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At the beginning of the Bible, Genesis, God creates the world and everything in it and pronounces each thing “good.” It is good. God creates and it is good. His design is perfect and His human creation is perfect. (Genesis 1-2)
Genesis 3 brings us to that one disastrous act. Yes, tempted by the seductive and subtle allure of lies being whispered to them by the serpent (the representation of all that is evil and all that is against God) Adam and Eve disobeyed God (sinned) and altered the spiritual DNA of every single person who was born after them. We are all descendants of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. The consequences given to Adam and Eve have been given to us as well. Psalm 51 discusses this.
DNA is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. DNA makes us who we are. We receive our DNA from our birth parents and from their ancestors. When we talk about spiritual DNA, we are not talking about our religion, we are talking about what we inherited from our ancestors. And that, sad to say, is the sin nature. That does not mean that we cannot choose a moral path, or do good things. However, God is perfect and holy. We were once perfect and holy, in the garden in Genesis 2, before Adam and Eve disobeyed God. However that all changed after that one act, commonly referred to as “the fall.” “We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.” That is a fantastic encapsulation of this concept stated by R.C. Sproul, an American theologian.
For anyone who struggles to wrap their head around this concept, that we are born with a sin nature rather than we are born a blank slate or good because as a newborn, we have not yet done anything that can be determined to be good or bad, let us analyze further. As David laments in Psalm 51 (verse 7 in Tanakh which I linked here, verse 5 in Old Testament editions) “Behold, with iniquity I was formed, and with sin my mother conceived me.” David is not saying that he was conceived out of wedlock or his mother committed any sin in his conception, David is acknowledging the human condition of “fallenness” having that sin nature in him from the moment of his conception as it is an inherited condition. Other scriptures that discuss this are Genesis 8:21 “for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Psalm 58 (verse 4 in Tanakh which I linked here, verse 3 in Old Testament editions) “The wicked become estranged [even] from the womb; those who speak lies go astray from birth.”Job 14:4 “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean one? Not one” Job 15:14 “What is man that he should be innocent, and that one born of woman should be just?”
God cannot embrace what goes against His holiness. And, there is no debate about the authority of God. It is really that simple. If we do not understand our sin condition, we will not understand the kind of savior we need or that we need a savior at all.
A fantastic explanation I recently read is as follows, “I saw a God whose nature was creative love. He made man in His own image for the purpose of forming new and free relationships with Him. But in his freedom, man turned away from that relationship to consult his own wisdom and desires. The knowledge of good and evil was not some top-secret catalogue of nice and naughty acts that popped into Eve’s mind when a talking snake got her to eat the magic fruit. The knowledge was built into the action of disobedience itself, It’s what she learned when she overruled the moral law God had placed within her. There was no going back from that. The original sin poisoned all history. History’s murders, rapes, wars, oppressions, and injustices are now the inescapable plot of the story we are in.” Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing.
As you ponder this, please, if you have ANY genuine questions, comments, concerns, thoughts, that you would like to share or express, please contact us! Thank you!
L’Chaim – To Life! “You shall let me know the way of life, the fullness of joys in Your presence. There is pleasantness in Your right hand forever.” Psalm 16:11
What is grace? The basic definition of grace is favor, the free and undeserved help, one way, as the person receiving the grace did absolutely nothing to deserve it or warrant it. Unmerited (undeserved) favor.
We can and do give grace to other people. However, grace in it’s purest expression, the deepest meaning of it, is a gift from God to individuals. It is generous, free and undeserved. There is a depth to it that is unimaginable because it is so huge, so deep, so vast.
There is common grace which each and every person receives. And whether a person wants to believe it, or not, it is from God. Whether a person believes something or not does not change it from being factual truth.
Nothing exists simply because it exists. There is something holding it together. God. Common grace is called common grace because its benefits are experienced by, and intended for, all of humanity, without distinction between one person and another.
There is God’s sustaining care for His creation called providential care in creation (meaning advantageous, favorable.) We have rain, sun, crops grow, we breathe, we wake up and our planet still exists.
There is a restraint of sin, or providential restraint of sin. While some individual people do absolutely horrendous things, people as a whole group are not as bad and horrific as we could be. There is something restraining us, a conscience, some sort of moral code. Problems arise when people are designing their own moral codes, but again, there is something restraining many to most individuals that they can behave in a semi civilized way and do not totally and completely run wild.
There are providential blessings to mankind. Advancements in medicine, technology, basically anything that people have done that improve the lives of other people are outcomes of God’s common grace. His creation, the brains He gave people, the ability to reason and experiment and study and learn and design, all our from God and His common grace. med are seen as initiated by common grace.
And then there is a special grace which is different. Saving grace. That is the grace from God by which God draws people to salvation. What is salvation? Well, there is an eternal existence for our souls. There are two possible destinations. Although it may feel like death is the end when someone we know dies, it is not. Not for that person. We do not all go to heaven, and hell is not a place to be joking about. Both are real. In 2003 a research group discovered 64% of Americans expect to go to heaven when they die, but less than 1% think they might go to hell. Once again, truth is truth, reality is reality, whether or not an individual decides to believe it. For more in depth information, the big picture, please visit this page.
Understanding the reality of an eternal existence is important because it shows how infinitely dependent we are on God for everything. The Biblical language for hell is symbolic. Souls without bodies cannot have a literal fire burning them. However, fire and darkness in hell are vivid descriptions of what happens when we lose the presence of God. Remember, physically alive here on earth, whether we believe it or not, whether we accept God or not, there is that common grace from God sustaining us and our life. Darkness in hell refers to the isolation, and fire to the disintegration of being separated from God. Away from the favor and face of God, we literally, horrifically, and endlessly fall apart. It is almost unimaginable it is that horrific.
To be away from God is the worst thing that can happen to us. Why? We were originally created to walk in God’s immediate presence. God is everywhere and upholds everything, only in Him do we all speak and move and exist at all. So in that sense, it is impossible to be away from God. Even hell could not exist without God upholding it, and having a purpose for it being there. The Bible says sin excludes us from God’s face, His presence. All of our life; the joy, love, strength, purpose, meaning, ability, everything is found in God’s presence, His favor.
Separation from God and His blessings forever, hell, is the reality to which all the symbols in the Bible that describe hell point to. We are not destroyed out of existence but we are ruined and destroyed, completely incapable of all the things a human soul is for. No more reasoning, feeling, choosing, giving or receiving love or joy simply because the human soul was built for enjoying the true God, and all human life flows from that. It is a common grace that in this world, every person, even those who have turned away from God are kept capable of reasoning, feeling, love, joy. Hell is the place where we lose God’s supportive presence all together, and no matter what a person is experiencing here on earth, it is not the hell of eternity.
As you ponder this, please, please, please…if you have ANY genuine questions, comments, concerns, thoughts, that you would like to share or express, please contact me! Thank you!
Purim 2020: Evening Monday March 9 to Evening Tuesday March 10.
Purim is a happy, fun-filled holiday that rejoices over the irresistible grace of God and His providential care. Purim also has a prophetic dimension that both has been fulfilled, and is yet to be fulfilled.
Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish community from near destruction at the hands of a power-crazed Persian high ranking official named Haman. As recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther, Haman nearly secured the King’s permission to wipe out the Jewish community, and he “cast lots” (kind of like the modern day flipping a coin) to choose which day to do it, only to be foiled at the last moment by Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai. (Interesting too that Proverbs 16:33 says “The lot is cast in the lap, but all his judgment is from the Lord.”) Well, anyway…
Wild that in this book, Esther, there is not one reference nor inference at all to God. This is the key to understanding the whole Purim saga. Lurking behind the dramatic scene is a miracle that will eventually be revealed in the end…
At the last moment of gloom and doom, the whole situation is turned completely around to have the totally opposite result. The wicked Haman who plotted to exterminate the Jews ended up being hanged himself instead! Was it just by chance that Esther became queen? Was it simply a fluke that Mordechai was in the right place at the right time to overhear the plot to kill King Achashverosh?
If you believe in God, you will see the hand of God and credit the hand of God; seeing the unseen. And if you don’t believe in God, you will say, oh, simply coincidence.
As this holiday celebration is about seeing the unseen, let us delve into that.
What did our ancestors do to merit this Divine Intervention? Did they do anything? Were they actually deserving of intervention, of salvation? Think about it carefully, reflect on what Scripture says, all of Scripture.
Based on the entirety of Scripture it is a firm NO, the people did NOTHING to deserve God’s intervention and saving grace.
Saving grace. It was an act of mercy, of love, from God bestowed upon His people. HIS GRACE.
Let’s delve deeper.
God places His people in the right place at the right time for His purposes. Esther 4:13-14 “And Mordecai ordered to reply to Esther, do not imagine to yourself that you will escape in the king’s house from among all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and rescue will arise for the Jews from elsewhere, and you and your father’s household will perish; and who knows whether at a time like this you will attain the kingdom?”
God is always in control. Sometimes He begins moving us into these places well before the time comes to perform the particular task He has in mind. Our responsibility is to be open to His leading and ready to go!
The primary observance of Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther. The book of Esther is commonly known as the Megillah, which means scroll. It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle gragers (noisemakers) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to “blot out the name of Haman.” Fascinating. A great study for those interested would be to research the abundance of scriptures where God gives His people the authority to “blot out” the name of the enemy. We are told in Scripture that we are given the power and authority to tread down the wicked, tread on serpents (which represent the enemy), to resist the devil and he will flee…
The Purim holiday is immediately preceded by a one day fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther’s three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king. It is one day before Purim unless that day is Friday or Saturday and then it is moved to the preceding Thursday. Why did Esther fast for 3 days? Why 3? Why not 2, or 1, or 5?
Another Purim custom is for people to dress up and disguise themselves, another allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments. The Tanakh (Old Testament) is rich in veiled references to the Messiah, the who, what, where, when, why, and how of His first and second comings. Hidden, disguised.
Tradition proclaims this a time to drink alcohol and some may even proclaim it a time to get drunk. In the Rava (one of the Talmudian Rabbis) this advice is given “A person has to get drunk on Purim until he cannot distinguish between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.”. Well, what does God say about that? When you read the celebration of Purim in the Tanakh, nowhere does it say to get drunk. The Scriptural celebration of the holiday in the Tanakh talks of feasting and joy, happiness, rejoicing. One does not need to overdose on alcohol to do that and God is quite clear on that.
Esther 9:22 “as the days when the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month that was reversed for them from grief to joy and from mourning to a festive day-to make them days of feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” God warns us that it is not wise to get drunk on alcohol (Proverbs 20:1, Hosea 4:11, Isaiah 5:12, 22, Proverbs 23:20). And God does not contradict Himself (Malachi 3:6, Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 40:8). Where does Scripture say that joy comes from? That is another great scripture digging study for anyone interested. I’ll point you in the direction of Nehemiah 8:10 to start…
A common (and oh so delicious) treat associated with Purim is hamentaschen. These triangular fruit-filled cookies represent Haman’s three-cornered hat. Some say it represents his ears as his head was lowered in shame. As the fruit is somewhat hidden within the three cornered crust, it is also an allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments; God using a person for “such a time as this”.
Another fascinating interpretation for this delicious pastry is that the three corners are symbolic of the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hmm, then we can also say that it could be a reference to a triune nature of the one triune pastry (one God with each corner of the triangle; Father, Son, Holy Spirit).
As we celebrate with joy at Purim, we again recognize God’s amazing love. The Jewish people did nothing to merit or earn God’s miraculous rescue at Purim. God saved us because He loves His people and is faithful to His covenantal promises (even when we are faithless).
The rejoicing at Purim reminds us of the faithfulness of God and the triumph of righteous victim over evil oppressor. Yet there are those today who see the meaning of Purim in terms of our good deeds overpowering the Hamans of this world. However a realistic view of our world shows us that despite our many good and noble efforts to work within social and political frameworks, there are too many Hamans for the Esthers and the Mordecais to handle.
What if the innocent willingly took the place of the guilty? Would the weight of such a sacrifice be enough to swing the world back to an upright position, a position where people could face God and ask forgiveness? Instead of an evil Haman hanging from the gallows, what if an innocent one, made this sacrifice? Hmm.
Would that one’s name be blotted out, forever cursed? Or would such a name become the name that brings life and salvation, a name that is above all other names, a name before which someday all will (in the words of the Aleinu, a Jewish prayer found in the siddur, the classical Jewish prayer book) “bend the knee and bow down.”
This Purim, as we reflect on the celebrations and traditions, we might also want to consider the claims of Jesus whose very name means “Salvation.” He offers life and peace to all, regardless of ethnic or racial background, all, who trust in his name. He puts out the call. And all who receive will have their own names written the book of life, where they can never be blotted out. Fascinating points to ponder! Chag Purim Sameach!
Counseling services are good for so many reasons and the reasons people go for counseling are numerous. However, I think we would all agree is that there is one main goal in it, to get unstuck from whatever has the person stuck so every area of that person’s life and relationships can improve.
In secular counseling, the spiritual dimension of people is not at all addressed. Secular counseling is based on people solving their own problems without bringing God into the equation as having any influence on human issues or solutions. It is a self-focused, self- improvement project for people who dismiss the notion of God as present, real, relevant, and involved.
Bible based counseling is for those who believe in God or who want to believe in God and His work in our life. It differs from secular counseling in that it specifically incorporates the spiritual dimension, Biblical truths. In that, there is belief in God as our Creator.
The type of bible based counseling I am focusing on here is the counseling that takes into account the entire bible of 66 books, Tanakh (Old Testament) and the New Testament. In that, God, salvation, the gospel, Jesus, the Holy Spirit (the third part of the Godhead, who draws a person to God and is a God oriented conscience within a believer) are all part of the conversation.
God is always in the process of redeeming, or buying back the broken/hurt/stuck areas and bringing them in line with how He desires us to think which leads to how we feel and act. Bible based counseling has an absolute standard by which to measure the objectives in counseling and evaluate the counselee’s lifestyle.
I would like to pose three questions.
1) Do you want truth or do you want to hear just what you want to hear?
2) Are you willing to consider that behaviors you may be engaged in may not be healthful?
3) If what God says in His Word, the Bible, contradicts what you want to be doing, or what you believe, are you willing to consider the entirety of what God says on the subject?
Bible based counselors can only present God’s truths to you. It is up to you whether you want to believe them, or not. Once you decide to believe them, it is not a self-improvement project. If you decide to focus solely on God, He will change you and you will become unstuck, I can guarantee you that. You will never be the same again! The key to unlock the change is where you are looking. At yourself? Or at God?
Of course we have choices to make in the process of becoming unstuck, but it is not about us focusing on ourselves. Just like when Peter tried to walk on water (Matthew 14:28-33), he was fine and able to do so when his eyes were on Jesus. The moment Peter moved his gaze from Jesus onto the wind and his own ability, Peter began to sink. It is no different with us!
Salvation is not simply a moment in time when a person becomes bound for heaven after they die here on earth. There is more as we still have a life we are living here on earth. Healing, unstuckness, freedom comes out of the beauty of living out one’s identity in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26; Ezekiel 36:26-29; Colossians 1:10-14; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Colossians 2:6-15; Romans 6:1-11; Romans 8; Philippians 2:12-13.)
Once God saves us, He continues to bring us deeper and deeper into His gospel, for it is the power and the motivator for our life. We walk out here on earth what God has credited to us, that new identity. That inheritance is ours positionally, and our life is God working it out through us, experientially, as we live our life here.
My friends, there is nothing more exciting and beautiful! To God be the glory!
Praying for you.
We all have that one person or sometimes more, who rub us the wrong way. Some may have situations with another where by the other person’s behavior, it truly looks like that person is what we could call an enemy. Whether knowingly or not, they are causing trouble, issues, dissension, spreading rumors, lying…the list goes on. Regardless of the situation, there is pain and anguish, anger, hurt, possibly damaged lives.
While it would be wonderful to think that those who claim to live for God, who have embraced Jesus for who He is and claim to be followers of Him, would not be that enemy, sadly, there are those among that group who do behave in troublesome and divisive ways, even prejudicial or hateful. I’d like to put a little perspective on it all if I may. For starters, while it may feel very much like the person is an enemy, and it is admittedly extremely difficult to see past the person and the trouble they are causing, the person, people, are not the problem. Let us dig a bit.
Job 2:1-2 “Now the day came about that the angels of God came to stand beside the Lord, and the Adversary too came among them to stand beside the Lord. Now the Lord said to the Adversary, “Where are you coming from?” And the Adversary replied to the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth and from walking in it.””
Okay, right from the Tanakh, the Old Testament, there is God, there are the angels of God, and there is the adversary, the opponent of God.
In the New Testament it goes on to say “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 6:10-17)
Again there is the description that there is an adversary of God. The battle is not with another person, it is spiritual. We are physical, we are emotional, and we are spiritual. All of us. Regardless of beliefs. In the spiritual, we are either under the influence of God, or we are under the influence of the enemy, God’s adversary, Satan, also known as the evil one or the wicked one.
And as you continue reading Job 2, you see God giving the adversary permission to test Job. Job was faithful to God and yet Job was tested in that faith and trust in God. As Job says further down in that chapter “Shall we also accept the good from God, and not accept the evil?”
Yes, that is a hard one. Matthew 5:45 “For He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Psalm 145:9 “The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are on all His works.” God pours out His common grace to all.
Since God is not dependent on anything outside Himself, He did not create the universe because He needed to, nor can we demand He preserve it. Grace refers to anything God does for us that we do not deserve. So He preserves the righteous and the unrighteous, in the ways He needs to, out of His grace, His love.
A helpful post to review at this point would be The Sovereignty of God. It is very difficult to grasp how a good God can allow hard times, pain, misfortune, suffering. However there is so much more to it than what we see.
Now, about the person or people or situations that are causing trouble, let us be clear on something, not everyone who says they are a follower of Jesus, a Christian, truly is. Matthew 7 is a detailed analysis of that as is Galatians 5. The fruit of the Spirit (God’s Spirit) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now, there is not one person (other than Jesus) who is perfect in all of these areas. However, there is a lapse, and there is a constant pattern and they are not one and the same.
Although it is often human nature to want to strike back, “The best defense is a good offense” is an expression that has been applied to many situations including games and military combat. The way to wage warfare in this realm, spiritual warfare, is in prayer. You can simply talk it all out to God and even better, go into scripture to address the emotions you are feeling and the things that are happening. Google is a wonderful resource in helping you pull up scriptures and biblehub.com is a fantastic resource to help you analyze those scriptures. And pray. Pray, and pray some more. There may be actions you do need to take. However, first to God in prayer, and surrounding any actions you may need to take, keep on praying.
Jesus on the cross in the utmost of His agony said ““Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Even if you believe that the person or people involved know what they are doing, they do not truly know in the deepest meaning of that word.
Praying for you, praying for me, and praying for those who right now at this very moment are under the influence of the evil one. May this be the day of their repentance (turning from their sin towards God and His way) and of their salvation. As always, please feel free to comment below or contact to discuss further.
Every single action has a natural consequence.
Whether a decision was made by us, or for us by another person, there is a natural consequence to the ultimate decision.
Whether a path was selected by us, or a path was selected for us with the expectation that we would obey, or be forced to obey, there is a natural consequence to the path ultimately followed.
Whether we chose to obey or chose not to obey, or whether our obedience was forced upon us, when another person made a decision or selected a path for us, there is a natural consequence to the choice made.
Ultimately, no matter how it happened, we own the responsibility of the action taken. Whether we accept that or deny that, is our choice, however truth does not rely on our acceptance or denial of it. The natural consequence of the action is ours to bear. It may in our eyes be a good consequence, or a difficult one, or it may have facets of both, but regardless, the natural consequence is ours.
Anything that happens that is more positive than the natural consequence, or above and beyond the goodness in the situation, that is a miracle, and a gift from God. It might never have happened, but God granted it. His grace. His mercy. Grace is the free and unmerited favor of God. We did nothing to earn it. He gave it to us. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. The focus is not on us, but on God. That perspective makes all the difference in life, and in the world!
(Genesis 37-50) Moses gives Joseph more time in Genesis than he does anyone else, a noteworthy fact given how significant the others in Genesis are (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.)
Joseph. He had no family to support him. His only family sold him into slavery. Joseph could have blamed his family, circumstances, or his past for damaging his “self-esteem” and messing up his life. However, he owned the responsibility of the action taken, even though he had no say in it. He chose to lean into God, despite the reality that God clearly allowed this tough situation. Joseph did not use it as an excuse for any sinful behaviors, nor did he use it to blame anyone.
Something miraculous happened as we read the entire story of Joseph linked above. By owning the responsibility for the situation he was in, he remained faithful to God. He accepted that God was ultimately in charge, through the intensity of the situations Joseph endured, and I can only imagine the pain, hurt, anger, unfairness of it all he must have felt at moments, yet he remained confident in God and with God. In that he chose to honor God, recognize God and God’s way in all that he did.
Joseph illustrates how divine sovereignty and human responsibility intersect. After all his ordeals, Joseph was able to see God’s hand at work. As he revealed his identity to his brothers, Joseph said to them “And God sent me before you to make for you a remnant in the land, and to preserve [it] for you for a great deliverance. And now, you did not send me here, but God, and He made me a father to Pharaoh, a lord over all his household, and a ruler over the entire land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:7-8)
And in Genesis 50:20 “Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] God designed it for good, in order to bring about what is at present to keep a great populace alive.“
Timing and perspective. It was in God’s time that everything came to pass. And it was Joseph’s perspective that sustained him through the torment. He knew with complete faith that God was in complete control, despite what it looked or felt like. Man’s most horrific intentions can never thwart the perfect plan of God. Now let us be clear, the perfect plan of God may or may not look like what we would envision it to be. But God does have the perfect plan in the biggest picture, the one we do not fully see as we are not Him. God is sovereign.
God’s sovereignty is a tremendous and visible theme in Joseph. We see how God puts Himself into situations that to us seem impossible, and yet God still keeps His covenant promises. Genesis records a series of threats that endanger the covenant line. In the chapters of Joseph, all the threats converge, creating an impossibly grim situation for Jacob and his children. But God. God uses Joseph to resolve each of these threats. While Moses writes Joseph as the central figure in this section of scripture, the main figure, the focus, is actually God.
All of life is under the direction of the almighty God. I will delve deeper into God’s providence in a blog post in the near future. For right now, I pray that in our life situations, we recognize in a deeper way than ever before, that God is in full control of every single aspect of everything, for good in the biggest picture, the full picture that we cannot possibly know. I pray we accept the responsibility for the natural consequences of actions, whether or not we feel we made the decision or choice that led to the consequences. And I pray that we see God’s miracles for what they are. His grace. His mercy. His love. My friend, you are loved!
Practical atheism is an acting as if but lacking substance. External forms of religion are maintained but self is the focus, not God. Ethics may be preached and often even attempted, but separate from the nature and essence of God. It becomes living as if they was no God.
Another term that was coined is “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” or a moralistic approach to life with good being defined by the popular culture rather than by what God says. God exists in this approach but again living is as if He didn’t. Life is about us and the eternal belief is that “good” people go to heaven.
The devil, the enemy of our souls, he is a practical atheist. He knows there is a God, but operates as if there were no God. The enemy believes in God, but he does not love God. The enemy knows he will give account to God, but he persists in his rebellion. The enemy acknowledges God, but does not glorify God.
The practical atheism of those who say they are religious, or Christian, or followers of Jesus but live as if God does not exist is a greater threat than actual atheism.
Actual atheists may think deeply and ponder the typical life questions and existence questions we all have at some point, and then they reject belief of God for a myriad of reasons. And actual atheists are often quite passionate about their rejection of God. They are often just as passionate as, and sometimes even more so than, true believers in God.
Practical atheism however leads to indifference towards faith and God.
Revelation 3:15-17 “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
Psalm 14:1 “The fool said in his heart, “There is no God.” In his heart. So technically one can give lip service to saying, yes there is a God. However, what is in the heart? What will reflect my heart’s condition is my behavior. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and when it is sick, who will recognize it?”
So, a person may not even recognize their own atheism.
Joshua 24:15 “And if it displeases you to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell, but as for me and my household, we shall serve the Lord.”
If we are honest, there are times when, yes, even as a follower of Jesus, if we are not careful, we live like fools even when we say that God is there. We live as fools, practical atheists when we live for ourselves putting our self gratification above God, when we devour and worship the gifts God has given us in family, friends, home, belongings, rather than worshiping the giver, God, when we act as if we were self sufficient, don’t pray, don’t read the bible so don’t have God’s truths sinking into us each day, look to the once a week worship service to fill us or nourish us, we whine, complain, blame. Sure, we acknowledge Jesus with our lips but our behaviors say otherwise.
Today, I pray for us who are followers of Jesus that we each repent of living as a practical atheist. Whether it is all the time or occasionally, I pray we each turn away from the temptation to make this life all about us. I pray we each live like one who truly believes and knows, that God is real, He is with us. I pray for each one of us to be genuine in our faith.
For those who are not yet believers, I pray that you find yourself moved towards God, repenting which means exactly that, turned from your ways and turned to God. If you have any questions about what this means or how to do it, please feel free to contact me. It would be a privilege to discuss this with you.
Jeremiah 33:6 “Behold, I will bring it healing and cure, and I will cure them, and I will reveal to them a greeting of peace and truth.”
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.“
Peace and truth. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Okay, we all fall short. Those who profess to be God loving, Jesus following saved people and those who are not. However, momentary lapses are far different from a constant and regular pattern of speech and behavior.
Hiding behind an online presence on “social media” and spewing insensitive comments and commentary about real life, current day issues? That is far more than simply airing a viewpoint or sharing information. That is hate speech and it is unfathomable how anyone believes this is becoming of any person, never mind one who professes to be a follower of Jesus/a Christian.
The insensitivity and crass commentary is not limited to online either.
Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is hurting, in pain, or has misfortune and is accompanied by a strong desire to help the suffering. It is not always easy to show compassion, especially when we feel strongly about the issue(s) surrounding the situation. However, if I am who I say I am, a follower of Jesus, a Christian… (as an aside, I happen to be a Christian who is also Jewish, a first generation American woman of European descent)
Colossians 3 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Psalm 116:5 “The Lord is gracious and righteous, and our God is merciful.” And for one who professes to love God and follow Him, if God is gracious, righteous (moral) and merciful, that is who we are called to emulate. For one who professes to be saved, a Christian, we, our self focused, pompous, ungodly self has died and we have been given a new life, in Jesus. We understand the exchange that occurred at salvation. We understand our inheritance that is of far more value than anything money could buy.
- Our destination when we die here on earth, is now to everlasting life with God. Heaven (Colossians 1:10-14).
- The flesh (our sin nature) is crucified through the cross of Christ (Galatians 5:24).
- We are dead in the sense that the old unbelieving self (soul) has died (Romans 7:1-6, Romans 8:2,4).
- Our old stony heart has been removed and has been replaced with a new heart of flesh (soft, pliable) with God’s laws written on it (Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 24:7, Ezekiel 36:26-27, John 3:3).
- We have been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
- We are a new creation, a new soul (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- Our source of strength is “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). This is why the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10)!
- We have an incredibly beautiful new identity, for here and for eternity. Our inheritance! Please read these verses and allow them to sink deep into your heart.(Colossians 1:10-14; 1:21-23; 2:6-15, Romans 6:1-11, Ezekiel 36:22-30.)
Only God is the ultimate judge of someone’s heart. However, what I say and do, and what you say and do, we are representing who we claim to be. Matthew 7:16 “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” 1 Samuel 24:14 Tanach (24:13 OT) “As says the proverb of the ancient one; ‘From the wicked comes forth wickedness,’ and my hand shall not be upon you.”
Historically people claiming to be Christians, or doing horrific things in the name of Jesus have certainly given Jesus and Christianity a bad name. People watch how other’s react and behave in and through many different situations. We all do that. Many times it is that watching that draws people to us and opens minds and hearts to learn about God, Jesus, the gospel. And many times it is that watching that draws people away from us and what we claim to represent.
1 Corinthians 1:20 “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.”
Do we realize the depth of what it means that God gave us salvation? Do we realize that we are not our own, removed now from death in it’s permanent eternal state, purchased by the final atonement, the propitiation, our savior, Jesus. No more covering. It is finished. Do we realize how intense that is? Glorifying God in one’s body carries a ton of meanings and situations. One of which is our tongue. Another our fingers as we type across the keyboard on social media. Glorify God. Love as God loves.
Romans 6 “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
I pray for myself and for each one of you this day, that our walk becomes deeper in the truth of what it means to be God’s redeemed.
Shaking the dust off one’s feet is a symbolic indication that one has done all that can be done in a situation and therefore carries no further responsibility for it. Nehemiah 5:13 “I also shook out my garment and said, “So shall God shake out any man who does not fulfill this matter, from his house and from his toil, so shall he be shaken out and empty.” Then the entire congregation said, “Amen,” and they praised the Lord, and the people did according to this word.”
We speak, we show in scripture, we converse, we engage in conversation, and we wait to see what God will do in that person. If the person is receptive, we keep speaking and showing in scripture, conversing, engaging. If a person becomes combative, argumentative, insulting, rude, or simply disengages from the conversation, until or unless God provides another opening at some later time, we have done all we can do and we remove ourselves from further dialog on that matter, turning them completely over to God, however, praying for them. Praying keeps us from becoming bitter or upset over anything in the interaction, keeping our mindset God focused and love filled as we beseech God to intervene in this person’s life and turn them from where they are, to God and His truth (repentance.)
God calls me, and each and every other believer, to stand firm and proclaim truth. Biblical truth. The clear and undiluted truth that is unequivocally in the Bible. God leads us to situations, both with not yet believers, and believers, where He expects us to draw from scripture and minister to these people. Minister means take care of. Taking care of someone can be a physical act, for instance someone needs food, company while a loved one is undergoing a medical situation, help when ill and unable to run errands…the list goes on. Taking care of someone is also an emotional/spiritual act in addressing emotional pain, turmoil, life crisis, or even simple questions. And in all, we minister standing on God’s word as the foundation and we share the truth of that foundation, with love and in love, in all we say and do.
For the not yet believer, we look for God granted opportunities to share the gospel, openings for conversation, dialog. Some people will engage in conversation. Others will not. It becomes clear, as in any conversation, when it is time for us to be silent and simply let the person digest. Conversation may pick up again at another time. So when do we “shake the dust off”?
Regarding the not yet believers/not yet saved: “Go rather to the lost sheep and proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” Matthew 10:6-15 “Do not speak into the ears of a fool, for he will despise the sense of your words.” Proverbs 23:9 “And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” Luke 9:5 “He who chastens a scorner takes disgrace for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man, that is his blemish. Reprove not a scorner lest he hate you; reprove a wise man and he will love you.” Proverbs 9:7-8
Regarding interactions with both the not yet believers/not yet saved and the believers/saved: “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.
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:14-26
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” Titus 3:1-11
“Shall a wise man raise his voice with opinions of wind, and does he fill his belly with the east wind? To debate over a matter from which he derives no benefit and words in which there is no avail (benefit)?” Job 15:2-3
Praying for you, and I, to remember even more deeply that we once were foolish, no different from those we hope to reach with God’s truth, but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of anything we did but according to His own mercy. We are justified by His grace and heirs to eternal life. We are justified! This means we have no need of justifying ourselves, we do not have to prove anything to anyone. We are justified by God. So we have nothing to lose by spreading God’s gospel of Jesus and we also have nothing to lose if it becomes time for us to “shake the dust off.”
What a HUGE concept and what a comforting yet also at times disconcerting realization.
Isaiah 46:9-11 Remember the first things of old, that I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me.[I] tell the end from the beginning, and from before, what was not done; [I] say, ‘My counsel shall stand, and all My desire I will do.’ [I] call from the east a swift bird, from a distant land the man of My counsel; yea I spoke, I will also bring it; I formed it, I will also do it.
Another translation says:
Isaiah 46:9-11 Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 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,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
Comforting because there is something, someone, who is in full control of every single aspect of every single little thing, even when from my human perspective, the world, or people or my situations feel out of control. What that really is saying is out of “my control.” And that is absolutely so. I do not possess the control. But someone does.
God declares how things turn out long before they ever happen.
God declares not just natural events but human events; happenings, things that are not yet done.
When God “declares” ahead of time what will be, God says that He will accomplish all of His purpose. God possesses that authority, the freedom, the wisdom, and the power to bring about everything that He intends to happen. And therefore, everything He intends to come about does come about. God plans and governs all things.
We are called to pray. For healing and about every situation we are brought to. And while we may pray in accordance of God’s perfect will, not every prayer we pray will be answered in the way we hope. Not every person in need of a healing will be healed here on earth. Not every situation will turn around to be what would be the best result to the best of our knowledge. The list goes on. Does that mean we do not pray? Oh no. We pray because God tells us to pray. But we do not and can not make God do something, even when our prayers line up with what His word says. Psalm 5:3 Hearken to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for I will pray to You. 1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.
And this is where the disconcerting realization comes in.
The sovereign will of God can be divided into His efficacious will (producing His desired result) and His permissive will. Important to make the distinction because while God is sovereign and He does permit all events that occur, God does not directly cause every single thing to happen. Permitting it also does not put a stamp of approval on it. There are many things God allows to happen that He takes absolutely no pleasure in. And yet, God is allowing it to happen. That on it’s own, can be a disconcerting realization.
All the horrific things that go on in life, our lives, the world, and God is allowing it? Yes. Some may question what kind of God would allow such atrocities. Some may say if that is your God, well, I don’t want anything to do with Him. Well, first of all, none of us have a choice. God is God. We are not. We can “disown” Him but that is simply our foot stomping. He still remains our Creator and He still remains in charge, whether or not a person wants to believe it or accept it.
So, we have this God who is in full control of every aspect of everything and who allows things to go on that are horrific, why?
His efficacious will (producing His desired result.) Some of what occurs is efficacious (it directly contributes to the fulfillment of God’s desire); other things are permissive (allowing for an indirect fulfillment of God’s desire yet not His perfect will, meaning not what He approves of but allowing for the reality of people’s sinful nature.)
God’s sovereign will is often hidden from us until after it comes to pass, and sometimes even then as we may not see the big picture, there is one aspect of His will that is completely clear, His preceptive will. What He desires us to do and behave as is found in Scripture. We do not have the authority to violate it however we definitely have the ability to disobey. That is called sin. It may be God’s sovereign will that we be allowed to sin as He brings His purposes to pass even through the means of the sinful acts of people. However, it makes the sin no less evil, God does not take pleasure in seeing the sin manifest in people, and yet He allows it. The true mark of a level of spiritual maturity in a person is seen in those drawn to know the will of God that is revealed in His preceptive will. Salvation, what it is, what it means, how to receive it, and then how we walk it out in our lives.
So is God this sadistic being deriving some perverse pleasure in watching destruction. No. So how to reconcile God and His purposes allowing horrific events and situations for what?
Genesis 50:20 Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] God designed it for good.
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.
I realize that realizing and accepting God’s absolute sovereignty over all things is hard to fathom. However I am not helped at all by removing God from the equation, by making him a spectator watching the tragedy unfold.
God holds complete sovereignty over all of our actions, while also preserving our genuine freedom. Our actions are as free as they can be. We form our intentions and carry them out. God does not act on our will from the outside, manipulating us to get his way. He actually has created us as beings that possess will. If he had not done this, there would be no “us” to will at all. Evil exists so that Good can triumph.
God could have created a world without evil. If God had not created anything, there would be no evil. If God created a world where people could not choose, God could force everyone to stop before they were able to carry out evil behavior. But is such a world where freedom does not exist good?
If you do not grasp the infinite holiness of God then you may think that somehow the suffering in this world is out of proportion to what is deserved. Meanwhile, the point of our sufferings, pain, miseries, corruption is to teach us the horror of sin and alongside of it, the beauty and preciousness of redemption and hope.
It is good for me that I was afflicted, in order that I learn Your statutes. Psalm 119:71
Suffering in it’s all encompassing, simplest definition is receiving something that we do not want or not receiving something that we do want. And yet, the psalmist says that it is good. Romans 5:3-4 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Rejoice? Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Glory?
Isaiah 35:10 And the redeemed of Zion shall return, and they shall come to Zion with song, with joy of days of yore shall be upon their heads; they shall achieve gladness and joy, and sadness and sighing shall flee. Isaiah 51:11 And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and they shall come to Zion with song, and [with] everlasting joy on their heads; gladness and joy shall overtake them; sorrow and sighing shall flee. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Salvation means that after we die here on earth, we go to live with God in eternity, full healed, fully whole, complete, lacking nothing. We get a taste of this here on earth, but nothing compares to the fullness of what we receive after. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 Our inheritance.
When you pass through water, I am with you, and in rivers, they shall not overflow you; when you go amidst fire, you shall not be burnt, neither shall a flame burn amongst you. Isaiah 43:2
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. John 16:33
I pray this day that God renews and deepens our thinking, quiets our hearts, and deepens our worship and understanding of who He is. May the truth of God’s gospel of Jesus become bigger and deeper in us expanding our trust and faith in Him.