What He Said Was Important

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28–30, NIV 1984).

My Musings – How does one move from “weary and burdened” to “easy and light?”  By being “gentle and humble.”  By being imitators of Christ.  In Jesus’ day, the Jews were looking for a political or militant solution to their years of bondage.  Their early excitement over Jesus (“could this be the Messiah“) gave way to disillusionment and hostility, as gentleness and humility did not quite meet their expectations of a deliverer.   They preferred ruthless and pompous.

They failed to understand just what kind of bondage the Messiah came to deliver us from.  They were seeking “peace in our time.”  Christ came to offer peace for all time.  They were seeking deliverance “at all costs.”  Jesus offered peace that demanded the greatest cost.  They were seeking liberty in the land.  Jesus was offering liberation of the heart.  They wanted vengeance.  Jesus offered forgiveness.  They wanted unconditional surrender.  Jesus offered unmerited grace.  They wanted independence.  Jesus offered relationship.  They wanted a manifesto.  Jesus offered their names written in the Lamb’s book of life.   They wanted rebellion, Jesus required surrender.

My Advice – So what have we learned in 2000 years?  Will we as the Church advance the Kingdom of God through pollical activism or by proclamation of the Gospel?  Through force or faith?  Harshness or gentleness?  Arrogance or humility?  By becoming 21st century Pharisees or by modeling ourselves after 1st century believers?  By engaging in crusades or by taking up our cross?  Let’s learn from Him.  “You have heard it said, but I say to you …”  Our country’s and the world’s problems will not be solved from the outside in, only from the inside out.  It’s the heart not the head.  It’s the eternal, not the temporal.  It’s the narrow path, not the broad path.  It’s the Great Commission, not the great omission.  The time is short.  The harvest is great.  The workers are few.  Let’s get on with it.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Who Is His Equal?

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To whom will you compare Me? Who is My equal?” says the Holy One. Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. (Isaiah 40:25, 28, NIV 1978).

My Musings – Everlasting, without beginning or end.  Creator of all there is.   Unfathomable wisdom.  No one is His equal or could even come close.  Who could we possibly compare Him to?

My Advice –  He invites us into a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ.  What possible reason could we have for not accepting His invitation?

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Bouncing Back

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My Musings – Outside the Garden of Eden, Peter’s denial of Christ was perhaps the greatest recorded failure in the Bible (although David was a close contender).  And yet it was not too long afterwards that Peter and John astonished the religious leaders by boldly proclaiming Christ, causing them to take note of the impact that being with Jesus had made in their lives. Zig Ziglar is quoted as saying, “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.”  Peter had fallen far, but through the power of the Holy Spirit bounced even higher.

I am sure Peter remembered his betrayal of Jesus all the days of his life and wished he had never denied Christ at all.  He could have wallowed in shame and guilt for the rest of his life, but he chose to learn from it and let it go.  And unlike the comic above, God’s “pencil” has a giant eraser that never wears out.  He erases them from our record (as far a the East is from the West), but not from our memories. “The real test is not whether [you avoid failing again], because you won’t. it’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.” (Barack Obama).

My Advice – When you fail, and you will, ask yourself two questions.  What can I learn from this?  What can I (in the power of the Holy Spirit) do to prevent this from happening again?  “Let’s face it, we’re all imperfect and we’re going to fall short on occasion. But we must learn from failure and that will enable us to avoid repeating our mistakes. Through adversity, we learn, grow stronger, and become better people.” (John Wooden).

Listen Up!

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My Musings – Did you hear me and are you listening to me are two completely different things.  One is merely mechanical, occurring without effort, while the others requires a mental effort.  One detects, while the other perceives.  If one is a follower of Christ, they not only know the Master’s voice, they listen and follow.  They are not just hearers or the Word, they are doers of the Word because they are listening.

My Advice – Are we hearing without listening?  We know how frustrating that can be to us.  How disappointing it must be to God. But it can also be very dangerous to us.  There are many false doctrines (noise) out there that can easily deceive if we haven’t been carefully “listening” to what God’s Word has to say (meaning).  Make the effort to listen closely with discerning (mental processing) ears.

Wisdom From Heaven

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My Musings – All too often we seem to compartmentalize our lives into spiritual matters versus non-spiritual matters or significant issues versus insignificant issues. We seek His will on the spiritual matters but worry and fret over non-spiritual matters. We try to solve the minor issues on our own but go to God on the major ones. We then compound the error of this incorrect orientation by applying worldly wisdom to solving the non-spiritual matters and minor issues while applying heavenly wisdom (at least we hope so) to solving those that are spiritual matters or significant. Instead, we should “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” applying heavenly wisdom as we seek His will on all matters, spiritual and non-spiritual, major and minor.

We are wise once we begin to realize that the wisdom, scholarship and philosophy that the world affords are foolishness in the eyes of God. Leaning on our own understanding, which is frequently based upon these things, can lead us down crooked paths or detour us altogether. But trusting in God and acknowledging that His wisdom and guidance is all we really need, and then actually following it leads us down paths that are straight. All too often we grow impatient waiting on the Lord, yet taking matters into our own hands and relying on worldly wisdom usually wastes time, effort and resources that were not necessary had we remained patient and waited on the Lord. Also, leaning on our own understanding often results in consequences that could have been avoid as well.

With the knowledge and understanding that God provides, we are better able to make correct judgments that enable us to follow the best course of action. But how do we do this? We have already learned many things that are useful for spiritual wisdom and discernment: desiring what God desires, cultivating a Christ-like attitude, being attuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, pursuing a life of service that God planned in advance for us to do, developing meaningful and consistent Bible study habits and communicating often with God in prayer. It should come as no surprise that these things are, in a sense, building blocks to developing spiritual wisdom and discernment and is a characteristic of devoted Disciples of Christ. And, there are more building blocks to come, such as being engaged with the church, learning valuable lessons from earthly trials and temptations and being motivated by a Godly love. As we put these disciplines into practice we will come to realize and understand that God’s ways are right and best, and we should walk in them.

Unfortunately, all too often we find that it is easier (or so we think) to rely on our own understanding rather than God’s. We buy into Satan’s deception (began in Eden) believing that the ways of the world are “desirable for gaining wisdom.” When we lean on our own understanding, which is worldly, thinking that we are so wise and learned, spiritual wisdom is hidden from us. We are blinded by our own devises. But when we, in child-like faith and trust, seek answers from above they are revealed to us. Thus, what we believe to be so hard, gaining spiritual wisdom and discernment is actually “child’s play”. It really does not take an Einstein. The truth is that God wants us to make right choices and wise decisions. That being the case, why would He make it hard for us to do so? He does not. In fact, James tells us that “[i]f any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all. (James 1:5).” We actually make it hard for ourselves when we lean on our own understanding and do not acknowledge that His ways are best.

Elsewhere in his epistle, James gives us some additional insights into spiritual wisdom that we would be well served (wise) to pay attention to and learn from. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:13-17, NIV 1978).

In a world where good and evil are in constant conflict, where what is wrong strives to negate what is right and where right is often called wrong and wrong is called right, worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom are also set in opposition to each other.

Worldly Wisdom Characteristics

If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. There you find disorder and every evil practice.”

Bitter Envy – Resentful desire.  “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30, NIV 1978).

Selfish Ambition – Self-seeking desire to achieve or obtain.  “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10, NIV 1978).

Empty Boasting – Excessive pride over one’s own attainments, abilities or possessions. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2, NIV 1978).

Denial of Truth – Inability or unwillingness to see facts clearly.  “All will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” (2 Thessalonians 1:12, NIV 1978).

Earthly – Values, standards, motives, methods and goals that are worldly.  “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of the eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16, NIV 1978).

Unspiritual – Animal instincts devoid of Godly instincts.  “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NIV 1978).

Devilish – Demonic, marching to devil’s drumbeat, embracing the devil’s values. May appear appealing but in reality it devours.  “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds will somehow be led astray.” (2 Corinthians 11:3, NIV 1978).

Disorder – Confused, perplexed, mixed up.  “God is not a God or disorder but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33, NIV 1978).

Evil Practices – Worthless when measured by God’s standards even though they appear to produce success in the eyes of the world.  “When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11, NIV 1978).

Heavenly Wisdom Characteristics

The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. [Those] who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Pure – Free from contamination. Cleansed of ulterior motives and selfishness.  “The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to Him.” (Proverbs 15:26, NIV 1978).

Peace-loving – Loves tranquility, harmony and lack of strife. Inner peace, even if no external peace.  “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”  (Romans 8:6, NIV 1978).

Considerate (gentle) – Refusal to demand “letter of the law”, flexible, willing to give up rights, tolerance.  “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4, NIV 1978).

Submissive (reasonable) – Ready to obey, easy to reason with, not rigid, willing to listen, open and teachable.  “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” (Psalm 143:10, NIV 1978).

Full of Mercy and Good Fruit – Concern prompting a compassionate response (attitude resulting in action), not mere feelings or words but practical help.  “We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10, NIV 1978).

Impartial (unwavering) – Steadfast, faithfulness to principles, capable of sound Biblical decision and standing by it, opposite of double-mindedness.  “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV 1978).

Sincere – Genuine, lacking hypocrisy.  “Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world in the holiness and sincerity that is from God, not according to worldly wisdom.” (2 Corinthians 1:12, NIV 1978).

Peace – Freedom from disquieting thoughts or emotions. Untroubled.  “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.” (John 14:27, NIV 1978).

Righteousness – Behavior and conduct that is in agreement with God’s moral standards. Not just right decisions, but righteous decisions.  “This is my prayer: that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless, filled with the fruit of righteousness.” (Philippians 1:9–11, NIV 1978).

My Advice – The choice really is ours. We desire to be wise. We just have a tendency to seek for it in all the wrong places. When we do so, we also have a tendency to make wrong decisions and unwise choices. These usually have consequences. We end up confused, perplexed and mixed up. We second guess our decisions and choices, because we realize that we have settled for what is second best. Actually worthless when compared to God’s standards and what He has to offer us. Even though it might seem that we have made the right choices in the eyes of the world, we find that they do not provide us with the satisfaction and peace of mind that we expected. They prove meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

On the other hand, when we seek for wisdom in the right place, more often than not we will make right decisions and wise choices that are free of undesirable consequences. Our minds are left untroubled and we have peace from God. For we have not just made the right decision or choice, but that we have made the righteous decision or choice.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all.” (James 1:5, NIV 1978).

How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him [Heavenly wisdom]; but if [worldly wisdom] is, follow [it].” (1 Kings 18:21, NIV 1978).

Restless Evil, Deadly Poison

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My Musing – Our words come not just from our tongue.  They come from our pen and keyboard as well.  “The pen [tongue, keyboard] is mightier [deadlier] than the sword.” (Edward Bulwer-Lytton, from his play “Richelieu,” 1839).  Indeed.  Words carefully turned can prevent a war.  Carelessly or sinisterly used they can launch armies into battle.  They can soothe a broken heart or shatter one that was otherwise whole.  From the same tongue [pen, keyboard] come fostered friendships or fomenting enmity.  As James aptly put it, “my brothers, this should not be.

My Advice – We are all entitled to our opinions and points of view.  How we express them (say, pen or type) is entirely up to us.  But we should think about what we need to say (often what we need to say is quite different from what we want to say) and how we say it (the best intentions can go awfully wrong with hastily chosen words).  T-H-I-N-K before you speak or write.

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Land Ho!

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My Musings – As we continue to compare the account of Genesis  with current scientific theories (setting aside the apparent time discrepancy), I continue to be amazed at what God commanded Moses to write (in simple enough terms for early man to grasp the essentials – I AM who I AM, and I created all this) is not contradicted by man’s “advanced learning” over the centuries.  Did I say amazed?  Not amazed at all.

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Let the Water Under the Sky Be Gathered to One Place (Seas) – In the beginning the water covered the whole earth. As the waters that covered the earth were ordered to retire (“let dry ground appear”), they “gathered into one place.” The waters, he called seas.

Until around 2.5 billion years ago oceans covered almost the whole of the planet. The oceans would have been devoid of fish, which had not yet “evolved” (of course, they were not created until the fourth day). Back then life consisted of nothing more complex than algae and bacteria. As the earth’s mantle cooled, land would have gradually appeared (initially 2% to 3% of Earth’s surface, compared to 28% today) as the oceans became deeper and regions of high relief on the continental crust formed.

Let Dry Ground Appear (Land) – As dry land emerges above the surface, the receding waters are collected to one place. Land was already there beforehand, but it was of no use because it was under water. This is one more work of separation, land is separated from seas, just as previously waters (above) were separated from waters (below), and light separated the darkness.

The first protocontinents (an actual or hypothetical landmass that might later be enlarged into a major continent or broken up into smaller ones) began to form about 4 billion years ago. During this period, plate building blocks known as cratons (giant rock cores) came together and causing them to rise to the surface (“let dry ground appear”). Over time, the first supercontinent (a hypothetical former single large continent) broke apart to ultimately form our current seven continents. The first supercontinent (if water gathered to one place, then land gathered to one place) was probably Columbia, which formed around 1.8 billion years ago. Scientists conjecture that breaking apart or supercontinents and coming back together of the subcontinents occurred several times over the Earth’s history.

Let the Land Produce Vegetation – God’s command for vegetation to grow is the first indirect command in the creation sequence. Previously, God has directly spoke each created thing into existence. This time He commands the Earth to produce plant life. The Hebrew word translated “vegetation” normally means “grass,” but here it probably refers more generally to vegetation that includes many of the plants and trees.

Scientists believe that plants first moved onto the land during the Ordovician period, although plant life (single-celled plant organisms and multicellular algae) had likely appeared in the oceans as early as 1 billion years BCE. It was not until the Carboniferous period that plant life expanded from the coastlines and edges of lakes and began to more fully resemble modern plants. The first trees appeared in the Devonian period. These trees did not produce flowers and in fact it was not until 135 million years ago (Cretaceous time period) that the first flowering plants became abundant. Perhaps in preparation of a certain garden?

While oxygen is essential for life on Earth, the atmosphere did not originally contain oxygen. The process responsible for producing most of the Earth’s oxygen is known as photosynthesis, the process in which plants and certain other organisms convert sunlight into oxygen. Land-based, plants — such as flowers, grasses, ferns, shrubs and trees — produce up to half of the planet’s oxygen. Rainforests, with their dense canopies and vast diversity of plant species, are themselves responsible for one-third of the Earth’s oxygen production. The rest of the world’s oxygen comes mainly from photosynthesis caused by the phytoplankton in the oceans. It stands to reason why God started His creation of life with plants. Oxygen was a precondition to life and plants were a precondition to oxygen.

According to Their Various Kind – The Hebrew word translated “kind” indicates that God was concerned with defining and dividing time, space, and species. The point is that creation was an ordered process, as opposed to “evolving” from disorder. And what God created and distinguished with boundaries was not to be confused. Kind refers to the broad distinctions between different types of plants. All created things (including animals and humans) reproduce within the parameters set by God. With respect to plants, there are an estimated 375,000 species, with more being discovered each year. Some 297,326 of these species of plants have been identified.

My Advice – Do not be too hasty in relegating the Genesis account to allegory or fairy tale.  When we are served a meal by a master chef, we do not need to ask how the “soup”was made. We simply enjoy that it was made especially for us.

  1. All Scripture references, unless otherwise indicated are from the New International Version, 1984.
  2. http://palaeos.com/archean/archean.html
  3. http://odec.ca/projects/2002/food_for_life/history_of_plants.htm
  4. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Ge 1:9). Biblical Studies Press.
  5. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 5). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  6. https://metro.co.uk/2008/12/31/early-earth-was-covered-in-water-274995/
  7. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Ge 1:9). Biblical Studies Press.
  8. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 5). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  9. Hamilton, V. P. (1995). Genesis. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 11). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  10. https://io9.gizmodo.com/a-history-of-supercontinents-on-planet-earth-5744636
  11. Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 1:11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  12. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Ge 1:11). Biblical Studies Press.
  13. https://www.reference.com/science/did-plant-life-begin-appear-earth-d57a1645b8cf9459
  14. http://www.infobharti.com/how-and-why/plants-and-animals/when-did-plants-apear-on-the-earth.php
  15. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Ge 1:11). Biblical Studies Press.
  16. Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 1:11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  17. https://sciencing.com/process-responsible-producing-earths-oxygen-19636.html
  18. https://www.wisegeek.com/how-many-species-of-plants-are-there.htm