October 12th, 2012 by Christine Colbert

The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to decay and death into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.     Romans 8:21

Our online dictionary includes this definition for the word “Hebrew”:

ORIGIN: from Old French Ebreu, via Latin from late Greek Hebraios, from Aramaic ‛i b ray, based on Hebrew ‛i b rî — understood to mean ‘one from the other side (of the river).’

Abraham’s descendants’ escaping from Egypt and, with divine Providence, rushing across the “parted” Red Sea certainly do come to mind. Hebrew = one from the other side — or, as this is sometimes expressed, “one who crossed over.” The Red Sea is a long, narrow, land-locked sea; in some ways it is more like a river. Further, Joshua would much later lead the Israelis into the Land by crossing the Jordan River near Jericho.

When we visited Israel a couple of years back, we learned that “Bethlehem” means in Hebrew “house of bread.” He who has been referred to as “Panis Angelicus,” Bread of Angels, the ultimate “manna,” the one who illustrated His “body, broken for you” with bread — was born in the House of Bread!

Yeshua’s kind of “bread” differs from the ordinary kind, however. When we eat ordinary bread, it becomes us, so to speak. But when we appropriate Christ, we become increasingly like Him through the new birth.

Jesus spoke of the importance of being “born again” to Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and had come to Him at night in the hope of not being seen by his own colleagues. When we think about the definition of “Hebrew” meaning essentially “one who crossed over,” the word itself seems to speak of this new birth — in addition to Israel’s exodus. Consider Abraham, Rahab, and Ruth. They left their very different former lives to become Israelis — to “cross over” to a new and unknown life; they somehow summoned the faith to move toward this new life in preference to what was familiar. They sensed something better; they crossed over.

In Isaiah we find the stirring words, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; can you not perceive it?” We find a paraphrase of the first part of this statement in Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.”

Astrophysicists tell us that more than 200 finely-tuned characteristics of Earth reveal that the universal stage was set in advance for us — for billions of years. And that Earth is in a unique place and time parameter that enables us to observe these exquisite elements of design. A personal Creator had you and me in mind.

Scientists who have also studied Scripture recognize in it a setting forth in several texts — not only in those in Genesis 1 — of the astonishingly-unique process of setting the stage for our world for the very purpose of creating — not suns, but sons.

When He was physically present with us, Jesus often referred to Himself as “the Son of man.” He is described this way in the fiery-furnace story in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament as well. But after the resurrection His description, in the epistles for example, consistently becomes “the Son of God.”

“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ  appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is. And all who have this hope will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.”    (1 John 3:2,3)

The goal that Jesus put before Nicodemus is the same one He puts before you and me — to become citizens of the newer creation that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” The one in which weapons will have been transformed into garden tools that facilitate life. In which there will be no more killing or evil or death. No animal predation. No sickness or sorrow or night. The perfect creation — as God would design it.

“You must be born again,” Jesus told Nicodemus, the apparently wise, older man.

“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness — without it no one will see the Lord.”    (Hebrews 12:14)

God’s love and mercy are freely extended to all. He waits as long as He can. His desire is that as many as possible will enter the Kingdom of all things new.

Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

March 9th, 2011 by Bryan Anthony
“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him…” -Dan. 9.9

The mercifulness of God is so contrary to the revenge-driven nature of humanity, that if we see Him rightly in light of the Gospel message we are overcome by His kindness and shocked to the core with how delightful He is.

We ought to be suspicious of a brand of Christianity that is so solemn that it removes us from the joy of His salvation, puts us under the weight of religious performance, and causes our souls to be continually downcast. There is a valid place for the burden of the Lord, and for weeping after His great intentions, but the mainstay of sonship, the foundation of our union with Him must always be found in a vital and active union with the God who is merciful.

Eugene Peterson has written:

“If we get our information from the biblical material there is no doubt that the Christian life is a dancing, leaping, daring life.”

There is something dubious about a version of the faith which lacks the spontaneous joy that results from the reality of salvational experience. If we are gripped with a burden in prayer, it is meant to be unburdened right there, in the place of intercession. The burdens are not always to be carried in a public way or placed on the shoulders of other saints. There may be times when the Lord calls you to communicate that burden as the prophets of old, but if you carry it in such a way that the Lord has not intended, you will convey something in the name of God that is not marked with the Spirit of God. If the Lord gave it to you in the place of prayer, enjoin your soul immediately with His until the burden lifts and you have done your part as His co-laborer. If you parade the burden before men, and fail to pray it through to the satisfaction of God’s heart, you will defeat the purpose of the burden itself.

The Church is in a radically anemic place, and while much of the lack can be traced back to a casual, irreverent corporate disposition toward the Lord, one great source of our malnourishment is that we are not rightly receiving His good mercy and holy affection. We are in great need of the Spirit of the fear of the Lord, and we need ever to live in a consciousness of the judgment to come, but there is great need also for new and fresh immersions in the mercies of God.

We chase after material possessions, the preservation of our reputations, or religious and ministerial status improvements only because we are still functioning on carnal grounds, and we have not adequately received and delighted in the God who is merciful.

Consider these words from the great Puritan writer, Richard Sibbes (1577-1635):

Among the things that are to be taken heed of, there is among ordinary Christians a bold usurpation of censure towards others, not considering their temptations.

… we should not smite one another by hasty censures…

… Christ, for the good aims He sees in us, overlooks any ill in them, so far as not to lay it to our charge. Men must not be too curious in prying into the weaknesses of others. We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our heart to love them, than into that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume, to estrange us. Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker, whereas the strongest are readiest to bear with the infirmities of the weak.

… The Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls. Oh, that that Spirit would breathe into our spirits the same merciful disposition!

(The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes; Banner of Truth Trust: Carlisle, PA; pp. 32-33)

When we lose touch with the merciful nature of God and His distinct kindness, immediately we become that brand of Christian that receives power (albeit a false power) by searching out the shortcomings of others. The evidence that our smiting of “one another by hasty censures” is not prompted by the Lord is shown in the fact that rather than giving ourselves to secret intercession on the behalf of the weak ones, we harbor thoughts of superiority against them. If we are more apt to speak negatively about men, or to think ourselves superior to them, rather than giving ourselves to merciful prayer on their behalf, we can be sure that we are operating under the influence of darkness.

Yet if the “Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls,” and if “the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him,” far be it from us to reject a brother in his struggle and inconsistency! This is not to make light of sin, for we are called to purity, and to “speak the truth to one another in love.” Rather, we are to make much of His mercy, and we need to remember that His kindness is itself an expression of His holiness. His righteousness and His gentleness are not in opposition to one another, but are intrinsically linked attributes of the only true God. If He were not a merciful God, neither would He be a holy God.

Has your experience of “faith” driven you into a continually solemn place, where there is no longer any “dancing, leaping, or daring” in your spirit? Is the garden of your life overgrown with the weeds of criticism, superiority, and the continual examination of others? Dear saint, He did not save you to induct you into a life of lackluster seriousness, suspicion and censure, or depressive discipleship. His desire at the time of your salvation, and His desire today, is that “your joy may be full.” (Jn. 15.11b)

Delight in His goodness then, weary soul! Lay down your chapped and calloused frame of mind regarding yourself and those around you. Let it die and go into the ground, that new life and a God-centered perception might be your portion. Bask in the His mercies, for they have been extended to you. They are intensely available to all who would call on the name of the Lord.
Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely . . . . Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love. And repose in his almighty arms. -Robert Murray McCheyne

Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

June 19th, 2010 by Bryan Anthony

“But Daniel made up his mind [as did Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah] that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.
…. At the end of the ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating king’s choice food.
…. As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.” -Dan. 1.8, 15, 17

There is an oft-neglected standard set in forth in the life of Daniel, and it needs especially to be heeded by believers who find themselves living in the prosperous nations of the world. It has to do with the manner of our eating and drinking, and the direct correlation of the level of our spiritual sharpness and discernment. Simply put, those who are given to overeating and overindulgence will be dulled to spiritual realities, and will have no room or capacity for the glorious privilege of the saints; namely, the grace to increase in the knowledge of God, and the power to set forth His word in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

Daniel and his Hebrew friends (a small remnant out of all those who were taken from Jerusalem during the first installment of Babylon’s intrusion) were characterized by a remarkable kind of consecration. It was remarkable indeed, for the majority of their kinsmen were totally duped and swallowed up by the pervasive power of Babylon’s table, and these young prophetic men were not willing to have any part of it.

For these ones who were brought to Babylon from Jerusalem to serve in the King’s palace, assimilation was the name of the game. Nebuchadnezzar wanted “youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered the chief of his officials to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.”

They may have been castrated and made into eunuchs (removing their courage); they were given new names (removing their identities); they were instructed in the knowledge of Babylon (clouding the clarity of the Law of God), and made drunk by the voluptuous power of an unlimited volume of food and wine, straight from the King’s reservoir. Daniel and his friends endured all of the hellish transition, but they reached a point where they could not buckle any longer. They were willing to submit to the changes that were placed upon them in the sovereignty of God, but when it came to the table of Babylon, and the dulling effects of luxurious food and copiously flowing wine, they boldly and humbly drew the line in the sand.

Daniel “made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank.” This was not merely an issue of the Law, which is to say, refraining from the eating of unclean animals. This was an issue of protecting the inward prophetic distinctive of his own purpose and existence as a young Hebraic man. This little remnant of four souls had maintained a union with the God of Israel, though all of their kinsmen had fallen under the sway of Babylon’s way of life.

The land of exile was to be for some of the exiles the land of opportunity.

(Daniel: OTL, Norman Porteous; Westminster John Knox Press, 1965)

It may have been the “land of opportunity” and promotion for those who lacked the iron-core of prayer and the moral grit of loyalty to Yahweh, but it was a land of radical delusion and compromise to the one who had “made up his mind that he would not defile himself.” Daniel knew that he could not transgress against the union he had with the Lord, and because he jealously guarded that union, the Lord put him high places to set forth the truth of the Kingdom.

There is a note that needs to be sounded along these lines, for the Church in this age is being mostly swept up in a manner similar to the majority of the exiles. There are too few Daniels in our midst, and as infrequently as we hear it addressed, the issue of our food and drink plays a staggering part in dulling our hearts to the reality of God, and sweeping us away in the tides of lust and sinful pleasure.

How is it that Daniel was able to endure losing his Hebrew name (which was so charged with meaning), being indoctrinated by Babylonian thought and spirituality, and becoming a eunuch (if indeed he did), but when it came to the issue of food and drink he was unwilling to give his soul over to it’s alluring power?

There is something terribly amiss in our Christian culture, when so many of our members are obese, given to excessive eating, and lusting after food in the same way that men lust after women. I am suspicious of the whole phenomenon of buffets and “all-you-can-eat” establishments, most of which are filled to capacity on Sunday afternoons. There is something telling about our dissatisfaction with God when we flock to these restaurants, making multiple trips to the buffet, and straining our intestines in pursuit of fulfillment and pleasure. Is there something lacking in our union with God, and since our drab Sunday meetings haven’t met that lack, are we compelled to turn to “comfort foods” for some type of satisfaction? The practice of overeating, which is so common to believers in the Western world, is a revealing sign that we have not been satisfied with the table of the Lord, with the fellowship that He gives, with the “food” that Jesus ate of; that is, doing the will of the Father.

Daniel and his friends stepped away from the table of Babylon and it’s stultifying influences, for they did not want their inward loyalty to the Lord to be diluted. They were jealous for His glory, and jealous to keep their hearts with all diligence, for a blurred heart cannot abide in the counsel of the Lord, and this was the chief desire of these four remarkable young men.

Not only were they preserved in terms of health, but “God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.”

There is something here to be said for the man who will take thankfully only what is needed of food and drink, “setting his heart upon” the place of prayer, totally unwilling to break from a union with the Lord, totally unwilling to give sway to the spirit of this age. Daniel is a unique prototype for us along these lines, and we need not to hold his example off at a distance as some rare historical episode, but to examine our own lives and press into the Lord for the grace to walk in this kind of consecrated reality.

How shall we function in the various types of “Babylonian” atmospheres that we find ourselves in? Are we willing to step away from the table, to take only what is required for sustenance, and to give our lives over to the spirit of prayer? This is not to say that we will cease to enjoy good tasting things. That is not the point at all. We know the difference between enjoying a meal with grateful hearts, and having a lawless blowout of a meal that dulls our spiritual senses.

If we have given our bodies and souls over to excessive eating and drinking, it can be certain that we have robbed ourselves of the kind of divine clarity, holy knowledge, and revelational insight that the Lord only gives to those who “set their hearts” upon Him. It is not an issue of asceticism, legalism, or striving in a fleshly religious sense. It is an issue of being set apart in the inner-man for the eternal purposes of God.

Daniel’s dogged determination in the area of food clearly played a role in opening his spirit to the realm of God, and it will be no different for the believer in these last days. There is a sharpness and priestly coherence that comes to the one who pushes away Babylon’s overflowing plates and chalices, and gives himself to the Danielic mode of being; namely, a life of joyful restraint, prevailing prayer with fasting, and living ultimately for the glory of God.

If we would overcome the spirit of this age and glorify the Son of God in these days, we must adopt this mode of being. There is no other way to come into the prophetic and apostolic reality that the Scriptures have set forth. And a Church which lacks that reality has fallen short of the glory of God.

Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , , , , , , ,