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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Then I Understood

When people who claim to believe in God consistently disobey Him, hurting us and those we love, this can be extremely frustrating, even debilitating, too painful to bear. (Ps 73:16) As we ourselves try our best to follow God, we naturally expect others in the Faith to do the same. But it isn’t so, at least it doesn’t appear to be.

Perhaps my biggest mistake in life so far, which I think I’ve been making most of my life, is expecting Christians to do the right thing as a manner of life, getting frustrated, bewildered and upset when they won’t, and trying to change them. For years, the appearance of habitual, willful sin in others who claimed to be believers has destabilized me, tempting me to bitterness and resentment.

If you find yourself struggling here, let me ask, would your pain diminish greatly if you knew the people hurting you and those you love are either [1] unbelievers, haters of God and His elect, living lives of willful sin, or [2] trying their best to obey God in their circumstances, such that if you could see what they do you’d be content that they’re doing pretty well, all things considered?

Regardless of appearances, this is, in fact reality: every child of God consistently tries their best to follow YHWH — and no one else does. (1Jn 3:10) Understanding this changes everything, at least for me. (Ps 73:17)

Yet even knowing this, it seems to take repeated experience over time to work it down into my soul as experiential reality (Ro 5:3): YHWH’s restraint is the only reason anyone’s remotely good (2Th 2:7), and He has a reason, a perfectly coordinated plan, in absolutely everything He allows. (Ep 1:11)

Yes, God is good and His plan is amazing; we saints are going to rejoice in it one Day, but as He’s working it out we’re often in pain, and it can be overwhelming.  (Ro 8:23) He routinely allows very difficult situations in our lives, and He tells us to count it all joy. (Ja 1:2)

I think the reason we should rejoice in trouble like this is because a primary objective of YHWH’s plan is to glorify Himself in transforming His elect into His likeness (Ja 1:3), such that we rejoice in Him, living lives of purity and joy in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (Php 2:15)esteeming others better than ourselves. God wants us to struggle through these difficulties with Him, with this singular objective in mind, as He works out his will in and through us. His plan works to achieve His end, conforming us more and more into His image, and it’s evidently the best way to do so.

Unbelievers are just unwitting pawns in this design (Ep 2:2); the enemy positions them in our lives as apparent Christians (2Co 11:14) such that we can’t generally tell one from another. (Mt 13:28-29) The lost often don’t have any clue why they appear to be outwardly good, or why life seems to work for them without God, but they’re content that it does, and this destroys them. (Pr 1:32)

The more fully I accept and internalize this perspective, accepting the reality of sin, even in those who claim faith in Christ, without becoming frustrated and alarmed, the less painful life will be. What remains is to cleave to JEHOVAH, walk worthy of Him, grow in love, sorrowing for the lost as they miss out on YHWH and His transforming work, acknowledging that I’d very likely be doing worse were I in their shoes, and praying for YHWH to be merciful to them.

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Remember the Day

There’s a particular day God wants us to remember; every single day of our lives, He wants us to recall that special day: the Day He brought us up out of slavery. (De 16:3)

Individually, we’re all born dead to God, in sin, a captive of the god of this world. (Ep 2:1-2) But God intervenes, delivering His elect from the powers of darkness (Col 1:13), out into His marvelous light (1Pe 2:9), giving us new hearts (Eze 36:26), and eyes to see. If this describes you, remember the Day.

We’re one with the people He rescued from Egypt (Ep 2:14), in mystical union with them across time through Him (Ep 5:30), being delivered from Pharaoh through Christ, our Passover Lamb. (1Co 5:7) He tells us to keep Passover (1Co 5:8)the Lord’s Supper, to help us remember that day, every day.

Never forget where you’ve come from, Who delivered you, and where He’s taking you. Thank Him every single day; thank Him for that Day, the day He saved you.

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” Ps 100

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Cleave to Jehovah

Loving God is obeying Him (1Jn 5:3), and obeying Him includes cleaving to Him (De 10:20), clinging to Him, sticking to Him like glue; we can’t love God as He ought to be loved … from a distance.

If we ever find ourselves checking in with God, that means we first checked out. If we ever return to Him, then at some point we must have left Him. If we’re ever unaware of God, oblivious of Him, ignoring Him, then we’re out of focus, distracted, consumed with the temporal, cleaving to dust.

What if one of the four beasts surrounding God’s throne, whose sole purpose is to glorify God Almighty by continuously repeating a single line, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come,(Re 4:8), got distracted for a minute, and checked out to focus on something else?

We’ve no lesser purpose here and now. Sure, we can’t physically see Jehovah (1Ti 6:16), but He’s as much or more with us than with the heavenly hosts; He lives in and through us! (Ep 4:6) Constantly envision Him standing beside you, hovering around you, observing, engaging … He’s closer than that, closer than our breath. He’s never distracted, never loses focus, never forgets.

We’re not to hope to live this way, looking to abide in Him (1Jn 2:28) in some far away day, but to be deliberate and intentional about it now, moment by moment, cultivating a continuous awareness of God’s companionship in our lives, and purposing to cleave to Him. (Ac 11:23)

If there’s anything we cannot boldly do in the presence of God, then let’s not do it. If there’s anything we cannot freely say before Him, then let’s not say it. If there’s any place we cannot joyfully go with Him, then let’s not go there. We live and move in Him (Ac 17:28); let’s do all in His name, every moment of every day.

In Christ, we can focus on the task at hand without ignoring Him; we can engage in prayerful conversation while we’re rejoicing in Him (Php 4:4); we can live in unbroken delight in His immediate and overwhelming presence as we serve Him here in this life. (Ps 27:4)

This is our inheritance in Christ; He lived this way (Jn 8:29), so He can live this way in us, as we access His life by faith. His command in itself proclaims His promise of aid in all who seek Him. (He 11:6) It’s a loss to live a single second of this life in any other way.

Oh! To be ever mindful of the living God! Continually loving Him, feeding in His majesty!

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Every Idle Word

Most people seem to think their spiritual lives are their own business, of no one else’s concern, an extremely private matter. Yet Jesus said we’d each give a public account of every word we’ve ever spoken. (Mt 12:36)

The implications are staggering; some day, somewhere, our words and actions, all of our willful activity, will be on display before the universe; we’ll be explaining our motives to God, why we did what we did, in every detail of our lives, in the presence of the angels and all of humanity.

Hubble: Sombrero galaxy

In that awesome Day, no one’s opinion will matter but God’s; His Law is the standard by which all our motives will be measured. (Jn 5:45) Nothing will be overlooked; nothing will be missed. (Lk_8:17)

How we spent our time, our money and energy, our loves and affections, our hatreds and lusts, it will all be out in the open for everyone to examine, a public display of our entire existence. On trial in the midst of an immense amphitheater, the center of everyone’s focus for hundreds of years, no one will be there to cover for us, no one to blame but ourselves.

In looking toward that Day, the only reason we might be uncomfortable is if we’re evil, living in darkness. If we’re living in the light, seeking and following after truth, we’ve nothing to fear. (Jn 3:20-21)

We can ignore the words of Jesus and live our lives in secret, heedless of the coming Storm, as if we’ll never be discovered, and be ashamed before Him when He appears. Or, we can abide in God, cleaving to Him, continually and humbly asking Him to reveal our motives to us now, and engaging spiritual community to help us live more and more according to His will, and expect to be bold (1Jn 4:17) and confident in that Day. (1Jn 2:28)

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This Is Love

God’s first and great commandment is to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. (Mk 12:30) It’s the mark of every child of God: we love Him. (1Pe 2:7) As in most everything, definitions are critical; they’re particularly helpful here.

Love has many shades of meaning: loving ice cream, a county, a song, a painting, a grandfather, a spouse, a teenage crush … it’s all vastly different. What do we mean by loving God?

Perhaps we have an affection for Him, a sense of loyalty and appreciation, a fondness for Him and a passion to serve Him. This is essential in loving God, but is it sufficient? Can we feel this way about God and still not love Him?

God defines loving Him as obeying His commands (1Jn 5:3); if we aren’t obeying Him the best we know how we don’t yet know Him (1Jn 2:4), much less love Him (Jn 14:21), or anyone else. (2Jn 1:5-6) Apart from obedience to God’s Law, all sentiment and service is nothing. (Mt 7:22-23)

God’s commands are His testimonies, how He reveals Himself and expresses His nature. (Ps 119:18) The new man in every child of God delights in His Law (Ro 7:22), because God’s writing them on our hearts and into our minds. (He 10:16) We meditate on them (Ps 119:97) and rejoice in them (Ps 119:14), being quickened, energized (Ps 119:93) and enlightened through them (Ps 119:104); they’re profoundly priceless to us, our litmus test for everything. (Is 8:20)

It’s so easy to deceive ourselves here it’s frightening. (Je 17:9) Our old man hates God’s Law and can’t submit to it (Ro 8:7), so we tend to dismiss it as optional and make up our own way as we go, reinventing Jesus as we wish Him to be, an idol of our own device, and place our affection there.

Let’s prove ourselves the way God says (2Co 13:5), in the light of His commands (Ps 119:105), putting on Christ and asking Him to incline our hearts to His Way (Ps 119:36), to enable us to cleave to Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him. (1Jn 2:28)

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Cry After Knowledge

In considering world religion, noting the vast variety of beliefs and observing the profound differences between them, we can be confident that either [1] there is no God, so it’s all made up, or [2] very few people have it right, knowing God as He ought to be known.

God says it’s the latter, that no one seeks Him out on their own initiative (Ro 3:11), which makes knowing God exceedingly precious (Je 9:24) and rare. (Ec 7:28)

Yet God assures us that those who seek Him diligently will find Him. (He 11:6) If we cry after knowledge, seeking it like treasure, we’ll understand what it means to fear Him, and come to know Him. (Pr 2:3-5)

In other words, knowing the God of the universe must be supremely important to us, the most important thing in our lives (Php 3:8), or we may miss Him entirely, living apart from Him, alienated from Him in our ignorance. (Ep 4:17-18) God isn’t one to be trifled with; this is an all-or-nothing space. If He isn’t everything to us, we don’t yet know Him.

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