What It Really Means to Take the Name of the Lord in Vain

“You shall not take the name of YHWH your God in vain.”

“Father, hallowed be Your Name.”

God is Holy. His Greatness – His Truth – His Love – His Goodness, all these call us to approach Him and to speak His Name with reverence and with joy, not flippantly, not carelessly, but meaning what we say as nearly as we can, knowing that He of Whom we speak is so real and true we cannot grasp Him, so high and loving and beautiful we stand in awe of His supreme goodness. Continue reading “What It Really Means to Take the Name of the Lord in Vain”

The Crucifixion and the Meaning of Compromise

“Let us go, therefore, to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt, who trust in horses, who rely on chariots because there are many of them, and on horses because of their strength. YHWH also is wise and can bring disaster; He will not retract His word and will destroy them. Now, their horses are flesh and not spirit. They will stumble and there will be no one to help. They will fall, and there will be no one to raise them up.”

“The wisdom of the wise I will confound.”

“I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came in weakness and trembling. My words and message were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power… We do teach a wisdom, but it is not the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away, but the secret wisdom of God… None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”

“I rejoice… in insults.”

I am clueless, as to why the sentiment these verses express is so much missing in American so-called Christianity. As Christians, we follow the crucified Lord of Glory. We are identified with Him – is His name not ours? The world crucified Him; it is ours to rejoice when it excludes us! “It is enough that the servant should be like His Master, and the disciple like His teacher. If they have called the Master of the House Beelzebul, how much more the members of His household!” I always thought that verse must have a tone of encouragement and joy in it! It is, plain out flat, an honor to be treated like your King. Continue reading “The Crucifixion and the Meaning of Compromise”

Asking God “Why?” and Declaring His Goodness

Some people think that one should never ask God “Why?” about anything. Others seem to be very interested in asking God “Why?” about all kinds of things.

Asking God “Why?” is not necessarily doubting His goodness or His love. It depends on why you are asking “Why?” and on what you are asking. Sometimes, asking God “Why?” is actually declaring that you believe that God has a good reason for what He is doing: that He is in control, that He is wise, that He is loving. Sometimes, you may ask God, “Why do you allow me to sin?” – because you hate your sin and want to be delivered from it, you know this desire comes from God, and you know He has a reason – which you would like to know. When you ask God this, or why He allows others to defile the reputation of His Name, either by their blasphemous words or by their blasphemous actions, you are not doubting that God is good, that He is holy, that He is in control, or that He has a reason for all that He does – and all that He does not do. Continue reading “Asking God “Why?” and Declaring His Goodness”

One Body, Many Members or Together and Alone

This article is probably not what you might expect from the title.

There is a very real sense in which all Christians understand all other Christians. Most truly and most importantly, we live the same life, which is Christ. We were baptized with one baptism into one body. We are indwelt by one Holy Spirit, children of one Father, God, with one Lord, Jesus Christ, and one faith. We, who are many, are one body, because we partake of one loaf, which is the Lord Jesus, and one cup, which is His blood. This is truth, and it evidences itself.

Each of us is alone before God. We stand naked before Him, not merely as a member of a group but as one person, and some day we will realize our nakedness before Him: hopefully, we realize it more and more as our lives go on. We are in His presence as we can never be in the presence of any other.

Both these truths are evident in the Christian life. You will read the writings of some other Christian, and often enough you may think to yourself, “Oh! I know I don’t understand all he meant. I also know that I understood more of what he meant than even he could put into words!” Continue reading “One Body, Many Members or Together and Alone”

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”

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…”

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”

Christian Forgiveness: As God in Christ Forgave You

There are a lot of lies about forgiveness that people, even Christians, spread.

When He was being nailed to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Later, St. Paul would write to the Christians, “Forgive, just as God in Christ forgave you.”

Forgiveness starts with God. It is a free gift of grace. Jesus bore our sin. He was nailed to the cross to provide for our forgiveness. He felt our sin in all its magnitude, horror, and depth of evil so that He could forgive – really forgive – us. He suffered all the hurt and evil of our sin, and so forgave us.

That is why we forgive: because God has forgiven us so much more. Continue reading “Christian Forgiveness: As God in Christ Forgave You”