Renewal of My Mind

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…

Living with joy is not always an easy endeavor, and yet, as a Christian, I know that my life is supposed to be a letter to others:  2 Corinthians 3:3 “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

This joy that Paul discusses over and over, and the reason he is able to praise God in even dire circumstances is due to the transcendent purpose of Christ in His life, and in the lives of those whom he cares for. This allows for a person’s heart to be filled with gladness, and love, and hope, even when all earthly pleasures have been stripped away. But our daily thoughts can be consumed by things we want, things we lack, people we are envious of, false idols, people or powers that stand above our love of Christ in our minds. So how do we renew our minds, and focus on the only thing that truly matters? (For why it is the only thing that matters, check out this blog from last year.)

I would state first that this is something I have not mastered, and am presently working on. My goal is to eventually live with the joy of Christ fully, and for my life to be a letter, a testament to that hope I have in Him. But putting away all the messy darkness must start with prayer, and there are several verses I pray and meditate on daily as I work towards keeping Jesus Christ as the transcendent purpose of my life:

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

In regards to putting the past behind me, old idols, old hopes, old sadness, old worries, I use this: Philippians 3:13 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way…”

Him alone? Psalms 62:1 “For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”

All those things we attempt to gain by our flesh, do we someday realize that God intends to give us these freely, if we but humble ourselves:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
1 Peter 5:10

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” 1 Peter 5:6

This is so powerful. This is freedom from all anxiety, all regret, all pain. I’ve tried to establish my life on my own, my heart on my own. I failed. All was impasse, what love I could muster was selfish, half measures, and insufficient to establish anyone, least of all myself and those I loved. I died there, at the dead end of my decisions, my will. Luckily the mighty hand of God is expert at resurrection. I am thankful for my failures, for there is nothing more humbling than the death of all the best efforts of my heart.

So… the question is, are we humble enough to be truly care-free? I ponder this, and how to walk forward with a renewed mind, singularly focused on the only source of lasting joy. I am free then, to love others as He would have me love others, under His power, and because He first loved me. I hope this is a renewal of my mind, for I need the will of God to replace my own. My own is flawed, and only hurts. I trust His far more.

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The Power of Simplicity (abstract)

I was shaving, using an old-fashioned boars hair brush, and homemade farmer’s market shaving soap that smells like sandalwood and lavender, listening to Sinatra, and slowing the haste of the world with my breathing.

This idea of transcendent purpose has affected me as of late, a clinging to a purpose I can serve, one that is larger than the vanities of our day. King Solomon told us that “All is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2). If not but for God, it would seem that Solomon ended up a nihilist. He felt what we all feel eventually, that the toil of life mixed with the purposelessness found in the perfunctory grind of our daily action is the legacy of dead men walking.

We work diligently in thought and deed for great swaths of time towards goals we find give us a sense of relevance. These are different for all. Maybe you are saving the manatees. Perhaps you follow the political battles of Washington D.C., working hard each day to know and understand your platform, so you can defend it, prepared to forgive the trespasses on your side, and militantly oppose the other. You may march with signs. You may work towards a financial goal, or strive to build a business. Perhaps you pursue love, and escape in the delirium of intense desire. You build a world around a hope, an earthly hope that has no choice but to crumble under the weight of your expectations. No matter your interest, as it pulls you from ecstasy to the depths, and back again, any achievement or reciprocation received is short lived, and leads only to bitter unrest at the knowledge that any joy it brings will not endure.

Does this foreknowledge of failure make you negative? A pessimist? Being able to see the collapse of hope in the distance, and unable to stop it often makes us even more dedicated to our dream. It could even be stated that doubt and uncertainty are part of a recipe necessary for coveting that which we cannot live without. It is shocking the violence that takes place in the mind when our desires and fears mix. Compulsive daydreams infect how we perceive reality, and despite the real understanding that all will burn, along with the knowledge that we are helpless to stop it, we choose to run headlong towards an ecstatic finale we know is not there.

So then, what purpose transcends this inevitable disappointment? Further, what transcends our lives? Fame? Sex? Power? Glory? We would need a purpose that exists beyond our time here. One that makes us part of something much grander than our accomplishments. Robert Lewis wrote: “A transcendent cause must be truly heroic, timeless, and supremely meaningful.”

Upon reflection, there is only one thing in the universe that qualifies. That is Jesus Christ. And lo and behold, He has offered to make us a part of His transcendent story.

So these items we cherish, wine, love, money, they as blessings cause enjoyment in one who’s focus is on Christ. They are merely things He has placed in your path as you live and grow in sanctification. But, as idols, they take, and they keep taking, and no permanent  satisfaction will ever be attained from them. The idols like those I have sought to validate me, instead have devoured me, and refusing to admit they were there, it was to the depths I went. “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” (Psalm 32:3)

But to acknowledge this? How good I perceived myself as being versus how broken my actions had become? So twisted that God had to actually save loved ones from me? Deliver them from me, as I had become a catalyst for pain and lack of peace?  Who was this man I never meant to be? My heart desired what I dare not speak aloud, much less pray for. I coveted. I had false idols. I wished to steal (not just material things, but love, dignity, respect of others, time, freedom, for the most dire things stolen are not things at all). I am angry. I lust. This all means I bear false witness. A liar, especially to myself. One then who is blind to sins known since childhood, sins known to have been written by the very finger of God. What a pretty picture of a Christian.

And the result? Distance from God. Silence in prayer life. Anxiety. Inability to properly love others. Self-loathing. To be the clanging cymbal that has no love in his heart. Despair. And how much more, in these depths, did I rail against the world for my causes, or grasp harder for my purpose, my secular validation? Or, how much more did I escape, self-medicate, choose negligence, indifference. Has the man who militantly blames society for his pain examined his character?  Do the high ideals in the public square extend to his wife and kids? Does he bring the whole of himself home each night, as priest of it? Does he grab his wife’s hand and pray with her, or teach his son or daughter why the bible is true, or how to love? Does the daughter witness from him what she should expect out of a husband someday, or is this not a consideration the father should concern himself with? Can he put himself last and still hope for fulfillment when all the magic he desires is rationed to the fortunate unworthy standing in the wake of his life’s disintegration? Look in his eyes; he is simply not there.

Unfortunately, recognition of who we truly are must proceed change. When we all started this journey, we thought to ourselves, I will be this type of Christian, or this type of spouse, or this type of parent. My intentions are to be purposeful and knightly, and full of honor. But all is vanity; and distractions erode us; and idols fill us; and it isn’t long before we have forgotten how to love, because we have forgotten who loved us first.

The simplicity of life: “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) The Alpha, the Omega, and your transcendent purpose. It need not be more complicated then this. All else, blessings to be enjoyed, or not.  In a world of distractions, and the great whirlwind of lives to compare and contrast yourself with, and the pressure of forcing idols to answer wishes for love and money, what if we take Christ at His word. What if it is enough? And in this power, as it allows you to love properly again, you live out the life you were meant to?

I was shaving, using an old-fashioned boars hair brush, and homemade farmer’s market shaving soap that smells like sandalwood and lavender, listening to Sinatra, and slowing the haste of the world with my breathing. Starting at the center of myself, and working out. The parts I could control. I could be thankful for the music, and the steam, and be blessed to feel the satisfaction of a proper shave, and the calm in which this romantic chore took place. Like an artist who paints a leaf, there was beauty in the smallness of the moment, and I was “allowed” to be part of it. From here, what man would I chose to be? I could step out and complain about money, or Washington D.C., or be anxious for investment returns, or escape into a fantasy of love never actualized. Would these actions help me love others the way they needed to be loved? The way they deserve to be loved by me?

Or can I step outside the walls of my bathroom and be a different man; a simpler man, and not concentrate on the periphery of the world, but on my walk down the hallway, the embrace of my child, the prayer that my loved ones deserve, the health and wellness my body deserves, the study of scripture that my God deserves. I could ask God to teach me to love others better, and then make efforts to do that. Imagine it! Edifying others without seeking gain!

But I wanted them all to think I was smart, and special, and attractive. I wanted to be worth something to everyone.

But would my worth, according to them, change at all how I could love them, if I was loving them properly? Can I change that? No. I can change only me.

This will change my home. Which will change my church. Which may change my town. Which may change the state. Which may change the country. Which may change the world. But I leave this to God. I won’t yell at you about who you are supposed to be. I will do better at what I should have been doing. Overtime, perhaps I can be forgiven for having loved so badly, and so selfishly. But, it was coming from my flesh, not Christ, so it was bound to an inherently faulty foundation. If I can truly make Christ first, then how I see the world, how I love the world, everything changes. And everything is simplified into one transcendent purpose. Suddenly, I feel blessed just to be allowed to enjoy any of this silly old world at all.

Micah 6:8 – He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Isaiah 49:4 – But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.”

And so, I was just shaving, using an old-fashioned boars hair brush, and homemade farmer’s market shaving soap that smells like sandalwood and lavender, listening to Sinatra, and slowing the haste of the world with my breathing. And I thanked God.

Dark Streak

Romans 7: 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

How many times have these verses been used to rationalize sin in a Christian’s life. For myself, the verse occurs to me all too often. I, panic-stricken, will scan the horizon of my journey for fruit of the spirit, and will quickly tally righteous action or heartfelt attempts at ministry to weigh against a hidden darkness. But when God shines the bright lights of holiness like a spotlight  upon the part of yourself you were unwilling to face, the part you refused to humble, the dark streak to which you held fast, it is shocking how paltry the offering of good works seems. As we have learned from Isaiah, these works are filthy rags, each one a complexity of self-serving, accolade seeking, pride boosting liabilities, that crumbles like dust in the searing light of holiness. What’s left is the desperate cry for grace.

A cry for grace, because you know you need it, and because you realize you’re not worthy of it, and you fear a God who may not give it.

A mentor has said, “If you don’t choose to humble yourself, God will choose to humble you.” So to scripture then, when God asked Pharaoh through Moses, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” Or how about 1 Peter, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” But as Paul said in Romans, “But this evil I keep on doing…”

Every person struggles with sin, many struggle specifically with that one thing, that one thing they keep for themselves, that they won’t die to, that they fight to retain, that darkness that no one is allowed to see. But it will get comfortable to feed it, and it will be easier to ignore the expanding edges of that dark place, and it will seem sane to rationalize an unhealthy paradigm you’ve created for yourself. It will start to not matter that you have to lie to yourself every moment, and eventually you will grow to feel empowered by this thing. You think I jest? Tell me it doesn’t sound powerful to be in control of darkness, to navigate the perils of secrecy for just one more day, so that each titillating result was a pleasure earned, and a temple to your own desires you were able to  guard. You took back control, didn’t you? It felt good to immerse yourself in it, didn’t it? To push the boundaries of reality, and euphorically realize reality hasn’t stopped you? How could you not keep pushing?!

Your sin will hurt you, but what’s worse, it will diminish your relationship with God, and it will harm your testimony, sometimes beyond repair. In the midst of darkness, we can rationalize hurting ourselves, but soon the darkness will begin to hurt others, and that will be hard to watch. The fall out is typically preceded by warnings, but in the end, for a holy God, it is better to ruin your life and save your soul, then to gain your darkness and lose it. We see the verse in Matthew, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Hence the great light of Christ, the devastating blessing, the humbling exposure to holiness, the loss of all your power…

But you are not alone, and I am not alone, and so we turn back to God, damaged and free, humbled and grateful, with a fuller understanding of what grace means, and an appreciation for how it saves a wretch like me. We look back through biblical history and take comfort in how God used the broken to carry out His will. We pray thanks for a justification we don’t deserve, and hope that understanding makes us that much better at telling others about the good news.

As for me, I have a dark streak, it has always been there, and I don’t think it will ever go away, but I know that I am not alone. The solution is simple; just keep shining light on it. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:4-5

Spiritual Battle, Homelessness, Irrelevance

To the forever homeless. We will travel in the world together until that day, gypsies, knowing the beauty that exists forever out of reach in this life, keeping hope stored in our hearts until we find our way home.

[In the early years of the 16th century there began to appear in Britain some members of a wandering race of people who were ultimately of Hindu origin and who called themselves and their language Romany. In Britain, however, it was popularly believed that they came from Egypt, so they were called Egipcyans or Egyptians. This was soon shortened to Gipcyan, and by 1600 the further altered form Gipsy, Gypsey, began to appear in print. By later in the 1600s the verb gypsy, meaning “to live like a Gypsy” began to be used.]

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:2

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:20

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Psalm 73:25

____________________________________________

 

God, show me my purpose. Let me not be irrelevant. Let not the power of my life, and the love of my heart be unrequited. Teach me what can be, according to your will rather than my own. Please reward the pain of hope; please remove the fear of the hopelessness; Amen:

Psalm 138:8

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

1 Corinthians 10:31

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Habakkuk 2:3

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Psalm 57:2

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Romans 12:1-5

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Psalm 73:26

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Ephesians 1:11

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Ezra 10:4

Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.”

Mark 12:30-31

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Revelation 4:11

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

2 Timothy 1:9

Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

John 5:30

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John 16:13

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Isaiah 46:10

Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 16:25

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Romans 12:1

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:18

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:9-13

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Mark 8:35

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

 

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

John 15:5

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Proverbs 3:1-7

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

2 Timothy 2:14-15

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Proverbs 20:5

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Philippians 2:12-13

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Acts 20:24

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Isaiah 49:4

But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.”

James 1:2-27

2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[d] 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Hearing and Doing the Word
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Psalm 119:15

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.

Luke 9:23

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Ephesians 3:20

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

Philippians 1:6

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Ephesians 1:5

He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

For I know the plans I have for you… or does He?

Do you know this one?

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Of course you do! Favorite verse? Hanging on your wall? Grandma cross-sticked it in your throw pillow? Memorized for inspiration, and hope in your life? I have seen it often as of late, and I do agree, this verse will aid and inspire you greatly… if…. if what? if you are who he is talking to, more specifically the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon! (Jeremiah 29:1)

The bible does not actually have verses, and chapters. They are there as a quick reference. Jeremiah was not talking to you.

A rule of biblical interpretation: The bible cannot mean today what it didn’t mean when it was written, especially just because you want it to. Does God know your future? Yes. Is He omnipotent, and omnipresent? Yes. But He uses many things to accomplish His will, and furthermore does not necessarily impart welfare and goodness to all who believe in Him.

Quite the contrary, many further His work and His will for a future kingdom by suffering hardships, loss and pain. Does He know these plans as well? Yes. And yes, there is hope in that. But we must be careful not to ignore the context of a passage when we simply scripture-grab for our own personal peace of mind. One apologist goes so far as to say, “Never read a bible verse!”

In this way he emphasizes the importance of getting context with your statements, and of not imparting historic descriptive passages with prescriptive powers upon our lives.

You can see the error of this method much more clearly if we approach it from a different angle. For example, your friend or loved one approaches, and says, “man, I am having such a rough time. I am so anxious, and depressed lately, I just need to seek God.”

And you respond, “Hey, just remember, friend, Jeremiah 6:11-12 says to us, ‘Therefore I am full of the wrath of the Lord;
I am weary of holding it in.
“Pour it out upon the children in the street,
and upon the gatherings of young men, also;
both husband and wife shall be taken,
the elderly and the very aged.
Their houses shall be turned over to others,
their fields and wives together,
for I will stretch out my hand
against the inhabitants of the land,”
declares the Lord.'”

Hang that on your wall! Thought you were feeling bad before? How about applying this verse randomly to your situation?

You can see the point here. We cannot just pluck and plug things that make us feel better. God was using His prophet to speak with the elders at that time. It is historical, and instructive, and does teach us about the Israeli nation, and further bolsters our understanding about the line of redemption and His good works. But again, unless Nebuchadnezzar took you into exile 2600 years ago, and you are a surviving elder of this time period, you cannot simply apply this to your life. It may feel good, but as stated many times in these articles, we aren’t Christians because it is easy, or because of an emotional payoff. We are Christian, simply because it is true.

There is a great and bloody history in the bible. The thin red line of the redemption of Jesus Christ is fraught with many a fallen person, doing many unspeakable things. There is murder, rape, incest, war, prostitution, theft, idol worship. These are there for us to learn truth. These are not prescriptions on how to live.

Did I ruin your favorite verse?

Let us respect these verses in context.

Christians are Hypocrites

“I don’t go to church, because Christians are nothing but hypocrites!”

This charge is often levied against churches, or the people who attend them.

“I know a guy/girl who goes to church, and acts Christian, but they did this, or that.” “I talked to this pastor, and he was a jerk.” “At least I’m real and true to who I am, Christians pretend like they are perfect or righteous.”

Let’s cut past all the subterfuge and subtlety. Are Christians hypocrites? Yes. Every single one. Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. By definition, Christians have moral beliefs, set forth by God’s word, to which we desire to adhere. But every single Christian fails in this task. Every single one falls short, and I dare say this happens daily in the heart and minds of each, if not in actions.

Jesus says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” The moment this expectation, demanded by a holy God (for what else could infinite perfection demand), has failed to come to fruition, even in the smallest of ways, we have by definition become hypocrites and in fact, lawbreakers. We have failed to live up to a moral standard we accept as right.

But let us consider an atheist, who by definition, has a subjective moral code, derived from either ones own opinion, from popular opinion, or from the opinion of those who are in charge and can force a citizenry to exercise a particular behavior. In these instances, a moral code also exists, albeit one that is not handed down from a perfect creator, but is instead decided upon by mankind. If we reflect on the results of these subjective moral laws, depending on the flexible moral code of a given society, then two results  can generally be expected:

  1. If you live in a morally stringent society with heavily girded laws, as a citizen subject to these agreed upon codes, any violation of these codes renders you a hypocrite, and a law breaker, i.e. anyone who disagrees with Sharia.
  2. If you live in a morally relativistic society, defined by anarchy, nihilism, or lawlessness, or if you have determined within your own subjective mind that your behavior should fit no moral code (i.e. sociopath, or in religion – New Ageism), then you have absolved yourself from consequence to escape guilt. Anything goes.

Number 2 is extreme, and approaches mental disorder, however the reality in everyday life is a combination of the two. Often one who wishes for the freedom to be flexible in beliefs finds themselves to be militaristic towards anyone who holds to an opposite view, like during an abortion or transgenderism conversation, thereby pitting one set of subjective beliefs against another, if there is indeed no standard, and neither of which has more merit.

The reality is, therefore, to escape being a hypocrite against whichever moral code you reside under,

you must either operate perfectly within that framework – nigh impossible, or

you must adopt a framework with a moral bar set so low that you can’t help but live up to its standard, and then defend it militantly to escape any shame and guilt associated with those behaviors, or

you must constantly be ‘moving the goal posts’ within an ever changing set of standards, which is by definition, not a standard at all.

With careful, logical scrutiny, one could conclude that every acceptable moral set of beliefs would inherently have as its members nothing but hypocrites, all of whom are constantly trying, and re-trying, to live up to the expectations they believe in. As it is with every pursuit in life, from sports, to education, to religion, to parenting, human experiences are riddled with failures, and shortfalls. We strive for excellence in these pursuits, though we may never achieve perfection, and in so doing we work to better ourselves. It is the same with our walk in Christ, and for this walk we use the word sanctification, a lifelong and constant goal. The alternative, in Christianity, as well as sports/parenting/education, is to set the standard so low, that you feel validated by sub-par character and performance. This is no way to enrich a life, or the lives of those around you.

The result of this constant falling short is accepting the reality of hypocrisy. This is why Christians should gather in churches, as it is a place not only for worshiping the one person who set up the holiest standard possible, and then lived up to it, but also to surround yourselves with those who cannot, and are there to love and support each other. This is the essence of the body of Christ. Those who recognize that despite all human effort, they are in need of grace and mercy from a holy Creator.

Let me save you the trouble of pointing it out. You will not find perfect Christians in church. Christians struggle with anger, alcohol, sexual immorality, hate, depression, gossip – oh Lord the gossip, among a myriad of other sins. Yes we hide them, yes we don’t like to announce our struggles and shames from the mountain tops, and yes we pray for forgiveness constantly for not being as good as we can be. But there is peace and joy in Christ, in grace, and in knowing that we can let go of all of our missteps and focus the next day on how to love better. And despite these struggles, there is a concerted effort (or should be in a healthy church group) to do good works, to support others, and to be generous with the gifts that we do have.

If you are a non-believer that has had an unpleasant experience with a Christian, please realize that this person is struggling daily to do what is right, or may be going through his or her own temptations or trials, just like you. To dismiss thousands of years and mounds of evidence of revelation from God, to dismiss all His good works to bring about a savior, and our relationship with Him, and to dismiss the reality of eternal life with that Creator, because you interacted with someone who fell short in their walk is to dismiss the very reason we need Jesus Christ. In fact, as an unbeliever, are you not claiming to have a problem with a belief to which you do not conform? Is that not hypocrisy?

So if someone finally reaches the conclusion that he or she has fallen short of God’s perfect moral standard, that they are ready to admit that they are a hypocrite in their own right, based on the moral law written on their heart, then they can safely come to a church of believers. They are in good company, a place full of hypocrites, who all have fallen short, and all wish to experience freedom from their sins. If I see you there, I will do my best to lift you up, and do life with you. But I am a hypocrite too, so I may fail, and need forgiveness from time to time.

 

Supposed Final Words of Steve Jobs

Widely reported as the last words of Steve Jobs, though inspired and interesting, is most likely a false deathbed speech. We can easily imagine thoughts such as this passing through our minds at the end. Though most likely not genuine, it is interesting to consider them, and how they reflect our hopes for our lives:
“I have come to the pinnacle of success in business.
In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success.
However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed.
At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death.
In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming over me.
Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth.
It should be something more important:
For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood.
No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me.
God has made us one way, we can feel the love in the heart of each of us, and not illusions built by fame or money, like I made in my life, I cannot take them with me.
I can only take with me the memories that were strengthened by love.
This is the true wealth that will follow you; will accompany you, he will give strength and light to go ahead.
Love can travel thousands of miles and so life has no limits. Move to where you want to go. Strive to reach the goals you want to achieve. Everything is in your heart and in your hands.
What is the world’s most expensive bed? The hospital bed.
You, if you have money, you can hire someone to drive your car, but you cannot hire someone to take your illness that is killing you.
Material things lost can be found. But one thing you can never find when you lose: life.
Whatever stage of life where we are right now, at the end we will have to face the day when the curtain falls.
Please treasure your family love, love for your spouse, love for your friends…
Treat everyone well and stay friendly with your neighbours.”

I have never personally faced a life threatening illness. But I have had my life threatened, as well as watched the life of a loved one deteriorate. I have watched helplessly at a bedside, when the only power I had was to pray to God. And the only hope that I had in my heart was that if that loved one passes from this world to the next, I will get to see them again, and stand with them before a God who saved us both through His mercy and grace.

These final words go far, and they are serious, and wise, but do they go far enough? The author mentions God, but if there is one and only one infinite God, He alone is to be sought. And if that God has declared the one door to Him is through His son, Jesus Christ, then I would lovingly declare this statement does not go far enough by any stretch of the imagination. An atheist who lived out Steve’s advice would die with memories, and still with no hope. And those who remembered them, would also perish, and so the love that had been attained in a lifetime of wholesome philosophy would be lost to history. This alone is not the answer. That is why I often repeat my favorite verse in these articles, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

In John 10:9, Jesus says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

In John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This may seem narrow-minded to some, or dogmatic, and I assure you it is, unless it is the truth.43dc6e87710d1c4d4f780482f310a7df If it is the truth, if God entered His creation to die for our sins, and that sacrifice resulted in the legal and moral substitution for a judgement we deserve, then it would indeed be the only way, and the truest act of love. The author mentions God, and speaks of the importance of love in this life. True words, sir, and a very fine philosophy for living. Yet those with money, and those with loving memories both still stand to lose all if they do not address the truth of salvation.

The bible is not ambiguous on this point. There isn’t one way for Christians, one for Muslims, one for Buddhists, and another path for New Agers. There is one door, which is why Christ Himself includes that He is the truth, as well. It is a warning, given in love, and providing hope for all, for all are fallen, and all face death. To Mr. Steve Jobs, I say, boldly and beautifully said, a sad and grave wake up call against the things that drive us. But, I also say, your love and memories cannot save you. Living for a fallen version of love will still leave you wishing and hoping in a hospital bed. There is only one door. Though it is now, more unpopular than ever to state, and offends many, we cannot be so timid as Christians that we cannot claim the truth, and that is that Jesus Christ is our door to salvation. It is said that this speech, despite its lack of authenticity, has inspired many. But we must ask, does talk like this truly help? or does it give a false sense of meaning, and therefore provide a complacency more dangerous than the position of men who admit they are evil. Change is only possible when one realizes it is necessary.