Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Highways to Zion

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whose strength is in you, in whose heart are THE HIGHWAYS TO ZION.  Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; the early rain also fills [the pools] with blessings.  They go from strength to strength [increasing in victorious power]; each of them appears before God in Zion” (Psalm 84:6-8 AMPC).

Herein the human heart are the taproots of God Himself; the person whose strength is in God is the person whose heart beats directly from its umbilical-cord-like connection to Zion.  But what is Zion?  From an historical perspective, Zion (Sion or Tzion) was a fort once occupied by the Jebusites.  But in Zion’s first mention in Scripture, “David took the stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David” (2 Samuel 5:7 KJV).  And forever—David, a symbol of Christ—is the capturer of Zion (He took it!); it is the bottom or center of the heart of man, His eternal resting place.

There is uncertainty and controversy in identifying the etymology of the word Zion, but “castle/fortress” or “dry land” or “baldness” or even “river/brook” cover most interpretations.  Also, Wikipedia states the “term Tzion came to designate the area of Jerusalem where the fortress stood, and later became a metonym for Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem and ‘the World to Come,’ the Jewish understanding of the hereafter.”  Additionally, Wikipedia stated that a “more esoteric reference is made to Tzion being the spiritual point from which reality emerges, located in the Holy of Holies of the First, Second, and Third Temple.”

Putting all this information together, a panoramic picture emerges that looks something like this: Zion is both dry and wet, dead and alive (sounds kind of like the human heart, huh?).  The temple upon Zion was built over a Jebusite threshing floor; from the base of unclean common man God erects His holy resting place.  Fruitfulness from deadness!  The Holy Spirit broods over chaos and declares, “Let there be light!”—then order and harmony overcomes the darkness and confusion.  Wet from dry, and life from death is what Zion is all about.  The word “Jebusite” means “trodden down (with the feet)” and “polluted”: David defeated them by capturing their city via the water ducts (symbolic, no doubt, of how God conquers us via tears of repentance (our water ducts unleashed), and thereby cleansing us of our polluted dirty-footed-walk [our behavior]).

The circuitous and perilous route we take through this land of shadows and sorrows is really an internal journey.  Indeed, the Kingdom of God is within us!  Like explorers journeying to the center of the earth, so we journey to the depths of our person and there discover “God in Zion” at the pit of our beings (in our spirits/hearts).  Within ourselves, even to the bottom of our hearts, we are fruitless, dry, bald, and barren; indeed, Zion is that.  But also, Zion is water from a Rock, springs from a desert, and God in man.  In Zion, weeping turns into springs of joy, weakness into strength, darkness into light, and the impossible into miracle.  “The spiritual point from which reality emerges” is no doubt at the pit of our beings—our center spirit surrounded by soul/flesh; it corresponds to the Holy of Holies location within the temple.  It is there that God meets with us, and it is from where He instructs us outwards towards obedient behavior to His inner still small voice.

Ultimately, the highways of Zion are our heart strings, or in liquid terms, the water-courses of our soft and compliant heart to do all that the Lord our God desires of us.  Indeed, “The...heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1 NAS).  Therefore, we must “Watch over [our] heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  God is not interested in the cold and hard heart; only the warm and soft heart, able to gush out of its flinty lock, will do.  The dry baldness at our core is not to be utterly despaired of, but rather, it is designed to provoke us to pray something like this: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2).

Friday, September 25, 2015

Adventures in Peradventures

The inspiration for this article comes from E. M. Bounds, and specifically when he said (in reference to many forms or new phases of exercising “feeble, dry, and cold!” belief), that “they are, for the most part, adventures in the peradventures of the soul” (from “The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer”).  
First, let’s define some words.  An “adventure” is defined as an “unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity,” and “peradventure”—an archaic word hardly used anymore—is defined as an “uncertainty or doubt as to whether something is the case” (both definitions from Oxford Dictionaries Online).

Bounds said that “Trust is faith become absolute, ratified, consummated.”  He also inferred that trust is full-flowered faith, and he claimed, in particular, that trust is “the feeling of the soul” that is “luminous, distinct, conscious, powerful, and Scriptural.”  In contrast to this “full-flowered faith” idea, however, is an enemy (inert faith) that Bounds described—and I reiterate—as “adventures in the peradventures of the soul.”  His point was that—as exciting as roller-coaster faith might be—it’s still nothing more than an exercise in futility.  “Adventures in peradventures” might also be described—but not as poetically—as “experiences of doubts” (which of course directly and specifically undermines the essence of what faith is).  And there is the rub!

It is written that the man who doubts ought not to expect to receive anything from the Lord (see James 1:5-8).  Also, two sorts of faith are mentioned in Scripture, the effectual kind leading to salvation, and the inert kind—that even demons subscribe to—and that is inanimate or dead.  Indeed, “faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).  But someone will say [to you then], ‘you [say you] have faith, and I have [good] works. Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith’” (James 2:17-18 AMPC).

In the end, adventures in peradventures is both tiresome and sinful.  Faith that does not evolve into utter trust is not faith enough to secure the heavenly things it reaches for.  Note how in the Classic Amplified version of the Bible how the apostle James (chapter 2:20-22) defines inert faith: “Are you willing to be shown [proof], you foolish (unproductive, spiritually deficient) fellow, that faith apart from [good] works is inactive and ineffective and worthless?  Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac?  You see that [his] faith was cooperating with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works.”

As fun as roller-coasters are (adventures in peradventures), we must grow up and put away childish things.  We must complete our faith; we must mature into effectual ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our trust must be, as Bounds put it, “absolute, ratified, consummated.”  The time for doubt is over; God has earned our trust by showing us mountains of evidence.  Therefore let us, like the apostle Paul, “press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward”; and also, “let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions”—for the time is short (Philippians 3:14-15 AMPC). 


Monday, September 21, 2015

Delivering the Soul from its God Complex

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:15 NAS).

Many times throughout Scripture the children of Israel are commanded to remember that they were once slaves in the land of Egypt.  And better understanding what Egypt means and/or represents will help them remember their slavery and why it took the extraordinary and miraculous “hand” and “outstretched arm” of the Almighty to accomplish their deliverance.  The word “Egypt” has a complex etymology and seems to break down to roughly this definition: “a place where the projection of an attribute of divinity [an aspect of God] manifested via the physical projection of the soul.”

As might be ascertained via this definition, a projection of soul is equated with an attribute of divinity; and herein lies an intractable problem—and consequently—the need for extraordinary deliverance.  The entrenched but false divinity of the human soul is not easily extracted.  And it is a condition that still plagues humankind today.  Symbolically, slavery in Egypt continues as the human soul reigns supreme in the majority of people.  Television shows glorifying “heroes” and “supermen” and those with “evolved powers” dominates the airwaves.  Adhering to the idea of the evolution of man (an unfounded theory), rather than the devolution of man (an established fact), is the delusion of our time.

Looking into the etymology of the word “hero,” we discover an insidious and pervasive error concerning humankind and their inherent powers.  The word “hero” means severally a “man of superhuman strength or physical courage, a demi-god, or an illustrious man.”  Undoubtedly, God has bestowed upon some powers beyond the ability of normal humanity; their exploits are mentioned throughout Scripture, and specifically in the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews. But the apostle Peter, after lifting a lame man to his feet while declaring in the name of Jesus Christ that he walk, did not think for a minute that he did anything special.  In fact, he redirected the people’s wonder and amazement off of him and onto Jesus Christ.  He asked the crowd, “Why are you amazed at this? Why are you staring at us as if we made him walk by our own power or piety?” (Acts 3:12 CEB).  And herein is the rub!  Humankind’s power and piety is nonexistent; supermen, heroes, and demi-gods are fiction today, were fiction yesterday, and will be fiction tomorrow.

The divine spark left over in the wake of the fall of humankind exists only to see God’s “true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (John 1:9).  It is not there to be stoked into a conflagration, to be one’s own private and selfish large-and-in-charge inner light; no, it is not there to inflame people to be the best version of themselves.  That is all fool’s gold!  The only “hope of glory” is Christ in us; vain is the glory of man (whether an illustrious man or common man, it makes no difference).

Symbolically, to be delivered from Egypt, is to begin the salvation process; the slavery to the world aspect that Egypt also represents, is about being delivered from self (and the delusions—things of a transitory nature—that self still clings to).  Eventually, “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” will pass away, “but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:16-17).  Demi-gods and heroes, however—no matter how powerful they become in their vaporous life here on earth—will pass away and be as though they were never here.

I have often heard the saying that God delivered His people out of Egypt, but not Egypt out of the people; and sadly, it is true of most of us.  As the ancient Israelites were, so are we; many of them, and many of us, would rather be enslaved then delivered.  We’d rather be our own persons, supermen, demi-gods, heroes; we’d rather thrive in our own vain imaginations, then struggle in Christ to remain humble and weak and dependent on God.  Ultimately the man of sin, the 666 man, for whatever else he may be, is certainly going to be a developed and accomplished man (but only within his first Adam self, a self that God has already condemned).  The Herods of the New Testament are an interesting example of what the 666 man might look like.
Of special note is the fact that the name “Herod” has “hero” in its etymology; also, all the Herods (there were six of them—the number of man) were Edomites, “red-men” (men of red clay, or dirt) derived from Esau’s stock.  They were antagonistic to Jacob’s children, the Jews.  The fifth Herod died a violent and apropos death.  “And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.  And the people gave a shout, saying, ‘It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.’  And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (Acts 12:21-23 KJV).    

Finally, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind’” (Jeremiah 17:5).