In, it’s such a little word

What was the plan, exactly?

Let’s talk about words some more. Words are describers:

Short, tall. Long, short.
Strong, weak. Simple, complicated.
Ideas, plans… Plans?

Remember this for later: “No word of God is void of power.” (Luke 1:37)

I was meditating on that verse one evening. It’s the angel Gabriel’s answer to Mary that day. He had told her something amazing, something wonderful, something absolutely dumbfounding. And she had asked him, How?

I gave that a bit more thought, then asked – “NO word, Lord? No word of God is void of power?”

“Have you considered the word in?” He replied. “As in, In the beginning?”

“Hmmm. I know several verses begin that way. Genesis 1:1; John 1:1.” I could almost feel him nod his head and wait, as I continued to think.

I had to admit that I’d never really considered that little word, in. So I did. I looked it up in various secular and Bible dictionaries, Strong’s Concordance, etc. The definition is not complicated. In indicates a location, a relative position. Inside. On. Within. At. Among. With.

Those meanings are simple. How is that little word in powerful, I wondered? Various Bible phrases began coming to mind.

In Christ. In Him. In whom. Jesus claimed that He was in the Father, that the Father was in him, and one day, they would both be in us. What a thought – one day we would be inhabited by God himself.

Consider John 14:10, 20-21, 23:

  • 10 “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works… “
  • 20 “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”
  • 21 “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him…”
  • 23 “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

Also:

  • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” (Eph. 1:3-4)
  • “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” (Eph. 3:12)
  • “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph. 4:6)
  • “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” (Col. 2:9-10)
  • “For in him we live, and move, and have our being;” (Acts 17:28)

So much wonderful truth is contained in that one little word, “in!”

After a day or two, I began wondering about something else…

What exactly happened “in the beginning?” (Or even before the beginning.)

The Word was there… In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Secret things were kept… That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. (Matt. 13:35)

A kingdom was prepared… Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (Matt. 25:34)

The blood of prophets was shed… That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; (Luke 11:50)

God loved Jesus… Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

God chose us… According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: … 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; [even] in him: (Eph. 1:4, 10)

The works were finished… For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. (Heb. 4:3)

Jesus coming to earth in human form was preplanned; foreordained… Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, (I Pet. 1:20)

The Lamb (Jesus) was slain… And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8)

Certain names were written in the book of life… The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. (Rev. 17:8)

I’ve begun to see a plan, haven’t you? The essential difference between Christianity and any religion: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) The Gospel. The good news. THE PLAN. The only plan, planned from the beginning.

Christians are inhabited by the same Spirit that created everything. (John 1:3, Col. 1:16)

Such a powerful word, in.

Words are Containers

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”

The following list began one recent evening as I was praying. I asked the Lord, “Would you please speak to me?”

I expected a conversation, perhaps a few sentences or so,  but He simply said, “Word.”

And then He began speaking this list, showing me mental images of what each one indicates. I put off writing it up for a few days, then finally went to the computer and began.

As I typed, word after word came to mind, even just now as I thought I was about through. Words are:

Containers      Explainers     Definers     Descriptors     Expressors
Impressors      Stressors     Reminders    Triggers     Tools    Equipment
Weapons     Armor     Creators    Destroyers     Healers   Deliverers
Revealers      Directors     Commanders     Preventers     Protectors
Comforters      Empowerers     Teachers     Trainers     Restrainers
Discipliners      Punishers     Confusers     Illustrators     Distributors
Distracters     Deceivers     Changers     Carriers     Manipulators
Stitchers     Connectors      Planters     Disguisers    Separators

You can probably come up with a few more.

Words are important. The way we use words is important. The unspoken words too, those non-verbal, physical expressions we use when speaking, are also important. Shrugs, frowns, smiles, leers, raised eyebrows, smirks, wrinkled noses, for instance, can add emotion, emphasize or negate what we are stating.

Why? Why are words so important?

Remember Genesis chapter 1? God created everything that exists and He used words to do it.

“And God commanded, Be, Light.” (Genesis 1:3, literal from Hebrew)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21)

Words contain power, not just God’s words, even our own words. I think we need to be more thoughtful, more careful, the way we fling words around.

“I will get through this”

woman-looking-out1Since I’ve been re-reading and studying Philippians, some things keep coming back to my mind. Memories of other lessons from this book, some quite a while ago… like “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13 KJV)

Alone in the apartment, I stood in my bedroom and yelled at God. Out loud. I raised my fists and shook them at him. I called him names. I said, I don’t like you! I don’t believe you! I don’t believe in you! I don’t believe anything in your Bible. You don’t love me and I don’t love you! You didn’t take care of me.

It was early evening and my children were off somewhere with their friends. I had no friends.

There was no place I could go, or wanted to go, because somebody I knew might be there and they would go out of their way to avoid actually speaking to me. And besides, I had no money.

I had a good time wallowing in self-pity. Sometimes I paced around the darkened room, sometimes I stared out of the windows overlooking the street, watching a few cars go by. Sometimes I examined the sparse furniture in this rented apartment bedroom, wondering who had lived there before. But who cares, I thought, they were no doubt better off than I am.

And after a while, I heard a quiet voice intruding into my thoughts. Are you through?

And yes, I was through – for now. I realized that he had been listening to my rant, not arguing back, not zapping me with lightning bolts for being rude. Just being patient, patiently waiting for me to be through.

I clenched my teeth, clenched my fists, and determinedly began to speak out loud again.

But I choose to praise you. I choose to thank you. I choose to worship you. I choose, by an act of my will because I sure don’t feel like it. I WILL get through this. I WILL survive this.

I CAN do all things. I CAN DO THIS.

Out loud I began to repeat any verses I could think of. Scripture songs I had memorized. Psalm 23. I began to thank him for the ordinary things, like the clothes I had on. The shoes I wore. The fact I actually had a roof over my head and food in the kitchen. That my teenage children had clothes and food.

More and more things kept dropping into my thoughts. Health. Job. Car. Family. Books. Library card.

I began to praise him with clenched teeth for who he is. Not what he does for me, or gives me, but just for who he is. Almighty. Creator. Alpha and Omega.

After a few minutes I realized my attitude had changed, my feelings had changed. Although my feelings of hopelessness and loneliness had not totally vanished, they weren’t as dreadfully painful.

The praise and gratitude became real. I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time, recognizing how much had evaporated from my emotions. I was surprised. Surprised and puzzled.

The voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to me again. Better now?

The year was 1978. My children and I had left our beautiful home and mini-farm, left a situation of abuse that had become intolerable to them and to me. What now, God, what now? was like a broken record running around in my head.

One thing now, I had learned a valuable lesson. Praising God doesn’t stroke his ego, doesn’t increase his power, doesn’t do anything for him. But it certainly had done something for me.

(Also see https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/empowerer-of-me/)

 

Called but not chosen

Saul of Tarsus was called. “Saul, I need you. Come here.” Of course, it was couched in other words initially: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9)

My mother loved to work in her back yard, pulling weeds, planting flowers, puttering around. She didn’t want to come into the house with dirty hands and feet just because she was thirsty, so she would call me. “Bette, I need you. Come here.”

And I came, often to be sent back indoors for a tall glass of water or a “milk shake.” Mama’s version consisted of milk with sugar and vanilla flavoring added, ice cubes but no ice cream. Once I put it into her hands, I could return to my book, homework or television, whatever I was doing before.

That’s not the kind of call Saul of Tarsus got. When he heard that voice, what it didn’t say was understood just as clearly as what it did say.

“Saul, I want another apostle. You’re it.”

“You meet my criteria: genealogy, authority in the Sanhedrin, Roman citizenship, self-supporting occupation, knowledge and zeal for the law. Come here.”

It wasn’t just an invitation, it was a draft notice. To make sure he paid attention, Jesus brought this invitation in person, in quite a dramatic fashion. Saul paid attention; he obeyed the instructions to the letter. He became an apostle.

Fast forward twenty plus years. Saul’s name is now Paul and he’s planning a trip to Rome, where many Gentiles and Jews have become followers of Jesus. He writes them a letter, informing them of his plans.

This letter to the Romans begins with an explanation of who the writer is, for a good reason. Though they had never met him, he had a widespread reputation; they knew who he was. Still, he was about to give them some orders. Why should they listen? Who is he, to them?

And so he begins, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God… apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”

He is identifying himself to them, and with them.

A servant? He was born into a prominent family, had achieved prestige and position, and he probably had servants himself. Now he’s a servant instead, as many of them were.

Called? Like they were? They knew what it meant to be called. Recruited, drafted, not because it was their own idea, but because it was someone else’s idea. They had accepted calls from owners or employers or government officials in the past, and now had accepted the call of Christ. This man says he was called, too, something else they had in common.

But Paul had not just been invited to be part of this group who believed Jesus to be God’s son, as they did. He says he was called to be an apostle, somebody sent out on assignment, traveling from place to place with God’s message for his people.

Paul’s zeal had gotten him into trouble soon after his confrontation with Jesus and he’d had to be sent home to Tarsus. Where once he’d been a respected, honored and feared member of the Jewish authority structure, he had become an outcast. A criminal, like those he’d pursued and arrested. The time back home was put to good use, I’m sure. Studying, meditating, communicating with God, learning, unlearning, relearning.

He was learning everything he could about the gospel of God, who Jesus was and how he fulfilled the promises, the prophecies. About God’s power. Grace. Faith. He was preparing to be an apostle, to share with the world at large what the Holy Spirit was teaching him. We know the rest of Paul’s story, that he did indeed become an apostle.

As I meditated on just what “called” means, I came across the Greek word for church. Ekklesia: the called ones. The invited ones. The drafted ones. And I began looking for other instances of this word, called.

Jesus told a parable about a wedding for a king’s son in Matthew 22. The king had invited (called) the proposed guests beforehand, then when everything was ready he sent his servant to say, “It’s time.” But they were too busy, they weren’t prepared. They refused.

So the king had other guests invited. The servants brought in everyone they could find – they filled the banquet hall, but the king wasn’t pleased with one of these new guests. He was invited, he had come, but he wasn’t prepared. He wasn’t wearing proper clothing for a wedding. He was thrown out.

He was called, but because he wasn’t prepared, he wasn’t chosen. Jesus ended this parable with, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” You get the picture.

The call isn’t the only thing necessary. Saul of Tarsus was stopped on that road in such a way it left no room for argument. He acknowledged Jesus’ identity and he accepted the assignment, but that wasn’t enough. He had to be prepared, clothed with something he couldn’t provide for himself.

And he was. In Acts 9 Ananias told Saul, “The Lord… has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The results, in his own words: “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I had said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” (Romans 15:18-19)

“The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance.” (2 Cor. 12: 12) When I think about all that happened to Paul in his lifetime (2 Cor. 11), I realize he could not have survived without that essential preparation; that clothing of the Holy Spirit.

Called, prepared and chosen. Clothed. That’s what and who we need to be.