Ask, Seek, Knock [from the Archives]

Bible

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

Sometimes the old things come back to teach us again. This is a message I really think I need to share again with you all. It is a repost from 2009, in my early blog days. Enjoy. :)

Greetings,

Matthew 7:7-8 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Devotions are important: crucially important. I am ashamed of how often and how much I have neglected to realize just how important they are. Oh yes, I would do them, but they would be more ‘me-time’ than ‘devoted-to-God’ time. Doing devotions right and getting stuff out of them is just as important as doing them in the first place. Time and focus is a major part of our treasure: ask any businessman. But where are we investing our time, and how are we investing it? Are we truly setting aside time out of our schedules and our hearts for God? I was assuredly not very devoted in my devotions before, and it affected every area of my life.

But what good is it to spend two hours in prayer and two hours in Bible reading every day if you get no fresh, new insights, strength or hope from them? Some people would say that it does not matter: read it anyway. But how many of us have considered that it might be that we are reading the Scriptures the wrong way? Practice only makes perfect if you are practicing right: practicing playing baseball holding the bat from the wrong end will not help you much (it actually might for all I know, I know practically nothing about sports, but I needed an example). The Pharisees were experts in the Scriptures if reading it was all it took: they had all of it memorized, with the commentaries. We ought to do more.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them,] because they are spiritually discerned.

So how ought we to pray and read our Bibles? Well, it is evident from Scripture that the unsaved cannot understand the Scriptures, for their minds are corrupted and earthly, and cannot understand heavenly things. When we are saved, we are given the Holy Spirit, which opens up to us the mysteries of God. Without the Holy Spirit we are helpless. But that means that if we do not rely upon the Holy Spirit, then we are just as helpless as the lost in reading God’s Word, which is a very sad condition.

So we see that we must needs rely on God, and not on ourselves in our devotions. And this is where the title of my article and my text verse comes in. I have learned that we can have utter faith that after every devotion time, we can come away with a new, fresh, empowering truth for the day. But this can only happen by faith and prayer. But it can happen every time: it is a promise from God. To expect anything else is belittling and dishonoring to God. So how do we do this? We ask, seek, and then knock!

First, as we prepare for our devotions, before we approach God in prayer or in His Word, we ask Him in faith to guide us by His Holy Spirit, and to open our eyes, that we may behold the wondrous things that He has for us in His Word. Then, instead of just sitting there and waiting for a voice like a trumpet or a still small voice to speak out of the blue and say: “Pray about ***, then go to Philippians 1:7-9 and see the note that I put in there for you,” we go and seek. Go looking for God’s insights in His Word or start praying about your day or whatever is on your list that you need to pray about. But when something seems to stick out off the page, or if you do not understand something: stop, for you might very well have found it. Then knock, asking God to open it up to you. Sometimes He will use one thing to get you to somewhere completely different, but He always will show you something. And it will be what He knows you need.

This is a Biblical pattern, and the promises are true and faithful, but I will not be so prideful as to say that this is the only way to do your devotions. I am only stating that it has transformed my devotions in the past two days. If you have any other tips, mindsets, Scriptures, experiences, or insights, please feel free to comment (comments are better because others get to see what you say as well) to let me know. This is something that we can all grow in, and I am finding that I need to grow in it especially.

With joy and peace in Christ,
Jay Lauser

Prayer Vs. Bible Reading: Which is Better?

Prayer is a beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Prayer

Image by Chris Yarzab via Flickr

God’s Word is an even more beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Or is it the other way around?

Or… does it make any sense either way? I don’t think it does. I often hear people extolling one or other of these glorious things over the other one, and although I get where they are coming from, it still annoys me. Sometimes a person is particularly gifted with the blessing of being able to walk very closely with God in prayer. The same thing happens with the Bible: some people have the grace to glean volumes from Scripture in a way that is positively miraculous and incredible beyond the ‘norm.’ Sometimes both are given to the same person, but not always.

And so when someone has a gift like that, they are generally excited and grateful with boundless joy over it, and because of the glory of what they are experiencing, they strongly encourage and exhort their friends to strive for the same thing. And they won’t exhort as strongly from experience for the other, because they simply don’t have that experience. And so you end up with a natural division… with one group of people dedicating absolutely everything to prayer, and the other group of people dedicating themselves absolutely to Bible meditation and study.

There are extremes, and there are gradients all across the board, but that’s the tendency I see happening.

Is this good?

Well, you can’t deny that focusing on one is better than focusing on none. But why does this disparity occur? Why are some people gifted with an aptitude for one, and not the other?

God gives different gifts in different ways for different reasons.

Some gifts He gives equally to everyone, barring extenuating circumstances, such as rain. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust, unless there’s a drought in judgment from God, and the sun rises on the evil and the good, unless an audaciously faithful commander tells it not to in the name of God.

Some gifts He gives for seemingly no reason (in our earthly wisdom) out of His own plan and grace, such as the talents, challenges, and things that you are born with.

Some gifts He gives in fulfillment of an absolute promise, such as salvation. He promises that if you turn to Him and believe on His name, you will be saved, period, full-stop, no other option. If you seek, you find, if you knock, it will be opened, etc.

Some gifts He wants to give us, but won’t until we ask. Some of them He won’t give us until we sacrifice for it and work for it. Some He won’t give until we beg. Is that because He doesn’t want to give them to us? No, He just knows that we can do without them, and that we will be more blessed from them if we dedicate ourselves to seeking for them. He also wants to strengthen us through making us wait sometimes. Patience is a hard learned lesson.

I think it is the latter which plays most into whether or not we are blessed in prayer or the Word. Various things will make a person want to improve their walk with God in one or the other, and they will work at it and seek God in it with tenacious pleading and seeking, and God will give it to them. Sometimes God will give it for less trouble, other times for more. Sometimes He gives it for seemingly very little, perhaps because He knows you’ll need it for something. We never know.

But in any case, we do have a choice in the matter when it comes to where we are now. If one is lacking, believe you this: it will hamper the other. And you need to get it sorted.

Prayer and Bible reading are not really individual acts, or they shouldn’t be. They work in unison. In fact, the closest way I can see of looking at them is as two sides of a coin, or as breathing.

When you breathe (Go ahead, try it. Okay now stop. Just kidding! :D ), you breathe in… and you breathe out.

Doing just one and only that one kills you.

Doing one more than the other damages your health.

Praying and Bible study is like that. It’s a conversation.

Praying is talking things out to God: laying your burdens on Him; confessing your faults; praising Him for His goodness; thanking Him for His blessings; interceding on the behalf of others, and etcetera.

When you meditate on God’s Word, you are filling yourself with His Truth, washing yourself in His ways and testimonies, learning and being challenged, seeking exhortation and rebuke, finding answers and being guided, encouraged, equipped, and refreshed.

Do you see the pattern?

One is a form of expression – the other is a form of intake. If you do only one, you get messed up.

So try this experiment, as a kind of illustration. It isn’t the only way to pray or study your Bible, and it isn’t the best way, but it can really help improve both, I’ve found.

Open a passage of Scripture.

Start inhaling as you read.

When you come to the top of your breath, start exhaling as you begin to pray over what you just read or over something that was laid on your heart while you read.

At the bottom of your exhale, start inhaling again and switch to reading again.

(Oh, don’t try and inhale or exhale as much as you possibly can, just breathe normally.)

This isn’t Eastern mysticism or “empty your mind” meditation. It is simply a way of learning the synergistic and symbiotic relationship of praying and Bible reading. And it works.

I’ve seen many very neat blessings come out of this in my own devotions, and I’d like to see what you think when you try it. So don’t forget to come back and comment. :)

Mastering the Art of Singletasking

Pomodoro Timer

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Multitasking is a common buzzword right now. And it is both decried as having a viciant and virulent effect on our capability to function with facility, and as being the prime panacea of production. Which is right?

Well, honestly, I don’t think either are right. I think multitasking has its place, and I think it has a great amount of value. But I don’t think it is always the most efficient way to do things, and do think there are many things which require something else: singletasking.

Now, I honestly haven’t really heard anyone talking about singletasking by that term… people generally use words like ‘focus’ and ‘dedication’ and whatnot. Singletasking involves those, but I prefer the term ‘singletask’ because it emphasizes the precisely unique and advantageous nature of itself: it is doing a single task, and nothing else.

And it is quite a bit harder to do, and far more productive, than most people in our multitasking generation realizes.

Being a person who routinely listens to music (sometimes multiple tracks simultaneously), while chatting with upwards of 3-4 people, while reading streams on the internet, while writing up blog posts and emails, I can testify to the possibility of effectively accomplishing much in a short amount of time via multitasking, and to the amount of effort it takes to actually do it instead of fragmenting and spewing inanity across a dozen tasks at once (not the kind of multitasking you are wanting, I’m sure).

And so to someone of my multitasking prowess, it might come as a natural axiom that the fewer things you do, the easier it is to do them. I mean, adding more makes it harder, so taking some away would make it easier, right?

Not quite.

The effort it takes to focus on one thing, and one thing only, for any period of time, is mentally exhausting if one is not used to it. And getting used to it takes a great deal of training.

But is it worth it?

Absolutely.

Just as worth it as learning to multitask. They are two skills, both of which one must be comfortable in to be a master in dealing with tasks (hmm… a taskmaster?) — into diligence. There are other skills which go into it, but these two form a large part of the foundation. I’ll talk more later about the other things I think go into it.

So how do you master this art? Here are a few things I’ve learned which have helped me learn.

1. Pray for two minutes doing absolutely nothing but praising God. Thank Him, praise Him, glorify Him. Write it out, say it out loud, or pray it in your head, but just keep going until it’s done (a timer helps, though if you’re on a roll, by all means, keep going!). Focus. Be still. If something else comes into your head, acknowledge it, and then think of another thing to glorify God about. Don’t fight thoughts… it puts focus on them and that’s not praising God. Just praise. Let go, and praise. This is one of the best exercises I know of for learning singletasking, because not only is it tremendously effective, but it also can radically transform your prayer life and deepen your relationship with God. And which is more important? Right. Best multitasking ever. ;)

2. Use a Pomodoro timer. Pomodoro timers are an idea created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, and I’ve been using them to good effect recently. You can learn more about them on Wikipedia, but the principle is simple: set a timer for a specific length of time (25 minutes is traditional) and then focus on doing one thing during that whole 25 minutes. Don’t stop until the timer dings (again, if you’re on a roll, keep going if you want to). And then set it for 5 minutes (or something else that works good for you: it’s your rhythm) and do something else, relax, multitask, check your email, whatever. Then do the whole thing again. It really helps you get down to business and get a lot accomplished.

3. Meditate on Scripture. This isn’t really a timed one like the above two challenges, but it can be if you like working that way. Basically, start working on a piece of Scripture, and using the tactics described in the praying challenge above, keep working on it. Focus, muse, think, study, meditate. Look up other passages related to it, look at the context, read the whole book around it, write notes, pray over it, learn from it, apply it to your life. But mainly, get interested in it. The Bible is absolutely fascinating… and powerful. No other book is like it. And again… this one is really a sneaky way to multitask, because while you’re learning to singletask, you are also drawing closer to God and learning more of Him. Which is just awesome.

I am still learning a lot about this subject, and integrating it into my life. And learning to singletask is certainly one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in this journey. So I’d be more than grateful for input and things you’ve learned which have helped you to singletask in your own lives.

So use the comments section liberally, and check back for replies! I reply to every comment, and I love it when dialogues get started. ;)

Oh God

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

Image via Wikipedia

“Oh god that’s so funny!” Phrases like this, using the words “oh god” in a light and jocular fashion, are commonly seen and heard in normal conversation and in media.

“Oh god…” Phrases like this one, using these words as an expression of horror, shock, terror, or awe, are also commonly encountered, especially in movies.

And in general at least, Christians decry these usages.

Why?

If you ask someone about it, they will point to the Ten Commandments, in particular the third one:

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

They will also often equate taking God’s name in vain with blasphemy. These two are not identical or interchangable, however. They are very closely related, but not equivalent. Blasphemy is only one way someone can take God’s name in vain.

Blasphemy attacks God. It is an action in the opposite direction of reverence God – it slanders Him.

Taking God’s name in vain is much broader than this, though. To take God’s name is not limited to merely taking it into your speech. It includes your life.

When someone claims to follow God, whether he says he is a Christian or not, he is taking God’s name upon him and his life. This is even more true of someone who claims to be a Christian. And if you claim the name of Christ in this way, and you then view or treat or speak of His person as if He is somehow light or ineffectual, then you are taking God’s name in vain. You aren’t blaspheming, not necessarily, but you are violating the third commandment.

God is. God’s name is His personhood, His attributes, His very being. Every part of His majesty, glory, power, love, and Godhood is in His name.

Thus to reject His ability to change and transform your life and His promises of reward and blessings for those who submit to Him is taking His name in vain. God is worth it. God is able.

And now, take a step back and think…

We are created in the image of God!

That means that we all bear the name of God in our nature – in our very bodies, whether we like it or not. And so anyone rejecting or neglecting Him is taking His name in vain.

But wait… can any of us truly and completely accept every part of God into our lives? That is the definition of perfection! And we cannot be perfect, so this command is impossible to obey!

Yes. It is.

Just like the first command is impossible. Just like every command that God gives us of this sort is impossible. We can’t do it.

But God can. And He does. And He will.

It will take all our lives, but we’ll get there. In heaven, at last, the work will be complete. And we will rest from sin and failure for eternity. Think about it!

Here on earth we strive towards that goal. We struggle, we fail, we yearn, we mourn, we falter, we continue, we fight. But through it all we are living and breathing obedience to this command: Take not the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

For it is our hope, our faith, and our love for God that keeps us going. It is our desire to fulfill these commands, and God counts that to us for righteousness… the fulfillment of those commands.

Isn’t that awesome?!

A lot more than a couple words dropped carelessly, isn’t it?

Every idle word that men let fall from their lips without thinking about it will be called into judgment, because those words come out of our hearts. God will not judge people because they used the words, but because they slighted Him.

So instead of throwing a fit about someone using two words, be saddened by the heart behind those words, and from your own heart, say the same, but with the truth of God behind it. When tragedy strikes, and you cry out, Oh God! When sorrow fills your heart, and you whisper, Oh God… When you look up at the glory of the heavens, and you sing out, Oh God! When you are full of joy and merriment, and you laugh, Oh God.

Mean it.

A Short Post on Compassion

Help!

I originally wrote this as an assignment for a Reformer’s Unanimous challenge. It is quite short, but I thought y’all might like something more quick and to the point for a change. :)

2 Chronicles 28:1-15
1 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: but he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father:
2 For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim.
3 Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
4 He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.
5 Wherefore the LORD his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria; and they smote him, and carried away a great multitude of them captives, and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who smote him with a great slaughter.
6 For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah an hundred and twenty thousand in one day, which were all valiant men; because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers.
7 And Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim, slew Maaseiah the king’s son, and Azrikam the governor of the house, and Elkanah that was next to the king.
8 And the children of Israel carried away captive of their brethren two hundred thousand, women, sons, and daughters, and took also away much spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria.
9 But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded: and he went out before the host that came to Samaria, and said unto them, Behold, because the LORD God of your fathers was wroth with Judah, he hath delivered them into your hand, and ye have slain them in a rage that reacheth up unto heaven.
10 And now ye purpose to keep under the children of Judah and Jerusalem for bondmen and bondwomen unto you: but are there not with you, even with you, sins against the LORD your God?
11 Now hear me therefore, and deliver the captives again, which ye have taken captive of your brethren: for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.
12 Then certain of the heads of the children of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, and Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against them that came from the war,
13 And said unto them, Ye shall not bring in the captives hither: for whereas we have offended against the LORD already, ye intend to add more to our sins and to our trespass: for our trespass is great, andthere is fierce wrath against Israel.
14 So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the congregation.
15 And the men which were expressed by name rose up, and took the captives, and with the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, and arrayed them, and shod them, and gave them to eat and to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them upon asses, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brethren: then they returned to Samaria.

The reign of Ahaz in Judah was marked by great sins and rebellions against God. And as with the other kings, and as with every other nation that has ever existed before God’s just throne, he was duly punished – and also in typical fashion, by another unrighteous kingdom: Israel.

Israel did not ever have a single king that walked wholly before God, and yet time and again God used them to deal justice upon Judah. How powerful of an illustration this is for us! We, who are rebellious and despicable in nature, are still used of God to bring others to the right. Not just in our example, showing them what to avoid, but also in teaching, God still uses us.

But in this particular instance, Israel went far beyond God’s intended judgment: they extended themselves beyond His justice and worked for their own pride and well-being. They took Judah captive. This was not in God’s will, and He told them so.

He told them that they did not themselves hold the law in their hands: they were merely executing it. He did this by pointing out their own failures to keep the law. They were unworthy to take justice into their own hands, although their hands could still be used to execute God’s justice.

In like manner, we are often put into positions in which it is our God-given duty to train, rebuke, challenge, and punish others. Whether in the family, in the church, or in the government, we must bear in mind that we do not master the law: the law is our master. And we must show compassion to those under our jurisdiction by following God’s justice rather than our own.

God Never Forgets

Scroll of the Psalms

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I recently posted the above title as a status on Facebook, and several people immediately proved that it was a controversial statement.

Why?

Because it is commonly believed that when God forgives our sins, He remembers them no more, thus forgetting them, meaning that He blots them from His knowledge. So if you ask for forgiveness for something, and then ask again, He doesn’t know what you are talking about.

There are many variations of this belief, but the above summary is close enough to be representative, and is at least internally consistent.

I wasn’t able to respond at once, as I was completely busy that day, but the following morning I sat down and wrote out a Bible study on the issue, demonstrating my view on the matter. Here it is below, only slightly edited.

First off, someone mentioned Psalm 103:12 , which says:

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

This says nothing about God removing the knowledge of our sins from himself, it only says that He has removed them from us: He will not hold them against us in the eternal judgment of heaven or hell.

The problem is that people equivocate remembering something against someone, and forgetting the knowledge of something. Two very different things. If you try to say they are the same thing, then you are making a grave error about the nature of God.

God cannot choose to violate His own nature. He cannot contradict Himself. Either He is all-knowing or He is not. Either He is the judge of the Earth or He is not. Now examine these passages talking about this subject:

Psalms 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:

12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Hebrews 12:5-8 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Galatians 6:7-8 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

If we do wrong, ours sins are covered by the blood and do not condemn us to hell. However, they still bear us fruit: we have consequences still on Earth and in Heaven. We cannot escape them: they are inevitable, incalculable, and up to God. God is our judge, and He teaches us and trains us, punishing us in love for our sins and rewarding us in joy for our obedience. He cannot do this blindly: He must know our sins and weigh them justly.

If you say that those passages are all referring to God knowing about our sins before we ask for forgiveness for them, and not after, then you are saying that we have to confess every sin to God to be forgiven for them, and thus if we do not have perfect memories and complete knowledge of our hearts (something impossible for us to have) we cannot be saved. Once we are saved, God forgives us for all sins, past, present, and future, covering them in the blood. If that means to blot them from His knowledge, then the Scripture is lying in the above passages, for they say that He knows about the sins of His children.

Genesis 8:1 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged;

Genesis 9:15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Genesis 9:16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

Does God need a memory aid? Is He in danger of forgetting about us? No! Far from it! When God talks about remembering things, He is not talking about keeping from losing the knowledge of them. He is talking about something very different.

Psalms 25:6 Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.

Does God forget Himself? Does He ever lose track of the grand and glorious fact that He is merciful and loving above everything else in existence? No! God forbid!

Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

Hebrews 10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Revelation 18:5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

Ah, here we go, this is where people get the idea that God has blotted out His own knowledge of our sins to such a degree that He doesn’t know what we are talking about if we ask Him to forgive us twice. But what is God talking about when He says ‘remember’?

Look it up! What does remember mean?

There are 15 definitions of remember in Webster’s 1828 dictionary. Only two have any connection with forgetfulness, and they aren’t even the first definitions. Almost all the ones that he drew from the Bible (over ten of the fifteen) have no connection at all with forgetfulness, but rather with priority, respect, esteem, obedience, and things like that.

The idea that to ‘not remember’ something is to blot it from your knowledge is completely fallacious and contrary to Scripture. Look at this definition, specifically referenced to Scripture:

To bear in mind with intent to reward or punish. 3 John 10. Jer. 31.

What are those passages? Here they are:

3 John 1:10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

Jeremiah 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Nothing to do with forgetting, everything to do with bringing to judgment.

If you look at the list of definitions for remember and then go look at all the mentions in the Bible of the word, you will be awed at the power and depth of the word, when used properly. Without its true definition (which you can discern without a dictionary, just from looking at the Scriptures themselves), you end up with a very very wrong doctrine.

God never forgets.

God does not bring the remembrance of our sins before us to condemn us to hell.

God remembers His mercy and love to think on our sins and guide us out of them, showing them to us and chastening us for them.

In other words: God never forgets what He forgives.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments. I didn’t, of course, go through all the passages that mention this subject, so if you want you can bring up other ones that seem to support one or other view of the subject. The comment was long enough as it is, haha. ;)

Rebellion and You

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse synago...
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What is rebellion?

First, why do we care? That question is easily dealt with:

1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion [is as] the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness [is as] iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from [being] king.

Proverbs 17:11 An evil [man] seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.

Jeremiah 28:16 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD.

Remember that both rebellion and witchcraft were punished by stoning in OT Israel. Ouch. So… what is rebellion then?

Of course you know where I am going to go to find out, don’t you? :)

Yup, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.

Open resistance to lawful authority.”

That is the short bit, and all we really need here, but the rest is very cool too, so check it out if you are interested. [http://1828.sorabji.com/1828/words/r/rebellion.html]

The only proper (meaning ‘approved by Jay’) shift of meaning that has transpired since Webster’s writing of this cogent definition is a variation of use which allows for rebellion to occur covertly, rather than openly. One may have a rebellious attitude that remains sequestered within your breast, and never sees the light of day, and yet remains truly rebellious in the sight of God.

(One could argue that this sense still retains the quality of openness, since all things are open to God. But if you take that into consideration you might as well strike it out of the definition anyways since all things are open and thus it ceases to be a defining factor.)

On to the next word.

What does it mean to resist?

To stand against; to withstand.”

To set yourself against something means that you are out from under it. You cannot be submissive and rebellious simultaneously. Thus rebellion is a rejection of authority.

Ah, but not just any authority.

Lawful authority.

I think that little word there, Lawful, is the most important word in that definition. I believe that is so because of this simple fact that it makes true:

You cannot rebel against unlawful authority. It simply cannot be done.

This ties directly into Romans 13:1-2.

Romans 13:1-2 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

The message of this passage is very clear and simple: Authority only comes from God. And so to resist lawful authority (rebellion) is indeed resisting God just as much as if you spit in His holy face or committed witchcraft.

Because of this powerful fact, we must be very careful. Why? People claim to have authority over us constantly, and by thereby demanding obedience of us they are claiming to be the ministers of God. Whether or not they think they are claiming this is irrelevant.

The Bible is very very clear that we are all equal, and equally at liberty from the control of others, except where God has specifically delineated an authority figure to perform a specific function.

These authority figures are defined and instituted by God for our good. That is His created order: for us to submit ourselves to these authority figures. I cannot go into all of the different ones here (that is a matter for many books), but I do want to point something out:

If an authority figure steps outside of his jurisdiction and exerts control that was not given him by God, he is sinning. And by definition, he is sinning against someone (or more than one someone). This does not mean that we ought to revolt (notice my word choice: we can’t rebel against him, since he isn’t exerting lawful authority, we can only revolt) against him, though. Generally we ought to merely yield (give up your cloak, turn the other cheek, etc.). There are very few situations in which the Bible commands us to revolt, resist, and overthrow unlawful authority. Most of the time we ought to pass it by.

Realize this though: your parents are your lawful authority, and their jurisdiction is far reaching. Their authority surpasses and supersedes the authority of every other ordination of God. That means that if your pastor tells you to do one thing, and your father tells you to do another, you obey your father. Period. Full stop. No questions, no buts, no hesitations, no qualms.

Realize also that even if your parents tell you to do something that you consider to be sin (like for example not going to church, or not wearing a headcovering, or going to public school, or reading a secular book on the ‘Sabbath’ day (I am looking at you Elsie Dinsmore)) in the vast majority of cases, you ought to obey. Even if they are not saved. (Especially if they are not saved, depending on how you look at it.) This passes the responsibility for that action onto them, and God will bless you in that deed.

Why do I say this? Wouldn’t God say that you aren’t rebelling since it isn’t their jurisdiction?

Because God commanded us to do it. Do a study of 1 Peter 3:1-6 and ask me about it in the comments if you don’t see it.

Controversial issue, I know. But those who know me know that I don’t shy from those. * smile * There are a lot of facets that I haven’t covered (such as when parental authority ceases to be binding), but I will save those for another time and another post.

What do you think? How do you think you should change your life in light of this study? In particular, what do you think about how you are treating (and thinking about) your parents? Are you rebelling against them in your heart or in your actions by simply not yielding to them with all your heart?

Go Kill Yourself

I really hate myself.

I really do. I do stuff that is just plain evil. I seek after the wrong things. I do things that are utterly unpleasing to God. I am so far from God’s desire for me that it isn’t even funny. Every time I try to do right I don’t make it. It seems like everything I do is a waste a lot of the time because I simply am not doing it for God but for myself.

Bleach. Why don’t I just kill myself? I mean, that is what the Bible says, right? Paul said he ‘dies daily’ and that we are ‘dead to sin.’ The Bible also says that the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things, so why bother keeping it? Why not just go to heaven and cash in on that great and glorious body that doesn’t sin?

Yes, I do feel like that sometimes. I honestly do. Quite a bit actually.

But it is wrong. And you know it is wrong.

God loves us unconditionally, and He has a plan for us on this planet, even while we struggle daily with sin. That is clearly stated many times in the Bible, and we need to turn to those Scriptures when we feel down about our sin. We need to realize God’s glory in our lives.

But I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding underneath that attitude that is not commonly addressed as wrong, and which, I think, is actually commonly taught and promoted by godly pastors and teachers.

That is sad. And I want to address it here if possible.

The Bible talks extensively about the Old Man. It also talks about the New Man. It talks about our Flesh. It talks about the Holy Spirit. It talks about a lot of things. But how are these particular things connected?

Romans 6:6-7 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him,] that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.

Romans 6:11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not.

So that is pretty clear, right? Our flesh is bad, really bad, and it needs to be as good as dead to us. Really dead. Seriously dead. As dead as we can make it. That means that anything that pleases our flesh ought to be completely cut out of our lives and treated as an abomination to God, right?

I mean, that is what the Bible says over in Romans 8:13 that “if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” And then if you throw in 1 John 2:16 (“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.”) it becomes even more obvious. Our fleshly bodies are absolutely horrendous things, incapable of doing anything good or liking good things.

Actually not that simple.

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.

Oh.

God wants… our fleshly bodies to be alive? And not only that, but somehow they are supposed to be holy and acceptable unto God! It almost sounds like we are talking about two different fleshes here.

That is because we are. We are talking about the Old Man and the New Man. Or, as we could also put it, the Old Flesh and the New Flesh.

To see this we are going to take a little trip through some parallel passages in Scripture.

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

We have seen that one already, but I want you to focus on the key phrases highlighted in bold, and keep them in your mind as we go on.

Ephesians 4:22-25 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

Okay, I want you to notice the parallels between the mentions of renewing of your mind, and between the connection implied thereby between the Living Sacrifice and the New Man. And now we can continue this series with:

Colossians 3:8-12 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

10 And have put on the new [man,] which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond [nor] free: but Christ [is] all, and in all.

12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

There is an obvious equivalence between the New Man and the Living Sacrifice, especially when you stack these passages up. And in connection with that is an equally obvious fact that the Old Man and the Flesh is the same thing.

So what does that mean?

It means that our flesh doesn’t have to be bad. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Think about it: God made us with bodies. He invented pleasure. He invented our flesh. He made its desires to be the way they are.

But He made them for a particular purpose: to be a Living Sacrifice. He designed us to live in submission to His Holy Spirit (which is the power that makes us able to obey His Word and become like His Son), so that the flesh does not serve itself only, but rather, Him.

A Living Sacrifice. We trade allegiances, and that makes our flesh into a New Man.

And suddenly passages like 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 make more sense:

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

God wants our flesh to become like the flesh of Christ: wholly submitted to Him. So what does that mean for us, today? It means that we don’t just kill the Old Man, our flesh: we need to resurrect our flesh as the New Man by the power of Christ.

Romans 6:4-5 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [his] resurrection:

We can stop being miserable with our Old Flesh, and start living in victory with our New Flesh. Our ‘fleshly’ appetites are not our enemies… when submitted to Christ and His glory.

So, does that make sense? How do you see this affecting your daily walk?

Pity…

I actually noticed this by accident.

Okay I lied. It was a miracle that I noticed this, and I am very grateful to God that He showed it to me. :)

I was meditating on this Psalm, and was struck by the beauty of its promises and truths, but was also struck by the oddity of the word choice in the KJV in verse 13 (http://bit.ly/9vJLku).

“Psalms 103:13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.”

Why ‘pity’? The context is comparing us to God, and how weak and frail we are, so the regular meaning for ‘pity’ fits in fine… but it still stuck with me.

So I looked it up in Strongs, and sure enough it had the ‘regular’ definition: compassion, mercy, etc. Very nice. (http://sir-emeth.com/bible/?T=OT&N=7355) It even has the word ‘fondle’ in there, which conjures up some beautiful images of our Father holding and loving us.

But.

The next word in the Strong’s concordance caught my eye. (Like when can I ever read just *one* word in a dictionary?)

Pitieth (the original word I looked up) was raw-kham’ (a verb). The next word was rakh’-am (the noun). Same word, two different accents, two different word forms. But the meaning made me weep.

http://sir-emeth.com/bible/?T=OT&N=7356

The Hebrew language and culture is built upon vivid word pictures, analogies, and similes. That is how they think. That is how they create their words. And the word for pity in the Hebrew…

Means…

Womb.

Because it *cherishes* the fetus.

Think about it.

God. The sovereign Lord of the universe and Savior of the world. He is as a womb to us, and we are as fetuses to Him. That is the word picture that David painted in Psalm 103, and that is the image that would have come to his hearer’s minds.

Wow.

We are absolutely helpless, incapable of sustaining ourselves, feeding ourselves, protecting ourselves, growing ourselves, or anything. We are utterly dependent upon God and His grace, which gives us everything we need and much more. He is a comfort, a protection, our source of life, our all, our universe. He is all around us.

We are in Him.

Your Turn!

Most of the time on this blog I sit here and talk and talk and talk, and you guys listen (sometimes, when you are being nice). Sometimes you even comment (in which case, as I have said before, you are awesome: most people don’t take the time to put the effort out)!

This time will be different.

This time it is your turn!

I want to know what you think on Abstaining from All Appearance of Evil. I will get you started, but I will mostly be wanting to interact with you in the comments.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Most of you probably agree with this verse. Even non-Christians generally do. But there is something that is commonly missed: who gets to define ‘evil.’ If you let the other person define evil, then you are really in a sticky position. Of course the logical and clearly Biblical answer is that God defines evil. But how does that make a difference?

I am asking you that question. Your turn!

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