Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Selah

I love when the Bible confuses me. And if the confession sounds rather offbeat, I don’t blame you. I mean who enjoys feeling overcome by imperfection, inadequacy and a finite intellectual capacity? I know, in most cases, I’d rather evade the reminder and recalibrate in the opposite direction. Yet, when I come to terms with my own insufficiencies, I realize a thing or two, such as the liberating intersection between humility and exploration, and how a righteous pursuit of the unknown can overpower intimidation through the conversion of ignorance into knowledge.

Credit this revelation to my latest quiet time, when I considered “selah”, a word I’ve read multiple times but only recently understood. No doubt from Hebrew origin, “selah” is mentioned 71 times in the Psalms, with more denotations than a round-cut diamond from Genesis. Although search engines dub “selah” as an uncertain biblical term, there is still meaningful application to be discovered, regardless of perceived context or translation. From a liturgico-musical standpoint, the sensible definition of selah is fairly fitting to its reflective counterpart. What would musically manifest as an emphatic fermata would equate to a notable pause within prose. A quick glance at Psalm 3:1-4 reveals such an accentuation of passage:

O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah. But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah.” ~ Psalm 3:1-4 (ESV)

But before I dive any deeper…

Selah.

Ahhh…refreshing, isn’t it? How sweet it is for God’s voice* to satisfy in such relaxing resonation? For to “selah” is to anchor attention to powerful veracity and stabilize understanding to a point of sanctified rest. With this in mind, let’s indulge in some transitory irony by pondering on "selah" for a moment. How many expressions feature a foundation rooted in the three primary tenses: past, present and future? Answer: there aren’t many. With "selah", the word’s immediate charge connects at the present, encouraging one to muse both the past and the now in anticipation of what lies ahead. Essentially, to "selah" is to embrace the heart of Philippians 3:13-14 and the final four words of Philippians 4:8:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” ~ Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

The Amplified Bible also supports this notion by translating selah as "pause, and think of that". Other translations highlight the importance of evaluating truth to reality – to dream while holding on to prior providence. Yet, no matter what facet is examined, the bottom line is: “selah” is strategically placed at key points in the Psalms to give the reader the opportunity to meditate on the value and application of God’s word.

So whenever you encounter a “selah” in life, do not hesitate to seek God in holy hiatus. For He longs to refresh the vision He has for you through the point of "selah". So open your heart to wonder, allow your mind to ponder and before the moment ends, apply Habakkuk 2:2-3 and document the moment. By doing this, you'll tap into another dimension on the power of "selah" you never thought imaginable. For we are created to dance with Him in this way.

*Note: Arguably, the most accurate translation/meaning of Selah = "God has spoken".

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fast Food Faith

Have you ever faced a situation when intimate spirituality met the proverbial Big Mac on the road to maturation? When the idea of holy relationship as endless feast faded into the occasional drive-thru experience? Has Christianity ever been like fast food religion to you? If so, you’re not alone.

In today’s world, many struggle with the concept of daily communion with God. And despite 21st century transparency, confusion continues to spread as more self-proclaimed believers reference God only when absolutely necessary. Ironically, the problem with partial desire lies in a blindness to itself. As a culture, we’re adulterating worship with false substitutes. Instead of the absolute, we prize the irresolute; instead of glorification, we prefer desensitization to sacred wonder, in part, so we can ditch accountability to what truly matters. And as commitment compromises, we lose equitable sight on key relational truths, such as why a consecrated lifestyle and godly fear are essential and how holistic holiness connects to our true identity.


Bottom line: We were not uniquely designed by infinite hands for finite relationship. We were formed out of godliness and power. Why be a 2 Timothy 3:5 and Hosea 4:6 Christian by denying or even abandoning the truth of the Gospel? For if we stop to ponder the “how much” factor of God’s nature, we wouldn’t settle for fast food faith; we would realize there’s a banquet hall with a reserved seat waiting for us.

Perhaps our self-initiated diet on intimacy is a protective mechanism to blockade rejection? Perhaps we believe stolidity will preserve our desire to be incandescently happy? Perhaps the only food we think about is forbidden fruit, and the terror of screwing up keeps us from noticing the mouthwatering feast around the corner?

Whatever the case may be, are we aware, as men and women created by the Almighty, of our infinite value, of God’s faithfulness to perpetuate promise and desire for our prosperity no matter where we are? I admit, in a culture where independence is strength and instant gratification is prized, the idea of spiritually dining with God can be an uncomfortable notion. And as much as we relish the warm eloquence of poetic truth, our friendship with Christ can, at times, trip up on the cold, complacent dregs of immediate want. However, by grace, our walk with God does not have to be a summation of pit-stops and drive-thrus, but a continuous celebration at a five-star residency we can call home.

So take a seat and relax in rapturous reception, and relish the fact we don’t have to cave in the hollow, but rave in the hallow. Don’t be afraid to dig into the good life God has for you.

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

70 x 7 or 6 to 4

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” 
― Mark Twain


For many, forgiveness is an elusive road to true freedom. We know it's right. We know it's necessary. But when push comes to shove, we often balk at the opportunity to let go. Whether the intense gravity of hopelessness or a deep thirst for vendetta, the excuses are seemingly endless as to why we hold on to grudges. How ironic it is to buy a conquering love, but sell one of its most essential counterparts: forgiving one another.

The reason why forgiveness can be so difficult is due to the combined weight of adamant shame and entitlement. Any lack of release preserves a self-centered focus with attention rooted in the past. Yet, the whole point of forgiveness is to expand the effect of grace into the future. Human revenge may be instinct, but it's still evil. When you lose the desire for control, you'll find the best way to "get back" at those who have wronged you is to always forgive them.

When Jesus encourages Peter to forgive 70 x 7 times, this actually traces back to Daniel 9:24-25:

"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times."

Think about it. Forgiveness is not just an end-all solution to conflict, but it's the beginning of restoration...of redemptive freedom! In addition, forgiveness is the mediate transaction that replaces anger and resentment with humility and grace. In other words, it does more than settle the score, but also gives supreme glory to God! Why? Because we are doing the same thing He does to us on a daily basis. Instead of perpetuating the cycle of revenge through misconstrued justice, why not bless both God and man through the application of genuine forgiveness, which in turn, ignites a new cycle of righteousness and honors the Lord?

True, forgiveness may seem like it will hurt in the moment. But when we cut ties with this type of present anxiety, what we're essentially doing is negating its influence over future freedom!

How cool is that? 

So embrace the call to forgive, doing so with a joyful spirit. 

You'll be amazed at the steps you take towards a more w-holy-stic lifestyle.

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