My Way….or the High(er) Way?

Proverbs 14:14 (ESV) The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.

Ezekiel 36:31-32 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 it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.

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Contemplation of the day. Please exercise discretion if you choose to read my thoughts.

So.
When God rescued Israel from subjection to Egyptian slave masters, the people quickly (and repeatedly) began to find fault with their new circumstances.
Many revealed a heart that would have willingly returned to their former state of servitude as they pined for the perks (appealing meals, a house to return to each day, relative security regarding what hazards to expect, etc…).

They were truly freed from oppression in Egypt, yet had developed a strong internal attraction to the few comforts that sustained their miserable physical existence.

Likewise, we have been given the gift of freedom from bondage to sin, yet also can complain or even openly rebel when faced with the difficulty of relocation to God’s promised place of peace.

In response, God sometimes gives us exactly what we demand. Exodus 16 offers an interesting narrative as God sent both a familiar form of sustenance (quail) and a completely “supernatural” one (manna, which came with specific instructions) to the grumblers.

Personally, I see this as illustrative of the choice we are called to make to be nourished by either earthly “food” (which our sin-nature craves) vs God-blessed spiritual enrichment (through faith in Christ Jesus).

It is important to read Numbers 11 (ESP v 13, 18-21 and 31-34) to get a better idea of what happened specifically with the quail. It was NOT good.
The people gorged themselves and literally got sick from indulging their own unbelief-based desires.

(Oh. The song is obnoxiously loud and repetitive. I included it because I think it helps emphasize the point scripture makes regarding how foolish and damaging it is to stubbornly insist on opposing God. The question echoes loudly: Are you finally “fed up” with the results you’ve gotten for yourself?)

 

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The Truth About Truth

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Truth is beautiful, comforting, generous, gentle, freeing and healing to those who embrace it in its purest form.

It is also dangerously, destructively, unmercifully vicious when we try to cage and tame it to suit our own whims.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the Truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. ~Romans 1:18-19 (ESV)

“But now, the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.
This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” ~Romans 3:21-26 (ESV)

Thoughts on Christian Culture 2: The Lawless Ones

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So, Paul’s 1 Timothy 1:8 statement about “lawful use of the Law” is rather intriguing in light of current disagreement over what is the proper place of the OT legal code in Christianity.

Of course, when the immediate view is expanded to include v 9-10, it becomes apparent that Paul said the Law was given not for the just, but for the lawless, disobedient, ungodly, sinners, etc… In other words, these rules were intended (at least in part) to bring order to an unregenerate society that would surely destroy itself without them.

Me: The Law highlights the fact that human beings are sinners who tend to do things that are contrary to God’s nature. We need outside help because our natural, internal moral compass doesn’t work so well.


This also brought to mind Jesus’ Matthew 7:21-23 declaration that there would be many who one day would come to Him with both recognition of accountability and lists of things they believe should gain them sure reward and welcome into His presence.

Only…it doesn’t work. And He said He will dismiss them with what I believe is the most terrifying sentence in all of scripture; “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Workers of lawlessness. But good deeds done in His name don’t count?

This gets more interesting when we consider that Jesus’ audience included Jewish religious teachers who adamantly claimed to love GOD, to honor the Mosaic Law, and  had a thing for making even more rules to ensure that they looked extra good.

These people had Guidelines. Structure. Order. Religiously enforced. And they had penalties for breaking prescribed ordinances.

They were Law Keepers….right?

Wrong.

They were the false prophets, wolves and diseased trees that Jesus spoke against in Matthew 7:15-20.

Why?

Because the Mosaic code also told of a Chosen One who would come and fulfill their beloved Law in order to lift the curse attached to our inability to personally attain the perfection that is necessary to safely enter God’s presence.

They rejected their designated Law Keeper who is to be welcomed by faith in God’s goodness toward us (Matthew 5:17; John 4:39-40; Romans 3:20-26). And they led others away from the Truth, as well.

They were then warned by God Himself to repent of this stubbornly destructive, imagined sense of personal goodness. It is a very harsh-sounding reprimand, but I do believe it was actually done out of love for these people.

Me: To “keep” God’s law is not to simply follow a prescribed method of scripturally-founded ethical improvement. Neither does it involve the diligent consultation of a mutually agreed-upon set of church by-laws, for that matter. If a professing Christian is relying heavily on such things, then it is entirely possible there is still a need to attend the business of repenting of a rebellious, self-indulgent, God hating attitude. 

To keep the Law is to gratefully honor the One who embodies the Spirit of the Law, has freed us from the consequences of our sin, and who now teaches us what it means to love God and others from a renewed heart, the way the Law originally outlined.

Then they said to Him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:28-29 ESV)

As this is the result of my own study, I highly recommend that readers check my references and consider my words in light of the overall message of scripture before accepting or rejecting my conclusion. Thank you.

Don’t Kick ’em While They’re Down

This is interesting.

Zechariah 1:14-15 (ESV) So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion.
15 And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster.

Me: these verses are a partial answer made by God to the question posed in v 12. “How long will You be angry and withhold mercy from Jerusalem and Judah?” (Paraphrase).

The Israelite people of Zechariah’s day were experiencing the predicted disciplinary response for having turned away from following God (read Leviticus 26:27-46). Specifically, they would be subjugated by the surrounding pagan nations whose ways they chose to adopt in spite of receiving strict instruction to the contrary.

Verse 15 (above) indicates that the civilizations which the Hebrew people were subjected to took full advantage of the national disgrace of the Israelites…that they actively abused the people in a way that far exceeded the authorization God had given them.

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It left me thinking that God is always good to correct us and allow us to experience the well-earned results of our disobedient choices…for our good, to encourage repentance.

And sometimes, the temporal consequences we bring on ourselves are extremely unpleasant, to say the least.

However, it is a very bad idea to recognize that someone is being chastised/humbled and take it upon one’s own self to add a greater load of pain or shame to their burden through mockery, looting of their possessions or physical abuse.

Liar, Liar (2)

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Well, it appears I had time to finish my thought today, so I’m just going to briefly refer back to my earlier consideration, as it lays necessary groundwork for what I’m about to suggest regarding a biblical understanding of what it means to be a liar.

  1. The Bible pronounces a pretty harsh judgment upon liars.  See Revelation 21:8. Also, 1 Timothy 1:8-10 speaks of the law in relation to the “unjust”, and lists liars among them.
  2. However, the Bible also declares that we are all liars (Psalm 116:11). I’ll try to remember to come back to this in a bit.
  3. The act of telling a lie indicates a degree of separation from the fellowship with God..whether due to open rebellion (pride), fear, ignorance or hidden malicious intent.
  4. Some people appear to either not know how to tell the truth or they just do not care that their words are unreliable or deceptive. This can create serious trust issues.

Introducing a few more angles

  1. There are several incidences of lying in Scripture which actually appear to be blessed by God (ie. Abram told his wife to tell a half-truth about their relationship in order to protect his own life…see Genesis 12:10-20 and 20:2-18; midwives lied to Pharaoh in Exodus 1:15-20; Rahab the prostitute lied to protect Israelite spies in Joshua 2, 6:17-25 etc.  Link to cited passages is HERE.  While I do not believe it honors God to make a practice of deceiving others, I must acknowledge what the biblical record actually says.  There is a possible explanation for this, but that is a different discussion for a different time.
  2. At least two people in the NT are said to have been struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit (God) rather than to another human being. (Acts 5:1-11)  Lying to God is a serious offense. And we can’t fool Him anyway, so why bother trying?
  3. Lying in general is discouraged in scripture, since it is identified with the “old”, unregenerate nature (Leviticus 19:11; Colossians 3:9).
  4. Lying to other people can create some serious interpersonal conflict, in spite of the fact that God has the ability to work things out in the end.  The Rebekah, Isaac, Esau, Jacob, Laban, Leah, Rachel fiasco of Genesis 25-33 comes to mind, here.

 

 

Two more verses that help me to better grasp the definition of “liar”:

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 1 John 2:22 (ESV)

 

Circling back to point 2 of my review, regarding the fact that we all are counted as liars: It is not even in God’s nature to lie (see related verse, above). But everyone who has been cut off from Him has this tendency.

There is a solution, but only one solution, by which we may remedy our inherently wrong state of being.

My conclusion:

The liar that scripture condemns to the lake of fire/hell is the one who adheres tenaciously to the Romans 1:21 perspective that God is not actually good and/or that there is a better way to attain knowledge and wisdom than to gratefully submit to His beneficial claim to authority in our lives.

According to scripture, a liar is one who internally denies that Jesus of Nazareth is the Anointed Savior of creation and thus remains cut off from a relationship with God as their source of life.   At this level, it does not matter whether my mouth makes truthful statements all day long if my heart rejects Christ Jesus as God’s perfectly righteous and merciful mediator.  And this lack of relationship can take the form of a non- or pseudo- Christian religion or secularism, so long as the individual remains primarily dependent upon his/her own ability to direct the course of their own life.

The solution:

The Bible instructs us to be reconciled with our Maker through belief in the One He sent expressly for that purpose. We refer to this phenomenon as repentance and receiving of forgiveness for our sin of unbelief/rebellion. It is a simultaneous turning from an attitude of self-reliance and toward one of dependence on God’s provision.

This restoration will not only give us hope for something better beyond this mess we now know as “life”, but it will also release us from the deadly side-effect of that separation (compulsion to habitually sin), today.

I’m not asking anyone to take my word for this.  I linked to most of the passages I cited and strongly encourage you read them and do your own additional research regarding this topic.

Liar, Liar (1)

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The Bible has a lot to say about lies, lying and liars. What they are like, and what their ultimate fate will be (No, it’s not as politicians or lawyers).   I suppose it’s an odd topic to fixate on, but that is what’s been clogging my brain lately, so that is what I shall write about, today 🙂


It’s probably safe to say that most people hate to be lied to.  That is understandable, as lies have a nasty habit of growing and eventually hurting a lot of unsuspecting victims. Broken political promises, marriage vows or declarations of friendship can be particularly devastating to those whose trust has been violated.

Interestingly enough, many people I know seem to despise those they consider to be habitual liars…even when they themselves have been known to manufacture some pretty incredible tales. The Apostle Paul touched on this inconsistently applied measure of “it’s okay when I do it, but if anyone does it to me, it’s not acceptable”  in Romans 1-2, (esp chapter 2). Actually, I’d highly recommend reading both chapters, as I see them as being indispensable to better comprehending this issue.


I think most Christians (and many non-Christians) have at some point been threatened with Hell as a result of telling a lie. While I have a personal compulsion to tell the truth, I have to admit to occasionally swerving dishonorably into the realm of dealing in half-truth, or failing to correct someone else’s misunderstanding.  I think we all do, at times.

Also, I  suppose most of us have known (or will meet) someone who might be described as “unable to tell the truth if it would save his/her life”.  I believe secular psychologists label them as “pathological” in their inclination. This would suggest that they neither have the ability to distinguish the truth nor the interest in knowing what it really is.  As this is a particularly extreme manifestation, the practice of lying stands out to me as worthy of closer examination…especially in light of

Revelation 21:8 (ESV)

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

and

Psalm 116:11 (ESV)

I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.”

Yeah.  Wonderful!  That covers pretty much all of us.  So, what does this even mean?

Well, the beginning of the answer can be located in Romans 1, where the Apostle Paul wrote of a separation from God that occurred because “they” who knew Him did not honor or thank Him. As a result of their bad attitude, God let them go their own way in order to reap the ugly consequences of their choice.

According to Paul, all of the evil deeds (including deceit) which are listed in Romans 1:28-32 are an extended result of being cut off from God’s presence. In other words, we do/say bad things as evidence of having been separated from close communion with our Creator.

BTW, it is interesting to compare the Romans 1 sequence of events to those of Genesis 3,  There, it is clear that the original temptation to “the woman” was to ignore God’s instruction and determine for herself the difference between right and wrong. The specific sin involved was disrespect for authority and ingratitude…just like Paul described in Romans 1:21.

I’m out of time for today, so will  park my little tour bus and let you check the linked passages, if you wish.  Hopefully, will be able to conclude this thought tomorrow.

 

Someone Said (Who’s the Boss?)

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“Men must choose to be governed by God or condemn themselves to be ruled by tyrants.”
– William Penn

Deuteronomy 28:47-48 (ESV) Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things,
therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.

*My commentary Happily, God did not intend to leave Israel in this horrifying situation. The disciplinary response was intended to bring the people to a place of repentance for_
1. Disregard for God’s authority and
2. Ingratitude for His goodness to them.
(See v 48, above, Genesis 3 and Romans 1:21)

2 Chronicles 7:13-14, 16 (ESV) When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

Jesus the Christ is the designated Head of the favored household (John 6:27-29)….When we properly acknowledge Him as such, we are made right with God.