The command to love…

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.””
‭‭John‬ ‭13:34 ESV‬‬

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:9-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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“What do you say to these dark times?”

I was recently asked this question. I answered my old friend with what follows.

I hear your exasperation. Let me share three ideas from Scripture that might be helpful to you.

1) From his incarnation in Rome, Paul told the Philippians that he had “learned to be content” whatever the circumstances. This has really helped me during the pandemic. I have found the Scriptures to be a safer haven than ANY kind of media. Which brings me to another truth that he wrote about from the same context…

2) C. S. Lewis said “Aim at heaven, get earth thrown in.” This is Lewis’ way of helping us with Paul’s admonition to the Colossians:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians‬ ‭3:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Indeed, we must be reminded regularly that Christ is superior to all the opposition of the world. The writer of Hebrews – who was writing to people who were persecuted with Jesus in the later 1st century. They we’re asking a similar question as posed above. The writer of Hebrews had a great message: Jesus is superior to everything created, so HOLD IN TO HIM! I commend this epistle to you.

From that great letter, remember this:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
‭‭(Hebrews‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

God hears your frustration with the darkness in the world and ways of the world, and – trust me – he understands. Earlier in the letter he says:

“…At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” (Hebrews‬ ‭2:8‬c ESV‬‬)

3) But please remember this:
God is God.

He acts according to his perfect will which is beyond human challenge.

His greatness supersedes all human understanding.

He is here and he is active.

He knows the hearts of all people and deals with each one justly. Because he is just.

Finally, from a purely human perspective: As a student of history, I can tell you that this dark time is nothing new. Since the Fall, humans have brutalized one another. All serious students of history and of the Bible as well, will recognize that – unlike humanists – we don’t believe man is getting better, mankind is sinful, mankind is broken. To expect man to solve the world’s problems is like expecting a sparrow to stop a hurricane. It can’t happen.

The answer to darkness in the world for serious disciples of Jesus is this:

Run to HIM. He is the answer, and he alone.

Trust not man, trust God.

Then, when you see the atrocities that I have seen, you will understand as I have learned, that the sin and injustice of mankind to one another is not a reflection on God, but a reflection of the fallen-ness of our race.

Rely on HIM, not them. Then you can survive anything “they” throw at you.

I pray our loving Lord will give you trust in Himself, and that peace will result.

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5th Day of Christmas

Jesus is our great high priest who understands us better than we ourselves. This is a key to Christmas!

“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” Hebrews‬ ‭8:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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hard dried brushes don’t work so well

Much is said about the heart. It is the symbol for ❤️ love. It has been used famously by New York advertising. The physical muscle is essential for life as it pumps blood. If it does work right, you’re in trouble.

It’s also about feeling. To refer to an unfeeling or angry, hard to get along with person, we might say “She has a heart of stone.” Or “He is hard hearted.”

In the Old Testament, God tells the prophet Ezekiel that he will give his people hearts of flesh instead of hearts of stone. This is the work of God’s Spirit inside a person.

One might ask, how?

I attended a workshop on the New Testament book of Hebrews today. In one session we discussed a section that warns people not to remain immature. Not to be satisfied to just drink milk. But to eat solid food.

I like solid food! We had steak to celebrate my wife’s birthday. We rarely eat steak. Mine was really good. I chewed it slowly and savored the taste. I didn’t rush as I often do.

The Spirit changes us, according to Ezekiel, from the inside out. But we have a role in this change. Our role is to abide in Jesus.

Abiding in Christ takes many forms, using various spiritual disciplines. Prayer is essential, as is Scripture engagement. Abiding through prayer and engaging in the Bible are key to being changed from the inside out.

Meditating on the word, slowly, is a key way the Spirit works the word into my heart to change it. I usually need a lot of changing. This requires time. Time to soak and rub off some of my crustiness, like dried up paint brushes.

I enjoy painting. This past summer I learned that if I mix a certain kind of yellow, a certain kind of purple and white together I get various shades of a sandy tone. (I love painting beach scenes.)

I start out dark for wet sand near the water’s edge, and gradually move to lighter colored sand, where it is drier. If the mixture is too dark, I add white. The more white paint I add to the palette, the lighter it becomes. If it gets too light, I add just a little touch of purple and mix thoroughly. It takes practice to get the color to change into the hue I am looking for. Add and mix. Add and mix.

My heart is the same.

I find that the more Bible I read, the better prepared my heart is to meditate slowly on Scripture and pray. I have often observed that soaking in the Bible, reading it deeply is the answer to my hard hearted ness.

When I fail to wash my brushes and palette, they dry up and are hard. They cease to be useful.

To soften my brushes and clean my palette that have dried up, and are hard and difficult to work with, I soak them in water with some soap. This cleans and softens them so they are useful.

Scripture and prayer are the water and soap that soften my heart. Then God can use my heart to love others.

There’s a lot of anger these days. People are really mad at each other. People are enraged at people they don’t even know. People who think of themselves as disciples of Jesus wish ill upon people they don’t even know. It blows the mind.

When I feel this way, I know that I need to soak my hard heart in prayer and God’s word. And, like my brushes that I’ve allowed to get caked and hardened, I often need to soak extra long.

If your heart is hard, and you can’t figure out why…

If you can’t get over some slight that you have received…

If you wish ill upon some whole class of people who are different than yourself…

The doctor’s prescription is to soak longer in the word of God and talking to the God of the word.

Don’t stop soaking just cuz ur 20 minutes are up. Keep soaking until the crust softens. Chew some solid food slowly. (I use copying Scripture paragraphs slowly to do this) Whoever is waiting will be the beneficiary of your softer heart. Trust me in this.

You’ll know that it’s working when you realize your wrongs, that’s when we are being humbled.

That’s the rubbing. So don’t stop.

Pretty soon, you’re heart will be soft, peace will be deeper and you’ll be more loving. Even to people you just can’t understand.

Then, with that newly softened heart, you’ll be more useful to The Artist.

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Look up

Look up!

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In HIS time, not mine…

Slow down, be still and wait…

“…acceptable time…”

“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” 1Peter‬ ‭4:16, 19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God is god.

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