Zachary Bright

The Wonder of it All


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Saturated Souls

woman under waterfall5

Yeshua (Jesus): “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.” – Matthew 12:43-45, ESV

“Winds of Time” (1984), a song by Mark Heard
It takes more than a good intention
It takes more than than a cursory line
It takes more than mortal vigor
To withstand the winds of time
To withstand the winds of time

It takes more than an eager heart beating
It takes more than an enigmatic smile
It takes more than positive thinking
To stand against this tide
To stand against this tide

It takes a saturated soul
And a faith that will never let go

It takes a saturated soul
And a faith that will never let go

It takes more than mindless passion
It takes more than dogma in mime
It takes more than virtuous fashion
To withstand the winds of time
To withstand the winds of time
To withstand the winds of time

It takes a saturated soul
To withstand the winds of time

There is a renewed energy in our home for several reasons. After wearing a surgical boot for a couple of weeks, I am back in the foot brace which allows me more mobility. I did a brief jig, which so excited Jack Lewis, the Bible Study Dog (BSD), that he has been in a better mood ever since. We went out on the porch and sat on the bench like we used to do. We greeted the people and dogs as they went by. Jack and I had a discourse about the people and animals that we observed: squirrels, of course, and the parrots that are back from Central America. Jack Lewis prefers to not have moving objects above his head. Here is a recent picture of Jack Lewis, the Bible Study Dog (BSD), being his handsome self:

New Jack 5:15

After taking a hiatus in April, the Thursday Evening Bible Study in our home is meeting again. I need the conversation to help steer me toward working on the questions that people are asking. The Bible Study Dog lays respectfully in someone’s lap, and sometimes, he seems to be attending to the teaching. We had a good attendance at the Bible Study, and we expect more people next week.

While I continue on disability (I will need to use a walker from now on), I seek to share the blessings of God’s kingdom, through this blog, the Thursday Evening Bible Study, occasional phone conversations, Facebook posts, and praying for people who ask for prayer on Facebook. Sometimes I say that, “I seek to spread seeds of dissatisfaction and rumors of glory wherever I go.” I try to scratch the itch that people have, of longing for something more, which brings us to the theme of this post.

But first, I must say that I had an unintended ministry this week. I drove my car for the first time in awhile and did some shopping. I sometimes needed to look down to see if my foot was touching the brake. I had some sudden accelerations and abrupt stops, surely making other drivers uneasy. I like to think that some people thought to themselves that perhaps they should make an effort to find the meaning of life, and that, followers of Yeshua were moved to gratitude and praise, having escaped unharmed from an erratic driver. I’m glad to be of service!

I read so much about repentance on Facebook. Jesus preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” The apostles of Yeshua, in the Book of Acts, called people to, “Repent, and believe the Good News!” To repent is to change one’s mind, agree with God, make a U-turn, and surrender to God and his Messiah. Repentance may involve emotions of sorrow and regret, but it is essentially changing one’s mind and surrendering to God. C.S. Lewis has written something to the effect that, repentance is not a work that God requires of us, but rather, it is simply a description of surrendering to God.

Merely saying “no” to the world, the flesh, and the devil, is not the point of the Christian life. I read a comment of someone on Facebook, to the effect that he must sit under continuous, red-hot preaching of repentance in order to battle his sin. The point of the Christian life is to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4, ESV), and to not only consider ourselves “dead to sin” (Rom. 6:11), but “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:11)

Some Christians have come to enjoy the cathartic effect of “repentance” and to identify a sense of the conviction of sin as the primary evidence of God’s presence. But we must not only say “no” to sin but “yes” to the new life in the Spirit, the resurrected life. Will power, just saying “no,” does not give us victory over sin, or lead to holy lives, for two related reasons:

1) just focusing on saying “no”, and thinking about the sin continually, leads to the likelihood of giving in (think of when your mother said, “Stay out of the cookie jar”);
2) what you struggle with shapes you.

I want to suggest that we must be overwhelmed, baptized in the beauty, holiness, goodness and love of God. We want to be inundated, saturated with the presence of the triune God. Then sin will be seen as tawdry, stupid, and not worth the trouble, compared to the awesome presence of God. I am so passionate about this point and I have tried to write about it in various ways in my blog posts. And now I am taking another run at it.

Consider Yeshua’s parable at the top of this post. The background to this text is the water baptism of John for repentance (Matthew 11:1-19) and comparisons between the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth. The casting out of the unclean spirit from the tormented person represents John’s ministry of repentance. Note that descriptions of John’s ministry go beyond mere baptism to a call for new behavior appropriate to repentance; there was a real attempt to not only cast out the old sinful practices, but to live a new quality of life. In the words of Yeshua’s parable, the cleansed person was “empty, swept, and put in order.” (Matthew 12:44c, ESV)

And yet in Yeshua’s view all this was not enough. Someone who just, as we say, cleans up her act, is undefended against the overwhelmings of evil, sin, life, and death; Jesus’ judgement is that a life that is merely repentant and cleaned up can result in “..the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Matthew 12:45c, ESV) The ministry of Yeshua would provide something more. John predicted that something more.

John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize
you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16, ESV)

Before his ascension into heaven, Yeshua ordered his disciples “…not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father…” because “…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 1:4-5, ESV) And then that ‘something more’ came upon them. The baptism of fire and the divine wind, the Holy Spirit, that John prophesied about, empowered the disciples to boldly do what they had cowered from doing before.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire
house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak
in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4, ESV)

The basic idea of “to baptize” is: to be overwhelmed, dunked, submerged, inundated, saturated, and the like. Until we are overwhelmed by the presence of God, following Yeshua will be a frustrating, and largely joyless, duty. The overwhelming, fiery love of the Father changes everything!

Mark Heard sang about how we need “a saturated soul” to “withstand the winds of time.” My hope and prayer is that we can move beyond just saying “no” to also saying “yes”, beyond only dying to sin to also living to righteousness, beyond cleaning up our lives to walking in the Spirit, and yes, beyond repenting of the same sins over and over to setting our minds on heavenly things. Will power and saying “no” is a losing battle. The Puritan writer, Thomas Chalmers, had the right idea when he entitled one of his books, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” Nothing overcomes the old like the new, nothing overcomes hate like love, and nothing overcomes sin and evil like baptism into the overpowering love of God.

woman prause2

This post was powered by Hannah Kirby, quarter finalist on The Voice, performing “Pressing On” by Bob Dylan from his “Saved” album, just a couple of days after Hannah left The Voice. You can see this performance on YouTube.

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“Seek My Face!”

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He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah – Psalm 24:5-6, ESV

Hold fast thy need; it is the bond that holds
Thy being yet to Mine. I give it thee.
A hungering and a fainting and a pain,
Yet a God-blessing. – George MacDonald (1824-1905)

For those of you who have been following the meandering pilgrimage of Jack Lewis, the Balding Bible Study Dog (BBSD), I have an update. IT’S A MIRACLE! A bit overwrought? OK, let’s try this. I am cautiously removing the word, “Balding”, from Jack Lewis’ title. Jack has slowly begun to grow hair on the crown of his head again. I think the Bible Study Dog is relieved that people are no longer startled by his lack of hair on the crown of his head. Though Jack still has some hair problems on other parts of his body, he seems conscious of the return of his handsome appearance. I have even caught Jack Lewis posing to display his handsome features as fully as possible: ears erect, tail up, eyes alert, nose pointed up, torso stretched to full length, muscles tensed to show definition on his legs. There he stands in his noble pose!

I try to remember, when I give snacks to the BSD, what the Dog Whisperer once said: let the dog come to the food rather than placing the food in its mouth. Sometimes, Jack is lazy, but usually he is very eager to come for food. In fact, some times too eager: if you forget that, you could lose a finger! Just saying… But as a good exemplar of his breed, a breed that hasn’t had all the predator and wild bred out of it, Jack’s approach to food, to acquiring the nourishment he seeks, is, shall we say, uh. intense. First, the BSD follows his nose, eagerly sniffing the air; this tells him what is on the menu. Second, after an excited dance, he becomes motionless, fixing the human with a penetrating gaze; this is prayer, specifically supplication, asking. Third, if his prayers are not rewarded immediately, if the answer seems to be “wait,” the Bible Study Dog demonstrates the intensity of his desire by dancing around excitedly, and even barking. Don’t get me wrong: the BSD can maintain a silent, humble posture for a long time (I’ve felt his presence under my desk for over an hour while I work), if he has hope.

My point today, is a simple little point, though maybe not so little to God. It’s this: that when God says, “…seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13b, ESV), he is not only giving us necessary instruction for finding him and for realizing his value (immeasurable); YHWH, The King of Creation, the Word made flesh, is also, with great vulnerability, ‘taking his heart in his hands’ as we say, and expressing HIS dream, HIS desire. This is good news! He not only rescues, forgives, saves and accepts you; he desires to be with you. God doesn’t just barely save you and then tolerate you! I know some of us have been treated that way in significant relationships. After awhile, one begins to feel like the other would rather not see too much of me, and then maybe, I am not worth very much. God is not treating you that way. Abba Father has loved you from before the foundation of the world; Yeshua left his glory in heaven and became one of us and died an excruciating death on a cross for you. And he came to earth seeking you; Yeshua wants you to seek him.

Here is God’s dream, found in Jeremiah 29:12-13 and [annotated by me]: “Then [finally!] you will call upon me [I’ve been waiting for this, for you to realize that I am your only hope] and come [seek ME] and pray to me [we have a lot to talk about – in a good way], and I will hear you [don’t worry – this will be good]. You will seek me and find me [O happy day…], when you seek me with all your heart [THAT’S what I AM talking about! Dt. 6:5].” – Jeremiah 29:12-13, ESV

There is a movement in some churches that encourages people to love to repent, not just agreeing with God and changing directions, but to feel REALLY sorry much of the time, to never forget that we are still very sinful Christians. There are those who enjoy being harangued and ‘raked over the coals’ about their sin, as their favorite form of Christian communication. I’ve got something to say about that. I’ve never once known anyone who had the understanding of God’s desire to be with them, as I’ve sketched it above, who had a hard heart or a cold heart or a heart insensitive to the Holy Spirit placing his finger on their sin. To be sure, reverence, humility and, when convicted, repentance, are appropriate responses of Christians to their holy and majestic God.

Sometimes, like other dog owners, I break up Jack Lewis’ treats into pieces, so that I can feed them to Jack slowly over time, partly so that I can enjoy the BSD’s happiness and company a little longer. If you have ever been a parent, you know what I am talking about. I’m now eager to spend a long, leisurely time with GOD, with his Word open before me, and before we are done, he might hear me singing.

Here are a couple more verses to encourage us: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Dt. 6:5, ESV); “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23, ESV).

This post was powered by the album, “Keith Green: The Greatest Hits” (2008) by Keith Green, and the song, “Harp In My Heart” from the album, “Palanquin” (2002) by Keven Prosch.