“Beneath the apparent refusal of Jesus, she saw a compassion that He could not hide.” DA423

This quote tells of the Canaanite woman who begged for crumbs of mercy. I feel apparent refusals from God at times when I pray earnestly for solutions to runaway problems. I may not even know in what direction to search for answers, but I finally look up. Can I see compassion even after apparent refusals from God? The problem which made me feel powerless continues to defy human reason and energy and our only qualification to continued the request is our need against the backdrop of His mercy. Do we then see compassion?

Jesus told Nicodemus “Unless you are born again, you can’t even see the kingdom of heaven.” What this woman saw was a character trait of Jesus that even the disciples missed. Was it because Jesus was saying what they wanted him to say, and because they were feeling like rebuking her too, that his compassion was hidden from them? They would see his compassion later. After being reborn, they too remembered this apparent rebuke and saw the kingdom of heaven unveiled.

I’ll try to remember this for next time problems overwhelm me. It seems as though the greater then need is realized, the better I may see compassion.


Chapter 42: Tradition

July 14, 2007

Well, it’s been a while. Like most things I do, this too is less scheduled then I had planned. That’s what life is like inside myself I suppose, but I my heart gets back around even if my attention flags. I’ve read quite far ahead and have to catch up. Thanks for reading anyhow.

This chapter title makes me think of Fiddler on the Roof–only this one is real. What strikes me is the tendency to exult our own ideas. I was doing just that in my head today in Sabbath School–wishing I could say just the right words so that everyone could see things as clearly as I do. Modern day pharisee in me?

“As before, the ground of complaint was His disregard of the traditional precepts that encumbered the law of God. These were professedly designed to guard the observance of the law, but they were regarded as more sacred then the law itself. When they came in collision with the commandments given from Sinai, preference was given to the rabbinical precepts.” DA415

First of all, it can’t be done. No behavioral hedge is thick enough to guard any person who’s natural design is to break the law.

“Jesus explained that defilement comes not from without, but from within. Purity and impurity pertain to the soul. It is the evil deed, the evil word, the evil thought, the transgression of the law of God, not he neglect of external, man-made ceremonies, that defile a man.” DA418

The solution is extreme–the natural design must be destroyed in man through death. It’s the only way, and the direction I must follow. It’s a scary plan, one that we didn’t learn well in Sabbath School and boarding academy. But it’s easier to put in place man’s systems of control.

What can we do until we get it? I wouldn’t be comfortable giving up my attempt to lawful outward behavior on days my natural self insists on living, and I haven’t yet been converted to the point that self never kicks and screams (like today in Sabbath School), but I won’t give up the search for further change. This inner reality is out there. Have you found it? It is not something tradition can work for you.

If we hear about a thing, me might understand it. If we see that others have realized a thing, we might see it more vividly. If we experience a thing in passing we may be a witness to it. If we live through crisis within this thing called spirituality, it might become as real as flesh.

Spirituality is a mystery. How does a Word become flesh? How does blood cleanse from sin and the body give life? This mystery had soured many. What have we to do to understand spirituality, not as knowledge, but as experience?

“Christ became one flesh with us, in order that we might become one spirit with Him. It is by virtue of this union that we are to come forth from the grave,–not merely as a manifestation of the power of Christ, but because, through faith, His life has become ours. Those who see Christ in His true character, and receive Him into the heart, have everlasting life.It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the Spirit of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of eternal life.” DA406

The significance here seems to be in the physical reality of being one in spirit with Jesus. It is so tempting to think of this as a nice thought, a good and inspired idea. But if this idea is action enough in a person that even the whole physical body is jolted out of death by it, I sense that it is more than just an intangible idea. It’s a spiritual reality that goes so far as to preserve in every way a physical future beyond death.

How real is this joint spirit with Christ? You have a spirit. Is it yours? Is it His? Is it both?

So faith is the actuator in this combined future with Christ. Faith, also a nice idea. But by God’s Word all things were spoken into existence, and by this same Word are all things sustained (Heb. 1:1-3). Perhaps, faith also is more than just a nice idea–a spiritually intangible one. Could it be that faith also is more solid an experience, then we first thought. Is it as real as flesh and blood? What does Jesus say? “Your faith has healed you?” Is there no connection between the spirit and body?

“Never before had a command from Christ seemed so impossible of fulfillment.” DA394

That must have been quite the command! What instructions did Jesus give that were so impossible to carry out? Was it when he told the disciples to get bread for the 5000? Was it when He instructed them to let down their nets on the wrong side of the boat?

Truly the battle is on the inside, because this comment come just after Jesus commands the disciples to get into the boat and cross over to the other side. For fisherman, nothing could have been more natural, but it seemed impossible because they were about to claim the kingdom for Jesus. Ellen White continues:

“The disciples had long hoped for a popular movement to place Jesus on the throne; they could not endure the thought that all this enthusiasm should come to nothing.” DA394

They were about to seize Him and claim Him King. This week, my friend Dave ranted at work about how much he loathed Christian witnessing. He was responding to a comment on his blog, and was vehement, that witnessing is the most selfish, and hateful thing a person can possibly do. Is this attitude the result of well meaning followers trying to seize the Kingdom for Christ? Amazingly, the disciples continued to grumble themselves into questioning if Jesus might himself be an impostor! After such a day as this!

This next quote about Peter’s walk on water irks me because it is so blazingly true of my life. I’m a stupid human; how quickly I forget!

“When trouble comes upon us, how often we are like Peter! We look upon the waves, instead of keeping our eyes fixed upon the Saviour. … Those who fail to realize their constant dependence upon God will be overcome by temptation. [but] We may now suppose that our feet stand secure, and that we shall never be moved. We may say with confidence, I know in whom I have believed; nothing can shake my faith in God and in His word.” DA398

God is simply not interested in making “super Christians.” We do not become stronger, we become more dependent on One who is strong. This is a key learning for me, and I repeat it often. I pray that this week you will learn to depend on God in work, relationships, the future, money, physical strength, peace, and emotional health. And if you must witness, don’t try to claim the earth for Christ, but allow Him to continue to attract seekers.

Does God command us to do what we can never do? “You Give them Something to Eat” sounds like such a command, but maybe he says such things to frame our need for Him.  The chapter goes on to tell of the source of all spiritual work.

“Christ is the great center, the source of all strength. His disciples are to receive their supplies from Him.” DA388

“The word of building up the kingdom of Christ will go forward, though to all appearance it moves slowly and impossibilities seem to testify against advance. The word is of God, and He will furnish means, and will send helpers, true, earnest disciples, whose hands also will be filled with food for the starving multitude.” DA389

“It is a great mistake to trust in human wisdom or numbers in the work of God.” DA389

“If the work be of God, He Himself will provide the means for its accomplishment.” DA389

The work is God’s, but I see clearly that He waits for us to stop trying to do work that doesn’t belong to us before we can be of use. Self has no place in the kingdom of God. Is this too strong a statement? Watchman Nee taught me that we might stop working to prove how much work God can do through us. Stop giving to prove the Giver that God is.

I think this is a tough message because it seems to condone laziness? I’ve seen many who are driven to pour human effort, creativity, passion, and planning into the work of God. I say most confidently that God doesn’t want this from them or from me. At times, He gives a command so that we see our great need and learn reliance on His superior strength. We will be busy with work that bears fruit if we first are busy in dependence on Christ. The work we are called to is to know and believe Jesus. That is job enough for any human.

Beware the American type-A habit!

“Christ is full of tenderness and compassion for all in His service. He would show His disciples that God does not require sacrifice, but mercy. They had been putting their whole souls into labor for the people, and this was exhausting their physical and mental strength. It was their duty to rest.” DA376

How far past the balance have we swayed in work for our own interests? Could you rate your schedule on a meter from 1-10? If that’s the index of need for physical rest, multiply by 10 for the need for spiritual rest. I am reminded how much more I loved the Sabbath in college when my schedule was most wearying. But I must admit that there is a point where weariness can its self spoil rest. Is that why the Sabbath is lost on so many, or that we are too busy the other six days to know that spiritual rest is needed more often than Sabbath? Even doing the deeds of Christ can weary the body and spirit.

I’m glad Ellen White qualifies rest. It’s more than sleep or recreation.

“The rest which Christ and His disciples took was not self-indulgent rest. The time they spent in retirement was not devoted to pleasure seeking. They talked together regarding the work of God, and the possibility of bringing greater efficiency to the work.” DA377

There is a reason for all this beyond health.

“Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good.” DA378

Prayer seems to go first when over worked. (I hope that’s not just me).  Prayer itself requiring a certain quality of emotional energy for me become a challenge when fatigued. I suppose that just as with every other priority, practiced intentionality is needed to make time for prayer, for the Word, and for rest in Christ. I deeply value the Sabbath, but realize that if I don’t rest in Christ a little each day, I might even spoil a greater rest at the end of the week.

I couldn’t resist adding this one. Let this be the filter through which life is viewed.

“It is Satan’s work to fill men’s hearts with doubt. He leads them to look upon God as a stern judge. He tempts them to sin, and then to regard themselves as too vile to approach their heavenly Father or to excite His pity. The Lord understands all this. Jesus assures His disciples of God’s sympathy for them in their needs and weaknesses. Not a sigh is breathed, not a pain felt, not a grief pierces the soul, but the throb vibrates to the Father’s heart.

The Bible shows us God in His high and holy place, not in a state of inactivity, not in silence and s0litude, but surrounded by ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of holy intelligences, all waiting to do His will. Through channels which we cannot discern He is in active communication with every part of His dominion. But it is in this speck of a world, in the souls that He gave His only-begotten Son to save, that His interest and the interest of all heaven is centered. God is bending from His throne to hear the cry of the oppressed. To every sincere prayer He answers, “Here I am.” He uplifts the distressed and downtrodden. In all our afflictions He is afflicted. In every temptation and every trial the angel of His presence is near to deliver.” DA370, 371

“The servants of Christ are not to act out the dictates of the natural heart.” DA367

My brain is a closet with hooks for hanging. How lightly hangs each hook depended on the attention required to fix it there. Many things can vary that attention, but at times hooks are hung with much determination, through tears, and even tears turned to joy. Upon the hooks hang key learnings of the same style, and when a new learning is discovered, it is added to those already giving weight to a topic.

Key learnings on conversion are hung heavily but with a question mark. I love the topic, but if the brain really is like a closet hung with hooks, what happens to these hooks when conversion occurs. Reorganization? Elimination? I’m enamored with conversion because it’s is so blasted mysterious and wonderful! How exactly are the servants of Christ not to act out the dictates of the natural heart? Is this a command or the natural outworking of the supernatural heart? Conversion is not a method. Maybe it is a reorganization of the closet? Suddenly, hooks that were minor become pillars of understanding and items hung elsewhere flock to it’s branches. And the experience that was hung in the back is seen from the entrance in splendor. It defies logic. That is what this next quote is about.

Worldly wisdom is foolishness with God. Those who rely upon it will surely err.” DA368

God logic verses man’s logic. Sift through your key learning and tell me which is God’s logic and which is man’s. I am tempted to start thinking in this direction until I realize that every militant church member receives their agenda from God. After our study of Ecclesiastes, isn’t this a picture of Solomon? He endeavored to sift through and classify wisdom. His brain was filled with many heavy hooks hanging with worldly and Godly wisdom. How is it that worldly hooks were pared away so as to see the Godly ones?

Even at this point in the story, the disciples were still so prejudice that they could not conceive that the gospel was to go to the hated world. Our closets need to be continually remodeled. I hold this as an essential truth, but also a possibility beyond my understanding. Is it even possible to evangelize without conversion?

Concerning the daughter of Jairus:

“Jesus approached the bedside, and taking the child’s hand in His own, He pronounced softly, in the familiar language of her home, the words, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 

Concerning the woman who touched his robe:

“It was not through the outward contact with Him, but through the faith which took hold on His divine power, that the cure was wrought.”

Outward physical contact between people may reflect the most divine inner synchrony. Jesus took the child’s hand and spoke life. The woman reached to touch that which her heart already had taken hold. In one case, Jesus reaches out to touch, and in the other, one reaches to touch Jesus. But touch is not the main event–it only speaks of what is possible when what is inside of one person reaches out in faith to another. If that other person happens to be God, then healing can take place.

I have thought to myself how affected I would be to see Jesus face to face, and how firmly I would believe and be changed if I might live in His presence as the disciples did. But just as the inner spirit of the woman reached for Jesus–and was different from others who touched Him carelessly–it was the inner Spirit of Jesus to which the dead girl responded. And we may still reach out to Jesus in the same way in our spirits. Religion is ineffective to touch or heal outside of a spirit reaching out in faith to the only hope of relief from sin. The touch that is life giving today is as it was then–only significant spirit to spirit between two beings who trust each other.

How one weak spirit reaches the spirit of another sinner is a mystery. How much greater is the mystery of how one weak spirit reaches the uncontainable powerful Spirit of God in heaven? Maybe we have needed the illustration of a physical touch to remind of us spiritual realities.

Where might we reach today for spiritual healing?

“How often the disciples’ experience is ours!” DA350

This snippet from this chapter about the calming of the storm and the demoniacs could refer to many things. Without looking at the chapter, what are the first things that come to mind? What did the disciples do that we also do? I thought of these:

a. Show boating.

b. Focusing on our fears.

c. Accusing God of disinterest in our plight.

Here’s the real deal:

“In their efforts to save themselves, they forgot Jesus; and it was only when, in despair of self-dependence, they turned to Him that He could give them help.” DA350

The experience that we have which is a repeat of the disciples experience is to try and save ourselves. There are a couple of ways I see this happening in my own life and the lives of others. The first has to do with finding a life partner. The second is career and ministry paths.  Third, we think we can survive our addictions, and somehow be fit for heaven.

1. I have my beefs with secular dating, but realize the world is blundering on with as many tools as man can invent, and shouldn’t be held to too high a standard–basically let them continue to chase the feeling. And the Christian system seems to be that we find someone who turns us on, and then ask God to bless our will? Where is our faith? At the root we don’t believe that God is romantic, or worse yet that God will chose someone we don’t like. He might even cause us to sacrifice the love we want for the good of His kingdom. In this, I will despair of self-dependence.

2. We have many ideas about work–both for money and ministry. I think I struggle with this because I view it too often as my work. Both in traveling my career path, and in ministries I like to claim ownership.  This one it seems I have failed at enough times to be rid of self-dependence, but in reality, I am His, and the work is His, the money is His, and the ministry is His. Beyond this, my weakness and incompetencies are His–and that for me is the hardest to cry out about. Strength beyond my own must be His as well. In this, I will despair of self-dependence.

3. We are all addicted. If it’s not a substance it’s status, sex, gaming, buying, religion, or other escape. Everyone is addicted to self. The idea that Christians become stronger, and graduate into professional, elite, and super Christians is hard to buck. No, we become more dependent. Rowing our own spiritual boat through this storm is the experience of the disciples that is repeated in our hearts. It’s a tricky thing. Self dies hard, especially in areas where we feel most competent. We vow to do better when we fall to the worn out and familiar sin. We adopt a new spiritual cure. We white knuckle on the oars, drop our head, and paddle harder. Jesus is there all the time. In your spiritual boat. He’s not even asleep! In this, I am learning to despair of self-dependence.

“Lord, save us! We are perishing!” 

“Never did a soul utter that cry unheeded.” DA349

“Peace, be still.”