My Flesh Cries Out in Agony

My own spirit and the Spirit inside me want only You, but my flesh cries out in constant agony over its desires. Like a kicking and screaming toddler, my flesh wants its way. Holy Spirit, give me dedication and devotion like Daniel. Help me to find better discipline. Help me to love You better, love You more, love you fully, love you best!

Don’t Question the “To-Do” List from God

When I was a kid, I was a latch-key kid after my parents divorced. My mom would leave me a list of things I had to do before she got home. My job was to finish the list, not question the list. It wasn’t a good idea for me to decide for myself what I interpreted the list to say. A friend of mine says that when she pulls into the parking lot of her work, if she sees her boss’s car parked, she immediately sits up straighter in her car even though he is not actually around. It is her instinct to do so. We should feel the same way with God. He is ALWAYS watching but we never consider the simple fact that he is there.

How oddly un-odd it is that we don’t consider God’s omniscience more. He is EVERYWHERE and yet we excuse our behavior as something out of our control such as PMS or in my case gluten or whatever other issue we have that gives us the weak ability to excuse our actions and words or more plainly our poor behavior towards others. Jesus asked us to love one another as he has loved us. I do a terrible job. He asked you, he asked me! He asked us to do everything as if we were doing it to Him and for Him personally. Yikes, that is not the case in my every day life. Today I resolve to consider God’s presence at every moment, in every conversation, in every thought, in every simple interaction, with every usually mindless facial expression to others. Today I will start my journey towards loving others and completing tasks with the weight of God’s omniscience!

Are You Willing to be a Servant?

The below chapter is out of The Calvary Road by Roy and Revel Hession, Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. I hope you enjoy this and it helps you gain deeper insight into how we should respond to one another in light of our salvation.

Are You Willing to be a Servant (Chapter 8)

Nothing is clearer from the New Testament than that the Lord Jesus expects us to take the low position of servants. This is not just an extra obligation, which we may or may not assume as we please. It is the very heart of that new relationship which the disciple is to take up to God and to his fellows if he is to know fellowship with Christ and any degree of holiness in his life. When we understand the humbling and self-emptying that is involved in really being a servant, it becomes evident that only those who are prepared to live quite definitely under the shadow of Calvary, ever contemplating the humility and brokenness of the Lord Jesus for us, will be willing for that position.

As we approach this subject and its personal application in detail to our lives, there are three preliminary things which need to be said to prepare us to understand the low and humbling position which He wants us to take.

In the Old Testament two sorts of servants are mentioned. There are the hired servants, who have wages paid to them and have certain rights. Then there are the bond-servants, or slaves, who have no rights, who receive no wages and who have no appeal. The Hebrews were forbidden ever to make bond-servants of their own race. Only of the Gentiles were they permitted to take such slaves. When, however, we come to the New Testament, the word in the Greek for the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ is not “hired servant” but “bond-servant,” by which is meant to be shown that our position is one where we have no rights and no appeal, where we are the absolute property of our Master, to be treated and disposed of just as He wishes.

Further, we shall see more clearly still what our position is to be when we understand that we are to be the bond-servants of One who was Himself willing to be a bond-servant. Nothing shows better the amazing humility of the Lord Jesus, whose servants we are to be, than that “though He was in the form of God, He counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself and took upon Him the form of a bondservant” (Phil. 2: 6,7)–without rights, willing to be treated as the will of the Father and the malice of men might decree, if only He might thereby serve men and bring them back to God. And you and I are to be the bond-servants of Him who was and always is a bondservant, whose disposition is ever that of humility and whose activity is ever that of humbling Himself to serve His creatures. How utterly low, then, is our true position! How this shows us what it means to be ruled by the Lord Jesus!

That leads us to something further. Our servanthood to the Lord Jesus is to express itself in our servanthood to our fellows. Says Paul, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus, the Lord, and ourselves your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” The low position we take toward the Lord Jesus is judged by Him by the low position we take in our relationship with our fellows. An unwillingness to serve others in costly, humbling ways He takes to be an unwillingness to serve Him, and we thus put ourselves out of fellowship with Him.

We are now in a position to apply all this much more personally to our lives. God spoke to me some time ago through Luke 17: 7-10. “But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.”

I see here five marks of the bond-servant. First of all, he must be willing to have one thing on top of another put upon him, without any consideration being given him. On top of a hard day in the field the servant in the parable had immediately to prepare his master’s meal, and on top of that he had to wait at table–and all that before he had had any food himself. He just went and did it, expecting nothing else. How unwilling we are for this! How quickly there are murmurings and bitterness in our hearts when that sort of thing is expected of us. But the moment we start murmuring, we are acting as if we had rights, and a bond-servant hasn’t any!

Secondly, in doing this he must be willing not to be thanked for it. How often we serve others, but what selfpity we have in our hearts and how bitterly we complain that they take it as a matter of course and do not thank us for it. But a bond-servant must be willing for that. Hired servants may expect something, but not bond-servants.

And, thirdly, having done all this, he must not charge the other with selfishness. As I read the passage, I could not but feel that the master was rather selfish and inconsiderate. But there is no such charge from the bond-servant. He exists to serve the interests of his master and the selfishness or otherwise of his master does not come into it with him. But we? We can perhaps allow ourselves to be “put upon” by others, and are willing perhaps not to be thanked for what we do, but how we charge the other in our minds with selfishness! But that is not the place of a bond-servant. He is to find in the selfishness of others but a further opportunity to identify himself afresh with His Lord as the servant of all.

But there is a fourth step still to which we must go. Having done all that, there is no ground for pride or self-congratulation, but we must confess that we are unprofitable servants, that is, that we are of no real use to God or man in ourselves. We must confess again and again that “in us, that is in our flesh, there dwelleth no good thing,” that, if we have acted thus, it is no thanks to us, whose hearts are naturally proud and stubborn, but only to the Lord Jesus, who dwells in us and who has made us willing.

The bottom of self is quite knocked out by the fifth and last step–the admission that doing and bearing what we have in the way of meekness and humility, we have not done one stitch more than it was our duty to do. God made man in the first place simply that he might be God’s bond-servant. Man’s sin has simply consisted in his refusal to be God’s bond-servant. His restoration can only be, then, a restoration to the position of a bond-servant. A man, then, has not done anything specially meritorious when he has consented to take that position, for he was created and redeemed for that very thing.

This, then, is the Way of the Cross. It is the way that God’s lowly Bond-servant first trod for us, and should not we, the bond-servants of that Bond-servant, tread it still? Does it seem hard and forbidding, this way down? Be assured, it is the only way up. It was the way by which the Lord Jesus reached the Throne, and it is the way by which we too reach the place of spiritual power, authority and fruitfulness. Those who tread this path are radiant, happy souls, overflowing with the life of their Lord. They have found “he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” to be true for them as for their Lord. Where before humility was an unwelcome intruder to be put up with only on occasions, she has now become the spouse of their souls, to whom they have wedded themselves for ever. If darkness and unrest enter their souls it is only because somewhere on some point they have been unwilling to walk with her in the paths of meekness and brokenness. But she is ever ready to welcome them back into her company, as they seek her face in repentance.

That brings us to the all-important matter of repentance. We shall not enter into more abundant life merely by resolving that we shall be humbler in the future. There are attitudes and actions which have already taken place and are still being persisted in (if only by our unwillingness to apologise for them) that must first be repented of. The Lord Jesus did not take upon Him the form of a bond-servant merely to give us an example, but that He might die for these very sins upon the cross, and open a fountain in His precious Blood where they can all be washed away. But that Blood cannot be applied to the sins of our proud heart until we have been broken in repentance as to what has already happened and as to what we already are. This will mean allowing the light of God to go through every part of our hearts and into every one of our relationships. It will mean that we shall have to see that the sins of pride, which God will show us, made it necessary for Jesus to come from heaven and die on the Cross that they might be forgiven. It will mean not only asking Him to forgive us but asking others too. And that will be humbling indeed. But as we crawl through the door of the broken ones we shall emerge into the light and glory of the highway of holiness and humility.

Dread

Philippians 2:12 says to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  If we are called to work out something, that means to figure out results by taking action, by doing something. This is what the Greek word “katergazomai” means. It is a tricky word but when you see how it is used in Scripture in the other 23 times you will start to understand that it does not simply mean to “ponder” or “think” about something. If we are to do something about it and in that “doing” it will cause us “fear and trembling” then dare I say this is a serious thing we need to do?

If we look up what the Greek words for “fear” and “trembling” mean we find “phobos” and “tromos”. You can guess the root for “phobos” as we find it in our word “phobias”. When you understand how the Greeks used it, they usually meant it in a way that comes over a person physically. Like terror or something that is frightening and takes over our whole body. We “fear” so many things today that the word has lost its weight. I think the word “terror” may be better because it is more rich and accurate to how the Greek word “phobos” was used.

The Greek word for trembling is “tromos” which means “anxiety induced trembling” and also its root is found in the word “tremo” which means to be afraid. Going further, the primary Greek word that they are both from is “treo” which means to dread something or be terrified. These are powerful words! We are told to really dig deep and work hard in a very intense way to make sure we are saved.

My dear reader, I must warn you though, the devil is crafty. This is not a call to continually doubt your salvation. Oh, how he would love that! Our Fruit Audit has two purposes. It is a call to edify the church. If you are truly saved, taking the Fruit Audit will assure you and lift you up. On the contrary, if you are convicted, have feelings of guilt, or see your life as not bearing fruit, then by all means doubt your salvation. Allow the Holy Spirit to convict and convince you of your sin, righteousness, and yes, judgment. That is what you must dread. The power and holiness of God, that is what you must tremble before. Get right with God! See what it truly means to grow from the Source of Living Water.

Fruit Audit ~ Celebrating the Sabbath (Understanding the 4th Commandment)

Many Christians or those who identify with Christianity don’t observe the Sabbath. The number one reason that is stated is because Jesus abolished Old Covenant Laws when he died and rose again. Most Christians today view observing feast days and Old Testament Levitical laws and rituals as nullified. They lump the Sabbath in with the rest because it is a clearly celebrated Jewish custom and we don’t see it as a moral law but consider it a ceremonial law. Many will argue that the 10 Commandments are made up of mostly moral, permanent commands and that one, the 4th (keeping the Sabbath), is considered ceremonial and therefore temporary and amoral. The issue here is the type of law we are talking about. There are 2 types and most people don’t fully understand what those two are. The first is God’s Law which are considered permanent. They are the 10 Commandments. The second are the Mosaic Laws and are considered temporary. These are the laws that consist of ceremonial rites that were abolished at the cross. The notion that observing the Sabbath is no longer important is a highly debated area for Christians. Could there be a third option? Rather than discussing it as a ceremonial law, can we look at it as something more? If it was, in fact, just a ceremonial law that would be abolished at the cross, then why would God place it in the 10 permanent laws?

Observing the Sabbath has a cloud of confusion surrounding it because as mentioned above, it can be considered by people as an amoral law, or not a question of wrong or right but more of a preference. Because people have justified it as being ceremonial and amoral, they feel justified in not observing it. I encourage you to think this through a bit. Keeping the Sabbath is one of the major commandments given by God and is part of His permanent laws. It is the 4th commandment. God is a God who values numbers. We do not know exactly why, but we know that numbers are very important. He made it the 4th in a list of 10. You can consider that if you wrote a list of 10 rules for your kids, the top 5 might be more important to you. This is speculation, but when you look at the first commandment it is not hard to find this as a possible conclusion. The Sabbath also finds it’s roots in the very first pages of Scripture in Genesis 2:2-3, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” In verse 3 God states that the seventh day is made holy. The Hebrew word for “holy” is “qadash” which means sanctified or set apart. Hypothetically, if keeping the Sabbath day was not listed in the 10 Commandments, a simple reading of Scripture should convict us to keep the 7th day holy on the basic premise that God himself set apart the 7th day as holy and He rested. GOD rested. Did you catch that? GOD! So why do we think we should not rest.

We live in a world where we can hardly catch our breath. We over commit, over produce, over work, and flat out over heat. In this case we have desperately over-stepped our boundaries. God doesn’t need to rest. He is God. He gives us a great example to follow by allowing us to rest. He wants us to rest. Observing the Sabbath is not a burden it is a blessing. Consider the first 5 commands: love God above all, make no idols or images, honor His name, rest one day a week, and honor your parents. When these rules are followed there are blessings to be had. MAJOR blessings. We have somehow decided as a people group that we should not murder, commit adultery, steal, or lie but outside of that everything is fair game. God is not a god of confusion but harmony. He did not randomly create this world and he certainly did not arbitrarily decide on the 10 Commandments nor did he place them in a haphazard order.

The main passage that is pointed to in the New Testament that have allowed Christians the ability to look at the Sabbath as something we do not need to observe is Colossians 2:16-17. The passage states, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” To understand this verse we need to look at its context. There was a lot going on in the church of Colossae in regard to the Old Covenant Laws. Paul wrote this letter to expose the heresy that was going on there and to ultimately stop it in its tracks. This church was involved in all sorts of doctrinal problems such as deceptive philosophy, holding on to human traditions, food restrictions, keeping of feast days and the Sabbath, angel worship, pride, circumcision, and several other elements that are considered heresies. The passage in question is calling out one such area. We must, however, not think that Paul is saying you should not keep the Sabbath, but rather look at it in a different light. Even in regard to the festival days or the new moons. He states these are a “shadow of the things to come.” Many people interpret this to mean a shadow that comes before Christ and his sacrifice at the cross. Certainly, this is true, however Christ is not finished and we are living in the time between two prophetic rashes, one when Jesus lived, and one when the end times come. There are major prophecies which substance still belongs to Jesus and will be happening in the future.

This has to do with understanding the meaning of both our rest now from the bondage of sin as well as our eternal rest that will happen in the furure. To define the Feast Days and the Sabbath as a shadow is to understand that a shadow is but an outline, a glimpse of a man before he actually passes by just as a prophecy foretells things to come. Prophecy is God’s fingerprint and is immensely important to our understanding of God’s grand plan. Please follow as I outline the significance of Feast Days and the Sabbath as briefly as possible.

The festival days all point specifically to prophetic events. There are seven Moedim or Feast/Festival Days which are God’s appointments with his people. In order they are the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (the day after Passover), the Feast of First Fruits (the 3rd day from Passover), Pentecost (Feast of Weeks), the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashana), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). Four of these happen in the Springtime and have already been fulfilled. At the Passover, Jesus was crucified, which signifies Jesus as our Great Deliverer redeeming us out of slavery just as Moses did for the Israelites from Egypt. Jesus was buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread which symbolizes purity. Leaven is a sign of death and decay as well as sin. He was resurrected on the Feast of Firstfruits, and is the first of the firstfruits to be raised from the dead to eternal life. The Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost which commemorates the giving of the Torah through Moses on Mount Sinai and yet we now have the fullness of the Law written on our hearts by the Author Himself who lives inside us, the Holy Spirit.

Here is where it gets really fascinating if what I just outlined was not fascinating enough. Please note, these are simply my speculation based on my own study and since the rapture clearly has not happened yet, this is only speculation. Three of the festivals/feast days have not yet been fulfilled. Because the festivals, moons, and Sabbath are described as a “shadow of the things to come” we need to determine what the “things to come” are specifically. Knowing what we know about the appointments God made with his people and which ones have already been fulfilled will help us understand the Sabbath better. The three that need to be fulfilled are the Fall Festivals: the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashana), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). The final things that we, as Christians, are waiting for, that have yet to happen are the rapture, Christ’s triumphant return, and the 1,000 year reign. They all line up perfectly, in order, with each solidly signifying each respective item. The Feast of Trumpets signifies the final trumpet and the wedding feast where Christ takes up his bride, the Feast of Atonement is also considered Judgement Day, and the Feast of Tabernacles which is a thanksgiving feast in which we will celebrate the harvest of God and is considered a highly jubilant time.

When you study these appointments you will see God’s plan for us to focus on Him and his mercy and his eternal perspective rather than how the people of the church of Colossae were trying to make it a legality of keeping these days or observing the Sabbath. They were missing the point altogether. The Sabbath as well as the final three Feast Days are things we should be celebrating and looking to with glee and unabated anticipation. Hebrews 4:1-13 talks about “entering His rest” and references Genesis 2. This is why it is so important to celebrate the Sabbath rather than look at it as a restriction on our weekly routine. Let’s take a look at the full passage.

“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” ~ Hebrews 4:1-13 ESV

This passage in Hebrews 4 is talking about 3 things at once. First, since it opens with the word “Therefore” it is following the discussion in chapter 3 where it references the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and due to their disobedience were unable to enter into the rest God promised them. Second, it references God resting on the 7th day as a sign of a covenant between Him and his people (that includes us today). Third it references our promised rest through salvation and eternal life. There is so much symbolism and meaning surrounding the Sabbath as it pertains to our own salvation I am in awe at how blind some are to its importance. By simply celebrating, honoring, and setting apart a day in our week as a day of rest by reflecting on God and giving it to Him allows us the tremendous blessing of growing, learning, knowing, and understanding Him more. Allow this day to be something your spirit longs for and protects.

Let’s begin by simply shifting our perspective on our “day of rest.” What did God intend it for and how should we observe it? Let’s start by thinking of it as a celebration of our salvation, a blessing to our spirit, and a privilege by which we have been granted access to His thrown. By observing it we gain a great gift from God by growing in His grace and truth. By observing it we give thanks to God for our salvation and our future rest in eternal life. By celebrating it we give honor to the One who put this perfect plan in place for us to be a part of.

With all this in mind I would like to encourage you to simply start. Start by deciding on a day of the week that will be your Sabbath celebration. There is nothing in Scripture that mandates which day you celebrate your Sabbath on. Many modern Christians hold to a Sunday Sabbath. We work 5 days at a job, on Saturday we do chores and other errands, and on Sunday we take the entire day off and enjoy fellowship at church and at home with family. Others view Saturday as their Sabbath as they view Sunday as the actual first day of the week giving God the first part of their week through Sunday worship. This is fine too. Many others hold Monday as their Sabbath. If you work in ministry, then you will work through the entire weekend and would need your day of rest to be on a weekday, whatever day that may be. Don’t stress over the day, but do pick one and make it a day that is consistent.

Once you have chosen a day of the week, start considering things you may do on a day of celebration, rest and rejuvenation. The Israelites became great at nit-picking everything, again sticking to the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law. What things do you not consider work? Spending time with family. Going to the beach. Reading a good book. While these are all restful things and important to rejuvenation, let us not forget the reason we celebrate our salvation. It is Jesus! We need to consider doing things that would bless and glorify Him. Use your Sabbath to study His Word, teach your children the gospel, serve at a homeless shelter, care for your neighbor by having a conversation on your patio. There are all sorts of things you can do in honor of your salvation. Pray for an extended time on the Sabbath. Go street witnessing or perhaps go door to door in your neighborhood and simply ask those who actually open their door if you can pray for them about something this week. You will be surprised at how much these things will refresh and rejuvenate your soul. When your perspective shifts to understanding this as a celebration of your salvation and your eternal life to come, your motives and your joy will shift about keeping the Sabbath.

Fruit Audit ~ Hollowed Be Your Name (Understanding the Third Commandment)

If you identify with Christianity, call yourself a Christian, or call Jesus your God you will undoubtedly know the Lord’s Prayer. Each denomination has a slightly different variation on the same thing based on which Biblical translation of the original Greek text taken from Matthew 6 they use. It starts in verse 9, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Why do you think Jesus started out like that? “…hollowed be your name.” What exactly does that mean? “Hollowed.”

The Greek word is “hagiazo” which means to make venerable or respected. It means to clean out and make pure. It means to separate from profanity. We know God is holy but what about His name? Jesus is asking that we first ask that the first Person of the Godhead’s NAME be made respected, that His NAME be made pure, that His NAME is not to be profaned. The world we live in is so far from that, so much so, I even catch Christians saying “Oh my G-d” often. Not only is the desire to make God’s Name respected the first thing Jesus told us to pray for, but it is also commanded of us in the third commandment to not use in vain.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” ~ Exodus 20:7

God’s name is to be respected and it is not. God’s name is to be upheld as pure and it is not. God’s name is to be separated from profanity and it is certainly not. When a great king or our president enters a room, we all stand up out of respect. If you stayed seated most everyone around you would either guilt you into standing by their glares or someone would grab your elbow and make you stand. How often do you correct someone when they profane God’s name? How often do you get jealous for the name of God?

I admonish you to not let it go when you hear the Lord’s Name taken in vain. Stand up whenever you can on this major issue that the world and even the church has taken a lighter view on. I’ve even heard a pastor from the pulpit say “Oh my G-d” when as he was recounting a story. I was so shocked I did a double take. I thought, “Did he actually just say that?” I looked around and oddly no one caught it. I had to re-listen to the tape to see if I was hearing things and sure enough, there it was, plain as day. That is how subtle this sin and issue is in this world.

There is a second way in which the third commandment is meant. It is not one that is often thought of but I fear that because of that simple fact, it can seep in more easily and cause us to get caught in sin and not even know it. When you speak to someone do you constantly say their name over and over during that conversation? I doubt you even say it once. They know you are talking to them. But how do we pray? We say “Lord Jesus.” “Father God.” “Oh God.” “My Father.” “God, just.” “God, just.” “God, just.” That last one I said three times, because it is the one I hear most often. Just…just…just.

First off, we are using God’s name in vain by continually using it as padding during our prayer to him. Second, we are speaking in such a disrespectful way when we keep saying “just” as if we could speak down to him and he would do what we ask. Think about it. Who do you ever talk to that way? “Would you just do this?” “Just help in this area.” Usually we use that word in the question form to our children. Not only is it another filler word when you pray, it is also a very disrespectful way of speaking to God Almighty.

Finally there is a third way in which we break the third commandment. This one is the most insidious. When we do anything in our life there are always motives behind them. When you brush your teeth in the morning, we say we do it because we want to take care of our teeth and not get cavities or get any pulled out. However realistically the real reason we brush them in the morning is because we don’t want anyone to smell our bad breath. Of course we brush them twice a day so we don’t loose them, but our motives are usually tainted with self preservation based on what others will think of us. Our actions may be righteous in light of our teeth, but our motives are not pure. Have you ever done something for God or in his name? We do things all the time for God. We serve in our church, we discuss his Word in small groups, we give money to the poor, plus a whole host of other things we would consider as “good” or “righteous” deeds.

God has said in Isaiah 64:6 ESV, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Many translations state it as “filthy rags.” The term for “polluted” and “filthy” is “iddah” which is the feminine noun describing a woman’s menstruation. This is how graphic and to-the-point our God is! Our deeds, that we consider righteous, anything you do or have done that you can claim as being good or in the name of God, is counted as dirty, disgusting, used, feminine hygiene products. You don’t ever hear this preached from the pulpit so please don’t take my word for it. Be a good Berean and look it up. Find out what the original text said and meant. It is clear as day. Our motives are stained, soiled, and ultimately disgusting to God in comparison to what pure righteousness actually is.

This is not to say you should hold up in your home and do nothing good. Quite the contrary. The Bible is clear all over the place that we are to do as many good deeds as we can so others might praise our Father in Heaven. It is our motives that trip us up. Sadly we may not even clearly see our motives and our brains can deceive us fully. The saying “hindsight is 20-20” is so true for anyone who has claimed Christianity as their path in life and then became actually saved later in life. I am one such person.

I can look back and literally laugh at how blind I was to my righteous deeds. Every single one of them was polluted. Everything I did in God’s name was nullified by my selfish motives that are only clear now. I was a leader in my church and loved the respect I got from others. I was the pianist on the worship team and loved the praise from adults and peers. I was a missionary and loved the pats on the back I got from going to serve. I was a prayer warrior and loved when people in the church came to me first. I was even a harmonizer who loved to get compliments on my voice after worship. How disgusting! How deplorable! How dishonest!

An area that I see most often in the church or in Christian circles is people trying to make a profit off of each other by joining various groups and then promoting their business or service. I am guilty of it myself. What are we to do? Not let people know what we do for a living? Christians love to help each other and we would rather use the products and services of fellow Christians than buy from someone else. So, here is where it gets tricky. I have seen time and time again wolves in sheep’s clothing so to speak. People who come into churches and Christian circles with an underlying motive to make a profit. They may not be doing it consciously but subconsciously they know how easy it is to sell to “Christians.” Even the Christian magazines and radio stations state why Christians like buying from within the “family” as a part of their marketing materials to get you to advertise with them. Before you try to sell anything to any Christian, check your motives.

So what about now? Now that I am actually saved? That is the catch-22 I suppose. Now the Spirit convicts me of my motives either before I do them, during what I am doing, or very VERY soon after I do them. My heart weighs heavy when my motives are wrong. But, even now my righteous deeds are STILL like filthy rags. No one does good, no not even one as stated in Romans 3:10-12 ESV as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Remember what Jesus says in Luke 18:19 ESV “And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

How do we process all of this then in light of our salvation? Are your motives tainting your good deeds? Do you find yourself doing things “in the name of God”? Do you constantly say His name over and over again in prayer without a thought to it’s weight. Do you find yourself using the Lord’s Name in vain? Do you say OMG as your “Christian” way of fitting in? I know that this world has desensitized us to it. We see it everywhere in hashtags, on billboards, in texts, even on TV show title sequences. Can I tell you something? It breaks my heart. Seriously. Every time I see it or hear it, my heart crushes into my chest a little deeper. There are variations too on the same thing: Oh Em Gee, Oh My Gosh, Jeez, Jesus, they all stem from the same deplorable thing: breaking the third commandment. This is not a joke. It is a serious thing. Taking the LORD’s name in vain should not be a product of the time we live in. Be clear on this, it is a product of the deceptive design of Satan.

You may have been a Christian for a while and have possibly gotten desensitized to this. It is possible that this has never been an issue for you until now because it never occurred to you that it is considered a sin (one of the top 3 by the way). But maybe, just maybe you are not fully saved. OK, now before you get defensive consider this: I spent 25 years thinking I was saved. On this topic I pretty much steered clear of saying “Oh my God” but occasionally I’d say it. Jeez was a regular statement for me. Then, I actually got saved. I was 39. Instantly my spirit was crushed every time I heard or saw any of the phrases taking the LORD’s name in vain. It was like the moment you decide you want to have a baby all you see are babies everywhere. It was all I could do to stop my ears with earplugs. No one told me this, it was the Spirit inside me that was grieving what my own spirit never grieved before.

I am not saying that you definitely are not saved if you say or use any of those statements, however you may not be. Check yourself. While I am not God and do not know your heart, and I clearly do not have it all worked out, I do know the God’s law is written on my heart and without any warning or theological training, this specific thing was so palpable when I got saved and still is that I cannot help but think it should at least be viewed as a red flag and worth digging deeper to see if you are truly saved.

Fruit Audit ~ Our View of God (Understanding the Second Commandment)

Most people when they read the second commandment think, “I have no problem with that one.” They read it to mean we should not have any idols, like the carved statues of Bible times. We even go into understanding the concept of what our idols are of today, like worldly things, money, or even ourselves, plus a potential plethora of other items that we can easily place as an “idol” over our love for God. While this is all true it is not the whole of what the second commandment means.

Here is the text of the second commandment as seen in the ESV version of Exodus 20:4-6 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

It is curious that the first commandment is simple and straightforward, yet the second commandment needed 3 distinct directives. It is almost as if we wouldn’t get it and need a little extra explanation. He knows we are dust and in that I find great relief in His mercy, however we are to be good Bereans (Acts 17:11) and study the Word of God by searching for answers and understanding. Read the above verses from Exodus 20 again and ask yourself, “What could I be missing?”

God tells us not to create idols or symbols that we would worship such as worshiping a cross or praying to a statue in a church as a method to help us get in the “mood” to worship. However God also tells us to not make any likeness of who we may think God looks like. There is a great deal to learn about our own salvation based on how the significant full meaning of this commandment plays out in our lives. While this may not be a salvific issue in and of itself, I often consider that the number one issue when it comes to why people may think they are saved when in fact they may not be is their view of God.

Ask yourself these questions: When you think of God, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Who has He been to you over the years? Daddy? Friend? Helper? Disciplinary? Do you think of him as your Co-pilot? When you imagine seeing Him for the first time what is it like in your mind’s eye? Is He a big Santa Claus type that you imagine yourself crawling up into His lap and having Him hold you tight?

Everyone has a different “picture” of who God is and what He looks like. Naturally they are based on who we are and what we have learned and experienced God to be. Interestingly enough our views are not right at all. They are offensively wrong. Consider this: if you asked me to show you a picture of my husband and I showed you a picture of a snail, you might laugh or think I was nuts. What if I was serious and said to you “Isn’t he the most gorgeous man on the planet?” You might start to feel sad for me. You might pity me. But more importantly it would be an offense to my actual husband. He would surely ask me to stop representing him in that way.

This is how it is to God when we conjure up images in our mind of what God looks like. When we see him for the first time we won’t be cuddling in his lap, we will assuredly be in shock and awe at how wrong we were and we will forever be amazed at the glory that is his alone. Consider that the homecoming you have imagined will more likely start with your body swiftly slamming to the ground with your face firmly planted as low as you can get in the presence of your Maker as a form of humble worship so humiliating that we will only but desire to worship and adore him like never before. Oh the day! As you study the Bible and learn of any account where a human sees God, or fully sees the Deity of Jesus, you see statements such as “I am ruined.” or “Woe to me!” or “Depart from me, I am not worthy!”

All of these statements used to utterly confuse me. Why were they so ruined? Because in the presence of a holy God their wretchedness was made fully and overwhelmingly crystal clear. They understood, at that moment, that they were wrong, dead wrong, in there original assessment of who God was. In his excellent work “Knowing God” J. I. Packer states, “We were made in his image, but we must not think of him as existing in ours. To think of God in such terms is to be ignorant of him, not to know him.” With that in mind, we may then conclude that it could be salvific. If our view of God is so low then we may be worshiping something fully and wholly NOT God at all.

After all, in the second part of the second commandment God states, “for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,” That is a very harsh reality and one I would surmise is not something he is saying about those whom are saved. The last part of that sentence is: “but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” As Christians we consider us to be part of that last part and not the former.

When you fall in love with someone the very first desire we all have is to find out everything we can about that person. We want to know their soul. We want to know their passion. We even want to know their mundanity. Every little thing, no matter how frivolous it may be. If you consider yourself a Christian but perhaps find yourself not knowing that much about God, I encourage you to start your study today. Research his attributes. Discover who He is based on what He has revealed to us and not what you feel He is like based on your own ideas. Search Him out and if it is at all possible that you are not saved then perhaps in your study of God and the heightening of your view of Him, He may be gracious and merciful to you by drawing you closer to Him and bless you with an unquenchable thirst to know everything you can about Him as he has revealed in the Scriptures.

“a true image of God is not to be found in all the world; and hence that His glory is defiled, and His truth corrupted by the lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in a visible form…Therefore, to devise any image of God, is in itself impious; because by this corruption His Majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is.” ~ John Calvin in his Commentaries of Exodus 20

11:11 IMHO

God is a God of numbers. He created them. They are purposeful. Do you ever find yourself looking at the clock and it is exactly 11:11? It happens to me all the time. In fact, there is a whole group of people out there who have tried to determine the meaning of this odd yet widespread phenomenon. Here is my take on it.
Numbers have significant meaning all over the Bible. A few that I am sure you will understand are the following: 40, 7, 666, 1000. These are just several of the many numeric symbols that are found throughout Scripture. The number 1 relates to God is One. The number 11 or 11:11 is not something that is referenced in Scripture, so here is where I am purely speculating, so please indulge me in this little slice of “smile time.” For me, whenever I see the clock and it reads 1:11 or 11:11 my heart smiles, I smile. If anyone is near my I scream “Eleven eleven! Eleven eleven!” Most people think I am nuts but I love it. Why? Because all I see is God. For that brief moment, God reminds me to look up. I see those little numbers as little arrows all pointing up. I see those little number 1’s all in a row as God’s army and am reminded of my purpose on this earth. I see the number 1 and remember this world and our existence is not about me but is fully and completely about the 1 who died for us. Jesus. I see those 1’s and am reminded that God is ONE. The Alpha and Omega. God IS. So, the next time you look at your clock and see those numbers, take a moment to praise God for his perfect timing and his grace and mercy on you. I view it as a God “wink” telling me I am on track. It is like when I wink at my kid as a private visual “hug” so he knows I am watching him. He loves that. I love it too when my amazingly powerful and all-knowing Dad gives me this little smile from Heaven.
Cheers!

Fruit Audit ~ No Other Gods (Understanding the First Commandment)

The 10 Commandments are the foundation of God’s Law. We can rattle off about 4 or maybe 5 that we know by heart like, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, but beyond those your mind may get a little fuzzy. Do you know the first one? Many people say it is “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” This is what Jesus said was the most important commandment of all so it makes sense we would think that is the first commandment, however, the first commandment is that you would have no other gods before God himself. At first look they seem different, but in fact, they are the same. Let’s take a look at those verses in the Bible.

Exodus 20:3 is the actual first Commandment and it reads, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5 reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” The first part of that passage, “The LORD our God, the LORD is one” is the essence of the first Commandment. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 when he answers the scribes question in Mark 12:28-30. It reads, “And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.'” If you love the One True God in this way, there is no room for any other gods.

How do these verses apply to us today? We are a God-fearing Nation, are we not? We think to ourselves, “Of course I don’t put any gods before God.” I thought that God was my only god when in fact I was simply deceived into thinking that was true. To paraphrase my pastor, he says that Satan’s best work is not through people who devil worship or those we think of as satanic, but that his best work is done through people who have a Bible in their hands. Think about who Satan is. If you had 6,000 years to perfect the art of anything, you’d probably be a master at your craft. Satan’s craft is deception and you better believe he is a master at his craft. 1 Peter 5:8 states, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

I’ve heard people say they don’t like to think about Satan and they don’t want to give him any credit. I fear that is a fatal flaw in their thinking. We are told to be watchful and sober-minded. We need to be aware of our enemy so we are not deceived. If you know what your opponent’s game plan is you will have a greater ability to defend yourself. How, then, do you know if you are being deceived? How would this apply to “bearing good fruit in keeping with salvation”? When you consider your opponent in any situation you always try to think “what would be the best way they could win?” and then you would use that against them. Usually we think of the most obvious game plans, but often it is the most insidious.

Satan may consider, “How can I get droves and droves of people to believe they are saved, give them a false sense of security, and then send them all straight to Hell?” I think his best platform is taking the 10 Commandments and getting people to generally think they are “good people” and that they love “God.” He would take the definition of God and he would lower people’s view of God himself through a faulty definition. He would slowly but surely take the human-valued perceived understanding of holiness away from God. He would take our basic human nature, our selfish nature, our sin nature, and feed it with pride. He would take the God of our youth and subtly, systematically, and systemically take God off of the alter on our heart and allow us with all grandeur to firmly replace Him with ourselves.

It is not about other “gods” like tiki gods or worshiping little statues. For people who identify with Christ, those who call themselves Christian, it is about getting them to worship themselves. We worship ourselves by doing things on our own. We worship ourselves by thinking our accomplishments are our own. We worship ourselves by pridefully thinking we are somehow entitled to life and everything in it. Our selfish prideful entitlement is our god. How do you then use this as a litmus test for our salvation? How can you tell if you are not obeying the first Commandment to have no other gods before God alone? Simply look at your life. Jesus gives us some obvious clues when he said we need to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

What does your life look like? How much do you love God? Do you love Him with ALL your heart, or just on Sunday from 9-10am? Do you love Him with ALL your soul, or only when you are hurting and crying out in prayer for his deliverance? Do you love Him with ALL your mind, or only for the few minutes a day you devote to reading the Bible, if you even do that every day? Do you love Him with ALL your strength, or just when it is convenient for you. I know this is a high bar but it is what it means to be a true follower of Christ. I’m not saying you must be perfect all the time. We all mess up and often find ourselves quite a bit below the bar. That is why salvation is an act of grace. A gift that is received at once. Our sanctification is a life-long process. We are asked to be holy yet we are sinful. While we cannot work our way to heaven we can see with clarity the natural outpouring of our spirit’s desire to love God in this way. Our hearts can attest to its truth while our minds try to trip us up. “It is unattainable” the Great Deceiver tells us. Satan has watered down over the decades the idea, reality, truth, and fact that loving God in that way and with that intensity is what is needed in order to be called a true Christian. The first Commandment is something to be highly considered when you work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Speculation in a Scary and Dangerous Thing

In the scholarly circles of men there is a buzz of speculation that tends to occur. Why and how things work that seemingly have no answer. Natural conundrums without explanation or reason. But when we get into scholarly debate and speculation on God, the sky seems to be the limit. Or is the sky the limit? Because when I begin to really contemplate God, my mind starts to hurt because it is somewhere out in orbit where I cannot seem to breathe.

So, I need to take a step back. To speculate on any answer that is not answered in the Bible is wrong. Dead wrong. God has revealed to us all he wanted to reveal to us. Of course the Bible cannot contain the depth and breadth of who he is or what his plan is. But here is where I get excited…

You know when you watch a movie, but not just any movie, but a REALLY good one? Those are the ones that when you get up from your seat you say to yourself and those around you, even perfect strangers, “WOW! I didn’t see THAT coming!” Somehow I think when I die, I will say that over and over again in wonder, joy, and awe. Wow, I never realized that is why… or Wow, I would have never thought THAT is who you were talking about… and on and on.

There are mysteries still that we will not know or understand until we are on the other side of eternity. What a glorious day to see my Savior’s face, and how fun it will be to look back on history with a crystal clear picture of God’s perfect and wondrous plan.