Subtlety to the Simple

Of all the things I’ve admired in Jesus Christ, it’s never occurred to me that He is subtle.

Subtle: not obvious, and therefore difficult to notice; difficult to detect or grasp by the mind or analyze; indirect in a way that prevents people from noticing what you are trying to do; showing an ability to notice and understand small things that other people do not; able to make fine distinctions; delicate and complicated in an attractive way

As God, Christ does not present Himself to the world in splendor and power, but in weakness and poverty. There’s so much He doesn’t say; He 0_4df5739816_2_ed9178fc13ce6-postseldom answers clearly or directly. He drops clues and hints, hides truth in stories we struggle to understand, and answers our queries with even more questions, questions which expose our hearts and motives.

Yet I’ve been living so differently inside … so very un-subtly … wanting to be heard and understood, arguing, reasoning, being as compelling and as thorough as I can be, frustrated when others do not see. Evidently, God’s not like that.

I’m beginning to see beauty in His obscurity now, in His matchless humility, in divine subtlety. Perhaps it’s because we cannot yet bear His fullness that He veils Himself so. Yet He’s about sharing even His subtlety with all who seek Him. (Pr 1:4)

Transformation is amazing, becoming something we never thought we could. Christ being formed in us means becoming like Him in every way. (1Jn 3:2) He who began a good work in us will perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ, (Php 1:6) who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. (1Co 1:30-1) This is hope indeed!

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To Know Wisdom

Looking back over my life I’m realizing that most all of my troubles have come from not being wise. I made my biggest mistakes going headlong against the counsel of those who loved me most. No one to blame but me.


Wisdom is being like God, knowing the best thing to do at every step and doing it with the right motive. Wisdom is rooted in and springs from the fear of God (Ps 111:10a); He says it’s the most important thing. (Pr 4:7)

How do we get wisdom?  Simple: seek it, the way men seek money or pleasure … every day, with our whole heart. (Pr 2:4-5) Asking, praying without ceasing throughout each day, “Is this wisdom?” (Ja 1:5) And as we ask, we must be obeying wisdom: making the wisest choice we can every time we make a choice. (Pr 9:6)

Life’s tough, but it’s tougher when we’re stupid. Let’s ponder our path and walk worthy of God. The goal is not to have an easy life, but to be the kind of person to whom God will enjoy saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Mt 25:23)

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Love Your Enemies

Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” (Mt 5:44) Perhaps it’s the cornerstone of all godliness, actively seeking the good of others, even those who’d harm us.

The Passion of the Christ

This is unnatural, certainly; it denies our self-protective instinct. Returning good for evil enables and strengthens our enemies to harm us even more. Yet it is our God’s example. (Mt 5:45)

Living this way as a manner of life requires an energy from another world, a Life beyond our own. It is perhaps the greatest witness of the reality of God, that we commit our physical care into His hands, just as we have our souls and spirits. (1Pe 4:19) It is only then that we live as children of our heavenly Father.

There is a time to resist abuse, and a time to suffer according to the will of God. It is the wisdom of God to tell these apart, but there is never a time to wish ill to another. (Ro 13:10) Let us not fear to follow God in suffering for His name, for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2Co 4:16-18)

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The Indignation of the LORD

There is a place in the heart of God where I must dwell for a while, a mysterious conjunction of His anger, His justice and His mercy. It is the fullness of His love.

Like Micah of old, I will feel all of His love together, at once, in context: “I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” (Mi 7:9)

Indignation: righteous anger; strong displeasure at something unjust, appalling, offensive, insulting or base.

Texas heart tornado

I will bear, endure and accept, agree and align with God’s righteous anger toward me. His is perfect hatred, so beautiful I cannot hide. I drink Him into my innermost being, all of Him, everything about Him, even His strong displeasure … because I have sinned against Him.

I agree with Him: there is no excuse for any of my wrongs. I lie prostrate, afflicted, trembling before Him.  It is the safest place in the universe: unprotected, naked, vulnerable before my God. (2Co 5:11)

I will stay before Him, filling myself with all of Him, and I will never leave, because I know … He pleads my cause. He looks over my life and finds nothing in me to defend, yet He pleads for me. He will never find anything good in me, but He will reason, He will argue before the court of Heaven … He Himself will win the case of His own justice against me.

He is the one I have offended … yet He will execute judgement for me … because my righteousness is not in myself. All my hope lies in Another; I have a perfect righteousness in God’s own Son. God sees the travail of His soul and is completely satisfied. (Is 53:11) Yeshua took my place in death, became my sin for me, bearing the dreadful curse on my behalf. (2Co 5:21) He died, now I go free. “He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteousness.” My redeemer lives! (Job 19:25-7)

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!(Ro 11:33)

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Stony Ground

When Christ illustrates God’s kingdom He describes some of those outside of it as “stony ground,” (Mk 4:16-17) people who eagerly embrace the gospel message and enjoy the community of the saints, but when called upon to actually live out their faith, especially in difficult times, they have no interest. It seems that a key factor in identifying the elect lies in their response to God in suffering.

Oliver C Wright: The Malham Ash

Many today gladly receive a promise of forgiveness and a better life, but who counts it a privilege “not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake?” (Php 1:29)

As we do our diligence in making our calling and election sure (2Pe 1:10), we should carefully consider how trials are affecting us. And if we are not also choosing His ways and actively pursuing Him in the small things, should we expect to be faithful when it really gets hard? (Lk 16:10)

If we find our hearts to be shallow and stony let’s not despair, but seek new ones from God (Eze 36:26-7), not training ourselves in lives of ease but in enduring hardness as good soldiers of Christ. (2Ti 2:3) Let’s not find ourselves among those who wither in trial, but triumphant in God as He displays His strength in us. (Ro 5:3-5)

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God Is Good

There are times when all the cruelty and suffering in this world moves us to doubt the benevolence of God, His intrinsic goodness. When God allows pain in our lives it’s easy to conclude He doesn’t love us, and even to be angry and resentful toward Him.

Cherry Blossom Tree, Fuji volcano

But where does doubting God’s goodness lead us? Does having no hope in our suffering make it any better? If God really can’t be trusted, if He isn’t ultimately benevolent and kind, how are we going to escape Him? What else is left, if God isn’t faithful?

Giving up on the goodness of God is to give up everything … there’s nothing left worth having.

God invites us, “O taste and see that YHWH is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” (Ps 34:8)  Rather than asking God to explain Himself we can ask Him to help us trust that He knows what He’s doing, and that it’s all for a good reason.

So, what does this actually mean, to say that God is good. It can only mean that He aligns with a moral standard, that His behavior is right and appropriate. Yet, He Himself is this standard; He creates the standard according to His nature, defining for Himself and for us all what is right and appropriate — so the definition in this case is a bit circular. This is, however, not problematic — it is inevitable: such standards cannot create themselves, someone must define them and God is free to do as He wishes simply because He is God. The fact that He voluntarily chooses to live according to His own standard, even when this causes Him to suffer, is indeed impressive.

In the end we can all be sure of one thing: no one in Heaven will be disappointed or angry with God; we will be overwhelmed with delight and gratitude for all He has done. (Re 15:4) One day all His children will understand fully … and will rejoice in Him. (1Co 13:12)

The Psalmist says, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Ps 27:13) Evidence of the unfathomable goodness of God is all around us. We think seeing will help us believe, but the truth is that we need to believe so that we can see. God isn’t asking us to deny the reality of suffering, or to refuse to fully engage in life, but calling us to an expectation and hope that He will bring beauty from ash and life from death. (Ro 8:28, 11:36)

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Make Your Election Sure

Many thoughtful, intelligent people claim that doubt is intrinsic to faith, that anyone who isn’t doubting is either asleep or kidding themselves. Yet perhaps you’ve met people who claim to know God for sure … and perhaps they are just shallow, religious quacks living in a make-believe world.

Omer Mei-Dan: Cave of Swallows, San Luis Potosi, Mexico

But the question of eternity remains: When we step beyond the edge of this earthly life … and we all will … is it possible to be absolutely sure that we know God, and that we are safe in Him? If so, how, and what practical help can we offer others who are seeking?

God says, “give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2Pe 1:10-11) If God encourages us to ensure our election in Him, then this is both possible and extremely important. We’re all going to fall into the abyss of death some day … Isn’t God saying we should ensure we have a parachute … one that works?

How confident are you about eternity? Do you believe? Do you know that you have eternal life? (1Jn 5:13) Are you resting in the fact that God has already made you suitable to partake of the eternal inheritance of the saints in light? (Col 1:12) Has He delivered you from the power of darkness? Has He already translated you into His kingdom? (Col 1:13) Are you redeemed through His blood, having all of your sins forgiven? (Col 1:14) Are you ready to face the indignation of the Lord, knowing He will plead your cause and justify you for the sake of His beloved Son?

If there is any way you could be more sure, you are not yet sure enough: seek Him. You will face Him, alone. There’s time now to get your parachute in order so that when that last day comes … you’ll be ready.

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