Contemplations On The Cross
Scripture passages for contemplation:
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matthew 11:29)
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5:22-24)
It is said that Moses was the meekest man above all others on the face of the earth! (See Numbers 12:3) Imagine that for a moment!
Here is someone who walks into the court of Pharaoh from whose condemnation he fled years before. Moses then performs miracles by the hand of God bringing about the liberation of the entire enslaved population of the Hebrews. He leads them out of Egypt. From there he parts the Red Sea, leading these ex-slaves in the wilderness for forty years - refining and preparing them to receive the inheritance of the Promised Land given to them by God so long ago. There in the Wilderness of Sinai he receives the covenants of God’s Law while on the mountain and sees God face to face.
Not exactly the average Mr. Milk Toast, as defined by today’s ideas about the word “meek”!
So, we might ask, what’s so unique about meek, since Jesus also invites us to learn meekness of Him? Certainly we’d have to agree that the Biblical kind of meek does not mean weak! It certainly is not characterized by being a doormat. In fact it’s remarkably resilient, powerful, and no nonsense.
Meekness here, rather than referring to timidity, is the boldness which comes only from full surrender to the Spirit of the Living God and to our Heavenly Father’s will - which always has the best and highest in mind for us! Our meekness results in His strength.
Sometimes maybe we get a little confused about how this meekness thing works.
One of the best and surest ways meekness operates is through the prayer attitude of Jesus before His betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Thy will, not mine, be done!” He prays. Obviously this requires radical commitment as well as being able to see beyond the cross and our daily co-crucifixion in Jesus. Yes, we see beyond the cross and hold the vision of our resurrection and ascension - also in Him. We have to understand that the way to is the way through, and surrender the ego self to it.
Meekness has everything to do with the inner view of what we call “faith”. I think the NASB has an easy-to-comprehend definition of that in Hebrews 11:1 - “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Without a faith-view, it’s virtually impossible to practice meekness, for faith is not ever really “blind”.
Perhaps it would be good at this point to prayerfully pause for awhile to consider how God may be calling on us for this kind of meekness in our own life... How does that look? Where is my ego holding me back, with its personal agendas and opinions for its own fulfillment?
Preceding this personal working knowledge is the heart that completely desires the Father’s will, having first experienced His unconditional Love (See 1 John 4:19). We’ve seen God’s Love for us in action. We know we can trust Him in whatever He asks of us. It means abiding in His Holy Spirit and in His Scriptural Word. Surrender in this case is built on a deep and lasting trust in Divine Wisdom through the experience of its workings.
This is also known as humility... not what I want, Lord, but what You want, nothing held back now or ever. “Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way...”
There is no doubt that the journey He leads us on will have a blessed destination. We realize, know, and understand that He never leaves us or forsakes us - no matter where He takes us.
Thus is it not a fairly simple matter to surrender oneself to Him, or to practice meekness, since we know of His wholly reliable and unconditional lovingkindness toward us?
Simple in theory, but practice is another matter, we might say. More easily said than done?
But this is the point: learning meekness is a spiritual practice. And practice makes perfect, they say... The quality, the virtue, of meekness grows as we allow God to aim His grace toward us, and through us out into life! The more surrendered to Him we become, the more we manifest His image and likeness in the world.
As we follow Jesus into this very real and daily experience of fleshing out our co-crucifixion with Him, let us be “bravely meek” and stalwartly committed, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us: “For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” (Isaiah 50:7)
A concluding exercise: Pray about and ponder the promise of Jesus as to how it is that the meek shall inherit the earth, in spite of what we perceive as the situation with current events.
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It never ceases to fill me with awe and wonder whenever contemplating the following passage, summarizing why the Church exists. She is the Bride extraordinaire to her Bridegroom, one with Him as a spiritual warrior fighting powers unseen and bringing captives to freedom at the deepest and most profound levels, in Her Bridegroom’s Name.
“...God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God... For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3: 9,10,14-19 KJV)
Several aims of the Apostle’s prayer stand out dynamically as something worth pondering, something really worth entering into through the work and life of the elect, by way of prayer as the central focus and purpose of our being.
The question is, does our aim as the church align with what is revealed here? Do we pray this prayer with the Apostle, or are we approaching God, in a manner of speaking, looking for beads and trinkets instead of the heavenly spiritual pearls and diamonds of priceless worth?
The first order of business is intention, not of self interest, but surrendered to Divine Will and Purpose. Paul isn’t talking about simply making a better life for ourselves. He is revealing that the the elect are called to a very supernatural purpose - that the multi faceted Wisdom of God is to be revealed by the elect - not just to Earth dwelling human beings, but to the principalities and powers in heavenly places!
(The reader may want to meditate on Romans 8, to access even more insight into “the fellowship of the mystery”, as Paul refers to it in Ephesians 3:9. This fellowship is the “Ecclesia”, the ones Jesus prayed for, those called out of worldly religions and systems, per John 17:6, to a specific and supernatural purpose.)
The second thought addressed is the idea of being strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. There’s much to be done, and it begins with “an inside job” - the work of the Spirit in and through us. Being surrendered to the work of the Cross of our Lord Jesus - His redemptive work - so as to be set free from the entanglements of evil, beginning within ourselves - is what this is about. This takes place in time and space, here and now. It is in the innermost being where the process of salvation begins and continues. We’re liberated at the most foundational level, cleansed, healed, restored and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The third point is that Christ’s Spirit must make His abode in us. This is so easily taken for granted. I’m baptized, so I’m a Christian... I belong to such and such a church or group, so I’m a Christian... I answered an altar call... I speak in tongues... Such ideas are “blessed assumptions”. Assuming does not make it so. Redemption is given freely through Christ, yes. But salvation is a process worked out by surrender to God’s will and work through the power of the Holy Spirit, with fear and trembling.
The fourth issue is this. Prayer in alignment with the Mind of Christ embraces a spiritual and supernatural vision unlike anything we can imagine. Prayer means continual asking, seeking, and knocking so we - being rooted and grounded in Christ Love - may comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of His Love (in all dimensions and directions!) surpassing all knowledge! Why? To be filled up to all the fullness of God - a far greater Reality than most of us ever thought possible!
Something happened a very long time ago. Angels staged a coup in Heaven. Humanity became complicit and was drawn out of its blessed and perfect estate, falling into a cosmic trap. A plan of redemption was conceived by the Godhead and carried out by none other than the Fullness of the Godhead in bodily form - Jesus the Messiah.
He now calls forth His elect to live a life that serves notice to all principalities and powers hostile to our Supernal Father Creator and His children. Those fallen rebels are to be evicted from the Creation which they hijacked, and it is to be restored to those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, Christ Jesus.
The question is, who has actually heard and understood the call - the call to come out from among the world’s systems, false religions, philosophies, and paradigms and to stand apart in His Name on behalf of His Kingdom which is not of this world? This mission is not for the faint of heart, but in Christ it is also not “mission impossible”, for with God all things are possible. In Christ, let us be about the Father’s business.
Your kindly remarks, questions, or prayer requests are welcome here:
Lately I've been inspired to embrace a more intuitive and less intellectual approach to life. This means surrendering my will, intellect, all internal programming, and outer-drivenness to the Holy Spirit.
Part of that is learning to listen to what our body may be trying to let us know.
Having been hit with a bout of fatigue for several days, it became clearer than ever that it was time to listen to the body. My appetite was gone, so there was nothing for it but to surrender to the process, and use the time for silence, reflection, and meditation.
It was a bit scary to let go for that long, but the results were worth it. My body would not allow for anything short of that.
In using this approach to the experience of “feeling like I’m coming down with something”, tuning in to the body can result in its “telling” us what it requires, if we can get off the carousel of traditional thinking long enough to “listen”. What is discerned by that listening needs to be honored, as much as possible.
I suspect that, over the normal course of the day, people often think they need to eat or take stimulants just to keep going, when what the body cries out for is water or rest. It’s almost screaming, “Stop now and listen to me!”
Yet our modus operandi in this world is so confused that we get our signals crossed. So we eat instead of drinking more water. We take stimulants instead of a nap or even a retreat. Thus the need for restoration and rebalancing is overwhelmed by a louder voice all too often - the world’s continual lash across our backs. “Hurry, rush, rush, rush... be productive! ”, cries the inner (and sometimes outer) taskmaster who will always drive us and intimidates us with the pressure that we’re just not doing enough.
However Jesus invites us to His way - All who are heavy laden come to Me, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light. He invites us to stillness and silence and healing - sometimes through our body which say, “Stop! I’ve had enough!”
If the body is allowed what it needs, the Spirit that enlivens it can actually heal basically anything, make corrections, balance, and restore things.
So many people are afraid of this approach to life because they are used to being driven, like the proverbial horse “rode hard and put away wet,” - completely out of rhythm with the rhythms of the Creator and His created order and seasons.
What follows ignoring these inner directions? Dis-ease. Not perhaps some full blown diagnosable malady, but a warning that says, “Hey, you need to lighten up.”
Jesus, the Son of God, often went up into a mountain to pray all night. He sought ought periods of solitude, away from the crowds or even the disciples. If this was good and necessary for the Son of God, then who do we think we are to ignore our need for retreat times as His created beings?
Must we be flattened with dis-ease that hits like a freight train in order to finally get the message that it’s time to align with the Divine?
Perhaps the real etiology of these things may be an inner one. So the question is, what am I doing to connect myself to the Holy Spirit and the Mind of Christ in the way of heeding Him? Do my thoughts, words, and deeds manifest His attitudes?
If we’re not listening, after a time it registers in the body which is not in harmony. Or the crabby and anxious mind! The body lets us know that it wishes to be intimately connected to its Supernal Source of energizing power!
Our Creator-Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need before we even know it. But will we ask? This means daily regular intervals of prayer, which doesn’t have to be getting down on your knees and begging God for the things you want, or maybe even need. Prayer is the intentional surrender of our will to His will. It can be letting go of our fretful, anxious ways and allowing the Holy Spirit to take over.
It’s important to be as a little child, a royal child, who knows that he can go into Daddy’s throne room anytime and interrupt the board meeting. He knows that Daddy has priorities, and His priorities are His family.
We can meditate on and pray the Scriptures - asking, seeking, knocking. This is an important habit to develop. Our Father in Heaven will never give a stone to the child who comes looking for bread, nor will He give a serpent to the one who asks for a fish. We can count on that. Jesus loves us and He promises this.
Thus prayer may really be simple surrender to our Heavenly Father's Good and His gracious will for us. (Lord, have mercy; Thy will, not mine, be done!)
Your kindly remarks, questions, or prayer requests are welcome here:
For reflection: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?...” (Luke 6:46. See verses 47-49 also.)
I did not grow up in a household that bears a resemblance to an arsenal. This wasn’t even in our consciousness. Yet there was also no objection to anyone having weapons. It just didn’t come up as a matter for conflict, and the times were such that people even felt safe leaving the door unlocked. We lived in that sort of world and mindset.
As the years progressed, times changed, and people were polarizing on the subject of weapons. The problem may not be the weapons themselves, but the fear and aggression within human beings which drives people into seeking out weapons and using them against others. The problem originates in the human condition called “sin”.
Jesus Christ provides the solution to the human aggression problem through redemption, the plan of salvation, and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit - to set us free from fears and aggressive tendencies as we grow in grace.
This is the beauty of the Christian message and a major reason why it is so important, especially in these times, for once again we find ourselves on the brink of annihilation. When aggression is fed and grows in the human heart, apparently so does the size and sophistication of the weapons. The question is, when and where will aggression stop? As Einstein said, one cannot solve problems on the same level they were created.
Jesus Christ provided that higher level of solutions in everything He taught and exemplified. He knew that the adversary of souls is where the real weaponry must be aimed, that it is on a spiritual level - a warfare which calls for peculiar spiritual artillery where "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”(Ephesians 6:13-18) This is what Jesus’ “army” looks like.
The opening verse for this post comes near the end of Luke’s version of the Sermon On The Mount. Jesus had spent the entire night in prayer. He calls His twelve apostles out of a large crowd of His disciples. We’re told (Luke 6:19) that many people were trying to touch Him, due to the great power emanating from Him. As He healed them all, He turns to His disciples and begins to deliver this magnificent and completely other-worldly teaching to them.
There is a lot of “radical” instruction here (You might like to read Luke 6 for yourself at this point.) Everything He teaches is diametrically opposed to the way the world system looks at things. A few examples: bless those who curse you; if someone takes something from you don’t demand it back; love your enemies - that’s what makes you different from the world, since it’s fairly easy to love those who love you.
And Jesus basically winds it up with a provocative challenge: If you’re calling Me your Lord, why aren’t you living according to My teaching? I see this as His challenge to Christians in our times where we need a solution above and beyond the bigger trigger and the fearful, vindictive attitudes which drive their proliferation.
Whatever happened to “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me”? Many reply, “Well, I know Jesus taught this, BUT…”
May we ponder well and carefully all that the Master taught.
Your kindly remarks, questions, or prayer requests are welcome here:
When connecting with some of the thought out there these days among Christians, there seems to be the impression that being more virtuous, more moral, more victorious over sin and the like is through the hard work of self effort. Consequently these efforts, based in our human ideas and mind usually result in failure, just like new year’s “resolutions”.
This approach is like plugging appliances into a generator during a power failure. There’s only so much fuel in it before it runs out, and we wind up right back in the same old fix. Eventually, even if it works at first, the power runs out. Always. What’s needed is to plug into the greater and inexhaustible Holy Spirit Power that never runs out - the connection that was restored through Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago.
I would offer that self effort is based in human ego and is not necessarily the work of Grace. I’m not saying that we should not desire to be more godly or Christ like, but that the power to become whole again is based in the Holy Spirit, and nothing less. Godliness and being as He was in this world are always the goals, as a witness to the world that He is real, available, and offers powerful wholeness / holiness which the world cannot give and cannot take aways. However...
All our striving, all our righteousness, is as filthy rags the Scriptures tell us. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6).
Jesus answer to this is not in priming the pump of self effort but the seeking of God’s own righteousness. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33).
We surrender the self-will, a limited power source, to the Divine will, the infinite reservoir of Godly power and righteousness! That is the answer.
But then comes another question, “How do I seek first His kingdom and His righteousness?”
The answer is that we show up for work. Only we will not be the ones doing the work. God does this work of restoring us to His likeness through the Holy Spirit - we come in prayer, in the transformative act of surrender to Him and to His will - His righteousness.
“Prayer” means connecting to Divine Grace with the intention of being transformed. It is in personal prayer, praying with others, gathering for Divine Service, receiving the means of grace in the Lord’s Supper.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2). It is always about surrendering fully to our Heavenly Father’s will for us - His highest and best. Certainly we want to not be conformed to the world, but even the awareness, inclination, and power to make the break from that conformity needs to come from God via the Holy Spirit.
Prayer may come in the form of asking, seeking, and knocking in the usual sense that we understand prayer - as petition - as we are encouraged to do. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matthew 7:7,8). The promise is that when we petition God according to His will, in prayer, our requests will be answered. No one is turned away. Every one who asks receives - because this intention is so close to God’s own heart, that His children should be healed and restored - or transformed, a word that is very similar to transfiguration.
“By the renewing of your mind”. Renewing means renovation. We approach God in a variety of types of prayer, including also meditation on His word, praying the Scriptures and Scripture study.
The individual’s intention toward being transformed by God’s Grace through entering into His Presence is one thing; the “spiritual practice” may be different for each of us. It’s important not to rule out that what works for one person may not work for another. God’s way of relating with every one of His children is as unique as that Soul.
The important thing is to realize that we are not transformed by our own efforts of will, and then to find a way whereby each of can come into His presence, connect with His Grace, and find that His Holy Spirit is equal to the task. This does not happen overnight, so we need to be persistent in asking, seeking, and knocking.
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18).