My name is Neo!

I was on a recent flight home from San Francisco and decided to watch “The Matrix” while en route.

I really like this movie from a pure entertainment standpoint and there are and have been lots of discussions about various spiritual analogies in the story line that correspond to the Gospel.

If you’ve read my blogs for long, you know that I very often correlate the everyday stuff of life to a spiritual truth that God’s teaching me.

Anyway, I’ve put a link to a YouTube video of one of my favorite scenes in the movie – not so much for the special effects, but because of the story and one of those thoughts God’s buried in my noggin.

The scene is the subway scene where Neo (the main character) fights Agent Smith for the first time.  For you who haven’t seen the movie, it’s a science fiction thriller in which the world we currently know and understand is really a mirage only played out in our minds -which the machines dictate as we’re all plugged into “the Matrix”.  The story is about the fight for freedom and getting “unplugged” from the matrix to live as real and free human beings – the way we were created.

In the matrix – the main character – played by Keanu Reeves – is named is “Thomas Anderson” when he lived under the veil of the Matrix.  When he gets unplugged from the Matrix to live a real and free human life –  his real name is Neo.  However, Agent Smith (a digital representation of the sentient programs sent to kill and destroy the free human race – interesting concept huh?) always refers to Neo with his old name when he was living in the Matrix.  Always calls him “Mister Anderson”.

The Matrix: Neo fights Agent Smith (played on YouTube site)






I love this scene because Neo is finally beginning to believe that he is not “Thomas Anderson” any more.  He is beginning to understand he is not the same person he was. He is new.  He is Neo.

As I watched this scene – for the twentieth time – God began to really put in my heart that I am not the same man I used to be.   No matter what my enemy – represented by the agent, Mr. Smith in the movie – calls me… no matter what my adversary calls me… I am a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)  17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  

I am no longer what I used to be.  I am no longer what I did.  I am defined by Christ in me.  He died for my sin – all of it – all that I ever committed and all that I will ever commit, so that I will be blameless before God before his throne.

When that sinks in, how can I be anything but grateful.  How can I be anything but the new creation He created me to be.

“MY NAME IS NEO!”

Running After Papa…

Day 13 – “meditate on these things”

Phil 4:8 (NKJV) Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

“meditate”….

I was just going over this verse again and thought I’d look into the action of this verse.  This is the command (so to speak) that Paul gives about all the things true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.

Admittedly, my first thought on the word “mediate” brings out visions of sitting cross-legged, back straight, chest out, eyes closed, with my arms outstretched and my hands palms up, making “o’s” with my fingers (yes… with my pinky out!) while chanting  ‘Ohmmmmmmm‘….  I’m not sure that’s exactly what Paul meant when he chose that word.

According to Strong’s, the word translated as “meditate”  (logizomai) means: “1 to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over. 2 to reckon inward, count up or weigh the reasons, to deliberate. 3 by reckoning up all the reasons, to gather or infer.  Additional Information: This word deals with reality. If I “logizomai” or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions (emphasis added).”

The “added information” is very interesting when you couple it with the origin of the word. Logizomai is a form of “logos” which specifically deals with uttered (spoken) word by a living voice.

In several of the previous posts breaking down this passage, God showed me – and this now confirms it – that what I am to meditate on is what God says about me – not my shortcomings and past failures – as it relates to all things true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy. (NOTE: each word links to the previous post I did for that word)

What God says is 100% absolute truth and not supposition.  God says that all my past failures are forgiven (1 John 1:9) and forever forgotten “… as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12)” and no longer “meditate-able.’

All my past failures and shortcomings are 100% supposition, conjecture and theory

This is good news O my soul… very good news indeed….

Running After Papa

The Artist

We all know that if 3 artists paint the same picture, they will all 3 look very different, because of the natural giftings and interpretation of the artists.

Exodus 26

The Walls of the Tabernacle

It’s interesting as you read Exodus 26 that God has a very specific structure – or architecture, if you like – on HOW the tabernacle was to be built, but yet He left room for the creativity of the individual – the artisan – in places of the construction. For example, God very specifically defines the length, width, type and colors of materials, numbers of panels, connective and mounting procedures for the various walls – as well as how many layers of walls and in what order, but left the interpretation of “with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them.” (Ex 26:2 and Ex 26:31)

We all know that if 3 artists paint the same picture, they will all 3 look very different, because of the natural giftings and interpretation of the artists.

God’s tabernacle was very specifc in design. God’s tabernacle was very specific in structure. God’s tabernacle was very specific in function. But God left the “interface” to the community – how it was viewed and presented – to the creativity He instilled in its artisans.

You are an artist.

I have to believe God has used the Mosaic Tabernacle as a picture for our lives. He has defined a structure, an “architecture” for our lives, but has left the interface to our community to the creativity He instilled in us. This is the beauty of our individual testimonies. No two stories are the same… on purpose! Our job is to weave the tapestry with our story. God’s responsibilty is to use that tapestry to engage others and minister to others.

The Mercy Seat

Exodus 16:34 “You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy.”

I love the way the Hebrew word is translated as the “mercy seat”. In looking up the origin of the word, it means “atonement cover” or “a central place where sins are forgiven.”

The connotation is that it is a separate place, a place specific for the purposes of atonement. Atonement is just a $2 word that means (according to Webster’s) “the reconciliation (to restore to harmony) of God and mankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.”

Some of the walls of the tabernacle were made with fibers and woven. Some of the walls were made from animals. Ex 26:7 says to use goat’s hair. It is unclear if that’s the skin of the goat with the hair intact, or if that’s the goat’s hair woven into cloth. But Ex 26:14 is very clear that two other layers are made by the skin of rams dyed red, and the skin of badgers. That implies that there were LOTS of animals killed in order to fashion together coverings for the tents. With the death of those animals, much blood was shed – I suspect that’s one of the reasons the rams skins were dyed red – to remind the Isrealites of the blood that was shed to make the covering.

Back to the “mercy seat”. One of the definitions is “atonement cover”. Are you starting to get draw a connection here? This mercy seat – this atonement cover – was a foreshadowing of what Christ’s blood would do for us… cover our sins. The death of Jesus – the sacrifice of the Lamb of God (John 1:29) – covered our sins and reconciled us back to the Father; back to right standing as Sons and Daughters of the Most High.

The cross is the central place where sins are forgiven (our other definition of the mercy seat.) Only the cross covers the sins of my past, my present and my future in order to reconcile – to restore back to harmony – my life with God. Salvation – willingly yielding control of every part of my life to the lordship of Jesus Christ – is a one-time event. When my submission is authentic, I only need to do this once. However, transformation is an ongoing process. I have, I do, and I will screw up – hopefully it will become fewer and fewer times as I journey. Regardless, when I screw up, it doesn’t take long for Daddy to draw that to my attention and I am quick to repent. This is where I go to the mercy seat again, not for salvation, but to ask forgiveness. Remember, the mercy seat is the central place where sins are forgiven. 1 John 1:9 tells me that God is faithful to forgive me if I ask him and James 5:16 tells me that I can be healed of my sin in the confidence and prayer of another brother in Christ.

The mercy seat in the Mosaic temple was a physical and literal place. It was a place where animals were sacrificed to atone for the sins of individuals, families and the nation. When Christ died for all those sins and so many more, the temple walls were ripped from top to bottom by God himself to signify that the mercy seat was no longer behind the veil. Jesus is the mercy seat. Jesus is in my life. However, I still like visible remembrances. So in my life, I draw on a physical mercy seat – sometimes its over the phone with a brother, sometimes its in my room with my wife, sometimes it’s at a table at the local diner.

How do both these relate?

When I am free from the bondages of sin in my life – because I go to the mercy seat – I am free to be the artistic interface to my community presenting – in my own unique perspective and my own unique testimony – all that God has done,  is doing, and will do IN  me because of the mercy seat!

Running After Papa…

The Gift

I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. (Galatians 2:21, NLT)

What is “… the grace of God?

We hear that word all the time living here in the Bible belt, and most of the time it’s coupled with the word “mercy.” Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy! You get the idea. So what is it?

I’ve tried to teach my children in various life lessons what the difference between grace and mercy is. It goes something like this: “Grace is getting a gift that you absolutely do NOT deserve and mercy is NOT getting the consequences or punishment you ABSOLUTELY deserve.” Simple… but effective….

Grace is an undeserved gift. Mercy is an undeserved pardon.

What then is God’s undeserved gift to us that Paul doesn’t treat as meaningless in Galatians 2:21? It would imply the gift is meaningful.

If I did the search correctly, in the ESV translation, the word “grace” appears only 10 times in the Old Testament. Three different Hebrew words translate to those ten occurrences of “grace.” Eight of the ten times it is the Hebrew word chen (“khane”) meaning “1 favour, grace, charm. 1a favour, grace, elegance. 1b favour, acceptance.

In the New Testament, the word we translate into the word “grace” is charis and appears 124 times in 116 verses (in the ESV) and means something totally different: “of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

I bring this up only to point out that grace, as Paul is defining it, is a post-Christ idea. In fact, except for 3 verses in John 1 (prior to Christ’s birth), the word “grace” doesn’t appear in any of the gospels.  The first occurrence is in the book of Acts, after Christ’s ascension.

For the next couple of chapters, Paul compares the bondage of living under the law with the freedom of living in Christ.

4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:4-6, NLT)

The gift (the grace of God) is a life of freedom from the bondage of the law; a life free from having to perform; a life free of doing in order to earn God’s favor.

2 Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. 4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. (Galatians 5:2-4, NLT)

The gift (the grace of God) is living life in the power of His Spirit and love.

For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. (Galatians 5:6, NLT)

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13, NLT)

The gift (the grace of God) is a life of transformation into something new.

15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. (Galatians 6:15-16, NLT)

I will not treat the grace of God (the gift) as meaningless….

Running After Papa…

Faith: It matters to others…

I love the story in Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26 of the men who brought their paralyzed friend to be healed by Jesus.  Luke makes it fairly clear that they weren’t going for the show or to watch Jesus, they were going with specific intent of their friend walking home.  Luke describes how, because of the crowd, they couldn’t even get their friend in the door, so they climb on the roof and lower him in his bed from the roof to get him in front of Jesus.

Let your mind run with that picture for just a moment or two and you’ll begin to understand this was no easy task.  Climbing over crowds, getting up on a roof, hoisting a paralyzed man – let’s say conservatively he was 130 pounds of dead weight – up onto the roof without dropping or dumping him, removing part of the roof big enough for a bed to be lowered down, lowering this same 130 pounds down being careful to keep it level on all corners as not to drop their paralyzed friend on top of Jesus and the crowd in the house, etc., etc., etc.

Luke 5:20 When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.Luke 5:24b …He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.

Make a mental note that it was not  just the paralytics faith in play here – in fact, it’s not clear if his faith had anything to do with it at all.  The point is this:  The friends’ faith played a significant role in the complete healing (both inner and physical) of the once paralyzed man.

Matthew 13:54-58 and Mark 6:1-6 recount the time when Jesus went back to where he grew up, only this time in full ministry mode.  As he began teaching, they were astonished at his teaching and couldn’t believe it was the same carpenter’s son who grew up here – to the point that they were offended at him.

Matthew 13:58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Can you imagine limiting Jesus?  The community’s faith – or lack thereof – squelched the move of God in their midst leaving the sick, sick; the oppressed, oppressed; those in bondage, in bondage.

Last example (for today)…  Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 tell the story of the Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant.  The Centurion so believed in Jesus’ healing power that he knew all Jesus had to do was to speak it and it would be done.  The Centurion understood authority.  He knew Jesus didn’t need to see the servant, or speak to him, or touch him, he only need to speak and it would happen.  The amazing part is that the Centurion wasn’t a Jew.  He didn’t grow up in the synagogues and under the tutelage of the priests.

Matthew 8:10-13 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! … 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.

The interesting phrase in this one is “as you have believed.”  As the Centurion believed, so the servant was healed. I wonder if that why I don’t see miracles of faith sometimes in my life and the lives of those around me.  Has my faith limited the move of God in my life and in those around me?

My faith isn’t just mine.  My faith can directly affects others.  My faith can bring healing and freedom to others, or it can squelch the move of God in others.  Your faith isn’t just yours.  It affects others.  Your faith can bring healing and freedom to others, or it can squelch the move of God in others.

Heavy thought…

I think tomorrow I’m going to start studying on how to grow my faith…. because it matters to others…

Running After Papa…

Fear God… nothing else…

Exodus 20:18-21 (NKJV) 18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”
20 And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

God’s really working on me in His holiness and what the fear of the Lord means, and in the process, I’ve gotten really ticked at how the enemy has taken everything that God has created – remember that God created everything for good – and twisted it into some sort of shackle to restrain, control, and manipulate mankind with.

There have been times during my children’s lives that they have expressed a fear of something, be it a roller coaster or a bully or a new situation, and I almost always respond with the same thing. “Fear God and nothing else.” I don’t mean that as a trite quip  just to satisfy giving them some sort of response, I want that repetitive statement to sink deep into the core of who they are and resonate within their spirit. I want it to sink deep into the core of who I am and resonate within my spirit too! It’s just as much for me as it is for them. I struggle with fear for them as much as any parent who loves their children.

Here were the Israelites who feared that God would kill them right after they had seen all the miracles God performed to free them from their bondage and slavery.  He chose them.  He saved them.  Yet, they feared He would kill them because they witnessed his amazing power, majesty and glory on the mountain.  He gave clear instruction on what was going to happen and how to prepare and respond to it (see Exodus 19), yet they still walked in fear.  They walked the wrong kind of fear of the Lord, the kind of fear that cripples and paralyzes us in our journey with and toward God.  Holy Fear is a fear of respect and humility – knowing that God can AND has every right to zap me off the face of the earth.  I deserve nothing that He affords me.  That is Holy fear.  Holy fear is NOT being afraid to enter into his presence or approach his throne if you are a believer (Eph 3:12, Heb 4:6, 1 John 5:14).

They were living a picture of Psalms 23.  Verse 6 says “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Interesting word in that verse is the Hebrew word hesed which means “a love or affection that is steadfast based on a prior relationship.”

For Israel, it was based on the promise and relationship God made with Abraham, Issac and Jacob.  For you and me it’s based on the prior relationship God the Father has with God the Son (Jesus).  His redemptive power through my submission to His lordship is the basis of God’s hesed in my life.

Fear God… nothing else.

Running After Papa…

Blisters (Eph 6:15)

God showed me that I don’t have to be anyone else….

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  (italics added) Ephesians 6:14-15, NKJV

I run.  I have for several years now.  I don’t really run because I like running, although I do enjoy the benefits and the feeling after a good long run.  I started running in order to get some discipline in my life, so I decided to train for a marathon.  Fast forward a few years.  I got really lazy in my training and only did the long runs one year and…. as you might guess… injured my heel which has plagued me with planar fasciitis for over a year.  Fast forward again.  About a year ago, I started changing my running style to take all the impact out of my running by going to more of a “barefoot style” running – simply put, I land on the ball of my foot and then let my heel touch before springing off my foot for the next step.  This style takes a while to build up stamina and strength in your calves as they do A LOT more work.

Last year, I purchased a pair of shoes called Vibram Five Fingers which are basically gloves for your feet with “fingers” for your toes and all.  They have zero support and are basically a sole for your foot so you can run barefoot style without gettting cut up or bruised from rocks and stuff in the road.

I say all that to say this.  Yesterday, I ran too far in my shoes and I got serious blisters on both feet.  I had been running about 2-2.25 miles in the Vibrams and then I would change into my running shoes and run 2 or 3 more miles.  That is my normal M.O.  That is what I do and how I build up endurance.

Yesterday, I tried to run 4 miles in my Vibrams.  This is NOT me.  At 3.3 miles, my feet were so hot (where the blisters are now brilliantly showing themselves) that I took my shoes off and walked the rest of the way home barefoot… in the grass… gingerly.

On the way home, Papa brought to mind Eph 6:15.  The NIV version sayswith your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. When I asked how this all fit together, He showed me:

Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad.  (I Peter 3:14-17, The Message)

and

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.  (Psalms  139:14, NKJV)

What God showed me in that I don’t have to be anyone else.  While I can look to others who are farther along this life of transformation; those I consider spiritual giants; those heroes of the faith;  I am NOT to strive to be like them. God made me to be me.  According to the Ephesians passage, I am to know and understand and live in Truth and Righteousness.  This brings all glory to God.  But I don’t have to wear anyone else’s shoes.  When I do, I get blisters, they rub my feet wrong.  They slow down my pace.   I just have to be me (crucified) in Him.  If I try to be someone else, I am not living the 1 Peter passage.  I won’t “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why I’m living the way…” I am.  I praise him for make me just like I am.  I am free to be me in Him.  That’s how I’ll be most effective for His purposes and to give him all the glory and praise that He is due.

Running After Papa…

Standing Firm in Weakness (2 Cor 6:3-8)

I don’t have to “BE” good enough… I can be secure and stand firm in my weaknesses!

2 Corinthians 6:3-8 (New International Reader’s Version)

3 We don’t put anything in anyone’s way. So no one can find fault with our work for God. 4 Instead, we make it clear that we serve God in every way. We serve him by holding steady. We stand firm in all kinds of trouble, hard times and suffering. 5 We don’t give up when we are beaten or put in prison. When people stir up trouble in the streets, we continue to serve God. We work hard for him. We go without sleep and food. 6 We remain pure. We understand completely what it means to serve God. We are patient and kind. We serve him in the power of the Holy Spirit. We serve him with true love. 7 We speak the truth. We serve in the power of God. We hold the weapons of godliness in the right hand and in the left. 8 We serve God in times of glory and shame. We serve him whether the news about us is bad or good. We are true to our calling.

When it really comes down to it, I – in no way – understand suffering like Paul did. I’m pretty sure I speak for many reading this blog when I say that. I am NOT saying that real persecution of the Church doesn’t exist, because I’ve been to places where it does. I know that people are imprisoned for becoming followers of Jesus Christ. I know there are places where people are executed for becoming followers of Jesus Christ.

But where I live – in America, in the “Bible Belt” – there is more apathy than persecution. So, does the modern-day Christian, living in the Bible Belt of America, suffer for the faith? While it may not be life or death, for me and my family, our hardship came in the form of obedience – of responding to God’s call.

Two years ago, God put a call on our lives that has forever changed us and is by far, the most difficult thing Father has ever asked us to do. I wish that I could proclaim like Paul that I “… stand firm in all kinds of trouble, hard times and suffering…” but I’m afraid I can’t say that.

Over the last two years I have felt – at different times – un-informed, un-prepared, un-capable, un-able, un-loved, unable to love, and un-sure that I even heard God at all. I have felt, at times, that I totally missed God. I wonder if I have what it takes to answer God’s call. I have discovered that God doesn’t require me to be good enough. He is. I love the way Anthony Evans puts it in his song “Good Enough”.

“Good Enough” on Anthony Evans CD Letting Go

HERE IT HERE on www.Last.FM

Verse1:
Hold on you got the wrong guy
And I’m wondering why you don’t seem to see
The job at hand needs a better man
But for some crazy reason you’re calling me
Overwhelmed and underprepared
It’s written on my face
I’m scared
But I then I hear you call out to me.

Chorus:
You don’t have to be
Good enough
This love is for free
And it’s more than enough
I will be your strength
In all you say
In all you do
My love will make you good enough.

Verse2:
You don’t have to be capable
Just be available to follow where I lead
Whatever, whenever, wherever
Oh, you’ll never believe all the things you can do through me
So when the big world makes you feel small
Hold your head up high and walk tall
’cause this is where the good news begins.

Chorus

Bridge:
Blessed are the poor
They will inherit the earth
And the weak, in him you’ll find your true worth
He says come all you weary
Come get closer to me
You don’t have to be good enough.

(By the way, Anthony is a GIFTED artist and I recommend his CD “Letting Go” with a 5 out of 5 stars!)

Praise God!! I don’t have to be good enough!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (New International Version)

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am am strong.

I’ve discovered that Papa gives me everything I need, but only when I need it. I must rely on His wisdom and trust in His lovingkindness and His continual, passionate pursuit of my heart. He knows what is best for me and is constantly working to mold me into the image of Christ.

So I will persevere and stand firm in my weakness. I will take each day as it comes – starting it on my face before Him – knowing I have no other option but to live in HIS will. When I am weak, then I am strong. As verse 7 says (New Living Translation) I will “…use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.”

Running After Papa…