His Name In Vain

My name is how others identify me, how I introduce and represent myself; it symbolizes my character and nature. If someone disrespects my name, or leverages my reputation without my consent to further themselves, I take it personally.

Hubble: Pillars of Creation

Using someone’s name in vain is to employ it in a light, casual or inappropriate manner, for any other purpose than to refer to them and honor them. Doing so treats their name as if it’s void of proper meaning and significance, empty.

So, God is grieved as we take His name in vain (Ex 20:7), lightly, in an empty manner, when we aren’t referring to Him. To use His name as an interjection or expletive, as an expression of intensity or emphasis (e.g. J!, JC!, OMG! or GD!), is ultimately to disregard and despise Him. This is done so casually today, even by those who profess to believe in Him, we might have become desensitized, callous to it. God never gets used to it.

I never hear any false deity’s name ever taken in vain, only the true. What would be the point of insulting a non-entity? There’s only substance in trampling deity underfoot if He’s real, if He’s angered by the disrespect.

Should it grieve us, as it does Him? I think so.

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Nailing It

The Cross of Christ is the centerpiece of human history, the masterpiece of God’s design. On it, a mysterious transaction is taking place between the human and divine, between the temporal and eternal. Supernatural life is hidden here, God’s stairway to heaven.

Spike joining 1st US coast-to-coast Railroad

As Jesus Christ allows Himself to be crucified, embracing unspeakable suffering on our behalf (Is 53:4-5), He becomes sin for us so that in Him we might be made perfectly righteous. (2Co 5:21)

Yet as Christ is suffering for us, nailed to His cross, the Father is also nailing something else to His cross: He calls it the handwriting of ordinances(Col 2:14) These ordinances are against us, contrary to us; He blots them out and takes them away. What are they?

First and foremost, it can’t be Torah, the ordinances YHWH Himself has given us. These ordinances aren’t against us; they’re good (Ro 7:12) and for our good. (Ps 119:71) Their purpose is to point us to God and facilitate our becoming like Him. (1Ti 1:5)

It could be sin, for Christ became sin for us and was nailed to the cross, but the handwriting of ordinances isn’t God’s definition of sin. (1Jn 3:4)

It could be accusation, which loses all its force in Christ (Ro 8:34), but I think this is both awkward and redundant with context (Col 2:13); it simply doesn’t do this justice.

The immediate context is an admonition: let no man judge you; Christ’s work implies that we ought not to be intimidated by extra-biblical rules and regulations defining how to abide in God. (Col 2:16) Man is always adding to, twisting and corrupting God’s Word, trying to burden, manipulate and control us through our very longing to know and walk with God. It’s insidiously powerful, a constant obstacle in our spiritual journey.

My thought is that YHWH nails all this false, Man-made religion to His cross, everything that’s designed to keep us from a living, vibrant life with Him. He’s taken down every barrier to fellowship with Himself: He’s nailed our sin, and also every lie about Himself, to His cross. He enforces no space between us and Him, no distance; He’s made a way to be closer to us than our own breath, within and throughout us, working in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. (Php 2:13)

God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world! (Ga 6:14)

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Eat the Tithe

Party Time! Maybe not the words that first come to mind when we think of God’s Law, but after telling us to care for ourselves as His children, YHWH commands us to take seasonal vacations, our house to His, to party with Him!

The funding for these feasts is the Tithe, a tenth of our harvest in fields and flocks, which only God Himself can provide. We’re to eat this gratefully in His presence, congregating where He’s placed His name (De 14:23), feasting on our heart’s desire, rejoicing before Him. (De 14:26)

While Christian leaders commonly teach that God wants us to support their ministries with our tithes, God Himself says no such thing. Our tithes are to fund these pilgrimages and parties, care for the poor (De 14:28-29) and provide for Levites as they serve the tabernacle (Nu 18:26) and arbitrate civil disputes. (De 21:5)

God never intended that we hire people to teach us about Himself (1Jn 2:27); that’s not what our tithe is for. Tithes are His way of bringing us all together to rejoice in Him, providing a basic safety net in society and funding simple judiciaries. In finding and knowing Him, He gave us His Word and expects us to study it. (Jn 5:39)

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My Soul Breaks

When strength of desire breaks our soul, when longing exceeds our power to contain, when intensity of yearning crests like waves within us, and overcomes and overflows our being, taking our breath away, perhaps then we’re after something worth having. Have we ever known such desire?

The Psalmist admits such intense and continual longing for the judgments of God. (Ps 119:20) Like a merchant seeking goodly pearls, he finds hidden gems in that which fools despise and overlook. (Pr 1:7)

What is it in the judgments of God that makes them so breathtakingly desirable? Have we discovered the priceless treasure they contain? (Ps 119:18)

Whenever YHWH expresses Himself He reveals more of His nature, exposing a facet of His heart. His Law expresses His character and expectations, His instructions contain His wisdom and define what holiness looks like, and His judgments reveal His reaction as His laws are violated; they’re all His testimonies, witnesses of His character. So, each and every one exudes His holy infinitude (Ro 11:33), a precious window into Jehovah’s absolute perfection. (Is 26:8-9) That’s why our inner man instinctively delights in the Law of God. (Ro 7:22)

It is here, meditating in the nature of God, feeding on His majesty, where we find joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1Pe 1:8) This is our inheritance (Ps 119:111), and it’s only found in God.

As the deer pants after the water brooks, so the instructed soul pursues the living God with every breath (Ps 42:1), until, in His immediate and boundless presence, we find ourselves crying out with those around Him, “Holy, holy holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come!” (Re 4:8)

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I Never Knew You

Devastating, horrifying … hearing Jesus say: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Mt 7:23) Deceived about God and how to relate with Him, expecting Jesus to receive them with open arms, so many will hear these words in abject terror. (Mt 7:22) How do souls meet so dreadful an end, believing themselves servants of Christ while grieving Him and trampling His ways underfoot?

Whenever we hear God’s Word and don’t do it, we deceive ourselves. (Ja 1:22) Knowing about God doesn’t make us good; disobeying Him enables the enemy to blind us.

Why bother hearing God’s Word, studying Scripture and teaching it to others, if we ourselves are hating His instruction and casting His words behind us? (Ps 50:16-17) Willfully disobeying God reveals an enmity against Him. (Ro 8:7) We end up pursuing God’s blessings rather than God Himself; rather than seeking a deep relationship with Him, we simply use Him to further our own interests, trying to make ourselves look good on the outside while ignoring our hearts.

Having a religious exterior means nothing to God. Not loving truth (2Th 2:10) is rejecting light. (Jn 3:19) YHWH will cast all who don’t know and obey Him, both profane and religious, into a fiery furnace (Mt 13:49-50) to be trodden down, to inherit indignation (Ps 69:24), eternal shame and everlasting contempt. (Da 12:2)

Eternity is infinite in multiple dimensions: fullness, intensity and duration. Let’s give diligence to make our calling and election sure(2Pe 1:10) No one can afford to miss this. (Lk 9:25)

Though many affirm us in our own way, there’s no safety outside God Himself, no rest apart from knowing Him and being known by Him. (2Ti 2:19) Believing what we want, picking and choosing Bible verses here and there to succor our lies, ignoring those which counter us, is merely to deceive ourselves. In the end, there can be no excuse (Ro 1:20); His Word, taken as a whole, is simply too clear.

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One of Another

As YHWH instructs He speaks to us as individuals, yet also collectively, as souls and as community in the same breath, mixing singular with plural, at times within a single command.

For example, YHWH says: “Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it.” (De 14:21a) The first pronoun ye is plural, yet thou and thy are singular. He is addressing each of us specifically, while acknowledging the common human organism to which we all belong.

He’s walking out a truth in our presence that can be very hard to see: we’re distinct from each other, entirely unique, and yet members of each other, one of another. (Ep 4:25) As members of the human race we’re interconnected, affecting each other as if we’re cells in the vastness of a transcendent human being; as believers we’re even members of Christ Himself (1Co 12:27), and have become His people(1Pe 2:10)

The image of God within each of us is infinite, connecting us with each other and with Him in ways beyond our comprehension. (He 7:10) Our lives and actions ripple and reverberate over time in and through others, influencing and impacting eternal souls in God’s vast, eternal plan. No one lives or dies in and by themselves. (Ro 14:7)

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Children of JEHOVAH

As JEHOVAH recounts His instructions for us, He begins in an unexpected manner: “Ye are the children of JEHOVAH your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.” (De 14:1) What a fascinating way to begin!

Losing a loved one in death can be intensely difficult; to demonstrate our love we might even disfigure ourselves in some way as a token, a remembrance of them. (Le 19:28) But disvaluing ourselves doesn’t enrich others, and it’s disrespectful to our Creator, in whose image we’re all made.

And if belonging to God means we’re not to mar ourselves for such intense motivations, how much more should we refrain from doing so for more trivial, whimsical reasons?

And if we aren’t to mar our bodies, how much less should we ever mar our spirits? Putting ourselves down, wishing ourselves harm, fearing victory, achievement and success, neglecting God’s gifts within (1Ti 4:14), despising His design in us … how does this honor Him?

In this initial command, JEHOVAH’s telling us to respect ourselves because He has given us dignity, identifying with us. We’re to honor ourselves along with others, acknowledging that we’re all on equal footing before Him; loving our neighbors as ourselves implies loving ourselves.

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Blaspheme the Holy Ghost

Christ says blasphemy against the Holy Ghost will never be forgiven. (Mt 12:31) What kind of sin is this? How do we know if we’ve committed it?

Christ is responding to the Pharisees’ claim that He Himself, as He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead, cast out devils, and preached good news to the poor, was in league with and empowered by Satan. (Mt 12:24) They found no evidence of evil in Him, but despised Him for denouncing their hypocrisy and wickedness.

Rather than acknowledge Christ’s godly power and turn to God, the Pharisees chose to sin grossly against plain fact, and publicly accuse Christ of being insane and demon possessed. (Jn 10:20) This kind of blatant disregard for truth, this level of aggravated insult to the divine being, a deliberate choosing of deception and lies in the face of miraculous, divine revelation, is what Christ is describing. (Jn 15:24) It’s in this specific context that Christ recognizes the unforgivable sin. (Mk 3:29-30)

As a person continues to give themselves over to this level of deception and wickedness, they’re giving themselves over to darkness, to Satan himself, to be captured and ensnared by him. (2Ti 2:26) There comes a point of no return, at some level, from which no one will ever recover, where one’s conscience is seared with a hot iron, such that distinguishing between good and evil is no longer possible. (1Ti 4:2)

This isn’t the kind of sin a child of God can commit. (1Jn 3:9) A person who’s committed to this level of wickedness isn’t going to be worried about it; they’ll scoff at the idea that they’re in danger of hell fire. There will be no fear of God in them, no desire to repent and cease from their pride and wickedness (Mk 15:31); God will have given them up, turned them over to their own way (Pr 1:31), and abandoned them in their sin. (Pr 1:28-29)

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I Am Chief

Who, in your opinion, is likely the worst person, the most wicked, the most evil person who has ever lived?

This isn’t merely academic. We instinctively rank others in moral goodness, invariably finding someone worse than ourselves.

However, arguably the greatest Christian ever, writing more books of the Bible than any other, answered this question: “Me.”

The apostle Paul thought of himself as less than the least of God’s elect (Ep 3:8), the chief of sinners, the worst who ever lived. (1Ti 1:15)

How can this be? And is this a coincidence? Is this true humility? Or insanity?

Well, how do you know you aren’t the worst person who’s ever lived? What evidence do you have that the moral choices you’ve been making, based on the raw material you have to work with in your upbringing and experiences, won’t put you last on Judgement Day?

The answer is simple. You don’t. For all you know, you actually might be the worst person who has ever lived. (Ga 6:3)

This changes everything.

Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to His cross I cling. He died for me.

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In His Image

Man is unique among the creatures; we live as if good and evil exist, as if we all have an obligation or duty to do the right thing. We call it moral law, and I find it fascinating.

Bonnie and Clyde – 1930s

When we think of good and evil we’re evaluating human behavior: animals can’t murder, lie, cheat or steal.

And what we call good or evil has little to do with the action itself; it’s largely based on motive: killing by accident or in self-defense isn’t murder.

In short, we believe in a real moral standard, an expectation for human behavior that’s independent of opinion or culture, and it isn’t optional or evolving: we expect it to be timeless.

However, we rarely agree on exactly what this standard is, and we never keep it perfectly ourselves, so we often feel guilt, and find ourselves accusing and judging others, experiencing offences, injustices, bitterness, contempt, indignation, shame, mercy and forgiveness. These emotions imply a perception of transcendent metaphysical reality, one above and beyond Nature which we didn’t invent or create; we act as if it’s been revealed to us.

And though we seldom agree on the standard itself, we never argue that there isn’t one. Essentially, we’re continually acting as if there’s a timeless, intelligent, supernatural Being, a numen … a God, benevolently and impartially requiring goodness of us. We know we’ll have to give account for our behavior (Ro 14:12), and that we aren’t perfect. (Ro 3:19)

Yet even in our brokenness and imperfection, as gods we impose our own version of right behavior upon others, thinking we know what good and evil are all on our own, calling for justice, seeking revenge, dimly reflecting God’s own moral nature within us. Every single human being lives like this, every single day; no one can live otherwise.

This doesn’t scientifically prove God exists, but that’s irrelevant; our goal in science is to convince ourselves of the nature of reality, yet we’re all already instinctively aware of this particular Reality.

It’s as if we live in a broken relationship with God, bearing His likeness, made in His image (Ge 1:27), yet alienated and estranged from Him (Ep 4:18), both longing for justice and hoping for mercy. Rebelling against Him while, in the end, expecting Him to win.

The invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that we’re all without excuse. (Ro 1:20) Instead of debating God’s existence, we should be seeking Him out, so we can find Him and be aligned with Him. (Ac 17:27)

It’s only by God’s own benevolent design in us that we’re even aware of Him, so it only makes sense that He wants us to find Him and be reconciled with Him. (Je 29:13) He wouldn’t make us like we are for any other reason.

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