Word of the Day

Reasoned Idiocy

Ecclesiastes 7: 24 – 25

Whatever it may be, it is far off and very profound—who can fathom it? So I turned my heart to understand, to search and seek out wisdom and an explanation of things and to know the stupidity of wickedness and madness of folly.

I recently wrote a criticism on how Christians, perhaps especially clergy, seek to understand the things of God. Including myself, we often attempt to reason out God and His ways. We vainly try to comprehend spiritual matters through an application of our intellect. The bottom line may be this, we are just not that smart. We worship our great intellect, but it really is nothing when we probe the deep things of God. It’s like asking a gnat to understand our thoughts. They are just without capacity. I continue to watch us, though, attempt to reason out the great mysteries. It makes us look even more foolish and again the thought runs through my mind, “We just aren’t that smart,” and it seems the evidence is in our vanity.

See what this verse says in contrast. In order to understand the profound, we must turn our “hearts” to understand. Boy, that sounds soft, doesn’t it? I always hated that ooey gooey stuff at church, which might explain why I floundered so long at the pool of rationality and why I enjoyed philosophy and logic in college. Now, I have traveled this great distance just to find that all the answers were in the one who lives in my heart if I should be so bold and daring to search my heart.

I am not alone. Our entire culture has raised reasoning above God. If a thing cannot be understood through our intellectual prowess, then it lacks genuine credibility. Want proof of how we have enthroned intellect above seeking God with our heart? Here is this same verse from the NASB version, my preferred version, “I directed my mind to know, to investigate and to seek wisdom and an explanation.” It’s not until you go to the footnotes that you discover that the editors couldn’t swallow the word “heart” so they replaced it with “mind.” How do you like that?

We will never find truth by seeking it with our minds. That is just the reality, like it or not. I wish spirituality and divine truth were a function of reasoning, but they are not, and really, it is for the best because, once again, “we just aren’t that smart,” we think we are but, that is fallacy on top of fantasy.

All of the great mysteries of the world and beyond are yours to know. God has saved up all His knowledge and wisdom for us. We must go down into our hearts and seek Him and His wisdom. He is more than willing to reveal His truths to us, but we must first connect with Him, and He does not live in our brains. To get to the “heart” of a matter, you must search with your heart. All truth lies within reach if we will learn to seek our Father humbly and diligently with our hearts. It’s all there for you if you can get out of your head.

Mercy Seat

Romans 3: 25                    God’s Word

God showed that Christ is the throne of mercy where God’s approval is given through faith in Christ’s blood. In his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past.

This is another Bible translation I wish to introduce to you. Actually, I have been using it for sometime now. You may have noticed (GW) beside some verses in the last couple of years. I still use my New American Standard as my everyday foundation but reading verses in other versions can give you the slightest nuance that makes the whole scripture go off in you.

Are you familiar with the Mercy Seat from the Old Testament? Okay, so God had the Ark of the Covenant made. It’s cover, or top, is called the Mercy Seat (See WOTD “Plan for Mercy” at this link: http://iveyministries.org/2014/03/gods-plan-for-mercy/). So God created a seat of mercy. Amen and glory to God. The angry, vengeful God of the Old Testament capped off His presence with mercy. Are you getting this? God was never who we have painted Him to be. He was always love (1 John 4: 8). Alright, let’s see where that leads us.

People twist themselves in knots trying to figure out when they are saved from their sins. If I sin right now, am I forgiven? Am I clean? Or do I need to ask God to forgive me? The answer is “God is love.” You were forgiven before you were born. God knew what He was getting when you answered His call. He knew the mistakes, and yes sins, you were going to make before your parents were born. At the dawn of time, when the earth was just being formed God knew you were going to blow it from time to time and so He made a plan for your deliverance.

Did you see this sentence, “In his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past”? What does this mean? Sin has been happening since humankind set foot on the earth. The Father developed the plan to send Jesus into the earth to be the propitiation for all sin. Actually, it is bigger than that. He didn’t just atone for sin, he blew it from the face of the earth and from the Father’s memory. So, Father God, knowing He had this plan in place, waived the punishment for sin until the time He could get the perfect lamb here to take on that sin. Then He, God, put the entire sin of the world on that precious lamb. That is to say, He put all of the sin from the past, before Jesus came, all the sin of the present and all of the sin of the future on Jesus. So Abraham and Sarah were cleansed in that moment, the same as Peter and John, and you and I. God withheld His judgement until He could give us all a judgment of “Forgiven”! Amen? Will somebody shout?

Yes, you have been judged already. Hallelujah! You have been judged clean and holy because Jesus’ blood has you covered. God employed great patience for thousands of years until He could get the Messiah into the earth at the opportune time. Then He released His revulsion of sin on that sacrificial lamb. Now judgment has been satisfied. Now we can walk with our heads up into the throne room of God, because we wear Jesus as an outer garment and are filled up with him. There is still not much to recommend us to the throne room of God in ourselves but Jesus has made you perfect in God’s eyes. Glory to God! Thanks for the patience! Jesus has become our Mercy Seat and we praise God for this miracle of faith.

TV Bomb

Joshua 1: 8

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

Joshua was about to take over the leadership of the nation of Israel from Moses. How would you like to follow in those footsteps? Yahweh God went to Joshua. This is the advice the Father gave him. If you were about to take over the leadership of an entire nation of people, the nation of God’s people, wouldn’t you expect the advice God gives will be the most critical piece of advice available. Perspective on the situation Joshua found himself in when God gave him this instruction gives great insight into its importance.

Should we expect God’s guidance to us to be any different? Of all the things God could tell us, this is the one bit of wisdom He chooses for us. Keep this Word in your mouth; meditate on it day and night. Well, one would easily conclude that to keep the Word on our lips constantly, we will have to read it and meditate on it continually. How else will we know enough of it? We have major impediments in modern life, though. Joshua didn’t have television or the internet. He didn’t have a video console or an electronic tablet. He didn’t run his kids to soccer practice or any of the many other distractions we have.

We are busy people, over busy really. Somehow we have to learn to control the chaos so that we do as Mary, Martha’s sister did, put first things first. If we don’t have time for prayer, mediation and time in the Word, then we are too busy. Most of us, I find, have time for TV and few of us miss many meals. If I had a red button that, when pressed, would blow up every television, I bet many of us would find more time for contemplation and our Bibles. There are just too many things demanding our attention and who doesn’t enjoy sitting in front of the TV to relax? Perhaps we could have our time with our beloved and then turn on the TV. I know that I am much more productive if I don’t turn it on. Once on, it is hard to pick up my book and read or to pray.

God gave Joshua the secret to success and prosperity. In truth, He has revealed this key to us as well. What do we have to do in order to find the time necessary to engage this all important principle? Each of us must decide for ourselves but I would suggest we each have that button which will disable the television, at least for a while. Push the button. Go ahead. You will find some time you didn’t have before. Here’s to your success and prosperity.

Blessing is a Choice

Deuteronomy 28: 2, 45          NIV

All these blessing will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God. 45 All these curses will come upon you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord you God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you.

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11: 28 (NIV).

I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live. Deuteronomy 30: 19 (GW).

Lest we be deceived, thinking God has changed His tune since we are living in the New Testament, I included the words of Jesus from the gospel of Luke.  There is blessing in obedience.  No one wants to hear this, I know.  Obedience is not at the top of our favored subjects. We should not mourn, though.  There is plenty of good news here.  Yes, if we do not obey, the curse, which is in the land, will overtake us.  You do know that there is a curse out there, right?  It came with the fall of humanity, but God’s blessing is bigger than the curse.  And, it is elective.  Anyone who chooses to participate in the blessing, rather than the curse, can.  We learn that from Deuteronomy 30: 19.  God allows us to choose.  So, we can choose to be blessed and why wouldn’t we?

Well, because the price is obedience and, honestly, our generation has a problem with being told what to do, even by God.  We are very self-aware and self-guided.  That is the choice we make.  Will we humble ourselves to the direction of the Lord, or will we adhere to our own form of wisdom?  The answer seems obvious, doesn’t it, but if you observe the world around you, I think you will find very few people who are actually submitted to the Lord.

The other question which must be addressed is, “What, or whom, are we to obey?”  Jesus answered that question in Luke.  We must first humble ourselves to hearing and receiving the Word of God.  Then we obey what the Word says.  That’s it.  Listen and obey.  It sounds easy but it requires slaying our egos and that is hard.  Still, I think I would rather have the blessing than build an altar to my already over-inflated ego.  What about you?!

One Thing

Luke 10: 40 – 42

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

I seem to come back to this verse every year or two. There is a gold mine here if we can unearth it.

I want to show you another translation as well. This is from the Passion translation. A friend of mine shared this translation with me. If you are not looking at it, you may want to. “The Lord answered her, ‘Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these many distractions? Are they really that important? Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing to sit at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her.”

The disciples were staying at Mary and Martha’s house. Martha was busy trying to serve everyone while her sister, Mary, parked herself at Jesus’ feet and listening to him. Martha was incensed that Mary was enjoying Jesus’ presence when there was so much work to be done. What did Jesus say, though? He honored Mary’s pursuit of the one thing, which is, of course, him.

The word for us today is that we need to do as Mary did, seek his presence, listen to his voice. All of the other stuff are just distractions which, like Martha, pull us away from Christ. I know I often get mentally wrapped up in all the things I think I need to do and all that is going on in my life. I have learned to write down the to’ do’s so that my mind can be free. I have also discovered that many of the things that seem important at the time don’t actually matter at all. Some of the things I fret about getting done would go unnoticed if I didn’t do them at all. The One Thing, the thing which is important, is seeking Jesus. It’s not just about spending time with him. Many of us translate that into reading our bibles which is possible to do without Christ. No, the one thing is seeking his face and actually spending time increasing in relationship with him.

Matthew 6: 33 reads, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The things, both material and non-material, which you need, are in him. He is the answer, so all answers are in him. Don’t seek the answers, seek him. When you do, you will have the answers. You will also find the material you need to build your dreams, take care of your family and give to others.

These are such simple verses, simplistic even. Yet, I think the wealth of revelation in them could radically change our lives if we could see the truth in them. There truly is only one thing which is important. When we set our hearts and minds on deepening our relationship with Jesus, when we seek his presence, then many of the other things take care of themselves. He is the power which fuels our day. Put the one thing in place and all the other things will fall into place.

Confidence

Romans 5: 5           GW

We’re not ashamed to have this confidence, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Can we truly be confident in the Lord, so confident that it shows? The love of God brings hope and we will not be disappointed in our hope because God has given us the Holy Spirit. Did you know that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to pour love into our hearts? He pours, not dribbles. A great volume of love is available to anyone who will receive. This love brings confidence.

We have confidence that God will never leave us nor forsake us because He poured out His Spirit to us. His Spirit lives in us so God is bound to us. He has chosen to be bound to us. We cannot be separated from Him because His Spirit is in us. That is a powerful statement. Therefore, nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8: 39). Surely this truth yields hope, a hope which leads to confident expectation.

Look at this verse from the New Living Translation, “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Is that not special? Here is the Passion version, “And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!”

Just think, it was God’s choice that provides us with a never-ending flow of His love. No one coerced Him. He came up with the idea and the plan. So, our confidence is in His love because He offered it freely even while we were yet lost. When we did not love Him, He devised a plan to furnish us with an everlasting, endless supply of His love and His love never fails. We should have confidence in that love. It is reliable and we can trust in it.

Let your hope in God’s love fill your heart with confidence. There is no guesswork here. God has given Himself to you because He wanted to. If He would give you His Spirit, and His Spirit is constantly pouring the love of God into your heart, what would the Father deny you? He has given the best, why not the rest?

Law and Life

Matthew 12: 1 – 2

At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath through the grainfields, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Behold, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.”

Whoa! This is major bad news! Jesus, he whom we hold up as perfect, as having never sinned, broke the law. He and his disciples did not keep to the law regarding the Sabbath. The law says, “For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 31: 15).

How many times have we read over this without even pausing to consider the significance? For myself the answer is, many times. This passage is right here in the middle of the first book of the New Testament; in the gospels. It would seem to have calamitous results for our faith. So, what gives?

Jesus’ answer is contained in verses three through eight but the substance of it is in verse seven, “But if you had known what this means, I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE, you would not have condemned the innocent.” What does he mean by this and how does this answer the problem of the law?

The answer is found in 1 John 4: 8, “God is love.” Compassion has greater weight in the Kingdom of God than law. I am not disregarding the law, only showing that there is something superior and that is the love of God which is most clearly demonstrated in acts of grace. Jesus came to bring God’s Kingdom to earth, but what is His Kingdom? Here we see that God values grace over law. He sent Jesus so that we could be free from the curse of the law.

How many of us stand in the same shoes as the Pharisees? I know that I have in the past. When confronted with someone who was engaged in an adulterous affair, all I could see was the law. It is very, very hard not to be so hide bound that all you can see is the letter of the law applied to the situation. Where does grace fit in here? What does love have to do with it and why was Jesus not put to death for his violation of the law? How does compassion apply to this situation and who are the innocents of whom Jesus speaks?

The Pharisees had them dead to rights. Why didn’t they prosecute? Even the Pharisees were forestalled by Jesus’ response. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (v. 8) which means what Jesus brought into the earth is a higher law than the law of Moses. Jesus reminded the Pharisees, who knew the law, what was recorded in Hosea 6: 6, “For what I desire is mercy, not sacrifices.” Mercy, grace and compassion, those are the laws of the Kingdom of God. They are a higher law than anything else.

This, I believe, is what Jesus was trying to tell us in this passage. We have a tendency towards strict application of the law to all people other than ourselves. We get a revelation of grace when we are in the hot seat, but it is considerably harder when we look upon others. Why were the actions of Jesus and his disciples not sin? Because the higher law stepped in. God’s mercy and Jesus’ lordship are bigger than the law. There is a higher law in the land now, one that is rooted in the love and compassion of God. Jesus came to set us free from the bondage of the law so that we too can walk in the grace of our Lord. This explains why the fruit of the Spirit and the characteristics of God are shown in kindness, goodness, gentleness, etc. When we are able to really wrap our heads around this, we will understand a great deal about the Kingdom of God. I would say this is a great passage to meditate on and even to journal. Ask the Father to explain this to your heart, “How can Jesus be sin free when he broke the law?” The answer is as big as God Himself and will completely revolutionize the church if we can grasp it. Herein lies the Kingdom of God in its glory. Partake of His goodness in full.

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