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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God Is Kind

God is good, benevolent and merciful to all (Ps 117:2), so it’s tempting to confuse answered prayer and temporal blessing with divine approval, thinking God’s kindness implies His validation. We may be like that, but not God.

God loves His enemies; He’s kind to the unthankful and to the evil (Lk 6:35), and often showers the wicked with earthly blessings and health. (Ps 73:3-7) In fact, God may often answer prayer that’s abominable to Himself. (Pr 28:9) There’s no strict correlation between God’s provision for us and His approval of us.

God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust until the day of judgment to be punished. (2Pe 2:9) By afflicting the righteous He teaches us His ways (Psa_119:67 71), so it would seem that one way He reserves the wicked for judgement is by blessing them and giving them what they want in this life.

If God is answering the prayers of the wicked we shouldn’t be envious (Ps 37:1-2), nor find satisfaction in Him paving their way to destruction. (Pr 24:17-18) God takes no pleasure in the ruin of the lost (Ez 33:11); we should be weeping for them (Php 3:18-19), esteeming others better than ourselves.

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The End of All Things

God says to us, “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” (1Pe 4:7) If God was exhorting saints to prepare for the end of the world two millennia ago, then we are at a loss; the world didn’t end then and it hasn’t since. Immediate context provides precious little help in interpreting, so we turn to the broader context of Scripture for insight.

BarnInStormThe fact that God pleads with us to not expect Messiah’s return before the time (2Th 2:1-3), suggests God isn’t warning us that the end of the world is upon us; there must first come a falling away, which we still have not seen.

The key here appears to lie in the word end, which may convey the idea of a goal or purpose or final result. (Ja 5:11) If we understand it this way, God is telling us that the goal or purpose of all things, the reason everything happens, is at hand, or obvious, or readily perceived. This purpose is repeated in many places, as in the immediate context, “that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1Pe 4:11)

God is evidently telling us that we should be sober, prayerful, thoughtful, deliberate in our actions because He intends to glorify His Son Jesus Christ in and through everything. Though sin should grieve us, we need not fret and worry and stew over rebellion, blindness and brokenness all around us, or try in any way to control any of it; God will glorify Himself in and through all. (Ro 11:36)

Rather than letting corruption steal our joy, we should be thankful in and for all things (Ep 5:20), knowing that our God works all things together for good to those who love Him (Ro 8:28), and allows all for a purpose: to glorify Himself. (Ps 46:10)

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God Is Faithful

RainbowDoubleGod is faithful (1Co 1:9): true to His word, keeping His promises, trustworthy, dependable; we can safely trust Him to do what He says He’s going to do.

We can see this both in Scripture (2Th 3:3) and in Nature: for every need He’s designed fulfillment. YHWH is good; we need Him to be faithful, and He is, more than we can know. (Je 17:7-8)

But the enemy lies to us about God’s nature, twisting God’s promises and promoting wrong expectations so when God doesn’t meet them we’re tempted to mistrust Him. Falling for his lies steals our joy and traps us in bitterness; it’s too painful.

So God set His bow in the clouds to remind us of His faithfulness (Ge 9:13); scientists still don’t fully understand how He does it. Jehovah’s gone out of His way to assure us that He’ll never break His Word; He makes no promise lightly; He puts His reputation on the line in every single one. God’s promises are exceedingly precious gifts, open doorways inviting us into His nature. (2Pe 1:4) 

As we wait on the Lord, expecting Him to be faithful, we’re saved by hope; it’s an abundant life of faith rooted in the character and nature of God. (Jn 10:10) 

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Too Painful

When I lose sleep over injustice, and recently it seems to be often, I know I’m not handling it well — it’s too painful for me (Ps 73:16); I’m letting the enemy steal my joy. (Php 4:6) It’s time for a little reminder: God is just. (Pr 2:8)

What if God always rewarded good and evil with immediate pleasure or pain,BarnStorm training us like Pavlov’s dogs? We’d never know the depravity of the human heart … or the goodness of God.

In order to fully reveal Himself God must allow evil to go unchecked for a season; this exposes the human heart, and provides Jehovah a venue to glorify Himself. (Ro 9:22-23) The season may be longer than we’d like, but it’s a necessity.

I remind myself that God is faithful; He will bring every secret thing out into light; all will be revealed (Mk 4:22), dealt with and straightened out. (Lk 3:5-6) He may not be as prompt we’d like, but He’s perfectly just (Ro 2:2) and His timing’s always best. (Ps 104:31) My focus is to walk worthy of Christ, in intimate fellowship with God, and leave the rest to Him. (Ro 14:4)

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Root of Bitterness

Robert Charity: Smoky Mountains
Robert Charity: Smoky Mountains

When things aren’t going our way, and we’re praying for God to come through for us … and He doesn’t, it’s tempting to doubt His goodness, to question His justice, to become resentful and angry. It’s called a root of bitterness. (He 12:15)

Bitterness steals our joy and hope; it can spread quickly into others suffering with us.

Giving in to bitterness is accusing God of being unfaithful, unjust, missing a precious opportunity to glorify Him in faith when all seems lost. But why is this so tempting for us? What good ever comes of it?

No suffering is easy, but sinning in our pain always makes it worse. We’re saved by hope, so when we’re seeing rock bottom let’s do as David did: “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” (1Sa 30:6)

Nothing’s too hard for Jehovah; every promise He’s ever made He’ll keep. He is perfectly just; He only allows evil in order to glorify Himself, and He will right all wrongs. (Is 4:4-5) Let’s count on His faithfulness and rejoice in Him, especially when it looks hopeless … that’s His specialty.

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Shield of Faith

In our spiritual journey do we feel more like a target than a soldier? Struggling to keep our joy only to find we’re constantly being taken down in worry, frustration, disappointment and fear? Perhaps we’re missing our shield.

Wildernessjpg
Patagonia, Argentina

Many helpful pieces comprise our armor, but none’s more essential in spiritual warfare than the shield of faith. (Ep 6:16)

Above all. Above our sword, above the girding belt, above the shodden feet, salvation’s helmet and the breastplate of righteousness … we must have our shield of faith.

Faith: knowing God is for us, because He says so. (Ro 8:31)

Faith: knowing, no matter what happens, that all things work together for good to us who love God, because He says so. (Ro 8:28)

There are many dangers, toils and snares in our homeward journey, yet God is faithful. Faith is knowing God sees the end from the beginning, that He’s able to keep us from falling, and that He’ll present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. (Jud 24-25)

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Live by Faith

Faith is basic to spiritual life (He 11:6), but what exactly is it?

LiveByfFithFaith is supernatural confidence (Mk 11:22), absolute assurance (He 10:22), the absence of doubt about something. (Ja 1:6) It is so inexplicably complete and strong that it becomes in itself evidence of the veracity of its object. (He 11:1) It is distinct from desire and wishful thinking; it can only be stronger or weaker in terms of the scope of what is believed, not in the strength of the belief.

Faith is God’s gift enabling us to trust Christ for eternal salvation (Ep 2:8), to abound in hope (Ro 15:13) and to access the transforming power of God. (He 10:38) It is the flip side of repentance (Ac 20:21): God’s gift of full persuasion convincing us of truth.

When we lack faith, let’s follow the disciples’ example and ask God to increase our faith(Lk 17:5) He is able to glorify Himself in and through us. (Ep 3:20)

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My Course

Why am I here? Alive on this earth? It’s a question we all ask; rooted in our nature. We’re driven to find purpose and meaning, but what does this mean – for life to have meaning?

Claustral Canyon, Blue Mountains, Australia
Claustral Canyon, Blue Mountains, Australia

If no one ever acknowledges my life, considers how I’ve lived or what I’ve done, I have no purpose. Having meaning implies being evaluated: judged.* But by whom?

In the end, Man can’t give me meaning; I can’t give myself or others purpose. Living just to please others is empty. (Ga 1:10)

Only the One Who made me gives me purpose; Jehovah designs and creates each of us for a reason, and this defines our purpose. In Him I find my race, my course. (2Ti 4:7-8)

God gives each of us unique gifts, dispositions and opportunities (1Co 12:8-11) so that we can fulfill God’s unique purpose in creating us. It’s in leveraging my own unique design to serve and honor God the best I know how that I discover my course and run my race. (Ro 12:6-8)

I can’t spend my life trying to exercise other people’s gifts; I’m not designed to do everything for God. (Jn 21:22) What I do best is where I fit in His kingdom; it’s where I belong, for His glory. (Re 3:12)

In the end, only one thing matters: hearing God say, “Well done.” (Mt 25:23)

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