SALVATION IN ALL ITS FULLNESS

I came that they may have life in all its fullness. [to the full, till it overflows]

John 10:10

cup.overflowing.1What is full salvation? It’s a term we’ve heard in Wesleyan holiness contexts, but not always understood. To answer the question two other questions are helpful. What is the difference between a saved person, one who by faith received Christ’s salvation from sin, and a person who is being saved (Acts 2:47)? Another way to ask is this, “What does fulfillment of salvation look like?” The 1st person is saved from the penalty and gilt of past sin (justification by faith). They become members of a local church and get busy in the life of the faith community.   The 2nd person does the same, but also goes on to being continually saved through the ongoing formation of sanctification by the Spirit. The former (1st) is like being given the whole loaf of bread, but only consuming half. The later (2nd) responds to the grace offered in the fullness of the bread of life, the whole loaf. The former risks a kind of arrested spiritual development falling short of what God fully intends for us. The later leads to a fullness of the spirit (Ephesians 3:19b) characterized by an undivided heart of perfect love in obedience to Christ’s great commandment to love both God and others profoundly (Matthew 22:36-40). The former is the experience of a Christian whose life is one of contentment wading around in the shallow tide pools of initial salvation, while the latter experiences the joys of fully plunging into the deep waters of holiness and sanctified service to the glory of God. The former wrestles with the tensions between diversified self-interest and God’s call to other-oriented, self-giving love, while the later embraces God’s call along with what sacrifices it may cost.

The former expresses gratitude to God for personal salvation and daily blessings. The later expresses joy, thanks, and praise out of a hunger and a thirst satisfied by more of God’s perfect love and passes it back to God and on to others. The former in weakness still struggles with temptations and a discomfort of conscience due to remaining sin and a remaining carnal nature. The later rejoices in a power over temptation and sin in a strength that comes with obedient faith on the high road of holiness. For the former there still is bondage to sin tied to old habits, old, temptations, and old desires. The later rejoices in freedom, for “the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) For the
former, what counts is being saved from sin. For the later, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing it self in love.” (Galatians 5:6). Fulfillment comes from taking in the whole loaf of a full salvation.  loaf-of-bread

Bread for the Journey. Glory to God!

SEEING INTO THE FUTURE

Who can tell the future other than God? Some times we can to a degree. A wise sage once said, “Tell me with whom you spend time and I’ll tell you your future.” The company we keep can well foretell the profound impact others likely will have on our lives and our possible impact on others. Here are two examples:

John Wesley and William Wilberforce

John WesleyWilliam_Wilberforce 1

Often an admired mentor becomes a close friend. Such friendship emerged for a young William Wilberforce with the older John Wesley (JW). Wilberforce (1759–1833) was an English politician, philanthropist, and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. He was spiritually mentored by John Wesley (1703-1791), his senior by forty-two years. At age thirty-two, while visiting Wesley on his deathbed, he was encouraged by Wesley to continue the fight in Parliament he had started. That fight was to abolish slavery throughout England and the United Kingdom. Following JW’s passing, Wilberforce went on for forty-two years to politically mobilize pressure on the British Parliament to change the law. Wilberforce died just three days after hearing that the passage of the Act through Parliament was assured. As a mentor and confidant, Wesley helped his young friend shape the future. He was the company William Wilberforce kept.

Stanley Jones and Martin Luther King

GHANDI & ESJgandhiking

The company we keep can be alive and physically present, but it can also be someone whose writings we read. Martin Luther King (MLK, 1929-1968) was a divinity student at the Boston University in the 1950s. At the time he began reading E. Stanley Jones’ (ESJ, 1884-1973) writings (Christ of the Indian Road, Christ of the American Road, The Word Become Flesh, and other Jones’ books) found in the school of theology library. ESJ was a Methodist missionary to India for fifty five years, throughout most of the twentieth century. He always wrote about Christ. Christ was at the center of his ministry and writing. Jones also wrote extensively about his long time, intimate friend, Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1944). MLK discovered his books on the shelves in the Boston University Theology library and began (indirectly) spending spending time with Gandhi.   The intimacy of ESJ’s friendship with Gandhi and the discipline of writing books had a lasting impact on Martin Luther King. Jones was the literary company MLK kept. As a result, King came to know, appreciate, and emulate the civil disobedience strategies of the Gandhi whom he never actually met.

John Wesley, William Wilberforce, E. Stanley Jones, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King were all influenced by the company they kept and that they became. Through human agency God occasioned a long-standing, redemptive impact on untold millions of others. With whom do we spend our time? Tell me the company we keep, but also the company we become, and together we may see God at work shaping the future.

“Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”   (Philippians 2:4)

TATTOO TESTIMONIES

GOOGLE “PICTURES OF TATTOOS.” UP ON THE SCREEN WILL COME MANY SURPRISING AND DISTURBING IMAGES. ALL SERVE AS PERSONAL TESTIMONIES.

TATTOO SCORPIONWhat’s with tattoos? Everyone seems to have at least one. So far they are the fad of the twenty-first century. There was a time in recent history that only marines, merchant mariners, Tongan warriors, and the Yakuza had tattoos. Now tattoo parlors are everywhere. Young people are not the only ones sporting tattoos. It’s a reality across the age spectrum. Once you get one, it’s easy to get two, then three, and then the right arm, chest and leg. Their artfulness varies from strikingly beautiful to down right ugly, from the sacred and spiritually inspiring to the aberrant and wicked. What’s with all that?

I don’t have a tattoo, but I have questions starting with “why?” Why get a tattoo? What’s the purpose of a tattoo? Does it define us? Is it better to have than not have one? What’s the benefit? What’s the consequence of not having one? With aging, will tattoos loose their shape, become blurred, and lead to guessing what it was meant to say or look like in the first place?

I hold some settled views regarding the purpose of so much ink under the skin. There’s likely a long list of reasons, but regardless, aren’t tattoos a testimony, a proclamation, an attempt to declare a message as personal as the one tattooe? Do they not serve to part the curtain and allow others to peek at one’s values, priorities, hopes, and aspirations, fears, frustrations, and identities.

TATTOO MISSPELLED Inevitably, whether visible or hidden, they’re a conversation starter and often a source of pride (unless misspelled). Tattoos are a testimony.
They testify to what’s important, to the company we keep or want to impress, and with whom we identify. Here’s my biggest question: For a sincere follower of Jesus Christ, so what? Might their tattoo testimony start with their faith and desire to please God? For example, if you could ask every tattooed Christian if their tattoo was inspired by the holy spirit or derived from Christ’s life and teachings such as The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) and his proclamations: Blessed are the pure in heart, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the peacemakers, what would their story turn out to be? Jesus said we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and to let our light shine so others may see our good deeds (read tattoos) and glorify the Father in heaven.

While I don’t plan to get a tattoo, I do plan to connect with people about their tattoo(s). They are terrific conversation starters like “I noticed your tattoo. How long have you had it? Do you have any others? Will you get another one? What do you want it to say about you? Does it have a message for others?” Tattoos are a starting point for meeting others and beginning a reciprocal conversation that can go somewhere special. If you are thinking about getting a visible tattoo, consider it a form of testimony. Could it proclaim something that helps another navigate life? Could one’s tattoos open up a space for sharing Christ to the glory to God?

Life is working in you . . . so that the grace that is reaching more and more people                                      may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.                                                                                 2Corinthians 4:12&15

IN THE SECRET OF GOD’S PRESENCE

 

In the secret of thy presence where the pure in heart may dwell,

Are the springs of sacred service and a power that none can tell.

There my love must bring its offering. There my heart must yield its praise,

And the Lord will come, revealing all the secrets of his ways.

Albert Orsborn (1886-1967) SASB 766

HOLINESS & WILL

From where springs the inspiration of great poets and songwriters? By great I mean inspiration and word crafting that touches us in the depths of our souls, stirs our hearts, and moves us to seek greater intimacy with God. Such is the work of Charles Wesley, Albert Orsborn, and Catherine Baird. In the first verse of this particular piece, Salvation Army General Albert Orsborn captures the Apostle Paul’s prayer (Ephesians 3:16&17) –      “I pray that out of his (God the Father’s) glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” It occurs to me that the inspiration of great poets/songwriters derives from the same source as Paul’s writings, from their prayer life in the dwelling intimacy of in their inner life with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Inspiration comes from taking the time to dwell in the secret, intimate space of God’s presence. It is where the pure in heart find rest, reflection and renewal. Dwelling in his presence is where inspired saints become “participants of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). From that privileged position flows the creative articulation of what is on God’s heart. It is how God as Trinity lets us in on the conversation and does so for the purpose, like Paul, of passing it on to others. In the secret of God’s presence he inspires (breaths into), informs, and stirs our hearts to expire (breath out) the creative words that reveal “all the secrets of his ways.”  Thanks be to God!

Take time to be holy, speak oft with they Lord,

Abide in him always, and feed on his word . . .

 

WATCHING OVER THE ALIEN

The Lord watches over the alien.   –   Psalm 146:9Immigrants USA

In the context of a verbally hostile race for the oval office of the presidency, there’s been much castigation and disparagement of aliens, legal and illegal immigrants to the USA and with a very vigorous, broad brush.  I’ve said this before, but it merits repeating . . .

I believe that all four of my grandparents were illegal aliens. Before you say “YIKES!” . . . let me explain.  I don’t mean to say that they were aliens from outer space like E.T. or the aliens in the Independence Day movie attacking the Whitehouse.  My grandparents were “aliens” from Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland).  As young people, born well before 1900, they migrated down to Boston looking for work and never went back.  They were undocumented.  They didn’t enter the USA legally through Ellis Island’s immigrant screening.  More than likely, they just took the ferry that ran between the Canadian Maritimes and New England, something that happened every day as whole populations moved back and forth across the relatively open border.  Because social security hadn’t been invented yet, they weren’t registered in any data bank other than having a Massachusetts driver’s license.

In many ways my grandparents were forerunners of today’s undocumented immigrants, only they came to the USA in more friendly times.  As undocumented persons of Anglo-saxon heritage they had no problem assimilating into the American culture at that time.  They blended right in.  The color of their skin, their linguistic habits and accents, the food they ate, how they dressed, and their faith commitments did not set them apart nor made others uncomfortable.  As a result they were not subjected to discrimination or oppression.  They needed no acts of mercy, intervention, or missional compassion.  The barriers to their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness were little or none.

ThesIMMIGRANT BOATe thoughts are on my mind, because it seems to me that today we are to living in a time of unprecedented diaspora throughout the world.  Millions globally are migrating great distances, some for political reasons, some to escape economic disaster, and many for the purpose of survival yet at great risk.  Hundreds, and some days even thousands, are literally dying in the process of seeking safety and a better life somewhere else.  To say that it is a difficult time to be an alien is an understatement for millions of people all of whom God loves.

The Bible has something to say to us about aliens:

Exodus 22:20 – Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him.

Psalm 146:9  – The Lord watches over the alien;

Exodus 23:9 – You yourself knows how it feels to be alien.

Colossians 1:21  – Once you were alienated from God.

1 Peter 2:11  –   Now . . . as aliens and strangers in the world, abstain from sinful desires . . . Live such good lives that others, who may accuse you of doing wrong, may see your good deeds and glorify God.

Matthew 5:16 –  Let your light so shine that others see your good works (toward the alien) and glorify your Father in heaven. – parentheses mine.

multicultural 1 diverse faces

Perhaps the most powerful directive for our regard of the alien is the second half of the Great Commandment in Matthew 22:39 – “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is a tough directive.  How do we love persons of other faiths or any neighbors when they are not the enemy, when they are so different they make us uncomfortable, when they don’t love the God we love, when they have ways of living that differ from ours,  and when we suspect that they are residents here in the country illegally? Isn’t it just easier to pray that they just go back to their own country, that they go live somewhere else, or that they somehow just go away?  As persons of Mexican heritage, how do we love our Guatemalan of Salvadoran neighbor?  As persons of Korean heritage, how do we love our Japanese neighbor and visa versa? As Christians of Jewish heritage, how do we love our Palestinian or Syrian neighbour.  The strength and disposition to love is a matter of a “tough mind and a tender heart” (Martin Luther King, 1963).  It is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

God loves the alien, because he loves the world.  Christ gave himself on the cross for the alien also.  He loved us while we were still alien from the Kingdom of God.  The Bible also has something to say about how we love our neighborIf we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another . . . Whoever claims to live in Christ must walk as he walks. . . Whoever loves his brother lives in the light and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness . . . and the darkness blinds him. (1 John 1 & 2, selected verses).

The matter of migration and immigrants in a foreign land is complicated and there are real, major concerns about the “bad apples” in the barrel of any country that receives influxes of immigrants.  Germany right now is a good example given the hundreds of thousands in the last few months immigrating there. God’s disposition regarding aliens is clear and it is not optional.  We are to love our neighbor, all of them.  We are to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8) who loves all aliens.

O God, we embrace your words. They are ours to live by: Blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit.  By your grace and Spirit strengthen us to be more than a blessing to aliens in our midsts.  Make us servants in your likeness that some will come to faith in you because of our love for them.  This we earnestly pray in your name, our Lord and Savior who loves the alien.  Amen.

CORNELIUS, PETER, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT: GRACE & RESPONSE

CORNELIUS AND PETER 1God’s grace and our response is the overarching, relational pattern of life we see throughout the narrative of the Bible. We see this in both the Old and New Testaments. When God’s grace is given, it calls for our active response. God anticipates our engagement. When we follow through and engage his grace it is then that God’s intended blessing upon us and on others is realized.

Take a look at just one example. We see God’s grace and engagement in the story of Peter and Cornelius (Acts, chapter 10). Luke, the writer, devotes an entire chapter to the narrative. Keep in mind the pattern, grace and response. Cornelius, a Roman centurion, was a devout, God fearing believer in the Hebrew God. The same was true of his all his family.   He was a man of prayer and kindness to the poor. God sent an angel to him with a message. Cornelius was told to send men to Joppa, to a house where Peter was staying, and to have them bring back Peter. This was not a casual walk across town. Cornelius’ military posting was in Caesarea several miles from Joppa. Cornelius was obedient in responding to God’s directive and sent his men with a message to Peter.

In Joppa, Peter was taking a mid-day nap and had a dream. God’s used the dream to prepare Peter to go out of his comfort zone and break the Hebrew law regarding what was unclean and impure. God’s voice came to Peter three times in a dream saying, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” When Peter awoke and began wondering what the dream was all about, he received his answer. The servants arrived. Peter said to them, “I am the one you are looking for.” They gave the message to Peter, and before they left for the journey Peter invited them into the house to be his guest. By Hebrew law, such hospitality to gentiles was forbidden. It brought about impurity since such close contact with gentiles was unclean.

The next day they departed for Caesarea. When they arrived Cornelius told the story of his faith in God and how God told him to send for Peter. Cornelius invited Peter to tell him and his household (family and servants) about Jesus. But before Peter could finish his story, the Holy Spirit came upon all who heard the message. The gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles. What happened? God’s grace brought Cornelius and Peter together. They both responded with obedience to the two separate ways God spoke to them and the result was that Cornelius and his whole household (family and servants) were saved and filled with the fullness of God. Moreover, Peter learned a big lesson: God’s grace and gift of the Holy Spirit is not only meant for the Jews, but for all, Jew and Gentile.

When followed in obedience, God’s grace and direction always leads to more grace and blessing.  Thanks be to God!

THE WHOLE LOAF

 

loaf-of-breadWhen Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” he meant the whole loaf, not just half of one. Today the body of Christ in America looks more and more like half a loaf.

Here’s why . . .

The Barna Group is a market research firm specializing in the study of religious beliefs and behavior of Americans.  In 2011, they completed a study of 15,000 Americans that brings to light one of the most compelling pictures of contemporary Christianity beyond what one might imagine.   Their results are so astonishing, we have to ask, “What happened to the whole gospel?”

The Barna Group researchers clustered their findings along a continuum of ten groups or what they call “Ten Transformational Stops” along the journey with the percentage of the national sample that falls into each of the ten stops or categories.  The ten categories and their percentages include:

  1. Unaware of sin                                   1%
  2. Indifferent to sin                             16%
  3. Worried about sin                            39%
  4. Forgiven for sin                                   9%
  5. Involved in faith activities             24%

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –                                                                              —–

  1. Holy discontent                                    6%
  2. Broken by God3%
  3. Surrender and submission                 1%
  4. Profound love of God                           0.5%
  5. Profound love of people                      0.5%

Notice how the major activity falls between categories 3 through 5. At stop 5, the church is only half a loaf.   After 5, the percentages drop precipitously.  Another way to say this is that 89% of the persons surveyed are accounted for in the first five “stops” (1-5) and only 11% go on to be represented in one of the upper 5 categories (6-10).

The movement beyond step 5 and onward to 10 reflects spiritual progress toward spiritual formation, maturity, holiness, and empowered service to the glory of God.  Christians having been justified by grace through faith seem to stop there and get busy in religious activities with little to show beyond that.  It is a kind of bus stop religion:  get saved, wait around for the glory bus to heaven, and in the mean time do a little good.  As you can see steps 3 to 5 seem to be saying “You’re a sinner.  You need a Savior. Pray this prayer and you’re good to go.  Now get busy in the activities of the church.”(J.D. Walt, 2015)*

bread of life 13The overwhelming majority of American Christians are living out only a half gospel.  It
would seem that for many the work of evangelism only brings people to a redemptive point of salvation from sin and fails to take them any further other than keeping them busy in religious activities.  The data shouts that very few go on to do serious discipleship work of restoration to the Imago Dei and holiness.  It is no surprise that the majority Christians remain immature, babes in Christ, drifting either into a state of being nominal Christians, or of a dissipation of their faith, or both.  The alternative is to embrace forms of evangelism that continue to establish people in the Kingdom, and to facilitate an intentional life of discipleship leading to holiness, purity of heart, and fidelity to the Great Commandment and Great Commission.

The faith communities that identify with the saving work from sin offered by Jesus Christ need to get on with the second half of salvation, salvation to the restoration of the Image of God in every believer, holiness after the likeness of Christ. May the findings of the Barna Group become so well known and compelling that they fan the flames of passion for a Great Awakening.  We are over due for a national repentance by Christians who are leading lives that fall short of God’s best and the sanctifying and glorifying grace that God intends for all who confess that Jesus is Lord.

*J.D. Walt, “The Whole Gospel:  Getting on with the second half of salvation,”
Seedbed Sower’s Almanac and Seed Catalog, 2015.

QUIET AND CONFIDENT

confidence lion

What is it about quiet guys that girls find attractive?  Is it because in a quiet way they seem to have a hidden strength?  I confess in college my wife liked me in part because I was quiet.  Quietness left room for mystery.  In reality, I was just shy, but hey, it worked in my favor.  Quietness is often paired with confidence, an inward appearance of assurance and poise.  It infers an inward strength.  It may be assumed because in real life it is often true.  We find attractive the person who is strong and needs not to be loud about it. In times of difficulty and distress there is a calm demeanor.  He or she has a peace that others notice. God says through the prophet Isaiah, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”  (Isaiah 30:15) The Apostle Peter says in the hidden person of the heart there is “an incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:4).

I find that quiet people are often more approachable.  Perhaps they appear to be good listeners.  They have the potential of a quiet ministry that Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the ministry of biting the tongue.  They are not proclaimers.  They have no soapbox issues to announce.  They are reflective and slow to speak.  I remember often seeing effectiveness of the chairman of the Dept. of Psychology at Arizona State University in meetings of a community agency board of directors.  He was quiet, pensive, and not saying much the whole meeting.  But, often toward the end of the meetings he would speak up to quietly offer just the right wisdom to untie the Gordian knot problem with which the board had been wrestling.  His stock on the board was high.  He quietly achieved high respect and the confidence of others.

There is much in the Bible to support the idea of quietness and confidence.  God says to Joshua “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not leave you nor forsake you. . .  Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5,6&9) The ApostlePaul, after encouraging the Ephesians to do the will of God from the heart as to the Lord and not to men, then says, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.”  (Eph. 6:10)  Jesus in giving his disciples his Great Commission says,  “All authority has been given me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples . . . and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

As I get older, it is easier to relax, enjoy the meditating benefits of quietness and reflect on the truth that God’s promises are real and reliable.  He is absolutely faithful.   His grace in the past and the present occasions confidence and faith in the future. To paraphrase Paul’s words to the Philippians (4:6&7), we need not be anxious for nothing, but in everything by quiet prayer and confidence, and with supplication and thanksgiving, we may let our requests be made quietly known to God; and the gentle peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will give us confidence in Him and guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Thanks be to God!

In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS AND HOLINESS

Jonathan Raymond photo 3

What does rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have to do with holiness? RA is an auto-immune disease that we inflict on ourselves over time. It is occasioned by sustained high levels of inflammation due largely to diet and stress. I have RA: stage four, severe. I first became aware of it nearly six years ago. I didn’t know I had RA, but I knew I had a problem. My finger and wrist joints were hot and puffy with increasing discomfort. The doctor (GP) referred me to the specialist, a rheumatologist. Blood tests confirmed it. I had RA. I asked if it could be healed. The answer: “No.” Could it be arrested? Again, “No.” Slowed down? “Maybe.” Well then, what’s the long-range prognosis? He said, “You will be in pain everywhere, all the time.” That was grim! It didn’t take long for the prognosis to come true. Within two years I was in pain in every joint of my body all the time and functionally crippled. The alternative care of a naturopathic physician helped to a degree, but I remained in decline. I retired from my forty year career and returned to the States.

With time life got better. I had earlier obtained a second opinion and treatment plan from a world-class rheumatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Eventually I connected with a first rate rheumatologist at the Lexington (Ky) Clinic with a similar plan.  Under his care for the past two years, I am now nearly without pain, highly mobile, active, and blessed. The prayers of friends have been an important part of a rather remarkable recovery. However, continuing health and wellness is contingent on obedience. I’ve got to be obedient to the medical treatment and take my meds on schedule. I must avoid particular foods that set off inflammation (gluten and cow dairy food products and sugar in the form of carbohydrates and in pure form). Inflammation is the culprit. It is where the RA began and built up over years of a high sugar, high carb diet, and a high stress occupation.

When I disobey my medical and dietary requirements, I get in trouble. Pain jumps up and bites. That’s where RA and holiness connect, around the idea of obedience and wellbeing. When I go off my routine of being in the Word, prayer, fellowship with other believers, worship, loving others in practical ways, and other means of remaining in the presence of God, I struggle with my faith. I am vulnerable to temptation. My faith begins to dissipate. I become self-centered, narcissistic, and not much fun to be with. When faithful to what is physically and spiritually required, I thrive. I experience an amazing quality of life.

Jesus said, “I have come that you might have abundant life.” (John 10:10) He also said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5) So, an abundant life is contingent on disciplined obedience, doing what is required and necessary for health, wholeness, and holiness. The way of holiness is God’s abundant life intended for every believer. It is life in his presence and filled by his presence. It is the fruit of the Spirit in the likeness of Christ, the restoration to his likeness. Jesus also said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15). Holiness is a matter not only of discipline, but of devotion in love of God, neighbor and self. Thanks be to God for grace, his amazing grace both full and free!

REST UNDER GOD’S TENT

tent

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassing great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. I pleaded three times with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

The Apostle Paul had much to boast about. He had a remarkable life of privilege and achievement. He was highly educated, a citizen of Rome, and an acknowledged leader. He had an abundance of reasons have a high opinion of himself, to be conceited, puffed up and full of self-admiration. Still his apparent success was in the face of tremendous challenges and opposition. If there were someone in his time that could tell a good story and brag about himself, it was Paul.   His life was so amazing that he had detractors, enemies, people who were jealous of him, hated him, and worked hard to pull him down. But God was at work shaping him into the likeness of Christ. And for his part, Paul remained open to the refining work of the Holy Spirit.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 we see the value of human weakness. It is a platform for divine strength and testimony. Glory to God! He  was more interested in Paul’s holiness than Paul’s comfort. Here Paul’s constant pain, his “thorn in the flesh” was necessary to protect him from pride. Paul’s testimony (v. 9) is this, “But he (God) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

 Focus on a word we might otherwise pass right over, “. . . so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” The little word rest is huge. In the original Greek, the word used is episkenose meaning to dwell. When the Bible uses the word, it conveys something more earthy.  It means “pitch his tent.” In other words, Paul says he will boast of his weakness more and more so that he may take strength by living where Christ pitches his tent, or to live under the cover of God’s tent. Read Psalm 91:1-2 & 9&10.

Paul knows that wherever he goes, in the context of his weaknesses, he can be transparent and take strength from the fact that he rests where God has pitched his tent. There he is under God’s cover in the intimacy of his presence. The good news is that we may rest there too. Thanks be to God!