let’s acknowledge right away that this is a spiritual book, and it’s a completely different book than the modern absolutely non-spiritual texts that we read all the time. I mean, we live in the early 21st century. As it’s been said, we are modern, scientific people. We deal in observable, provable facts. We want scientific reasons to back up the things we believe. And now here we have a book, the Bible, full of fantastical, inexplicable, strange phrases and words, and they say, “You have to have faith to believe.”
But let’s consider a few things. First of all, let’s acknowledge that we are spiritual beings. You know it. You know that there is a You that is more than your body, because you are not a purely physical creature. You know that there is more to you than just your mind, because you can still exist when your mind is injured or affected by a drug. You know you have experiences that are unexplained by physical reasons. Why literature makes you cry and music makes you dance and you want to hug your grandmother. These things are emotional and often irrational. But there is more to you than just emotions.
There is more to everything, in fact. Those who want to deny that there is a God often want to postulate that the world is a purely physical thing. That nothing exists that cannot be seen.
This is such a pale, sad state of denial. There are things that cannot be seen, and still exist.Love. Hope. Adventure. Despair.
There is more.
If you want to think there is nothing more, I am very sorry for you. I agree that the physical world is beautiful and magnificent and beyond our understanding, and that if we studied for a billion years there would still be more things to learn about it. It’s enough, if it was all there was. I’m not complaining. I love the physical world. I love the galaxies and the deep sea and photons and microbes, I love algebra and geometry and classic sculpture. I am very appreciative of it. It’s wonderful. But the delectable treats in a French bakery do not mean anything for the existence of Thai cuisine. And the phenomenon of the physical reality does not preclude the existence of the spiritual.
There is a spiritual world. And what’s more, we live in it and we can know of it, and it is wonderful.
The physical is experienced simply, frankly, with our senses. The spiritual is experienced rarely by our senses, and more often in other ways. Here’s the thing. In Western society, we place a lot of value on what we can see and touch and prove. In many ways, we say they are the only real things. But the spiritual things… They’re real, too, only they’re not as tangible as the blocks we’re used to playing with.
The things of the spirit are like a series of riddles. And unfortunately, in order to ease our discomfort, we Westerners just decide to write off these things. We say there is no spiritual side, or we discount it very much. Some people are so uncomfortable with intangible things that they even discount emotions… actually, any abstract things. Art, music, love, honor… these things get pushed back into closets and the television gets turned up, because they’re too strange to look at, let alone consider. Instead, we talk about the price of meat and the rain and the new tires on the car.
I think that other cultures do it better in some ways- they don’t shut out the spiritual experiences, they don’t hush up talk about dreams or ghosts or strange voices.
There are downsides, of course, to opening yourself widely to all spiritual experiences. There are evil things out there, you know.
But they acknowledge that the spiritual exists, and what’s more, they acknowledge that it’s difficult to understand.
Maybe that’s the hurdle with us, we don’t want to look stupid.
As we look through this spiritual book from God, you might feel stupid sometimes. Things get confusing and weird. There’s language about circumcision and sacrifice and blood and the spirit and the Bride of Christ and angels ascending and descending on the Son of God, there are all these weird things that don’t make sense and are completely out of the realm of the things you’re reading about on Facebook and the things in Target and the things that you hear at work.
And that’s okay.
It is completely okay to pick up this book, this book from God, and have it be foreign and strange and weird, and to feel out of your element. To feel small. It’s okay.
The truth is, the more you read, the more you will understand why Jesus is the lamb of God, slain from the foundations of the world. The more you will get references, like inside jokes that are not jokes at all, but beautiful and solemn and sweet, and like honey to your soul.
The more you read, the more the Spirit of the Living God, who raised Christ from the dead, will whisper inside of your heart and help you to see with your spiritual eyes, and hear with your spiritual ears, until the spiritual is as real to you as the physical, until heaven is your home and earth is where you’re passing through.
This might sound exciting to you- or scary. But I want to tell you that if you believe, you will see great things. You will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of God, and you might even learn what that means.
This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead pageand go at your own pace. Just click here
Going on in the book of John, chapter 1, we are in verse 35.
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “Where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
Here is John the Baptist, again, with two of his disciples. And this is where the author John makes his entrance, only without being named. He is one of the two disciples. The other’s name is Andrew. John, the Author, is relaying information only he or Andrew could have known- that John the Baptist said this about Jesus.
And then John the author and Andrew both leave John the Baptist and follow Jesus.
Do you think this was hard for John? If it was, he knew it was right. He knew he was there to prepare the hearts for Christ. I don’t think John was perfect, he might have been disappointed or sad to see followers go. It’s never easy to watch people leave, it feels like rejection. But sometimes you have to let people go so they can find Jesus for themselves, and not just follow you.
At any rate, when they caught up to Jesus, he turned and looked at them, and asked them a fascinating question.
“What are you seeking?”
Some translations say it other ways. “What are you looking for?” “What do you want?”
But Jesus looked at them, saw them coming after him, and asked it.
You’re going after Jesus right now- by reading this, by reading the book of John- you’re following on his trail. And I think that Jesus does the same thing with you. He knows you’re there, and he turns, looks you in the face, and asks,
“What are you looking for?”
Why do you go after Jesus? Why wonder at all about God? Why seek Him? Why do you care? What is in your heart that you think he will meet?
Is it questions? Is it enlightenment and personal development? Is it the mysteries of the universe? The meaning of life? Do you go after him for comfort and acceptance, for something to ease the pain of life?
Already in my writing I’ve begged you to come after him with promises. I’ve told you of the hope I’ve found in Him… has this caught your ear at all? Before you read any further, sit back, close yourself from my words, and answer this yourself.
What are you looking for?
The disciples do not answer directly. I think, if I understand the historical context at all, that these were looking for the Messiah, the Christ, as John the Baptist said, “The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Many have postulated that the disciples were a group of revolutionaries who were looking for a leader to overthrow their occupying government- the Romans. Others have said that they were looking for the heir to David’s throne- a Hebrew King who would bring peace to their nation.
But I think it’s interesting that John the Baptist preached a repentance of sins, and then when he told his two disciples that this man “took away the sins of the world,” the two disciples immediately turned to follow him. This suggests to me that these two, at least, John and Andrew, were concerned with their sins. And this is as it should be.
We have to have a knowledge of our sins before we can come to him, really. Or at least, when we look at Jesus, and his role as the lamb of God, we need to stop and search ourselves and our position regarding sin.
You know, sin is the wicked thing we inherit since the Garden of Eden. It is not just a word that is a noun, meaning a wicked deed that is done, it is an abstract thing that is stuck to us, deep inside of us, that causes us to do those wicked things.
Sin is nebulous. It is both evil and lack of good. It is both hatred and withholding of love. It is both violent and stingy. Sin is falling short of God’s perfection. He is loving and kind and good to everyone, and whenever we aren’t, we show our sin.
I’ve heard people say that because there is goodness in people, that there can’t be sin. I’ve also heard people say that there’s no possible way to be good without God. I don’t know that either of these are true. I think that there is a measure of goodness in all of us while we are here on earth, because we are God’s creation. We were intended to belong to Him, and he put good gifts in all of us. It is not that we do good that proves that we are without sin, but that we cannot NOT do wrong that proves there is sin in us.
It’s true, this sin is what makes us human. None of us are perfect. At least, on this side of the Garden. And you might say, “I’m not that bad.” You might think that compared to some, you’re mostly a saint.
And this is where Jesus looks at you and says, “What do you want?”
If you come to Jesus because you’re curious, but you’re satisfied with yourself, and the world around you, and you see nothing you want that you cannot get yourself, you will likely meet him and walk away.
There is a story in the bible of a man coming to Jesus, and asking him, “How do I live forever?”
It’s a funny question. No one can live forever. But this man, who the bible calls “rich, young, and a ruler,” was looking for something. He had riches, he had youth, and he had position. What more can you want in life? Maybe love or meaning… perhaps he had those. But he was still unsatisfied. Maybe he feared death. Maybe he had recently had a brush with it. At any rate, he wants to know, “Jesus, what do I have to do to have eternal life?”
I think that deep inside, he could still see that something was missing. Riches, youth, position and honor didn’t do it.
I’ve heard that there is a high rate of depression and suicide attempts in lottery winners, because the money reveals that the problems in their lives were more than just money problems. Maybe this is what the rich young ruler was experiencing. Money didn’t solve everything.
If you come to Jesus, knowing that you’re seeking something- knowing that on your own, you aren’t enough, you will find the answer to what your heart wants.
He is the ultimate satisfier of needs. He is the author and finisher of you, his creation. He is the lover of your soul.
John and Andrew answer his question strangely. They don’t answer it at all. They just ask, “Teacher, where are you staying?”
And Jesus replies, “Come and see.” Then see what happens.
So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).
I think that what happened was that they followed him, and when they were with him, they found the answer to the questions in their hearts.
John, the Author, doesn’t say what happened that day. He doesn’t tell about their conversation or what happened at all back at the house, where he was staying. But at the end of the day, he goes and finds his brother, and says this telling thing: We have found the Messiah.
As in- we have found what we’ve been looking for.
This is what happens. We go after Him who created our hearts, and we find what our hearts want the most.
So… what are you looking for?
This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here
Before we go any farther, I want you to know that this John, the Baptist, is not the same John that the book is named for. I know, it’s confusing. So many biblical names are hard to pronounce, or similar to other names. But the writer of the book of John is John, one of Jesus’ disciples, or followers. He’s going to come into the story in a little bit, but so far he’s been talking about a different John. The one we call John the Baptist. Let’s keep going, because John the Baptist has a little more to say about Jesus before the story shifts to Jesus himself for the rest of the time.
Starting in verse 29, Chapter 1, in the book of John.
The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
Here John is talking to some of his followers. Back then, there were few books and no internet, and if you had the desire, and the time, and the resources to learn, you would find a person you considered wise, and go to them and ask to learn from them, or be their student. Like an apprentice. The word for this student was disciple. And the word for teacher was Rabbi. There’s a lot more to know about that, but that’s enough for now.
John the Baptist is with his disciples, and he teaches them these things about Christ. And the reason why we know what he taught is because John, the writer of this book, was one of John the Baptist’s disciples. So here he writes what was actually taught to him. John the Baptist taught that Jesus was before him, and ranks before him, and not because Jesus was born first, because he wasn’t. But because Jesus existed from the beginning, which John the Baptist knew because John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit of God.
And here he talks more about this Spirit. How he saw the Spirit descend like dove onto Jesus, and remain on him. And also, how “He who sent me to baptize…” Who was this “He?” God, and probably through the Spirit.
So much here about the Spirit of God, the invisible, mysterious, confusing, beautiful person of the Trinity, who descends like a dove.
And even more- that Jesus will baptize with the Spirit. What does this even mean? How can you wash with the spirit? Or be immersed in the Spirit?
Who is this Spirit?
Let me tell you what I know of Him.
The Spirit of God is the still, small voice that leads you to the Lord. Many people call it their conscience, but it is not only that.
The Spirit of God is a distinct person from you. He has his own voice, His own knowledge, His own will.
Before you are a child of God, the Spirit does interact with you some. He leads you to God. And I have heard of people being protected and encouraged by the Spirit even before they knew who He was.
But once you have turned to Christ, and submitted your heart to Him as Lord of it, the Spirit is so much more. The Bible tells us that one who has been washed from the sins and become a child of God is marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, as a deposit. Every believer has the Holy Spirit. He is her constant companion, and He is the presence of the Lord to her, as well. He reveals the Lord and his will to us, just as he did for John. He told John to baptize- and He told John who the Christ was. He does the same thing for us.
In my own life, my relationship with the Spirit began with long walks in the woods. I remember thinking of bible stories where people heard from God, and asking Him if I could hear him, too. The voice I heard in response was not booming voice from the clouds, but instead, I can only describe it as bubbling up responses to my questions, within my own thoughts, but that answered my thoughts. Sometimes, it would be a Scripture quotation, but other times I heard distinct, first person answers to things I asked of the Lord.
I asked my pastor at that time, if that was normal. If everyone could hear the Lord like this. He answered me very diplomatically, by saying that there must be some, for many love the old hymn, “In the Garden.”
“I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses…
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known. “
Even the end of that hymn suggests the same question I had- Do others hear this voice? It is rarely spoken of. It’s such an intimate, personal thing, this conversation with God. I think we hesitate to speak of it because it seems prideful to suggest that we can personally hear the voice of the Lord. It also seems, from a worldly point of view, crazy. Like some split personality thing or something.
And so over the years I have shut out the voice in doubt or confusion, or I have cultivated it in times of distress and need. Sometimes people have encouraged me in it, and sometimes I have been taught that it is imaginary, or even evil.
For most of my life, I have been quiet about it except among those who I know also embrace it.
But I am writing about it now because the Spirit himself has told me to. In the past, I have been afraid of rejection, especially from other believers that I think will condemn me as a heretic, or as a fool.
But I believe the Spirit wants to speak to His people, and I’m writing to you, now, beloved, to say that He wants you to hear Him. I know now what it sounds like, I know it to be true what it says in John 10, that…
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…”
I am learning it, anyway. I am learning to recognize it, and not shrink away.
Hearing the Voice of the Lord through the Spirit is the single most rewarding, beautiful part of Christianity to me, and I feel actual sorrow for the believers who reject this experience and blessing. I see so many believers who lovingly run to the fountain of salvation, but shy away from this intimate, powerful, actual experiential way of knowing the Lord. I believe that embracing the Spirit of the Lord is the only way to see true abundant life, as Jesus promised, and that by quenching the spirit, by holding your hands up in fear of this strange, mysterious spiritual experience, you deny yourself the inheritance that the Lord has promised you and live as though you had no living God at all, only a written history of what he used to do for other people.
This is strong language, but I have been in so many groups of Christians- and I tell you, it breaks my heart to see people who say they are believers but they miss this most wonderful blessing that comes from believing.
And so I give you my testimony- that I love the voice of the Lord, and I wish for you to know it and be blessed by it, too. And if you have any doubts or hesitations, I ask you to consider this verse, and to take its advice.
“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
I have much love and affection for you as you seek the Lord in this matter, and I know He will be faithful to answer you.
This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here
Let’s start at the book of John. Let’s open the Word and find the Mercy Man, let’s find this Jesus, Yeshua, who came from God and was God, and died for us and rose, and sits at the right hand of the Father. Let’s meet him, and see him, and know him, together, from the Word of God, beginning in the book of John.
In the beginning was the Word.
The Word. In Greek, it is Logos.
Jesus, the man of God, the Son of God, was the Word.
Nowadays when we say, “The Word of God,” most people mean the Holy Bible. 66 books, Old and New Testament. But do you know what? The trinity is not God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible. Jesus himself is the Word.
This is strange to us, how can a person be the word? But Jesus himself is the personification, he embodied the whole message of God. He himself has everything we need. If we didn’t have the scriptures, but we had him, we would have enough.
But we do have the scriptures. The Bible, the Holy Bible, is the authoritative final word on what God is, and who Jesus is. You can learn other things, you can know God in your life, you can have experiential knowledge of God, but the Holy Scripture is the litmus test. It is the final authority. If your experience or belief about God contradicts what the Bible says, your god is not the One True God.
We go to the scriptures because we believe that God revealed himself through them to people, and we believe that he has protected and guided the message of the scriptures supernaturally through men, throughout the ages.
I know there are many people who doubt the authenticity of the scriptures. They say, this was written by men and preserved by men, who can know what is true in it? They point to the humanity and personality that shines through different books of the bible, and they say, I don’t like this, I don’t agree with this… I think differently, and they throw the Bible aside, or worse, they use it as a storybook, to cut and choose parts they like.
This is what I believe: I believe in a God who wanted his story written. I believe in a God who is capable of preserving his words through scrolls, through tablets, through words written on on shipwrecked islands, in jail cells, and in hidden cars making its way across a communist border.
I believe that the message of God, the Word of God, is so powerful that a not-always-likeable apostle’s personality could be perfectly clear and yet not mask the message of hope and mercy that God sent through it. I believe in a faith that is grounded in thousands of years of people who are filled with the spirit of God, and who maybe, just maybe, have been able to pass that good doctrine and discovery of who God is down, more than I trust my own thirty five years thinking and seeking and learning.
I believe in the scriptures. I believe in the Holy Bible.
I personally like the Voice translation. It’s so refreshing to read the Bible in the language and dialect of English that I speak. But I also use and recommend the ESV and the NASB, because I love looking at the direct translation of the original words. I use a concordance to see the Greek and Hebrew, and to read their definitions. When I read “In the beginning was the Word,” I love to see the meaning of Logos- that it is not only “something spoken” but “doctrine, teaching… message.”
Jesus is the Message. He is the Voice of God.
I believe it is possible to know the Bible and to miss the message. It is possible, and it is too common. In John 5: 39, Jesus is talking to a group of men who are very educated in the Scriptures, and he says,
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life: it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life!”
He’s saying that they have turned to the Bible for the answers, for hope, for salvation… but they missed it, they have none of it, because the Bible has a purpose: It is to reveal Christ. It is to bring us to God. But too, far too often, people have the Bible and not the Message. They have the words but not the Word.
Jesus is the Word.
As we read through John, I want to find Him. I don’t want to waste my time debating about what the meaning of this passage is, or what the translation of that word is- I want to go through this book, and find HIM. He is the point. Knowing Him, seeing him, finding Christ, this is the whole point.
Let’s be seekers of Him, seekers of the Word and not just readers of the words. Let’s open this Bible, and thank the Lord that He preserved it and put it within our grasp, and let’s look in these words for Christ Himself, and ask Him to reveal Himself to us.
I truly believe that when we seek, we will find, and He wants us to find him more than we even want to find Him ourselves.
I truly believe that the whole point of our whole lives is finding Him- finding what has been from the beginning, the Word of God.
This post is the first in a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here
The King of kings stands on the mountain. In one hand, he holds a sword, and in the other, he holds out life. Which do you take?
We all want life. Very rarely does one claim to want death, and when we do want death, we want it quickly, without suffering or pain. But life comes in the way we least expect it. It comes through surrender, it comes through the sword.
The bible says that the Word of the Lord is a sword. It pierces to the deepest parts of us. It shines light on things we’ve tried to hide, things we are embarrassed of. Our deepest shame.
What do we hide, but cancer and decay and rot? Fungus and evil of every kind. It only kills us, weakens us, and terrifies us. Life comes through the light, light comes from the edge of the sword that we fear. Light comes through the Word.
Think again of the man on the mountain. He looks over the kingdoms of men and judges them rightly, with justice and love and mercy for the ones he created. Time passes like a wind, but it does not affect him. You are seated on the grass by his side, safe in the shelter of his shadow. There is no enemy that can reach the point where you are. There is no danger, only peace.
You are as safe and secure as you could be in his presence. Your position of honor is real, more real than the room around you. In this world, our senses dim the reality of our position, but it is still real. The delusion of the physical world distracts us from the real, but it is still there. Close your eyes and you can feel it- the grass by your feet, the wind in his mane. The Lion stands over you, and the Lamb grazes nearby.
There is only one Truth, and that is Him. He is the Beginning and the End, He is all knowledge and wisdom and understanding.
When He speaks, everything is still.
When He looks at you, you are fully known, and fully loved.
He sees to the deepest parts of you, even to the parts you wish you could hide, and He loves you. With one hand he cradles you, and with the other He cleans and heals those inner parts.
The Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost, and you were the lost. Broken and cast aside, you wallowed in filth and agony until He found you, picked you up, and rescued you. Now He calls you to come higher, to look on the cross and climb, to enter the mountain and find the riches of salvation where there is no shame, only glory. Where suffering is a joy and shame is no more. Will you enter? Will you take his hand and look upwards, forgetting what is behind and pressing on towards what is ahead?
The King of kings is on his throne, and in his hand is the reward for your labor. On either side he upholds you, and angels usher you into his presence. Will you come? Will you step into the light, and let all be revealed, and be transformed into the image of his glory, the image of who you were created to be?
Only a little while, and this will all be past. Only a little while, and every eye will see him. The trumpet will sound, the heavens will be swept away, and every knee will bow at his glory. Will you be one of his, found in righteousness and beloved, or will you tremble and shrink at the sound of his voice? The King calls you now, The King bids you come.
Will you come?
I have not lived many years, but I am learning that everything I have done that is not seeking Him is loss. He is the only true joy, He is the light and the Way and the Hope. When I think of Him, I think that I only wish I knew Him more. Every experience I have of the Lord has filled me with peace and perfect love, and I regret that I have not gone after Him more.
When I picture the Lord, I see him standing in a doorway, with light coming from behind so that I can see his outline but not his face. This is the way it is for me now. I recognize him but I want to draw closer, I want more. I want to get up and run to the doorway, run to the light, and look Him full in the face.
I used to hate being a woman. Women are so powerless here on the earth. I know, I’ve heard the pithy sayings, men are the head but we are the neck. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. But in truth, women are second, and we know it. We talk loud about our influence, but we don’t hold the power, we don’t have the authority that men do, at least very rarely. A queen may have it, but even she has to fight for it.
I used to hate being a woman. I saw it as a sign that I was less. Loved less, honored less, given less. Less potential, less opportunity, less… everything. But now I know something I did not know. I know that as a woman, I have the opportunity to know love the way men wish they could. I can look at the Lord and know Him as my bridegroom. I know what it is to be wrapped in his arms and feel safe and secure and protected. I know what it is to be looked at and found lovely, to be prized and cherished. This blessing is far more to me than any position on earth, though I have only recently changed to understand that.
I bless the Lord for making me a woman, so that I might know this, and I only look forward to the day when men can pass to the other side of the veil and experience how wonderful it is.
In knowing the Lord, I find peace and understanding. I understand Him, and I understand myself, and I understand those around me. Not that I fully understand, but each time I meet with Him, I find another measure of it. Another measure of goodness, as far as I am capable of receiving without bursting. One day I may be overfull, and my body will not be able to withstand it, and on that day I’ll reach glory. I think this is the way of the martyrs.
He is peace. He radiates peace, even while he gives judgement and punishes the wicked. But for us, his children, even the heaviest judgement is as sweet as a kiss, as light as a blessing on the head of a child. This is how it is for his children. There is no fear in Him correcting us, only perfect love and joy.
Won’t you come to the Father, won’t you turn your face to see Him? He stands even now at the mountain, with one hand extended, His eyes turned full on you. Won’t you take it?
In order to find Jesus more, I’m starting a new series going through the book of John. This is your invitation! Follow along here.
Once upon a time, I was a bare-foot, scraggly-haired kid in Florida. So much stems from our childhood hurts and dreams that I have to begin there. I have to start by telling you I was born to a 17 year old mother, and my step father was a house painter, and my two round face little brothers were always having dangerous adventures, and I was the kind of child that would get in a fight with the neighbor girl and run home and crawl out of the hot white light of the sun into the shade of a bush, and dream of the future.
I used to dream that when I was sixteen, I would magically evolve into a Barbie-like butterfly, with a ponytail and a pink convertible and a boyfriend who looked like Prince Charming. Schoolwork was easy for me, and the teachers used to praise me, and so as I grew older my dreams were about success and moving to a city and running for president or maybe singing at the Metropolitan Opera. But I always dreamed. In my dreams, I was the perfect version of myself. Blond, tall, beautiful. Always gentle, lovely, kind. Talented and intelligent- no, wise.
But in reality, I hated myself.
I hated my huge teeth, and the gap between them, and when I grew older I hated that they were evidence that my family did not have the money for “cosmetic” braces. I hated my square hips and my wide feet, and eventually the not-flat-at-all belly I had. I hated how my hair got darker as I got older, and I used sun-in and home bleaching kits. I hated my short nails, and how I kept biting them even though I tried and tried to stop.
But even while I hated those things, I kept thinking that they would all fade away, somehow. I’d grow up and overcome them. They were temporary embarrassments, as was our slight poverty. I was acutely aware that I didn’t have brand name clothes or shoes, and I fought and bickered and gossiped to get into the highest clique at school I could. I leveraged my musical talents and art skills and occasional sharp wit to elbow my way into the spotlight whenever I could, and when I was left out, I was mortified.
I wanted so much. I wanted so, so much to just get through to that magical future where everything was better.
I can vividly see myself, at nine years old, sitting in an orange tree, picking fruit after fruit, slicing them in half, and greedily sucking the juice, and throwing it down for a better one, on another branch. Or at my eighth birthday party, for which there is a two hour long VHS record, where I am rushing from place to place, never standing still. Everyone else sits and enjoys cake and games, and I fly from thing to thing, not enjoying any but looking for more. I think of the walks I took on beautiful Florida beaches, and the nights I laid awake in my pretty pink bedroom, and how I barely enjoyed any of it because all the time, my mind was somewhere in the future- at some distant point in my life where I would be… me, but not me. Happy. Fulfilled.
There was a brief time in there when I had a boyfriend. He slowed the world for me. While he was around, I wanted only him, nothing else mattered. To me, he was perfect- he was the hope of all my dreams in person, and all I wanted was for him to look at me and see what I hoped was there. Time was slow then, really like slow motion. I remember walking on a starry night as rain fell, as only it does in Florida, rain falling with clear sky above. I remember looking up and thinking, Finally. Life has become what it is meant to be.
But you can guess, it was only temporary. Of course, teen romance usually fades away, and mine did, and left me worse than before. As the years went by, there were other things that seemed like they were about to get me where I wanted- awards, school programs, a new job, a move to a new town, a new man on the horizon, or a new diet. Each time I thought that maybe this would be the magic thing that would launch me into that future that I wanted. But time after time, the plan would fail and I would be right back where I started.
What was it that I wanted so much? I wanted to be rich and beloved and perfect. I wanted praise and adoration and glory. I wanted safety and acceptance. I wanted something I couldn’t put into words.
I grew up in the church. Several different churches, but always in church. Because I was quick to learn and competitive, I absorbed a lot in those early years. Memory verses, hymns, bible stories and stories of missionaries. Church was another place to succeed for me, and for a while it was my favorite place to succeed. The game was so easy at church. Dress pretty. Bring your bible. Don’t drink, swear, chew, or party with those that do. I didn’t understand other girls who flirted with the normal teen fun- sex and drugs and rock and roll seemed like silly things that would get in the way with achieving perfection. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been the type who loves fun, and I can still turn my music up and dance as loud as any teenager. But at the time, it was only sanctified music. Only at the correct time for dancing. And it was never, ever, EVER sexy dance. I was a good Christian girl.
But a series of events happened to me in those years. The first thing that happened was that for my birthday, my mother sent me and a friend to a Christian concert, and I bought the cassette tape of their album. It was my only cassette, and I played side A and side B over and over for weeks. One night, as I lay in my bed, looking at the orange light on my ceiling from the street light, I listened, really listened to the words. The man sang, “I was saved by the Mercy Man. He touched my heart, he helped me understand that there was shelter and unfailing love, if I’d just take the hand, the hand of the Mercy Man…”
And as I lay there in the dark, I suddenly knew that I did not know this Mercy Man. I knew God, yes, I knew that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. I knew that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, I knew that God is love, and he who loveth not knoweth not God. I knew God is able, God is great, God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I knew God is the invisible, immortal, the only wise King. I knew of God…. But I did not know this Mercy Man.
At least, not like the singer knew him. Who was he? Was He Jesus? How was that different from God? And how could you know him, and not just know of him?
I don’t know that I was not saved, I mean, there are all sorts of doctrines about when the moment of salvation is, but I had had times, many times in my childhood where I was convicted of my sin and asked to be clean. Where I admitted I believed that Jesus was the Son of God, who died for me. So I do not think that it was a salvation problem in me.
It’s just that I knew, at that moment, that there was more. I saw very clearly that there was a potential for knowing, really knowing, like a friend, this Mercy Man. The God of the Universe was more than an entity- he was capable of being a friend to me. It was new.
My life didn’t change, instantly, in that moment. But my ears were suddenly tuned to a new idea. When I went to church, I was more interested in this strange idea that maybe, just maybe, there was more to Christianity than being good and walking straight.
As I grew older, I still wanted so much that ideal, perfect thing I was trying to achieve. I bought planners and listed my plans. I would go to to college- Harvard, no, Julliard. I would win awards and earn doctorates and do amazing things in the world. I still tried very, very hard to be good and keep all my ducks in a row. But more and more my dreams and plans started to involve things of the church- I briefly dreamed of missions, maybe being a medical doctor and starting a clinic in a third world country. I looked at Christian colleges and Bible schools. I stopped listening to classical music and Joni Mitchell, and spent my nights with Dr. David Jeremiah and whoever else was preaching on the Baptist radio station. My mindset began to shift with the new idea that God was real, and really relevant- and the result was that this “great thing” I wanted to do in the future stopped revolving around the world’s idea of success, and started revolving around what the church’s idea of success was.
In reality, not much had changed in my heart. I was still seeking the same thing. I was still striving for a future where I had what I wanted. What changed was that the means to get it had shifted. I had really begun to believe that God was real, and so my striving to succeed shifted from succeeding in the world to succeeding in God. I still was off base, but I was getting closer.
I was stumbling into something good, and it was completely His plan.
Because He knew me.
Before I was born, He knew me. In the Psalms it says I was knit together in my mother’s womb. Every day I would live, He had written in his book, before one of them came to be. He knew me. He saw me, dirty faced, fighting at the bus stop. He saw me, frightened of a wolf in the dark of night. He saw me blooming under the praise of an adult, and cut down by the words of friends.
He saw my beauty when there was dirt and warts and ugly hatred. He looked down at the gifts he had put in me, and rescued them from the plans of the enemy. He loved me when I was unloveable, and He had a plan.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with feeling like a failure. Ever since I grew up, and didn’t become president, or wear a size six, or sing at Carnegie Hall, I have kicked myself and hated myself. When I young, there was potential. If I had not succeeded, it was only for lack of time. Or being discovered, or opportunity. There was always the future me. She would succeed.
But when you’re an adult, the future is hazy. There is only now, and danger ahead. There is only 35 year old me, who has not been on the Times Best-Seller List, or managed to grow her nails out, or called her grandma in a month, or weeded the flower bed. Failure is a constant companion. It is everywhere. It’s in the unscrubbed shower and the small savings account. It’s on facebook, as my childhood friends build a beautiful new home or travel the world or promote their beachbodies. It’s closer than my breath.
And I always wanted so much more.
There have been times when I’ve accused the Lord. I’ve said, “Look. I went your way, and look what a mess I am. If I had gone my way, I would have a degree. I would have money. I would have succeeded in something. In your way, I have failed! Or you’ve failed me. You’ve brought me in a way that I’m not capable of succeeding in. You exposed my faults instead of highlighting my gifts. What was the point of going your way?”
I’ve thought, journaled, and even said these things out loud.
What is the point, really? What is the point of going the Lord’s way? What benefit does it even do? What if there is a Mercy Man, who can be known… Why know him?
This is what I write to you. I write to tell you what I know- that there is shelter and unfailing love. I write to tell you that I have come to the other side, and I know failure, and I know peace.
I write to tell you, lovely one, beloved and chosen of God, that there is hope. There is a future where you do not have strive or hide- where you are complete, just as you are.
I have metamorphosized (is that a word?)- not into a Barbie-perfect woman, but into a woman at rest. There is peace in my soul. There is no longer a fighting, wild-eyed desperate child looking to escape her life, but a calm, sure sense in me that I am right where I am meant to be.
I write this to you, desperate, craving friend. I write this that you may see a glimpse of what true life looks like. That the voice of accuser may be silent in your head for a moment, and you may see what you are meant to be- see who you already are in Christ. Beloved, safe, blessed and righteous.
I write to tell you that there is a Mercy Man, and He can be known, and that it is the most perfect, wonderful thing in all of life.