To Live By Words and Numbers.

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The Phantom Tollbooth (1969)

I recall watching the movie, The Phantom Tollbooth, several times as a kid.    In the movie, Milo, the main character, eventually comes across the King of Words (from dictionopolis), and the King of Numbers (from Digitopolis), and they’re in a heated debate over who’s got more influence in life: numbers or letters.

That debate inspired discussion in my sixth grade language arts class: if you could have an army of numbers or an army of letters, which would you choose?

I recall choosing numbers, because numbers are infinite.  But, then a classmate told me that for every number, there’s a word (meaning, multiple letters): “2” would lose in battle with “T-W-O.”

Nonetheless, it is now many many years later, and I still recall the discussion –and, perhaps she had a point.  After all, I’m not blogging in binary code, am I?

As I woke this morning I had a few thoughts.  First, I reflected on this past week, and thought of how my desk is just absolutely covered in papers and notes and note-cards all related to my study for the Montana Real Estate License Exam.  Then, I thought of going to my church right in the middle of my week and playing music for my Lord.  While, it may have seemed like an interruption to my studies for some, to me, it was necessary to abandon myself for about an hour.

That night of worship became a night of surrender.  I prayed, intently, asking for God to go before me.  To lift the fear, and the opportunity of fear from my week, and allow me to conquer the state exam.  Some friends prayed with me and as I left to return home (to study), I felt like a Spartan warrior — minus all the chiseled abs.

A few verses have been floating around in my head over this past week.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose.

This verse has given me security, knowing that my ends are not God’s ends.  And, therefore, my means, are really not mine at all.  In fact, I can have faith (and, therefore, confidence) that God is working a great work in my life, because I love Him.  Then I notice some of the fear withering away.

Psalm 46:10a (NIV)

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

This verse, like the above, reassures me that God is in control.  He’s got stuff figured out, and really, I just need to chill out.  I love this verse because the command is simple:  chill.  I’ve got this, He says.

And, finally, Proverbs 16:3

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.

I quoted this verse in an earlier blog-entry, and, really, it’s a recent favorite of mine.  My wife must have recently stumbled across this one, or became moved by it and decided to write it on a post-it note and stick it to the bathroom mirror.  I noticed it some time ago.  At first, I just read it, and moved on.  But, in no time, I noticed those words echoing in my head: He will establish my plans.  Just commit!

This verse has helped me find that there’s victory in submission to the Lord.  Just let go.  Scripture tells us to cast our fears upon the Lord (see: 1 Peter 5:7 and/or Psalm 55:22), and even Jesus said:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

That’s Matthew 6:27, by the way.  I love that question!  It’s even a bit humorous: who can add a single hour to your life by worrying?  Ha!  Jesus is laughing at adversity!  I love it!

Now, if I may digress, or better-yet, regress (to the point I originally thought I had); notice all these numbers (in the form of Bible verses).  I’m sure you already knew this, but think about the fact that the original Scriptures were NOT written in verse form.  It’s not like back in the day people shouted: Psalm 46:10 when they needed a spiritual-pick-me-up!  No.  These passages, many of them, were written like letters.  And, do we number our paragraphs or even our sentences when we write letters?  Nope.  Not since grade-school.  Yet, today we like to remind ourselves of the Love God has for us by plastering “JOHN316” on a license plate.  Or tattooing Psalm29:11 on our arm so we can feel “stronger.”  Or, perhaps we buy a new house and notice the address is 2415, as in Joshua 24:15.  (That would be cool!)

Numbers are reference points (to use a Real Estate term: benchmarks).  They refer us to a truth in WORD.  The idea behind the numbers is to give us an easy way to recall the Truth of God: that He LOVES us, and He fights for us!  (Ezekiel 14:14) 😉

So, maybe my classmate was right after all, with every number, you’ve got WORDS describing it.

In the beginning was the WORD, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1

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Victory. From the starting line.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In John’s record of the Gospel, we find the above quoted to Jesus, himself (see: John 16:33). Now, for me, this is an incredibly strong verse. Imagine, not only is Jesus — God incarnate — talking, but He’s reassuring us that He’s already overcome everything the world can throw!

I’m thinking of that epic moment in Rocky IV where the Russian boxer, Ivan Drago and Rocky Balboa are in the middle of the ring

Scene from Rocky 4

“I will break you!”

acknowledging the rules of the event. They go to touch gloves and Ivan, in his massive, broken-English voice mutters, “I will break you.”

Bam!

At that point in the movie, I recall really fearing the fight for Rocky.

Now, consider for a moment, the amount of confidence in the Russian. He’s so sure he’s going to win the fight, even to the point of “BREAKING” his opponent. It’s just not enough to win, but to CRUSH the opposition.

Not that I’d encourage anyone to adopt a broken-English-egocentric-Russian voice while they read the red letters in the book of John, but I can’t help but revere a sense of ultimate, infinite, authority when I hear Jesus say, “I’ve overcome the world!”

In my life, at the time of writing this blog entry, (which, by the way, I do apologize for so much time in between entries, but as you’ll become aware of, I’ve been very busy over the past several months!), I’m just five days away from taking my state exam for the Montana Real Estate Sales License. Now, for most, Real Estate is a career that doesn’t immediately demand much adoration for. Sure, we all appreciate a helpful Realtor, but if we were told of the complexities and intensities of the study we’d be quite shocked. Well, I was! This has been no small task! The amount of information that is expected of an agent is baffling! But, I was informed recently by a friend who’s been a Realtor for over a decade, “the buck stops with you.” Meaning, as an agent, you become accountable for everything: titles, property, home conditions, even the market expectations. Ergot, the massive study, of all the aforementioned.

Now, when Jesus comforted His disciples (really, those who were chosen to follow Him) — and, I put that in parenthesis to take a break in thought, because I’d like you to think about where you stand with Jesus; are you on His side? Have you been chosen? Do you call yourself a Christian? If so, then pay attention.

Ok, back on track. When Jesus informed His disciples that they didn’t need to fear, but instead be in awe of the Mighty Conqueror, He meant exactly that! See, it is that simple–if you’ve thought otherwise, then perhaps your idea of “Christianity” is a bit too complicated.

Jesus says, “don’t worry.”

“But, Lord, this is a big test! I mean everything is riding on this!”

“I’ve already overcome that test, Justin. Don’t worry.”

And, see, at that point, it’s done. Because He has. Overcome. It’s all good.

Now, what are the advantages of surrendering fear? Well, for starters, the time that I planned on spending on worrying about the test, I’m going to spend studying for it. Yes, more time right there! Remember, even the most successful person in the world still only had 24-hours in a day to work at it. I’ve got to continually remind myself, I am just a man, and therefore, just as capable as any man!

Secondly, with the time I would have spent worrying directed toward studying, (and, literally, not having any time to worry anyway), then I’m more focused on doing what I should be: studying (just to purposely sound redundant).

But, really, it’s not only MORE study, but it’s FOCUSED study. And, that is a MUCH better start!

And, finally, I need to remind myself that if I commit myself to the Lord in all that I do, then the outcome is totally His. (Proverbs 16:3–obviously, a little paraphrased). His outcome. Not mine. See, it pulls the rug out from the opposition. They have nothing to stand on. There is beauty in abandoning fears.

Know this, God has the BEST in mind for you. He’s not wanting you to enter into a state of total humility that you forget who you are and what you want to, and can, accomplish. No, He’s merely asking you to cast your fears upon Him, so you can CARRY ON WITH THE BEST OF YOU! It’s a win-win situation. You win because He wins in you!

I mention all this even before I go to take the test for this reason: accountability. It’s one thing to talk it, another to walk it. So, I’ll publish this days before the exam. Study hard. Prayer even harder. And, move forward with God’s desire in sight. If I were to fail the test, it’ll hurt, yes. Because, in my finite mind I’ll wonder why. Or better yet, whatwhat, now? However, good thing my HOPE is not in my finite mind! Good thing my HOPE is in the LORD!

It’s like you’ve prepared for the foot race of your lifetime. You’ve exercised diligently, every day. For many hours. You’ve eaten everything you can possibly eat to give you that extra muscle and energy. You’ve even purchased the really nice shoes-and, I’m talking about those ones with the highlighted springs on the bottom! You show up for the race to find others who seem just as prepared, and possibly even hungrier for victory. In fact, they have even brighter shocks under their rubber soles. (Dang it!) And, as you grab your spot on the starting line your phone vibrates. Well, first of all, you should probably ditch the phone! You know, wind resistance! But, curiosity gets the best of you and you read the text. It’s from God:

Hey, don’t worry. I’ve already conquered this race. Smile!

God. Thank you, for taking my burden!

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

(Psalm 62:5)