Tai Sabaki for the Body of Christ – A Shift that Foils the Enemy’s Plans

anger-794699_640We aren’t the first people to be angry about what’s become of their society. We aren’t the first to sense a cultural shift we foresee as cataclysmic. We aren’t the first to wrestle with how to respond.

In the days of Herod, King of Judah, God’s people suffered under Roman rule. They lived in the shadow of an oppressive political climate, a stifling religious atmosphere, and a culture teetering between martial law and moral license. There were impossible standards set for some and hedonistic abandon allowed for others. Even within their own ranks, God’s people disagreed about how to respond.

Zealots plotted. Rulers compromised. Tax collectors cooperated. Some quietly resisted. While still others kept their heads down and their hearts guarded hoping no one would notice as they humbly practiced their faith and waited for Messiah to come.

Everyone had their own ideas about what this promised savior would look and act like. Would he lead an army? Would he be the holiest of rabbis? Would he even be real or was He just a religious notion, a symbol of the hope that the Messiah-potential was in each man? They had waited so long, perhaps he was just a myth. Pablum to quiet the masses. There were questions, debates, discussions, but few answers. These were such heavy times; the gospels are laden with Mary’s. How sorrowful are the times in which you live if you and several neighbors name your daughters “bitterness?”

The Israelites had every right to be angry. Much like God’s people in these times when fifty shades of rage abound. fire-1492098_640Without much effort, you will find fifty-two English synonyms for the word “angry.” People develop a range of words to describe those things that are important to them. In these days, most of us find anger a necessary tool and practice wielding it and expressing it the way our predecessors practiced with the bow and arrow, a quilting stitch, the fiddle, or the lathe. Anger is the social currency of our times, the universal tongue, the language of the marketplace where we swap ideas.

We are a people incensed. But, we can change that. Anger is a feeling. Harboring, nurturing, expressing, and inciting anger is a choice. It’s a choice our enemy wants us to make because he knows as we do that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:20 ESV

You know, as I do, that with a slight emphasis on a different syllable, we can change the entire meaning of a word. In karate, there’s a term called tai sabaki, or body shifting. By shifting one’s weight slightly from one foot to the other or from one direction to the next, a fighter can avoid an opponent’s attack and place him or herself in a position of advantage. Often the shift is so subtle, the enemy barely notices until his fist finds nothing but air. With very little effort, by shifting emphasis, the fighter changes the course of the battle.

During my morning Bible reading, God alerted me to a shift in emphasis that can be a type of tai sabaki for the modern soul. It involves the word incense. If we emphasize the second syllable of incense, the word can mean offended, angry, enraged. It feels powerful but if we cling to this position, too often, we find ourselves simply exchanging blows with the enemy and even with friends.

Now, just shift the emphasis to the first syllable and we find ourselves inhaling the sweet aroma of incense. Tai sabaki of the Body of Christ. Why does this matter? What does this mean? Especially for those of us who grew up in church traditions where incense was something they used in those other churches?

incense-706653_640It was during the Jewish hour of incense God set a shift into motion for the people of Israel that would bless us all. In Luke 1, Zechariah the priest entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense. Outside, a multitude of people prayed during the hour of incense. An angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah standing to the right of the altar of incense and announced that his barren wife would bear a son to be named John who would go before the Messiah in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way of the Lord.

A multitude of people poured their prayers out before the Lord on behalf of their nation. In the book of Revelation in chapter 5:8b, we learn that “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Again in Revelation 8:3-4 the prayers of the saints are mingled with incense, “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,  and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.”

Our prayers do not go up in smoke. Our prayers rise to the highest throne, the King Eternal, the Only Wise God, and they are mingled with the holiest of incense. In the fullness of time, the angel will ignite them with fire from God’s altar and then there will be fireworks on earth. Though it is a long time coming, just as Messiah took long to arrive, it is no myth. The day will come when faith will be sight.

Incense comes from the Latin word incensum, literally “something kindled.”  So, it seems to me we have a choice.

We can burn with anger. We can become incendiary devices in the hands of the enemy. OR, with a slight shift of soul, we can translate our anger into prayers that will be mingled with holy incense and set ablaze with fire from God’s altar for His purposes.

Which should we choose? To be a people incensed or to be a people of prayers that rise like incense to the highest throne?

I love to visit with other believers to encourage and to challenge with God’s Word, with stories, and with laughter. If you’re planning an event or a women’s retreat, visit my speaking page. Let’s start a conversation about how I might serve your group.

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  1. Jaime Carroll says:

    Lori, yet again you have delivered a message straight from the heart of Jesus meant only for me (or so it feels that way). Where I work my second job there is a mystic shop filled with all sorts of evils and the woman burns incense which filters into where I work and gives me a headache, someone said she does it to cast away the demons. I was even more bothered that she would try to do such a thing in her own power when the simple name of Jesus will do. I was highly offended that she was attempting to take the place of my God! How awesome and timely for me to come home and read your blog post. I need to be a sweet smelling aroma to God, I need to not burn with anger and offense, and I need to be available to God to fill that golden bowl with prayer! Thanks Lori!

  2. Nancy Haygood says:

    whoa! this is so timely! there is so much anger all around us, and that is definitely an emotion that quickly becomes a vehicle for satan’s influences.

    let’s make the “shift”! God makes a way out of every temptation, and this article reminds us of a wonderful alternative to going around mad. Turn the issue that triggers your anger to prayer! it will go forth, and Christ Jesus himself makes intercession!

  3. The BEST message for the days leading up to November 8.
    And I let all my friends know.
    Thank you and God BLESS.