Seek Ye the LORD

We’re all commanded to seek God (Is 55:6); both the wicked (7) and the righteous. (Zep 2:3) What does this mean, to seek God?

How do we seek Divinity, feel after and find One we can’t see or touch, yet Who’s ever present all about us? (Ps139:7)

Our inability to connect with God isn’t because He’s unavailable or far away (Ac 17:27-28a); His intent has always been to walk in fellowship with us (Ge 3:8a), and He hasn’t changed. (Ma 3:6)

The problem is us: selfish, stubborn, rebellious, callous (Ro 1:21) — we’ve run away from God and tried to hide from Him (Ge 3:8b), trained ourselves to ignore and dismiss Him, broken our own ability to enjoy Him. (Ro 1:28)

Our behavior here is totally inexcusable, indefensible; it’s actually horrific and makes God very angry (Ro 1:18); He’s jealous of our affections and loyalties, and He’s in this relationship to stay … He will not tolerate our neglect of Him. (Ex 20:5)

So, the first step in seeking God is to repent  (Lk 13:3), acknowledge that we are the problem in this divine relationship and not God. We need to change our mind about God (He 11:6) and sin (1Jn 3:4): start loving and honoring God (De 6:5), obeying Him and relating with Him as best we know how. (1Jn 5:3)

This first step is necessary: we’ve gone far away from Him (Is 53:6a); so, to find God we must at least try to start walking in His general direction. (Ps 119:10) But this is insufficient in itself: we can clean up our act to make ourselves look good … and not be seeking Him. (Jn 5:42)

In our obedience we must also seek understanding (Col 1:9), to align ourselves at every level with spiritual truth. Yet it’s easy to confuse theology and religion with God, and pursue Man’s way of engaging the divine rather than Divinity Himself. We may know it all, but if we don’t know God (Jn 17:3) … it’s pointless. (1Co 13:2)

We can dedicate our lives to serving others, donate all our wealth to humanitarian causes, and even die the martyr’s death — but we can be self-serving in all of it, and that’s worthless. (1Co 13:3)

We weren’t born with an inclination toward God (Ro 3:11); we’re instinctively averse to God (Ro 8:7) and this is our fundamental problem. Our selfish nature is constantly interfering (Ro 7:18), and the evil one is constantly tempting and attacking us. (Ep 6:12) Our ability to self-deceive is insidiously profound, entrenched in life-long patterns of pride (Ps 10:4) and rebellion. (Ja 1:22)

To start seeking God Himself we must get over ourselves and get out of our own way. (2Ti 2:25) Our pride and self-centeredness is what is keeping us from Him, nothing more. (Is 59:2) Personal suffering is what wakes us up (Ps 73:5-6), so God chastens us (14); we all need this. (He 12:6)

To find God Himself we must be seeking the Giver rather the gift; desiring the Blessed Himself rather than to be blessed; walking not merely in holiness (He 12:14) but with Holiness, pursuing God’s heart and mind, not just following His Way.

To help us understand how the divine relationship works, earthly relationships are a picture and a mirror, similar in many ways, particularly the marriage relationship. (Ep 5:31-32) In healthy marriages we’re present and focused, exploring our spouse’s mind and heart, looking to live in close intimacy and harmony with another soul. God teaches us how to focus on one another so we can see how to focus on Him in the ultimate, eternal relationship.

Seeking God means arranging our thoughts and actions to fully engage in vibrant, intimate, continuous personal fellowship with the living God, focusing on knowing and understanding Him (Je 9:24), delighting in God Himself (Ps 27:4) and rejoicing in Him. (Php 4:4)

To enable our seeking God is revealing Himself in a variety of ways: through Nature (Ps 19:1-3), through those in Whom He lives. (1Ti 3:15), and through His written Word (Ro 15:4), especially Torah, the Law of Moses. (Lk 16:31) In seeking God we maximize every opportunity to understand His self-revelation and realign with Him on every level we can.

To seek God we saturate our minds with His Word, particularly Torah (Ps 119:97), memorizing it and prayerfully meditating on it all the time (Ps 1:2), asking God to reveal more and more Himself to us (Ps 119:18) and cleanse us of all hinderance in our fellowship with Him (Ps 19:12), continuously aware of and cherishing every single moment as the perfect gift of God’s immediate presence (Ja 1:17), inviting those pursuing God (Ps 119:79) to encourage and challenge us along the way. (Ro 15:14)

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Horror Hath Taken Hold

Horror stories focus on shocking, intensely revolting, frightfully repugnant themes, the most unjust suffering imaginable, portraying evil in the extreme, often with a supernatural component. Imagery generally involves some grotesque distortion of humanity, and if innocent human suffering perpetrated by evil incarnate isn’t somehow part of the narrative it’s hard to see it as horror.

Interestingly, the psalmist describes a scene which fills him with horror, latching onto his soul and not letting go, taking hold of his inmost being: he contemplates the wicked forsaking God’s Law. (Ps 119:153) When he considers how evildoers neglect, dismiss, spurn, despise and reject God’s righteous standard, he finds it painfully revolting, repugnant and distasteful. (Pr 28:9)

Horror is perhaps the most intensely negative expression of emotion we have, and it even has a spiritual dimension, yet in this case it’s clearly over something most of us don’t find the least bit horrifying. The significance of this can hardly be overstated: we simply aren’t connecting with God at all on His terms; in other words, we haven’t a clue what either sin or God are really like. (Job 42:6)

The victim in this horrific scenario before the psalmist is evidently God Himself, Who’s grieved and angered by those who despise His Law. (Ge 6:6) We mortals aren’t typically horrified by disrespect for Torah because we lack divine perspective: we evaluate good and evil based on how it impacts human suffering; we have little appreciation for divine suffering. (Ep 4:30)

When we view horror from the human perspective we’re repulsed by offenses against mankind, but if we’re driven by God’s glory then crimes causing unjust suffering in God are infinitely more horrifying.

And the primary way we cause divine suffering is by trampling underfoot what God loves: Torah, His Son, the Word, all perfect expressions of God’s holy nature. (Ps 19:7) His attitude toward sin is reflected in the most intense suffering known to Man: the Cross. (Php 2:8) God knows about suffering, and He knows about it firsthand: He became sin for us. (2Co 5:21)

This is helping us identify what the psalmist calls the great transgression, a certain type of presumptuous sin he by all means intends to avoid. (Ps 19:13) Willful, deliberate, intentional transgression of Torah, done in open defiance of God, angers Him fiercely. (He 10:26-27) Yet when we sin so against God while claiming God Himself is unjust and unrighteous, when abundant proof of His mercy and benevolence and love abounds (29), we’re sinning on an altogether different level. (Ge 3:5) It’s the kind of sin the wicked pursue. (Jud 15)

Presumptuous, self-righteous sin, isn’t the creature merely in rebellion, but also exalting itself morally above the Creator in that rebellion (Ro 1:25), comprising the kind of intrinsic blasphemy we’re accustomed to on Earth (Job 15:16), but which is most appalling to those with Heavenly perspective. (Is 6:5)

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Thy Judgments Are Right

The goodness of God ensures His judgements are right (Ps 119:75); the righteous understand that any affliction or punishment He prescribes is perfectly appropriate, faithful and just, more than deserved. (67,71) To resist or complain when God afflicts us is to defiantly reject His goodness and claim He’s inherently malevolent and evil; it’s exalting ourselves above God, arrogant presumption of the highest order (Ps 19:13), insisting we know better. (Ge 3:22)

This includes all those suffering everlasting punishment (Mt 25:46); to believe in God and receive Him from there, from Hell itself, which the wicked should certainly still do (Re 22:17), is to acknowledge that all divine punishments are appropriate in response to offenses and crimes committed against God; the wicked shouldn’t complain against or resist the wrath of God, even from Hell. (Re 15:4) They should exclaim with all Heaven that God’s judgments are true and right. (Re 16:7)

However, the wicked will not do this (Ge 4:13), because the very wellspring of wickedness is the belief that God is not good, that He is unjust. (Ge 3:5) Even to escape the fires of Hell itself, the wicked won’t repent of this sin against God; they’ll stubbornly persist in it. (Re 6:16)

Consider the story Christ tells of a rich man in Hell, lifting up his eyes in torment, pleading with Abraham to relieve him in his misery. (Lk 16:23-24) He plays on mercy to tempt the righteous to do what God will not do, and thereby admit God’s justice is too severe. Yet Abraham aligns with God and refuses, reminding the rich man of his sins against God and Man, having profoundly neglected the helpless in their earthly suffering (21), and of the righteous consequences. (25)

The rich man’s next move is to again beg Abraham to do something else God will not do: send someone back from the dead just to warn his family to flee the wrath to come. (27-28) This is a second attack upon God, directed at His self-revelation, claiming it’s insufficient, again implying His punishments are unjust. Abraham again refuses, pointing out that his family has perfectly sufficient proof of God’s character and expectation: God has plainly revealed Himself in Torah and the Prophets. (29)

The rich man persists in his denial of the sufficiency of God’s provision, insisting that his family would repent and be saved if they witnessed such a spectacular miracle. (30) This is a third arrogant attack upon God, directed at His knowledge of Man: his presumption is that God is misinformed, that we’re mostly reasonable people, his family in particular, undeserving of eternal punishment; we simply lack sufficient warning to live in light of eternity. Yet Abraham remains faithful: God knows Man’s depraved heart and is revealing Himself to mankind accordingly.  (31)

What would God do if the wicked softened their hearts in Hell and acknowledged His goodness? If we know God well we know how He’d respond: His mercy is infinite toward those who fear Him. (Ps 103:11)

Why won’t the wicked honor God then, even from Hell? Why would anyone ever deliberately sin against God? This is indeed the true mystery, the mystery of iniquity (2Th 2:7): the desperate wickedness of Man; the godly are horrified by it; we may never fully understand it. (Je 17:9)

In repentance, regardless of our suffering at God’s hands (La 3:9), we admit to receiving the due reward of our deeds (Lk 23:41) and heed God’s warning to flee the wrath to come. (Lk 3:7) This is God’s gift to all who are willing to acknowledge that He is, and that He faithfully rewards all who diligently seek Him. (He 11:6)

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How Can Ye Believe?

Christ asks how we can believe in God when we’re more concerned about Man’s approval than God’s? (Jn 5:44) The implication is we can’t: before we can believe in God we must be seeking God’s kingdom and pleasure first and foremost as a manner of life. (He 11:6) If we’re out to please others we aren’t servants of Christ (Ga 1:10); and if we aren’t obeying Christ we aren’t seeking Him – we’re His enemies, headed for destruction. (Php 3:18-19)

This follows from the fact that esteeming Man’s approval above God’s is to trust unfaithful sinners more than the Holy One; it’s believing in Man rather than God, disvaluing God by serving the creature more than the Creator. (Ro 1:25) So, preferring the praise of men is unbelief in God by definition.

This begs the question: what other conditions preclude us from having saving faith? Any disposition to sin intentionally, on purpose, means we don’t fear God (Ro 3:18): we don’t revere Him as our King. This also is to mistrust Him, to reject Him, to disbelieve in Him. Salvation is far from such a heart. (Ps 119:155)

Is believing in and trusting God even something we can decide to do? Is this subject to the power of our will at all? (Ro 9:16) Believing God exists is certainly a necessary first step, but that’s not the same as believing in Him, trusting Him, receiving Him as He has revealed Himself to be. (Jn 1:12-13)

Suppose a man stretches a tightrope across Niagara Falls and balances a wheelbarrow across the raging torrents. To cheering spectators he yells, “Do you believe I can push a man across in this wheelbarrow?”

How do you respond?  Can you make yourself believe? Is this an act of your will, like scratching your nose? Maybe you figure he can, so you nod in subtle agreement, but then, pointing directly at you he commands: “Get in!”

Ah! Now we’ll see if you believe! Perhaps you’d be willing to risk your life, but if you’re shaking like a leaf … if you have any doubt at all (Mk 11:23), any hesitation at all (Ja 1:6), any fear at all, this isn’t trust, belief – faithFaith is knowing you’re safer in that wheelbarrow than anywhere else in the universe – perfectly secure, chill enough to fall asleep. That isn’t something you can just will yourself into knowing. Faith in God is a miracle: it’s supernatural assurance. (He 10:22)

Consider, if placing saving faith in God is an act of our will then it’s a work; for if an act of the will isn’t a work, then nothing is a work. Acts of our will are works by definition.

However, believing on God saves us from sin (Ge 15:6), yet no work can save anyone from sin. (Tit 3:5) Since no work can save anyone from sin, experiencing saving faith in God can’t be our work; so faith can’t be an act of our will; this must be the work of God. (Jn 6:29)

Yet God commands us to repent and believe on Christ (Ac 17:30), so how can this not be an act of our will?

Well, God requires us to be perfect (Mt 5:48); this isn’t an action, but a state of being from which our actions originate, and one clearly beyond our reach. (Pr 30:29) God’s command doesn’t imply our ability; it’s righteous for God to demand perfection of us: He can’t rightly accept anything less. (Eze 18:20)

The reality is that faith and repentance aren’t things we do, or actions we take, but characteristics of our state of being as we’re transformed by God; they’re two sides of the same coin (Ac 20:21) – both are gifts of right beliefs, affections and desires, a new heart, a Godward disposition. We don’t do faith, we have faith … to trust and obey God when our blind heart is healed to see and know Him more as He truly is.

And to repent, to stop believing lies, to have faith and start believing truth, God must intervene: He must give us repentance and faith so we can identify and dismiss the lies as we acknowledge the truth. (2Ti 2:25) So, while God may command us to be a certain way (1Pe 1:15-16), this doesn’t imply that we’re actually able to obey; our will is broken and corrupt. (Je 13:23)

Faith is rooted in the divine nature from which godly action springs (Ja 2:18): what we need in order to believe in God is a new nature (Ga 6:15), and we just can’t decide to have one.

Our inability to align with holiness lies in our being in a state of unbelief and enmity against God (Ro 8:7); in this state we deliberately choose patterns of disobedience which further enslave our will. We are, in our broken state, eating the fruit of our own way and being filled with our own devices. (Pr 1:31) Engaging sin leads to deeper bondage, the continual weakening of our ability to resist sin and choose good. God isn’t responsible for this condition, for our inability to choose good: we are.

Alienation from God is the result of our own ignorance and blindness (Ep 4:18), which comes upon us as we reject the light (Jn 3:36) and respond inappropriately to God. (Ro 1:21) In blindness we make more choices which alienate us even farther from God (Ps 73:27), leading to ever deeper sin and bondage (Ro 1:24), such that we’re continually becoming more irrational, confused, deceived, believing more and more lies about God, others and ourselves. (2Ti 3:13)

We can no more escape this spiraling descent into bondage and corruption through the effort of our own will than a rotting corpse can raise itself up from the grave (Ep 5:14), or the non-existent can conceive and birth themselves (Jn 3:7), or the wicked can give themselves new hearts (Ez 18:31) – yet God requires this of us.

God isn’t cruel to command the impossible – He does this in mercy, as a promise: if we hear His command, humble ourselves and seek life from Him (Ps 119:107), trusting He’s faithful (1Co 1:9), He quickens us (Col 2:13), conceives us with the truth by an act of His own will (Ja 1:18), and gives us new spirits and hearts (Ez 36:26) which delight in His Law. (Ro 7:22)

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To Lust

Lust is a challenging topic for all of us, especially for men; sexual addictions are much more common than we might think, even among Christian leaders. Accountability groups often fail as men confess helplessness and continue in mutual brokenness. Rather than exhorting both wives and husbands in proper marital duty, or offering any practical help for singles, Churches often drive shame into silence, resentment and bitterness. Real solutions are rare indeed.

To find healing we must [1] identify sin biblically, [2] expose the lies empowering lust, [3] find repentance to acknowledge the truth, and then [4] recover ourselves from spiritual capativity. (2Ti 2:25-26)

Lust is desire orienting our will to obtain what’s forbidden, such that (when plausible) we devise a plan to acquire it, intending to execute. (Ja 1:14-15) So, a man who’s checking out a married woman isn’t lusting until he devises a plan to entice her and commits to doing so. Guilt is about intent: what we purpose in our hearts (Mt 5:28), and nothing else.

But why do we lust? If it were just physics men wouldn’t lose interest in disrespectful, unfaithful women (Pr 30:21,23a); kept women wouldn’t flirt and seduce (Pr 23:28): the spirituality of sexuality drives lust – we’re trying to fill a spiritual vacuum. Though the wicked domineer and abuse others, decent souls seek one-flesh intimacy, love and respect; it’s built into our DNA. (Ge 2:18) Sex is a shadow, a pale reflection of the connection we all long for in God. (Ep 5:32)

When we aren’t fulfilled in either God or our spouse we’re tempted to seek elsewhere. (1Co 7:15) We fall for the lie that the stranger will satisfy (Pr 5:3), but the well is toxic. (4-5)

To heal the shallow appeal of lasciviousness we must first deal with our lack of divine intimacy (Eph 4:17-19), and begin abiding in God until this primal need for love and acceptance is being met by God at the deepest levels. (Ps 73:25) This is what we’re made for: nothing else can satisfy. (Ep 3:19)

Convinced that only God can meet our ultimate need for love, respect, security and acceptance, we recover ourselves from spiritual captivity by walking this out, ordering our thoughts and actions to reflect and align with this reality. (Ps 119:9) And as we seek, we find. (Mt 7:8) Only then may we bring the strength and health into our relationships that God intended, and be the blessings God’s designed us to be, rather than desperate, craving souls longing to be fed and nurtured.

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