What Is A Help Meet? Part Three

I heard some people who claim to know Hebrew say that the phrase “help meet” can be translated as “help against.” The interpretation then would be a benevolent and loving adversary.

Is that interpretation possible? The word “meet” in the Hebrew is only translated “meet” one time. Most of the time it’s translated as before or against. It carries the idea of face to face, in front of. Eve was made to be in Adam’s face! But not as an obnoxious opponent, but as a loving and benevolent partner.

Is the word translated “before” and “against” used in an adversarial way elsewhere in the Bible? That’s our first place to begin examining the possibility of this translation.

I found several. Here are some:

Joshua 5:13—man with a sword stands against Joshua

Joshua 8:11—people of war came before the city of Ai

Judges 20:34—10,000 men of Israel came against Gibeah

1 Kings 20:27—Israel arrayed in battle before Syrians

The word in these verses is meant adversarialy. And clearly not a benevolent and loving adversary! Eve was created as a helpful adversary though; these passages refer to adversaries in combat.

So, the word “meet” can be translated this way, although there is no necessity that it should be translated this way. But it is possible. Based on these verses, I think it’s ok to float the possibility that the benevolent adversary is a possible interpretation.

The next thing to look at is whether the Bible speaks of other relationships in this manner. Here are a couple examples that popped into my head:

1. God and humans

One could make the case that God is a benevolent adversary of people. This is the same God who put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden. He didn’t have to do that, but He was testing, being an adversary. There’s the example of Jacob wrestling with God and being named Israel. God is constantly a loving adversary to the people of Israel, a people who wrestles and struggles with God. You can’t think of this line of reasoning without considering the Book of Job! Certainly God was an adversary there! God is constantly testing and correcting and chastening people. He’s always doing so out of love and for our benefit.

2. Satan and humans

Satan is sometimes called the adversary. There is no love with Satan. He’s not opposing us for our good, to make us better or stronger, but to destroy and kill.

3. Parents and children

Parents and children have an adversarial relationship. Kids are kind of dumb as they are new to this world. Parents have to be loving adversaries, to oppose the crazy ideas their kids come up with for their own good. Kids, as they grow older, often question their parents’ rules, some of which legitimately are weird. This opposition is not done with respect and love many times. Too many parent child relationships skip the benevolence and the love and just become adversarial. God is a Father who chastens His children whom He loves just as earthly fathers do.

4. Friends

Iron sharpens iron. A wise man takes correction and a good friend gives correction. The Body of Believers, the Church, were given rules about church discipline and keeping each other accountable, confessing our sins to one another, reproving and rebuking when necessary, and encouraging each other to do good as the Day approaches.

Most relationships have a loving adversary quality to them. None of us is complete in and of ourselves. Even before The Fall in the sinless garden, it was not good that man was alone. We need help. God provided relationships in our lives for our benefit. People who isolate themselves get weird quick. We need other people to keep us from veering into weirdness.

The Bible presents enough for me to say that translating “help meet” as a benevolent and loving adversary is a possibility. Do you have to take it this way? Probably not, nothing demands you do it, but it’s an interesting theory.

What Is A Help Meet? Part Two

It was not good for Adam to be alone, so God made him a help meet. Help meet can be translated a “help against.” The interpretation of that possible translation would go something like this:

Eve was created to be a benevolent and loving adversary, one who would stand before Adam face to face. If Eve loves Adam, then she wants the best for him. If Adam loves Eve, he wants the best for her. Adam and Eve are one in their relationship, but also because she is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. What’s good for one is good for the other.

Male and female are both in God’s image and reveal things about God’s character. With only one we would miss out on who God is, something would be missing from creation. Together male and female can help each other know God and live better.

Unfortunately, this benevolent adversary relationship hit a snag.

Eve listened to the Serpent and ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She did not discuss this with her husband. She did not act out of love. According to the Bible, she acted out of fleshly desire (Genesis 3:6).

Once God confronted them over their disobedience, God handed out some curses, the painful results of their rebellion against the one who gave them life. Note the curse handed out to Eve in Genesis 3:16, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

Here’s where The Fall really messes with this benevolent, loving adversary relationship. Before The Fall the concept of an adversary was beneficial. We hear “adversary” as a bad word with negative connotations, and often it is. But done right, it can actually be beneficial.

But after The Fall the male female relationship will be tough. Your desire will be to your husband and he will rule over you. The same Hebrew phrase is used in Genesis 4:7. “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” Sin desires to rule Cain and will rule over him if he doesn’t take care of his first sin immediately. Cain did not, and next thing you know sin had him out killing his brother.

That same phrase is used in relation to Eve and her husband. Eve will desire to overpower her man and her man will rule over her. It’s all messed up. Now the male female relationship is truly just adversarial, almost as enemy combatants. It’s how we see the world acting and talking about males and females today. It’s ugly and helps no one.

Love is hard after The Fall. It might have even been hard before The Fall seeing as how Eve didn’t act very lovingly even then! Now the situation is possible for a woman to be entirely unhelpful to the point God had to put Proverbs 14:1 in the Bible, “a wise woman builds her house, a foolish woman tears it down with her hands.” It’s a sad thing, but happens many times.

The institution of the family is the natural result of a male female relationship. If both male and female love each other and desire to help each other even if it means disagreeing, then the home will be built up. But unwise, unloving people will tear their own families apart.

To me, if we take this benevolent and loving adversary, one who stands before you and has an opinion shared with the intent of being helpful, sounds a lot like iron sharpening iron.

If both male and female are loving and able to talk through the other’s stupid ideas! Then that family has a real shot at making it! But as soon as love leaves and selfishness and fleshly desire takes over, the entire family will be torn to pieces.

Being an adversary is not necessarily a bad thing, it is actually what is needed to make people better. We’ll test that theory next time and see if the Bible carries that idea into other relationships.

What Is A Help Meet?

Genesis 2:18 says it was not good for man to be alone, so God made Adam a “help meet.”

Typically people think God made Adam a helper to help Adam do Adam’s stuff. In other words, Adam was down here doing his man stuff and God was like, “You know, Adam could sure get his man stuff done quicker if he had some help.” So then God made a woman to cook and clean for him so Adam could do his stuff.

Help meet seems to imply inferiority for many people. Eve is sort of Adam’s servant to do the busy work while he’s out doing big, important man things. This is, in fact, the way I’ve seen and heard many people describe Christian marriage. I’ve even seen marriages arranged this way and well, the track record isn’t great. The man is out doing man stuff while the wife is at home feeding kids and doing that stuff.

What’s interesting about this take is that many of these same people celebrate the Proverbs 31 woman, who, if you take the passage literally, rarely ever seems to be at home!

The typical understanding of a help meet is task oriented. Eve was created to help Adam get his work done.

The Hebrew words translated as “help meet” are ayzer and nehghed. I am no Hebrew scholar, let me state that upfront and clearly. I must rely on others who know the language.

The first word ayzer does indeed mean and aid or help. There is little debate over that word.

The word translated “meet,” nehghed, has some nuance. Again, many Hebrew words have multiple meanings. Most of the translations of the word elsewhere in the KJV (this is the only time it’s translated as “meet”) are before or against.

And this is where things get interesting! I heard a guy who knows languages say that the literal translation here could be “a help against.” Or one who stands face to face with you. He then backed it up by quoting a Jewish guy who said the same thing.

They went on to both say that Eve was a “help against” Adam. The way they put it was that she was a benevolent and loving adversary.

Now, the fact that two language guys agree on a thing doesn’t mean they are right! So I began looking into the idea.

The idea they conveyed is that Adam needed someone to bounce stuff off of, like ideas, not rocks. Adam would be better off having someone alongside him who cared for him, but also resisted some of the dumber ideas!

I’ve known guys who despise women and all that women say and represent, and they tend to be pretty stupid in various areas of life. I know for myself how much having a wife, a woman around me constantly, has helped me grow.

And this was the idea they conveyed. Both male and female are in God’s image. Adam alone is not the full image of God. It wasn’t good that he was alone. The male and female approach things differently. We need each other. And I’m not even talking about every female needs a husband or every male needs a wife.

Nope, don’t even need to go there. Paul says he preferred that people didn’t marry (1 Corinthians 7:7-8).

What I’m saying is that if you’re a woman and you don’t think you need men, or you’re a man who doesn’t think you need women; you’re crazy.

This is the problem with today’s feminism. I have a book in my bookstore called “Are Men Really Necessary?” The answer of the female author is, “No, not really.” That’s just dumb. Men are pretty handy creatures.

This extreme feminism has also resulted in a backlash of extreme macho maleness. These guys trample women and despise them. Not good.

Men and women will not be helped by trashing each other. It is not good for us to be apart.

Although it may be fun for a time to be a man who does man things and has a wife who says “yes” to everything and never gives a contrary opinion, I also know it would get boring and I would be more of a moron than I currently am.

I personally have a wife, a woman, who is a good help meet. I know she loves me and I also know she disagrees with many things I say and do. I also love my wife and disagree with many things she says and does. We are working on a relationship where that can be worked out peacefully and for mutual benefit.

It aint easy. It is the source of much male/female difficulty and why there is so much divorce and hatred for the opposite sex.

Perhaps if we understood the help meet concept better it would help us all.

So, is the help meet interpretation as a benevolent and loving adversary biblical? We’ll look a little more tomorrow!

It Is Not Good That Man Should Be Alone

When God finished making everything He said it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Then in Genesis 2:18 He said it was “not good” that man should be alone.

This is an interesting statement. The typical take is that Adam would be lonely and unable to procreate. Certainly these things are part of the deal, but there might be more to it.

“Alone” means apart, separate, only, or alone. Hebrew words can have many meanings and the context lets you know, usually, which one fits best. “Alone” is probably the right one. But I like the idea of apart as well, especially considering what comes before and after.

Before this Adam was naming the animals. None was a suitable match for Adam. He was apart from the rest of living creation.

After this, in Genesis 2:21-23, God puts Adam to sleep, removes a rib, and makes woman. Adam sees her and says “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”

There is commonality between the two; they are both human and separate from the animals. Then in Genesis 2:24 God says the man and woman will cleave to each other and be “one flesh.” One flesh clearly means they are not apart anymore!

Male and female were both created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Male and female are clearly different, however. I say “clearly” because they clearly are, but as we know our society today doesn’t always see clearly.

It is quite easy to tell the difference between a male and female biologically. Not difficult at all if science means anything. There are also characteristics and thought patterns that are clearly different. Sure, there is overlap, but there is a male and a female way of thinking and feeling. To deny this is, again, to deny clear, provable, and scientific evidence. It’s weird to even have to qualify that.

Male and female are different. At the same time, both reveal aspects of God’s image. If all we knew was male humans, we would miss out on aspects of God’s image and the same is true if all we knew were female humans. People are finite; God their creator is infinite. In order to reveal all of who He is it took two separate kinds of humans to reveal it.

Unfortunately, much of the differences between male and female have also led to many misunderstanding, mockery, and even hate and violence. This is not a flaw in God’s creation from the start, but rather a result of The Fall (we’ll get there).

After God declares that it’s not good for man to be alone, Genesis 2:18 says that God will make a help meet for Adam. “Help meet” is the King James translation.

I have no idea what you think a “help meet” is or what you’ve been taught about it. But I recently heard a take on it that intrigued me. I want to look at it a little bit and will endeavor to do so. Consider this my long-winded introduction to my main point, which will be revealed in the next few days.


Jesus Was Heard Because He Feared God

Contemplating the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ is confusing. I do not claim to have it all figured out. No one does. Even the angels are looking into this Gospel that Jesus accomplished (1 Peter 1:12). Angels are smart and have been around a long time and have seen things I can’t imagine. Even they don’t quite get it!

It often seems in the passages where the Bible explains it more, it just gets more confusing. Here’s an example from Hebrews 5:7 speaking about Jesus:

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared

It would be my opinion that we’re talking about Jesus prayers in the Garden right before His betrayal, beatings, and crucifixion. That’s where He prayed with crying and tears. He prayed to His Father who was able to save Him from the brutal death awaiting Him.

Then there’s this: He was heard in that he feared. Now that’s; wow.

How exactly was He heard? Typically when we think of God hearing our prayer we associate that with us getting our request. Jesus’ prayer was, “Let this cup pass from me.” He prayed to the One who could “save Him from death.” Clearly, Jesus’ main request was to avoid the coming death.

But Jesus was not spared that death. Jesus was betrayed, beaten, and crucified. So, in what sense was He heard? Does it just mean God audibly heard the words and nothing more? God was listening, God heard it, His ears worked?

Well, if you know the totality of what Jesus prayed, He added, “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” That was His essential request. And God’s will was for Christ to go through with the betrayal, beating, and death on the cross.

So, Jesus was heard in that He feared, but it didn’t appear to do Him much good! But actually, it was His fear for God His Father that made Him add, “Nevertheless not my will but thine be done.” Christ knew what He Himself wanted, but also had fear (most modern translations soften it and say “respect”) for His Father enough to know that what His Father wanted was best.

Most of us think God hearing us means we will get what we asked for, but that’s not the best way to think of God answering prayer.

If we come to God in prayer with the proper fear, the fear His Son even had for Him (even though “I and the Father are one” and all that Trinitarian stuff was true), then we will know that what we want may not be the best thing. We are free to share our requests with Him, in fact we’re commanded to do so (Philippians 4:6), but we also know our thoughts and perspectives are limited and fallible. I’d rather have God’s will be done than mine. If you fear God, you’ll desire that too.

So, what good did it do Jesus to pray and have His Father hear Him if He had to still go through what He desired to avoid? The next verse seems to answer that:

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him

Here’s another mind blowing aspect of the divinity and humanity of Christ: He learned! I thought Jesus knew everything? How could He learn? The word “learn” here means to learn by experience. It’s not a theoretical understanding, he lived it and knows the very depths of what obedience entails.

Then we’re told that Jesus was “made perfect!” Goodness, it just keeps going with unbelievable statements. The word “perfect” means complete. He finished everything the Father had lined up for Him to do. Everything was accomplished, which is why after His ascension He was seated at the right hand of the throne of God. He has the place of ultimate honor, praise, and delight, all because He did His Father’s will. He did His Father’s will and not His own, because He feared the Father.

I imagine this holds much importance for us and our approach to God in prayer. We’re not here to tell God what to do, to name it and claim it, or be presumptuous. Our prayers are to be offered in the fear of God, knowing that He knows better than we do since we do not know what to pray for as we ought. Most of our requests are based on our fleshly interest and comfort. It seems as though some of what Christ was praying for in getting out of His coming death may have been based on this comfort idea, although certainly had more than that going on.

Anyway, I will probably end up saying blasphemous things if I keep going. This is one fascinating passage that deserves our attention, not only for what it says about the divinity and humanity of Christ, but also about our own human approach to our divine Father.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

                        –I john 5:14-15

Jeremiah And Christian Happiness

Keeping verses in context is how you understand their point. It’s also how you eliminate simplistic, happy conclusions.

I’m not convinced life is as happy as people make it sound, and I certainly doubt when Christians tell me their life of faith is unspotted happiness. It doesn’t ring true.

I came across a verse the other day that was happy, but it also stood out in its context. Here’s the verse:

Sing to the Lord!
    Give praise to the Lord!
He rescues the life of the needy
    from the hands of the wicked.

–Jeremiah 20:13

How happy and nice! Now for the context. Here are the verses right before it:

But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior;
    so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced;
    their dishonor will never be forgotten.
Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous
    and probe the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
    for to you I have committed my cause.

–Jeremiah 20:11-12

These verses are about wanting God to kill the bad guys. Do some vengeancing, Lord! And here are the verses right after verse 13:

Cursed be the day I was born!
    May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!
Cursed be the man who brought my father the news,
    who made him very glad, saying,
    “A child is born to you—a son!”
May that man be like the towns
    the Lord overthrew without pity.
May he hear wailing in the morning,
    a battle cry at noon.
For he did not kill me in the womb,
    with my mother as my grave,
    her womb enlarged forever.

–Jeremiah 20:14-17

Go ahead, make a happy Bible study out of that one!

Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet.” He had a rough gig. The people he preached to were already doomed, the writing was on the wall, they were toast. But individuals could save themselves from the coming judgment, but most refused the offer. Jeremiah was rejected and persecuted because of his attempts to save a few.

It was a ministry doomed to failure. If you look up the phrase “not listen” in the Bible, you will notice that the Book of Jeremiah has the most uses and it’s not even close!

God is so fed up with their not listening, that He says He will no longer listen to them! Don’t bother praying, God won’t intervene. He already showed them how to be delivered, either do that or get toasted.

Jeremiah lived in a tough time, a sad time, seeing the downfall of the people for whom God had done so much. The covenant comes to a crashing halt. Jeremiah weeps.

I find it hard to imagine Jeremiah going along with the modern happy Christianity of our day. I believe he would say with James, “Let your laughter be turned into mourning.”

Lives are falling apart, but we’ve made peace with sin. We not only don’t fight materialism, we’ve all but embraced it and called it “God’s blessings.” Jeremiah would see right through it.

If Jeremiah taught your next Bible Study group, would you return? Would you desire to hear more?

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said there is wisdom in the house of mourning and stupidity in the house of mirth. I’d much rather hear from Jeremiah than any guru hopped up on some notion of happiness.

However, no one wanted to hear Jeremiah even in the midst of in your face sadness, I can’t imagine anyone heeding Jeremiah’s message in our time of affluence and comfort.

We’re missing something. The Bible never once says that happy comfort leads to spiritual growth, or that spiritual growth leads to happy comfort.

What it does repeatedly say is that tribulation leads to spiritual growth and spiritual growth leads to tribulation. Hard to get people out of their happy material life to go hear that message.

So, Jeremiah and his ilk get ignored while judgment stands at the door.

Knock knock.

Faith In God Or Acceptance By People

Each of us desires acceptance. There’s nothing wrong with that desire, but where you turn for that acceptance can produce all kinds of wrong!

If you desire acceptance from people, you will do whatever it takes for their acceptance. You will honor their opinions and fold under their peer pressure.

If you desire acceptance from God, you will do what it takes to get His acceptance. You will honor His opinion and follow His guidance.

You can’t do both.

Here are two passages that make this point:

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

–John 5:44

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

–Galatians 1:10-11

Desiring acceptance from people is done by external show. You will follow fashion and fads. The way you talk, act, and look will be shaped by who you desire acceptance from. I’ve seen people do very weird things with their hair and clothes and skin to appear part of some group or another.  

The passage in John, which quotes Jesus, pretty much says if you desire glory, honor, and acceptance from people you cannot believe. That’s pretty strong!

What’s keeping you from faith in God, from obeying His Word? Odds are it’s because you think you’ll look stupid in front of other people if you actually went with it. Everyone knows we got here by random evolutionary processes, only stupid people believe God created the world. Everyone knows various notions of sin are outdated and patriarchal, only stupid people live their life according to an old book written thousands of years ago.

So, to save face, to make sure no one thinks you’re weird, you will reject what God says. Oh sure, you might take some respectable parts of the Bible, the couple verses that seem nice (don’t judge, love one another, care for the sick and poor, etc), but you’ll make sure to define the words the way you want so you don’t have to do anything too radical or fanatical.

You may tell people you believe in God, that you are interested in “spiritual things,” but big whoop! Be specific! Anyone can say general floaty things, but do you believe to the point of obeying what God has said in His Word?

If you want acceptance from the world, you must follow the world. If you follow God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, your life will be transformed. The world will not recognize you. You’ll feel ostracized, out of it, and dumb.

For the short time of life, that will not feel great! But in eternity it’ll feel fantastic.

You have a choice: believe God, His Gospel, and His Word, or be accepted by people and honored by the world. One or the other. What’ll it be?

Were the Founding Fathers Christians?

One of the subjects I’ve gotten pushback on over the years is that I don’t think America was founded by Christians or as a Christian nation.

Many people think America is pretty much Israel Part II and the Constitution and Bill of Rights are another book of the Bible. Many insist that America was founded for religious freedom.

I’ve read quite a bit of history. I’ve also read the Bible.

The actual formation of America was done contrary to biblical commands. People are supposed to submit to their government and pay their taxes. The Revolution was fought so as to not pay taxes and to overthrow the supposedly oppressive regime. This was not biblical to any degree.

I’m usually in the minority among Christians with this viewpoint and people tend to get hostile about the issue enough to generally make me just shut up.

However, I was recently reading a book by Norman Geisler critiquing humanism in all its forms. I’ve learned several things.

The first thing I learned, which has nothing to do with my main point, is that C. S. Lewis is a Christian Humanist and thought the Old Testament was mythology and not to be taken seriously. He thought many of the Psalms were demonic in origin and thought David only wrote one of them. I had no idea.

The second thing I’ve learned is that I’m not alone in my understanding of American history and Christianity. Geisler also does not buy the idea that America is or was a Christian nation. Here’s a quote:

“Contrary to a myth popular among many American Christians, most of the nation’s founding fathers were not evangelical Christians. . . Actually our nation’s founders were largely humanistic (or deistic). Some prominent men in early American history were even anti-Christian. Thomas Paine for example launched a bitter attack on Christianity in his book The Age of Reason. There were few evangelical Christians among the signers of the Declaration of Independence, John Witherspoon being a notable exception. And when George Washington was asked if the United States was a Christian country, he replied that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” It is these early humanists who saw to it that our nation is committed to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Those three things are not Christian virtues, but they are solidly embraced as humanistic virtues.

Humanists think that religion gets in the way of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If you don’t think so, feel free to read Geisler’s book Is Man the Measure? It is a fantastic explanation of the dangers of humanism and how we are all part of its satanic lies at this point.

I am grateful to live in America as it has afforded me many opportunities and freedoms I hope to use for God’s glory. At the same time there are many pitfalls, temptations, and dangers wired into its structure. Be aware of them or else you might be one of those who is choked out with the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.

New Testament Christianity is not compatible with humanism, or with American politics. It just isn’t. We are citizens of heaven with a better country and a better King. We live for heaven. Use what you’ve been given here, but be on guard. Don’t compromise. Don’t conform to the world around you. You can’t serve two masters.

Speculating About Methuselah

I remember hearing about Methuselah when I was in Sunday School. Pretty much the only fact I remember is that he was the oldest person in the Bible. There isn’t much else to know about him as the Bible gives little Methuselahic detail.

But that’s never stopped people’s speculations before, why should it stop us?

Methuselah was the son of Enoch, who walked with God and was taken to heaven. Methuselah was so old it is probable he knew Adam, which is cool.

Methuselah had a son named Lamech who had a son named Noah, who built the ark.

Interestingly, if you do the math in the genealogies, Methuselah died the same year as Noah’s flood.

Which raises a question: did he die in the flood? The Bible says no righteous people were outside the ark when the flood came. One would think, if your dad was a guy who walked with God so much God took him to heaven, and your son was the chosen righteous one to preserve humanity through the flood that you were a pretty good guy yourself.

If so, perhaps God graciously allowed him to die shortly before the flood came.

No one really knows and it probably doesn’t matter one way or the other, but it’s fun to think about. I’m kind of bummed I was never told any of this in Sunday School. Then again, I probably was told it and wasn’t paying attention. That is, in fact, the more likely scenario. I accredit some of my spiritual maturity to the fact that I wasn’t paying attention in Sunday School. Less weird stuff to overcome don’t ya know.

Anyway, that’s all. Have a fantastic day.

Bible Reading: Christianity’s Lucky Rabbit’s Foot

I read a book talking about how to be a good Christian. One of the chapters, yes one chapter, was about how you should read the Bible. To put it in context, there were at least 40 chapters in this book. One was about reading the Bible.

Anyway, it encouraged you to read your Bible regularly, which is indeed a good idea. The author promised that the days when you read your Bible will be noticeably better than the days you don’t.

I’ve heard this sort of nonsense before. I find it funny. The only person who says this is someone who does not read their Bible daily.

For many years I have kept the habit of reading my Bible daily. I’ve had many bad days in that length of time. I have never noticed that since I began reading my Bible daily that all my days are better. I suppose, in all fairness, I should have not read my Bible for all those days as well to truly test the hypotheses, but that’s humanly impossible.

Furthermore, the days I most often have skipped Bible reading over those years are days when my schedule is off, typically because I am on vacation or have some other plan. I have frequently found those days to be tremendously enjoyable! Nothing to do with not reading the Bible much to do with being on vacation.

There have also been other days when I know my day will be bad but I read the Bible to help me through. The day is still bad.

Telling people that their day will be better if they read the Bible is the Prosperity Gospel. It’s Health and Wealth teaching. “Do this specific spiritual thing and you will materially be better off.”

If you’ve heard me or read me enough, you know I’m constantly talking about reading your Bible, knowing it so well that you know the context of every verse and can automatically tell if what someone says is consistent with the Bible. I’m all for people reading the Bible, but I’m not for lying and manipulating.

Your day is going to be your day. I guarantee you that a life spent reading the Bible will be more balanced overall, more overly satisfying, but to put it on the daily testable level is goofy. I know many faithful Christians who have awful, painful lives. I know many complete heathen scum people who enjoy themselves quite nicely.

Doing a spiritual thing for temporal, physical payoff is not the point. We read the Bible to know God, to grow in Christ, to understand what we’ve been given in the Gospel so we know how to live. Will it help your life? Undoubtedly. Will it make tomorrow your best day ever? No.

Furthermore, if it were true that simply reading your bible for “only ten minutes a day” actually makes your day measurably better, I’m quite sure more people would read their Bibles daily. But they don’t. Why not? Because it really doesn’t make that big of a material difference that quickly. That’s not how it was designed. There are no promises remotely like it in the Bible.

Yes, a life lived in constant awareness of God’s Word will have certain spiritual benefits, but this does not equate to material betterness.

Don’t fall for the Health and Wealth/Prosperity Gospel lies out there. They have taken over Christianity. If the only reason you are reading your Bible is to have a better day, don’t expect to read it that faithfully because you will be woefully disappointed by the results.

Read the Bible to know God. This life is momentary suffering. We live for eternal rewards, not physical perks. Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Get to work. Your eternal soul depends on it.

Help! I Can’t Stop Judging People’s Doctrine

Hi, my name is Jeff and I’m a theological criticizer.

I have a problem, a serious problem, one I can’t shake even if I want to, and in all honesty, I’m not even sure I want to: I criticize the theology of everyone.

Just today I heard a Christian song. It had the word “grace” in it a lot. It used big words and was doing a fine job of sounding deep and theological. People cry out for new worship songs with doctrinal depth, so I’ve noticed new songs having bigger words in it. The problem is that if you know what the words mean you can tell they are just stringing them together with no real concept what they are talking about. I did not like the song.

I then heard a guy talking and I could tell within seconds he was a Calvinist. Then he kept talking, as Calvinists do, and yup, he came right out and said Calvinist stuff: you can’t believe; God has to make you believe. You can’t do anything good and the only good you do you didn’t do it anyway, God did that through you. Calvinism through and through. I do not like Calvinism.

I read part of a Christian book where the author said they are not disciplined in their writing, they write when they are inspired to. They write in a way like John did on the Isle of Patmos, “Write what you see.” Oh man. The author either doesn’t think John was inspired or thinks she is. Either way I have a problem. I don’t like it when people put their words on par with Scripture, or say stuff like God spoke through them. I do not like blasphemy.

I’m well-schooled in the Bible and I know a fair bit of Church History and various doctrinal camps. I’m well read and have talked to many Christians. I know what people are talking about. I don’t have to think about what I’m hearing to come up with judgments; the judgments are just there. And here’s the thing, my judgments are right.

I know that’s arrogant, but no really, I’m not saying I’m right all the time, I’m saying I knew the guy was a Calvinist before anyone else did because I’ve listened to Calvinists. I heard it and he then went on to say he was a Calvinist. Like, yeah, I know. My judgment was right.

The Bible tells me to test the spirits, so I do. Most of the spirits I hear are wrong. I try to act with grace and composure even while knowing my judgments. I try to not be a jerk and arrogant, but my brain notices stuff and I know where the stuff comes from. I just know stuff. I can’t help it. It’s just there.

Sometimes this gets in the way of my worship. But I can still benefit. Even the author who claimed to be inspired like John the Apostle who wrote Revelation, she said something later that I thought was good (although it was in a quote of another author!). I’m still reading the rest of the book. I give people a hearing even after identifying their particular brand of heresy. I’ve learned to learn from all sources, even if the learning is just coming up with arguments against their stupidity.

But I know I’m too judgy. I know I am and I don’t know what to do about it. My judging has kept me out of trouble. My judging has even helped other people. On numerous occasions I was able to warn others that the person you are listening to is crazy. Later these people would come back to me and say, “You know, you were right, that person was crazy.” Yeah, I know.

So, what to do? Is this the spiritual gift of discernment? Or is this my flesh being too arrogant and proving that knowledge does indeed puff up? I don’t know. But I know I can’t stop, it’s automatic at this point.

Whatever advice you give me about this, I will judge it. I know what verses you’ll use already anyway. It’s nothing I haven’t heard and judged already. You can at least relax and know that I judge my own theology as well. I’ve changed my views on many doctrines because of me analyzing the words coming out of my mouth and realizing I don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s a good thing. It does not prevent me from being corrected or taught.

I do get tired sometimes. Tired of judging and finding fault. But I think the real thing I get tired of is hearing people completely botch the Scripture. I wouldn’t have such a big problem with this if other people said better stuff. So, who has the problem in the end anyway?

We all do. Grace, patience, and love. We all need that. I’ll do my best and you do yours. We’re all in this together. Let’s press toward the mark and mind the same rule and count on God to correct us where we are wrong. I will fight my battles and you fight yours. Deal? Cool.

Read the Bible for Understanding

Although most Christians say their doctrine is from the Bible and the best way to read the Bible is to keep the context, there is still much doctrinal disagreement between Christians. Why is that?

Most people aren’t actually reading the Bible, most are repeating what they heard someone else say about the Bible. Few Christians have read it, even fewer have read it with any kind of understanding what the whole book is talking about.

For many it’s actually impossible. They have been so ingrained with their doctrinal camp that they don’t even see the words in the Bible. Their doctrinal camp has closed their eyes to any verse that disagrees. They know all the loopholes to avoid inconvenient verses. They have their verses that cancel out the pesky ones. When most people read the Bible (when they actually do), they only see verses that back up what they already believe.

Even many who encourage you to read verses in context don’t really mean it. What they mean is, “hear the verses in the context of our interpretation of Scripture.”

To read a verse in context means to hear it according to what the author means. In other words, when you come across a phrase you don’t understand (and you should come across a number of them), ask yourself, “Why is the author talking about this? Why did he bring this up?” Then go back and read until you understand why the author brought that up.

There’s always a reason why. The Bible is very logical and God is trying to be understood. Verses are not to be understood in isolation. Yet most people have doctrinal beliefs and then look up verses in a concordance that sort of kind of support their view and then claim that their doctrines are “biblical.” In reality they are just man-made ideas with a few biblical phrases stuck to them.

Why are those phrases there? They were there before your doctrinal camp was! I imagine Paul and John and Jeremiah meant something when they used those words.

We would be much better served to read the actual words of the Bible and do the work to figure out the overall flow of the book rather than adhering to some guy’s interpretation of the book.

Stick with the words on the page. Read them literally, as if God actually means what He said, and analyze why those words are there. You’ll figure it out with the Spirit’s help. Pray for wisdom and be humble, be teachable, and let the Word teach you.

Why Christians Hate Nietzsche

Many Christians hate things because they think they are anti-Christian when in reality they are just anti-established church.

Christians hate things, not because they know what the thing is, but because they know they are supposed to hate it.

The reason why we’re “supposed to hate it” is often because the established church at some point decided it was evil.

For instance, Friedrich Nietzsche gets a bad rap because he said “God is dead.” There are bumper stickers and t-shirts that say

“God is dead.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

“Nietzsche is dead.”

Ha! We know that the guy who said “God is dead” must be an atheist scum we should hate.

However, Nietzsche was actually criticizing the church/professed Christians because they were not taking their faith seriously. He came after established churches and denominations. His point is that even Christians act as though God is dead.

He was not wrong, and in fact, remains correct in his observation. Here’s the fuller quote:

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

Since we’ve gotten rid of God, we will replace His role with ourselves. Pretty insightful if you ask me.

So, why do Christians hate Nietzsche?

Because Fred was attacking the established church, mainline denominations. Mainline denominations have people in them that the world listens to.

Every year on Easter and Christmas the History Channel and the Discovery Channel have documentaries tearing apart Jesus Christ and Christianity. All through these they have interviews with mainline clergy: Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, all of whom have “PhD” after their names.

People the world respects. The world respects them because they’ve ripped the life out of Christianity and the divinity out of Christ. People then hear the watered down opinions of mainline denominational structures and then go with that.

“Hey, Anglican priest guy with a PhD doesn’t like Nietzsche saying that God is dead. All Christians should hate Nietzsche.” In reality, mainline denominational smart guys hate Nietzsche because he was criticizing them!

Now, in the end, I don’t care if you like Nietzsche or not. I do care why you believe what you believe. Bottom line is: do you believe what the Bible says, or just what some PhD guys in a clerical robe said about the Bible?

Do you believe what the Bible says because you’ve read it and understood it, or do you believe what people told you the Bible says, whether they are clergy or PhD people or not? Trusting the experts is probably keeping you from truth.

Know the Bible, believe it, and show that belief by your actions.

Simplistic, Moralistic Bible Studies and Me

Bible study books with discussion questions are quite popular, but I can’t stand them. The main reason why is because they are one-sided.

Most chapters are short with more time spent answering discussion questions. There is a point the author of the short chapter wants to make. But in order to make it short, only their side is brought up. Chapters have only enough space for the predetermined point the author thinks you need with a handful of proof texts.

Most of the applications (and application is the main part of each short chapter) are moral and simplistic. Typically they are also positive and happy, encouraging you to carry on in your middle class affluent lifestyle with Jesus.

“Love your enemy” might be a chapter. You will have several verses from the New Testament that indeed tell you to love your enemy. Probably something about the Good Samaritan or some other parable will be included.

What won’t be included is the entire Old Testament where Israel kills their enemies. The imprecatory psalms where David wishes his enemies were blotted out of the book of life. There will be zero mention of God, who does love His enemies, but is also the one who casts His unrepentant enemies into hell.

The reason these won’t be brought up is because it would take up too much space to differentiate between the two covenants. It would be too confusing and possibly detrimental to the faith of young believers. Safer and shorter to skip all that and give a one-sided approach.

Then we can answer questions like: When did you love one of your enemies? How did loving your enemy make you feel? How does the Gospel teach us to love our enemies?

None of these questions are bad, they just like, never really help anything. The chapter and questions leave so much unsaid.

In order to really understand how to love your enemy and how unbelievably difficult it is, you have to discuss the Old Testament’s issues and hell. All the stuff left out is what is needed to truly understand the topic.

But, oh well! Next week we’re on to another short chapter about “loving your wife,” which will make jokes about ha, ha women sure are different from men aint they? Silly men can’t even put socks in the laundry basket. How can you love your wife? How does the Gospel show you how to love your wife?

Not once will verses like “unless you hate your wife . . . you cannot be my disciple,” or Paul in Corinthians saying to not live to please your wife but to please the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:29). Nope, you won’t hear any of that. Just a happy little lesson about putting your socks in the hamper because Jesus.

The Bible is a large book. There are few simple answers and plenty of nuance. Discussing the Bible would be way more fun if these books actually used the whole counsel of God and threw in the verses that disagree with their happy, simplistic little points. I’d buy those. But until that happens, I will never voluntarily use these inane “Bible” “studies.”

Israel’s Land and Your Sin

One of the tough parts about reading the Old Testament is all the land descriptions. The Book of Joshua starts out action packed, great stuff. Then it devolves into descriptions of land borders.

Chapter after chapter. It was hard enough getting through Numbers with all the counting of tribal families, Joshua seemed so promising!

I have no idea why God decided to have that written down for all these years. It was His covenant people in their covenant land; it was a big deal for them. Do I need to know border details? I doubt it.

One thing you will notice is that Israel quit. I think that’s part of the problem. As the lands are described there are these little phrases about how the Philistines were still there. The Canaanites were stubborn and wouldn’t leave.

When Joshua died Israel wasn’t done. There was more land God would have given to them if they kept going. But they quit. They never resumed. And as we know the Philistines and Canaanites remained problems.

I wonder how different David’s life would have been if there were no Philistines. Generations suffered because the first generation got lazy.

I wonder how many promises of the New Covenant we are too lazy to get. Makes ya think.

How much sin are we leaving there, not mortifying completely, that will cause troubles for you the rest of your life and maybe for generations?

How much trouble are we storing up for the future because we are failing to act on what God has told us today?

If Israel, the Old Covenant people, are any indicator, I’m guessing it’s quite a bit. It’s easy for us to criticize them, yet remember the things that were written before were written for our learning so we wouldn’t do the same stupid stuff (1 Corinthians 10:6).

Are we learning that lesson?

Spiritual Growth Aint No Fun. Do It Anyway.

The Bible says tribulation leads to spiritual growth. Tribulation leads to patience, experience, and hope. Tribulation helps us, makes us depend on God’s grace, like Paul’s thorn in the flesh did.

Jesus also told us that in this world we will have tribulation. Christians should expect bad stuff and also know that all that bad stuff will work for our spiritual advancement.

Church History also shows us that tribulation is good for the church. Times of persecution weed out pretenders and grows the church.

I can attest in my own life my times of most notable spiritual growth came in times of darkness. Mourning and suffering teach. Pleasure and ease tend to make us dumber. CS Lewis said pain is God’s megaphone. You know in your life your times of most ardent prayer were around pain.

On all fronts we can conclude that tribulation is good for believers.

Unfortunately, tribulation isn’t fun.

Thus, many conclude that spiritual growth isn’t fun. I’ve heard so many Christians say “don’t pray for patience! If you do, God will give you tests upon tests to make you patient.”

So, I shouldn’t pray for patience, a fruit of the Spirit? Asking for spiritual growth invites suffering, therefore, avoid spiritual growth.

Tribulation leads to spiritual growth; that’s why we avoid tribulation like the plague (plagues are tribulation).

Spiritual growth itself hurts. There’s even a term we use for it: growing pains.

Spiritual growth makes you confront your sin, your weakness, your lies and stupidity. Spiritual growth will put things to death in you, might ruin some relationships, will make you stand out like light in a world that loves darkness.

Spiritual growth is no fun. The best way to avoid it is to pursue comfort. Comfort is easy, it demands little if anything, and generally is enjoyable.

We end up fat, lazy, and happy, telling ourselves all our comfort is God’s blessings on us and boy howdy, God must surely be happy with me seeing all the comfort He’s given me.

We invented the Health and Wealth Gospel to console our materialistic comfort.

But our spiritual immaturity is glaring. The church is in pathetic shape. Most Christians have never read the Bible let alone done any work to understand it. Spiritual gifts are neglected. Spiritual fruit isn’t even a big topic anymore, even though it’s the entire proof of a person’s salvation.

Spiritual growth only happens through pain, suffering, persecution, and tribulation. We avoid these things at all costs and our levels of spiritual growth show we’re doing a pretty good job of doing so.

It’s your choice. You’ll grow about as much as you want to. Do what you gotta do.

God’s Timing and Weird Bible Passages

Never underestimate God’s timing. I don’t mean this as a cheap throw away line either, some clichéd response. I mean for real.

In Acts 8 we are told about an Ethiopian who is leaving Jerusalem and reading Scripture in his chariot. The Holy Spirit told Philip to go talk to him right as he was reading Isaiah 53. How convenient that the Ethiopian was reading right at the one spot in the Old Testament where the death of Jesus Christ is most obvious!

Imagine if the Ethiopian was reading the chapter about skin diseases. Philip in his own timing walks up to him, “hey, what’ch’ya reading?”

“Well, I’m reading this thing about the scab on the skin and the color of the hair growing out of it. What’s the deal with the skin disease chapter?”

“Pppbbbt,” Philip shrugs his shoulders. “No idea.”

But nope Philip didn’t show up while Leviticus was being read; he showed up during Isaiah 53. Lucky for him!

I was in pastoral ministry for over 20 years. Rarely did I ever have an Acts 8 moment like Philip. I had plenty of the skin disease moments! What happened with Philip isn’t normative, in other words, it shouldn’t be expected all the time. But there are moments when seemingly amazing timing is involved!

So, what gives? How come so many of my pastoral conversations were not deeply insightful or didn’t seem to lead to any massive spiritual insight? Was God’s timing off?

Nope. You can’t win em all! Some plant, some water, but God gives the increase. God is working in you and in the other people you are dealing with. We are to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. Our job is to live out that hope so people would ask a question.

It is also possible to quench the Spirit, to not respond as we should. Sometimes we get afraid or embarrassed. Sometimes we hide our light under a bushel so no one will ask about the hope in us. Sometimes the timing is off, not because God messed up the schedule, but because we weren’t ready or submissive to the opportunity.

God has good timing, but you can’t expect every second of every day to be falling into a magical everything is going my way life. That’s not reasonable, nor is it a biblical conclusion. But be faithful to do your part as God’s Word has directed—grow in Christ, produce that spiritual fruit by exercising your spiritual gifts, do good works so you are not unfruitful. Then be ready for the opportunity when the time comes. And hope that you don’t have to explain the skin disease chapter!

Misapplying the Book of Job

Modern applications of the Book of Job are not realistic and miss the actual point. Again, most of modern biblical application is based on self-help, psychology, and humanism. A veneer of happiness covers our applications and belittles the reality of the fight of faith. Job is a classic example.

The application of Job goes like this:

In the midst of your suffering, happily say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Happiness has become a virtue in modern Christianity. It used to be fringe, your best life now stuff, but now it’s just Christianity. Happiness is in. Mourning is out. Any degree of sadness is a lack of faith. I’ve even heard some say that negative emotions like sadness and mourning are sins. This is sheer lunacy, and, ironically enough, the opposite of one of the main points of the book of Job.

Job is not about being happy during suffering. The New Testament links patience with Job, so clearly we know that’s one application. But patience is not bemused acceptance. Patience is endurance. Patience is a battle and a race. It’s not some other-worldly, Zen state of living above it with lofty notions carried about on clouds. Patience is slogging it out and going one day at a time.

There are three phrases from the book of Job that make it into every shallow Bible Study on Job:

“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

“Where were you when I laid the foundation?”

Perhaps running a close fourth is “Curse God and die,” but that one doesn’t get much serious treatment. It should. I’ve seen several marriages fall apart because one person decided to take their faith seriously. Does your love for God pass your love for your spouse? Jesus said it should. But alas, that doesn’t fit into happy Christian marketing styles, so we skip that one.

We are told that when terrible things happen to us, we should fatalistically say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Get over it. Suck it up. Fatalistically submit to God’s treatment, smile, and quit whining.

I’m always amazed at this application, typically not stated quite as cynically as I just put it! But the idea is always there. “God wants you to be happy. Grin and bear it for Jesus!” The point is there, Job did say it. I’m not arguing the tremendous nature of what he said there. It is amazing. Not sure I’d have come up with that.

Job says this in chapter 1 verse 21. Job says one sentence to his oh so helpful wife in 2:10. His next words are in chapter three. Chapter three verses 3-19 are Job complaining that he was born! He goes on in some detail about how he would have been more blessed if he had died as an infant! I mean, ok, you can talk about patience and stuff, but let’s be real! Yes, Job said a great thing in 1:21. He keeps talking for an entire book though! By my count, Job’s words fill 20 chapters of the book! And, like, read what he said! And this is the main problem with so much of our surface Bible studies: we don’t actually read the Bible. We read the two phrases that back up the happy point the happy teacher wants you to get. Job said a lot of stuff. If you want to understand his point, read all that he said!

The second phrase is in 13:15. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Does anyone know that this is not the entirety of the verse? Does anyone know what the next phrase is? Have you ever studied this verse in a Bible Study, or just had the phrase thrown at you? Look at the verse:

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.
Nevertheless I will argue my waysbefore Him.

Yeah I’ll hope in Him, but we’re gonna have some words! I won’t go down quiet! I need some answers! This is, in fact, one of Job’s primary laments throughout the book: he just wants an audience with God. Can I ask some questions? Make some statements? Isn’t there someone who can go between and sort this out? Because I gotta admit, this doesn’t seem right.

Job is a hurting man. He wants answers. He’s convinced he didn’t do anything that deserve this treatment, and, according to what is revealed, he’s right! Like, that’s not his opinion of himself, that’s God‘s opinion of him! His uprightness is exactly why God chose him to be picked on! Job wants to argue.

Here’s the cool thing the rest of the Bible reveals: we do have a go between. You can pray and Jesus Christ knows our suffering and was tempted in every way like us. The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf even though we do not know what to pray for as we ought. Suffering hurts. Life can be painful. To tell people that we need to be happy like Job in the midst of it is mind boggling. Read the book, not just the two phrases Bible Study books point out.

This is, in fact, one of the amazing things about the applications of Job. Applications are always about you and your suffering! In other words, when people read the book of Job, they see themselves as Job! No one ever sees themselves as Job’s friends! Yet the very application of the book of Job that most Bible Studies give you is one that sounds a lot like Job’s friends! “Hey, you know, you shouldn’t be whining like that. No one wants to hear it. Suck it up and put on a smile. Cover that pain with clichés and move on.” It’s truly incredible. Job’s friends sinned in what they said, God said that. Job did not sin with any words that came out of his mouth. None of them. He was not wrong for wishing he’d never been born. He was not wrong for wanting to take up his case with God. All of his words were just fine in God’s mind. All of Job’s friends’ words were wrong to apply to Job. Yet the shallow application of this book is always telling people how not to mourn! Fascinating. God had no problem with Job’s questions about Him, but God did have a problem with the friends defending Him! Think on that one!

The third phrase is a quote from God: “Where were you when I laid the foundation?” God’s dialogue basically says, “Yeah, I’m God. I can do stuff. Who are you?” Job takes that as the answer too. He determines to say nothing. All his arguments melt away immediately.

God never explains what was going on. Did Job ever know his suffering was actually a compliment? Have you ever heard an application of this book that says, “You might want to be careful growing in the faith. Two of the most faithful people ever, Job and Jesus, were absolutely throttled. Be careful about having faith, people!” Of course not, but doesn’t that seem like a legitimate point to discuss? It won’t be though because it’s not happy. We like to believe that when we grow in faith we get health and wealth and material blessings out the nose. Funny how the people listed in Hebrews 11 did not get that, most received brutal treatment in this life. This is one of the points of the book of Job: Don’t expect faith to work out well down here. This isn’t the only life!

Yet as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last, He will take His stand on the earth.Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I will see God,

            –Job 19:25-26

Another application of Job is that no one knows entirely what God is up to. You don’t and I don’t. So let’s stop lecturing everyone like we know what’s best for them. Instead, weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Keep your lectures and your sanctimonious words spoken into other people’s pain. They aren’t helping. Do something helpful, bear some burdens, and be sympathetic. Life hurts. Be who you’d want near you when suffering hits you, because it’s not far off.

Job is not about you and all your list of health problems God gave you because you’re so strong. Stop already. Job is a real book about real suffering, real confusion, real pain, and real unhelpful counsel! Job says a lot of things that don’t sound patient, happy, or spiritual. His friends point that out constantly. They’d fit in today’s church nicely. We’ve put an impossible standard on Christians in their mourning. I know Christians who were not allowed to mourn. Things did not turn out well for them. Covering pain is not healthy. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a group of people who would surround you with grace, acceptance, sympathy, and love during times of struggle? Wouldn’t it be great if you could be that for others who are hurting? I’ve got news for you: You’re not Job; you’re one of his friends. If you don’t weep with those who weep, you’re missing the point of Job.

Misapplying Esther

Many common applications of the Bible are rooted in psychology, self-help, and humanism. There are two Bible books that are interpreted in this way commonly and send me to the brink of insanity for their complete botching of the point: Esther and Job. Today we’ll look at Esther.

The application of Esther goes like this:

Esther was put in the right place at the right time to deliver God’s people. You have been put in your place and time by God to rescue those in your life as well.

Undoubtedly there is some truth here. I won’t say that God has nothing to do with your life or your place and time. At the same time, the point of the book is much bigger than this.

Furthermore, I know folks who think they are the Guru of All Things and God has appointed them to save everyone. People generally don’t like being around these self-appointed saviors. There are few things harder to take than a-person-who-is-not-Jesus determined to be your God-sent messiah.

The actual point of Esther is about God keeping His covenant. The people of Israel entered into a covenant with God where obeying the law would give them prosperity in the Promised Land. If they didn’t keep it, the land would dry up and reject them until they are taken into captivity. But even in captivity, if they follow His law He will provide for them. Esther lives during the time of captivity. Israel blew their covenant and bad guys have taken over. But according to the terms of the covenant, if they return to God, He will provide for them.

Mordecai does God’s will. He keeps himself separate from the Medes and Persian society and doesn’t bow before Gentile rulers because he only bows to God. His niece goes along with his plan to get her into the king’s house. One thing leads to another, and she is nicely situated for some delivering. The phrase repeated over and over is, “for such a time as this.” The best way to understand any biblical phrase is to take it in context.

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, liberation and rescue will arise for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

            –Esther 4:13-14

So, again, here’s the shallow application we hear over and over: Esther is faced with a choice, and to convince her to intercede, Mordecai tells her she was put there by God for such a time as this. You too have been placed by God in your time to save those around you.

Using the context, let’s look at a couple statements just in these two verses.

1. Esther doesn’t want to do this, so Mordecai backs her into a corner. You’re going to die anyway. Note also that he says if you don’t do it someone else will! That’s a huge point. Mordecai knows that God will protect His people; that’s what God does. Esther can be the one who does it, and if she doesn’t, someone else will. This knocks some edges off of the specialness of you modern Bible studies push! He wants Esther to do it because if she doesn’t her whole family will die. Guess who is in Esther’s family!? Mordecai may have some skin in this game!

2. Notice that Mordecai doesn’t say that God put Esther in that place for such a time as this. He said, “Who knows” whether you’ve been put in this place for such a time as this. There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to go forward with it.

If you look at what Mordecai is saying, he’s laying out odds. Esther is afraid if she goes to the king that he will put her to death. Mordecai sys, “you’re going to die for sure if you don’t!” If she doesn’t do anything, there is a 100% chance she’ll die. If she intercedes, there’s a 50/50 chance she’ll die. So basically, it boils down to this: there’s a 75% chance you will die, and a 25% chance you will live. If you do nothing; 100% you’ll die. If you try, it might work. Might as well try for the 25% shot! She did and it worked!

Mordecai puts forth his reasoning in humble terms. He’s not pumping up Esther, God’s appointed vessel of deliverance, he’s laying out odds. If you don’t do it, someone else will. Who knows if you’re the one who can deliver, might as well give it a shot and then you’re family will survive too. Those are not the terms in which our Esther applications are handed out! Oh no! Our applications are mostly about self-esteem and how God needs me and so does everyone else! God actually made me to save you, so shut up and let me save you!

None of that fits with what’s going on in this book. The point of the book is that God will take care of His covenant people with or without you. Want to be part of the plan? Then by faith do your part and see what God does. There’s humility there, not self-esteem boosting, I’m the center of God’s plan of salvation, messiah complex arrogance.

Notice at the end of the book it is Mordecai who is put in the place of actual authority! He became second only to the king. What Esther did was initially out of self-preservation and desperation. The benefits of her actions are that she is alive and her people are saved. Mordecai is the one who works the whole situation. Without his actions Esther never would have ended up in the place she did, she never would have interceded, and he is ultimately the one who gets promoted.

I suppose many in our day would take this as proof of male-chauvinism or something. Patriarchy at its worst! Actually, it’s a picture of our service to Jesus Christ. We obey Christ’s will, we lay down our lives for Him, and in the end He is given the glory. Esther did a great thing and by faith delivered her people from a desperate situation. She gets our praise and our kudos, deservedly so. Ultimately what she did worked for the glory of the one in charge of her, Mordecai. When we serve the Lord, we get to have a place in the honor roll of faith and we will be rewarded for our spiritual work. But ultimately, the praise does not go to us, it goes to Jesus Christ, and we are happy to have had a part.

Esther is not about self-esteem boosting, self-actualization, center of God’s plan, messianic complexes, now go out there and save the world you precious jewel of a person! It’s about humble service, losing your life so that others might gain.

What “Eat My Flesh” Could Mean

When Jesus said, “Eat my flesh,” He was communicating deep truth. He was also, it seems to me, saying an extreme thought in the most poke you in the eye way possible. His statement separated the true disciples from the false.

We also know that there is an allusion to Communion, partaking of the bread and cup. Clearly that ordinance is wrapped up in here as well.

And, to go further, there is the spiritual reality of Christ being in us, we ingest Him and thus become Him. You are what you eat!

There is also a fellowship nature involved as well. Since all believers partake of the same bread and cup at the same time, all are unified around Christ.

A friend of mine brought up another aspect that I found intriguing.

He was reading in Leviticus and noticed how the priests were granted to eat the flesh of the sacrifices. Regular people couldn’t do that, but the priest could as it was set aside for them as part of their inheritance/pay.

Could Jesus perhaps also be alluding to the priesthood of all believers? This idea is stated most clearly in 1 Peter 2:9 where we are told that we are a royal priesthood. We all have access to God, we don’t need a human mediator.

As the priests, who went between the people and God, ate from the sacrifice, so to now do all believers eat from the sacrifice, the body and blood of Jesus, and have access directly to the Father.

Hm, makes ya think!

It’s cool to see connections like that in the Bible. One must be careful not to press things too far, but clearly there are layers of meanings in many types in the Bible.

I like this one and will think on it some more.

Poor Church Mice

Joseph Prince, a prosperity preacher, recently defended health and wealth teaching by insisting that Mickey Mouse is rich so therefore, uh, yeah, I don’t know. Here’s the quote:

So the devil put in all kinds of sayings like, for example, ‘as poor as a church mouse.’ Why must (it) be a church mouse? Right? Whereas Mickey Mouse is so wealthy. All right, you’re talking about health wealth, well Mickey Mouse is still alive. Looks quite healthy and forever young, right? So someone should come up against Mickey Mouse, saying that he believed in the health wealth doctrine.

Do you follow? I listened to the quote several times in full with more context and I still don’t get it.

Speaking of rich mice, I found the world’s greatest Christmas card produced back in Victorian England, good old British humor on display.

Is that awesome or what?

Clearly these mice have plenty of faith and it’s paying off.

Avenge Not Yourself

We’re all familiar with Romans 12 and how we’re not supposed to be conformed to the world. We think we do this when we don’t drink and don’t do weed and we stand against weird sexual sins.

Although that might be part of it, the rest of the chapter gives a different idea. Most of the ideas can be summed up with Paul’s command, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves.”

This is a mighty radical statement. If you’re not blown away by it, I dare say you’re not hearing it.

When they serve your coffee wrong, do you get all up in their face? Do you use a tone of voice that conveys how stupid they are? Knowing they will throw it out if you take it back, should you just drink it?

Oh come on, give me a break! You think Paul is talking about wrong coffee orders?

No, that’s not all he’s talking about, but he’s clearly telling you to act differently than the world. I’ve seen how people treat those who serve them. It aint nice.

“Avenge” mean to retaliate, to get back at someone, to vindicate one’s right. It basically means to bless and curse not those who misuse you. We’re not just being called to not do something. Paul goes on to say we let the Lord do the avenging while we go out of our way to love those who wronged us.

It just goes from one level of insane to another.

You know you’ve heard him right when everything within you objects to what you’re being told to do. Here’s a quote from Donald Barnhouse:

“Never avenge yourself.” The natural heart will spout a stream of objections, but the answer of the Bible is, “never avenge yourself.” There is no way around it. It is a flat statement that has no loopholes. It does not say, “Never avenge yourselves except under such and such conditions.” It says, “Never avenge yourself.”

That is indeed what it says. When you’ve been robbed, attacked, criticized, cut off, interrupted, disrespected, when your rights have been trampled. It even applies to the most egregious of insults, when you are absolutely right and yet misused, even then, don’t avenge yourself.

Then the topper: let it go, let God deal with it, and show your adversary nothing but love and provision. Not just happy thoughts and a smile, but food if they are hungry and drink if they are thirsty.

Yes, give them actual things.

We are called to love people. Love goes above and beyond, even to the point of laying your life down for someone else’s benefit. Kind of like your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did for you!

He’s our example. We all love talking about what He did for us and we love this teaching when others do it for us, but it gets real annoying when I’m supposed to let things go and do nice things for people who are clearly stupid and wrong and have accused me of false things.

Never avenge yourself.


Love all the time. Esteem others better than yourself. You can be offended by this teaching. We Americans have been inundated our whole lives about our rights. Be not conformed to the world. One huge way to do that is by giving up your rights.

I pray you understand what Christ did for you. If it has meant a lot to you, if what He did changed your life, then show others that same love so that their life might be changed by Christ too.

No one said following Christ would be easy. In fact, that’s why most Christians think following Christ is optional or at best explained away with nuanced circumstances and loopholes.

Don’t do that. Be like Christ. Commit your life into the hands of the Righteous Judge. Love. Forgive. Show mercy. Avenge not yourselves.

Did Israel have Freedom After Leaving Egypt?

When we think of release from slavery we think freedom. You cast off the tyrant boss/owner and do whatever you want. Many people have this conception of Christian liberty—I’m no longer under the law; I can do whatever I want now!

Israel cried out to God when they were enslaved in Egypt. God heard their cries and sent Moses to deliver them.

It is interesting to note that never once did God use the word “freedom” or “liberty” or anything like that when speaking of release from Egypt.

In fact, when Moses told Pharaoh to “let my people go,” typically he added, “so they may serve the Lord in the wilderness” (see Exodus 4:23; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3,7).

That is fascinating!

It’s also weird that Moses tells Pharaoh, “We’re just going out there to do some sacrifices.” He never once fully said, “We’re gone. Check ya later.” It wasn’t quite a lie, but it certainly wasn’t a full disclosure of truth.

Pharaoh, who was no dummy, knew they were going to take off, which is why he was reluctant to let them go. “I know what you guys are up to” was behind much of what he told Moses.

The Exodus is a type of spiritual salvation. God delivers you from the bondage of sin and death, but before you get full deliverance in the Promised Land, you wander in the woods and suffer a while. The Christian Life is wilderness wandering, following the Lord through the junk until we reach heaven’s perfection.

Salvation is not about doing what you want and it’s now ok because Jesus loves you. Do not use your liberty as an occasion for the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Freedom, its true sense, is not unbridled fleshly license. Freedom is serving God!

Your flesh thinks that’s the stupidest thing it’s ever heard, but your flesh is stupid.

God knows what is best. Obeying Him brings life and peace and joy more abundant. Fleshly indulgence causes gross hangovers, guilt, and other heavy things.

Israel’s freedom from slavery was nothing more than a freedom from a bad taskmaster to a good one. It’s the same for us. You gotta serve someone, might as well serve a perfect and righteous someone.

If freedom means I obey me all the time, well, it might be fun, but I’m also an idiot. Part of the reason I came to Christ for salvation was because I was tired of being dumb, tired of being me. I wanted no longer I, but Christ.

Part of salvation is the renewing of the mind, which is every thought brought captive to Jesus Christ. Captive is not free! We are servants of Jesus Christ. Free to serve our great God, Savior, and Lord.

Listen to the true, righteous God; it’s the best freedom out there.

Can God Change His Mind?

“Immutability” is the big theological word that describes God’s unchangingness. The doctrine is based on passages like Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” and James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning.”

Unfortunately, many have taken this doctrine to an unbiblical extreme by saying God doesn’t change His mind or plan. Apparently God has every detail of every molecule’s existence planned from eternity past and there is no shifting of the plan.

The problem with taking immutability to mean God’s plan doesn’t change is that it makes many verses not mean what they say. There are multiple times when God changed His mind, or repented of something (Genesis 6:6; Exodus 32:14; Judges 2:18; 1 Samuel 15:35; etc).

The biggest shift in the Bible was the change from the Old Covenant to the better New Covenant. Clearly one must admit huge changes in how God acts and intervenes in the two covenants.

Every believer was a vessel of wrath heading toward destruction until the point of their salvation. Things changed, thus what God does with you and how He’s related to you has changed.

God didn’t change. God has revealed what makes Him change His mind about you: your repentance and faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God doesn’t change that plan.

From the beginning God has been a God of justice and doing the right thing. He’s very consistent about how He works. He’s consistent about how He changes His mind.

If God’s plan doesn’t change then there is no point for any prophet to ever prophecy. But prophets to prophecy! Their main point is calling people to repent so as to not undergo God’s judgment. Jonah eventually warned Nineveh of coming doom. They repented and God changed His mind, He relented on the judgment, much to Jonah’s annoyance.

Immutability does not mean that God doesn’t change His actions; it means He doesn’t change His character. Who He is is very dependable, the most dependable thing in existence.

I change. Who I was as a four-year old is not even close to who I am at 48! Let’s all be thankful for that. People change and people die. When the believer dies, they will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. But God, who is not bound to time or space, does not grow or change. He’s the same as He ever was. He is not slack concerning His promises.

But again, don’t let this lead you to think He won’t be merciful to you or He won’t hear and respond to your cry of distress in time of trouble.

The Bible clearly says that God doesn’t change. Stick with that. Trust Him because of it. But don’t stretch this out of place to think the way He acts doesn’t change. If you do, God becomes cold and hard, implacable, and unresponsive. This is not the view of God you want, it’ll destroy your love for Him, your desire to pray, and any number of other things.

Don’t let twisted theology ruin the vitality of your faith. God is love, always has been and always will be. He loves you and wants to show you His love. There are things you can do to facilitate that! Go for it, He’s waiting!

Asking God For Mercy

I came across a quote today that made me pause. You know how hard it is to let a questionable statement just float on by; someone must respond!

Here’s the quote:

“For anyone to pray, ‘God have mercy on me,’ is the equivalent of asking Him to repeat the sacrifice of Christ. All the mercy that God will ever have on man, He has already had when Christ died. This is the totality of mercy.”

I don’t know what your reaction is to that quote, but I immediately stopped reading and said out loud, “What?”

The larger context is about the death of Christ and the cross being sufficient for everything. Never mind the resurrection is left off. This sort of thing happens all the time. In an effort to elevate the cross, things are pressed out of measure and thus undermines the thing hoped to be elevated.

It’s similar to what I’ve heard said about forgiveness. John says we are forgiven of all unrighteousness, therefore, if you ask forgiveness for some recent sin, you are claiming that God has not forgiven you of all unrighteousness.

It’s an attempt to elevate the totality of God’s forgiveness. I get it, but to go on to say if you dare ask forgiveness you are somehow violating a rule or not understanding forgiveness, just seems goofy.

But people do this sort of thing all the time. We should say things the way the Bible says them and be content with that. When we get busy over-emphasizing stuff; heresy enters.

I’m not convinced that if I ask God to have mercy on me that I’m asking God to re-crucify Christ. That just seems weird, especially weird in light of verses like Hebrews 4:16:

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

There is mercy available for us in a time of need. Certainly I can ask for God to have mercy on me without Christ being re-crucified. Frequently Paul and the other apostles say things like “Grace and mercy be with you.” It’s available not only for salvation but for living in general!

It’s not necessary to overstate things to make a point. You can call on God for mercy. Don’t let people intimidate you with their high fallutin extreme points. Stick with Scripture.

OK, I feel better now. Thank you.

Evil and God’s Presence

Several times I’ve heard people say “God cannot look at sin” or, “Sin cannot exist in God’s presence.”

I understand the intent of these statements, and maybe there’s a grain of truth present, but I think the statements create bad conclusions and are not technically consistent with Scripture.

The number one verse used to make this point is Habakkuk 1:13,

Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?

Well, there ya go! It says it right there! God’s eyes are too pure to behold evil and He can’t look on iniquity. How much clearer can it get?

Well, a little clearer anyway.

The rest of the chapter is about evil people and God’s ultimate judgment upon them. The verse right before says these sinful people are headed for God’s judgment and correction. If God is going to judge and correct; clearly He sees evil and iniquity.

If God could not see evil, then He’d be a very bad judge! On what basis is He judging people if He doesn’t see what they are doing? Is God a blind grandfather doling out gifts in His naïve view of kids?

If God knows my lying down and getting up, I’m pretty sure He knows everything else I’m doing, including my sinful stuff. The Habakkuk verse is more along the lines of God isn’t just gonna sit there doing nothing about it. He’s calling on God to get moving with the judging! A point I readily concur with!

OK, but what about sin not being able to exist in God’s presence? Or about sinners not being able to be before Him?

Consider the book of Job! Satan reports to God what He’s been up to. Satan does not melt in fiery combustion in God’s presence. Satan walks away just fine, fully able to pick on Job. God was in the presence of evil people all the time. God can handle your dirty, sinny self.

What is grace other than God being able to exist with sinners? The life of Jesus Christ is pretty good proof that God can handle being in the midst of sinners, Jesus was accused of being the friend of sinners, in fact.

There will come a day when all sinners will appear before God. They won’t instantaneously dissolve into nothing; they will consciously be aware of their sin and be judged by God.

The idea that God can’t see or be in the presence of sin is overstating things to the point of undermining the testimony of Scripture.

God can melt the sinner if He so chooses, but God is also gracious and loving and can limit the full expression of who He is for His purpose.

None of what I’m saying here is meant to belittle the seriousness and grossness of sin. My attempt is to use the Bible to understand and better state the point. Sin is bad. God is angry at the wicked every day. But the wicked also often survive into tomorrow. God is aware of who the wicked are; He knows what they are doing. God also desires all wicked people to repent and believe the Gospel. He limits Himself so that might occur.

If you don’t think that God can see evil, then you might be tempted to think He doesn’t see your sin. You might be terrified to come to Him if you think no sinner could exist in His presence.

But it’s the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. God is good. He wants all sinners to come to Him. That’s kind of what He’s waiting for. He knows who you are and what you do, yet holds out love anyway. God is love. He can handle your sin; it’s not keeping Him from you. Don’t let it keep you from Him.

Prayer Requires Familiarity With God’s Word

So, here’s a theory my brain came up with.

The Greek word for “confess” literally means “to say the same thing as.” When we confess our sins to God, we are literally saying the same thing about them as God. In other words, I am admitting what I did was wrong and that agrees with God’s assessment of my sin.

To not confess, to maintain you didn’t sin, means you are a liar. That’s bad. So agree with God. That’s good.

That’s one side of prayer. Now here’s my theory!

The other side of prayer is when we ask God for something. We are told that if “we ask according to His will,” then God will hear us.

Asking according to His will sure sounds a lot like saying the same thing about a situation as God! Both confess and asking according to His will are verses found in 1 John (1:9 and 5:14).

John keeps things simple and straightforward. He uses simple words to convey simple things with simple statements. When you sin, say the same thing as God does about it. When you ask for things, ask the same things God would ask.

Both ideas convey having a new mind in Christ, having a renewed mind where every thought is made captive to the Lord. The more you grow in your faith and familiarize yourself with God’s Word, the more you know God’s thoughts and those then become your thoughts. You get in agreement with God more and more.

Prayer can then be a barometer of how well you know what God says! You can’t say the same thing as God about your sin if you don’t know what God says! You can’t ask anything according to His will if you don’t know what His stated will is.

Prayer is vitally connected to your familiarity with God’s Word. If you don’t know His Word; you won’t know how to pray. If you don’t know the Word you will ask according to your fleshly lusts (James 4:3) and will be wasting your time.

You can ask in agreement with God’s Word, or ask in agreement with your flesh. Those are the two options. Only one works!

That’s my theory.

Is Your Soul a Weaned Child?

Right after Psalm 130 about fearing the Lord because He’s the one who forgives, comes Psalm 131. It’s a short Psalm, three verses, and beautiful. Here’s the entirety of the Psalm:

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.

The stretch of Psalms here are called Psalms of Ascent. They were sung on the way up to the temple in Jerusalem. They were sung in a row. Marking iniquities, getting forgiveness, and fearing God are all humble things.

At this point his heart is not exalted and proud, and his eyes are not raised up, looking down in condescension on everyone else. He doesn’t walk around in great matters, meddling in issues he has no concept about. “Too high” means marvelous, wonderful things beyond his power.

He knows his role and he stays in his lane.

Wow, do we need more of this in our day!

Proud people are constantly messing in other people’s business. They think they are the people and wisdom will die with them. If they were in charge, they’d have all the world’s problems solved pronto.

Humble people understand the limits of their powers and thoughts. I can tell you how to solve inflation, but do I really have a clue? If you or I were president, would we really have the slightest idea what we were doing?

I think this is one reason very few humble people are in politics! Who in their right mind thinks, “Yeah, I think I should run the most powerful country in the free world.” Only crazy people!

But this isn’t just about politics; it’s about all kinds of stuff. Your predictions about how things will go, your plans made on incomplete information, and so many of our lectures and witty one-liners. We have no idea.

If we saw our sin, we’d shut up more.

You would quiet yourself as a well-fed baby. What an image!

When our kids were little you could tell when they were hungry because they got angry and screamed. They just lost it. Then they’d get fed and they were the happiest little creatures on the planet. So calm, no fussies. So sweet.

That’s how your soul would be if your hope was in the Lord and you saw your sin and need of forgiveness.

Our pride forgets about our sin. It justifies our actions and we give ourselves a break. We think we’re better than others whom we do not justify and routinely credit the worst possible motives to. Evil people. Let me tell you what’s up! Let me fix you!

Humble people know they need fixing. They know they have no idea. God is the Father; I’m just a kid. Childlike faith. Dependence on Him rather than self-assured lecturing of others.

How’s your soul? Does it act like a well-fed baby; or is it screaming and crying and telling others what to do so you get your food?

Be humble. Hope in the Lord. And chill.

Our Attitude Toward God’s Forgiveness

We are sinners. I know we know this. Doesn’t cost anything to say it. But since we’re sinners and have basically come to peace with that, plus we’re surrounded by other sinners, sin has lost its seriousness.

Everyone’s doing it. What’s the big deal?

Here’s the big deal according to Psalm 130:3, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” If God kept track of our sin, which He does, but provides no way to remove it, then we’re doomed. Thankfully, He does provide relief and an escape from sin.

Before we get too carried away being happy again, “Yeah! God forgives me, now I can sin again!” Think about what was just said.

If there is no way for God to remove my sin, then I am doomed. I’m done. Toast. Literally.

But there is a way for sin to be removed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who takes away the sin of the world. This is fantastic. So, what should our response to this sin removal by God be? I’ll let Psalm 130:4 answer that, “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

Maybe not what you were expecting. Perhaps you think forgiveness means joy and peace and happy. That is included for us, but if this forgiveness leads to more sin, to taking advantage of who God is, then you’ve missed it.

If God is the only one who can forgive sins, if Christ is indeed the only way to the Father, the only means by which sin can be dealt with fully, then this should lead us to fear God. There is nowhere else to go with your sin. He’s it. That demands our fear.

“Fear” means awe, dread, astonishment, and to be terrified. A massive degree of respect, awe, and fear should fill our hearts. Do we understand forgiveness?

We can’t unless we see the seriousness of sin. We don’t fear God; we take advantage of Him. Israel and the church have both excelled at making a mockery of God’s means to deal with sin. Israel went through the motions of sacrifice and worship, but their heart was far removed. There was no fear; there was simply the gaming of the system.

Christians do the same thing. We say the prayer and get baptized, then we return to our sin. Sure we sing our songs and keep our couple holy days, but we do this to relieve our guilt so we can get back to sinning.

We’re playing games with God’s forgiveness. Taking it for granted, turning grace into lasciviousness. We’re sinning so grace may abound and feeling great about it the whole time.

Where does Psalm 130 go next?

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

Are you looking for the Lord, or did you rush by Him quickly on your way back to sinning? Are you waiting for Him as one who has a sleepless, miserable night and longs for the dawn? Is your hope in His word?

Or is He a game? A genie in the bottle to rub the right way so you can indulge your flesh’s wishes some more?

Do you know with whom you deal?

Does Your Sin Crush You?

After David got busted by Nathan for his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah, David wrote Psalm 51. It’s a beautiful psalm of contrition and repentance. The guiltiness of sin leads to the beauty of forgiveness.

David, being the king of a people in a covenant with God based on obedience, suffered mightily for his sin. Thousands of Israelites died because he gave an occasion for the Gentiles to blaspheme.

The downside of the Old Covenant was the system of physical curses and blessings for keeping God’s Word. I don’t know how long most of us would last if we lived under that same covenant.

The giant plus side is that the Old Covenant was not about salvation. When it came to David’s eternal salvation, no sin would separate him from God, even adultery and murder.

Seems hard to imagine that’s the case. It reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the guy who hires workers throughout the day, then pays them all the same regardless of how long they worked. In the end, it’s the boss who got robbed!

If David hadn’t sinned with Bathsheba and Uriah, there would be no Psalm 51 in the Bible. So, I guess, if I can say such a thing, we can be thankful for David’s sins!

The two verses that stand out are 16-17:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

What can a guy do after he sins? How can he make up for blowing it so bad? The flesh suggests running away, pretending it didn’t happen, going silent. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, go find a convenient bush to hide behind. But God will come looking. Be sure your sins will find you out (Numbers 32:23).

“Confess” means to “say the same thing as.” God already knows what you did. Be honest about what you did too. He already knows. You have no alternative but to talk to Him about it. If you don’t, He will force the conversation at some point. Every son the Father loves, He chastens.

Admit your sin to the Lord since He knows it anyway. But then what? Shouldn’t I make up for it somehow? Shouldn’t I work it off? Pay some kind of penance? That’s the natural urge. When I’m rude to someone, I try to make it up to them. Shouldn’t I do that with God?

What exactly are you going to do to make up for sinning against the Lord? What are you, a single human being, going to do for the Creator and Lord of the Universe that will make up for your sin? Give him a couple bucks? Kill an animal? A food offering? He doesn’t need anything. What’s He going to do with dead animals?

God has no pleasure in sacrifices and burnt offerings. If He did, then yeah, I’d bring it. But God desires obedience rather than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). But David didn’t obey, so now what?

Sacrifices in the Old Testament were not for salvation. Sacrifices were part of the Old Covenant system established for the prosperity of Israel. If they kept the Law, they would be blessed in the land; if they broke the Law, they and their land would be cursed.

By doing sacrifices they had a physical cost to put the covenant back in order. In essence, the physical sacrifices were completely stupid to any non-Jewish observer. Why give up your food? It was part of the curse of sin: if they didn’t obey they would suffer physically, part of that physical suffering was the loss of good animals. No supper for you!

But sacrifices never took away sin (Hebrews 10:4). Sacrifices never accomplished salvation. People have always been saved by grace through faith, regardless of what covenant you lived under. Don’t confuse what Israel did to maintain their covenant with salvation. Much error has been brought into church because of this confusion.

God does not desire dead animals; He wants you humble. David says his sacrifice is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. God will not despise that.

If your sin makes you run from God, then you are still holding onto pride. You think you can carry on without God. If your sin makes you work off the guilt, then you are also stuck in pride.  Pride, and its cousin self-pity, go hand in hand. Both keep you from actually dealing with the problem.

If you face your sin, see it for what it is, and say the same thing about it as God does (confession), it will lead to a broken spirit. “Broken” means crushed, crippled, wrecked, quenched. Smashed to bits perhaps.

This is not the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 3:15, “thou shalt bruise his heel,” but it has a similar meaning. Christ was crushed for our sin. Our sin can quench the Spirit as well. Quench and crush are two possible definitions of “broken.” This is God’s attitude toward sin. If we confess our sin, we have the same thought about it as God does: a crushed and quenched spirit.

“Contrite” means collapsed, crushed, broken in pieces. Very similar idea to broken. It doesn’t require much more elaboration. This is what sin should make us feel.

How does this jive with the modern emphasis on grace? If I’m already forgiven, already saved and loved by God, why would sin make me feel so bad? It’s not the end of the world!

If your sin doesn’t bother you, then you don’t know who God is. It’s not a religious related guilt; it’s a complete disgust about what you just did in light of who God is. It has nothing to do with appearances or people’s judgment of you. It’s a total immersion in your stand before the Lord.

My sin in front of His glory, holiness, and perfection. If God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness make sin not bother you, I suggest you don’t understand the seriousness of sin, or the cost of your forgiveness, or the character of God.

We should feel the same way about our sin as God does. Jesus suffered and died for our sin. He was crushed and quenched by it; we should be too.

I know this flies in the face of our modern happy Christianity where Jesus did all the heavy lifting and I just get health, wealth, happiness, and my best life now, but the Bible should carry more weight with us than the opinions of other sinners. Sin doesn’t bother us because we compare ourselves to other sinners, because we’ve made peace with our sin and justified most of its evil away.

Get before the Lord with your sin. Being broken and contrite will be the result. Look at Isaiah before God. Look at Job when he sees the Lord. That’s what broken and contrite looks like.

It’s no happy-happy “it’s ok because I’m forgiven and Jesus loves me!” It’s a total awareness of the glories of God and the grossness of what I just did. God will take your genuine brokenness without contempt. He will look on it favorably.

See your sin for what it is before the Lord and don’t be afraid to feel that.

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