Saturday, February 20, 2016

The pleasure of purpose and not having a plan in God's kingdom

In the United States and countries influenced by the US, any kind of communal activity is seen through the lens of business. We see religion, art, sports, entertainment, and politics just as much as a business as the traditional means to earning a living by producing consumable products.

We apply brainstorming sessions, action plans, and goal setting to our social get-togethers. We project manage our family vacations and choose friends based on returned value.

His purpose in our plans

Our processes and plans seem infallible in the focused spotlight of a lecture backed with projected slides. But God's reality has a way of shining a brighter light than those in the darkened auditorium. And reality, the realization of God's purpose in our presence, is much more than a divine plan.

God has no project plan for His venture. He doesn’t have to confirm if His goal is valuable for us. He doesn’t have to take account of his corporate assets, He has everything He needs. He has no business constraints. He doesn’t have to ask any cosmic consultant the best way to do something. All His strategy, analysis, and design is finished.

God has no plan for your life either. You're not one of His projects. God has a kingdom for you to live in. A plan would allow builders to create something on their own. But He has called us to be witnesses for Him into the remotest part of the world. Witnesses are more like the media who follow every step of the building. We see, we declare, and we praise Him for His perfect ways.

Partners in purpose

Can we devise a perfect methodology more powerful than Him? (2 Chronicles 20:6) God has always had His kingdom under his rule since the beginning. The end of his kingdom will never occur. There is nothing better than His complete reign for us and there is nothing in Him that is not good. His purpose is to be Him. And He wants to be with us This is HaShem’s pleasure.

He has asked us to be partners in the building of His kingdom. The kingdom is being built through our obedience, repentance, and His work in us. It is not being built by donating 20% of our wages, speaking at conferences, or taking a trip to a faraway land to plant a tree for a person you don’t know. There are no metrics of our participation that can be accurately measured. A penitent heart that serves God’s purposes is only weighed by His balances.

Prophecy and plans

What of prophecy? Can you say the events foretold in scripture are God’s plan or instead the revealing of how it ends? Plans can be thwarted and derailed. Plan B is necessary after Plan A fails. How can God be sure things end up with a complete victory if He only has a plan? No, it's more than a plan, it's the only way it can be.

If you have a perfect ship and drill a hole in the hull just above the waterline so that when the ship is loaded with cargo it will take on water slowly and eventually sink. There you have a devious plan. But an easier and faster plan would be just sawing a good chunk out of the bottom. Wouldn't it have been easier to have God just keep the angels and not have gone through all the trouble with us?

But if you inspect the ship and find breaks in the outer hull plating, you can estimate just how long it will be before that ship will sink. You have a foreknowledge of the future because you know the laws of physics. You work with your special crew to convince them how to repair it and your relationship gets stronger. Prophecy is like letting them know details of how much time they have before they sink even though they don’t understand math or physics.

The relationship in laws

God is building relationships with us and tells us a few things and lets us work other things out, but all things are ordered by His laws. The first things He wanted us to know were about relationships. Then the rest of the commandments followed in the Torah. He has weighed us in His balance of righteousness today and knows our capabilities and our decisions as sure as we know what the rate of acceleration due to gravity is. We then respond and are judged by these laws.

The laws of obedience and disobedience are as clear and unchangeable as the laws of science.
“Does He not see my ways
         And number all my steps?
“If I have walked with falsehood,
         And my foot has hastened after deceit,
Let Him weigh me with accurate scales,
         And let God know my integrity. Job 31:4-6
God does not want to use you mightily in His plan.  God wants a relationship. Stop using people like they have a job to do; they resent that. Jobs require payment. I don’t even like to say my payment is the joy of the experience I get by doing God’s tasks. It assumes the opposite in that I don’t get any joy if I don’t do my job. It even makes me think that if I do more good deeds, God will show more loving-kindness and blessing towards me.

The relationship in His house

God is not my boss. He doesn’t give me time off. I live in His house which is something I can’t improve in any way at all. I try not to break things as I live there and if I get kicked out, it’s because I would be messing it up for others which wouldn’t be good either. King Belshazzar was messing up God's kingdom during his reign and found out how clear the message can get to understand the proper order of the universe.
Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’ “This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. “ ‘TEKEL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. “ ‘PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians. Daniel 5:25-28
Whatever God does in His house will be good. There is no plan to be good. He is good. He is the source of goodness. Anything that I do that is good comes because He gave me that ability.

Responding to His purpose

When you respond to His goodness, there is no plan to put into action for the next step. The next step is good. You are living in His house of righteousness and the life that you live is good. It does not have a business goal, there is no profit and it can’t be measured so it can’t be managed. God will direct, we will be obedient. If we are obedient, then we are living in His house and what we do will be good.
Remember the former things long past,
         For I am God, and there is no other;
         I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
         And from ancient times things which have not been done,
         Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
         And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
Calling a bird of prey from the east,
         The man of My purpose from a far country.
         Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.
         I have planned it, surely I will do it.
Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded,
         Who are far from righteousness.
I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off;
         And My salvation will not delay.
         And I will grant salvation in Zion,
         And My glory for Israel. Is 46-9-12
May you Lord God provide us with goodness throughout each day and, like Jacob, the strength to struggle and prevail for that goodness. May we receive our salvation from You, the God of all righteousness. And may we shine with glory as witnesses to Your goodness for the entire world as we humble ourselves and obey Your commandments.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The writing on the doorposts - God's reminder for righteousness

When God wants us to follow His commandments, He’s not shy about what we should do. Also, I know is He is not about taking over our life and running it for us. He has to remind us to do certain things and we have to remember what they are.

Participation, not abdication

That the Lord isn't our personal chauffeur is evident by our freedom to make mistakes and then calling us back to obedience through His commandments. We either read about them or remember the singes from His past rebukes. He loves for us to be obedient but also wants us to enjoy our life. In the right way.

I think most people want to believe God wants us to enjoy our lives also. I know the Puritan who strayed from the flock, Benjamin Franklin, has often been misquoted about beer being proof that God loves us when his French correspondence was really more about the wedding at Cana and the wine celebration there (John 2:1-11). It means about the same thing but centers on something too often abused.

A better focus of pleasure is said more elegantly in Ecclesiastes 9:9 concerning how our life is to be enjoyed with the woman you love.

So at least we know that we have a loving God that gives us the freedom to be a part of His physical world. The laws start out with general commandments of the heart and mind. And then they get more specifically concerned with our activities which can remind us of the most important laws when we do them.

The mezuzah

The one specific part of the Torah where Deut 6:9 talks about having the commandments written on the doorposts of your house is the source for the mezuzah placed diagonally on many observant Jews’ houses and apartments. I especially cherish this law and its various customs of keeping it.

It may be just a small container with some verses it in, but it represents more than that. It’s certainly not a talisman of the house to protect you from an angel who comes to destroy anything. It has no magical ability to guard against bill collectors or prevent disease. God does not put any spiritual power in a physical object so that someone can worship it.

But as a symbol, it has the power to do God’s duties in our world. That way, is when we pass through the door, read in our heads what is written on that little scroll inside the container, and have those words become a part of us. We then take those words into our house and live with them each day as they become a part of our life. We eat with them, we sleep with them.

Then when we leave in the morning, we take those select verses with us to our job. They wait for us when we come home again. My meditation on those basic and elemental thoughts about my relationship with God is the way that I am cleansed from the world every day. They shield me from the worldly desires to find an alternate god and seek another happy place.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalms 121:7-8
I would decorate them on my doorposts in my home but since I’m neither a sofer stam (qualified scribe) or a good painter, I would rather just have the printed version and know what is contained in the distinctive vessel. The mezuzah is the doorpost and the scripture is to be on them so we continually refresh our priorities of our day while we are in transit from one activity to the next.

Why not inscribe all of the important scripture on all our door jambs where we can read it daily? Well, that’s the purpose of the study of the Torah. We do have to walk through those gates of study as a conscious decision to understand what God is telling his children. The study times do serve the same purpose.

Slow holiness

As we take the commandments into our house, refreshed by the kissing or viewing of that parchment holder, they blend with our activities in the home. Our activities become more aligned to those laws and the laws share themselves with us while we partake of them. Our activities become slowly cleansed and made more acceptable to our God.

If the words in the mezuzah are the only truth about God that we know, then we at least are being reinforced with the most basic knowledge of all in Deut 6:4, the Shema, one common verse there. And through each repetition of that verse we realize that the Lord is the only one. And who is He one with? He is one with His creation. And that includes us.

Our uninterrupted feedback from seeing and hearing commandments in our mind lead to the physical mitzvot of us doing acts of righteousness and becoming blameless, to the certainty that the Lord is one. When a corrupt act breaks that loop, there must be restoration in His world because there can be no unity without a repair to that order. The Lord is not two. There is only one way to come to know Him.

May you, our Lord God of holiness, be at our side in our daily household tasks so that Your blessing is rich for our family. May you, Lord of oneness, provide a shelter to keep us protected when we go out to face the storms.  And we ask that our ways are steadfast in obeying Your decrees so that we are not put to shame. Let us praise You with an upright heart as we learn more of Your righteous laws.
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