Monday, December 31, 2012

What Is Our Place?

Understanding what our place is will determine for us how we look at the world. Knowing our place will determine for us what we fear and what we don’t fear, what we accept and refuse to accept, what we believe and refuse to believe.

Like many of us, I sat in church coming up under the impression that God was somehow different now than the One written of in the Old Testament. Even as the son of a minister, the implication was always that because Jesus, the Son, had died for me, the Father had changed. No longer would the LORD strike a man dead for reaching out to steady the Ark of the Covenant as Uzzah had done, or for willfully disobeying Him as King Saul had done, or for worshiping an idol in violation of His Commandments as His people Israel had done in the wilderness—now, because I had “made a decision to allow Jesus into my heart”, He loved me and I would be saved, despite all my willful disobedience, despite all my well-meaning presumption to touch with unclean hands what is holy, despite my continuing to worship idols and violate all of His Commandments.

There was no warning that we are slaves.

That is the first place we must go immediately to if the question is to be answered. If we do not receive this first, as the disciples and apostles and early church fathers received it, nothing else will make any sense.

We are slaves. Not servants. Not bondservants. Slaves. Greek word: “doulos”. Translation: slave. This word has been mistranslated in almost every English translation of the Bible, including both the Geneva Bible and the King James Version which followed after it. There are several words in Greek which can mean servant or bondservant, depending on context. “Doulos” is not one of those words. It has always meant only one thing; slave. It appears 124 times in the New Testament. Peter, Paul, James and Jude all identified themselves as slaves of God or of Christ. It is the word described in Philippians 2:7 describing the form which Jesus took when He was made into the likeness of men; the form of a slave.

He said the slave is not greater than his Master. So if our Master took the form of a slave, and even His own brothers knew themselves to be His slaves when they came to knowledge of the Truth, what are we?

There are two reasons why we don’t find it translated correctly in English.

1.      Translators seeking to disassociate the slave trade of the British Empire and the later American Colonies from what it meant to be a slave in the Roman Empire. A typical 16th century English “slave” would either be in chains or in prison, and everyone sitting here knows that to be a slave in the United States was far worse than that.
2.      The Latin Vulgate, which was a major source used by the English translators, used the Latin word “servus”, which is more naturally rendered  as “servant”, but has a different meaning altogether from that of a slave.

What Makes Servant or “Bondservant” So Different From “Slave”?

        A servant is hired. A slave is owned.
         (1 Corinthians 6:18-20) “Run from sexual immorality! “Every sin a person can commit is outside the body.” On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body.  Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you,  whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.”
        A servant is regarded as a person. A slave is regarded as a possession.
         (Exodus 19:5-6) “Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.’  These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”
         (Titus 2:14) “He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.”
        A servant has freedom to choose who they work for, what they will do, and how they will obey. A slave is bound to the master’s will, having neither the freedom nor the autonomy to choose what they will do or how they will obey.
         We’ll see that illustrated in a moment in (Luke 19:11-27)
        A servant has personal rights. A slave does not have right to his own name.

There was no warning that saving faith bears obedient fruit. There was no warning that the call to work out our salvation with fear and trembling is there because it is not our place to be high minded about our position as saved people. There was no warning that in order to be labeled a “good slave” by the Master, I must not live in the manner of the “evil slave” He described in Luke 19’s parable of the 10 minas.

(Luke 19:11-27) “As they were listening to this, He went on to tell a parable because He was near Jerusalem,  and they thought the kingdom of God was going to appear right away.
Therefore He said: “A nobleman traveled to a far country and told them, ‘Engage in business until I come back.’
“But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We don’t want this man to rule over us!
“At his return, having received the authority to be king, he summoned those slaves he had given the money to, so he could find out how much they had made in business. The first came forward and said, ‘Master, your mina has earned 10 more minas.’
‘Well done, good slave!’ he told him. ‘Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, have authority over 10 towns.’
“The second came and said, ‘Master, your mina has made five minas.’
“So he said to him, ‘You will be over five towns.’
“And another came and said, ‘Master, here is your mina. I have kept it hidden away in a cloth because I was afraid of you, for you’re a tough man: you collect what you didn't deposit and reap what you didn't sow.’
“He told him, ‘I will judge you by what you have said,  you evil slave! If you knew I was a tough man, collecting whatdidn't deposit and reaping whatdidn't sow, why didn't you put my money in the bank? And when I returned, I would have collected it with interest! So he said to those standing there, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has 10 minas.’
“But they said to him, ‘Master, he has 10 minas.’
 ‘I tell you, that to everyone who has, more will be given; and from the one who does not have, even what he does have will be taken away. But bring here these enemies of mine, who did not want me to rule over them, and slaughter them in my presence.’

The slaves received judgment from the Master based upon their obedience, or lack thereof.

The slave in the parable received the label of “good” because his fruit of faithfulness to the task set before him identified him. He knew his place, you see. He was commanded to engage in the Master’s business until the Master’s return, and he *obeyed faithfully*. That was his place. He did not take it on himself to disobey and have excuses for why. The slave who received the label of “evil” received it because his fruit bore it out. Rather than know his place as a slave; as one who is to uphold and obey his Master’s will in *abandonment* of his own, he gave nothing but excuses to his Master. You’re a hard man. You reap where you don’t sow. You collect where you don’t deposit. So I did nothing. The situation was stacked against me from the very beginning, so rather than do anything to please you, I did nothing, which pleased... me.  

That is what we say when we allow the fact that we sin tell us it is pointless to live a life of faithful obedience as though we must succeed, as though we must obey.

The Son said this to His disciples while He was on the way to Jerusalem to fulfill His purpose for coming, which was to have His Blood poured out in atonement for the sins of all whom the Father has given to Him to be His possession. But how often are we like the wicked, evil slave when it comes to the Lord’s business of working our own salvation out with fear and trembling? We don’t consider that the evil slave’s fate is the same as those labeled as the Master’s enemies; by his actions he became one of them.

  1. The Master issued a command to all of his slaves; to “engage in (His) business until (He) returns”
  2. His enemies were listed as those who hated him”, and “those who did not want (Him) to rule over them”. If you don’t want someone to rule over you, that means you don’t *want* to do what he says; because you have a better idea; a more preferable alternative. In Luke 6, right after talking about a trees and their fruit, Jesus says in verse 46, ““Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say? . This is clear; if we own Him for our Lord, for our Master, then we do what He says. If we don’t, we get the above question from Him. Right? To own Him for Lord is to obey His commands, so by not doing what the Master commanded him to do, he had joined those who did not want Him to rule over them. That did not turn out well for them at all; they got brought before the Master and slaughtered right in front of him.
That is a slave acting like a servant; behaving like he didn’t have to obey, like he has a choice to do what *he* thought was best instead of what he was told to do, to act based on his own crafted excuses that the Master would just have to understand.

Strange Fire vs. Holy Fire

(Leviticus 9:22—Leviticus 10:7)

“Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them. He came down after sacrificing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the fellowship offering. Moses and Aaron then entered the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Fire came from the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell facedown on the ground.

“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them to do. Then fire came from the LORD and burned them to death before the LORD. So Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD meant when He said:

I will show My holiness
to those who are near Me,
and I will reveal My glory
before all the people.”

But Aaron remained silent.

Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here and carry your relatives away from the front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.” So they came forward and carried them in their tunics outside the camp, as Moses had said.

Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair hang loose and do not tear your garments,  or else you will die, and the LORD will become angry with the whole community. However, your brothers, the whole house of Israel, may mourn over that tragedy when the LORD sent the fire. You must not go outside the entrance to the tent of meeting or you will die, for the LORD’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.”

Check out how Adam Clarke summaries this;

In the preceding chapter we have seen how God intended that every part of his service should be conducted; and that every sacrifice might be acceptable to him, he sent his own fire as the emblem of his presence, and the means of consuming the sacrifice - Here we find Aaron's sons neglecting the Divine ordinance, and offering incense with strange, that is, common fire, - fire not of a celestial origin; and therefore the fire of God consumed them. So that very fire which, if properly applied, would have sanctified and consumed their gift, became now the very instrument of their destruction! How true is the saying, The Lord is a consuming fire! He will either hallow or destroy us: he will purify our souls by the influence of his Spirit, or consume them with the breath of his mouth! The tree which is properly planted in a good soil is nourished by the genial influences of the sun: pluck it up from its roots, and the sun which was the cause of its vegetative life and perfection now dries up its juices, decomposes its parts, and causes it to moulder into dust. Thus must it be done to those who grieve and do despite to the Spirit of God.”

–Adam Clarke

When our place is forgotten there are consequences.

Here it is. Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Life. He told us the Way is Narrow (Matthew 7:14). He is the Door we are to enter by (John 10:9).

(Luke 13:22-28)

“He went through one town and village after another, teaching and making His way to Jerusalem. “Lord,” someone asked Him, “are there few being saved?
He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door,  because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door.  Then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up for us!’ He will answer you, ‘I don’t know you or where you’re from.’ Then you will say,  ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets! But He will say, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you’re from. Get away from Me,  all you workers of unrighteousness!
What makes the Way to Life, the Door, narrow? In some versions of the Bible it is described as the “strait gate”. The literal translation of verse 24 is “'Be striving to go in through the straight gate, because many, I say to you, will seek to go in, and shall not be able;” Even further, “make every effort” and “be striving” is derived from the Greek word agōnizomai. Where we get the English word agonize. To strive. To fight. To labor fervently. To contend and struggle with difficulties and dangers.

Our place is to fight to enter through the narrow door no matter how much it causes us to suffer agony.
What makes it narrow is the requirement of self denial to go in through the Door, to follow Jesus as our Lord and Master. This is key. Jesus said specifically, “If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” The word in Greek we translate as “deny”, “aparneomi”, has the following definitions;

1)     To affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone.
2)     To forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests.

The only other places in the entire Bible where that same word is used are the places in the Gospels where Jesus is telling Peter how he will deny Him 3 times before the rooster crows.

Consider for a moment what that means. If it hits you like a ton of bricks in the same way it hit me, glory to God. It flies in the face of what the culture teaches us. It is the polar opposite of it, in fact.

Think about it. To follow Him, to enter in through the Door, we are to deny that we are even acquainted with, or connected to, our *selves*. To walk in the narrow Way that leads to Life, we are not to just make our wishes secondary to His; we are to forget our selves. We are to lose sight of our selves and our own interests with the same repeated, ruthless vehemence Peter displayed three times on the night that our Lord was betrayed.

(Matthew 26:69-75)
“Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard.  A servant approached him and she said, “You were with Jesus the Galilean too.”
But he denied it in front of everyone: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!
When he had gone out to the gateway, another woman saw him and told those who were there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene!
And again he denied it with an oath, “I don’t know the man!
After a little while those standing there approached and said to Peter, “You certainly are one of them, since even your accent gives you away.”
Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, “I do not know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken, Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”  And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Have we done this to ourselves? At all? Can we imagine rejecting our selves, our flesh, in this manner? Yet that is precisely our place, brothers and sisters, as our Lord and Savior put it. Not partial rejection;*utter* rejection of our purposes in favor of following Jesus, without exception. Not occasional denial, *complete* denial of our flesh in favor of walking after the Spirit.

Please have mercy on me, LORD. I’m impaled right through just saying this, I am so guilty.

I don’t know about you, but I didn't get that from any pulpit message, in any pew I ever sat in. At the same time, I can’t think of too many entry-level lessons that are more important to have immediately written on our hearts. The slave of Christ must deny himself; all our esteem must go to Christ, for we are nothing while He is everything.

This lesson in particular, of our right place as slaves of Christ, has comes up very hard against this time of year. In context of what the Scriptures say of our Lord being the same “yesterday, today, and forever”, this lesson comes up against it with concussive force.

Look at what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4:23-24;

But an hour is coming, and is now here,  when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

This is extremely important. The Son of God, by Who’s Blood we are saved, gives specific instruction here about not just *how* the Father wants His people to worship Him, but how they MUST worship Him. This is another instruction regarding our place. We must worship Him in spirit and truth. Must. This is not an optional thing. This does not deal with the prerogative of some servant with the illusion of choices or preferences of his own, does it? No, the preference listed here is YHWH’s alone, given by His Son, to His slaves. These are instructions on how God wants to be worshiped, y’all; as explicitly as He gave instruction to His possessions which He brought out of Egypt; instructions which Nadab and Abihu violated… think on that.

We must worship Him in spirit and truth.

What does this mean?

What does it mean to worship Him in spirit and truth?

Let’s first have another look at what we are taught in Scripture about walking after the Spirit. We are given new desires once we are saved that are at war with the desires of our flesh which before salvation went unopposed, and in Romans 8:1-13 we are told we must walk after the Spirit, which is defined as obedience to those new desires, so that we will no longer fulfill the old ones. What Yahweh did for His possession Israel in Ezekiel 36:25-28, He did for his slaves bought by His Son’s blood.

(Ezekiel 36:25-28)“I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.  I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances. Then you will live in the land that I gave your fathers;  you will be My people, and I will be your God.”

Let’s also consider the Levites. They had a place assigned to them by the One Who took possession of them from Egypt. They were the tribe of Israel dedicated exclusively and solely to the service of God. Where the other tribes were instructed to give the firstborn males of each mother to the service of the LORD, the Levites were to dedicate the lives of their entire families to no other purpose. The other tribes were to give a 10th part of the fruits of their labor to provide for their existence as the Levites could not do so themselves. As we have seen, their place was so absolutely defined that Aaron the high priest would have both himself died *and* brought disaster upon Israel had he even mourned his two newly dead sons. So what was a Levite to do if he or she had dreams of holding land, or desired to raise livestock, sow and reap in their own fields, become a soldier, be a business owner, or generate wealth for their families through fulfilling work in their own craftsmanship? Nothing. It was not given to them, not their place, to fulfill their own desires at all. That is not what a slave does. A slave fulfills the desires only of its Master.

That is our place. Understanding and accepting this is every bit as important as knowing that we as those slaves are to utterly reject and refuse to associate with our *selves*.

So what is it to worship the LORD in spirit and truth? Spirit, in context, defines the true worshiper at his or her core; at the source of their affection, emotions and desires. “In truth” is defined by something that the world is throwing into the street; objective truth, unbiased, uninfluenced by personal feelings, truth which stands not side by side, but against superstitions, inventions, and both the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers. In other words, the true worship the Father wants is not only to be from the core of our being, driving our every affection, emotion and desire, but it is to be true in any matter under consideration, regardless of any influence which seeks to change it. As Christians, “little Christs”, we MUST worship the LORD our God in this manner; from the core of our being and absolutely. This is according to the Master, what the Father says He MUST have from His worshipers.

We can see now what the place is of all of us who claim to belong to Jesus.

1)     We are not our own, but slaves of Christ, bought by His Blood, and devoted therefore only to His desires and *not* our own.
2)     We are to vehemently reject and disassociate from our selves in the same way that Peter vehemently denied even knowing His Lord, and endure the suffering this causes in Jesus’ Name.
3)     We are, by the Father’s expressed desire, to worship the LORD such that it drives us from the core of our being, in a manner that is absolute--true no matter what force would prefer to make it subjective.

Now I am going to ask some questions that are guaranteed to make us all uncomfortable, but must be looked at both honestly and prayerfully, and more importantly, in context of what we have studied together in the Scriptures.

Now that we have an understanding of what our place is…

        What Are We Doing When We Celebrate Christmas—does a tradition where people sing songs to trees, race to practice idolatry and avarice, and actively lie to their children in any way resemble the manner of worship the LORD says He MUST have from His slaves?
        Has it *ever* been okay to worship God in a manner which pleases us? Is it about *us* at all? Then why do we behave as though practices which are *all* pagan in origin, with some Jesus sprinkled on them, is a reason to plaster self satisfied grins on our faces, as though we have somehow managed to please the LORD with that which is abomination to Him?
        As we join hands with the entire world, have we mistaken the absence of purifying fire for approval from God for that which He has clearly told us not to do—that friendship with the world equals enmity with God, and that we are to come out from among the world and be separate?
        How does mistletoe, buying stuff for each other and “Christmas cheer” get mixed with the Only Son of God removing His glory, taking on the form of a slave to be tortured and killed somehow form something that is not blaspheming mockery of what the Father did to restore us to Him?

Before these questions ruffle absolutely every feather, consider this, please.

Everyone under the sound of my voice has something in common – they either have children, or are someone’s child. We *all* (hopefully) understand what the bond between a loving parent and a child means. Every parent will, when the chips are down and the child needs help, because they are in serious trouble or their lives or well-being are in danger--the parent is going to remember the love they have for that child, and it will take over. That parent will want to suffer in that child’s place. Give their lives in that child’s stead. Though that child has been disobedient, has gotten on that parent’s last nerve more times than the parent can count, has cut its eyes at that parent in defiance, has learned to say “No” in willful disobedience to that parent from an early age, has disappointed that parent, shamed that parent… because that parent, if they possess any shred of honesty, sees themselves in their child’s imperfections, they love that child enough to correct them in love, and despite all those imperfections would give their own lives in exchange for that child’s life.

The LORD’s Son never did any of those things to His Father.

The LORD’s Son never said “No” to His Father. Never disobeyed Him, Never shamed Him. Never dishonored Him. Never displeased Him. Only brought delight and honor and glory to His Father. The perfect Son.

The ONLY Perfect Son that ever lived.

Consider that THIS is Who the LORD our God delivered up and sent here to take the form of a slave. Sent here to be born an infant given not the comfort of hearth and home like most of us had on *our* first night in the world, but the sounds and smells of a stable, the wood of a manger, a manger that as Cyril most eloquently put it, was in the shadow of a torture device made of the same material.
Consider that. Think of your child there to be abused, mocked, beaten, torn, crucified, for folk that will throw a party and have get-togethers to remember it. Think of the parent you love sending you there to suffer that unspeakable fate for people who will remember it while committing acts that completely dishonor your sacrifice. Consider what the LORD our God has done, to pay *our* ransom with His Son’s innocent blood, and ask yourselves as I had to ask myself last Christmas, “Precisely what in the Hell am I doing??”

What did John the Baptist say the day Jesus came to be baptized; “Behold the Lamb of God.”

The Lamb of God. Consider what that means for a moment. This is the “Christ Mass” season. The world has done nothing but assign avarice and greed to it, and wondering why the good feelings they mislabel on it are not what they used to be somehow. The Father sent His beloved Son to the earth to be the Lamb of God. The lamb, like the ones the high priest would place his hand on to signify the sin being laid on its innocent head—only to then slit its throat and pour out its blood in atonement. This is not a time for plastering grins on our faces and take part in the world’s avarice. Nor is it a time to get together in a spirit of sharing and togetherness. His Perfect Son was sent here to be crushed.

Should a follower of Christ smile and partake and indulge in remembrance of the Son of God coming to be crushed? Where is the spirit and truth in that activity?  Would we appreciate that, we who are parents, if our child was given up to be beaten, tortured and killed for the sins of folks who will take it upon themselves to declare it a season to be jolly and exchange presents in memory of it?

What are we doing when we put up lights and trees, and put on that beautiful Nat King Cole song in two languages about that tree? What are we doing buying stuff for people as though these things honor God’s unspeakable act of love toward us that WE WOULD NEVER do ourselves? What are we doing when we tell our children lies about a fat man in a red suit coming down a chimney to bring us what pleases our flesh, WHEN OUR SIN WAS ATONED FOR BY THE MOST SUPREME ACT OF DENIAL OF SELF THAT WILL EVER BE PERFORMED? We should be broken and weeping even CONSIDERING what it would mean for God to lay down His dearly loved, Only Begotten Son to suffer the most cruel rejection, to die the most cruel death, to have His blood poured out in atonement for our sin.

He gave His Son to be slaughtered and we are having a party. A little get together with family around traditions that all came from the worship of other gods! An exchange of cool gadgets and flavors of the month that will end up trash in a landfill within 6 months to a year. How does this tradition of men honor God’s sacrifice of love?


But you see, people are governed by their flesh. And what the unfettered flesh wants, the unfettered flesh will have. The flesh *will* rationalize why it should have it, and unless the LORD has saved that soul and given it new desires to walk after the Spirit, and the recipient of that salvation walks in obedience to those new desires, that flesh will have what it has reasoned it is entitled to.

This is NOT worshiping Him in spirit and truth as the Father said He MUST HAVE; this is satisfying the flesh we are to deny, and making the act subjective to *our* feelings, *our* preferences to tradition. This is the act of a wicked slave. This is not living in denial of our selves, this is living in indulgence. This is not the act of a good slave who obeys the Master in spite of their feelings, but an evil slave that puts his preference over his Master’s will and offers excuses instead of obedience. We can spread as many Jesus sprinkles on these pagan-sourced, Romanized practices all we like, God is not honored with lies and poorly disguised greed, and it behooves us not to mistake the fact that He does not put us instantly to death for such blasphemy for approval or acceptance.

We must think about a wrath that the Bible says will destroy the Earth, which Jesus stood in the gap and took for us when He obeyed His Father and came here, born of a virgin and laid in a manger. We must think about how the Bible in the Revelation describes that once the trumpets of God’s Judgment are blown and His seals are opened and His bowls are poured out, this planet will no longer be habitable. The face of the globe will change from earthquakes it has never endured. Mountains leveled. Valleys filled. Rivers fouled and their courses changed. Waters made undrinkable from their source. Plant and animal life destroyed from plague and famine. Sky darkened. Moon the color of blood. People tormented by pestilence and decimated by war and death. That is our due. That, and eternal separation from God in Hell, is what we have earned, and Jesus stood in the gap and took that wrath on Himself from the One He loves and Who loves Him above all things.

I loved the traditions of Christmas. I loved them dearly all my life, from the more selfish aspects of the gifts I hoped to receive as a child to the less selfish, more wholesome ones of the lights and music and togetherness. Then the LORD In His mercy brought me through a month of being unable to even think of a nativity scene without crying, followed by the experience of placing my son on an operating table, and everything changed.

On the 3rd day of January, 2012, the LORD used my son to break me by His mercy and provision.

My wife and I took our son to Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital to have a procedure to test his hearing performed in the end of November 2011 that was, in a word, bungled. His ability to speak just… fell off a cliff by the time he turned 2, from full sentences to nothing, so since he can’t tell a pediatrician on which side he is hearing sounds in a set of headphones, to have his hearing tested he had to be put under and have sounds run through his head and measured like sonar to determine if his hearing apparatus was good. But they messed it up and failed to test for all frequencies necessary to make an accurate diagnosis, which meant that my son, and by extension his family, would have to endure the entire procedure again.

In January, the procedure would be repeated with key differences.

1) It would be done by an audiologist who showed professionalism and a sense of accountability for the first debacle.

2) It would be done in the office of audiology rather than in the hospital complex at Scottish Rite.

3) A parent would be allowed to be present and hold Stevie's hand until he was fully unconscious, and I chose to do that.

In the interest of conveying understanding, I will share with you what I saw that day, and what the LORD taught me in the seeing.

Due to it being nearly 4:00AM, my son was completely exhausted. While he was surprisingly alert during the entire car trip downtown, he slept on my shoulder at every other moment, clinging to my neck in trust.

That’s part of the true definition of belief, you know. All of us who claim Christ would do well to remember that.

It was bitingly cold that morning, well into the 20s, and very windy. I had him warm and secure in my arms as I walked across two parking lots to get to the building (the one nearest the office was closed at that hour). He stayed on my shoulder, clinging to my neck, while I filled out paperwork with one arm and hand. He remained that way as we waited for over an hour. He suffered himself to be weighed and his blood pressure taken while in the circle of my arms, taking a moment to make it clear that he wanted no one else to touch him by slowly yet firmly taking the prodding fingers and instruments of nurse practitioners and applying pressure to remove them from his person before returning to my shoulder.

I gave thanks to God and swallowed tears as I saw this. Scales were removed from my eyes, and by mercy of God I saw that this was what I am to be to the LORD Who saved me--to the Master Who left the ninety-nine safe in the sheep pen to recover the one which was lost. Complete dependence. Complete trust. Complete adherence, clinging for dear life, warding away any and all attempts to remove me or dislodge me from my place on His shoulder.

When they came for us, I carried him to the operating room after they gave him medication to calm him. I sat in the operating room with him in my arms and waited until I was told to place him upon the steel table. He had been completely limp in my arms, and the doctors who saw his face told me that he was asleep. It gave me hope that I would be able to simply lay him down, as I do at night when I put him to bed.

This was not the case this time.

Despite a drug made to suppress his will and make him not care what is happening to him, my son knew immediately that his Daddy was putting him on the operating table.

He reached for me and began to cry. The cries came from a far away place, as he was groggy and had to fight through the drug’s effects to be heard.

When I permitted other hands to take his arms, leaving only a hand for me to hold, he silently screamed.

Have mercy, O God. He went from alarmed crying to terrified, silent screaming. It was not until the mask was lowered to his face, forcing him to yield, to sleep, that any sound came out, and the sound was full and deep, muffled only by the mask. He had his eyes closed and he took a deep breath of the only air he could get, the mask with the gas in it, and it carried his next scream far away from me, as though it began in a car that suddenly moved away at high speed.

I found myself, against my will, taking the same deep breaths he was taking, exhaling simultaneously with him. I made no sound, so I would not fail to hear him with any wretched bleating of my own. I held his hand as he was pulled from me into the oblivion of drug induced sleep. The nurse across from me, a large man with a kind spirit, saw my reaction and gently placed a hand on the one holding my son's. His voice calmly informed me that what I had just seen was normal, and was joined by others in the room, but I did not really hear them. I stood when I was directed and exited the room, my eyes not leaving my son's face until solid walls separated us.

The nurse accompanying me to the recovery room then said something which sounded less like rote platitude and more like truth.

She said, "The gas will make him not remember any of it, Dad."

I absorbed this, nodding my head and focusing on it to provide a moment of buoyancy to allow a grown man to stave off a floodgate of tears for a few moments longer.

It then dawned on me in full.

He won't remember it, but you won't ever forget it. This was for you, Steven. You were to experience this.

During the Christmas season, I have been crying, at times uncontrollably, as I remember the things I mentioned above, of the Father's love for His Son, and His Son's loving obedience to the Father's will. Any nativity scene made me think of my son hugging me about the neck, and I could only cry. I still can only cry, because I see now, by God's grace alone, only the purpose for which the Son of God came here... not to be delivered, against His will, into the hands of doctors who mean him no harm, but into the hands of the most sadistic, demonic torturers of the 1st century world, have his flesh unmercifully torn, and made into a blood sacrifice to end all blood sacrifices, to pay the otherwise insurmountable blood debt for an unworthy wretch like me and all whom He claims as His own. The Christ-child, the focus of Nativity scenes everywhere, the one given the Name which is above every name, is the Lamb of God. *This* was what was required to save His adopted children, and in the face of this stark truth, there is just no merriment to make. The joy, which the glad tidings of angels to vigilant shepherds contain and declares that God and man will no longer be in a state of war, is expressed in tears, broken and without number.

What I saw my son go through, what moves me to tears with the force of a tidal wave a thousand feet high, was to further break the will of this doulos, this slave, of God, and to mercifully provide me with a perspective, the tiniest, most merciful glimpse, of what the Father must have endured when His Beloved Son, in Whom He is well pleased, drank the full cup of His wrath toward sin, so that the likes of you and me would not have to.

How can we *celebrate* this without being on our faces. Gifts? Jingle Bells? Black Friday? Leading up to a celebration with Name of “Christ” on it? That is complete unmitigated gall. That is pure blasphemy. How dare we? How *dare* we? There is just no excuse. Good, faithful slaves don’t blaspheme their Master’s love like this. What are we doing?

God, have mercy on us. As You have shown mercy to this unworthy slave, may it please You to be merciful to others who are too blinded by treasured tradition and bright lights, as I was, to see the magnitude of how repulsive merriment and revelry are in the face of the final sin offering of Your Beloved, Only Begotten Son, Who You love so much that You made everything for Him, and through Him, as I might build something with my own son hand over hand.

Thank You, LORD, for this tiny glimpse of the sacrificial love and obedience of Abraham, the belief and obedience of Job, and above all, Your unspeakable gift; the obedience of Your Son to Your will, for which I shall never be worthy to receive, let alone smile and make merry over for *any* reason under heaven I can possibly come up with.


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