A Rant For You

What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Does it matter? Should we give any thought to anything beyond ourselves? Why should we trust anyone but our own selves? What is there beyond what we see? Are there hopes, dreams, possibilities beyond what we can ken at this moment? Is there hope beyond the now? Can we know, for certain, anything at all? Is there meaning to love? To happiness?

Can we change?

There is one answer to these questions, and every other question that has ever been asked. There is one answer which is the key which unlocks the mysteries of every cloaked and shadowed mystery in all of time and space. There is one meaning which is the meaning of all meanings. There is one hope, which is the hope of hopes — the hope which gives hope life and breath.

There is one life, which is the source of all life. One word which is the greatest of all words. One Person who is the Being of all being.

Look at this verse. Look at it hard. Let its meaning sink into your eyes and down into your heart. Meditate on it. Muse on it. Do not let it go away from you. Think. Even if it is the first time in your life, I want you to think, hard, on this verse.

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

How. Can we… bless the Lord God of hosts, father of glory, eternal, perfect, holy. Think of who He is, and who we are. All that we’ve done to Him. How can we possibly bring anything to Him which He considers valuable?

Why did He make us?

The answer.. is Himself. God. It’s who He is!

The greatness, the wondrousness, it’s all Him. The paradox, the oxymoron, the mystery of all mysteries. It’s Him. He’s perfect, He is love. How amazing is that?!

Don’t let this pass away from you. Take a hold of it, and realize this.

You can.

No matter where you are, no matter how hard things are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how many times you’ve failed, you can get back up again and go in God’s Name because He. Loves. You.

He is always there. He is always giving you an opportunity as long as you reach out for it. He will never give up on you. You. You. Can bless His Name.

P.S. If… you want to hear the audio version of this article, I do have it. I couldn’t really get it out on paper, so I blurted it into my mobile and recorded it. It’s not exactly the same, since I changed it when I posted it, but if you want it, email me, and I’ll send it.

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God Never Forgets

Scroll of the Psalms

Image via Wikipedia

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. 😉

Honor vs. Respect

Greetings,

I recently wrote a post on the Rebelution forum in reply to a question about respecting and honoring our parents. I thought you all would like to read it as well.

——-

Respecting and honoring your parents is inextricably connected with obeying them. To refuse to obey is to refuse to honor and respect them as God commanded. This is because they are our God-given authorities, and to reject that authority is to dishonor them. This only changes when they are no longer our authorities (i.e. after marriage), and thus honoring and respecting them no longer requires obedience.
But for now, obedience is crucial. And rebellion is to be rejected with all diligence. I talk about rebellion further in a blog post I did on my blog a while back, check it out if you want my biblical case on the issue.

I just wanted to make that point, because so many people think they can just “respectfully decline” to obey their parents when they disagree with them. You can’t. It is an oxymoron.

What are some areas that you struggle to respect your parents in?

I used to struggle to respect my parents in everything, in anything. I was horribly, wickedly rebellious, and took every opportunity to live it out. When I became saved, my life radically changed, and I devoted myself to respecting and honoring and obeying the authorities in my life, particularly my parents. It was the first stronghold in my life that I conquered for Christ, and I am ever thankful that I did.

God has given me victory in this area, almost completely. I still have qualms where I see their mistakes and humanness and want them to do better, but I turn it over to God and pray for them. But primarily, I focus on the huge, incredible, vast majority of things that they have done for me, and which God has blessed me with in them. Their few weaknesses are nothing compared to the evil that still lurks in my life.

How are you striving to not only respect your parents, but go a step farther and honor them?

There is an important difference between respect and honor.

You can and should respect all men: because it simply means to give due diligence to them. You give them the regard due them as a human being to measure their worth, and then give them that level of value. You examine their wisdom, to see how much credence you should attach to their counsel. You examine their strength, to see how much trust you can impose upon them. You examine their love, to see how much you can open yourself up to them.

(Respect can also mean to give credence to someone, which is synonymous with honor. That definition is used in the Bible several times, but this is not the primary definition, and not the one that is contrasted with honor, because it is identical with it.)

Honor means to reverence, to submit yourself to, to treat with deference and dignity. It means to show respect, and to give value to the other person regardless of whether they deserve it or not.

God commands us to honor our parents, because they are our parents. That is all the credentials they need to merit our honor. To judge them worthy of less than honor is to put yourself above them and God, which is rebellion, and hateful to God.

My pastor once said that you can only honor your parents to the depth that you honor God! How are you going to draw closer to God so that you can honor your parents on a whole new level?

This is absolutely true. You cannot give something you do not have: and the only source of true love is God. And since you get love from God to give to others by loving God, and since honor is a form of love (i.e., charity in 1 Cor. 13), we cannot show true honor unless we honor and love God.

And we definitely cannot honor and respect and obey our parents when it is hard for us to do so without His divine strength and help.

Matthew 5:43-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others?] do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

If we are to love those who hate us and who are our enemies, how much more should we love our parents, who give themselves for us daily? What excuse do we have?

None.

A New Kind of Modesty

Andromeda:  Textile Macro

Andromeda: Textile Macro by cobalt123, on Flickr

I walked down the high street of Cork, my head down, my ears dulled, and my heart aching. The atmosphere of the world washed over me like a warm wind laced with acid. I felt miserable. Every view my eyes beheld had an immodest diva as the centerpiece, framed by sensual suggestions. My stomach churned. I hate shopping. A strange glimmer of something caught the attention of the corner of my eye, and I glanced up. My eyes locked, and I smiled.

A girl. A real girl. Long hair. Long skirt. Subdued dress. Tastefully adorned. Probably homeschooled. Definitely Christian. Very pretty. At least to me she was. She might not be garishly redone and pimped like an android from Venus, but she was clean and wholesome. The sight of her refreshed me to no end as she walked through the teeming crowds of the world’s charms.

The winds of fleshly temptation blew about me unheeded; the heat of devilish suggestion beat upon me unnoticed. God had sent an angel to refreshen me in my battle, and even when she had gone, my heart was renewed, my eyes were alight with resolve, and my smile remained.

-a generic retelling of an all too infrequent occurrence in my life

Oooooh…! Jay is looking at girls!” I hear you say.

Yup. I do that.

Go ahead and gasp all you like; I am not apologizing. I want to talk about this. I want to encourage young ladies like the one described above (who I have never yet met, though I think I have seen the same one a few times here and there) in what they are doing. And to encourage those who aren’t, to start.

Please note what I saw in this girl: her outside features. All I could see was her clothing and her head. And yet I was inspired, encouraged, lifted, strengthened, and exhorted. How was that? The answer is pretty simple actually:

Clothing is a part of language.

Honestly, it is. It is a part of language just like body language or speech. This has been true as long as there have been clothes… in fact the first occurrence of clothes in the Bible (and in the world for that matter) emphasized this fact (Genesis 3:7-21). This quality of clothing is inescapable.

So what did this girl’s clothing say to me?

I am a Christian. I serve God with my heart and my body. I yield my personal desires to His requests. I seek to please Him in all I do. God is glorious, and worth serving. God has changed me. I am not beat down or trampled on: I am living joyously and full of life. I want to save myself for marriage, and I want to help you do the same. Live for God.”

Nice little sermon there, huh?  And that is why her appearance was like a drink of refreshing water straight from the fountain of life: she was glorifying God. She was pointing straight to Him. And His presence was there in that, blessing both her and me. And that was what gave me strength.

Of course I hear you saying, “But what if she doesn’t believe those things? What if she isn’t trying to say those things?” Well, the answer is rather obvious: there is a miscommunication. *grins*

But it doesn’t matter very much to me. See, if someone accidentally says they hate me, and I forgive them, it makes no difference to me than if they had really meant it and I forgave them. I react the same, and I am right to do so.

If someone gives out Bibles in an attempt to go undercover and subvert, destroy, and otherwise attack a church, those Bibles are not blocked from helping people. Lost may still become saved through his efforts, even if he didn’t mean it.

So it is with clothes. Whether you mean what they say or not, they still say it.

Therefore we all ought to take heed to what we wear to make sure we are saying the right thing.

Now, as with learning any language, there is a lot involved. Thankfully the Bible helps us out a ton in figuring this out (believe it or not, the vast majority of the language of clothing is not cultural, but built into us by God, and laid out in His Scripture). Unfortunately, there is also a ton of controversy on every single standard of communication that is in the Bible. Go figure. Lexicology is tough.

I want to focus on one particular part of this, though: adorning.

Leaving aside the standards of modesty, femininity, and cultural significance (assuming we are at least reasonably in agreement on those, though it would be surprising if we were), of course, because those would take a looooong time to go through.

I want to examine two passages in the Bible: 1 Timothy 2:8-10, and 1 Peter 3:1-5. This will be an exercise in hermeneutics, so hang with me. 🙂

Here is the first:

1 Timothy 2:8-10 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

And the second:

1 Peter 3:1-5 Likewise, ye wives, [be] in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2 While they behold your
chaste conversation [coupled] with fear.
3
Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
4 But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God,
adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

It is good to take these two in context with each other, since they are talking about the same topic, to a similar audience, in related contexts, and thus act as commentaries on each other.

There are two key words that tie these passages together (among other things of course): Conversation and Adorn.

Conversation means your way of life, plain and simple. 1 Peter actually mentions this word twice, and additionally uses the concept at least 3 times. 1 Timothy does not use the word, but uses the concepts around three times. The theme of these two passages is actually not really clothing, but your lifestyle in general.

This is what I was talking about just a bit ago: these passages are teaching us how to communicate godliness through our actions, including our dress.

Adorn is the important word. It is used in both passages, and provides the key to interpreting them.

ADORN’, v.t. [L. adorno, ad and orno, to deck, or beautify, to dress, set off, extol, furnish.
1. To deck or
decorate; to make beautiful; to add to beauty by dress; to deck with external ornaments.
A bride adorneth, herself with jewels. Isa 6.
To set off to
advantage; to add ornaments to; to embellish by any thing external or adventitious; as, to adorn a speech by appropriate action, sentiments with elegance of language, or a gallery with pictures.
3. To make
pleasing, or more pleasing; as, great abilities adorned by virtue or affability.
4. To display the
beauty or excellence of; as, to adorn the doctrine of God.

Webster’s 1828, of course.

According to Strong’s, every Greek and Hebrew word translated as ‘adorn’ in the Bible has the same definition presented here: to make beautiful by decorating.

With this definition, we are immediately presented with a logical problem.

1 Peter 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

So, at first glance, this would say that women are not supposed to braid their hair or wear gold or… wear clothes?

Then you think, oh, right, it says ‘adorn’ not ‘wear.’ Therefore we aren’t supposed to decorate ourselves with those things.

Which means women are not permitted to put anything on them which would make them beautiful. Even worse, they are not allowed to put anything on them that will make them not ugly (otherwise it would adorn). In which case the Muslims got it right. 😛

This view is untenable, not because of the Muslims, but because in other parts of Scripture, women are commanded to adorn themselves for their husbands… with jewels (which would defeat the purpose of this verse entirely, with this interpretation at least).

An example:

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh [himself] with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth [herself] with her jewels.

Another interpretation is that they shouldn’t wear clothes at all, which is, ahem, obviously not the right one.

These are the interpretations you get if you look at only this verse. The only way to understand it correctly is to look at the context.

1 Peter 3:4 But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

The wearing of ornaments is not contrasted with drab apparel, but with a different adornment: good conversation. This is born out also in the sister passage in 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy 2:10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

And if you look at the example that Peter gives, it becomes even more clear (isn’t it great how the Bible interprets itself?):

1 Peter 3:5-6 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Notice how it didn’t praise Sara for dressing in a bland and ugly fashion, but by pointing out her beautiful spirit.

And that is the point. This passage is exhorting women to make sure that their primary adornment is that of their spirit. If their clothes outshine their conversation, then that is not a good testimony.

They are saying the wrong thing.

Yes, women can wear gold, jewelry, braids, and even quality clothes fit for a princess of the King of kings; as long as their soul, their walk with God, their good works, their faith, their meekness, their sobriety, their shamefacedness, comes forth with yet greater splendor. In fact they must shine forth to such a degree that those are the things that people see first and talk about.

Ezekiel 16:8-14 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time [was] the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.
9 Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.
10 I clothed thee also with
broidered work, and shod thee with badgers‘ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.
11 I decked thee also with
ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.
12 And I put a
jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.
13 Thus wast thou decked with
gold and silver; and thy raiment [was of] fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.
14 And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy
beauty: for it [was] perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.

This is the word picture that God used to describe His redeeming work in Israel’s life, and ultimately, in our lives. God would not have used this word picture, which describes in fascinatingly vivid detail putting costly array (and even gold) on a girl, if He disapproved of those very things.

The focus of these verses is to exhort women to make sure their conversation outshines their adornment, not to forbid women from wearing gold or braiding their hair (etcetera).

This true interpretation is born out in the definitions and usage of the words in the context of 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 2:9 …that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.

Shamefacedness is easy: it is the opposite of ‘bold’, very close to ‘shy’ or ‘bashful.’ They do not put themselves forward.

Sobriety does not exclusively refer to the absence of drunkenness: it means “Habitual freedom from enthusiasm, inordinate passion or overheated imagination; calmness; coolness; as the sobriety of riper years; the sobriety of age.” Again, reserved, not putting yourself forward.

Modest really doesn’t only refer to sexual chastity, that is actually not even the primary definition. Webster has practically a sermon in his two definitions on this subject (‘modest’ and ‘modesty’), and I wish I had the space to quote it all here, but I am sure you have noticed that this post is fast becoming a book. But here is a snippet:

Not bold or forward; as a modest maid. The word may be thus used without reference to chastity.

Almost enough said, but I can’t leave without quoting this gem (pun intended) found at the end of Webster’s definition of modesty:

In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.

He likes to wax eloquent, doesn’t he? 🙂 But the point is made well.

God wants us to be beautiful for His glory, just like a flower, or a waterfall, or a sunset glowing over the horizon of the ocean.

But we have been given a great gift that God did not give to these things. Above and beyond this sort of beauty, God has given us the capacity to radiate His splendor through our actions and our spirits.

And that is the mark of a child of God, when we do that.

P.S. I want to link to another post on this subject by a good friend of mine, Mrs. Parunak, on her blog Pursuing Titus 2. We don’t disagree on much. 🙂 But we do happen to disagree on this point, and her article, in fact, inspired me to write this one. Mine is a bit longer, though. 😛 I am not here to refute her at all (though I do welcome her to comment and let me know what she thinks, and if I missed anything). The only reason I am linking to her article, is because she does a great job presenting the contrary view.

http://pursuingtitus2.com/2010/09/07/you-might-need-to-take-a-deep-breath-for-this-one/