That Which Decays

Basic physics tells us that closed systems tend to greater and greater disorder; they deteriorate and decay over time. So at its beginning our universe must have been highly ordered, which can only be by design.

A similar principle applies in spiritual things: God creates perfectly, then often allows Man to corrupt His work, causing ethical and moral decay.

For example, the earthly temple of Israel, a replica of the heavenly in its architecture, sacrifices and ceremonies (He 8:5), has decayed and vanished twice: the first time in 597 BCE and again in 70 CE. God’s people didn’t use the temple as He intended, to reveal Himself and His salvation to the world. (Mk 11:17) They corrupted His way so deeply and were such poor witnesses that God destroyed His temple and scattered His people to the four winds.

As in its first destruction, this last devastation of the Temple doesn’t mean it’s obsolete; it has merely vanished for a season (He 8:13). The whole system will be restored one day, fully operational again. (Re 11:1) Its precepts and symbolism are still relevant for today.

God’s purposes are often mysterious; in being omnipotent, He generally reveals Himself through weakness; being beauty itself, He veils Himself in dullness (Is 53:2); He calls us to fullness of joy through suffering (2Co 4:17), and even allowed Man to kill the eternal Prince of Life (Ac 3:15) to reveal through Man the power of His resurrection. (Php 3:10)

Just because God lets something die and decay doesn’t necessarily mean He’s through with it.

Open My Eyes

Sight: it’s amazing! Perceiving colors and shapes as our eyes translate light into our brains, presenting vision to our souls … it borders on miraculous. When sight’s lost we long for healing, but those born blind can’t know what they’re missing.

Spiral fern with dew

In a way, we’re all born spiritually blind (Ep_4:18), at enmity with God and His law. (Ro 8:7) We start out with a veil over hearts, obscuring the beauty of the spirit of the Law. Yet when we come into Messiah this vail is removed (2Co 3:14-16) and we cry out, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Ps 119:18

As God gives us sight we begin to see detail and precision and beauty in His commands (Ps 119:96) that we could not have seen before; things that looked dull and dry on the surface become glorious as we see them with new eyes. As we hide His laws in our hearts, delighting in them and meditating on them (Ps 1:2), a whole new world opens up to us which we glossed over and missed in our blindness and shallowness.

To the blind, God’s commands are boring, inconvenient, confusing and repulsive. God must open our eyes (Lk 24:45) and enable us to see Him and His way in His laws. (Lk_24:27) He must equip us to translate the light of His Law (Ps 119:105) into a vision of His glory and majesty (Ro 11:33), to find the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Eph 3:8)

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Worship in Truth

We’re designed to worship God, to delight in Him, to enjoy Him, to praise Him. Unspeakable joy in God is our calling, our destiny, to be continually adoring and reveling in the divine nature. (1Pe 1:8)

Jesus says our worship must be in spirit and in truth(Jn 4:24) What we believe about God matters; it defines Who we worship. To the degree our thinking about God is off our worship will be in vain.

Not all worship is good; in fact, a lot of it’s worthless. (Mt 15:9) Feeling close to God when we’re singing and praying doesn’t help if we’re deceived about who He is. How dreadful to find that in all our feel good we were being seduced by a counterfeit spirit, worshiping a false Jesus! (2Co 11:4) Many who think they’re serving Him will end up here. (Mt 7:21-3)

But the godward heart says, “I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.” (Ps 119:7) We can rightly worship God only to the extent that our hearts are aligned with His Law. As God’s Law, Torah, reveals Who He is and what He’s like, so our attitude towards Torah reveals who we are and what we’re like. (Ro 8:7)

We can’t separate love for God from loving (Ro 7:22) and obeying His law. (Jn 14:15, 24) We must pursue a right knowledge of God and His ways so that our worship will be in truth, rooted in obedience. Making it up as we go, thinking we know good and evil on our own, or letting others define it for us, is pointless.

God’s children worship Him in the spirit, from the heart, and rejoice in Christ Jesus (Php 3:3), … longing to know Him as He really is. (Php 3:10)

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Knowing Good and Evil

Through the Fall we’ve become like God: we “know good and evil.” (Ge 3:22a) Since God doesn’t do evil, this can’t simply mean we know what it’s like to do good and evil, and since God sees this as a bad thing (Ge 3:24) it can’t mean we’ve experienced good and evil in others. It must mean that we, as if we’re God, presume the right to define good and evil for ourselves, that we know what good and evil are apart from Him.

We’re constantly making moral judgments based on how we feel, without consulting God, just making it up as we go. And we instinctively respond to the moral evaluations of other mortals as if they’re divine. This is so natural we seldom even notice we’re doing it; it’s born into our nature, as natural as breathing, and it’s why we’re so wicked. Most all the evil and suffering in our world is from us doing what’s right in our own eyes.

Moral definitions are God’s business and He’s revealed them in His Law. Breaking His Law is His definition of evil (1Jn 3:4); any other definition is profound arrogance and presumption — it’s essentially climbing up into God’s throne and pushing Him off. There really isn’t a more offensive thing we can possibly do to Him; it’s Satan’s way.

We should make it our top priority to study God’s Laws and ask Him to conform our hearts and minds to His standards and ways, hiding them in our heart so that we don’t sin against Him. (Ps 119:11)  Let’s worship in truth and walk in the light, unintimidated when others make up their own moral laws. When we find ourselves making instinctive moral judgments, or reacting to those of others, let’s get in the habit of checking with God and dismissing the rest.

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Through Weakness

Jehovah often chooses to accomplish His will through weak, foolish, broken vessels (1Co 1:27); He generally hides out here, in weakness, and goes largely unnoticed. Sometimes it frustrates me, but I’m starting to see wisdom and beauty in it.

Would I prefer a more obvious God, promptly punishing evil and rewarding good, constantly working miracles, leaving no doubt about His existence or nature? But this isn’t typically His way; He chooses subtlety, doing the amazing under cover of loss. (2Co 13:4)

If God never let His enemies feel like they were getting away with anything, would they ever act like enemies? What would we know about Him, others or ourselves?

Satan flaunts his power (2Th 2:9) because he’s weak by comparison; YHWH will destroy him by breathing on him … through His nose (Job 4:9); His very brightness destroys His foes. (2Th 2:8) In accomplishing His will from the shadows He seems all the more glorious to me.

God calls us to be strong (1Co 16:13); we shouldn’t deliberately choose weekness as a manner of life (Pr 24:5), but we should indeed rejoice when He ordains weakness for us (2Co 12:10), for here is where His strength is perfected (2Co 12:9), in those who’re weak in themselves, helpless, vulnerable through no fault of their own. (Ps 8:2)

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A New Creature

The mystery of the gospel: it promises effortless eternal safety, calling us to rest in Messiah knowing God will never charge anyone in Him with sin (Ro 4:6-8), yet it identifies all who willfully persist in breaking God’s Law as enemies (Ro 8:6-7) outside of His kingdom. (1Co 6:9-10) How can this be?

Antelope Canyon, AZ

At the core of the gospel is a supernatural surgery — a heart transplant: YHWH replacing a dead, stony heart with one from another dimension that’s inclined to love and obey Him (Ez 36:26), and writing His laws into a renewed mind. (He 8:10) God is transforming sinners into God-ward, obedient saints (Ep 2:10), intermingling divine life with organic life. This is infinity engaging with and energizing the finite, each converted soul a unique incarnation of omnipotence, a spiritual conception and birth (Jn 3:6-7), a new kind of creation (2Co 5:17); it’s both a resurrection and an ascension into Heaven (Ep 2:4-6); it’s Christ in us, our hope of eternal glory. (Col 1:27)

We acquire this life by earnestly seeking it (Mt 7:7), pursuing YHWH until He gives us faith, supernatural confidence in His Son. (He 4:11) It’s a work that God both initiates and completes in us (Php 1:6), imputing perfect righteousness to us (Ro 4:22-5) and grounding us in assurance of eternal life (1Jn 5:13); it’s a state that cannot be forfeited or lost.

Those who claim eternal life apart from a posture of submission and obedience to God are liars (1Jn 2:4); those who depend in any fashion on their obedience to deserve or keep this life have never tasted its transforming power (Ga 3:10), or grasped the basics of their own depravity. (Je 17:9) Those who doubt their eternal safety (1Th 1:4-5), the fearful and unbelieving (Re 21:8) … are alienated from the life of God. (Ep 4:18) The redeemed worship God in Spirit and in truth, rejoice Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in their own goodness. (Php 3:3)

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Put the Evil Away

What’s the difference between Islam and Christianity when it comes to violence and intolerance? Jehovah calls us to hate sin, not to indifference. (Pr 8:13) Both the Qur’an and the Bible impose capital punishment on many of the same things. (De 13:5)

CHiang Mai, Thailand

Yet when Christians become radical, following the Bible more earnestly, they become more loving, kind, just and pure. (Mt 5:44-45) So what’s the difference? Why aren’t we fighting Christian terrorists?

Most Christians argue that the violent Biblical texts, being in the Old Testament, are obsolete, but Christ explicitly rejects this view. (Mt 5:17-19) The key is that YHWH only permits lawful government to punish those who violate His laws (Ro 12:19-21); Allah lets us act in isolation, doing anything we like to enforce his laws ourselves.

This basic difference leads Christians to love their enemies and seek their welfare while praying for and encouraging governmental authorities to reflect God’s righteousness, and leads Muslims to persecute and destroy those who do not agree with them. The one system leads to societal health and harmony; the other to chaos.

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Inhabiting Eternity

YHWH is eternal, having neither beginning nor end (He 7:3): He inhabits eternity. (Is 7:15) He’s outside time and space, being ever present in every moment of time, and continually abiding beyond the boundaries of time. (Jn_8:58)

Butterfly Nebula

It’s difficult to fathom the nothing elseness of only God, when there was nothing but God … no time, no space, no light or dark … just the self-existent eternal Being. The instant of the beginning, the great I AM Who never began … created space and time, Earth and Heaven. (Ge 1:1) If we can say “before” this instant, when there was no space or time, the triune God was, and only God.

How does one not worship a timeless Being! Sit back in awe at One so majestic, so mysterious, so altogether immense and powerful! How can we doubt His wisdom, goodness or faithfulness? Getting lost in the infinitude of God, let’s feed on His majesty, finding all that’s worth finding in the grandeur of the timeless One.

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Speak To Yourself

Worship should be as natural as breathing; God commands us to be constantly talking and singing His Word into our minds and hearts. (Ep 5:19) This is one way we’re to take the sword of the Spirit, joyfully percolating in worship and praise (Ja 5:13), teaching and admonishing ourselves and others through inspired lyrics. (Co 3:16)

speaktoyourselvesWhat’s important in our singing is the truth we’re driving into our minds, not how good we feel. The words we’re engaging with are much more important than the music itself. If we drop the tune, do the words themselves still move us deeply toward God, cleansing and feeding us?

Much of our worship today has a catchy up-beat melody but it’s shallow,  evoking emotion that’s not rooted in truth; it’s   imbalanced and warped. This isn’t worship; it feels good but it doesn’t edify our spirits, heal us, and free us in God.

God tells us what kind of lyrics we’re to be singing: Psalms, perfectly balanced, packed with God-oriented truth. They don’t deceive us and warp our focus; they point us continually to God’s magnificence and the beauty of His Way.

Like a bird that can’t help but sing, let’s be continually filled with inspired worship, tuning our hearts daily to sing His praise.

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All Patience and Longsuffering

God describes spiritual strength in terms of endurance and tenacity; thriving under extreme difficulties with all confidence and joy. (Col 1:11)

AllPatienceAndLongsufferingThe more we align with God the more we’re equipped to live according to our design: to enjoy Him as He is for Who He is regardless of our circumstances. In fact, the more trying our lives become the more opportunity we have to glorify Him, enjoying Him in the perfect gift of every moment, finding all our satisfaction and contentment in Him.

Trials then become treasures (Ro 5:3-5), precious opportunities to show God and others how delightful and amazing He is to us (1Pe 1:7), and also to further strengthen us, perfecting our endurance. (Ja 1:2)

In keeping our eyes on the Eternal One our light affliction works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2Co 4:17); we walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col 1:10)

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