Magick, Time, Fate, and Choice

Passage: Ephesians 1:4 and 2:10

1:4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. 1:5 He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ,….

2:10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.

Soul Search Essay

As Paul advises churches in a city (Ephesus) that is soaked through with dependence on magick (real demonic magick, not illusion magic) he takes time to point out that the believers have work to do.  In a city where true Chrisitan disciples would legitimately feel threatened by the surrounding environment, Paul makes it clear that they were created, chosen and subsequently molded by God himself for purposes set before time existed.

The larger context in Ephesians is that Paul is speaking to people whose perception of life is heavily indoctrinated by magick practices, the religion of Artemis of the Ephesians and the certainty of hopelessness from experiencing ‘gods’ that thought little about human interests.  The supposed gods in this environment were petty, capricious, cruel and most of all needy – needing food (offerings), drink (offerings), places to sleep (temples); all provided by humans.

To tell the Ephesians that the true God, the only real God is planful, caring, and deeply involved throughout history in every individual life is very difficult for them to comprehend.  They had to go through challenges and repeated education by Paul to come to the point of understanding that magick was not needed as a bulwark against life’s injuries, insults and incapacitations.  It took time before the Ephesians burned their magick books (as the book of Acts shows).  They had to learn that YHWH’s choice of them is based in a character that is dependable, loving and deeply involved with them.

They had to learn that the being known as YHWH has a character that can be depended on everywhere, in every situation, through every trial, in every joy and in the events of every day, every single day, regardless of how hard the day is.  Why?  They had to learn, because experience in life’s inflicted pains, deep disappointments and cruel losses seem to clearly demonstrate no one greater than us cares about you and me.  Becoming a believer did not make the Ephesian’s lives magically smooth and less difficult.  Accepting Christ ‘outed them’ in a hostile environment. What was Paul’s answer to this? YHWH knows all that will happen and before time itself existed, YHWH, Jesus and the Holy Spirit moved intimately through billions of lives.  They moved through every life in Ephesus.

The Ephesians, immersed in an environment hostile to their new belief, needed to understand that they were not adrift in a storm of heartache; swimming on their own.  Paul explains that there are no surprises for YHWH.  In fact, not only does YHWH know what will happen, he, Christ and the Holy Spirit (before time even began) placed specific purposes and individual moments of eternal meaning in each life.  The Ephesians did live in storms of heartache, but the storms were not greater than YHWH.  Within these storms were specific meaning conveying moments ordained for each life; moments that brought meaning, comfort and purpose; moments where YHWH defined people and communities.  This was a radical concept for these believers in Christ who had been conditioned to believe in ‘gods’ trapped by fate.

The ‘gods’ that the Ephesians had left behind (whether they were ideas, myths, demons or whatever) were trapped in fate, because they did not transcend time.  In the Ephesians’ understanding, time and fate affected all beings.  These supposed gods battled each other and fate, but fate ultimately won.  Everyone in the Ephesian’s universe swam in the river of time.  No one could climb its banks; not even gods.  Fate was the great leveler of man and gods, because it was inescapable.  To be told that YHWH existed before time, that YHWH made decisions before time existed means that fate has no power over YHWH; that YHWH is greater and stronger than time and fate.

To also be told that YHWH, Christ and the Holy Spirit moved through each of their lives before time is to speak of breath taking intimacy and focus.  These three persons intimately moved through your life and identified things for you to do.  What are the implications of this fact?  What does this planful, loving, intimate preview of your specific life which leads to tasks, to comforts, to opportunities and to trials suggest?

You are important.

You are intimately loved.

You and your life are part of something larger than you that does not belittle you in its largeness.  It elevates you!

Trials, horrors, success and dullness in your life do not define you.  What defines you is this intimate, entwining holiness that threads through the evil times where you worry and run away.  What defines you is the deific purpose threading through the dull, barren and discouraging times where you doubt and sink inward.  Life is not about you and that is wonderful.  It is wonderful.

It is wonderful that you are God’s workmanship; the product of his loving touch, thoughtful craftsmanship and deep thought.  Your  life is both yours to choose and God created.  I do not know exactly how that is true.  I do know that YHWH’s creative involvement drives meaning into your life.  Your choices to align with his involvement lead to beauty, rightness and redemption.  These choices also offer beauty, rightness and redemption to others.

The “…good works…” that Paul speaks of are other-centered specifically, because life is not about you, but it is about us.  The “something larger” that you are part of is expressed in community.  Central to Hebraic thought is the ‘us’ foundation.  Hebrews such as Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. thought in terms of community, nation, tribe. Central to the thought of God’s chosen people is that identity is in community, rather than in the individual.  The individual is a component of the foundational units of extended family, town, nation.  The works that were set for you to do are about knitting together an ‘us’ from threads of ‘I.’  These ‘good works’ do not bring salvation, but they do bring life.

The Hebrew language is a language of action and life, because to be part of God’s people and his Kingdom is about being alive in a very special way.  It is about experiencing the Kingdom now.  It is about friendship with the Holy Spirit.  It is about passionate life being handed by you to hurting people.  It is YHWH supplied passion and life; a passion from the true character of God that easily trumps fate, time and decay.  Grace is in the present.  Grace is present tense, because YHWH is present in all time and outside all time.

Our glory is in being present with Holy Spirit in other’s lives.  We are not conduits to others, as if we are tools.  We are present witnesses and speakers of truth.  We are participants in the spread of kingship within lives and between lives.

This spread is done at God’s direction to expand the Kingdom, to strengthen others when they are weak and to knit the expanding community of Christ together.  You are not responsible for the results in your YHWH created moments; your good works.  You are responsible to respond to directions of the Holy Spirit by acting in the us of the kingdom and in the us of an evil world.  We exist in both the community of Christ and in the community of Satan.  Our participation in YHWH’s meaningful moments is a recurring choice; in our choices within time to act on things conceived before time itself existed.  Acting with the Holy Spirit is important.  It knits.  It validates.  It creates.  It expands who and what we are – all of us.

Where Is the Love?

Passage: Review James 5:1-6

Soul Search Essay
Despite how hard and confrontational the prior devotions have been, the love of God is absolutely present in James 5:1-6. It is present in giving you both the option and the ability to change. No the passage does not give you a recipe to get better. It kicks your door in (as it did mine; repeatedly). It kicks the door of idolatry in and, within the passage, love is in the awareness carried in through that open door. SIn fact, sometimes someone has to love you enough to kick mental, emotional your door in.

Jesus said that as believers we would know the truth and the truth would set us free. Yes, that truth includes facts about Jesus, Yahweh and the Holy Spirit. It also includes facts about you. Some are very ugly facts specifically about you. Those facts persisted after your salvation and some of them have grown. These facts and the acts tied to them were fully redeemed by Christ’s blood, yet they are still present and destructive in your life. That is the inherent tension within Christian life. The life of the disciple is inherently tense.

Things are done, but not yet done.

The period after salvation is about spiritual maturation. It is about choice. Your salvation came from a choice you made. Maturation also comes from a choice and from choices. The choice is to cease being a baby Christian. The choices are about progressions of intimacy and awareness (there are multiple progression paths involved).

Baby Christians, especially those who have been babies for decades, do a lot of damage. They hurt themselves. They hurt others. They get rejected. They are often confused, lonely and unwilling to give up their chosen destructive solutions. God’s love comes to you in the letter of James via the call to leave babyhood behind. It comes in accepting the tension of the Christian disciples life. It is the call to accept the need for true courage over the lures of false comfort. James is issuing that call, but he is doing it with the knowledge that many prophets have. Many, many believers reject the prophet’s call. Prophets are generally called to fail. Why?

Spiritual maturity comes from willful vulnerability. Again, spiritual maturity comes from willful vulnerability to a majestic, loving and frightening God. Also, the vulnerability needs to occur as life is happening. This is not spiritual retreat vulnerability. This is vulnerability in the real moment. This is vulnerability today, tomorrow, the next day, the day after that one. This vulnerability requires not running away when your mental and emotional doors are kicked in by a loving, holy and outrageously committed God.

Love must include truth. Truth in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and Yahweh always includes love…regardless of whether it feels like love or not. Love is much, much more than a feeling. It is a position. It is a state. It is an emotion. It is a decision and it is decisions.

Our ultimate experience of love hangs on our salvation and Christ’s finished work. It is secure. Our current experience of love, the true love of Christ in this present world, depends on personal courage and personal choices. It depends on willful intimacy that is frightening, yet freeing in ways you may not even have a category for yet.

Courage is required in the Christian life. Courage is a core component of how you intimately participate in God’s plans.

Where Will My Courage Come From?

Passage: Jeremiah 2:1-3

2:1 The Lord spoke to me. He said: 2:2 “Go and declare in the hearing of the people of Jerusalem: ‘This is what the Lord says: “I have fond memories of you, how devoted you were to me in your early years. I remember how you loved me like a new bride; you followed me through the wilderness, through a land that had never been planted. 2:3 Israel was set apart to the Lord; they were like the first fruits of a harvest to him. All who tried to devour them were punished; disaster came upon them,” says the Lord.

Soul Search Essay
Courage comes from love. Love comes from remembering and choice. In this passage, God is fondly, lovingly recalling his prior relationship with Israel. Through Jeremiah, he is stating clearly to the current Israelites how his love gave the early Israelites courage. He is implicitly asking the current Israelites to share in his loving memories and recognize that his love also conferred real life protection.

Why focus on real life protection? It is in real moment-to-moment life that people abandon God for alternate solutions. Much of the book of Jeremiah is about how Israel during very real stressors and threats chose alternate solutions due to there collective multiple failures of remembering and multiple failures in choices. Yet, Yahweh still loves them. He still loves them. The consequences of the Jeremiah’s peers failure to remember and to base today’s decisions on those memories were very, very real…people died, homes and businesses were destroyed, children died…yet, the love for these Israelites was very, very, very real.  It is as real for you as it was for them.  It is as present in a disaster as it was in prosperity. Yahweh’s love does not change. The source of true courage does not change.

Yahweh lovingly recalls his relationship with you as a believer in Jesus Christ. Yahweh’s loving relationship with Christ directly applies to Yahweh’s loving relationship with you. It is this love that generates the courage to enter, endure and triumph in the inherent, inescapable war between Christ and the prince of this world. As strange as it seems, war requires love.

Look to a modern human example of love in war generating courage.  In the coming weeks, go find a combat veteran from our military, one of the guys that actually fired a rifle at someone in combat. These men and women are all around you after 3 wars in the last 55 years. Ask him or her about the importance of the fellow soldiers or marines to the right and left in those times. If he or she will talk with you (it requires tremendous courage to recall the horrors of combat) watch the face, the hands and the eyes. Men and women in combat run into hell to help their budies. They stay in hell to fight for their buddies. There is a bond forged in combat that is extraordinarily deep.  That bond is what creates these marine’s and soldier’s courage. It is the loving connection to others. Yes, absolutely yes, marines and soldiers love.

You cannot manufacture courage sufficient for war on your own. What you create will be a poor forgery of courage. It will not sustain you. You will most likely then begin blaming when that courage fails. Blaming yourself. Blaming God. Blaming friends and family. Blaming situations. Why? We hate failure. We hate weakness. We hate vulnerability. Yet, these are the flames that forge love into courage. There are reasons that basic training is so brutal. It is a progressive forge, which is building bonds through common, shared failure and trauma. Christians also experience basic training. It is what comes between the milk of early faith and the external focus of mature Christianity.

Your courage to change must come from love.  For your internal battle is in fact a war.