Love One Another

When God tells us to love others as ourselves (Le 19:18), there’s an implicit command to love ourselves, to treat ourselves and each other with honor and respect as children of JEHOVAH; the command is empty otherwise.

Unless we love ourselves, how can we love others? And if we don’t love others, how can we love God? (1Jn 4:20)

This isn’t about putting ourselves first (2Ti 3:2); self-focus can be strangely twisted, fearing success, prosperity, blessing, and envying those who find it. It isn’t even about liking ourselves, or thinking we’re better than others; that’s pride.

At it’s root, love is benevolence: desiring the best, for ourselves and others (1Co 10:24), seeking the well-being of all, the harm of none. (Php 2:15) It’s rejoicing in another’s prosperity and grieving in their loss. (Ro 12:15) It’s being aware of others, of what they’re perceiving and valuing, ever seeking to help them become their very best selves. (Php 2:4)

Loving God is loving what He loves, hating what He hates. (Ps 97:10) If God so loves each one of us that He’ll become our sin and die in our place, placing infinite value on every single human soul, we certainly ought to seek each other’s welfare, including our own. (1Jn 4:11) Seeking God, cleaving to JEHOVAH with all our heart and encouraging others to do the same, is the beginning of love (2Jn 1:6); there is no welfare outside Him. (Re 22:15)

Growing in God is growing in benevolence (1Th 3:12), becoming more like Him. (Mt 5:44-45) When I find myself disinterested in the welfare of another, or neglecting my own, Father, remind me of Your heart; Your arms are always open, inviting us all to come, and always will be. (Re 22:17)

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The Engrafted Word

God tells us to receive with meekness the engrafted word, that it’s able to save our souls. (Ja 1:21) He tells us this after affirming He’s chosen to conceive us by His own will, not our own, with the word of truth (Ja 1:18); so, this salvation can’t be justification (Ro 4:25); it must be an ongoing process, something He’s performing in us now (Php 1:6) through His word. (Ep 5:26)

This word engrafted appears only here in our bible; it means grafted, implanted, transplanted, moved from some place beyond ourselves and permanently seeded and rooted within us. It’s the living expression of God (He 4:12) that becomes a part of our very being (Col 3:16), two distinct living things becoming a single, unique life, God’s words themselves being spirit and life (Jn 6:63), bringing healing within – salvation, deliverance, freedom.

Perhaps this is just another way of God telling us what He’s been saying all along: commanding us to hide His words in our hearts (De 6:6), to meditate in them all the time (Jos 1:8), that we might not sin against Him (Ps 119:11), and prosper in all that we do. (Ps 1:2-3) As we obey Him here He writes His laws into us (He 10:16), enabling us to free ourselves from the lies and bondage of the enemy (2Ti 2:26) so that we might live for Him. (He 9:14)

In seeking all of God, as He is through His Word, obeying all we’re able to obey, He works His words into the fabric of our being, planting them deeply within our minds and hearts, progressively freeing us to obey Him, abounding more and more in us in love for Him and others (Php 1:9), that we might approve what’s excellent, being sincere and without offence until Judgement Day (Php 1:10), filling us with righteousness by and through Christ unto His glory. (Php 1:11)

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Honor and Glory

God is honorable, worthy of great respect and esteem. (Re 4:11). All in heaven honor Him (Re 19:7); how might we do so here on Earth?

A primary way we honor God is by believing Him, taking Him at His word, acting as if everything He says is true, trusting Him. We call it faith. Anything else is calling Him a liar (1Jn 5:10); certainly not honoring to Him.

Obeying God honors Him by acknowledging His right to order our lives, to require right behavior of us, which is itself honorable. (Ro 2:10) Disobeying Him flaunts His authority and majesty, rejects His lordship and moves Him to wrath and indignation towards us. (Rom 2:8)

Treating our own selves with dignity, honoring all as God’s children, also honors Him, for we’re made in His image. (1Th 4:4-5) Purging all dishonorable activity and influences from our lives suits us for His service. (2Ti 2:21)

It is also honoring to God to suffer in hope (Ro 5:3), knowing He’s working all things for our good (Ro 8:28), and that He will be glorified in the end. (1Pe 1:7)

A more subtle way in which we might honor our God is by acknowledging His goodness, giving Him the benefit of the doubt, as we’re laying the practical foundations of spiritual life. For example, the Bible says God inspired scripture (2Ti 3:16); in accepting this we know the autographs, the original Greek or Hebrew manuscripts, were inspired by God.

Yet the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us whether any copies or translations of the autographs also contain this inspired property, so we must make an assumption about that: either God did preserve His Word for us in an inspired form, so that we can access a modern version of the scriptures today, in a common language, one that’s equivalent to the originals for all practical purposes, or He didn’t.

Which assumption honors Him? Gives Him the benefit of the doubt? Shall we assume God inspired His word for no practical reason, such that no one has ever actually benefited from this special quality? Shall we act as if no one has ever held a perfectly trustworthy Bible in their hands, one they could call the authentic word of God? Or shall we assume that God inspired His word for a purpose (2Ti 3:17), and that He is fulfilling that purpose, and act accordingly?

Most of us assume He didn’t, and assume inspiration is confined to the autographs, in a perfectly useless place. We’re encouraged to depend on pastors, teachers and theologians to reveal scripture to us. We don’t think we have access to the Word of God today, so we don’t tend to hide scripture in our hearts and meditate on it day and night, like God tells us to. (De 6:6) It’s hard enough to do this with a text we trust, so most of us have given up before we even start. But is this honoring to God?

Wouldn’t it honor God more if we expected Him to act with integrity, with intention? Being Who He is, faithful and true (Re 19:11), wouldn’t He enable our journey with an inspired version of His word in a modern language, a book we can read and understand for ourselves, to feed and guide us safely home, seeing that’s why He gave us the scripture in the first place? If we acted like He did, would we expect this to please Him, or disappoint Him?

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After Their Kind

In 1859 Charles Darwin published his claim that life evolved from a single original life form, without the aid of intelligence. Evolution in itself was not a novel idea, but Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection explained how species might have arisen by random chance, without a god. Since that time, atheists have managed to redefine science itself, asserting that intelligence may not be considered in any scientific explanation, no matter what the data implies.

But the actual scientific evidence available to Darwin troubled him; he never could explain the Cambrian Explosion: the sudden appearance of all known life forms (phyla), all at once in the fossil record, with no evidence of evolutionary history.

Darwin hoped subsequent discoveries would vindicate him, but after 150 years of intense research, they haven’t; the problem is worse than Darwin suspected. His theory is therefore presently in crisis. In other words, hardened atheists are finally being forced to concede that Darwin’s theory is inconsistent with the fossil record, and they’ve nothing to replace it with.

Scientifically speaking, trying to explain the origins of life without intelligence is a dead end: life does not come from non-life, and it’s inconceivable that any part of the complex biological mechanism comprising the building blocks of life formed by chance: it’s much easier to randomly select, on our very first attempt, a single marked atom from among all the atoms in our galaxy.

When it comes to spiritual things, expecting anyone to concede a position based merely on reason and evidence is also a dead end; unless God mercifully intervenes, we continue to hope in the hopeless, even in the face of such mathematical improbability. This is scientific evidence that Man is desperately wicked, driven by a freely chosen disdain for God, and that atheism itself is especially foolish. (Ro 1:21)

God says He created all living things to reproduce after their kind(Ge 1:25) This is exactly what the scientific record reveals, and we now know this conclusively.

We ought not to be intimidated by irrational, unscientific claims, even when very smart people make them: there can be no real contradiction between science and metaphysical reality. (1Ti 6:20)

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In Your Presence

Being in the presence of Almighty God is amazing, and we’re all continually in His presence (He 13:7); there is no place or time where God’s not fully present (Ps 139:7) or His glory hidden. (Is 6:3)

We’re instinctively aware of His presence: we know He hears us as we pray, any time, anywhere. So, if we aren’t enjoying God it isn’t because He’s far away, it’s that we’re ignorant (Ep 4:18) and blind(2Ki 6:17)

It’s impossible to be physically separated from God, to create any space between Him and anyone else. Anyone who desires the infinite God is invited to continually enjoy His glory (2Co 3:18), basking in His immediate presence and feeding in His majesty, in unbroken fellowship with Him. (Ps 16:11) The question isn’t, “Where is God?” but “Where are we.” (Ge 3:9) Do we want Him?

We may think we do, that we’d simply love for Him to reveal Himself to us … but if we aren’t already enjoying Him all the time, cleaving to Himdelighting in His Law and rejoicing in Him every hour of the day, when He’s right beside us, in and through us (Ac 17:28) … if we aren’t avidly internalizing the written revelation in which He’s already revealing Himself (Col 3:16), continually hiding it in our hearts so we won’t offend Him (Ps 119:11), and systematically meditating on it so we’ll know Him (Ps 119:99), it should be obvious that we’re not after God Himself.

I think what most of us are really after is an image we’ve constructed of God in our own minds, an idol in every sense: we’re making a god up as we wish him to be, like ourselves: aloof, uncaring, capricious, unjust, hard to reach and connect with. But God isn’t like that: He’s anything but that.

Let’s face it: the problem isn’t God … it’s us. The problem isn’t finding God, it’s wanting Him. Being with God isn’t an option; no one will ever be separated from God, not now, not ever, not even in Hell. What makes Hell unbearable isn’t the absence of God, but His holy, terrifying, indignant presence, as He unveils His infinitely holy nature to the desperately wicked, who genuinely hate and despise Him, which is, evidently, almost everyone. (Ro 3:11)

We can choose to seek God (He 11:6) until He transforms us into beings who enjoy Him, drinking Him into our innermost being, or we can continue trying to hide, lurking in make-believe shadows, hating the light (Jn 3:19-20), as we did in the Garden in our primal father, Adam. (Ge 3:8) Either way, we’re all going to spend eternity with Him, and He’s spending eternity with each and every one of us, right now.

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Fiery Darts

The shield of faith enables us to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (Ep 6:16) These fiery darts aren’t physical, but they’re very real. What are they? How do we quench them?

The wicked shoot fiery darts and arrows at us with their words: sharp, biting, cutting remarks designed to wound and scar us. (Pr 12:18) The poison and fire they carry are lies intended to make us feel unimportant and inferior, ashamed, rejected and unloved, isolated and vulnerable.

The wicked are prompted to speak these words by their father (Jn 8:44) the enemy, who works in them (Ep 2:2) to steal our joy, kill our passion and zeal, and destroy our witness. (Jn 10:10) As we receive these words, the enemy injects the emotions of fear, rejection and shame into our minds and hearts, lending supernatural, debilitating force to the jabs. It is an all-out, frontal assault on our spiritual life, from which we must be quick to defend ourselves.

When our faith shields are down, and we aren’t being mindful of the precious promises and faithfulness of God, we let these darts through to wound us. They continue to afflict and harm us until we engage our faith, lifting our shields to heal our minds and hearts, by reminding ourselves of the three basic truths:

  1. We’re loved infinitely by God (1Jn 3:1), Whose love is all we’ll ever need; we’re totally accepted by Him in Christ (Ep 1:6), and for Christ’s sake. (Ep 4:32)
  2. God is in control of all things at all times (Da 4:35), and He has a glorious purpose in all our suffering (Ro 5:3-5); nothing is out of order or amiss in His plan (Ep 1:11), and
  3. We each have a unique purpose in God’s eternal plan (2Ti 1:9), and He’s working everything out for our good and for His glory, all the time. (Ro 8:28)

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Ro 8:31) We thus dismiss these fiery darts as the nothings that they really are, ignoring them as lies with no substance, and continue rejoicing in God.

In understanding that those delivering the enemy’s darts are lost, or perhaps that the enemy’s exploiting the elect as they walk out the mystery of faith, as they reach out to us in love and good conscience as best they can, we’re free to look for and receive any constructive criticism or wisdom to strengthen our walk with God, without any threat to our souls, and be the better for it.

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Let Me Not Wander

Without God, the human heart is totally depraved, unable to do anything good. (Je 13:23) Even the best of men are like this, in and of themselves. (Jn 15:5) In our natural state we’re prone to wander away from God, away from the light, from all that’s wholesome and good, and grope about in the darkness for security, fulfillment, and purpose.

We wander away from God by neglecting and forgetting His commands, Torah, and as we do we deceive ourselves (Jas 1:22) into thinking that we aren’t actually wandering off, that we’re following God and doing the right thing. We ignore God’s definition of sin (1Jn 3:4) and light (Pr 6:23), thinking we can decide what’s good and evil on our own, just making it up as we go.

It’s not just that we’re blind without God, that we can’t see, it’s that in our natural state we love darkness; we hate light. (Jn 3:19) This mindset can’t be reasoned with; it isn’t rational, and it’s our default state, as natural as breathing. We can’t escape it because we won’t, ever, not unless He quickens us. (Ep 2:1)

Knowing this, yet finding within ourselves that our hearts actually are going fully after God, cleaving to Him and keeping His Law, we pray with the psalmist, “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.” (Ps 119:10) We acknowledge that this in itself is the work of God, that we are going after Him, and we ask God to maintain this Godward state in us, to keep us from wandering away from His Law, away from Him. We ask Him to keep us from falling and to present us faultless before Himself, knowing He’s able and willing to do this. (Jud 1:24)

Yes, God works in His own to will and to do according to His good pleasure. (Php 2:13) He opens our eyes and gives us delight in His law (Ro 7:22) and in Himself, in His way, sanctifying us and conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ. We can’t explain our love for Him in and through Torah any other way. (Ro 8:7)

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart LORD, take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above.” (R. Robinson)

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Not Grievous

In affirming that the love of God is keeping His commandments, God reminds us His commands aren’t grievous. (1Jn 5:3) His law, all of it, is profoundly good. (Ro 7:12)

Just take a gander at how God recounts His laws for a new generation (my summary):

  • Love God and cleave to Him. (De 10:20)
  • Hide God’s words in your heart and teach them to your kids. (De 11:18-20)
  • Respect yourself. (De 14:1)
  • Don’t eat disgusting things. (De 14:3)
  • Enjoy God’s parties. (De 14:26)
  • Feast with the poor. (De 14:29)
  • Periodically relieve the poor of debt. (De 15:2)
  • Be generous with employees. (De 15:14)
  • Party with God in Spring, recalling His salvation(De 16:3)
  • Party with God in Summer, thanking Him for the harvest. (De 16:10-11)
  • Party with God in the Fall, camp out with Him, thankful for more provision. (De 16:13)
  • Ensure justice in all the land. (De 16:18)
  • etc.

The pattern continues … Love God, respect yourself, party with God, care for the poor, be decent, be just … Really tough stuff here … They say God’s law is “a burden … legalism … just can’t do it.”

Can’t? Or won’t?

The carnal mind just isn’t interested in God’s Way, not even enough to find out what it is. (Ro 8:7-8) What a treasure we miss!

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Let the Dam Go

The promise of longevity accompanies only a few of God’s commands: honoring parents (Ep 6:2-3), maintaining consistent standards in business (De 25:15), and freeing a mother bird that’s protecting her young; if we happen to find a bird’s nest we’re not allowed to take the dam, only the babies. (De 22:6-7)

Parents represent God, giving us life, protecting and guiding us, so honoring them is intuitive, and a just measure is the basis of any healthy economy. But God’s not concerned about animals per se (1Co 9:9), so why’s this third command so important?

Elizabeth
Hoolah

Mothers instinctively endanger themselves to protect their own. My own dear wife Elizabeth, for example, screaming and praying for God’s mercy as a pit bull was killing our dog Hoolah, stuck her hands in its mouth to pry open its jaws, risking life and limb. My wife knows she’s infinitely more important than our dog, but in the moment she completely forgot about herself and saved Hoolah’s life. (Full story in 3rd comment below.)

Taking advantage of an animal as it tries to protect its young is a type of extortion; it’s cruel, sadistic and disrespectful. If it’s wrong to take advantage of birds in this way, how much more so of people? (1Co 6:9-10)

In promising longevity in these commands, it seems God is telling us that respecting authority, each other, and the dignity of life forms the basis of a healthy society. Cultures which follow God’s Law tend to thrive (Ps 19:7,11); those that don’t suffer deeply. (Pr 4:19)

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Christ the Firstfruits

Christ our Passover (1Co 5:7) is also the firstfruits of God’s harvest (1Co 15:23); He’s the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18), the first of many to rise again eternally. It’s a savor of both life and death. (2Co 2:15-16)

The resurrection of Christ proves everyone shall rise from the dead (Jn 5:28), some to endless splendor and joy, some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Da 12:2) As when we plant crops and expect a harvest, we see the same in spiritual things: we reap what we sow, later than we sow, and more than we sow. (Ga 6:7-8)

Regardless what we sow, our sowing comprises God’s eternal harvest as well as our own. (Re 14:14) He shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and cast them into a fiery furnace (Mt 13:41), and He will also gather a harvest of His saints together to Himself to enjoy forever. (Ps 50:5)

On this day of Firstfruits, let the resurrection of Jesus remind us that we’re destined for eternity. We’re part of an everlasting crop, a harvest in God’s eternal plan, so let’s bring forth fruit befitting of resurrection life. (Mt 3:12) Jesus overcame death in every sense that it could be conquered, and He lives in His elect to do the same. (Col 1:27) There is no temptation or trial too strong for Him. (Jn 16:33)

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