The Bible is a never ending source of surprise. I have read the following parable often and as many times as I have heard messages preached based upon this passage, I have come to a new understanding over the past four or five days.
Take a few moments and read this parable again for yourself:
The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold some sixty, some thirty.
I had always understood these verses in the context of someone newly come to the Lord, someone like myself or in the sense of someone reaching for those who do not know God. When I preach or teach at the jail, the Word that I spread falls upon different types of ground. Some of the ground is suitable for growth and bearing fruit and ultimate harvest, but some is not. That is just the way of it. This parable gives comfort and encouragement to me. Not that I can't improve my method of reaching people or anything like that, but Jesus Himself is speaking these words to us that some of the soil that even presumably He broadcast seed upon was not suitable for further growth. All we can do is to continue to broadcast seed and pray for it to fall upon good ground.
That surely is an important truth, but over the past several days my mind has returned again and again to these words and another thought has come to me. It is not only for the casting of seed into a new field that these words are referring to. Every farmer of every crop contends with these same issues year after year in all his fields.
We live near to an apple and fruit growing area. Just north of here is a large region of apple, peach, cherry and nectarine orchards. It is a beautiful area to drive through in the springtime for the scent and view of the flowers or we have wonderful times in the fall picking our own fruit and enjoying the autumn palatte of colors on the trees. You can tell great differences between orchards that are well cared for, carefully tended, and ones that are neglected. In a greatly productive orchard the ways between the trees will be free of weeds. The trees will be well pruned, all the dead unproductive branches will be cut off and carried away. In a neglected orchard, the aisles between the rows of trees will be choked with weeds, volunteer trees, and brambles. . . dead limbs will litter the ground harboring many insects and other vermin that will injure the trees and thereby prevent a good harvest.
The only difference between the two types of orchard, is in the well kept orchard there was a continuing effort to keep the trees well tended and productive. If that farmer lets down his vigilance, it is only a short time before a tidy and well cared for orchard turns into a mass of weeds and dead wood. In the best tended fields, rocks continue to periodically come to the surface and need to be removed. Only a few seasons of forgetting to remove the weeds separate a well tended productive field, from one in which nothing of value will grow.
The problem of providing good soil for the seed to grow in, is a life long concern. The seed of God's Word needs to be continually planted and sprouting within us. It must not be planted only once and left never to be harvested and replanted again. One day, each of us who are in church, had good ground within us. We had a place for the Word of God to sprout and flourish, but that is no assurance that weeds will not creep in. There can be no loss of vigilance in the guarding of our good soil. There is no assurance that rocks will not come to the surface and need to be carted away. The act of harvest itself compacts the soil of a field, which must again be prepared, softened, and broken up before the planting of new seed again in the spring. Rocks of hardness arise within us that prevent the water and nutrients from sinking into the earth. Rocks damage the plow and confound the combine. . .
Hardness is never a suitable bed for seed. Have we seen it all before? Have we lost our innocence and wonder? Have we become cynics and skeptics? Are our eyes better at discerning failure than victory? That is hardness that must be broken up for us to regain our productiveness. These are not issues for someone newly come into church. In a quiet season, we all must honestly inspect our fields. Rock removal is never an easy task, but it must be done. . .
The end of an old year and the very beginning of a new year is a good time for fasting, prayer, and contemplation as our pastor has called for. It can be a wonderful time of reflection and inventory taking. What is the state of the patch of ground within us? Are there weeds or rocks or hard places within us?
Lord let me see my fields the way You see them. . .
Monday, December 31, 2007
The Bible is a never ending source of surprise. I have read the following parable often and as many times as I have heard messages preached based upon this passage, I have come to a new understanding over the past four or five days.
Posted by David Stokely at 9:30 AM
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Jackie, Kim, and I finished baking and decorating cookies somewhere around 3:30-4:00 a.m. this morning so I did not get up early and write a Christmas message until now. We have a large crowd, close to twenty coming over around 2:30 for a meal and gift opening, but if nothing further happened this would be one of the finest Christmases in memory.We made the rounds last night dropping off gifts and cookies to various friends and relatives. We went to see my Mom in Elkhart General Hospital, dropped off her present and more cookies at the nurses station there. Everyplace we went we had just a wonderful time.
We can endlessly debate and I'm sure most of us know people who refuse to celebrate Christmas due to its uncertainty of being on the correct day and on its uncertain origins. That is all very valid. We do not know for sure that Jesus was born on December 25th. It would seem likely that the date of his birth was known for certain by at least his mother. We are assured that she survived him. She was mentioned as being at the foot of the cross with the disciple John and furthermore it would seem likely that Jesus being who he was would have inspired people to celebrate his birth right from the start. It is difficult for me to understand, knowing the continuity of belief for Jesus life, straight up from the start of His ministry until this very day almost 2000 years later, how people could have been celebrating his birth on say on one day and then to have someone change the date to another, but I suppose it could happen.
The one thing that we cannot argue, is that His birth did occur and regardless of the exact day it occurred upon we give honor to Him on this day. There are lots of things wrong with how we do it. There are lots of things wrong with how we do almost everything, but that should not cause us to feel guilty for our celebration on this day. Our family reads the Christmas story in Luke from the Bible before opening gifts. We pray, standing together holding hands before our meal, giving thanks. For some that may be the most time spent in devotion to God all the year long, but it is time spent in devotion to God nonetheless!
I think we do our selves, our families, our collective world culture a great disservice if we abandon the field and give the celebration over to those who dance around the pagan trees in happiness at the winter solstice or to St. Nicholas and his American Express bevy of little elves. Christ was born on a day and we celebrate God giving us this unsurpassably precious gift. We celebrate His taking on flesh and coming to us and placing Himself in the body of an infant in a birth that changed both men and the entire universe forever more. . . We should endeavor on this day and indeed on every day to share our gifts and share the fruit of our O most holy relationship with the King of Kings. . . . We shout it on the rooftops. . . . We share the gladness with everyone we meet. . .
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Thank you Lord for everything You've done. . .
Merry Christmas Everyone!!!
Monday, December 24, 2007
My name is Dave. . . I am a slow driver. . . That is the way I feel sometimes. It is as if I have the problem. To many, I need to first admit my problem and then work on solving it. Some look upon my driving habits as humorous. Really I take no offense at all, I in fact contribute to the gentle humor talking in jest about how many hours it takes me to get from Bristol to Elkhart (a distance of maybe 10 miles), but also to many I am a menace on the road. My way of driving to them is unacceptable. You see I am called a slow driver, for I drive the speed limit, not five miles over or seven miles over or even two miles over the posted limit. I drive exactly at or very very slightly below the posted speed limit.
If I am on a 25 mile long stretch of one lane, in a construction zone on the interstate and the signs say 45 m.p.h. is the speed limit, I drive 45 or maybe 44.5 m.p.h. Sorry, I am not particularly worried if I have 15 miles of traffic backed up behind me. I drive the posted speed limit. I have pulled over and let people go around me. It is not my purpose to aggravate people. I know that I am the subject of anger, cursing, ridicule. . . lots of things, but in spite of that I drive the speed limit.
I come from a line of speed limit drivers, at least two generations. . . :) My father receives my writing in these emails. I don't know if he reads many of them. He and I presently have very different views on religion, etc, and many of my writings are probably quite annoying to him. I don't get much feedback from him. Maybe he's given up on reading anything that I write. I don't know, but anyway. . . one of my childhood memories is of getting a race car set for Christmas, I think that they were little slot cars. I think I was six years old or maybe seven. I remember he and I racing these little cars. Our race was to see who could go around the track the most slowly. I'm sure many of you are laughing at that thought.
We Stokelys are not at all dismayed at many times not doing things necessarily the way that everyone else does them. Those of you who attend church with me will probably not find it surprising, that I never let it bother me to be the only one doing something a particular way. I worship my way and for the most part, I try not to be effected by, or maybe I should better say, that I choose not to allow the opinions of others effect the way that I worship.
I remember the neighbors who lived across the street to the west from where I grew up as a child on 'A' Court northwest of Elkhart. It was my best friend's house. I remember my best friend's mother bragging. Actually, I think this was a conversation retold by my my mom around the supper table, but it was related that my best friend's mom had said that their family had driven to Warren Dunes State park in Michigan (I cannot remember the exact number, but from my Google Map route of it above I see that it's normally about an hour drive) I think she bragged that they had made it in 45 minutes or something. This was the early to mid sixties, before the 4 lane U.S. 31 bypass, etc. I remember my mother relating that my best friend's mom had said that they had gone (some big number) say 60 m.p.h. the entire way. Well the following week or so, I remember our family going to Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes and I remember my father telling my mother with a uniquely Stokelyish sense of pride, that we hadn't exceeded (again I cannot remember the exact number), say 35 m.p.h. the entire way there and back.
According to my father, anyone can press the controls of the slot car down and push them to go as fast as you can. It is equally as challenging and demanding to go slowly as it is to go fast. That is my battle. It is my temptation to drive fast in the car. I am not fearful of going fast. It is not my desire to be as annoying as possible to others by driving the speed limit. My driving the way I do, takes three different levels of meaning or three different aspects.
First, this is my philosophy, it is a speed limit. It is not a speed suggestion. It is not a speed recommendation. I am an engineer. On engineering drawings that I create, to have meaning every dimension has either an explicit or an implied tolerance. If a manufacturing drawing says that something is to be six inches long there will either be an explicit tolerance with the dimension such as: 6.000±.010 or 6.010-5.990. These give the allowable ranges of the part being manufactured. If the drawing just says: 6.00 for a particular length then there must either be an implied tolerance for a dimensions with two zeroes past the decimal place or the dimension is meaningless. At Speedgrip (where I work) for example: two place decimal dimensions have an implied tolerance of ±.010. We have no implied tolerance for three place decimals. We do not allow them on our drawings. They have no meaning for our manufacturing people. If they are there, they are for reference only.
The number on a speed limit sign has no implied tolerance. It's not 55 ±10 m.p.h. and it is not merely for reference. If the sign says 50 m.p.h. is the speed limit, it means that 50 m.p.h. is the upper limit, no tolerance, that is the limit. Now people will say, but the police will give you 5 m.p.h. over the limit. I'm sorry, but the police have no authority to give you anything of the sort. The police do not make the laws. The police do not set the speed limits. The police are there merely to enforce the posted speed limits. They do not make the laws, but they are as happy as anything to have everyone drive 5 m.p.h. over the posted limit. Why? You see that gives them the right, the power to stop everyone on the road who exceeds that limit. That 5 m.p.h. is their justification to turn on their lights, pull you over, question you, search your car. . . basically anything they want to do. You have put yourself under their power by breaking the law. The police must first view some infraction that you have committed before they can stop you in your travels. They must have some just cause, a probable cause is the term used, to stop you and that minor violation of the speed limit provides all the justification that they need to pull you over. The police are then totally within their rights to pull you over for going 1 m.p.h. over the posted speed limit. You have no recourse, no complaint. You were violating the law and it is their right to apprehend you when you violate the law.
This is the first of the reasons for strictly obeying the posted speed limit. I am either under the power of the law or I place myself under the power of the police. I choose to remain beyond the power of the police by strictly obeying the law.
The second of my reasons for driving the way that I do is one of discipline. As I stated before, it is my temptation to drive faster than the posted limit. It is easier to drive the same speed as everyone else around me and that is my temptation, but if I cannot control myself in this little thing, what hope do I have as successfully disciplining myself in larger more meaningful issues? For me, this is a spiritual issue. It is spiritual discipline. It is the controlling of my flesh by my spirit. It is so tempting when I leave a little late for work or church or some appointment to drive faster to get there more quickly, but to me that is compounding the first problem of not being ready and leaving on time with another problem of breaking the law to make up for my leaving late. It was within my power to plan ahead and to leave with sufficient time to get there without speeding.
That kind of action/reaction leads to double trouble. I don't do the right thing to begin with so I commit another error to try and make up for the first. I take Bibles to men and women at the jail every week who allowed one action to lead them into further trouble by somehow trying to hide or correct for the first problem with an even more serious second violation. You spend too much money on drugs or gambling or what ever and you steal a little money from the cash register at work to compensate for the first problem you had. If you follow that path you get deeper and deeper into trouble. So for me it's a matter of discipline. I'm making a conscious decision to discipline myself. I am going to control my behaviour and adhere to a way that is not the easiest way regardless of how much I might want to do otherwise.
The Bible says a couple of places where I am to submit to those in authority over me (Titus 3:1, Hebrews 13:17). I don't read where it puts any kind of limit on it. It doesn't say for me to obey those rules I find convenient or that I agree with. As I read this I am to obey the rules of the land and to me that includes speed limits. I'm surely not saying that you are going to hell if you drive 62 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. zone, but the Bible says to obey civil authority and so that is what I do.
My third reason for driving the way that I do is that I see it as a little mirror of my philosophy of life. I like the sign or bumper sticker I've seen: Right is right, even if no one is doing it. Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. The way I look at it there are two ways of living life. You either live life trying to get away with as much as you can or you can live life trying to be as righteous as you can. I don't see any middle ground. Can you get away with driving faster than the speed limit? Absolutely! Yes you can. There are lots of things that you can get away with that are not the right things to do. Where do you draw your line in the sand?
I was speaking with a fellow in the jail a few weeks ago. I was surprised to see him there again. He told me, "It's no big deal. I'm not here on any serious charge. . ." OK, I'm sorry, but in my life to be in jail for any reason is a big deal. He has drawn a line in his life that since it's not a big felony charge that will get him sent down state for years. . . so it's no big deal that he's in jail. He's drawn a line in the sand in his life, he has accepted things in his life that are way way way beyond anything that I can imagine for my life. As he said. . . It's no big thing. . .
Where do you draw the line in your life? Where do you take your authority from? What if the police, the ones who enforce the laws, would 'allow' 10 or 15 or 25 or even 50 m.p.h. over the speed limit. Would you then drive that fast? If you could get away with it, would you????. . . When the speed limit on the U.S. 20 bypass was 55, people drove 60-65. Now the speed limit has been raised to 65 and most people drive 70-75. Where does it end? What if the pastor would say that looking at Playboy magazine was OK? What if the pastor would say that divorces were allowable? How about drinking? The cutting of women's hair or the wearing of jewelry or tattoos or. . . you name it. . . would you do those things if the pastor said it was OK? What if everyone was doing it? Where do the limits in your life come from? It is from the police? Is it from the pastor? How about from the laws of the land? Is that how the limits on your life are set? Abortion is legal. Gambling is legal. Pornography is legal. Drinking is legal. Homosexuality is legal. Where do you take your authority from? How do you chose what is allowed or disallowed in your life? How do you set your limits? Can you get away with it? Is everyone else doing it?
Everyone is doing it. . . why not me too? I'm just keeping up with the traffic. I hear this all the time, that you must drive faster than the limit in order to keep up with traffic. It is in some mysterious manner unsafe to drive the speed limit. Please forgive me but that is utter hogwash. I have driven in large cities all over this country and other countries, in all kinds of conditions, in all types of heavy big city traffic and I drive the posted speed limit. I've never had anyone run me over. I've never had problems of any kind. I do not have close calls. I do not just barely avoid accidents. I've never had a traffic ticket. I've never been in any accident while I was driving. It is a myth that it is unsafe to drive the speed limit. It is the easiest thing in the world. I just drive the speed limit and there are no problems. I don't base my decisions on what everyone else is doing. I don't worry about what I can get away with. I look at the sign on the side of the road and I set my speed.
Am I being a Pharisee? I do not believe that this will get me into heaven. I surely am not better than anyone else or more righteous than anyone else, but this is a decision I have made, this is a discipline that I have for my life. The Pharisee's would not violate the rules for any reason. They would not help someone in need on the Sabbath. The rule was everything. If I'm driving someone to the hospital who is in a crisis, I will speed. The rule is not everything, but it is also not completely unimportant. . .
Please I don't mind. . . I will continue to laugh along with others at my driving. I even contribute to people's mirth with tales of how long it takes me to get places, but it goes deeper than that. . .
I love you God.
Thank you Lord!
I love you all. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 6:54 AM
Saturday, December 15, 2007
This manner of greeting may well have you looking over your shoulder to see to whom I am referring to or did you open someone else's correspondence by mistake, but I am addressing you. I do not know your face or name. I only know your heart. I know your heart and I love you beyond your present ability to understand. I care for you. My eyes fill with tears for you. My heart breaks. I know that you do not understand.
This letter of my writing tonight, to an addressee unknown may cross years or decades, but I know that it will be delivered and read. I know that it will touch your heart. I know that reading this will be a turning point in your life.
God is talking directly to you from these yellowed pages. I know that you do not believe. Neither did I believe. I was a fool. I beg. . . I pray for you to not be a fool a day longer. I had all the arguments. I was so very certain. I knew that there was no God right until my eyes were opened and I saw Him for myself.
I know that there is an emptiness inside of you. Questions of purpose and worth abound. . . unease simmers within you never very far below the surface. Many of your past actions you would like to cover up and forget. . . somehow giving a lie to the damning worldly philosophy that men are basically good at heart.
You like to pride yourself on the good things that you do. In some small way they purchase a covering for the things of shame that you have done, but they are mere covering. If you put them in a balance the good is completely outweighed by the bad. Stack the good and happiness and joy that has resulted from your deeds against the pain, betrayal, heartache, broken promises, and deceit of your actions. Strip away the mythology of your memories and shine the harsh light of truth on your past. See how uncomfortable you become. It is painful to even think about, but better to face now than later when all hope and time for redress is past.
If you are honest with yourself, you do not have a clue as to life's purpose or how it is to be lived. You go through the motions each day, considering it a success if no great disaster befalls you. This is not living a life of victory, maybe at best a truce. . .and yet in some ways each day lived like this is one step closer to the grave where the time for decisions is past and all questions are answered, however rudely.
Every drop of water in a great river thinks itself free to do and go where ever it likes, but all water in the river ends up in the same destination. So it is for the great mass of unsaved humanity. All thinking themselves masters of their own lives, celebrating their independence as they flow along to the lowest possible level.
The questions, uncertainty, and fear can so easily be replaced by unshakable peace and joy. It is a decision within your power to make, but until this point hidden from your eyes.
You think that you know of religion and God, but your ideas are a severe distortion of the truth. You look upon it from the outside and all you see are restrictions on your cherished independence and supposed freedom, but again that is an illusion. Going back to my little metaphor of the drops of water in a river, by doing as you desire, by being carried along by the morality of the world you are being carried along with the world, to a destination not of your choosing, a destination that you cannot foresee.
Your objection to religion is based upon and focused upon the rules. They are distasteful to you in the extreme. That is all that you can see, but that is not religion as God intended it.
In the beginning we had a face to face relationship with God. He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. We can only imagine the intimacy that must have been between them, but due to their sin God had to remove Himself from their presence and they had to leave His perfect garden.
Years later God again attempted to build a relationship directly with men, but the Hebrew people rejected God directly speaking to them. The people requested that God go through an intermediary, an intercessor rather than for His speaking directly to Him. They were so convicted of their vulnerability in His presence. They could not tolerate hearing God or talking with Him face to face. They rejected the face to face relationship. They opted for the rules and rejected the Rule-maker.
This is the religion of the Old Testament. Unfortunately many do not understand the reason for Jesus. Virtually all non-religious people and sadly a good number of those who think themselves very religious do not understand or accept the new agreement between God and man, that Jesus brought to us.
Men are not able to stand in the unfiltered presence of God. All men fall to their faces in His presence. The ancient Hebrews could not tolerate it and neither could we.
That is what Jesus has done for us. He was fully a man as you and I are. He suffered temptations the very same as you and I do and yet He is also God robed in flesh. With this flesh God covered the terrible, unbearable brilliant light of His Spirit that no man could endure. This now allows us to stand in His presence in spite of our sinful natures and again walk with Him and talk with Him. This flesh that He put on as Jesus makes it possible for us as individuals to come to know Him in a very real and personal way.
No longer do we need another man (like Moses for the ancient Hebrews) to intercede for us and to thereby transmit the desires of God to us, filtered through another without the relationship with Him. Moses was only able to pass the rules along to the people. He could not pass the relationship along to them. That is the religion of the Old Testament.
Now through Jesus, God is personally available to each man. God wants a relationship with you. Religion is not about a baffling myriad of restrictive rules. It is about a relationship with God.
Do you understand the difference of this perspective? As an unattached single person, marriage is looked upon as a restriction of freedom. There are certain things that you cannot do as a person in a committed relationship that you can do as an unattached person. Certain ways of behaviour are not acceptable. Certain places are now off limits when you enter into a relationship with someone.
You will often hear of young men talking of never getting married due to all the things that they would no longer be able to do. When married you cannot spend all your time with your friends going where ever you want. You cannot spend all your money on entertainment and toys.
But. . . but. . . but. . . most young men eventually change. They meet someone and the same changes in behaviour, the same restrictions in what you can and cannot do are expected, but now it is for a relationship that these changes are taking place.
The relationship comes first. The overwhelming love comes first and the old ways of behaving are gladly given up for love. They are no longer viewed as restrictions. You no longer want to do those things. Your relationship with your love is the most important priority for you. The changes that take place within you are not imposed from without, they naturally fall away. Your old ways voluntarily discarded for the sake of your relationship.
This is exactly the same as coming to God in the religion of the New Testament. Before we know Jesus all we see are the rules and restrictions upon our freedom. This is exactly like a young man's opinion of marriage. But if we open ourselves up to Him, if we allow Him to come into us and sup with us and we with Him, if we put aside for a time our fear of giving up our supposed independence and illusion of freedom without Him, if we allow Him to fully love us in the way that He desires we will find that His love for us and our love for Him out weigh every other consideration.
If we fully enter into an intimate relationship and loving relationship with Jesus our hearts desire is to make Him happy. Our unhappiness stems not from any restrictions placed upon our behaviour, but our dissatisfaction and dismay arise from what we perceive as our glacially slow rate of change into what He desires for us.
We still struggle with doing the things we should do and not doing the things that we shouldn't. Our flesh has appetites that will never be completely conquered as long as it still lives, but our focus is not upon the rules that we must follow. We are now more concerned with His reaction to our not following His desires for us.
When I do something that I know that Jesus finds displeasing, I have an image in my mind of my turning around and spitting in His face. When I do that which I shouldn't, my disobedience is also surely disrespect to Him. I see my spit of disrespect mingle with His tears of sorrow and pain as He watches any ungodly act that I may commit.
All I can then do is quietly weep. In my shame and embarrassment, I then ask for the forgiveness which He so readily gives and continue upon my path. I am hoping and praying to draw closer and closer to what He wants me to be.
This is the essence of what it means to be a person trying to live for God. I hesitate to use the word Christian, for some believe that to be a Christian means to be Christlike and that in truth I can never be. I am not and never will be very Christlike. That is a goal, but to think that I actually am would be a source of pride and trouble.
You have seen many who call themselves by His name and somehow presume to have drawn closer to Him than the rest of humanity through their following of rules. Theirs is not a path of humility and meekness, but one of pride and arrogance. The damage that they have done in the name of the kingdom is incalculable. For decades I mistook these fools as true representatives of Him, when in fact Jesus spent a large part of His ministry rebuking the self-righteous rule-followers and rule-makers of that day.
How do I describe for you the wonderful peace and joy of my relationship with God? He loves me beyond any human imagination. He endured my years and years of rejection of Him with no hint of holding any grudge or hardness of His heart. He is patient and understanding. He is always there, never impatient, in a bad mood or too busy for me. He protects me and leads me. He loves me and shows His love for me in countless ways. He talks to me. Sometimes He uses words, other times the flight of a bird, a flower, a cloud or a sunset.
As I write, this very moment the sun shines through my clear pen spreading a rainbow across the words of this notebook page. . . now it is gone and try as I might I cannot on my own efforts duplicate that effect. I turn my pen this way and that. It is gone. Whatever combination of angle and light that came together for a brief moment as I write, by the sunny window, of God's love and speaking to me in various ways, was only for a moment. . . small things like that happen all the day long. Coincidence you say? Over and over again at exactly the right time, these things happen. I write of His love and speaking to me and a spectrum of colors. . . the colors of His promise to Noah wash across the words of my writing.
My life is changed completely. My marriage is so so much improved with Jackie and I both trying to live for God.
Just one small example of many: I used to fret and chafe at periods of waiting. . . a long slow train in the car, a slow line at the grocery store, an hour in the waiting room at the doctor's office. . .I now relish these times of quiet and idleness. I pray. I talk to Him. I worship. I meditate on Scriptures. In just this one example, in a very fundamental way, my having a relationship with God has turned a daily occurrence from being a time of tension and frustration into one of peace and contemplation.
Never again am I powerless or swept away by events that I cannot control. In every situation no matter how mundane or dire the circumstance I have a direct connection to my God, to my Father in heaven, the One who both created and controls everything.
Not long ago I felt buffeted about by circumstances at my job. I was upset and frustrated by events that I had no control over. Have you ever been in a state like this? The realization suddenly dawned upon me that my job is not the source of my happiness. It is not the source of my security. I am not justified, validated, vindicated, or saved by my job. There is nothing there that inherently has any power over me that I do not give it. As soon as these thoughts came into my head, my feelings of tension and frustration evaporated. In mere moments I went from stress to joy and peace.
I did not have to pray for this. I was not dependant upon God granting a request. I have power of my own directly as a result of my relationship with Jesus. This power is fully available to you also.
Do you understand how life changing this is? Do you understand how much freedom you receive merely by submitting to God as your Lord? The difference between the ties that bind me to God and the chains that formerly tied me to the world is this: My submission to God can at any time be reversed or broken by merely turning my back upon Him. Those heavenly cords of lightest gossamer would immediately fall away. The bondage and servitude of the world is another matter entirely. I had to fight and fight to free myself from the bondage of the world. Smoking, drinking, legal or illegal drugs, pornography, immorality of all kinds, credit card debt. . . on and on and on. . .these chains are not at all easily cast away.
Yet those under the dominion of these spirits, haughtily disdain coming before the Lord and bending their knee in submission to Him. They have an illusion of independence of action and freedom. In reality they (formerly I) are absolute slaves to their vices. This deception of the highest order. True freedom is only available through submission to God.
In hindsight it looks so foolish, not long ago I was there blind and ignorant of the paradox and contradiction of my position. . .
I write this to you my faceless, nameless beloved one. I know you are there. I write these words from my heart to yours. My eyes shed tears for you. I raise up prayers to God for you. I see you in my mind. One day we will dance together around the throne of God in an ecstasy of worship and praise in the light of His love. . .
Your brother in Christ,
December 12, 2007
Thursday, December 6, 2007
The other day, Jackie and I were discussing something or another. I don't even recall what the actual conversation was about, when I had one of those moments when my mind opened and I was able to see with great clarity. It was like for a moment the perpetual fog that I am usually in, cleared, a stiff breeze from a new direction whisked away the mist and I was able to see with crystal clearness and what I saw was just how differently she and I viewed communication, specifically words and language.
I love words. I love language. I love using exactly the right word or series of words to express myself. When I say something I try to say exactly what I mean. I choose my words carefully. To me there is weight and momentum and energy in words. If I tell you that I will meet you at 8:00 and I arrive at 8:02. I feel badly. My actions did not fulfil my words. It is not that I think that you will be upset or somehow look down upon me, but my words did not reflect my actions. I let you down. I broke my words. . . If I tell you that I will be there at 8:00, I will make every effort to be there at 7:50. Most of the time then, usually I will say that I will be somewhere around 8:00. To me, my words have substance. They are meaningful. They are communication. . .
The thing that I saw with Jackie, in my brief moment of clarity, is that to her communication is much much more than words. The words are not as important as the spaces between them. With my words, I can say, "I love you" to her, but if my tone of voice is harsh and not loving, if my body language is tense and not caring, if I immediately go on to another topic. . . if (as my Pastor relates on this topic), I've forgotten to take out the trash. . . and on and on and on. . . then to her my real message is something else. How many times this type of misunderstanding has taken place? I cannot begin to put a number on it. . . My words are meaningless if my non-verbal message doesn't coincide with my words.
With Jackie and I, I put virtually all the importance on the spoken words while she is very intent upon the spaces between the words. I don't catch subtle hints very well at all. I explain to her, if you want me to know something say it in words. Hints and shades of meaning are very likely to pass me by. I don't mean to be ignorant or dense, but I am focused upon the words. It's undoubtedly a shortcoming of mine, but I think that it is also shared by much of the male species. Pretty much to the exclusion of every other message being transmitted to me, my focus is on the verbal message in a conversation. On a wonderfully warm and sunny summers day, your gaze happens upon a tree. You can look at the leaves of the tree or alternatively you can peer at the blue sky showing through the leaves of the tree. There is no right or wrong. What do you see? It's classic, what do you see? Is it half empty or is the glass half full? Where is your focus. There are many foreground and background optical puzzles, but it goes deeper than little games.
We are in many ways literally speaking different languages with very different grammars and vocabularies. I am surely no expert on the human brain, but these differences go so deeply that I more than slightly suspect that they represent a basic difference in our wiring. It is a struggle to learn a new language and generally when you learn a second language you never become anywhere as proficient at it as a native speaker, but. . .but. . . but!!! The native speakers of a language always greatly appreciate the attempts of a non-native speaker to talk in their tongue.
Some of the differences between our uses of language between the genders may well be attributed to orientation on the basis of our roles in the family. The woman is more internally focused upon growth and nurturing, caring and creating while the man has a more external task, destination, accomplishment and achievement orientation. The woman needs to discern and interpret the wellness or illness of her charges and tend to needs of her loved ones that they may not even be aware of. The famed and fabled sixth sense of women is a wonderfully real and powerful skill,that in my thoughts, is based on a woman's ability to interpret non-verbal information or messages that would pass 999 men out of a 1000 completely by. Who as a child wasn't convinced at times that their mother truly had 'eyes in the back of her head.' She could tell when you had done something wrong or even when you were about to do something wrong despite your best efforts at hiding your intent from her.
Men on the other hand are focused externally. Our motivation is upon accomplishing particular goals, providing food, shelter, laying away for hard times. Information, facts, warnings, explicit needs and orders are the substance of our communication needs. These tasks require a completely different set of communication skills than figuring out whether a quiet three year old is seriously sick or merely guilty of some small crime.
A thought comes to me that these differences between the language uses of men and women are in some ways paralleled in the languages of the Bible. Please I am no scholar of Hebrew and Greek, but from my studies and reading about these two languages these observations come to my mind. Hebrew seems to be a language of implication, and connotation. Words suggest other words. Words have usages and similarly sounding words which influence each usage in a multi-dimensional matrix of meaning and nuance. It is rich beyond belief. We lose so much understanding of the Old Testament by not being native speakers of Hebrew.
A week or two ago I was doing a study on this verse:
Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the East, and there he put the man he had formed.
The word we translate as 'Eden' can also in Hebrew mean God's delight or pleasure. The word we translate as 'east' can also mean fore or before. West is away or the hind part or behind. East means the fore part, or before. Using these two connotations or expansions from the original Hebrew words this passage can also mean that God in His delight and great pleasure created a wonderful garden before He created man and then He put man in this wonderful garden that He specifically created for man.
Richness and depth of meaning is present in Hebrew that is beyond the most exquisite of translators to convey to us. We must dig and dig and continually read between the lines in order to come even close to understanding the original Hebrew meaning.
Greek, the language of the New Testament, on the other hand is renown as a very precise language. Numbers of Greek words for what we merely call love: Eros, philia, agape, storge, thelema. There are lots of examples like this. Greek has multiple words for shades of an idea. Again, my impression, but nothing so nearly as much is lost in the translation of Greek to English as is lost in the translation of Hebrew to English.
But again, the Old Testament was written to and for and about God's chosen people. Please don't misunderstand me, it is relevant to us, but the Old Testament is primarily a story of a common people in their own language, a family story, an internal story of the Hebrew people. Hebrew is an internal language, a language with many internal meanings that are lost to outsiders. The New Testament is a testament, a contract for the WORLD!!!! and the language that it is written in, is one of precision and more open to non-native readers. The languages that the Bible is written in, exactly parallel and are entirely appropriate for its purposes. . . . This is no coincidence. . . This is the plan of God.
Please. . .I never know where I am going to end up when I start typing one of my little emails. . . This is quite a different destination than I envisioned when I began. . . It is so very wonderful. Everything about the Bible amazes. . . the deeper you look the more wonder and humility you must be filled with.
The wise of this world see this as foolishness. . . we must pray for them. . . I was there once. . .I was blind and now I see!!!!
Thank you my God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I love you God. . .
I love you all. . .
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Lord my Rock
Psalm 18:2 (H5553 )
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
This word is translated as in the KJV:
rock 57, strong hold 1, stones 1, stony 1
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, 8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 12 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.
Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. (2) My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: (3) Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. (4) He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. (5) They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. (6) Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee? (7) Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. (8) When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. (9) For the LORD's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. (10) He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. (11) As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: (12) So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. (13) He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock; (14) Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape. (15) But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. (16) They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. (17) They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. (18) Of the Rock that begot thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; (2) And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; (3) And did all eat the same spiritual meat; (4) And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
1 Peter 2:1-8 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, (2) As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (3) If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (4) To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, (5) Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (6) Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. (7) Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, (8) And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
This compound name of Jehovah seemed for me at first to be commonly known and easily understood, but the more I look at this and the more that I think about it the deeper and more profound it becomes. Rock and stone are used extensively throughout the Bible in such a wide array of situations. . .
Rock of God is the foundation upon which my salvation rests. My salvation must be built upon something solid. The foolish man built upon sand. Sand is tiny little bits of rock. We must be wise and build upon the solidness of the entire rock, not ground up bits of it. The altar of God upon which I repented and came to Him, the altar upon which I sacrifice my old man, my old flesh must be made of Rock not hewn by the hand of man. It must be the raw, unprocessed material to be a proper altar. Any touch of man upon that rock is pollution. . . in a sling, a rock will kill a giant. . . use rock for a pillow and your dreams may be of God like Jacob's. . . endless life giving water came to the Hebrews from a rock in the desert. . . The Law was first given on tablets of rock hewn by and then written on by the finger of God. . . it goes on and on. . .
My head spins. . . Rock is deeper than anything else. It is unchanging, and eternal or again at times flowing and fleeting. . .common and all but worthless or yet extra-ordinarily rare and precious in its various forms. I started out thinking it a mundane and easy name. . . I leave this study more baffled than I began. . . such is God. . . all of our attempts to comprehend Him must utterly fail and yet no other purpose for our lives is of any worth or satisfaction. . .
I love you my God. . .
The Rock of my life. . .
Thursday, November 22, 2007
2 Chronicles 5:11-14
And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place: (for all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course: (12) Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them a hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:) (13) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth forever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; (14) So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.
The Lord likes to be thanked. In the passage above it is presented as an association, there is a relationship between the lifting up of the voices and music of the musicians and singers and the filling of God's house with glory. Again I say it, God likes to be thanked.
Are we any different. I am not going to pretend otherwise. When I give a gift, I expect a thank you. Sometimes we become so accustomed a the word or a phrase that it loses some of its meaning. What does it mean to thank someone? Is it only the saying of the words?
It would be interesting to count one day, just how many times we say 'thank you'. Most of the time we say it without even thinking about it. Someone holds the door for us, a receptionist pages someone for us, someone moves their shopping cart slightly so that we might get through the aisle. . . depending upon our activities it surely would often be in the dozens of times a day, maybe even a hundred or more times a day, but is merely saying the words 'thank you' in the truest sense giving thanks? Or does it fall into the category of a mindless automatic response?
We often say the words in association with, but I do not believe that thanks are necessary in an encounter of transaction. When I purchase something I give money and they give me something that I value. Is it necessary to give thanks? I place my quarter in a vending machine and pull the handle. Do I give thanks to the machine? The machine or by extension the owner of the machine received my money. I received the gum. There is no sacrifice on either one of our parts. I can always give thanks to God for my need being met by a machine where I 'needed' it, but between the owner of the machine and I, each received something of value from the other and in the strictest sense no thanks is needed.
The occasions on which I indeed need to give thanks are when I receive something that I have done nothing to merit. Even occasions which on the surface seem to be like this are actually events of transaction. In our exchange of Christmas gifts, there is an unwritten/unspoken equation of correctness in giving and receiving. It varies according to our social status and economic means, but we have an unspoken appropriate range of value for each hierarchy of relationship of people in our lives that we buy gifts for. I don't suggest that you actually do this, but even mentally violate those unwritten rules. Just imagine for those close family members whom you always buy gifts for, buy them nothing or some very cheap trinket. Give each of the members of your immediate family an elaborately wrapped item from the same gum ball machine and then watch their faces. Or conversely choose some very causal acquaintances, say co-workers and shower them with extraordinarily expensive gifts and watch the consternation you will cause. We pay lip service to the statement, 'it is better to give than to receive', but watch the turmoil if you violate this equation of appropriate giving.
Please, do not go beyond what I am saying. I am not advocating buying cheap thoughtless gifts for your family. I am not advocating, 'not saying thank you.' I am just trying to illustrate that the everyday circumstances where we 'give thanks' are not really in line with the fundamental meaning of the word meant on THIS DAY, the day of Thanksgiving. . .
The thanks that we offer up to God on this day, necessarily must not be mere words, but to be appropriate must be a deeply felt and humbling admission, a posture of bowing ourselves before Him, a pervasive mental attitude that we have done nothing to deserve anything that you can name that He has given us. From every breath that fills our lungs, every beat of our wondrously designed hearts in our chest. . . every sunrise. . . every sunset. . . every bird chirruping. . . every family member. . . every friend. . . every star in the sky. . . every morsel of food. . . we deserve none of this. There is nothing we can do to make this in anyway a transaction, where we offer Him anything of value to deserve what we have been given. All we have that is of value to Him is our gratitude, our thankfulness. . .
Every day it is my goal. . .
To thank you my God for everything. . .
To love you. . . .
I thank you. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 11:23 AM
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Lord of Hosts
I Sam 1:3 (H6635 )
1 Samuel 1:3
And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.
Here are the ways that this word is translated:
host 393, war 41, army 29, battle 5, service 5, appointed time 3, warfare 2, soldiers 1, company 1, misc 5
Here are some other verses that use this name:
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? 15 And the captain of the LORD's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.
1 Samuel 1:11
And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
1 Samuel 17:45-47
Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands.
2 Samuel 5:10
And David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him.
1 Kings 22:19
And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.
1 Chronicles 11:9
So David waxed greater and greater: for the LORD of hosts was with him.
I have been waiting and meditating and praying about this compound name of Jehovah for weeks now. . . nothing comes to me. . . I wait. . . Today dawns, the 11th of November 2007, with the realization of what this day is. It is variously across much of the world called Veterans Day or Remembrance Day. . . poppy day. . . remembrance of the armies. . . remembrance of the hosts that have gone before and purchased that which we have. . . It is the day on which World War I ended. . . the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a terrible war drew to a close. Just another terrible war, one more in a long seemingly endless line, not a war to end all wars, just another period of terrible slaughter and suffering coming to an end. . . a war of pain, destruction, suffering and sacrifice coming to an end 89 years ago today. We remember today, not just the end of that war, but the losses, the suffering, the sacrifices of soldiers in all wars. . .
Our God is known as the Lord of Hosts. . .Jehovah-Sabaoth. . .The Lord of an army. . . The Lord of Soldiers. . .
To be a soldier is to be intimately familiar with sacrifice. Those reading this who had thrust upon them, in whatever circumstance performed the duty of 'soldier' offered, but were not for what ever reason chosen for the ultimate giving of our lives. . . The offer was made. . . but not yet required. . . Abraham offered Isaac and through that offer thereby God knew his heart. . . It is through an offer that a man or woman's heart is known. To serve as a soldier is a selfless act. To throw one's self upon a grenade for the sake of others is as valiant an act as one can imagine regardless of whether the grenade goes off or not. . .
Being a soldier is about doing the right thing the right way. Honor and respect are important to a soldier. Honor and respect are important to the God of soldiers:
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? (14) And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? (15) And the captain of the LORD's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.
A repeat, very similar words to what had occurred with Moses and the burning bush so many years before.
And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. (5) And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
Joshua knew what Moses did not. A soldier knows what a shepherd did not. Joshua fell to his face and worshiped. Moses, the shepherd stood and asked questions. Joshua, A soldier, did not. He immediately fell to his face and worshiped. Even on the field of battle, in the midst of a siege holiness, honor and respect were due. . .expected and given. . . Joshua was a soldier and the Lord of Hosts led him all the days of his life. . .
And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.
To be a soldier is not based upon your feelings. It is a commitment given, an oath taken, then followed and fulfilled. A duty, not the stuff of glamor and heroics except in the movies, a price paid, something greater than yourself purchased for someone else. . . a gift for future generations of someone else's. . .
To be a soldier is not determined by a smartly worn uniform and fancy ribbons displayed upon the chest, but by the loyalty to cause and passion of beliefs of the heart beating within that chest. . .
To be a soldier it is not required that the flash and stench of battle surround you. To be a soldier, it is necessary merely that you be in the army in whatever capacity required. Every soldier has the same commander-in-chief. Every soldier whether on the front lines or in the rear echelons and supporting roles is sacrificing in some way to the cause and necessary for the accomplishment of the mission. An army without food is as weak or weaker than an army without guns.
To be a soldier is in itself an act of faith. It is a demonstration, a persons actions based upon, reflecting an internal commitment to something greater and much larger than yourself. Wars may end. . . but the call to commitment and sacrifice never ends. That call continues on another battlefield, the same commander in another army, with a different objective on a different day, but no less today the soldier than then. . . the salute. . . the sign of respect. . . the honor due. . . remove thy shoe. . .bend thy knee. . . always when in front of God the ground upon which you stand is holy ground.
Let us remember today:
We remember today those who offered and lived to fight another day. . .
We remember today those who offered the ultimate price and it was required. . .
We remember today that the Lord of Hosts is our God, our commander. . .
We remember today that regardless of gender or age,
as we ever continue to draw breath,
as long as our hearts continue to beat within us. . .
We remember today that we are in His army fighting, not merely for ourselves and for our own salvation, but under His banner. . .
for His kingdom. . .
for His glory. . .
for Him. . .
First comes remembrance and then thanksgiving. . .
We give thanks to you God.
We give thanks to the soldiers who have offered and sacrificed before. . .
We give thanks to those serving and offering today. . .
We give thanks for the soldiers yet to come. . .
Friday, November 2, 2007
I search. . . I question. . . I pray. . .
Looking at my life. . .Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want to be when I grow up? So much I do not understand. What is a man? What is his purpose?
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
God formed man. . . a common man, an earthy man. God did not create him a king or royalty. He created a down to earth basic man. . . a solid creature. . . after His own image. It was God's creation to do with what He wished. God could surely have made Adam a wonder to behold. . . upright and a model in every respect, but Adam fell short almost from the outset. We are not the first in our lineage to stumble, Adam was made of the dust:
1 Corinthians 15:47
The first man is of the earth, earthy:. . .
Earth is not homogeneous. . . Earth has variety. . .always recognizable, never confused for anything else, but still for its universality, coming in a bewildering spectrum of differing textures and colors. . .Earth a mixture, not purely any one thing. . . Earth is not finely sifted and smooth. . . a clump of earth will have stones and sticks, bits of grass. . .the organic and the inorganic. It must have a balance of moisture, too dry and it is mere sand, too wet and it is muck. . . Earth is made from tiny pieces of the mountains, but never found for long upon the summit. The places of earthiness are the valleys. For all our inorganic bits of mountaintop within us, we always gravitate to the valleys, the low estates, these are the places of growth. . . We are not little gods. We would be cast in some elaborate mold, and filled with a bright and shiny exquisitely rare metal if we were meant to be worshiped ourselves. No one worships mere earth. . . it is surely common and yet good earth is in its own right worthy and to be treasured.
Adam surely made mistakes. He had no earthly father as a mentor, as a friend. . .He had no role model, thrust into husbandhood, fatherhood. . . thrust into the role of a man with no knowledge of what that meant. Adam did not complain. He named all living creatures, but as a paradox, he without doubt had trouble naming the shadowy deeply emotional things within himself. God in His wisdom recognized that Adam was lonely. Like many of us. . .we live our lives always searching, questioning, praying. . .making missteps. . . stumbling. . . recovering. . . continuing on. . . living with our mistakes. . . living with our flaws. . . doing the best we can, with what we are. . .
Life does not spring forth from us. We surely participate, but it is in a theoretical and in a difficult to visualize sense. It does not define us. A woman is in many ways defined, often in her own mind, if only there, by what she has birthed. God created we men, with a hole, an emptiness completely through us. In many ways we are as an earthworm. We eat our way through life, our various hungers providing the motivation to crawl further forward every day. As men, in many negative ways, our hungers are so great that they actually turn upon us and at the last, attempt to consume us. Money, power, lust. . . our flesh wars with us continually. . . we battle and we maintain, not so much defined by our base appetites. Those are common to all. The greatest impact upon our lives is how and in what direction we choose to satisfy those needs. The jail where I minister is filled with men who chose the wrong trough at which to sate their cravings.
David hungered. There is no surprise in that. That is common to all earthy men, but David went not to the women who sang his praises:
1 Samuel 18:7
“ . . .and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”
David was a hero, but he had a deeper purpose. He surely could have easily knocked and asked and gotten bread at any of a multitude of pantry doors, but he chose not the profane, but the profound for his sustenance. He went to the house of God, asking of the priest, even placing himself in danger, making himself vulnerable in asking the priest to bend a rule:
1 Samuel 21:3-4
“. . .give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present. (4) And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread”
As men we hunger. That is a part of us. Being made in His image and a dim reflection of Him, therefore it must also be that God hungers passionately. . .His word surely speaks of that. There is no shame there. It is in our choice, of where we satisfy that hunger that defines our character. Where do we feed our hunger? The question of our lives is re-asked and re-answered over and over again every day in a multitude of ways, do we strive for the common fare or for the hallowed bread?
Encourage every man you meet to seek after the holy and to reject the common. Let us satisfy our hunger with manna, not mammon. . . We need to shout this message from one to another. . .Uplift your brother whether he admits to needing it or not. . . never stop. . .We need each other. . . We are brothers. . . we are men bound together by the blood of Jesus. . .
Another day. . .
Another battle. . .
Another question. . .
Another answer. . .
I love you God. . .
I love you all. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 11:40 PM
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Last night I took a fellow home from church to his house way out in the country between Shipshewana and Middlebury. As I pulled out onto State Road 120 from the little dirt road that this fellow lives on, just a little ways ahead I saw a van on the side of the road with its emergency flashers on and a man doing something in the weeds by the side of the road.
I got out to see if he was having trouble and if I could assist in any way. He was cradling a young buck deer in his arms. His arms were around the little guy, trying to support the little deer, trying to keep it from falling over. I assumed that he had hit the deer with his van. I asked if he wanted me to call someone to come tend to the deer and he replied 'Yes, that would be appreciated.'
I called 911 on my cell phone and talked to the Lagrange County Sheriff's department and they said they would send someone out. I went back to the man and the small deer. He was searching for an injury on the animal. There was no obvious blood or broken bones.
This man maybe in his late thirties or early forties, with a blue knit hat covering his head and a beard from sideburns to chin covering the lower portion of his kindly face, was gently stroking and tenderly talking to this little deer in the weeds. He said that as he had come up upon the little fellow a larger buck with a impressive rack had run off and he noticed the little one here disabled in the tall grass.
We looked and probed the little deer and could feel no broken ribs or saw no other indication of injury outside of a fresh small bloody wound, maybe the size of a quarter just behind and below the little spike bucks left ear.
It is impossible to say for certain what happened, but being in the midst of rut season, the little one probably got too close to a female (maybe even his own mother) that the much larger and powerfully mature buck was interested in. . . its only speculation, but it appears that a fight ensued and the little buck was mortally wounded by a chance blow to a vulnerable area. . .
The little buck was not recovering at all. We both hoped against hope that he would shake off whatever fog he was in and come around, but that did not occur. I took out my oil and anointed the little guy. I send up a prayer for him to God. I don't know if my anonymous companion in the weeds along the side of the dark road joined me. God's word says that He cares greatly for sparrows. . . I don't believe that excludes little buck deer in the last moments of their life. I don't know what he thought. I wasn't really concerned with that. . .
Of all life. . . the first and the last moments are by far the most dramatic. We all have questions. I have faith. I love my God and I really do believe that death is a doorway to something much better than I've ever known. . . but. . . but. . .but. . . notwithstanding all that. . . that day that looms ahead with so many questions. . . with so much fear. . .
A number of years ago, I was walking in a very large woods and it struck me (this was before I knew God) as I reached the crest of a hill and looked out, that every one of the trees that I was looking at, for as far as I could see into the dwindlingly distant green horizon, would one day die and fall. . . For as permanent and as solid as a tree seems each one has a life with a beginning and an end. . .
How so very much as certain for us. Our life here on this earth has a starting point and an end point. Look around you. . . drive down the street. . . go to the mall. . . look at a huge crowd at a sporting event. . . it holds true for everyone. . . for all of us. We will all have a day where our prayer or our loved one's prayer for us is not going to be answered in the way we would wish. . .
For some reason, I don't know why, but I have trouble comprehending that. Maybe I don't want to understand. . . But the fascination is there, the wanting to understand is desperately there. I look at the little buck. I wonder. . . I want to know. . . I can only assume this, but in all likelihood he started out this morning, as just another day. He was young, energetic, apparently in good health. . . circumstances crossed his path and what started as just another day turned into something very different. . .
The questions. . . what thoughts go through your mind as you close your eyes for the last time? What memories will I have of this life? Who greets you on the other side? One day through storm, or fire, or just termites and old age the tree that is me will surely fall. . .
Dear God please send someone to caress me and hold me. . . hug me and give me comfort as I lay in the weeds on the side of the road. . .
I love you Lord. . .
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Genesis 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Genesis 20:11 And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.
Genesis 38:15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot; because she had covered her face.
Judges 15:2 And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her.
1 Samuel 1:13 Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
1 Samuel 18:25 And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king's enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.
1 Samuel 20:26 Nevertheless Saul spoke not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is not clean; surely he is not clean.
2 Samuel 4:10 When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings:
2 Kings 5:11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
1 Chronicles 28:9 And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever.
1 Chronicles 29:18 O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:
Esther 6:6 So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself?
Psalms 10:4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
The foolishness of our thoughts. . . How easily we are led astray by the foolish imaginations of our mind. As the list of verses above shows, our thoughts are often wrong. The mere fact that a thought is in our heads gives no clue as to whether it is an accurate thought or not.
We create castles and huge edifices in our minds that seem so very solid, but they are entirely, as the Bible says, vain imaginations.
Inside the jail are little intercom boxes with call buttons beside each door. As a rule the doors are not opened with keys, but electronically. You push the button and a staff member from one of the two 'control offices' answers over the intercom box. You tell them who you are and they push a button that buzzes the door open for you.
It seems like such a minor thing for them to hear my request and to buzz the door open, but sometimes it can take a number of minutes between your buzzing and the officer answering and opening the door for you. These two control officers have a large bank of video monitors in front of them, viewing into all areas of the jail. If there is a fight they must direct the response. They must watch for escape attempts. They have dozens of door buzzers to contend with. They have radio communication through walkie-talkies with all the staff and they answer and direct all incoming calls to the jail. To say they are often busy is an understatement.
Anyway, one night a couple of weeks ago, I buzzed an inside door at the jail. The staff doesn't like to be buzzed more than one time at the door. So you buzz and wait. I buzzed the door and waited. . . and I waited and I waited some more. Usually I am very very patient. I look forward to these little pauses in my day. It wasn't always so, but I have learned not to let these things upset me. I often use the time to pray, but this time my mind began building this dark castle in my mind. I began imagining that the officer was angry with me for some reason. Maybe they were intentionally trying to aggravate me. It just kept going. Before I really was aware of it I was really caught up in a totally imaginary verbal battle with the officer for keeping me waiting for so long.
I don't know why, but for some reason I leaned against the door. . . and it swung open. I had been standing there for maybe 10 minutes fuming about the awful guard. . .becoming more and more outraged at their rudeness. . . and the door was open all along. Ten years ago, I would have not waited for nearly as long as I did. I would have made a fool of myself and an enemy of the guard by my reaction to an imagined slight, but still I let my thoughts get the better of me for a short while.
Most of the scriptures that I listed above have to do with the vain imaginations of men. Our minds are good at finding patterns, much better than computers at this point of our technology. Do you ever have to look at a series of distorted letters and numbers and enter them before you register for entry into a website? This is to prevent little computer programs from automatically harvesting email addresses from websites. The human eye and mind can see patterns that baffle a computer. It is to our advantage to find patterns of danger and advantage in our daily life. The birds quieting in the woods can mean a hawk or some other predator approaching. The reactions of our co-workers or others at work can mean that we are on a layoff or promotion list. We are good at finding patterns.
But. . . but. . . but!!! We are also good at finding patterns where none exist. Everyone has at times seen faces or shapes in the white puffy clouds on a summer day. Do you really believe that those shapes are there? The person sitting right next to you, even after being shown them, often cannot see what you have seen in the clouds. Psychologists use cards with blobs of ink smeared over them to gain a glimpse of what is in our mind and thoughts. There are no actual pictures in the ink blots, just random blobs of ink, but our mind will create a scene and a story out of these random forms.
By the same way, we take little pieces of information from the people around us and construct scenarios or stories that often have no relationship to anything in reality. People sometimes accuse me of being arrogant. . . . 'That Dave Stokely, he didn't even acknowledge what I said to him'. . .'He is so stuck up'. . . that could be the reason, but I am also very hard of hearing. People cannot imagine it, but sometimes I just don't hear what they have said to me. They mistake my not hearing for arrogance or rudeness.
If you think about it, there are always several possible explanations of why people act the way they do around us. Do we always assume that people are reacting negatively toward us? That is really more telling about ourselves than it is about them.
The last verse that I quoted above:
2 Corinthians 10:5 . . .bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. . .
We cannot allow our thoughts to carry us away captive. It is put in terms of a war. We must make them captive and filter each thought through the love of God. The Psalmist said (Psalm 10:4) that the evil do not have God in all their thoughts. To flip that over, the reverse would be that in order not to be evil, God should be in all our thoughts.
I do not at this point in my walk have complete control of my thoughts. I don't know that I ever will. I'm not sure who came up with it, but I love the metaphor concerning our thoughts: I can't keep a bird from landing on my head, but I surely don't have to let him build a nest there. . . Thoughts often pop into our minds that we do not wish to have there. We need to do everything necessary to dispel them as quickly as we can. Trouble will come if we allow them to dwell unchallenged there.
I will close now. I love the passage:
whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue,
and if there be any praise,
think on these things.
which ye have both learned,
and seen in me,
and the God of peace shall be with you.
When troubling thoughts come into your mind. . . think on pleasant things, think on the goodness of God. . .
I love you Lord. . .
I love you my God. . .
Saturday, October 27, 2007
The Lord my Shepherd
Psalm 23 (H7462 )
A Psalm of David.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
My Shepherd. . .
He provides for me. . .
He sets aside lush abundant places and times of rest for me. . .
He finds places of peace and stillness where my thirst can be quenched. . .
He heals me from the wounds and battles of life. . .
He has adopted me as His own and has given me a Way of safety. . .
Yes, there are times of trouble in my life, but even when I am in very low places, I can tell that He is there. I may not see Him, but I see the things that He uses to guide and protect me. Those things build my faith and give me confidence.
There are those who hate me and wish me ill. Even while surrounded by them, He tends to my needs. He gives me nourishment. He puts soothing and healing oil upon me. I have no unquenched thirst. I am filled. I cannot consume all that He gives me.
As long as I have known Him, I have known these blessings. He has promised to never leave me. As long as I may live in this body, I can depend upon his providing and protection and it will not end there. . . I will be with Him, living in His home forever. . .
I love you my God. . .my Shepherd. . .
Lord who Smites
Ezekiel 7:9 (H5221 )
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (2) Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land. (3) Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations. (4) And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. (5) Thus saith the Lord GOD; An evil, an only evil, behold, is come. (6) An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come. (7) The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land: the time is come, the day of trouble is near, and not the sounding again of the mountains. (8) Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations. (9) And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee; and ye shall know that I am the LORD that smiteth.
This is a name that God has given Himself, therefore I place special importance upon it.
Here are the words the KJV translates this as:
smite 348, slay 92, kill 20, beat 9, slaughter 5, stricken 3, given 3, wounded 3, strike 2, stripes 2, misc 13
When I first read and started to work on this name I was thinking that the Lord that smiteth would be smiting the enemies of a godly man. Obviously reading the above passage, that is not the case. . . verse 3:
I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations.
He is smiting His chosen people for their disobedience. This does not mean that He is mortally wounding them, but His smiting is more like the smiting that a parent does to a child. It is also called chastisement:
Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law; 13 That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked. 14 For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance. 15 But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.
Certain chapters of the Bible are renown for their themes. Hebrews 11 – faith, I Corinthians 13 – love, Isaiah 58 - fasting. There are other examples. Hebrews chapter 12 is very much focused on chastisement of believers by God:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
If you think you endure injustice and unfairness. . .Jesus sacrificed Himself for the very ones who killed Him. What a paradox. In their evilness they killed him and through His death, His murderers were given a path to salvation. . .
4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
This passage begins by reminding us that while we have fought against sin, that we have not yet paid the ultimate price of pouring out our blood in this battle, like Jesus did, therefore we need to respect He who fought like we do and yet paid a much greater price for His righteousness. He has a right and standing to correct us as a father corrects his children.
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
It is not enjoyable to be chastised. No one would say that they enjoy it, but by the same measure we all require it occasionally. As the verses above state, at times our earthly fathers gave into their own desires, their own anger while chastening us. God never does this. It is always for our own benefit that he corrects us. In another compound name of Jehovah we looked at Leviticus 26. In that passage God clearly outlines the building up of consequences if we do not favorably take to His correction. There will be an ever increasing level of consequence, if we choose to ignore Him.
11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
Again we do not enjoy our punishment from God, but if we allow it and take it with an agreeable heart, if we take it in the Spirit of love in which it is given, it will bring forth the result of righteousness in us. Do not allow yourselves to be sullen and injured in your spirit by His correction. It is our reaction to His correction that determines its result. Our response must come from humility and a contrite heart. This results in a very sweet fruit. We will walk more closely in His footsteps with a heart of humbleness. Pride and arrogance within us will cause a crop of very bitter fruit and we will be lamed rather than enabled by His corrections with such a heart. . .
16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
Esau gave up for a pittance, what should have been of utmost importance to him. Likewise for us the danger is that in our response to correction by God we turn our backs on our birthright, we turn our backs on our obligations as sons of God and through our rejection of God's correction we deny His right as a Father and thereby in effect deny Him. The warning here is that the rejection of God's correction is not to be lightly done, nor is it lightly undone. Esau terribly regretted his decision and wished it differently, but it was not to be so. . .
18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
In the Old Testament, under the old covenant God was inaccessible. We were forbidden from approaching Him. God spoke to all the Jewish people and they asked that He no longer speak directly to them, but through Moses only. God granted their wish, but at great cost to them.
22 But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
Under the new covenant, we now have a path, a mediator, a way to the Father through the Son. Under the blood of Jesus, we come into His presence with a more pleasing sacrifice than that of Abel. He will now speak directly to us. We have access to a new Holy mountain. No longer does the priest alone go into the Holy of Holies. . . under the sacrifice of Jesus we are all sanctified. . .
25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
Therefore we being given access to Him directly we must allow Him to speak to us directly and act directly upon us. The consequences of the Jews requesting no more direct contact, is paralleled with and was as great as the effect of Esau turning his back upon his birthright. This is what we do if we reject God's chastisement. In a very fundamental way we are rejecting Him totally and therefore the implication is that we should not be surprised if we do not hear from Him directly ever again. . .
WOW! Esau tried, but could not undo his rejection of his birthright. Thousands of years ago, the Jews rejection of the voice of God directly speaking to them lasted. . . How long? Till today?
My God. . .
I hope. . .
I pray that I have never turned my back upon Your chastisement. . .
Let me always have ears for Your corrections. . .
This is strong meat. . .
We must not be casual about anything of God. . .
I love you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .