Whom Are You Seeking?

The risen Christ, standing alone a garden, was mistaken by a close disciple for the local gardener. He asked her a simple, penetrating question: “Whom are you seeking?” (Jn 20:15)

Whom are we seeking? How are we seeking Him? How can we tell? How do we know?

Mary was absolutely desperate to find Jesus Christ; she was simply beside herself. Not finding Christ wasn’t an option, no matter where He was. Perhaps that’s a start. Is not having Christ an option we’re willing to live with? or even entertain?

Well, wanting Him isn’t enough, evidently. Knowing Him as well as she did, she didn’t recognize Him when she found Him. She wasn’t expecting Him where He was, or in the state He was in. She vastly underestimated Him, having some lowly notion about where He might be and what He might look like. But she knew His voice, and was longing to hear Him. He had to reveal Himself to her, even though He was standing right in front of her. Do we know the voice of God? Are we longing to hear Him, as He reveals Himself to us?

In even asking us the question, Christ presumes we’re seeking some one, and not just some thing. If we’re content with toys and trinkets, I suppose He’ll leave us to them, and not even ask. (1Jn 2:15) But if we’re at least looking for God, He’ll help us. (Mt 7:7)

And in seeking sincerely, we ought to be walking in the light we already have. We call Him Lord, but are we doing what He said? (Lk 6:46)

How else do we seek after the risen Christ? How do we find Him, if it isn’t in obeying what we already know of Him, following after Him, and continually asking Him to show us more?

articles     blog

Strangers and Pilgrims

Our house is mostly empty now … well, it’s not even ours any more; we closed on it Monday, so we’re renting it back for a couple days until we can get our things out. We’ve sold most all of our furniture and knickknacks, and the bulk of what remains is boxed up in the front room.

Today, I rent the moving truck and start loading; we head to Florida tomorrow, and start a new chapter in our lives.

It’s tempting to reminisce about our lives here in Texas over the last decade, how God has been so faithful, and to be a little intimidated by the unknown before us, but I’m reminded that we’re sojourners on Earth, strangers and pilgrims here (1Pe_2:11); earthly life is a vapor that appears for an instant, and then vanishes. (Ja 4:14)

The words of an old hymn come to mind, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through. My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me through Heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” I don’t feel at home here, not anywhere down here, not really.

I’m not living as if this earthly life is all I have; I can’t live that way; I won’t live that way. My father lived for this world and died at age 43, back in 1981. His immediate family still remembers him, but we’ll all be gone soon too, and then he’ll be nothing to no one, just like the rest of us will eventually be, as far as this life goes.

It’s still so real to me, just as it was the day he died, that this life means nothing if we don’t live it in light of eternity. In 500 years, what will be left of what we know now? Not much. And even that’s a blink of an eye. Eternity is such a long, long time, and the longing for significance in every one of us tells us that it’s real.

Home is where the heart is, and the heart is where the treasure is. (Mt 6:21) Mine is looking up, to a heavenly city being prepared, at least in part, for me. (He 11:16)

I’ll feel at home where there’s no sin, no sickness, no fear, no malice, no falsehood, where truth and love are as an eternal day (Re 22:5) … where my Savior’s glory outshines the sun. (Ac 26:13)

articles     blog

Iron Sharpens Iron

To sharpen means to remove roughness and unevenness from a blade or a point to improve its ability to cut or pierce. For one object to sharpen another, there must be very precise alignment and movement in their relative positions over time; one must be positioned to receive the sharpening influence and the other must be positioned to provide it, and the hands of an experienced craftsman must bring the two together repeatedly. It does not happen all at once, but over many repeated, precisely engineered strokes.

God employs this as a fascinating illustration of how friends edify one another: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” (Pr 27:17When friends deliberately invite each other to facilitate their pursuit of holiness, God can use them to this end with miraculous precision.

As the countenance is the reflection of the heart, this sharpening is the refinement of disposition and orientation, the honing of character. It is not merely teaching, or even discipleship or modeling, but a purification, a transformation, something only God can do.

Christ the Master Craftsman (He 3:4), Who indwells the individual believer (1Jn 4:15), the communion of believers (2Co_6:16), and works in and through all men (Pr 16:1), can sharpen us through anyone if we’ll position ourselves to hear Him and submit ourselves to Him. But it is in building relationships particularly for this purpose, cultivating the trust of godly friends, where we can be more open to seeing His way through the loving challenges of those who know us well (Pr 27:6), that His finest work is done.

articles     blog

By Grace

I believe we’re prone to fall into one of two basic soteriological errors: [1] “It doesn’t matter how I live since I’m forgiven.” [2] “If I don’t behave then I won’t be saved.” Those who’ve grasped God’s eternal salvation don’t think either way.

The key is in what God means when He says, “By grace you are saved.” (Ep 2:8) If we’re confusing grace with mercy, leniency, getting off easy, we miss His intent. Grace and mercy aren’t the same; they’re quite different.

We start out presuming salvation’s up to us, not God, and that’s where we go wrong. From that wrong place someone lies to us about what we need to do to finally end up in Heaven. Maybe some ritual called “accepting Christ,” and/or a certain behavior pattern that’ll be good enough for God. But it’s all wrong, because we’re starting at the wrong place.

Salvation isn’t up to us; it’s entirely in God’s hands. We’re born dead in sin (Col 2:13), enemies of God (Col 1:21), alienated from His life. (Ep 4:18) A dead man can’t do anything to raise himself; he can’t even want it. We need supernatural power; a miracle.

That’s where grace comes in: grace is “divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life.” (Strong) It’s God’s power intervening in our deadness (Ep 2:5), divine life energizing human life (1Co 15:10), enabling us to believe (Jn 6:29) and conforming us to the image of Christ. (Ro 8:29)

The very desire to seek after God actually comes from God (Php 2:13); finding this within should encourage us to pursue Him until we find Him (He 11:6), relentlessly asking Him to quicken us … until He actually does. We can’t afford to settle for anything less. (Mk_8:36)

Grace is God choosing us (Ep 1:4), enabling us to seek Him and find Him (1Co 1:30), to obey Him, to hunger and thirst after righteousness, to have faith (Ep  2:8), to know that His promises are true, that He’s faithful.

We can have a relationship with God where: [1] He’ll never impute sin to us, crediting us with a perfect righteousness for Christ’s sake that’s independent of how we live (Ro 4:6-8), and [2] where He’s conforming us into His image (2Co 3:18), to live according to His Way. How we live is evidence of His sanctifying work (Php 1:6), so it does matter; yet the saved don’t worry about losing salvation because it’s His work, not ours. (Ep 2:10)

articles     blog

Heavy Burdens

Strategic attacks on our faith aim at its foundation: the nature of God and Man, the definition of sin, how to be in right relationship with God. As the enemy lies, changes definitions, wrests scripture, reasons falsely … he tries to destroy our foundation, making it hard to find the truth, or to help others find it. (Ps 11:3)

God defines sin as violating His Law: Torah. (1Jn 3:4) He has one law for us all, one standard, and it’s perfect. (Ps 19:7) He’s told us not to take away from it or add to it. (De 4:2) Doing so corrupts the definition of sin, creating heavy burdens which God didn’t intend. (Mt 23:4)

Just last week, a well-respected spiritual leader in my community insisted that if I drive a car or turn on a stove on Saturday, that I’m disobeying Torah. He says I can only make love with my wife one week out of the month, that I can’t wear a cotton-polyester t-shirt, that I can’t eat a cheeseburger (dairy or meat, never both in a meal), and that I must stone my kids to death when they disobey me … or I’m violating Torah. He was, in effect, trying to discourage me from even thinking about really trying to obey God’s laws, and he was evidently serious. Just one problem: none of this is actually in Torah.

When we don’t read God’s Word for ourselves, thinking carefully about what He says, we become vulnerable to these kinds of absurdities and encourage the lost to blaspheme God’s ways. It’s the enemy’s way of attacking our foundation, making God seem arbitrary, petty, capricious, even malicious. I wonder what God thinks about it all; He can’t be pleased.

articles     blog

One Law

In ancient Israel, when those from other nations dwelt among God’s people, they all had the same moral obligations; there was one law for everyone. We call it Torah, God’s instructions; it includes the Mosaic laws in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. No difference was made between Jew and Gentile. (Nu 15:15-16)

Comet C/2013 R1

I believe Torah, this same set of ancient laws, is timeless (Ps 119:160), defining holiness and sin for us today (1Jn 3:4); each one rooted in the eternal nature and character of God (1Pe 1:16)His testimony of metaphysical reality.

No one has ever been saved by keeping Torah (Ro 3:28); it’s purpose is to reveal God’s standard of holiness for His people. (1Ti 1:5) Since all of Torah is profitable for instruction in righteousness, thoroughly equipping us all to good works (2Ti 3:16-17), I believe all of Torah is generally applicable for every people group and culture for all time (Mt 5:19), for Jew and Gentile alike. (Mi 4:2)

When we willfully break any of these laws we’re guilty of breaking the Law as a whole, in its entirety (Ja 2:10-11), and we grieve and anger God. (He 10:26) God commands us to hide the words of His Law in our heart (De 6:6), and exhorts us to delight His Law and to meditate on it all the time. (Ps 119:97)

A general proof of this One Law concept is relatively straightforward: [1] Christ teaches Torah will be obligatory, relevant and applicable as long as Heaven and Earth remain. (Mt 5:17-18) [2] He also affirms that every single command in Torah has intrinsic moral significance as an expression and reflection of the one supreme moral standard: loving God with our whole heart, soul and mind, and our neighbors as ourselves. (Mt 22:36-40) [3] And finally, Christ commands His Jewish disciples to teach all nations to observe and obey all things whatsoever He has commanded them (Mt 28:19-20); God makes no Jew-Gentile distinctions in His commands.

Objection to One Law is nearly universal in Christianity, and generally passionate, opposing these basic principles by presuming that certain Torah commands have no timeless, intrinsic moral value, and then either [1] claiming Christ has abolished Torah altogether, or [2] arbitrarily classifying God’s laws into types (e.g. moral, ceremonial, civil, etc.), and presuming that certain kinds of laws (e.g. ceremonial and civil) apply only to Jews and not to Gentiles.

Motivation for opposing One Law is simple: the carnal mind is enmity against God and cannot be subject to Torah (Ro 8:7); our unregenerate nature cannot perceive Torah’s intrinsic moral value. But as we believe on Christ and partake in the New Covenant, God gives us new hearts (Eze 36:26) and begins to write Torah into our minds and hearts (He 8:10), putting His spirit within us and causing us to walk in His ways (Eze 36:27), moving in our inward man to delight in Torah. (Ro 7:22) As we grasp its immeasurable value (Ps 119:72), how it reveals the nature of God and Man (Ps 119:130), how all who delight in it are blessed (Ps 1:2-3), we’ll never strategize to limit its applicability or scope.

Many different scriptures are used to refute One Law, but I find that each one must be wrested from context to do so. (2Pe 3:16) So far, all opponents I have seen don’t consider that each text can easily be interpreted consistently with One Law, and ignore or superficially dismiss the key texts supporting One Law.

I think the definition of sin and holiness is one of the most important topics we can discuss; without holiness no one will see God. (He 12:14) Since my position here appears to be so unique, and since variations of the opposing viewpoint are so widely and passionately held, I invite and encourage any one to challenge me, and to engage in respectful, constructive dialogue for our mutual edification.

articles     blog

Every False Way

The Psalmist prays, “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” (Ps 119:104) As we seek understanding through God’s precepts, we’re encouraged to learn to identify false ways of thinking and to reject them.

A false way is irrational, deceptive, a vain thought pattern, an invalid, empty type of reasoning that’s only convincing when we want it to be; it’s biased, intellectually dishonest; it’s faulty logic, logical fallacy.

For example, last week, a well-meaning friend sent me an email outlining nine distinct points opposing a position I hold called One Law: We’re all responsible to obey all of God’s Law, the Law of Moses, or Torah, that we’re able to obey. I believe God has only one set of laws defining holiness and sin (1Jn 3:4); I think it’s generally applicable for every people group and culture for all time. I’ve written many articles supporting this viewpoint, and I continually invite anyone to challenge me on it, which is what my friend was doing.

As I considered each of the nine points, it was not difficult for me to see that each was invalid, based on false reasoning. The first, “(One Law) is anti-Jewish because it opposes any continuing distinction between Jews and Gentiles,” is false by counter-example; Jews observe many traditions which distinguish them as a people which are not required in order to obey Torah (Mk 7:3-4), and Torah-obedient Gentiles are not required to become Jewish, but are encouraged to maintain their ethnic identity. (1Co 7:18)

The second was similarly false: “(One Law) is supersessionist because it considers Israel as redefined and now composed of one law believers rather than the Jewish people.” Gentiles starting to try to obey Torah cannot redefine Israel since Israel has never been defined simply as “the people group that obeys Torah.” Israel has, for the most part and just like all other people groups, always been ungodly (Ro 11:26); they don’t obey Torah today, and they never have consistently obeyed it. (Ac 7:51)

The third point, “(One Law) is anti-Christian because it claims that the Church is pagan, apostate and sinning by not keeping distinctively Jewish commandments,” was a case of circular reasoning, assuming what we’re trying to prove, that most of God’s commandments in Torah are only for Jews.

The rest of the points were either redundant with the first error above, or association fallacies: claims that One Law is invalid because some people who hold it are bad. For example: “(One Law) promotes arrogance and a critical spirit towards Synagogue and Church authority and tradition.” This is an attempt to discredit One Law by crediting the doctrine itself with the malice of those who promote it. Though many proponents of One Law may be arrogant or have a critical spirit, there’s nothing inherent in the position that actually requires or implies such a disposition.

It is tempting to employ logical fallacies because they’re effective in convincing careless, biased people, yet each type of fallacy is easily exposed as a false way since they are all context specific: we recognize them as invalid when someone is trying to dismiss something we want to believe, like the fact that Earth is spherical. Many wicked people believe the earth is round, but most of us can easily see that this is irrelevant … it doesn’t prove the earth is flat because it has nothing to do with the claim.

It’s very easy to to commit logical fallacy and to be deceived by invalid reasoning; if we’re not carefully pursuing truth, hating vain thoughts, we’ll be blinded by our bias, unable to detect false ways of thinking. The wicked lay them out for us like snares (Ps 119:110); we must remain humble and vigilant. (1Pe 5:8) Whenever Christians commit logical fallacies, the world goes out of its way to notice and bring dishonor to the name of Christ.

The safest way I’ve found to avoid the false way is to ask others to challenge me with their strongest arguments. Humbly and carefully considering opposing viewpoints in their strongest possible form, and prayerfully comparing these with God’s Word, is the only way I know. (Ps 119:59)

articles     blog

Vain Thoughts

The Psalmist hates vain thoughts, but loves God’s Law. (Ps 119:113) To hate vain thoughts, we must equip ourselves to detect invalid thought patterns, especially within, and train ourselves to think the way God’s designed us to, asking Him to help us. (Ps 19:14)

From the contrast the Psalmist presents, vain thoughts seem to be any and all mental or emotional activity that’s inconsistent with God’s Law, or with truth. (Ps 119:142) Vain, empty, foolish thoughts would then include any notion or sentiment not springing from delight in God’s Law (Ro 7:22), or that’s inconsistent with Torah (Is 8:20), or trains of thought that are illogical (1Co 14:20) or irrational. (1Pe 1:13) This includes pride and presumption, all deception and all forms of faulty reasoning.

For example, my high school honors biology teacher dismissed Creation Science on the first day of class by asking all us young men to check if we were missing a rib. We all, myself included, laughed religious superstition to scorn: of course, if God took a rib from Adam to make Eve, then all men should be missing a rib. Case closed.

He then proceeded to teach us that biological traits are inherited through DNA, contradicting the very reasoning he had just used to dismiss Creation Science: if I lose a finger and then have kids, my kids will still have all their fingers. But we never noticed his error, because we wanted to believe in evolution.

It’s raw presumption to believe something simply because we want it to be true, and we’re all guilty of this at times. Whenever we’re biased, emotionally predisposed to accept or reject an idea, then we’re ripe for deception, and any pretense of evidence to support the lie will comfort and strengthen us in believing it. (2Ti 4:3) This is exactly how the enemy wars against us, taking us captive through deception. (2Ti 2:25)

To find the truth we have to want it, search for it, value it supremely: buy the truth and sell it not. (Pr 23:23)

Logic is reasoning that enables us to discover truth, to learn new truths based on what we already know to be true. Like mathematics, it always works because it’s blind to our desires. God has given it to us to help us pursue Him and His calling in us to subdue the earth. We can tell logic is of God because He never violates it, and because we don’t either when we’re unbiased; we’re easily able to identify false reasoning when someone tries to use it to discredit something we want to believe or already know to be true.

There’s a moral integrity and wisdom here that very few seem to find. Because we’re all born broken, dishonest and selfish, dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1), we all have difficulty discerning truth in spiritual things because we are emotionally biased against them, and the enemy is constantly trying to deceive us, throw us off balance, and take us down. Even when we’re well-trained and being as careful as we can be, we can still slip into pride and make careless mistakes in our reasoning. These errors can be very hard for us to see on our own (Ps 19:12), so we need others to help us in our journey, to wake us up, and encourage us to shake off the stupor and walk in the light. (Ep 5:15)

If we’re to love God and His ways, we ought to hate every false way (Ps 119:104), and not be counted among the proud, foolish and thoughtless. (Ep 5:15) Humility is open to criticism, to being challenged on every belief and why it’s being held. Sometimes, it’s those who disagree with us who can help us the most. Don’t fear being wrong, only staying that way.

articles     blog