I am discovering that sanctification has as much or more to do with the circumstances God crafts to shape and sift you, as with your efforts to pursue Him.
The Lord woke me up an hour and 19 minutes before my alarm. I do believe that it was the Holy Spirit Who woke me up, or an angel, but it was hard to believe while in bed. I realized while stumbling up the steps toward my office that part of the reason is I find it difficult to believe God wants to spend time with me. I know that to be true theoretically; I’m not sure I believe it in my heart.
The verse for today is Hebrews 3:12-13:
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Oh the irony.
Lord, forgive me.
Actually, I do believe it; that’s why I’m here right now, doing this. I struggle to act on it because I cannot prove it intellectually.
Lord, help me. Help me to learn the grammar of Spirit to spirit communication. Help me to know You heart to heart.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24
Guaranteed to Provide Significant Psychosomatic Benefit
***Warning, if this elixir travels through the esophagus in reverse it may cause discomfort. However, the pleasure of its original consumption may overpower the regret.***
One bottle Hot (or Medium, if you insist) Salsa
One can family size Tomato soup
2 onions; 1 red, 1 white
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 entire cluster of garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
fresh ginger root
3 tsps Thyme (approx.)
3 tsps Oregano (approx.)
Dice, chop, and/or puree the fresh ingredients, then add to saucepan with tomato soup, salsa, and ACV.
Squeeze in lemon juice then cut into smaller chunks and cook 1 half of lemon with soup (remove before serving)
The longer you cook this mashup of deliciousness, the better it will be.
Actually tastes pretty darn good. It will, however, increase the running of the nose and the fluidity of the tear ducts.
Whatever you do, DO NOT rub your eyes during the preparation of this elixir, or anytime in the 4-6 hours afterwards.
NOTE: this delicious and healthy elixir is not a substitute for whatever your doctor may prescribe or recommend.
What kind of person you will be is entirely up to you. God enables and empowers you, but the day to day necessity of self control, patience, discipline, kindness, and gentleness that are necessary to be a competent, healthy, and successful person come from within you. God placed the raw materials of every character quality within each of us.
This confuses some people because how much gentleness or joy comes naturally varies from individual to individual, because God creates us all differently. However, the reality that everyone will have to work on something never changes. One person may have a lot of natural self-discipline but have to practice to develop patience. Another person may be naturally kind, but have no self-control to speak of. It makes no difference; everyone has to work on something, and we all need to have the various fruit of the Spirit in order to live a God-pleasing, successful life.
It is also important to remember that none of us will be perfect and the various differences in personality and character makeup that we bring into the world with us form both a beautiful spectrum and a necessary variety in strengths and weaknesses that helps the world-but most importantly advances God’s Kingdom agenda-better than if we all had the same percentages of qualities and style of personality.
One thing I hope you observe from this is that God loves variety, and that beauty is comprised of variation. You see, God said that everything He created was good, and He obviously delights in a wild range of difference. Consider the vast difference in landscapes that He made, many of which we have had the privilege of exploring together. Is any one of them less beautiful than another? Now, indeed, you may have a personal preference, but God declared them all good and delights as much in the high desert of Idaho, as in the green valleys of southern Indiana, and the vast expanse of frozen Alaska.
This is also true about people’s appearance, and in our society this is very important to remember because the North American media constantly bombards us with the suggestion that there is a single look for women and another for men, or perhaps a few looks, that are ideal, acceptable, and beautiful (or handsome). But let me remind you, God loves variety, and He delights in making very different looking people. Not only does He see beauty in them all (therefore so should we) but He also designed different people to be good at different things. Someone with long arms is going to have an advantage at swimming, for example, while someone with short arms will have an advantage at lifting heavy objects. Someone very skinny might be able to run forever, while someone heavier will last longer and have more energy during a famine. So a thin person might need to run for help and a heavier person might need to nurse other people who have succumbed to exhaustion. Do you see what I mean? Everyone has a purpose, everyone has an advantage, and everyone has a disadvantage.
Now, it is true that we can neglect the bodies or the character traits that God gave us, and then we become less attractive or less useful than God intended, but I want you to always remember that whoever God made you to be is wonderful! Similarly, I don’t want you to fall into the trap of looking for a spouse based on whether they look like or act like what the world tells us in so many subtle and not so subtle ways that they should look or act like. Who cares what the world says! The world has rejected God and suffers in brokenness for it. Don’t fall for the world’s trap; they want to feel better about themselves by making everyone else broken and hurting too. Do you think that is what God wants or how He operates? No! A thousand times, no. God wants everyone to be healed and strengthened: the best they can be, the person He envisioned when He planned and made them.
I have been watching people carefully for a long time and I can tell you that I have seen beauty in a short, round woman delighting her guests with a warm hospitality and delicious food, and I’ve seen strength in a super skinny man supporting his broken-hearted wife. The reality is that love, truth, and beauty have no single appearance, and no exclusive type. God loves diversity, and God delights in who He made each of us to be. So, ponder who you are and what you are designed for, and set about being the best you possible.
Now, please remember that being the best you possible requires planning, practice, effort, analysis, flexibility, and determination! We’ll talk more about that in my next letter. In the meantime, I want you to practice looking for love, truth, and beauty in surprising places. Develop the skill of seeing strength and beauty where others miss it; the whole world will become brighter and more delightful.
I love you!
Sometimes it’s the little things that get you.
Yesterday I used up the last of my bar of Grandpa’s Pine Tar soap (wonderful stuff!), and I thought, “Oh, need to make sure I grab a new bar,” but by the time the shower door closed I was thinking about why κοίνου is translated “unclean” in Romans 14:14.
Today when I hit the shower, there was a brand new bar of soap! Only my wife would first of all notice that my soap was gone, secondly, remember further than the bathroom door, and replace it with a new bar. I am truly blessed by an amazing woman, well-suited for me!
Now you folks need to understand, I live in a home with multiple families and my soap is kept in our bedroom, not in the bathroom, so if I had stepped into the shower to find no soap at all… well, that’s just a very inconvenient circumstance!
Babe, I love you! Thanks for enabling me to think theologically no matter where I find myself!
“Is it a sin?”
I’ve heard this question delivered with defiance and with sincere desire to understand. In this vein sometimes one hears, “Is it a sin, or just not recommended?” The question can apply to almost any behavior (or lack thereof) and is typically trotted out in discussion about something different than your conversation partner’s present practice.
“Is it a sin?” is a loaded question both in terms of what it reveals about a perspective too many of us unconsciously share, and in what it suggests may be behind the perspective of the person to whom the question is posed.
But let me put it this way: sin is anything less than the perfect glory of God (Romans 3:23), so yes, doing anything Jesus wouldn’t do is a sin. However, there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jess….shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? God forbid!
So what am I saying? We are swimming in sins of a variety of kinds, some of ignorance, some of weakness, and some of our own deliberate fault; praise be to God that we have forgiveness of these many sins through the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf. So, now that I have no obligation to earn my salvation or to try and improve God’s opinion of me, I am now free to diligently labor to imitate Jesus ever more faithfully over time, as He leads and convicts me, and enabled to do so by the presence and leading of His Spirit in my new man. We are privileged to have His help in gradually re-fashioning our selves back into the image in which we were originally created.
I thought about it this morning, when once again God woke me up 30 minutes before my alarm, and I sensed He was calling me to come spend time with Him. Yesterday, I started praying but stayed in bed… there is this complex mixture of truths that I reflected on as I sat on the edge of my bed and then shuffled downstairs. On the one hand, I realize that God is calling me to live up to the potential for which He created me, and the circumstances of my life will be altered as a result of how faithful or unfaithful I am to His ways. On the other hand, I thought about how I feel when I open my kids bedroom door at 6:30 am and they moan and stretch and then rise to go swim… my feelings are entirely loving and positive–there is no condemnation or impatience in my heart, just love for them–and I pondered the truth that this is how God feels about me as well. And some mornings because I both want what is best for them, but also have compassion on them, I want to just let them sleep…as we did this morning. And I know that this too is what God is like:
“As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
As you know, I have a tattoo on my left leg. Knowing that is the case, what would my advice to you be about getting a tattoo or getting noticeable piercings? I’m glad you asked! <wink>
First, let’s discuss whether the Bible has anything to say about this topic. The majority of people will tell you that anything the Bible has to say on the topic doesn’t apply today. That’s hogwash, although I didn’t know that when I got a tattoo.
I was raised in a fairly typical evangelical home where I learned that either God’s law has been done away with, or that the Law of Moses has been replaced with the Law of Christ. Neither one of those ideas is biblical, but you will find that most American Christians today believe something along those lines.
So what is the truth? If when in need of justification, the law of God continues today to point out our sin and our subsequent need of a Saviour, then it necessarily follows that God’s law continues to instruct us today, once we have been justified. In other words, if without God the law condemns us, then it must be true that with God the law instructs us. According to the Bible sin is lawlessness (Romans 4:7; Hebrews 10:17; 1 John 3:4) and the wages of sin is death. What then is the converse of lawlessness? And of death? If, as Paul writes, the blessed are those, “whose lawless deeds are forgiven,” then what type of deeds will the blessed person be typified by? Lawful deeds, of course.
Please understand this clearly, I am not describing a peculiarly Calvinist or Arminian belief. Both perspectives agree, as I will evidence by quoting from both John Wesley (an Arminian) and J.I. Packer (a Calvinist).
“I am afraid this great and important truth is little understood, not only by the world, but even by many whom God hath taken out of the world, who are real children of God by faith. Many of these lay it down as an unquestioned truth, that when we come to Christ, we have done with the law; and that, in this sense, “Christ is the end of the law to every one that believeth.” “The end of the law:” so he is, “for righteousness,” for justification, “to every one that believeth.” Herein the law is at an end. It justifies none, but only brings them to Christ; who is also, in another respect, the end or scope of the law, — the point at which it continually aims. But when it has brought us to him it has yet a farther office, namely, to keep us with him. For it is continually exciting all believers, the more they see of its height, and depth, and length, and breadth, to exhort one another so much the more, — Closer and closer let us cleave To his beloved Embrace; Expect his fullness to receive, And grace to answer grace.” – John Wesley
And now from the Calvinist:
“…the love-or-law antithesis is false, just as the down-grading of law is perverse. Love and law are not opponents but allies, forming together the axis of true morality. Law needs love as its drive, else we get the Pharisaism that puts principles before people and says one can be perfectly good without actually loving one’s neighbor…. And love needs law as its eyes, for love … is blind. To want to love someone Christianly does not of itself tell you how to do it. Only as we observe the limits set by God’s law can we really do people good.” – J.I. Packer
So when we read in Leviticus 19:28, “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD,” we need to take this passage seriously as pertaining to our lives.
How are we to understand this passage? Why does God seem to care about marks on the body of His people? Well, perhaps we ought to ask if there are distinctively Christian marks? Indeed, the distinctively Christian mark is one that can only be seen by those who witness the event, and whose enduring evidence is to be your changed life. Whether circumcision or baptism, the marks mandated by God do not easily convey themselves to the casual observer. Furthermore, we are warned not to make our external trappings large or ostentatious (Matthew 23:5; 1 Peter 3:3-5), rather it is our actions that ought to identify us. Your mark is your baptism, and the evidence of your baptism is your walk. “[L]et your adorning be the hidden person of the heart.”
“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10a).
Tattoos are tribal; with what tribe are you identifying? If your tattoo is “Christian,” you are revealing your ignorance of the Christian tribe’s way. Rather ironic isn’t it?
While there is much more to say on this topic (why, for example, do so many contemporary Christians desire strongly to imitate a distinctively pagan practice?) let us reflect on this passage:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15–16).
There is a cultural energy behind the practice of tattooing and there is no question that this energy comes from the world. The world, my children, is passing away, along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. What do you think is the will of God in regard to marking your body?
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1).
So the final word here is that God says not to, but many will argue that point, so I hope you’ve gleaned from these thoughts that if you desire a tattoo, you ought to be asking, what is wrong with my desires? Rather, I pray that the eyes of your heart (your imagination) might be enlightened, that you may know the great hope to which God has called you, and what are the riches of the glorious inheritance, and what is the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward you. In other words, may your imagination be caught up by the vision of yourself as God sees you, and as He has fashioned you, and may all other desires fade in comparison!
“The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:8).