Category Archives: Sanctification

Night Light

2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:2-7)

Merry Christmas!

To Know Better

We’ve known each other for years, but just the other day, over hot coffee and breakfast burritos, down at Janie’s Cafe, I got to know him better.  Mack (not his real name) is a guy I can talk naturally with – no pretense.  Breakfast at Janie’s was a rich time.

Paul writes that one of the things he strives for most is to know Jesus better.

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord... (Philippians 3:8a)

10 that I may know him…  (Philippians 3:10)

He probably knew Jesus better than most, but not well enough for his own satisfaction:

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12)

This morning, after reading those lines, I asked Jesus to show me something about Himself that I didn’t understand well enough.  Kind of looking forward to how He answers that request…

The Trick with Puzzles

The most obvious solution for a puzzle is wrong and leads you astray.  The one that works is counter-intuitive.  You think you should slide the ring over the post, but in reality, doing so actually makes the puzzle harder to solve.  Life here on earth is like that.  The most obvious solutions to our problems often make the problems worse.  Just ask the Hatfields and the McCoys.  Their feud could have been avoided if they had responded to each other in ways that, at first, would have seemed crazy to them.

That’s the principle behind this well known teaching of Jesus: “… the truth will set you free.”  That phrase is often quoted, but what came before it is less well known or understood.  Here is the whole thing:

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Jesus’ “word” is not simply a collection of Scrabble letters, it is the Greek word, “logos,” from which we get our word, logic.  It means the whole way in which one understands reality and interacts with it.  For example,  You see a gathering of people and don’t think much about them.  But if you understand their logos, realize they all served in the same outfit in WWII, then your understanding and interaction with them is changed by that logos.  Jesus invites us to do more than simply know His logos, He invites us to “abide” in it, to make our permanent residence within His way of understanding and interacting with reality.  It is only when we abide in His logos, that we then know the truth that will set us free.

The Sermon on the Mount is full of counter-intuitive teaching that lines up with Jesus’ logos. Such as, forgiveness solves interpersonal problems when the most obvious solution seems to be revenge.  It is only when we makes our home within Jesus’ way of seeing reality that His teaching,  “… if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well”  (Matthew 5:40), makes sense.  But, as happens with frustrating puzzles, once you try the counter-intuitive solution, it seems easy.  It sets you free.

In Spirit and Truth

Tucked in among all the junk mail in the box is an actual letter.  It’s rare enough these days that it warrants special treatment: another cup of tea, some jazz on the stereo and a yank on the recliner lever.  My old friend writes, “Here’s something that made me think of you…”  His words reawaken memories of our friendship. Some people stimulate the best of who you are and he was one of those.  I reread…

Jesus said God isn’t interested in regligious ritual.  He doesn’t care for mumbo jumbo.  What He wants is people who worship Him in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23).  Think of His Spirit, given to you personally, as a living letter.  When you read it, so to speak, when you pause to pay close attention to what He says to you, it reawakens your appreciation of His amazing character and personality.  And makes you really wish you could be closer. It nudges the best of who you are.

I think that’s sort of what Jesus had in mind.

Them Hypocrites

What does Halloween have in common with hypocrisy?  Masks.  The word, hypocrite, comes from a Greek word for mask.  Halloween is better: you get candy and the masks are not as scary.

Sometimes hypocrites wear a mask with deliberate intent to deceive.  But much of the time, what looks like hypocrisy is simply someone trying to act more like a Christian.  Sadly, many churches have taught people to do that. Trouble is, people respond to hypocrisy about like they do to other dead things.  

Jesus had a better idea. Instead of trying to act like a Christian, come to Him in faith and come alive in your soul with His life.  Then, He takes care of the changes.  They flow from inside without masks.  

He said,

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.  (John 15:5)
Pay attention to that last part and put away your masks.  Make your home in Jesus and He will live in you.  But, hey, before you go, help yourself to some candy….

What Moses Also Saw

When you promise yourself you won’t repeat (whatever wrong thing you struggle with) and then blow it – yet again – how many times will God forgive you and give you another chance?  If you are sincere, it will seem unlimited.  But is there any hope for you?  Will you ever break free of that cycle of despair?  

There is.  God showed Moses how He would ultimately fix us.  He showed Moses that He would bless the His Chosen People abundantly in the Promised Land, so long as they remained faithful to Him.  He showed Moses how they would mess that up and be banished.  This would happen again and again.  But the cool thing is how God also showed Moses what He would do to fix that cycle of hope followed by failure.  For them.  And for you.

“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” ( Deuteronomy 30:6)

Circumcision is a perfect metaphor, if you think about the tough exterior that forms around our sinful hearts.  The first time we deliberately sin it bothers us.  The next time?  Not so much.  And God’s plan is to remove that callous and make us responsive to His ways. He will do it so we can live!  How will He do it?  God gave another glimpse to Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  (Ezkiel 36:26-27)

When God causes His Spirit to be born into a calloused heart, He lives there softening and removing that tough, unresponsive exterior. This “reborn” heart becomes responsive to God. 

Jesus promised to give new life to anyone who trusts Him, through the birth of God’s Spirit in their hearts.  Their sins are forgiven, their souls are cleansed and they receive God’s Spirit.  Ultimately, the cycle of failure is broken.  They are set free.  

Mo and Zeke saw it coming.

Who’s to Blame?

If you get caught speeding and get a ticket, do you blame your dad?  Do you say, “He shouldn’t have let me drive that fast.”  Probably not, unless you are the neurotic sort.  And yet, you hear people commonly say, “If God is good, why does He allow such wickedness in the world?”  

They blame God for our wickedness, believing in a kind of god that does not exist.  Their idea of a good god is one who automatically makes it impossible for people to disobey his instructions.  Then when people do bad things, they blame God.  A dad who operated like that would never be considered to be good.  God, the real God, does not force obedience.  He lovingly instructs and allows us to choose.  Forced obedience is for robots, not humans.  In order to correctly assess who is to blame for the problems in this world, we have to believe in the God Who really exists.  

And how are we to know what He is like?  He is like Jesus.

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.   (John 12:44-46)
Jesus did not force His followers to obey; He invited them to do so.  He promised them, if they did, they would discover that “the truth will make you free.”  Same thing with the real God.  

Instead of blaming God for our problems, why not try living by His instructions?

You See?

Insanity, it is said, is doing the wrong thing again and again, expecting better results each time.  That is also what God calls blindness and deafness.  In effect, God told His people, Israel, “Here’s how life is supposed to be lived.  Do it this way and you will be amazed at how wonderful are the results.  But, make up your own way to live, and you will eventually be in agony, stumbling about in your blindness and deafness.”  Sadly, the people didn’t listen and they couldn’t see.  Time after time they rebelled, God rescued them, restored them and gave them the same message.  Each time the improvements were short lived as the people decided they knew better.

Through Isaiah, God appealed:

18Hear, you deaf;
look, you blind, and see!

20 You have seen many things, but you pay no attention;
your ears are open, but you do not listen.”   (Isaiah 42:18&20)

Remember that choice of words as you see how God described the Messiah Who would come to fix things:

6 “I, the Lord, have called you [i.e. Jesus the Messiah] in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. (Isaiah 42:6-7)

So Jesus, when asked by John the Baptist if He was the Messiah, sent back this word:

4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  (Matthew 11:4-5)

Jesus wasn’t simply referring to the physically impaired. See the connection?  God hopes so.  He continued speaking to His people through Isaiah with this important question for all of us:

23 Which of you will listen to this
or pay close attention in time to come?  (Isaiah 42:23)

You see?

A Gift for You

​A tree was planted in Israel in memory of my wife.  The words get blurry as I type that…  I received a notice in the mail about that wonderful gift and stood, transfixed, as I tried to imagine what sort of tree and where it was planted.  Then, who would one day find shade beneath it.  These days my mailbox is almost entirely stuffed with junk mail.  But that gift notice was a precious exception.

Here’s a gift notice for you, if you would like to have it.  It’s for everyone who follows Jesus in faith.  It’s not very long, but warrants spending a bit of time trying to imagine all the what, when and where implications.

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.  (2 John 1:3)

Toss the envelope if you want, but hang on to the gift tag.  You’ll want to go back and reread it from time to time…

Daddy’s Shoes

Little boy comes clomping around the corner with his tiny feet in Dad’s huge shoes.  It’s an unselfconscious act, cute, but with a profound heartbeat.  It says, “One day, I want to be just like Dad; when I get big I want to fit in his shoes.”  Same thing with girls and Mom.  
This pertains to a verse of Scripture that initially makes me recoil.

And everyone who thus hopes in him [Jesus] purifies himself as he is pure.  (1 John 3:3)

The word I most readily associate with purity is “boring.”  It reminds me of being forced as a child to wear an itchy wool suit and sit at the dinner table with my hands folded and my mouth shut. Why would I want to do that to myself now, as an adult?  Give me jeans and fire up that motorcycle…

The problem is twofold: 1) we don’t have a good understanding of what purity is, and, 2) we don’t understand the right motivation for purifying ourselves.  

Jesus modeled perfect purity but, as far as I’ve been able to determine, never wore a wool suit.  He was not One to follow pointless, restrictive rules derived from other people’s inhibitions, but lived with an easy and attractive “rightness.”  When you think purity, think about how comfortable Jesus was inside His own skin, how He effortlessly lived in harmony with God’s perfect design.

The verse that preceeds the one I quoted puts the motivation for purifying ourselves in the proper perspective.  John began his thought with these words:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.   (1 John 3:2)

We tend to think of reluctantly struggling to be pure so God won’t be angry with us.  Instead, think about happily clomping around in Daddy’s shoes, with the childlike hope and trust that says, one day, I’ll be like Him.