Male and Female

When I was growing up in the 60’s, life was a bit simpler: gender self-identification wasn’t on the radar. We understood gay/lesbian/bi, and I instinctively knew it was all perversion. But I never dreamed of something like gender confusion. How shall we respond when the world begins censoring us at this level?

Claiming we belong in a different body implies we’re distinct from our body, that we’re more than flesh and bone. It’s admitting we’re spiritual beings, created by God.

It’s also an assertion that God’s made a grand mistake in our case, that our unnatural passions (Ro 1:26) aren’t perverse, but God’s fault for putting us in the wrong body. (Jud 1:15)

Yet God doesn’t make mistakes; we do. He’s made us male and female (Mk 10:6) as sexual beings, amazing and beautiful. (Ps 139:14) Perversion is what it is: a twisting of God’s design. Our desires aren’t king: as difficult as this may be, we must learn to tame them, and channel our passions and energies in healthy ways.

And being indignant and offended when anyone dares call this perversion (Ge 19:9) is admitting we’ve nothing but raw presumption to support our claims. It’s claiming we have the right to make up Moral Law as we go, while forbidding others to do the same, a blatant inconsistency. Yet giving ourselves to sin like this leaves us no other choice: the sting of our shame is simply too painful for most of us to bear.

But silencing those who oppose us isn’t going to heal us, nor make it any easier when we face God in our rebellion. It will only sear our conscience and harden our hearts, which can’t end well. The only way out is to repent: admit our error and turn around.

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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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The Mystery of Faith

There are mysteries in our faith, genuine paradoxes. There’s a mystery of iniquity, that anyone would ever deliberately choose to sin against God, as most everyone does as a manner of life, and also a mystery of faith (1Ti 3:16), how salvation can be by faith while God judges us by our works.

On the one hand, we’re justified before God by faith, by believing on Christ (Jn 3:18) and not by works. (Ro 3:28) On the other hand, on Judgement Day, we know God will render to everyone according to their deeds: those who’ve patiently continued in good works as a manner of life will be saved, and those who haven’t will be damned(Ro 2:6-9) How can both be true?

The answer lies in seeing salvation as the work of God (Jn 6:29), where He regenerates the human heart (Col 2:13) and begins working in us to will and to do according to His pleasure. (Php 2:13) As God so works in our souls, we actually do persistently try to obey Him as a manner of life; we cannot live otherwise (1Jn 3:9), and no one else can live like this. (1Jn 3:10)

So, those who say they know God but aren’t, as a rule of life, trying their best to do what He says, are simply lying. (1Jn 2:4) While there are countless ways to deceive ourselves (Ja 1:22) into thinking, “carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done,” it’s hoping in Satan himself. There’s no safe place outside a life pattern of obedience to God.

Whether we live in a way that’s morally acceptable to society or not isn’t the point: neglecting God’s laws and living life our own way makes us God’s enemies. (Ro 8:7) Nearly everyone lives like this. (1Jn 5:19)

As saints, we know that we still sin (1Jn 1:8), and that our works will never be good enough for God (Ga 3:10); we find our only rest in the finished work of Christ. Yet even though we know we can’t lose eternal salvation, we won’t sin willfully, on purpose, thoughtfully, deliberately, as a manner of life. (1Jn 3:8) We’re new creatures (2Co 5:17), always trying our best to obey God, even though that may not be very good.

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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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The Month of Abib

In keeping Passover (1Co 5:8) JEHOVAH tells us to observe the month in which it occurs as the the first one, the start of a new year (Ex 12:2); He calls it Abib (De 16:1), from a word meaning tender or green, in reference to unripened grain.

One obvious way to observe this month is to note we’re required to find a spotless lamb (Ex 12:5), so we’re to be observing lambs, noting blemishes and defects, looking for that perfect specimen.

On the tenth of Abib we must choose a spotless lamb and set it apart, keeping it four days and identifying ourselves with it, then killing it (Ex 12:6) unto JEHOVAH (De 16:2) and consuming it. (Ex 12:8) Our particular sacrificial lamb is to become part of us forever.

As in each of JEHOVAH’s feasts, here again we have a picture of how we discover Jesus Christ and make Him part of our lives: searching Him out, that perfect specimen of humanity, considering Him and comparing Him with others. Finding Him flawless and divine, we receive Him into our midst (Jn 1:12), studying Him and centering our lives around Him. (1Pe 2:21) Then we see Him on God’s altar becoming our sin (2Co 5:21) and taking it away (Jn 1:29), and trusting Him to reconcile us to God (2Co 5:19) we enter into His rest (He 4:10), identifying with Him and becoming one with Him. (Jn 17:21)

Each Spring in the month of Abib, as new life springs forth in the fields and flocks, we consider anew our Savior (He 3:1), pondering the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ (Ep 3:8), feeding in the majestyremembering the day He became our Passover (1Co 5:7), the day JEHOVAH delivered us from the kingdom of this world. (De 16:3)

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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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What Think Ye of Christ?

Christ asked a simple question about Himself which might be helpful in evangelism: “What do you think of Christ?” (Mt 22:41-42) Most people don’t feel threatened when asked their opinion, and very few seem to have a negative opinion of Christ Himself, so it may be a great way to broach the subject of spirituality without being awkward.

Christ is unarguably the greatest figure in human history, standing far above all others; He may also be the most controversial, so healthy discussion about Him has the potential to be energizing and enlightening. Most everyone seems to have an opinion, but very few appear to ground their opinions in fact.

Thinking honestly about Christ requires knowing what He’s like, studying the Gospels, and carefully considering what Jesus said and did.

Those to whom Christ asked this singular question didn’t think carefully about Him, so they didn’t understand Him and they missed Him, the greatest human being who ever lived, though He stood in their midst, and taught in their streets.

People outside Christianity generally think Christ was a great teacher, and no more, but this is the one thing He can’t be.

Christ didn’t just claim to know the way to God, He also claimed to be the Way (Jn 14:6), and to actually be God Himself in human form (Jn 14:9) … these are claims no reasonable mortal would ever make, especially a devout Jew.

If Christ’s testimony about Himself is true, then He isn’t just a good teacher — He is God Himself; if Christ’s witness of His own nature it isn’t true then Christ isn’t even good, this would make Him out to be a profound liar, an impostor … or worse.

Christ’s unique claims require each soul to make a decision about Him; He leaves us no other choice.

Christ publicly predicted His crucifixion well before it happened, and proclaimed that He was going to raise Himself from the dead. (Mt 27:62-63) Then it happened as He said: the Jews did crucify Him … and then Christ did raise Himself from the dead.

The apostles, who knew Christ personally and followed Him, gave up all worldly comforts to testify of this, of the fact of Christ’s bodily resurrection — something they’d have known was a lie if it wasn’t true. This was at a time when the very thought of resurrection was mocked in common culture (Ac 17:32), not merely as impossible, but also undesirable. Yet the apostles all died martyr’s deaths, never seeking wealth, fame, pleasure or power, never wavering in their zeal or testimony.

People don’t deliberately sacrifice all, suffer and die for what they know is a lie.

It is undisputed, universally accepted historical fact that Christianity was born of this apostolic witness in the first century C.E, and grew miraculously despite vicious persecution. No one can explain how Christianity came to exist if Christ isn’t authentic, if He didn’t actually raise Himself from the dead. This is historically proven, if anything is, and it’s unique: there’s nothing else like it in world religions. (Ac 17:31)

Let’s gently appeal to souls to ground their views of Christ in facts, and then to serve Him and enter into His rest. Moving people to carefully ponder Christ, challenging their neglect of Him, might be a powerful tool in the hands of the Spirit as we encounter each eternal soul.

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Are We Blind?

Are we spiritually blind? (Jn 9:40) We’re all born this way (Ep 4:18), so how do we know? Presuming we can see when we can’t, like the old Pharisees (Jn 9:41), is unwise and dishonest: it’s what Christ came to judge. (Jn 9:39)

Thinking this is mere theological ignorance is itself blind, theologically ignorant. God says spiritual blindness lies in a lack of virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, kindness and love. (2Pe 1:5-9) If we don’t live rightly we don’t believe rightly, and if we don’t believe rightly we’re spiritually blind. Unless God intervenes and quickens us, we’ll remain so; it’s where most everyone lives (Ep 2:1), and without concern. (Re 3:17)

Seeing means being able to take God at His Word, perceive its implications in our lives, and do what He says. It isn’t a switch, but an ongoing transformation, a journey, a Way. Even the best of us can only see dimly for now. (1Co 13:12)

Being poor in spirit means being honest with God in our spiritual deficiency, no hidden agendas, not content in pride, in posturing, no wishing God would or wouldn’t say this or that, and this itself is a mark of election. Only the chosen can ultimately admit their need can pray “Open my eyes(Ps 119:18) as a manner of life, a prayer God continually seems delighted to answer.

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All His Benefits

We’re constantly being lied to about the goodness and faithfulness of God. How easily we forget how graciously He takes care of us, protects us, and rescues us time and again. Remembering specific things He’s done for us, all His benefits, helps maintain spiritual equilibrium and encourages a life of thanksgiving.

JEHOVAH’s benefits include things like forgiving our iniquities, healing our diseases, redeeming our lives from destruction, crowning us with loving kindness and tender mercies, and satisfying our taste buds with delicious nourishment to renew our strength. (Ps 103:2-5) Reminding ourselves, and recounting these blessings to others, is part of how we edify each other in our walk with God.

For example, a few weeks back, my wife and I had just closed on a house and we only had one house key. While she ran some errands, I went for a run on the beach, planning to return before she did and open the house for all the folks planning to deliver appliances, get final repairs done, etc. I put the key safely in the pocket of my gym shorts and headed off.

When I arrived at the beach, noticing only a handful of people as far as I could see in either direction, I stretched out and began my run, thanking God for the cool sunshine, running through the waves and meditating on scripture … it’s one of my favorite things to do.

At a good half-way mark, as I turned to head back, I realized the house key was no longer in my pocket! Somewhere in the last 1.5 miles, over the last quarter of an hour, it had fallen out, lost in the sand and/or the water!

I immediately began thinking what a total inconvenience this was going to be for everyone, particularly my wife, who’d arranged for all of these people to come over and get us set up in our new home! We’d need to call a locksmith and have him bust out the front door lock, reschedule all these appointments, and be without a refrigerator for who knows how much longer! The closing had already put each of us into some stress … and this was just flat out careless on my part! Needless! It would surely mar our joyful memories, especially hers, in finding and securing our “forever home” together.

Praying wasn’t an option — supplication poured out of me as instinctively as breath, begging God for mercy to help me find this tiny little key lost in thousands yards of sand and waves … I wasn’t hopeful. My dread was palpable.

I began thinking it might have fallen out when I was stretching, lying down on my back in the sand, and that was at least a couple of times during this particular run. Could I find those places based on marks I’d left with my back on the beach? It was a bleak option, but it was my only hope, other than retracing my steps and examining the entire shoreline. That could take hours; I didn’t have that kind of time!

After hunting up and down a while, I finally found the last place I’d last stretched out and started searching carefully. Thankfully, there were so few people out the scene was just as I’d left it, far enough up on land to be undisturbed by the waves … but no key here, best I could tell. I could keep looking trying to find it here, or move on and hope it was back toward at the start of my run. I kept on running and praying, eyeing my earlier footprints and scanning the sand, returning back to where I’d started out.

I got back to the area where I’d begun, searched around a bit, and found a place where it looked like I’d stretched out, and then I recalled it was a couple of different locations, as I’d been hunting for a suitable spot I had tried at least three different places. First one place, then another, scanning the sand carefully and trying not to disturb anything. The dreadful feeling of helplessness and doom looming over me.

Then I saw it! WOW!! Silver, shining, lying on the sand undisturbed, right where I’d been stretching, the first place I’d laid down. How happy and thankful I was to see that little key I cannot say! Whether it was a real supernatural miracle or not really isn’t the point for me; it sure felt like one, another precious token of God’s merciful hand in my life, caring for me and redeeming my life from destruction, chaos, and pain, all of which I fully deserved. Should have been more careful with that key!!

It is of JEHOVAH’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness!” (La 3:22)

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