Christmas and the God of All

Greetings and Holy Felicitations and Blessings,

I have long been remiss in sending out updates, and for that I give my sincere apologies. The links between me and you, my family of friends, are tenuous, and they should be guarded and tended with greater thanks and care than I have. The hardest part of this trial, by far, is the separation from those I love. The food and lack of liberty I can handle. You, my brothers and sisters in Christ — including those who have been part of conflicts, and for whom I pray continually that God would bring reconciliation between us — are my dearly loved and missed family.

Christmas is one of my favourite feast and celebration times. I love holidays and birthdays and traditions, like the rest of my family. I have so many beautiful memories of Christmases past (like when we got a set of huge dictionaries and screamed like a ‘normal’ family getting a gaming system), of times with my family having fun. And somehow with all the presents our parents were able to keep our focus on the giving, not the getting. We loved the gifts, but the joy of giving is what I remember most. People say that’s what Christmas is about — because it is when we celebrate God giving Himself to us. And they are right. But there is more to that picture…

God is infinite, awesome, and great. The Creator, the King of kings, Lord of lords. God and Father of glory itself. Eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, the beginning and the end. He cannot possibly be arrogant because however much He thinks of Himself, He’s right. He is the only person who is perfectly justified in being selfish and self-centered. We glorify Him and He glorifies Himself and He deserves it. He doesn’t owe anyone anything. He could have wiped out the universe and been perfectly right in doing so; we deserve it.

But Jehovah God is greater than that because He is more than Sovereign. He is humble. He is meek and He lowers Himself to care about us, His rebellious creation. “Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly.” (Psalm 138:6a) He stoops. He brought Himself down to our level and walked in the dirt with us. He didn’t value His Godhead and glory more than His desire to love, to give.

There are other religions with powerful gods, gods who can do great things. But that’s what’s so special about YHWH. He is not only the greatest God, He is also Jesus. He is a person. He loves. He feels. He hurts. He isn’t any less because He gives.

That’s why, in all the honour and glory and praise we give Him as the God whom all things glorify, and for whose glory all things are done, the ultimate standard of worth, and joy, and righteousness, and truth, we must also remember the other side of His amazing greatness. Our God is more than Everything — He is also humble. He accepts us and our infantile, half-hearted, stumbling love, our weak and dust-made efforts, our offerings of service broken and poorly wrapped… He accepts us.

And that is the greatest gift of all. That when He gave us Himself, wrapping His infinite greatness in finite weakness, He was giving us the ability to give to Him. Not in greed, for what can we give or add to Him? But in generosity, opening Himself up to a relationship of love and humility.

And that is something we should celebrate every day. The Christmas season isn’t over, not for my family (we tend to go from the day after Christmas to January 6th), but the time for giving and loving is never over. So give as Christ gave: humbly. And accept His gift of love.

May the God of all comfort grant you the revelation of His nearness and love, opening your heart as a channel to receive and give His passion and affection,
In the name and love and hope and joy of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus the Christ,
Your brother, Jaymes Lauser aka Sir Emeth Mimetes

O Death, Where is Thy Sting?

Last night in Church service we were singing some of the old hymns – He Lives, Old Rugged Cross, and others having to do with Christ’s death and resurrection. The joy and the spiritual power of the wisdom and love for God in them just overwhelmed me, and I was singing along in the Spirit rejoicing and praising. Such times are the greatest times of joy for me in here, when I am closest to having true peace and rest. When the Holy Spirit fills me with intimate love and joy and worship for my Abba Father, and I am swept away in adoration and gratitude for Him simply being Himself.

While I was singing, I was meditating on death and what it means to a Christian who is intimate with the glory of God. The passage in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 was running in my mind, the phrase, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” consuming my thoughts. After the songs they asked for testimonies, and I of course stood up and said what was on my heart.

Again, the joy of the Lord filled me with wholesome and pure happiness when I was up there testifying to His goodness and His grace. It’s like nothing else to speak of Him, and I just have to share it with you.

I told them how a few weeks ago a friend of mine mentioned how a plane had crashed into the ocean, killing all the passengers, and how horrible a death that would be, knowing that in a few minutes you were about to die. I pointed out that we will all die, and we all know it. He said he preferred a quick death. Suddenly, in a flash, I realized something awesome.

I would LOVE to die like that. To know that in a short time I am about to die – to be able to see the countdown of my life drawing nearer to the end… of the beginning. See, I’ve always loved progress bars (ask my family: I’m addicted to watching downloads), and I’m also a big fan of the anticipation part of receiving gifts. That’s half the fun! And what greater gift, what more amazing blessing, than to at last behold my Saviour’s face? What greater arrival is there than our arrival at the last Home? So why not enjoy the anticipation?

I’m not entirely sure I want a lingering death (though I’m sure God would give me the grace to glorify Him in the pain), but an anticipated one I dearly long for. I want to die in a way that I know I am about to do so. I want to look death in the face and laugh and praise God. I want to savour unwrapping that present. I am excited to be able to go Home to my God, and I want to linger over that moment of finally stepping into His arms.

I say I want these things, I say I desire and long for these things, and a lot of people might say that’s a beautiful testimony. Others might shake their heads, tsk tsk in a gently remonstrative manner, and kindly but firmly remind me that we can’t know until we’re faced with it. That I shouldn’t boast about what I haven’t met yet. I totally disagree.

I know and am absolutely assured in God that He always gives grace to meet the need. Every time, no exception. No matter what trial we face, no matter what the circumstances are, we can rest in total peace that He is there in sufficient measure to carry us through to His glory. He never leaves us in the lurch. Now, I know this, and you know this, but how do we know that we will take advantage of that grace? Because after all, we do tend to mess things up pretty bad with our free will in things. In fact, however much latitude God gives us in things, that’s about how much latitude is taken for errors and mistakes. :P We are pretty pitiful – so even if I can trust God… how can I trust me to trust Him when it matters most? Will I turn to Him or to myself in a pinch? * panic *

I’ve always wondered that, and had a great deal of anxiety over it. And the eradication of that fear has been one of the greatest gifts God has given me through this whole trial. I have learned that God comes through not only in providing the grace necessary, but in also helping me take advantage of that grace. How do I know that I will be able to face death calmly and unflinchingly? Because I knew that I would be able to face arrest, conviction, sentencing, taunts, threats of physical harm, violent mockery, and the loss of everything and everyone I hold most dear on this planet with equanimity and faith – and I did. I saw the potentials of each of these things before they happened (sometimes months in advance, sometimes days, sometimes minutes) and I trusted God to make sure that I would honor Him in my response, and I did. I have looked men in the eyes who would like nothing better than to beat me to a pulp, and who were seriously considering doing so, and I loved them. I wasn’t bitter towards them. I witnessed to them. That is nothing, absolutely nothing but God.

Never has He failed me. Never have I sought His face and He turned it from me. In the depths of despair He met me and held me. In the height of fleshly anger He touched me and cooled me. All because He has revealed His glory to me so powerfully that nothing else can touch my love and devotion to Him.

So turn to Him. Trust Him. Seek Him. You can be sure that He will be there for you when you need Him. Every. Time.

Love Him for it.

Ask, Seek, Knock [from the Archives]

Bible

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

Sometimes the old things come back to teach us again. This is a message I really think I need to share again with you all. It is a repost from 2009, in my early blog days. Enjoy. :)

Greetings,

Matthew 7:7-8 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Devotions are important: crucially important. I am ashamed of how often and how much I have neglected to realize just how important they are. Oh yes, I would do them, but they would be more ‘me-time’ than ‘devoted-to-God’ time. Doing devotions right and getting stuff out of them is just as important as doing them in the first place. Time and focus is a major part of our treasure: ask any businessman. But where are we investing our time, and how are we investing it? Are we truly setting aside time out of our schedules and our hearts for God? I was assuredly not very devoted in my devotions before, and it affected every area of my life.

But what good is it to spend two hours in prayer and two hours in Bible reading every day if you get no fresh, new insights, strength or hope from them? Some people would say that it does not matter: read it anyway. But how many of us have considered that it might be that we are reading the Scriptures the wrong way? Practice only makes perfect if you are practicing right: practicing playing baseball holding the bat from the wrong end will not help you much (it actually might for all I know, I know practically nothing about sports, but I needed an example). The Pharisees were experts in the Scriptures if reading it was all it took: they had all of it memorized, with the commentaries. We ought to do more.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them,] because they are spiritually discerned.

So how ought we to pray and read our Bibles? Well, it is evident from Scripture that the unsaved cannot understand the Scriptures, for their minds are corrupted and earthly, and cannot understand heavenly things. When we are saved, we are given the Holy Spirit, which opens up to us the mysteries of God. Without the Holy Spirit we are helpless. But that means that if we do not rely upon the Holy Spirit, then we are just as helpless as the lost in reading God’s Word, which is a very sad condition.

So we see that we must needs rely on God, and not on ourselves in our devotions. And this is where the title of my article and my text verse comes in. I have learned that we can have utter faith that after every devotion time, we can come away with a new, fresh, empowering truth for the day. But this can only happen by faith and prayer. But it can happen every time: it is a promise from God. To expect anything else is belittling and dishonoring to God. So how do we do this? We ask, seek, and then knock!

First, as we prepare for our devotions, before we approach God in prayer or in His Word, we ask Him in faith to guide us by His Holy Spirit, and to open our eyes, that we may behold the wondrous things that He has for us in His Word. Then, instead of just sitting there and waiting for a voice like a trumpet or a still small voice to speak out of the blue and say: “Pray about ***, then go to Philippians 1:7-9 and see the note that I put in there for you,” we go and seek. Go looking for God’s insights in His Word or start praying about your day or whatever is on your list that you need to pray about. But when something seems to stick out off the page, or if you do not understand something: stop, for you might very well have found it. Then knock, asking God to open it up to you. Sometimes He will use one thing to get you to somewhere completely different, but He always will show you something. And it will be what He knows you need.

This is a Biblical pattern, and the promises are true and faithful, but I will not be so prideful as to say that this is the only way to do your devotions. I am only stating that it has transformed my devotions in the past two days. If you have any other tips, mindsets, Scriptures, experiences, or insights, please feel free to comment (comments are better because others get to see what you say as well) to let me know. This is something that we can all grow in, and I am finding that I need to grow in it especially.

With joy and peace in Christ,
Jay Lauser

What is so magical about midnight?

Why do we stay up until the middle of the night… merely to stay up to the middle of the night?

Why does the world go insane because the year increments by one?

Why does it matter that the second hand ticks that one time? Why is it special? Why is that one minute passing so vitally important?

What is magical about standing on the moon? Or seeing light broken by little globules of H2O? Or looking into the eyes of the child you love? Or reading a story of joy and heartache?

What is … magic, in this sense?

These things are the definition of magic. The joy you get from a rarity, from the beauty of a thing which is special simply because it is unique. When the year passes… when 365 days end their time… when the last second runs out… we look and see an enigma of time: it goes on. We see a marker which God wrote into the heavens with incomprehensible exploding giants of power, ticked out in our daily lives, yet again, just as always before, and yet so unique.

No year is the same.

New opportunities. Old lessons learned. New hopes. Old victories. New challenges. Old failures. New adventures. Old memories. Each year brings change. No year is the same for each person, and no year is repeated.

Take this one.

Live it for God. Choose to grasp it and step on. No matter how low you’ve gone this year, this next you can rise again. Do it.

A Rant For You

What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Does it matter? Should we give any thought to anything beyond ourselves? Why should we trust anyone but our own selves? What is there beyond what we see? Are there hopes, dreams, possibilities beyond what we can ken at this moment? Is there hope beyond the now? Can we know, for certain, anything at all? Is there meaning to love? To happiness?

Can we change?

There is one answer to these questions, and every other question that has ever been asked. There is one answer which is the key which unlocks the mysteries of every cloaked and shadowed mystery in all of time and space. There is one meaning which is the meaning of all meanings. There is one hope, which is the hope of hopes — the hope which gives hope life and breath.

There is one life, which is the source of all life. One word which is the greatest of all words. One Person who is the Being of all being.

Look at this verse. Look at it hard. Let its meaning sink into your eyes and down into your heart. Meditate on it. Muse on it. Do not let it go away from you. Think. Even if it is the first time in your life, I want you to think, hard, on this verse.

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

How. Can we… bless the Lord God of hosts, father of glory, eternal, perfect, holy. Think of who He is, and who we are. All that we’ve done to Him. How can we possibly bring anything to Him which He considers valuable?

Why did He make us?

The answer.. is Himself. God. It’s who He is!

The greatness, the wondrousness, it’s all Him. The paradox, the oxymoron, the mystery of all mysteries. It’s Him. He’s perfect, He is love. How amazing is that?!

Don’t let this pass away from you. Take a hold of it, and realize this.

You can.

No matter where you are, no matter how hard things are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how many times you’ve failed, you can get back up again and go in God’s Name because He. Loves. You.

He is always there. He is always giving you an opportunity as long as you reach out for it. He will never give up on you. You. You. Can bless His Name.

P.S. If… you want to hear the audio version of this article, I do have it. I couldn’t really get it out on paper, so I blurted it into my mobile and recorded it. It’s not exactly the same, since I changed it when I posted it, but if you want it, email me, and I’ll send it.

Christ in Pain

Holy Spirit painting

When the chips are down. When the rubber meets the road. When all hell breaks loose, literally. When “things don’t quite turn out.” When your life is wrecked, devastated, turned upside down. When your heart is torn into shreds and fed to the dogs. When the worst thing you could imagine… happens. How is God glorified in that?This is really a re-phrasing of the age-old question: How can a loving God allow death and suffering in His world? And although the answer to that is inestimably crucial, the answer is too much for the scope of this article. If you don’t know the answer, please, please email or comment and let me know, and I will be more than happy to explain it. Knowing this is vital, absolutely critical.

But when I phrase it this way… the question opens itself up to being rephrased again, and to really reaching into the heart of a struggle that I see many Christians battling with. A turmoil I see in the lives of people I love. So… you know who you are… this is for you. * smiles *

When everything is against me. When the world opens up at my feet to swallow me…

How do I glorify God in that?

You see how it’s connected? Think about it. God hates sin. He hates evil. He hates death, suffering, misfortune. He uses it, yes, but He doesn’t like it. It is not a part of His perfection which He wants for us (and which He will give us in heaven).

So how is He glorified in it on Earth? And as Christians, where do we fit into that? We are commanded to glorify Him in everything we do, in every circumstance. And really, if you think about it, what else should we want to do?!

So… how do we do it?

It’s hard.

No… scratch that. It’s not.

It’s impossible.

Really. It is. It is superhuman, supernatural — absolutely completely a miracle.

And that is the key. See, in our own strength we can’t glorify God in circumstances like that. We can’t do anything that would bring Him honor or praise or bless Him in any way. So… we do things we can’t do. Impossible things. It’s really as simple as that.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

What is peace?

Look at a glass of water or a still lake. Look at it… placid… smooth… unrippled. Untouched, unbroken. It is at peace.

Drop a pebble in. It breaks, the surface begins going everywhere, reacting to the stone. It is troubled.

God’s peace is this: Doing what is right regardless of circumstances.

Some people say it is freedom from harm. Which isn’t true. The Holy Spirit brings about peace, as well as troubles and harm (unless being stoned and drowned and beheaded and robbed and broken and tormented doesn’t count as harm…). If peace is freedom from harm, then He contradicts Himself. God forbid.

It might be more accurate to say that it is freedom from fear of harm. But even that isn’t true, because fear is not something you can really get rid of. It is a God-given impulse of our flesh, and we can’t rid ourselves of it any more than we can remove our need for water and food. What really matters isn’t being unfearful, but being courageous.

Courage is doing what is right despite being scared.

That is peace. It is choosing not to let circumstances control you. It is not reacting to things that happen to you — but choosing to respond instead. It is not letting your heartbreak determine what is on your heart’s throne. Doing that is impossible.

The pain is there. It will be there.

But that pain isn’t bad. Not if you glorify God in it. Then it becomes a wondrous thing.

When the very thing which is a punishment and consequence of rebellion against God brings glory to God, when imperfection blesses perfection… that is glorifying God.

So in essence, the way you glorify God in trials is simply to do what you would have done if you didn’t have trials. Make sense?

You still love. You still have joy (not necessarily happiness, though). You still serve. You still forgive. You still trust. You still pray. You still draw closer to God. You are still a little Christ, a little light of His.

And the very fact that you are doing all that while being tormented is what brings God ten-fold glory. Because it is impossible.

Now, you might have noticed that I didn’t give any Scripture references in this whole blog post. It quotes from the Bible extensively inline, refers to Scripture constantly, and is built solidly upon multiple studies of several topics, but I didn’t give any references. So, I am curious if any of you have any Scripture quotes which apply to this which you would like to share in the comments. Or even if you don’t want to share them, go ahead anyway. ;)

A comment form is right below, and you can get Scripture here: www.sir-emeth.com/bible

Have at it. :)

Prayer Vs. Bible Reading: Which is Better?

Prayer is a beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Prayer

Image by Chris Yarzab via Flickr

God’s Word is an even more beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Or is it the other way around?

Or… does it make any sense either way? I don’t think it does. I often hear people extolling one or other of these glorious things over the other one, and although I get where they are coming from, it still annoys me. Sometimes a person is particularly gifted with the blessing of being able to walk very closely with God in prayer. The same thing happens with the Bible: some people have the grace to glean volumes from Scripture in a way that is positively miraculous and incredible beyond the ‘norm.’ Sometimes both are given to the same person, but not always.

And so when someone has a gift like that, they are generally excited and grateful with boundless joy over it, and because of the glory of what they are experiencing, they strongly encourage and exhort their friends to strive for the same thing. And they won’t exhort as strongly from experience for the other, because they simply don’t have that experience. And so you end up with a natural division… with one group of people dedicating absolutely everything to prayer, and the other group of people dedicating themselves absolutely to Bible meditation and study.

There are extremes, and there are gradients all across the board, but that’s the tendency I see happening.

Is this good?

Well, you can’t deny that focusing on one is better than focusing on none. But why does this disparity occur? Why are some people gifted with an aptitude for one, and not the other?

God gives different gifts in different ways for different reasons.

Some gifts He gives equally to everyone, barring extenuating circumstances, such as rain. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust, unless there’s a drought in judgment from God, and the sun rises on the evil and the good, unless an audaciously faithful commander tells it not to in the name of God.

Some gifts He gives for seemingly no reason (in our earthly wisdom) out of His own plan and grace, such as the talents, challenges, and things that you are born with.

Some gifts He gives in fulfillment of an absolute promise, such as salvation. He promises that if you turn to Him and believe on His name, you will be saved, period, full-stop, no other option. If you seek, you find, if you knock, it will be opened, etc.

Some gifts He wants to give us, but won’t until we ask. Some of them He won’t give us until we sacrifice for it and work for it. Some He won’t give until we beg. Is that because He doesn’t want to give them to us? No, He just knows that we can do without them, and that we will be more blessed from them if we dedicate ourselves to seeking for them. He also wants to strengthen us through making us wait sometimes. Patience is a hard learned lesson.

I think it is the latter which plays most into whether or not we are blessed in prayer or the Word. Various things will make a person want to improve their walk with God in one or the other, and they will work at it and seek God in it with tenacious pleading and seeking, and God will give it to them. Sometimes God will give it for less trouble, other times for more. Sometimes He gives it for seemingly very little, perhaps because He knows you’ll need it for something. We never know.

But in any case, we do have a choice in the matter when it comes to where we are now. If one is lacking, believe you this: it will hamper the other. And you need to get it sorted.

Prayer and Bible reading are not really individual acts, or they shouldn’t be. They work in unison. In fact, the closest way I can see of looking at them is as two sides of a coin, or as breathing.

When you breathe (Go ahead, try it. Okay now stop. Just kidding! :D ), you breathe in… and you breathe out.

Doing just one and only that one kills you.

Doing one more than the other damages your health.

Praying and Bible study is like that. It’s a conversation.

Praying is talking things out to God: laying your burdens on Him; confessing your faults; praising Him for His goodness; thanking Him for His blessings; interceding on the behalf of others, and etcetera.

When you meditate on God’s Word, you are filling yourself with His Truth, washing yourself in His ways and testimonies, learning and being challenged, seeking exhortation and rebuke, finding answers and being guided, encouraged, equipped, and refreshed.

Do you see the pattern?

One is a form of expression – the other is a form of intake. If you do only one, you get messed up.

So try this experiment, as a kind of illustration. It isn’t the only way to pray or study your Bible, and it isn’t the best way, but it can really help improve both, I’ve found.

Open a passage of Scripture.

Start inhaling as you read.

When you come to the top of your breath, start exhaling as you begin to pray over what you just read or over something that was laid on your heart while you read.

At the bottom of your exhale, start inhaling again and switch to reading again.

(Oh, don’t try and inhale or exhale as much as you possibly can, just breathe normally.)

This isn’t Eastern mysticism or “empty your mind” meditation. It is simply a way of learning the synergistic and symbiotic relationship of praying and Bible reading. And it works.

I’ve seen many very neat blessings come out of this in my own devotions, and I’d like to see what you think when you try it. So don’t forget to come back and comment. :)

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