Monday, September 30, 2013

Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10; ESV)

"Be still," He says, "And know that I am God."
This is a very popular verse, but for great reason. It's a plea from God to us, His children.

If you've ever found a wounded, helpless animal and tried to help it, you can sort of grasp what God is saying here.
You reach for it, it draws back. You try to help it and it bites you, scratches you, does anything to put distance between you and itself, either by running away or trying to hurt you enough to make you leave it alone. But you know what's best for it. You have to get that wire untangled from its leg, that nail out of its foot, that rope off its neck. But it still fights you.
You talk to it, tell it that it'll be okay if it'll just let you help it, tell it to shush and to take it easy.
You say, in other words, "Be still, and know that I want to help you."
But God is more than able to help. And He wants to. He doesn't want you left in your misery, tangled up, bleeding, starving, or just stuck. He wants you to know that you're going to be okay if you just let Him have His way.
Be still. Stop fighting. Relax. It's okay, He's God, He knows what He's doing.
If you don't intervene, sometimes with force, the animal can -and probably will- die. It will not get free, only make things worse, and it will perish without water. You have to cover its head, hold it tight, speak softly, and work diligently. It can be tedious, aggravating at times, trying to get a wild animal past its fear of you.
And when you get it loose, it thinks it was of its own accord. It won't regard you as the one that saved it--not as well as you'd like at the very least.

This is how our plea to a wounded animal works. Scarcely are they willing to cooperate, nor are they in any way concerned about what you're saying, they just want to get out themselves.
We are the wounded animal; we are the ones resisting, the ones that would die if we don't give ourselves to God.

"Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live." (Ezekiel 18:31-32)

We don't want the helpless creature to perish, so we try and save it.
But God is not merely One who tries. He does.
He's able, and He will save those who let Him.
He beseeches you, "Be still, and know that I am God," and "turn and live."
He even asks us why we would die when we have the option to live. It makes no sense. The heart of man is folly, and we choose to die, each of us that does. He doesn't pleasure in that. It grieves Him. He's watching His children choosing to flee from Him and perish as He reaches out to them.
"Be still." Exactly what you're likely to tell a child that's doing something that could harm him- or herself.
Be still, and know that He is God, that He is love, that He is able, and that He is concerned for your best interest.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Love, Justice, And Mercy

There are several ways of writing either "mercy" or "compassion" in Hebrew.
The three most common for compassion are follows:
  1. חֶמלָה
  2. רַחֲמָנוּת 
  3. רַחֲמִים 
And for mercy:
  1. רַחֲמִים
  2. חֶמלָה 
  3. רַחֲמָנוּת 
Same three words.
And to anybody who may be curious, i did use Google Translate for this--shoddy source, but it gets the job done. I'm not a multilinguist; barely have i a grasp on my first language, let alone a second.

This is the reason some versions say God has compassion for us, whereas another would say He has mercy on us. Essentially the same words, same expressed meaning.
A friend and i were discussing how justice and love come together, and how mercy would fit into the mix. This is my personal opinion.

Firstly, i'll state that compassion has the prefix of "com," which means "together" or "with." Passion is "ardent love."
So compassion means, in essence, "with great love."
The Passion of Christ was His transference from King of The Universe to Servant of All and, ultimately, obedience to men unto the point of receiving a criminal's death sentence (Philippians 2:5-8).
We, as Christians, must show mercy to all without exclusion or condition. In this mercy, we show compassion to them for the glory of God. We share with Christ His passion for them.

Galatians 2:20, Paul says it's no longer he that lives, but Christ living in him, as he has been crucified with Christ.
When we show compassion for people for the sake of God's glory, we share in Christ's passion, in His crucifixion, and we crucify ourselves with Him. We cannot show compassion except at the cross, and not because of us, but because of Christ.

Now, love and justice are a tricky pair.
Love is undue. In terms of its nature, it is not treating someone how they deserve to be. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Justice is treating one how they deserve to be treated, taking into account their wrongs and their sins.
Justice and mercy seem to contradict, but there is a point where the two marry.
At the cross.

At the cross, justice for us was set upon the shoulders of Christ, yet by His very nature, He is love (looking over those who had crucified Him, He said "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.")
That is love. There is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus, embodying love, was now holding justice upon Himself as He hang from the cross.
They fused at the cross and became something new. They became passion.
For this, as products of that passion, as people set upon by grace, sinners who are forgiven by God's love and mercy, we are to look at others "with great love," or with compassion--with His passion.
When we forgive, when we have compassion for someone, we do as Jesus did; we take their sin upon ourselves to unburden them of it, and in sharing His passion with them, sharing the cross with Christ, He takes it from us ("For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you").
We forgive because He first forgave us.
By forgiving those who have wronged us, we show them love by not counting their transgressions against us. This love expresses mercy. But it's no longer mere mercy that we show them, but justice since the death of Christ. It's justice because God showed us mercy, and it would be unjust for us to not show them the same mercy that was shown to us ("while we were still sinners, Christ died for us").

At the cross, justice and mercy become united, and love is their conduit.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Some Brief Correlating . . .

The other day, i was having a conversation about forgiveness, and who it benefits. I find that forgiving someone does little good for me, but it's me offering grace (what little i have to offer), a wholly Christian theme, to someone who doesn't necessarily deserve it. Christ on the cross, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," (or something along those lines) did little good for Christ's sake but show yet a further example of grace. It was for their sake that He forgave.
I digress. That has little to do with this post. Now to the meat of it.
As said, i was having a discussion about forgiveness. I thought back to what happens if a "brother" wrongs us.

We are told it's our duty to take it up with them, not theirs to come to us. We do this to cause a stirring inside of them so that they may see their wrong and right it, or at least apologize. If they do not hear us, we're to go and gather one or two witnesses so that it may be established by the testimony of two or three (Matthew 18:15-17).

Now in Romans 3, we have this little passage: "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin." (v. 20)

As those two seemingly unrelated passages came to mind, so did a revelation.
The law, the Torah, is from God. It is how we become conscious of our sin. In Matthew, it's our duty to make our brother conscious of his sin against us by telling him what he's done.
God does just that; through the law of the Old Covenant, the Torah, He confronts us, He brings the wrongs we've committed against Him to our attention.
Then Matthew 18 goes on to say that, if they do not hear us, we're to get one or two witnesses and confront him again.
God did that, too. He sent His Son, through Whom all things were made to be. He came back with a witness. Christ. We killed Christ. What greater witness to our wrongs than the very One we crucified?
No, not just one witness; He sent another. The Comforter, the Helper, the Advocate. The Advocate. An Advocate that stirs up our heart to repentance. Through the Holy Spirit, we are inclined to godly or spiritual sorrow, which is seeking penitence with God through Christ.
We sinned against God.
He sent Christ.
We crucified Him, emphasizing our breaking of the Torah.
He sent the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit inclines us to apologize for our wrongs.

In this, the selected passage from Matthew 18 is fulfilled; God made known our sins by means of the law (Romans 3). We didn't hear Him, so He came to us with the two Witnesses.

"Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?
"Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!"
(Ezekiel 18:25-32)

We know we've wronged Him the moment we accept the Torah as His law. That is His beckon to you; He wants you to repent. He wants you to seek Him. He wants you to live.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Emptying Of Self

What does it mean to be empty of oneself? There are books and books about overcoming greed, pride, ego, and the like.
Getting over the "evil" of "self," is a simple act. It's called love.

When the social stereotypes of Christians come to mind, the world thinks of either Ned Flanders, or else a hypocrite that forces their beliefs on others, condemning sinners and portraying themselves as self-righteous.

After some recent experiences, i've realized why the world thinks we're all self-righteous bigots. Because many are, and because those are the ones they have contact with; the ones telling them, personally, "You're going to Hell!" The one bad apple spoils the bunch.
Sin does condemn. There's no denying that. But the thing we are to do, instead of beating them with religious rhetoric, is to break the religion of it and fall into the personal love that Jesus displayed (and embodied). Sin condemns, Christ does not. Christ builds, sin destroys, simple as that. To be like Christ, we must encourage, welcome, and above all, love sinners.

We should not encourage anyone to sin--grace is grace, and just because God makes a greater display of grace with a worse sinner, we should not all strive to be the worst sinner and, therefore, the greatest display of grace. We should strive to be the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, when God says "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours." We should strive to be the one that needs no grace, but has it nonetheless. We should encourage by being examples of a life with a purpose, hope, and love. We should encourage by being Christ-like, and it wasn't the lowly that He rebuked in the Gospels; religious people and demons. All others, adulterers, thieves, tax collectors, and anyone that would call on Him, He received at the price of their "self."

If we're to welcome someone, we have to make the first move. We have to be accommodating. We have to meet people where they are and work with them in their situations. To the Romans, we must become Romans. To the sinner, we must become a person with a sinful past. We must acknowledge the need they have for a Savior by first acknowledging to them that we need a Savior ourselves, and that we were sinful as well, but have reconciliation through Christ, that very Savior we need.

And what good is anything without love?
If we have religious or selfish motivation for spreading the Gospel, we have gained nothing because we failed to do it out of love. If we prophesy, even, and not out of love, its benefit is null.
We are unable to do anything worthwhile for ourselves if we do it for ourselves. Only when we bless others out of love can it be counted as a blessing to us, because we are otherwise a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. To love is to put others first--to humble yourself. And when you humble yourself, you will be exalted.
The heart is a tricky piece of equipment; difficult to convince, and even moreso to understand the motives of. But one way to overcome this issue is by seeking Christ first. Seek above all things the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. When He becomes your motivation, you don't have to understand your heart because it will not be the same thing as it was before. God will put a new heart in you, and put His Spirit within you. Only that can alter the motivation of the heart to a loving motivation.
When we abandon any hope of our own righteousness and cast it away like dirty garments, searching instead for God's righteousness; only then can we become righteous. Not because of our own righteousness, but because of Christ's. When we set ourselves as the tax collector in the parable in Luke 18, beating our chests, knowing ourselves to be unworthy to even look up to Heaven, crying out "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" we are acknowledging that we are unworthy and that our only hope rests in mercy, which is, by definition, undeserved.

When we become nothing, we gain everything. That may not be material things that perish and rot away. I'm talking of eternal things, things that are permanent and will outlast the sun itself.
A Christian is not self-righteous. A Christian is a sinner, forgiven by grace, righteous not in his/her own eyes, humble, and striving to embody love as Christ did.

That's what it means to be empty of oneself.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Not By Faith, Nor By Works . . .

Most of us know the line, "Faith without works is dead." James 2 says it rather bluntly. James even goes so far as to call one who believes in faith apart from works a "foolish person." He then says it was Abraham's works that justified him when he offered Isaac on the altar.
So there's an example of works justifying a person, but note it does not say works alone. "You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works..."
See, it's not faith alone, but certainly not works alone either. Faith is completed by works, by the heart of servitude, but a heart of servitude is nothing of itself. Faith; it says even the demons believe—and shudder. Faith in itself is without merit, lest we respect the demons for their belief that Christ is the Son of God.

Romans 3 seems to have another perspective on this; if we preach, if we do works in the name of God, it's nothing.
"For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin."
If we are a good person, living by the Law (Torah) of the Bible, it does no good. Therefore, Paul says, no human being will be justified by his works.
It seems to contradict, but they fit together in a puzzle of logic that, after it's realized, is quite plain. It goes back to several things Jesus spoke of, which i will reference in a moment.
Faith justifies, not works of the Law, Paul says.
Works justify, not faith alone, James says.
The contradiction melts when you see that Paul and James both amount to faith requiring a resolution. To bring one's faith to fruition, we become inclined to follow the Law of God. And in order to follow the Law, we are to love others as ourselves. This singular commandment is manifested by doing what we to align others to our own level, or else lower ourselves to theirs. This commandment, this Law, is fulfilled when we have works, not just when we say to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body.

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’"

There are the words of Jesus from Matthew 7:21-23
He makes it very clear in this that "workers of lawlessness" will be cast out. Not everyone who says to Him "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of Heaven. Not by faith, but by works.
However, many who have cast out demons and done works will also be cast out. Not by works.
The culmination here is the very seeming contradiction between Paul and James; faith is justified by works, and works justified by faith. Works alone are futile, likewise faith alone is futile.

I think most anyone reading this would know the story of the "Rich young ruler," but i'll post it anyways.
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
This is interesting to me because it emphasizes that which was said in Matthew 7; a man came to Christ and wanted to inherit eternal life. He called Jesus "Good," which was a no-no, because only God is Good. This implies he has faith.
Jesus then set out a list of commandments and said to follow them. He had since youth. This implies he has works.
He should be good. But no. One more thing is necessary. Show a work of faith. He has faith, and he has works, but he has them apart from one another. Now Jesus is calling him to have works entwined with his faith. And that's where he falters. He is not able to do works out of faith.
And he leaves very sad, because he was extremely rich.

By no works can a man enter Heaven, nor by faith alone. It's impossible for man to enter Heaven by earthly means. However, what is impossible with man, Jesus says, is possible with God. Only with God can we be saved. Do not rest on your faith, nor on your works, but let your faith change your heart and resolve it in works--and know it's not by your doing that you're saved, but by the grace of God.

Friday, September 6, 2013

An Ironic Turn Of Events . . .

If you want to learn something new, you must step into new territory. If you open your Bible, don't go to the familiar passages of faithfulness or hope or patience or love or whatever it is that you need to read about, because those principles are the foundation of God's Word. There is not a piece of paper between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22 that is void of these things.
So i encourage you to open to a random page, and start to read something new.
Take it for what it is, and take it for what you are.

Moments ago, i posted that on Facebook. I just tried it myself. I have come to the conclusion that God is a very humorous Being (mostly with ironic humor, it seems), and this is no exception.
1 Chronicles 5:23-6:32. Are you kidding me? This? Lineage. Ancestral record keeping. The descendants of the half-tribe of M'nasheh (Manasseh), the heads of their families, their exile, and then the list begins.
Nearly a page and a half of "The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. The children of Amram . . ." and so on.
So i'm sitting here trying to figure out the hope, faithfulness, love, etc., that is here on these two pages.
It hits me. Lineage is legacy. What more evidence of faithfulness can be asked than to bear witness to the lineage of Levi, the tribe "set apart" by God?
Granted, i'm having a hard time reading the entirety of these two pages (it's dizzying, to be honest), it's truly a beautiful thing to see this heritage, this promise fulfilled, this grace bestowed upon an entire tribe from their ancestry.

God visits the iniquity of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him (Deuteronomy 5:9). This is evident in the "half-tribe of M'naseh."

That may seem bleak, but there's a wonderful, beauteous flipside to it; the following verse says that He shows steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love Him and keep His commandments. The tribe of Levi comes to mind. How wonderful it is that the descendants of Levi are named and numbered.
What's even more wonderful about this is that when we're simply flesh-and-blood, we are bound to the ancestral curses (call it what you will, as many who do not take the Bible to be literal would prefer a different terminology to give credence here, but i see it as wholly literal and, therefore, will call it an ancestral curse). If your great-grandfather hated God, chances are, God will visit that iniquity upon you, because He does not fail in keeping His Word. However, when you give up your flesh-and-blood nature and become a new being in the Spirit, through Christ, you are no longer bound by this, because God becomes your Father--and He keeps His commandments. He will bless to the thousandth generation because you are His child, not a child of this earth.

See in this; "Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.
"And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’" (Ezekiel 16)
You have no place in this world anymore, and only God is your Father. He makes a covenant, He makes beautiful, He restores that which is no longer of this world. In this chapter, the girl found is Jerusalem, and she turns away, but God remembers His covenant.

And look at this; "Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life." (Ezekiel 18:25-27)
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (v. 30-32)

The patrimonial curse is nullified when God becomes your Father, and you receive Him as such. It turns, instead, into ancestral blessing.
Your lineage is not one that can be simply bound in a book because it exceeds time itself. Your ancestry is Divine and Eternal.
Just imagine, opening a book and seeing five words: "The children of God: You."
Now i'm fully convinced that there is hope, life, faithfulness, and love emanating from each and every half-opaque page between the flyleaves of a Bible, even if it's but a list of names.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


God made us adaptive.
We get into things that aren't good, even if we don't partake ourselves, and we start looking "dark". Not in complexion, but in nature. We just look like what we surround ourselves with.

That's why, when Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets, his face was shining. He had been close enough to God that he had become sort of like him; God's glory was embedded in him, and he radiated. He didn't know it was happening, but eventually put on a veil to cover it. He had been in the presence of God, seen God pass by (not His face), and it caused him to glow (Exodus 34).

That's not the only instance of this happening, either. In Luke's account of the Transfiguration, there's one noticeable variation from the other two accounts. There are other accounts where Jesus' face was shining (Matthew's version compared Jesus' face to the sun), and His clothes were bright as lightning, but this account says Moses and Elijah were in "glorious splendor." (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9)
Quite possibly shining along with Jesus.

The angels at the tomb of Jesus are described as wearing clothes that were like lightning.

1 John 3 says that what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when He appears, we will be like Him.
God made us adaptive. When we are in the presence of God, our nature alters to be more like His--even to the point of literally glowing. Personally, i've never glowed, nor seen someone who did. I do know, however, that when He comes in His full glory, in comparison to His prior earthly existence as a butterfly is to a caterpillar, we will also be transfigured. We will radiate. We will shine like Him.

Lastly, and not least, there is Revelation 22. The final chapter of the final book of the Bible.
When God has wiped every tear from our eyes, when He has given the water of life to the thirsty, when He dwells among us, He will replace the sun. 
"There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light." (22:5)
And we're going to get to be near Him, and we will become more like Him, because He made us to be like what we surround ourselves with.

Solomon, In All His Splendor . . .

Ecclesiastes sticks out as a rather obscure book of the Bible. It holds much wisdom, but it is also a dangerous book. It can damage a person's outlook, leaving them with a measure of depression--or feeling of meaninglessness ("all is vanity!")
Take this for instance, chapter 4 verse 1; "Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors— and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun."
Yes, there's a portion of the Bible where Solomon, the wisest man aside from the wisdom of God Himself (Christ), says it's better to be dead than living, and even better still to have never been born. In fact, there are five times in that chapter alone where things are "meaningless," a "chasing after wind," or both.
The prior chapter, he says all is wickedness; every facet of society has been infiltrated by wickedness, even our sense of "justice." I can't deny that. But having the Bible tell me this can be disheartening.
Even pleasure and laughter, joy; these things are, in this wise man's words, meaningless. Vanity.
He sees his own wisdom as being better than foolishness just as light is better than darkness, yet concedes that the same fate overtakes the foolish and the wise.

"For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief."
The wisest man saying the more wisdom, the more sorrow, more knowledge more grief. This is true. I'm not wise, yet i know that the more i can understand, the more i cannot do. The greater that i can perceive and know, the more i know i can't change. Ignorance is bliss is basically the essence of that.

If we consult the book of Matthew, Jesus references Solomon in chapter 6; "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?"
Jesus is acknowledging Solomon's depression and futility. All these things, the plants and animals, are cared for by God, so much more must His children be! Yes, we have the same fate as the grass and the animals, but God cares even for the grass, therefore all is not vanity because God favors us over the grass of the field.

Continuing on to 1 Corinthians 12, we read about gifts of the Spirit. In verse 8, we get this: "To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit."
The gifts of wisdom, and of knowledge. Solomon had these things, as Ecclesiastes 1 closes with pointing out. And he said it was only upsetting.
In the following chapter (of Corinthians, not Ecclesiastes), Paul says "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."
Paul perceives wisdom and knowledge to be great, but he also notices that without love, they do nothing for a person. A person who is wise but has no love is nothing.

Solomon had 300 concubines, and 700 wives. The man was chasing after wind, so to speak.
But many of them were of different faiths, and are attributed to a fall from grace (or God) and Judaism, and "turned his heart after other gods."
Now, the Bible says more than once that God, Adonai, Yahweh, is Love. As in a manifestation of love. This very same God is the one Solomon had turned away from and followed other gods. The man lost love. Without love, he became nothing. His depression overtook him because he had wisdom and knowledge, but was still just a resounding gong.
I don't know about you, but if you had great knowledge and wisdom, yet you felt empty, you'd probably set out your life (worrying, as said in Matthew 6) in some vain attempt to understand it. And you would end up just where Solomon did.
Love is everything. Without it, we are nothing.

Solomon, the poor fellow, lacked the true God, the God of love, and so became meaningless through the very gifts God had given him, because he didn't use them out of love.
Ecclesiastes is a warning, i think. If God grants you something -anything- you better use it out of love, and for love. Life can be really vain if you don't.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's Absurdly Logical

Mark 11:12-13, Jesus curses a fig tree that had no figs.

And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

The fig tree (and it points out that figs were out of season) didn't do anything, one might think.  But with a closer examination, we see that is precisely the reason it was cursed.
The fig tree had no fruit on it, and Jesus was hungry, so He cursed it. This smacks of being a tantrum, but it's not. It's asking the fig tree to go against its very nature, which denotes asking the absurd.
But maybe Jesus' request was absurd. ("absurd: [of an idea or suggestion] wildly unreasonable, illogical")
Maybe His very way is absurd. In this life, it certainly is absurdity, because it's not of worldly nature.

He was demanding of the tree, in essence, "Go against your nature, and do as I wish in the moment I call on you, or else perish."
He couldn't seriously expect a fig tree to listen to Him, though, could He?
Get this; "As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.'" (Mark 11:20-21)
The fig tree withered because He told it to. It did alter its nature to do as He commanded. But He didn't command it to bear fruit, so one would be led to think it was still unreasonable to expect it to have fruit on it out of season.
But we're not talking about just a man here, we're talking about the Son of God. The Word made flesh, the Way, the Truth, the Life--get that? The Life. That's exactly why He could expect it. Because His very presence blesses. He makes the tree fruitful. He designed the nature of the tree, He could expect it to produce any time of year He desires. But this tree rebelled, in a sense. Instead of saying "Yield fruit!" and it happen, He said “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

This tree is much like people. He expects us to be fruitful and to multiply. This was God's first command to mankind. It wasn't a new command that, at Christ's approach, life should be teeming, even amongst the trees. Nature should be conforming to His every step. Mankind should be conforming to His approach instead of conforming to the world.
He could say "Yield fruit!" to every person on the day of judgment, when we meet Him face-to-face, and it happen. Even if it's not in our time to be productive, we should be yielding fruit for we know He is coming. Instead of saying that, though, He is going to say to many, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again," because they have lived of a nature of this world instead of a nature of the Spirit.
After all, living by the Spirit produces a fruitful life (Galatians 5: . . . I think 20-something). Life of the flesh does not produce any fruit.
He expects us, as with the fig tree, to produce fruit because we are near Him. Many don't, and will subsequently be cursed.

The reason i say the essence of His expectation of the tree involves the moment that Christ calls upon the tree is because of two of the three men at the end of Luke 9; one wanted to bury his father, another wanted to say goodbye to his family. Jesus was there at that moment. The moment He calls upon us, we should not have anything in our way too pressing as to not be able to drop, nothing else should be as important as following Christ. We should always be ready to give up all else and follow Him, because we don't know the moment that He'll call us.

But still arisen is the issue of not being the time for it to produce figs . . . "For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." (1 Thessalonians 5:2)
We know He's on His way. We should, therefore, regardless of our earthly nature, be prepared, because we don't know the day in which He will arrive, only that He is on His way.

Woe To Worthless Salvation . . .

You know, i find it interesting that so many people see their salvation as being for them. They say "I'm saved." That's a result of salvation, sure, but that's not the purpose of it. Something that a lot of people don't seem to realize is that the Holy Spirit wasn't sent for our good.
I think the newly redeemed know this without knowing it consciously. They are fervent; they're excited to spread the news about what God has done for them. That is true salvation. It's glorifying God for what He's done for us. That's the reason the Holy Spirit was sent. Not so we could say "I'm saved," but more specifically that "God saved me."
I don't know that this is even making sense, so i'll put up a passage to emphasize this point.

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel."
That's Ezekiel 26:22-32, ESV.

That's a little clearer. He cleanses us, gives us definition of holiness, so that we can see that we were not holy nor righteous, and it causes us to be disgusted with who we were without Him. But it's for His sake that He puts the Holy Spirit in us; so we glorify Him. Being saved from damnation is only a benefit of it, something for us to look at and say "Hey, see? That's what we deserve, but He saved us from it so that we would be inclined to do anything for His glory."
But here we are, in a state of spiritual decline because we're slowly allowing the world into our hearts, turning us back to stone. Are we truly so vain that we can have salvation and not be exuberant about it forevermore?

This is going to sound rather harsh, but i think it needs to be said. Yes, you're a Christian. Shut up, and act like it. Stop convincing people you are by your words and prove it with your actions. If you have faith, you will not be content to merely stand with hands raised saying in your heart "Thank You," but you will be compelled beyond your ability to resist to help others. If you have driven faith, you will not have to say "I'm a Christian," because people will know by how you love others--and act upon that love.

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" (James 2:14)
"But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?" (James 2:18-20)
"For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." (James 2:26)

Nothing we can do can earn us salvation. Only God has secured that for us, and He made Christ the only way so that we would be dependent on His grace, dependent on giving Him glory. Works alone cannot save. Faith alone withers and dies. Faith needs revitalized; it needs kicked every now and then.
See, doing good will do nothing for us if we do nothing out of faith.
Show me what your faith is without action, and you show me nothing. If i show you a good work, it's only because of my faith.
And even at this, it's not for our sake that we have faith and works; it's for the glory of God, and God alone. All glory we receive is due Him.

Therefore, i end with this single woe: "Woe to the sluggard in faith, the bestowed upon of inactive Salvation!"

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Most Tradeful Craft

Think for a moment what the most tradeful (a trade requiring the most utility from the tradesman) occupation is. Personally, I'd like to claim my own, just for some measure of significance. But such is not the case.
The most basic occupation would be one where even the implements are made by the worker. Farmer, maybe (maybe the reason so many parables were concerning farmers, plows, fields, crops, etc.)?
I think not, though.

Carpentry is the most utilitarian occupation (at least in the days before Lowe's and McCoy's). No other tradesman than a carpenter was ever required to make their own implements, gather their own resources, work to carve a tree into planks, have the brute strength to work in such undefined generalities, make precise measurements then close in on intricate details such as an artist does.
It requires a knowledge of the tools, utilization of them in ways only a skilled craftsman could perceive, know what goes where, and see a finished product before work has even begun.
That's why I'm thankful Jesus was a carpenter.
Through Him all things were made. He toiled away painstakingly to gather His resources Himself. He uses the tools (us) that He made Himself to work through, refining and whittling down to absolute precision the resources. He has in mind the absolute finished product--and uses His tools to complete it with incomparable precision.
He must know His craft better than any other craftsman. He must know how to work with His hands. He must know how to use each tool for its purpose, and to use it in ways that others wouldn't know how to.

When I think of Jesus as a carpenter, it's kind of hard not to trust Him.