GOD WITH US NOW, NOT JUST AT CHRISTMAS

Jesus had fed the 5,000, had healed the sick, had cast out demons, yet the Pharisees demanded to see more signs, more miracles — show us a sign and we will believe!  Matthew 12:38.  It as if they thought that Jesus would deliver a sign upon demand!  How foolish of them, we say; how arrogant could they be, we say; how could they treat the Son of God like that, we say!

Are we not like them?   We demand that God would resolve our financial difficulties, perhaps by God letting us win the lottery.  We demand that God would miraculously take the disease away, on our immediate timetable, of course.  We demand that God intervene and solve all our problems when we try to buy a new house or car, although we have not financially prepared for the purchase.  Just one more sign!

Our God can do these things, of course.  He is omnipotent so there is nothing that He is powerless to accomplish.  But we miss out on His presence if we simply look for Him in a massive display of His power on our behalf.  We forget that He has given the believer in Jesus the gift of life, both here and for all eternity, through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Talk about massive display of His power!   We forget that He is with us, in fact He is in us through His beloved Holy Spirit.

Flower garden in Maine from Bette
A flower garden along a lake in Maine

We see evidences of God’s presence everywhere we look, if only we use our heart’s eyes.  A beautiful array of flowers, a stunning scene along the lake, an encouraging word from a friend that comes just when we needed it, a gentle rain or glittering rainbow, or provision He makes for our needs when we cannot see any possibility ahead of us.

The Pharisees did not need to see additional signs as evidence for them to believe in Him – Jesus had provided sufficient evidence that He was who He said He was.  He had healed the sick, raised the dead, responded to questions in ways too deep for these “thinkers” to understand. 

They didn’t need additional signs, and neither do we.  In short, we don’t need to seek spectacular displays of God’s work to know that He is the Savior.  The most spectacular display possible occurred 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ died the death that was rightfully ours and then when God raised Him from the dead. 

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV

 He is with us today, we don’t have to wait for Christmastime to realize this.

“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

2 Timothy 1:13-14 ESV

Oh that we would know that the Holy Spirit is resident within us, and that we would realize that we have “God With Us” in a way that those who lived prior to Pentecost could not imagine.  We don’t have to wonder where He is, nor do we have to go to a specific church or place to pray.  He is with us 24/7 and there is nowhere we can go that is outside His reach. 

Read Psalm 139 as you ruminate on how all-embracing God’s knowledge of you is. 

We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God.   He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.  

A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)

I pray that each of us will have open eyes to see His presence in our lives each day.

 

Father, You are Lord of the Universe, King of Kings, Creator of All, and You are the Lover of my soul.  Forgive, I pray, when I am so besieged by the difficulties, trials and concerns of the day that I fail to see Your hand, active and working in each of those situations.  Forgive, when I expect spectacular evidence of Your involvement in my life even though I ignore Your Word or the reminders that You provide in the chirp of a bird, in the sound of the wind, in the rustling of the leaves, in the antics of woodland creatures or the family pets.  Thank you Father for Your constant presence through the Holy Spirit.  May I be more sensitive to hearing Your call as You work in my life today.

IS THIS WHAT IT APPEARS TO BE?

Have you ever seen something that just looked odd?  Like there was some inconsistency in what you were observing?

When we were on a trip recently, we were sitting in traffic when a mini-van pulled alongside of us.  The name on the … well, here is a picture of the vehicle:

Yellow cab in Virginia
The gray Yellow Cab.

In case you are not looking at this in color, the cab is gray.  The name is in black.  And, the name of the company is “Yellow Cab”.  [Please note, I am not in any way saying that the company is bad or that the driver of the cab was inconsiderate.  I am only commenting on the difference between the name and the color of the taxi.]

I started laughing and Bill then noticed the inconsistency and he, too, chuckled.  A discussion then ensued about why we were laughing – what made it funny. 

Obviously it was the inconsistency between the yellow in the name and the gray of the vehicle.  Yellow cabs, by definition, are yellow, at least that is what they usually are! 

That discussion then went into a discussion of how upset we are when we think something is one thing when, in fact, it is quite different. 

Christians are to be imitators of Christ. 

“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

John 13:13-15 ESV

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 ESV

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

“… For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people.  And in Antioch, the disciples were first called Christians.”

Acts 11:26 ESV

Disciples of our Lord are to follow Christ’s example and His commands; that is what the title Christian implies – we are followers of Christ.  And, His example at the Last Supper was that of being a servant to others, with the specific commandment that His disciples love one another, just as He had loved them.   Before ascending into heaven, He directed that the disciples were to make disciples, baptizing and teaching others.  In Acts, we read that the early church met together and did what Jesus directed, and they were first called Christians in Antioch.

So, service, love, teaching and obedience to our Lord are central characteristics of a Christian.   How does that fit with someone who puffs themselves up before others, and then belittles folks behind their back?  How does that fit with someone who refuses to participate in helping those in need?   How does that fit with someone to will not associate with other believers in church?

Jesus had something to say about those who say or do things for the wrong reasons:

“”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

Matthew 23:23 ESV. 

The hypocrites arrogantly tithed absolutely everything, but they ignored those in need!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Matthew 23:25-28 ESV. 

From a spiritual perspective, the what is on the outside is irrelevant: it is the heart that matters.  The hypocrites looked good on the outside, but inside was a different story!

I thought about that gray yellow cab and wondered if that was a picture of me. 

When people hear me speak of my Lord and Savior, the outside identifies me as a Christian; but then when they hear me blast the restaurant server, do they still see me as a Christian?  When I drive my car, with its fish decal on the back representing me as a Christian, and then I cut someone off, is my driving witness consistent with what the decal affirms?  

In other words, is my witness inconsistent with my heart?  Do I look like one thing in actions and in words while the underlying heart condition is vastly different?

Am I really what I appear to be?  Are you?

Am I a gray yellow cab? 

Father, forgive me for the times that my actions are inconsistent with the message that You have directed me to present to others.  Forgive me when I am more like the hypocrites in Scripture than I am like the Christians who unashamedly presented Jesus Christ to all who came to them.  Give me strength and the ability to do Your will as You direct and empower.

KUDZU – A FORMIDABLE FOE

Kudzu is a vine that is ubiquitous in the American South.  It was formally introduced to the United States at the 1876 World’s Fair Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, however its potential in the U.S. was minimal at best and it appeared not to have a place in our landscape.

Then came the dust storms of 1935.  When soil erosion ravaged the prairies, millions of kudzu seedlings were grown in greenhouse nurseries as the weapon that would stop erosion in its tracks. 

Today, rather than in prairies, kudzu is associated with the South.  It is very aggressive when planted along roadways and railway embankments, and for that reason, it is conspicuously visible from passing automobiles!   Indeed, its creation of goblins and ghouls out of trees and telephone poles can be seen even when traveling 65 miles per hour. 

Kudzo - Trees engulfed in the vine
Kudzu as seen from the car traveling down the Interstate Highway.

In fact, the vine has been called “the vine that killed the South”, although that seems to be quite an exaggeration!  (Read more about this at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/true-story-kudzu-vine-ate-south-180956325/#cGVCq35eEDVdpfqu.99) )

We pass kudzu every time we get in the car as it is on the roadways that we travel daily.

As we were traveling down the highway, I began thinking about Kudzu and its spread.  At first, it is innocuous, just a little vine, a weed, no problem.  But when it becomes aggressive, it takes control of a small area on the tree and, quickly, engulfs the entire tree.  It is truly a formidable foe!

As I was thinking about this, I found a parallel to it for our spiritual lives. Consider the insidious ways that sin overtakes us.  Sin is cosmic treason, it is disobedience to God’s command.  Dr. R. C. Sproul says:

The slightest sin is an act of defiance against cosmic authority.  It is a revolutionary act, a rebellious act in which we are setting ourselves in opposition to the One to whom we owe everything.  It is an insult to His holiness.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 115-116

Kudzo along highway beginning its takeover in VA
Kudzu getting a firm hold along the highway in Virginia.

Looking at trees that are consumed by kudzu, we see them weighed down, bent and misshapen.  This brings to mind Jonathan Edwards’ description of sin and its effects:

Your wickedness makes you as if it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf; and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock.

The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. II (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1974) p. 9.

Like kudzu, sin is insidious – it creeps in when and where we least expect it.  We must be on our guard because sin is constantly tempting us to disregard God and to act on our own, and sin is a formidable foe. 

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8 ESV

Indeed, we cannot defeat sin on our own.

Martin Luther put it this way:

Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God.  Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved.  Now choose what you want.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Kudzu thrives in the light along the highways and roadways of the South.  But, its enemy is the shade of the forest where it cannot survive. 

Sin thrives in the darkness of rebellion against God and of self-pride.  Jesus said:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

Matthew 6:22-23 ESV

But, sin has its enemy, specifically the Lord Jesus Christ.  When the Light of the world illuminates sin, the Light defeats the darkness. 

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””

John 8:12 ESV

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV

Like kudzu, sin may creep in and may even cover the heart, but the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is sufficient to overcome whatever sin we have committed.  Repent and accept His forgiveness, then praise our Lord and glory in His name.

Father, thank You for shining the light of Jesus Christ in my heart and for the presence of the Holy Spirit that protects me as sin tries to tempt.  I pray for strength as I walk the path you have directed, I pray that I will look to You each day in Your strength, all for Your glory.

 

I CAN DO IT!

When our grandson was an infant, he was fascinated by light.  He would stare at a lighted lamp, in fact, you could entertain him by turning the lights on and off!  That fascination continued through his toddler age when his goal, multiple times daily, was to push the button or flip the switch to turn on the lights BY HIMSELF.

What parent has not heard the words “I can do it!”  They usually are stated in rather loud tones, often with a toss of the head as they refuse assistance even though there is little time to accomplish the task. 

I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 1      I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 2   I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 3

 After significant effort, often the child can do the task  and there is the feeling of success!

                I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 4      I can do it myself - climbing up on bench 5

Children aren’t the only ones who say this.  Adults utter these words as well, for example, consider these words in the context of following the instructions in the set up guide for some electronic gadget.  “I can do it!” 

But there are some things that I cannot do on my own.  

How often has this scenario unfolded in your life?  We see something that we believe God would have us do and we run into it, arms open (sometimes mouths open as well) but we fail, it is not successful, and we are worn out with the effort.  The problem is that we have not bathed the project in prayer.  We have not asked Him for His guidance.  We have not requested His Holy Spirit to be in control of this project. 

In short, we have not recognized that we CANNOT do it ourselves

Jesus was quite firm in this regard.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5 ESV

Did you see that?  How much of eternal consequence can we do on our own?  NOTHING!  To state the obvious, the word “nothing” is the combination of two words – “NO THING”.  We can do “no thing” for Him, no thing of eternal consequence, unless we abide in Him. 

He is the One who gives us the ability; He is the One who provides the power; He is the One who gives direction for His work. 

The words “I can do it” are the death knell for any effort on our part to be productive in the Kingdom of God, especially if you mean that you can do it by yourself.  Paul noted that God could use him when he was weak, because then the power of God is made manifest.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  God may well use us, but it is always at His direction, through His power, and in His providence, and for His glory

More spiritually fundamental is the fact that we cannot even save ourselves from our sin.  The very act of salvation is all God’s work, not ours. Indeed, Scripture is totally clear on this point – no one can do anything to accomplish his/her salvation because we are dead in our sins.  Colossians 2:13-14.  It is foolish to think that a corpse can take any action on its own – it is dead.  So too, we cannot resolve our sin issue on our own because our sin, our intentional disobedience to God’s commands, renders us spiritually dead.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– … For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  

Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9 ESV 

“But God” – words that are music to the Christian’s ears.  But God … made us alive … by grace you have been saved through faith … it is the gift of God.

Beloved, the words “I can do it” simply do not apply to the resolution of our problem with sin.  We cannot save ourselves from our sin and we cannot approach a holy God while we are still in sin.  Absent God’s Grace and Mercy, we are doomed.  “But God”, salvation is all about Faith and Providence. Our salvation is a gift and we cannot do it absent God’s grace.

And, we must be abiding in the Vine before we can do anything of eternal consequence.  

Next time you are about to run off on your own … stop and seek His guidance and His power.  You can do all things as long as you are abiding in the Vine!

Father, thank You for Your great grace and mercy in providing salvation through Jesus Christ, Your Son.  May I give You honor and thanksgiving each day as I live through the power of the Holy Spirit, and may these words be glorifying to You, My God and my Savior.

THE WORD OF THE LORD, FOR US

Bible - Grandfather's bible given to him in 1939 by wife and son
My Grandfather’s Bible given to him in 1939 by his wife and his son, my Dad.

The Holy Bible tells us:

“’All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”  

1 Peter 1:24-25 ESV

The phrase “the word of the Lord” is first referenced in Genesis and runs throughout the entire Holy Bible.  Space does not allow for a complete listing, but here are some of the references to the “word of the Lord”:

The word of the Lord came to Abram – Genesis 15:1

The word of the Lord came to Samuel – 1 Samuel 15:10

The word of the Lord came to Elijah – 1 Kings 21:17

The word of the Lord created the heavens – Psalm 33:6

The word of the Lord remains forever – 1 Peter 1:25

Of course, Israel had the word of the Lord as given to them through the Torah, the prophets and the writings, in essence what we call the Old Testament.  And we now have both the Old Testament as well as the record of Jesus’ life and ministry in the Gospels, along with the letters and record of the ministry of the various apostles, and the prophetic writing of the Apostle John in The Revelation.  This collection of books is the New Testament. 

Holy Bible parallel translation
The Parallel Bible with 4 versions side by side, the King James Version, the New International Version, the Living Bible and the Revised Standard Version.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

2 Timothy 3:16

In other words, the entire Holy Bible, ALL Scripture, is God’s word and is profitable for us in numerous ways.  So, what does “breathed out by God” mean? God-breathed means that the words were inspired. 

Irenaeus. a 2nd century cleric from Lyons, France, said that we should be “most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit.”  Martin Luther said, “Scripture, although also written of men, is not of men nor from men, but from God.” 

From the 2nd Century to today, we see the same thought regarding God’s involvement in the Scriptures.  In an article entitled “God-Breathed Scripture” prepared by Ligonier Ministries, we read the following:

The Greek word translated as “breathed out” in 2 Timothy 3:16 is theopneustos, and Scripture is the only thing described as such by the Apostles. Thus, Scripture has a unique character as the voice and words of the Lord. It uniquely serves as God’s special revelation, as His inspired and revealed will for His people. Nothing else today is theopneustos, so we can point to nothing but Scripture as the Word of God. 

When we speak of Scripture as theopneustos, we are pointing to its divine inspiration. The Word of God written is identical to God’s speech. It is exactly what He intended us to have as the revelation of His will and how to please Him. At the same time, this does not take away from the Bible’s human character. God breathed out His Word, but He did so through the instrumentality of His prophets and Apostles. So, for example, the book of Romans is Paul’s word, bearing the Apostle’s unique style and character. Nevertheless, it is also God’s Word, given by Him. That our Lord used a man to give us the book of Romans does not in any way make it less than the very speech of God. And this applies to all books of Scripture. 

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/god-breathed-scripture/ 

The Holy Bible is not only translated and printed into books, it is now online and is also available in e-book text for viewing on all sorts of electronic devices.  This presents a new issue for modern Christianity.  Are we letting the multitude of Bibles in the house and the easy accessibility of it through internet and online sources render it just another book to throw on the floor or to dust around on the coffee table.

Beware!  It is NOT the Reader’s Digest or the daily newspaper. 

Does it retain the holy place it deserves in our minds and hearts or has it lost, for us, the power of The Word of God?  

My prayer is that the ready accessibility of The Holy Bible in our country will not cloud our minds or distort our perception of how cherished and sacred the Scriptures should be.   The Holy Bible as a printed book is not some magical relic that has powers if we hold it to our breast.   

It is even more profound.  The words in The Holy Bible do, most surely, have power through the Holy Spirit because they are, indeed, THE Words of God.  

When we contemplate the grandeur of this Book that God has, through His grace, placed in our hands, we can begin to realize how blessed we are.  What a treasure it is to have the very words of our Sovereign God in our possession.  The most important document that you could possibly possess is a Bible, the message of God to you, and to me.  Don’t neglect its divinely inspired message to you.

Do you?  

Do I?

Father, forgive me when I have neglected to read and study Your Word.  I pray that I would give Your Word the proper respect and reverence that it deserves.  I pray that I would read it and place its words into memory, and that I would do what The Holy Bible directs, so that I would reflect its words to those around me, through the power of Your Holy Spirit.

THE PRESERVATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

I have been thinking about The Holy Bible and how it is almost ubiquitous in U.S. culture. In fact, the Holy Bible has been translated into far more languages than any other book.  According to the United Bible Societies and Wycliffe, as of 2010:

  • There were 6,800 languages in the world.
  • The complete Bible has been translated into only 450 languages.  
  • About 2,000 languages do not have any part of the Scriptures.  These languages are spoken by about 5% of the people on our globe. 
  • About 4,350 languages have some of the Scriptures translated for its readership to use.
  • So, approximately 95% of the people in the world have some part of the Scriptures in their own language.

While those figures are stunning, and it makes me want to thank God for the blessing of having the Scriptures in my language, and we need to ponder how we received these translated Scriptures and how God preserved them down through the centuries.  Please don’t tune me out now – a little history is good for the soul!

In 382 A.D., a monk by the name of Jerome was commissioned to translate the accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry as found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John from Greek into Latin.  The Old Testament was in Hebrew.  Once the gospel accounts were completed, Jerome translated the entire Old Testament from Hebrew into everyday Latin.  His translation, later to be called the Vulgate (meaning common), was used by the church for over 1,000 years, until the Reformation. 

John Wycliffe (1338-1384) believed that the ability to read the Scriptures was necessary for one to live one’s faith.  He translated the Scriptures into English from the Latin Vulgate.  The translations were considered “unauthorized” by the established church and anyone with a copy could be put to death.  After Wycliffe’s death his bones were exhumed and burned, with his ashes scattered in a river. Wycliffe’s translation exists today, in fact more copies of his translation exist than anything else written in that time period.

About 1450, Guttenberg created a printing press with movable type and everything changed.  Now, the Bible was not only for the super-rich, it could now be obtained by the common man.  Guttenberg wrote:

It is only a press, but a press from which will flow a constant stream. … Through it, God will spread His Word.  A spring of truth will flow from it.  Like a new star it will scatter the darkness of ignorance and cause an unknown light to shine for all. 

In 1492 the Vulgate was brought to the Americas when Christopher Columbus voyaged under what he claimed was guidance through the Scriptures. 

In 1516, Erasmus produced a parallel New Testament that had the Greek on one side of the page and Latin on the other side.  He focused on using the original Hebrew and Greek in preparing a translation.

In the early 16th century, William Tyndale, who was proficient in at least 7 languages, translated the New Testament from Greek into English.  Having an English Bible was still illegal and in 1536 he was convicted, strangled and burned to death at the stake.  

Henry VIII renounced Roman Catholicism and established the Church of England and in 1539, just three years after Tyndale’s death, the King funded the printing of the “Great Bible”.  Twenty years later the Church of England became the only church in the country and those caught leading alternative services were destined to fine, imprisonment and/or execution. 

This caused many to flee to the continent, including John Knox and John Calvin.  While in exile, they and the Church of Geneva translated the first complete English Bible from the original languages.  It was the first Bible to use Roman letters and the first to have divisions between verses.  It also contained extensive study notes. 

A conflict arose between the Geneva Bible and the Great Bible, so in 1604, King James I ordered a new translation, and we know it as the authorized King James Version.  It is the product of the work of fifty-four scholars over 7 years.  (About 80% mirrors the translation of Tyndale!) 

A page from a copy of the King James Version of the New Testament, 1611 printing. Received from the touring Ink and Blood Exhibit.

The first copy of the King James Version reached the American Colonies when John Winthrop arrived in 1630.

Why all this history in The Ruminant Scribe’s blog?

It behooves us to understand and appreciate that God actively worked through men and women who devoted their lives and, when necessary, who gave their lives so that the Scriptures could be read by the common people, not just the clergy and not just the rich, empowered people. The dedication and risks, the devotion and persecution, the effort and zeal that surrounded the preservation of the Scriptures should not be taken for granted by us in the 21st century. We still need to get the Holy  Scriptures into the hands of men and women so that the Holy Spirit can use the text of the Scriptures for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”  2 Timothy 3:16

Praise our Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, the Author and Creator of our Salvation for the gift of His Word. 

 

Father, there are not mortal words that can compare to the Words that You have given us in the Scriptures.  Your Words are light and life eternal.  I thank You and praise Your Holy Name for the gift of the Holy Scriptures. 

 

 

SO, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK?

I enjoy reading.  I enjoy research, which involves reading.  I enjoy … well reading.  Reading and analyzing was a part of my work career for many years but I enjoyed reading even before going to law school.  So, what book do you love to read?  What is your favorite book?  If you were on a desert island and only had one book with you, what would it be?

I expect there would be a myriad of answers, and there are quite a number of books that I would like to have with me, but there is one that is high above the others, that is the love letter sent to us from a Holy God and it is entitled the Holy Bible.

I believe that the Holy Bible is the Word of God, that it is inspired and God-breathed, and that it is the only guide for my faith and life as a Christian.  So, it is the book that I would select above all others.

In our home, there are a number of Bibles and each one has a special meaning to us.   All are versions of the inspired Word of God.

Holy Bible KJV
The King James Version of Scripture that I have used for many decades.

This is the Bible that I used for many years.  When it began to come apart, my beloved husband had it rebound for me.  I use the English Standard Version now, but there are times that the text of the King James Version is just too beautiful for me to ignore.

Bible - Uncle Ed's worn Bible
My Great Uncle’s Bible that I received after my Great Aunt went to be with the Lord.

This is my Great Uncle’s Bible.  It was so worn, that he had electrical tape around the edges to keep it together.  One characteristic of this Bible is that in the front of it there were blank pages.  These pages were for the owner to write notes in, to keep at hand references that would assist their study of the Scriptures, or even outlines of lessons that were presented during Sunday School or worship. 

Bible - Uncle Ed's note pages
The tape used to affix the articles to the pages in my Great Uncle’s Bible are yellowed with age and, in many cases, no longer keep the note attached to the page.

The first entry is dated August 24. 1947.  For more than 50 years my Uncle had written in his Bible, had kept copies of inspirational thoughts, had written the Sunday School lessons that he taught in the Men’s Class, and had read and notated the text of God’s Word.  I have spent hours reading his notes and lessons that are recorded in these tissue-like pages of his Bible.  This is a beautiful reminder of a man who is now with our Lord.  I am blessed each time I read out of it.

Praise God that He has provided us with His Word. 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

Note that this verse does not say “Only the New Testament is breathed out by God” or “Only the scripture that you think is easy to obey is breathed out by God” or “Ignore what you don’t like because this is just an historical text!” 

ALL Scripture is the Word of God, even the passages that are difficult to hear.  Scripture tells us that which He desires, how He wants us to live, what He values … we don’t have to guess and we don’t even have to ask.  He has given us the answers already, and they are available if you just read His Word.

God’s Word is powerful.  Through it the Holy Spirit can convict of sin, and through it the Holy Spirit can teach us how to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12 ESV

God’s Word is our guide to living the life that God has intended for His people to live.  We are to share it and we are to express it through our life as we live out its teachings to those who watch us interact with others. 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16 ESV

I thank God that I live in a country where owning a Bible is not a crime and where I can carry my Bible with me without fear of being attacked or killed.  Not all in our world are so blessed.  My heart aches for them as I pray for those for whom owning a Bible seems to be a far off dream. 

The Holy Bible is the inspired holy scripture of the one and only holy God.  The Holy Bible truly is a love letter from the Almighty God to us, telling us everything we need to know to live a life that is pleasing to Him.  We should recognize its inestimable worth and treat it with the respect that a love letter deserves!

So, what is your favorite book?

Father, I pray that we would remember that Your Word to us is holy, that You inspired the writers and that You protected the Word so that it has remained inviolate for thousands of years.  Forgive me when I treat it with little respect or ignore it altogether.  Help us to remember that it is Your Word to us, not just another book by some author or another.  Reverent treatment should be afforded to the scriptures and loving use should be given as we cherish it through the years.

THE PERFECTION OF GOD, PART 2

Oregon picture perfect mountains

In the prior post we considered the perfection of God and the reality that His perfection extends to each of His attributes.  Perfect beauty, perfect love, perfect mercy, perfect wisdom, perfect justice, perfect power, etc.   Further, God’s perfection has always existed and it will continue to exist even after the end of time.  He is perfect and nothing will change that condition.

Recall, too, that which the medieval theologians said of God:  they used a phrase which may be translated as “the most perfect being”, the Latin phrase “ens perfectissimus”.

Today, we want to consider God’s perfection as it compares to our own. 

Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, which is composed of the Father, the Son [Jesus] and the Holy Spirit.  We believe that Jesus was fully divine as part of the Godhead.  We also believe that Jesus was fully human, just as you and I are human, but He had no sin. 

Jesus, the incarnation of God, said:

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48 ESV.

In His human nature, He lived a perfect life because He fulfilled the law in each and every aspect of it.  Therefore, He was the sinless sacrifice that atoned for the sins that we have committed.  Because Jesus lived this perfect life as a man, He fulfilled His own commandment to us that we should be perfect as God, our heavenly Father, is perfect.  

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes our condition in which our mind and heart want to follow God and do His commandments but our flesh refuses and chooses to sin instead.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” 

Romans 7:18-19 ESV

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”  

Romans 7:24-25 ESV

Paul answered his gut-wrenching scream in verse 24 with his thanks as expressed in verse 25 – Jesus Christ is the One who can rescue us from this dilemma.  Clearly, because of sin we cannot even be considered a little bit good in God’s eyes, certainly not “perfect”!  

In the letter to the Philippians, Paul talked more about perfection, and said:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:12-14 ESV. 

Paul recognized that we are not, nor can we on our own be, perfect.  Even the apostle had not attained perfection; but he pressed on toward this goal because he belonged to Jesus Christ.  Our victory over sin is through Jesus Christ who did live that perfect life which we regularly fail to accomplish.  Not only did Jesus live a sinless life, He died on the cross and was raised from the dead on the third day.  He vanquished sin and death and He has promised to do that for us, for those who believe in His name and accept Him as their Savior.   

Paul, here, was referring to Isaiah 25:8, when he told the Corinthians that perfection did not belong to us, but to the One who conquered sin and death:

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 ESV 

The quintessence of perfection belongs to God, the Father Almighty because He is perfect:  simply put, perfection is just one of His attributes.  Indeed, it is because of His love for His people that we even get a glimpse of perfection in this fallen world.  Thank Him for giving us His Son, through whom we can be counted as righteous, or as perfect, before the holy eyes of our Almighty God.

Praise Him that He loves us so much that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life among us sinners so that we could be transported to heaven and live in His perfect righteousness there!

Father, when we consider Your attributes and realize that You are perfect, in all things, we can only bow in humble reverence that You would consider us at all.  When we remember that You sent Your Son as our Savior, the only response we rightfully can offer is one of repentant obedience, gratitude, and devotion.

THE PERFECTION OF GOD

Perfection.  What a glorious word.  When it is said, we know that a high standard has been met, the pinnacle of achievement was accomplished, and we have witnessed work which cannot be improved upon.  Perfect.

Diver at hotel pool in Florida perfect
A perfect dive in Florida!

Perhaps you have achieved perfection in a sporting activity, like diving.  Or, perhaps you have achieved perfection in a hobby, maybe a picture that people have said is “picture perfect”.

Oregon picture perfect mountains
Picture perfect scene in Oregon.

Or perhaps it is the sleeping newborn infant, while family members look at the child and marvel and say “Perfect!” as they look at the little fingers with tiny fingernails! 

Newborn baby girl (C)
Newborn baby daughter, alive with all sorts of possibilities ahead of her.

While each of these examples do show what could, in human terms, be considered perfect, they come nowhere close to the perfection that is the standard of our God. 

Medieval theologians used the Latin phrase ens perfectissimus  to refer to God.  The phrase may be translated by the words “the most perfect being.”  … [They wanted to] underscore the reality of God’s perfection so clearly that they would eliminate any possibility of suggesting the slightest lack of perfection in God’s character.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998p. 197

Dr. Sproul continues:

God’s perfection applies to all of His attributes.  His power is perfect; it has no weaknesses or any possibility of weakness.  His knowledge is not only omniscient but reflects perfect omniscience.  There is nothing that God does not know or that He could possibly learn. … God’s love, His wrath, His mercy – all that He is — is perfect. Not only is He perfect, but He is eternally and immutably so.  There never was a time when God was less than perfect and there is no possibility that in the future He may slip into any kind of imperfection. What has been with God will be so forever.  His perfection is immutable.  It cannot change.

Ibid., p. 198  (Emphasis is mine)

The very consideration of the scope of God’s perfection makes it hard to comprehend.  How extensive it is … how overwhelming it would be for us to see … how unlike us it makes our Creator God.

When God delivered him from the hand of King Saul, David extolled the Lord and gave praise to Him, including the following description of the monumental difference between God and man by saying, in part:

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.  But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”

Psalm 103:19 ESV. 

“As for man … BUT God.”   The chasm between God and man is so great that it cannot be truly fathomed.  Those who think that God is unnecessary because we can handle things for ourselves, “thank you very much”, are simply – well, wrong.  The very fact that we exist, the fact that we have air to breath or that rain comes for nourishing our planet so food will grow, and the fact that the earth keeps spinning is in God’s providence and in His good pleasure.   

“This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.   For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?  This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless.”

2 Samuel 22:31-33 ESV

Jesus, the incarnation of God, said:

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48 ESV.   Of course this is an impossible goal, but we are called by our Savior to strive for perfection.

God’s perfection is one of the attributes of His nature.  Praise His holy name that His perfection extends to all His attributes.  He is the same today as He was before the creation of the world and He will be the same perfect powerful God when this creation is transformed into the new heaven and new earth. 

God’s perfection – hard to comprehend in its fullness, He is the “most perfect being”.  God’s perfection – difficult to fathom, but easy to hold on to as we rest in the perfect love of our Savior and God.

Father, You are perfect, You are the most perfect being and You have been such since before You spoke the world into existence.  Perfect in power, in love, in wisdom.  I praise Your name and bow in humble gratitude as I think of Your perfection touching my heart which is so full of imperfection and sin.  Father, enable me to live my life as a testimony to Your perfect character, and I ask this through the power of the Holy Spirit.