All Things Are Yours: Knowing and Praising God in Pleasure and Pain

One of the beautiful truths about the Christian life, is that God always gives us His absolute best – which, of course, points us to His Son, because it is for us in His Son that He gives us His absolute best, which is Jesus Christ Himself, in Jesus the Son. All things He makes, in our lives, to be very good. Not a single hair of our heads will perish. That is, nothing will be lost. Nothing will turn out to the worse. Nothing will be less than the absolute best and perfect. The statement that not a hair of our heads will perish was made in the context of being persecuted, hated, and killed, and it holds for all of life. “What, then, shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son for us, but freely gave Him over for us all, how will He not, with Him, graciously give us all things?” writes St. Paul, and in another place, “For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Cephas, or Apollos, or the world, or the present, or the future, or life or death – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Everything was made for us. Pleasure is made for us. Suffering is made for us. Life is for us. Death is for us. Continue reading “All Things Are Yours: Knowing and Praising God in Pleasure and Pain”

What’s Amazing is What God Does: The Place Where Courage Is Impossible

“If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or we die, we belong to the Lord, for to this end Christ both died and lives again, that He might be the Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

“You will be betrayed even by friends and family, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all men because of Me, and not a hair of your heads will perish.”

I’m writing this right now because I read a line about how someone was an amazing hero of the faith one too many times. People talk so much about how amazing some martyr was; how heroic some missionary was. They talk about being inspired by the courage of the “heroes of the faith,” and other such things. They talk about how, unlike how the world thinks, meekness isn’t cowardice, but strength under control, a form of courage. I remember once, years ago, when I said that I enjoyed reading about the lives of other Christians and God’s work through them to a lady who had been telling me about someone who was preaching the Gospels to thousands at once in one of the many countries where this is often rewarded with persecution, torture, and death. She said to me, “Yes, it’s amazing what these people are willing to do.” I almost stepped backwards. “No, actually,” I said. “What’s amazing is what God can do.” Continue reading “What’s Amazing is What God Does: The Place Where Courage Is Impossible”

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit and Our Daily Bread

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

To be poor in spirit means to recognize that we are creatures. This may well be a description of repentance, for sin began when Satan told Eve that if she ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil she would be like God and she and Adam ate the fruit. Sin is creatures trying to be self-sufficient, trying to be their own creator, and so repentance means turning from this desire and insistence on being our own and our own creator and recognizing that we are creatures.

It is because we are creatures that we are completely dependent on the grace of God. Continue reading “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit and Our Daily Bread”

Lessons from Jonah, the Whale, and Nineveh: Salvation is of the Lord

God alone is mighty to save. “For there is no restraint to YHWH to save, by many or by few,” or by the strong or the weak.

The most successful prophet in the Old Testament appears to be Jonah. God told him to go to Nineveh, and tell the people there that God would destroy their city in forty days because of their sin. Hating the Ninevites and fearing that they might repent and God would spare their city, Jonah ran away. After a storm arose that threatened to drown the ship in which he was fleeing from God, and after being thrown into the sea and swallowed by a whale, Jonah finally repented. He went to Nineveh and preached the message God had given him. The people were eager to respond, and sent riders across the city spreading Jonah’s message ahead of him. Everyone repented in sackcloth and ashes and prayed to God for mercy. This made Jonah so angry that he went outside the city to watch and to mope. Continue reading “Lessons from Jonah, the Whale, and Nineveh: Salvation is of the Lord”

Free to Live and Free to Die

“We who are free to worship and serve the Lord must never forget those who are not.” At first glance these words seem, at least to me, to be saying that Christians should remember, pray for, and preach the Gospel to those who do not know that God sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. They appeared, though, in a context of remembering our brethren who are persecuted (which is clearly commanded in the Bible)! I believe they were attributed to Chuck Swindoll. However, who said them does not matter. What matters is not even that anyone said them. What matters is many Christians think that, in persecution, Christians are not free to worship and serve the Lord; to be more careful, many who think they are Christians think this, and many Christians think that they think this. Continue reading “Free to Live and Free to Die”

Temples of the Holy Spirit and Living Sacrifices

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit? You are not your own; you were bought with a price; so honor God with your body.”

Just earlier, Paul was writing about how when a man is joined to a woman he is one flesh with her and that Christians are one in spirit with the Lord. He is explaining to the Corinthians why they should not commit adultery. “Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute?” It is basically the same concept as “Be holy, because I am holy,” “Come out from among them and be separate, you who bear the vessels of YHWH,” “What fellowship then is there between light and darkness? Or what fellowship is there between Christ and Belial?” We are called to holiness because our God is holy; we are being transformed by the glory of the Lord; we are being conformed to the image of Christ. We love Him because He first loved us. Continue reading “Temples of the Holy Spirit and Living Sacrifices”

(Part II) Who Are You That You Fear: I, Even I, Am He…

“I, even I, am He…”

Doesn’t that sound a lot like “I AM?” That’s followed by “who comforts you.” It sounds a lot like, “YHWH is my Shepherd.”

“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men who are like grass, that you forget YHWH, your Maker?”

“YHWH is my Shepherd. I will not lack. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me besides quiet waters… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.”

A lot of what I am going to say may apply to very different sins and struggles than that of fear; sin is sin; all sin flows from and to idolatry, from and to death; sin leads to sin. Pride – fear – hatred – at the bottom, they are all the same; they are all opposed to God, to salvation. They are all the opposite of faith; instead of being the gaze of the soul upon God – “One thing I have asked of YHWH, that I shall seek… to gaze upon the beauty of YHWH” – sins are the turning of the soul towards self, the setting of attentions and vision not upon God, but upon self and other selves. “Who are you that you… forget YHWH, your Maker?”

The remedy is beautifully depicted in this verse from Galatians: Continue reading “(Part II) Who Are You That You Fear: I, Even I, Am He…”

(Part I) Who Are You That You Fear: Introduction and the Idolatry of Fear

“You shall not fear what they fear, nor be in terror of what terrifies them. YHWH Himself shall be your terror and your fear; then He will become a refuge, but to the houses of Israel a stumbling stone and a rock of oppression.”

“Do not fear their reproaches, nor be in terror of their slander, for they will all wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up, but My salvation is forever and My righteousness for all peoples.”

“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal man, the sons of man who are like grass, that you forget YHWH, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens?”

Fear is not right in the life of a Christian. People have said to me, “You’re only human; of course you’re going to be afraid. Those “fear not” verses are just meant to be a comfort and an encouragement; not a command.” I read in a book once, on that passage where Jesus said not to fear those who can kill the body, but after that can do no more, but to fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna, something to the effect of, “If somebody walks into your bedroom in the middle of the night with a knife and says ‘I’m going to kill you,’ are you going to be afraid? Of course you are. He’s going to kill your body. Continue reading “(Part I) Who Are You That You Fear: Introduction and the Idolatry of Fear”

Hypocrisy in the American Church: A Scandal and Disgrace

In one of the Letters to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote that an immoral person who refuses to repent should be expelled from the Church. Then he writes, “I do not mean for you not to associate with unbelievers; to do that, you would have to leave the world.” So, obviously, the idea is that there should not be persistent public sin in the Church, but, as Jesus did, we should relate to and love people, regardless of whether their sins are particularly heinous or disgusting in whatever way.

This is precisely what I do not see in the American Protestant Church. Others may have the same problem or very similar and closely related problems, but I’m going to focus on a manifestation of this plague which afflicts Protestantism. Continue reading “Hypocrisy in the American Church: A Scandal and Disgrace”

Christian Citizenship

“Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly await the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

“No man can serve two masters. He must love the one and despise the other.”

Christians can only ever offer allegiance to God alone. We were born into various different countries and, by the command of God, we are to pay taxes and offer due honor to the authorities of our country, whether it be the United States of America or Iran or China. We are obligated, by the command of God, to obey the laws of the nation to which we belong, just insofar as the laws of the nation do not conflict with the laws of God. The instant they do, we are obligated to “disobey” them – they are no longer laws and have no more authority – all authority comes from God.

Ultimately, however, our citizenship is only in heaven. We can never be about our country. We are ambassadors of Christ and must always remember that fact. Continue reading “Christian Citizenship”