February 14, 2016

Leaving Our Egypt

Posted in Faithfulness of God, Teaching tagged , , , , , , , , , at 1:27 pm by tclickenger

As I am sure most posts start, this has been on my mind for a few weeks now.  Percolating I guess.  The topic of this post is the Hebrew word “mitzraim.”  This is a very obscure topic among us non-Jewish people and without intentionally searching out the topic the chances of encountering it are fairly remote.  So it has been surprising to me that information about “mitzraim” has been coming to me from sources consistently all this week.

One of the insights came to me through a video a friend of mine shared on Facebook.  The video was of a Jewish rabbi, Dr. Abraham Twerski (who is also a practicing psychologist specializing in addictions), describing how lobsters grow.  It is a great clip and a fantastic introduction to this blog.  I invite you to take a look then come back and continue reading.

http://www.jinsider.com/videos/vid/393-rabbi-dr-abraham-twerski/7895-responding-to-stress.html#7895

That thing that the lobster feels is “mitzraim.”  What mitzraim means is constriction or tightness.  The root of the word means constriction but it can also mean distress as it is translated in most of our English translations in this verse,

Psalm 118:5, “From the distress (or constriction: hametzar – singular version of mitzraim) I called to God, He answered me in divine spaciousness.”

When we feel severe distress we often feel as though our own chest is constricting our heart. I believe this is the feeling that David is describing in this psalm. I believe David understood the spiritual condition of constrictions in our soul. I believe he also understood the contrasting condition brought by God’s abiding presence in our life, divine spaciousness.

The interesting thing about “mitzraim” is that it also means Egypt.  This adds a whole new dimension to the Exodus story. With this new dimension the story is no longer just about the children of Israel, but is now also a story about you and me.  Since we live in a free and democratic society it is hard to identify ourselves with slavery, even harder to believe that, apart from God’s intervention, we are in fact a slave.  Just as Jesus told us.

John 8:34 NIV — Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

A slave to the demands of our flesh, the twisted desires of our soul and the influences of dark spiritual forces.  They straight-jacket us while we are in complete oblivion to the confinement our captors have put us in.  It sounds illogical, we become slaves by doing what we feel like doing when we feel like doing it with whoever we feel like doing it with.  That sound like freedom doesn’t it?  Then contrast that with what the Bible says, that we should obey, do this, don’t do that, it sounds very restrictive. Sound absurd doesn’t it. 

In fact, this thinking is captured well in a song from my youth. Let me share some of the lines from it. 

Living easy, living free

Season ticket on a one-way ride

Asking nothing, leave me be

Taking everything in my stride

Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme

Ain’t nothing I would rather do

Going down, party time

My friends are gonna be there too

In case you didn’t recognize those lyrics, they’re from the song titled “Highway to hell” by the band AC/DC. 

But even as the song tells you, following your own whim and way is not the road to freedom. Not physical freedom or spiritual freedom. Those who have addictions are slaves to those addictions and it constricts the enjoyment of their life. Anyone who indulges in being lazy become enslaved by laziness and it limits their opportunities in life. Anyone who indulges in gossip become addicted to listening to and spreading gossip. It then restricts their relationships because they become know to be untrustworthy and disloyal. I could go on but ultimately, living life doing what you want when you want is the road to a torturous confinement. 

True freedom requires discipline and boundaries. That’s why God gives us His word, his instruction, to instruct us in how to live our life  in freedom. To show us where the boundaries are. That’s where I’ll continue on my next post in this series. 

October 31, 2015

Humility Fosters Peace & Unity

Posted in Humility, Love, Unity tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:17 pm by tclickenger

I wrapped up my post on the Advantages of Humility by mentioning that there are two more fantastic benefits.  Also, in my post on The Dangers of Pride I identified through scripture that pride causes separation, strife, contention and division.  It only follows that humility would bring the opposite results but, so we can know for sure, God spells it out in His inspired word.  Those are the benefits you are reading about today.

I believe the best introduction to these benefits and my thoughts on them would be to share how I came to discover that humility fosters peace and unity and how this began my study on this highest of virtues.

If you have read the page titled About Koinonia here on this blog or if you know me personally, you know how passionate I feel about unity of the Christian faith.  In the middle of the year of 2010 I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed by how enormous the problem of division is within the body of Christ.  I was thinking, “How in the world would all of these divisions be once again united?  What is the key?  And how can one man do anything about it?”  While studying one night on unity I came across a quote from a book called Organic Leadership, by the author Neil Cole.  In it he wrote, “We strive to be unified, but this is the wrong pursuit.  We look for things we share in common.  We try to tolerate differences under the banner of unity.  When we try to be united, we are just made more aware of our differences.  But when we pursue humility – true humility – unity is the natural by-product.  We cannot get to unity by chasing after it.  The door that leads to unity is humility.”

At the time I thought this was a secular book on leadership and so I said to myself, “That sounds good, but is it biblical?”  I then began to search the Word for passages on humility and it’s antonym pride.  Wow!!  So much material!!  God blessed me so much.  I wouldn’t even be actively searching for insights on humility and they just kept coming my way wherever I turned.  One example is, I don’t usually listen to sermons on the radio but during that time I did a few times and whenever I did, there happened to be a message about humility, pride or on one of the specific manifestation of humility or pride.

Now the quote from Organic Leadership say, “The door that leads to unity is humility.” but during this time I remembered it as saying, “The gate by which we enter into unity is humility.”  I think this was a divinely inspired misremembering (is that a word?).  There is not a whole lot of difference between these two sayings but I think you will understand the significance of slight variation as I explain what happened later.

It was roughly 4 years later when I came across scripture that piqued my attention.  It was

Psalm 118:19-20, “Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the LORD.  This is the gate to the LORD, Through which the righteous shall enter.”

When I read this I just knew it was the confirmation I was looking for.  I was like, “Yes!  Yes!  This is it!!  What is it?  Tell me, please!”  Then the next verse reads,

Psalm 118:21, “I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation.”

What?!?  What is this gate you talked about, David?  I don’t get it.  How is an answer a gate?

Thankfully I had been studying the Hebrew language for a while so I decided to look at the original language to see what was being said exactly.  What I found was that the word for “answer” in Hebrew is “anah” and while this word does occasionally mean answered, it most often means humbled.  Now that makes sense.

This is the gate to the LORD (oneness), Through which the righteous shall enter.  I will praise You, for You have humbled me, and have become my salvation (Yeshuah).

David is thanking God that He has made David small enough to now fit through that gate.  I don’t know about you, but that is just beautiful to me.

Well, this post seems to be running long.  There is still so much to share about the relationship between humility, peace and unity, and I really want to get this part published right away,  so I’m going to make this a part 1 and continue this with a follow-up post (or two).

 

Lord God, Father of my soul, thank You for revealing the way to oneness with You.  Both in the words inspired to our spiritual ancestor David and the living example of Your Beloved Son.  I pray for all my brothers and sister who haven’t turned over their prideful soul and self to death and resurrect in the Spirit, in the humility, power and love of Christ Jesus.  Please help their blindness.  Help them to recognize their need for smallness, not greatness, that permits us to enter into Your fellowship.  Give us assistance to become empty of self that we may become what you created us to be, in your image and likeness.  That we may be love as you are love.  I pray we become the kind of people that when you look upon us you say, “Levi” (levee) My heart.

Amen

Additional posts in this series: In the wake of humility…The Dangers of PrideIt’s Time to Hurt Your Pride, …but there are times when pride is a good thing and Advantages of Humility.

March 7, 2015

Do You Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Posted in Teaching tagged , , , , , at 5:33 pm by tclickenger

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

I love how detailed and specific God is throughout scripture. Jesus, being one with the Father, is just as specific with His words. God is not slipshod with what He says. With the knowledge and wisdom He has concerning all things He is masterful in using words to mean so many things at the same time and all of them being true. I don’t know about you but I have a tendency to gloss over the details of scriptures. In the past, as I was reading this scripture, I would unconsciously read “hunger and thirst” and kind of combine them as “strong desire” because I thought that they both express strong physical desires. Looking at the details though, God could have expressed this with either “hunger” or “thirst” but He chose to use both. This begs the question, “Why?”

While Jesus was expressing spiritual longings, He is using desires that we are physically familiar with. So, to answer why, lets explore what hunger means to us physically and what thirst means to us physically. This may sound shocking to you but hunger is not really a desire. When our body is in need of food it produces the feeling of hunger to make us aware of this need. We then desire, seek out and consume food to relieve this feeling. The same goes for thirst. Our body is in need of water and so it produces the feeling of thirst to make us aware of this need.

Hunger then is the awareness of our need for one thing and thirst is the awareness or our need for another thing. The reason Jesus said that “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” is because in order to achieve righteousness we must recognize our spiritual need of two separate things. Once we become aware of our need, a desire is produced within us to satisfy that need. We seek out and make that thing we need apart of what we are.

Hunger is a spiritual picture of the awareness of our personal need for knowledge and understanding. In order for us to be righteous we need to have an understanding of what righteous ways are. We long for to know God’s will. The word, the truth, the extension of Himself that clearly shows us life as it truly is, not as the world misrepresents it. Through our study of the word of God, the bread of life; through seeking out shepherds who provide proper nourishment for our level of growth and development, we gain knowledge of the principles that put order to our activity, relieving our longing for spiritual food.

Thirst is a spiritual picture of the awareness of our need for active obedience. In order for us to be righteous we also need to be obedient to the ways we know to be right. The book of Psalms speaks frequently about thirst. I believe David had a very deep awareness of his need for obedience when He wrote in Psalm 119:131, “I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.” I believe that David is keenly aware that it is not the commandment that satisfies his thirst but the obedience to the commandment that brings satisfaction. God was also communicating the truth of this principle when He inspired David to pen the words in Psalm 63:1, “My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for you, in a dry and weary land where there is not water.” This world that we live in is a dry and weary land. There is very little obedience to God’s ways in this world.

In the physical, both food and water are vitally important for life, but our need for water is more urgent than our need for food. We can generally survive 40 days or greater without food but we won’t last more than a week without water. The spiritual truth attached to this physical reality is that knowledge, understanding of truth, belief, or faith that we are not actively obedient to, or in other words, without works is dead, as James so poignantly put it. When we walk in submission to God’s will for our life, according to His word, we are drinking from the “spring of the water of life” (Rev. 21:6) and our life also becomes life giving. Inspiring other toward obedience and thereby “streams of living water (then) flow from (us)” (John 7:37).  Our life then is filled and overflowing.

God, my Father and King, I am thanking you for the wisdom you gave us through your Son, our anointed salvation, who with just 14 words could express volumes to His disciples. Thank you for the words of instruction for full satisfaction of the needs of my soul. That I may live and not die and be life giving to this world. In this world where bitterness is in the mouths of all who revel in sin and shallowness, I am thankful of “How sweet Your words are to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103). I am also thankful for the Godly legacy passed to me from the words of my grandfather. Thank you for the divine arrangement that placed his bible and his words into my hand, mind and heart. I thank you and give you praise for giving those seeds to me, for causing them to grow and blossom. I pray that all these words would work in the lives of all who read them, giving practical application, giving life to the reader and flow waters of life to others around them.

Amen

March 20, 2011

Does God Know What is Everyone’s Heart

Posted in Faithfulness of God tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:17 pm by tclickenger

Gold Key, weighing one kilogram is used to acc...

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That is one of the many questions that a skeptic poses to point out what they believe are contradictions in the bible.  So let’s look at their view-point.  On the one hand, the Word says He does:

Acts 1:24, “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men.”  Psalm 44:21, “He knoweth the secrets of the heart.”  Psalm 139:2-3, “Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising; thou understands my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.”

Then on the other hand they believe His Word says that He doesn’t:

Deuteronomy 8:2, “And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.”  Deuteronomy 13:3, “For the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your soul.”  .2 Chronicles 32:31, “God left him [Hezekiah], to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.”

The simple answer to this question is, yes, He does know everyone’s heart.  If you will notice, the passages that mention “to know” or “to prove” are all attached to a trial.  God “proves” the hearts of His people in the same way we prove a precious metal.

We place the metal over a fire (trial), the metal becomes molten, we find the impurities within the metal, we draw off the impurities and the essence of that which is precious is made more pure.

May we all thank God for the skeptic.  Who poses hard questions that we cannot answer using our own intellect.  And, thank God for the hard and difficult times.  Through both, we must depend on God to give us His wisdom, His understanding, His strength, His endurance and our humility and trust.  Both our faith and His wisdom are made more pure within us and our essence, our character, is made more precious than before.

God Bless you all, Through Christ I can love you all.

March 19, 2010

Faithful to His Word

Posted in Faithfulness of God tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 6:28 am by tclickenger

Amazing Grace

Image by jasohill via Flickr

One of my brothers in faith was describing an experience that he had while he was fallen away from God. My brother, we’ll call him “Allen” and two of his “friends” were drunk one night. At one point in the evening they began singing country music songs. After a while, two of them began singing “Amazing Grace.” One of them left the room because he didn’t want to hear it. Allen and his friend ended the song sobbing like babies, talking about how wrong they were to be living the lives that they were living.

While Allen was telling this story it reminded me of a passage of scripture, Psalm 22:3 “You are Holy, You dwell among the praises of Your people.” While these boys were in their intoxicated state, they began singing praises of God and He showed up, lovingly reminding them of their need to be right with Him.

This is just so wonderful to me. That even when were rolling in the pit of mud of our despair and corruption, God will do what his word says He will do. God will honor his word even when we are not in an honorable condition or are not being honorable to Him. How many men or women of this world can you say that about? God is good all the time.