Three Degrees

No, the title of this post isn’t referring to the smooth-sounding, silk-voiced Seventies singing group…

… nor to the wintry weather here in the nation’s capital yesterday (though we did see some snow, so it came uncomfortably close to that  on the thermometer).

Permit me to briefly elaborate.  You see, per what was penned in a previously published post, I “practiced what I preached” and late last night let a kitchen pan soak in the sink but when I went to clean the cooked-on crud away, some greasy grime got unpleasantly plastered to the sink so I grabbed a nearby napkin and wiped it off.

Or at least tried to.  It didn’t work.  It just spread the greasy grime around even more so I retrieved an about-to-be-tossed old rag which had long served its purpose and went to wipe the expanded grease field from the floor of the sink but the latter proved to be too powerful for the former so I grabbed a steel wool scouring pad and, wah-lah, the greasy grime was gone!

Bible reading is like a napkin.

Bible study is like a rag.

Bible memory is like a steel wool scouring pad.

These are the “three degrees” of Bible interactivity.  All are excellent in essence but exhibit different degrees of depth, of effectiveness in terms of “sinking in” to the human mind and wondrously wiping away the “cooked-on, caked-on crud” of sin in our life.

The Bible in general and Bible memory in specific:  what a treasure, what a pleasure!

God’s good gift, granted without measure.

And while an ode to the Bible and Bible memory is fully, infinitely  fitting for any  day, I can’t think of a better  one for it than today… Happy Valentine’s Day!  May our love for each other and especially the Word of the Lord and the Lord of the Word abound more and more each day, each week, each month, each year.

 

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“You Raise Me Up”

I might or might not know a great deal… but I know a great deal when I see one.

I think I inherited that ability from my paternal grandmother; as noted on this website’s Why page, she once was one of the biggest independent antique dealers certainly east of the Mississippi and probably the entire country at the time, and I can remember as though it were yesterday the time that, for my major-milestone 13th birthday, she, my parents, and I visited the Williamsburg (Va.) Pottery Factory (it’s big now but was way more massive then).  It’s the first time I fully, fervently comprehended the meaning of the phrases “a fish in water” and “kid (or in this case, grandmother) in a candy store”.  She was something to behold, wheeling and dealing to an extent even the best writers in Hollywood couldn’t come close to conveying.  I don’t think the rows of steel shelves were literally a mile long but they certainly seemed like it, and when she saw some silver bells selling for cents on the dollar, she politely but promptly prodded the salesperson to pack up the entire row and proceeded to the checkout cash register and celebrated ceaselessly her financial feat for the entire four-hour trip back home.

Like her – no doubt because of  her – I know a great deal when I see one.  Like when I bought my very first property for a fantastic price, so much so that in less than a single decade it quadrupled  in value.  Or the time that my mind made a massive “buy signal” when, post-IPO, the stocks of Facebook dropped down into the teens and Tesla to around $30.  Bargain bonanza!

But the greatest deal by far that I’ve ever come across is when I read in the Bible that the only person in human history to have ever known no sin willingly offered to become  sin so that sinful, sinning sinners like me might manifest and indeed become  the very righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21) and that if we only humbly believe Him, He will raise us up out of our present pit of pride and sin and set and keep  us on the path of righteousness (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6; Psalm 40:2; 1 John 5:18).  I could barely believe it… but I’m so glad I did!   I took Him at His word and haven’t looked back.  Biggest bargain ever.  We simply give the Lord our pride and selfishness and He gives us eternal life to be enjoyed in Heaven with Him forever and ever.  We simply give Him our sin and He gives us His righteousness.  We give up a future in Hell and He gives us a future in Heaven.  We “die daily” to self and sin and repugnant pride, and He raises us up to walk in newness of life.

Like I said… Best. Bargain. Best. Offer. Best. Deal. EVER!

Lord, in Psalm 41:10, Your servant David says, “You… raise me up.”  I frequently fall far from the superb, supreme, supernatural example and demonstration of true humility You modeled so perfectly when You were walking in our shoes, on this very same sod.  Yes, I frequently fail and flail and fall down on the ground… and yet You raise me up, Lord.  All the way.  Every day.  You raise me up.

 

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Bless the Blessed

Anymore I feel pretty much permanently prepared to be peppered with perpetual perplexity pertaining to God’s pervasive perfection.  How on earth can the Fall-flawed, finite human mind make sense much less wrap itself around  such solemn spiritual concepts like sinlessness, sovereignty, eternity, and Deity?

It can’t.  Not fully anyway but that’s okay because (1) one day we will…

  • “For now [i.e., on earth] we see in a mirror dimly, but then [i.e., in heaven/eternity] face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

… and (2) even our finite minds can comprehend infinite truths sufficiently enough  to believe, if and when said minds are submissively saturated with the Word and His Holy Spirit, wondrously working hand-in-heavenly-hand within “sad sacks” of sin such as we.

For this God-granted grace, and everything else  about the Lord, let us love the all-loving, let us bless the Lord and His unparalleled, peerless, perfect Name, let us ever bless the Blessed.

[Here are a few (very) different renderings of the first song which you might enjoy; I encourage you to listen to all of these videos until the end but especially this very next one…]

 

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Only Hope

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there are a lot of things that seem to be getting more and more scarce, downright rare, in current-day society.

Truth, for sure.

And love.

And joy.  (Contrary to the perception most social media posts try to paint.)

And peace.  (Nuff said.)

And patience.  (Next time you’re driving, simply observe how humans honk their horns anymore and you’ll see what I mean.)

But despite how gloomy the outlook might be for society right now, don’t let it get you glum…

… because I have good news:  there’s still hope!

That’s right, we humans have hope but ONLY ONE, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ and specifically His Spirit-spawned, blessed birth and spotless life and salvation-sealing death, burial, and resurrection.

And hand-in-hand with the Incarnate Word, our only hope is the written Word, the God-breathed Bible.  For the latter leads and lassos and lovingly links our little lives to Him, our very big God.

Per my prayed petitions for many years now, I remain confident and convinced that at least one more mass spiritual revival is in store… but ONLY IF we hop head-first into, then hold both-handedly onto, our ONLY hope… ONLY IF we turn away from our sin and to His Word, the magnificent, beneficent Bible.

May we wisely do so in our own life first, then let it spread to others via demonstrated love and joy and peace and patience and humility.

It’s our only hope.

 

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Holy

I think that one of the most amazing, stunning, jaw-dropping, brain-blowing, mind-crinkling command in the entire Bible is the one found in 1 Peter 1:15

  • “but LIKE the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in ALL your behavior” (emphasis added)

(… and its “other side of the same coin” similar-sounding sister verse Titus 1:15 … yep, and they’re BOTH “Chapter 1, Verse 15” with only the book of the Bible itself being different… we’ll call them “the two 1:15’s” on holiness…)

  • “To the pure, ALL things are pure…” (emphasis added)

We are called, no, commanded  not just to be holy, as massive as that would be all by itself, but to be holy LIKE God Himself is.

Wow!  Wow!  I am speechless!

But wait, there’s more!  We are commanded not only to be holy and not only to be holy like He is but to do so, to be so, in ALL our behavior, in ALL our conduct, in ALL of our words and actions (including reactions) … wow wow wow, what a command!

But praise the Lord that the Bible is crystal clear that this is indeed possible but only by His doing, only through the inner working of His Spirit and Word.

Which is why it’s so crucial to spend as much time and meditation as possible in the latter, since it is what fully and maximally unleashes the former in us.

Hence holiness in humans, like wisdom, cannot be bought or brought about by self-effort, only through Spirit-working and Word-saturation.

May we redouble our focus on the crucial importance of personal, God-produced holiness in our daily living.  Pour it out upon and within us, Father, for we are willing and want to be obedient to the Bible and thus possess and practice personal holiness, to “be holy [our]selves also in all [our] behavior” even as You Yourself are holy, holy, holy.

 

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One Who Bakes Cakes Takes Time

I’m sure every chef on the planet, every kitchen cook can concur that it would be nice if a dish or dessert, entree or cake would take no time to bake, that they could simply put something in the oven and, poof, it’d be ready instantly.

But as we all know, that’s not the world in which we live.  No, cooking (and virtually everything else) takes time.

Furthermore, the leftover “caked-on crud” in the prepping pan can be practically impossible to remove instantly, whereas – yep, you got it – a little time submerged in sink-water makes it fall off on its own.

Similarly, the Bible TAKES TIME to fully “perform its work” in us…

  • “…the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13c)

… and the fruit of the Spirit isn’t fully grown overnight or in a week or year or even decade, it’s literally a lifelong  process and pursuit and prize.  (And promise!)

So when you become cognizant of “caked-on crud” of some sin in your life and confess it (quickly = best), please understand in advance that the effects  of said sin and ensuing spiritual scars certainly will take time to be removed.

Just like the post-meal pots and pans in your sink.

Just like the field in front of my home (still) buried by snow and ice.  (Nice progress since yesterday but still needs another day or two… see what I mean?!)

If it takes time to turn batter into a cake, how much more for sorry, sinful, sinning sinners like us to realize the very righteousness of God?

Which is one reason that PATIENCE is such a crucial quality in life and, indeed, is the fruit of the Spirit.

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…” (Galatians 5:22a)

Yes, it’s best to confess our sins right away, as soon as we see one lurking in our life, but give God time to transact the healing and restore full-force fellowship and faith… not because He needs either but because we  need both.

 

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Sonshine

As pointed out in the previous post, just a week ago there were worsening signs of (downright dire) drought in the area but since then we’ve seen snow-spewing storms surpassing several inches, in six days, sorry to say.  (I love watching it fall from the sky but the messy aftermath?  Not so much.)

That’s right:  storms, plural… after not receiving a single snowfall of even one inch for over two years, we get two such storms of several inches each in one week, the latter of which just ended and as I awoke this morning, my eyes were greeted by a field not of green grass as usual but wet, white snow and ice instead.

And an abundance of sunshine, which is already starting to melt said snow and ice from that field in front of my home… the Sun is doing its thing!  And to an extent which a plethora  of plows and shovels never could.  That field has simply let the sunshine in.

And that immediately reminded me of how, after facing and patiently persevering several seasons of the “snow” of sin or testing from time to time, we simply need to let the Son  shine anew in our life and He will be faithful to miraculously “melt away” said sin or scars.

If we’ll simply supplant self with supplication and submission to the Savior, and let the Son do His  thing.

If we’ll simply let the Sonshine in!

 

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Drought

Around 25% of the country is certain that the planet is currently in a convulsing climate crisis.  Around that same amount is just as certain that it’s not, with the remaining roughly 50% rigidly focused on just being able to survive not in terms of years from now but literally being able to keep putting food on their table and a roof over their head and don’t pay much attention to what may or may not be happening on a big-picture, planetary basis.  I’ll gladly leave it up to people preeminently more studied in such matters as to whether they’ve seen sufficient scientific support to surmise much less state that the climate crisis is real but I can  confidently confirm that recent reports of drought in DC are definitely true.

Just today I had occasion to be in Georgetown and found out firsthand that its famous canal which was always sufficiently full of water to bolster big boats of sightseeing businesses bearing bazillions of tourists is now down to a trickle, a tiny stream which currently looks like it could barely bolster a bathtub  boat at best.

And seeing that sight sent my mind to the fact that we as Christians – old or young, new or devout – definitely do the drought thing spiritually at one time or another it seems, in which the water of worship and warm-heartedness with God can evaporate for a season.

But thankfully, unlike humanity’s inability to tame much less control the world’s weather, God has graciously given us super-sized say-so and self-determination in the nature (no pun intended) of our walk with Him, how we “weather” (sorry =) the things that come our way each week and day.

All we have to do is deny self and submit to Him and His Word, i.e., to obey the Bible!  But not by our own motivation or strength or doing but rather by His.

Not by our own might or power (as if we had any) but by His Spirit and Word and prayer.

 

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God is Sovereign (and that’s no L.I.E.)

It took a ton of time but perhaps the most powerful, practical  truth I tell others after having found and verified it firsthand is this:  Believe, trust, rely on, know with certainty the absolute, untattered fact (not some fellow’s fanciful fiction) of God’s sovereignty.

While all of His attributes are equal in importance, along with love, grace, and mercy I can’t think of one which so regularly impacts my life and of which I’m so actively aware – not just on a daily but virtually hourly  basis – as His sovereignty.

Pretty much nonstop.

I’d like to share with you a time-tested, tried-and-true trio of adjectives to succinctly set forth His sovereignty:  it is loving, infinite, and exclusive…

  • “And we know that God causes ALL things to work together for [our/Christians’] GOOD“! (Romans 8:28)
  • Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed EVERYTHING that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over ALL.  Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over ALL, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.” (1 Chronicles 29:11-12) & “who works ALL things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11c) & “The lot is cast into the lap, but its EVERY decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33) & “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1) & “the world is Mine, and ALL it contains.” (Psalm 50:12b)
  • “He who is the blessed and ONLY Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who ALONE possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see.  To Him be honor and eternal dominion!  Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:15b-16)

and that’s no L.I.E.!

God’s sovereignty allows (indeed, compels and really requires) us to be super-secure and confident in life, big benefits to be sure, but the flip-side of the same coin is that to ever complain or grumble about anything is not just an implicit but explicit denial and rejection of and unbelief in said sovereignty, since if one truly believes that He lovingly “causes ALL things to work together for GOOD” for every single Christian, there’s ZERO reason to EVER complain or grumble, which is why He commands us to “do ALL things WITHOUT grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14) and indeed to go even further than the absence of the negative and proceed to ponder, possess, and display the presence of the positive by GIVING THANKS not just “in” but “for” EVERYTHING.

  • “in EVERYTHING give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • ALWAYS giving thanks for ALL things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Ephesians 5:20)

Another consequence of God’s sovereignty is that someone who truly believes and accepts it – to the (exact) extent  he or she truly  believes it – will NEVER be anxious or fearful, NEVER experience anxiety or fear [side note:  none of us can maintain 100%  faith or 100%  of the time since our still-standing-even-subsequent-to-salvation sin nature sticks itself into our lives and our finite, fallen, flawed human minds can’t completely comprehend the concept of infinite sovereignty much less its character and application… but 100% is nonetheless God’s goalpost as it were] which is why He commands us to “be anxious for NOTHING” and – yep, you got it – to go even further:  ”but in EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

If I had to hazard a guess I’d say somewhere around 90-95% of all professing Christians would strongly and sincerely  assert belief in God’s sovereignty.  But the fact that so many regularly “complain” and “grumble” and “dispute” and “worry” and “feel anxious” about one thing or another (or everything) belies their belief, so may each of us regularly take inventory of our life to CONFIRM whether these  things are prevalent in our daily living or, conversely, whether we’re characterized by constant confidence and security and gratitude, as this will tell the true tale of how and who we are – certainly spiritually but also emotionally and relationally.

Anytime  is a tremendous time to focus, fully and anew, on God’s sovereignty… but I can’t think of a better day to do so than January 1…

Happy New Year!

 

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… and now the “HOW”

Part 2 of the previous post, as promised…

If I were to tell you that, on its current course, this Christian-founded country – the mighty United States of America – is headed for disaster, destruction, death as a major player in the world after a century-plus run as such, would you believe that?  Could  you believe that?  It’s admittedly very difficult to do so, given just how much power we have, how we wield our will in world affairs from wee to weighty and every degree in between.

But I need only remind you of two things to quell any (very rational) skepticism.

Firstly, I’m sure people would’ve been exponentially more  skeptical had they been asked that question about the Roman Empire in its heyday.  And they wielded worldwide weight and welly for a thousand years, a millennium!  Yes, even the notion of a fall would’ve been dismissed out-of-hand… and yet it happened.

And secondly, and infinitely sufficiently all by itself, we have the wise, wiggle-proof  words of warning from the wonderful and ever-authoritative Lord Jesus Himself, who said…

  • Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” (Matthew 12:25b, emphasis added)
  • “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25, emphasis added)

Without unity, it’s not difficult, it’s downright impossible  for any group to not just thrive but even survive; it’s literally just a matter of time until it fails and falls.

Given this time-tested truth, the youth should vamoose along with adults to UNITE, if that’s even still doable, if this country hasn’t already passed the proverbial “point of no return”.  Per Proverbs 27:1, I can’t say for sure whether we’ve gone that far, but it’s got to be very, very close in any case.  I can’t say if we still have a chance to unite but I can say this with sevenfold certainty:  if we can, we ONLY can by the grace of God, the inner working of the Word in general and mass Bible memory on a regular, systematic basis in particular.

Because it’s the Bible which blesses and cleanses and grows and transforms.

A person.

A church.

A political party.

A nation.

  • “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

And what’s the only thing in the world which truly transforms?

Yep, you got it:  the Bible!  The living and active, living and abiding Word of God.

  • “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation [i.e., the epitome of true, total transformation… wow!]; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, emphasis added)
  • “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring [i.e., transforming!] the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. [i.e., transformation!]” (Psalm 19:7emphasis added)
  • “that He might sanctify [us], having cleansed [us] by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26)
  • “like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2)
  • the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13c)

Which is why it’s wise to wear  the Word within oneself, by way of our eyes (reading it, studying it) and mind (memorizing it).

  • “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…” (Colossians 3:16a)
  • “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” (Psalm 119:11, KJV)

Lastly, let’s look at what immediately follows two of these verses about being transformed.

  • “…with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:16b-17)
  • “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.  Do not be wise in your own estimation.  Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.  Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord.  ’BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS UPON HIS HEAD.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:10-21)

Hear this crystal clear conclusion:  unity is achieved when individual members of a group are transformed by getting the Bible INSIDE OF THEM, via their eyes and mind… and then affecting and impacting and sharing and spreading  that with others in the group.

This is why it could rightly be said of the early-Church Philippians that they were “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27c) and that was because they did “nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind [they regarded] one another as more important than himself” and did “not merely look out for [their] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

My friend, I assure you that it’s no accident that the very next breath, the very next several verses penned by the Apostle Paul comprise what is probably the premier passage on humility in the entire Bible.

Because selflessness and humility go hand-in-hand.

Because humility is not  thinking poorly of oneself; it’s not thinking of oneself at all  vis-a-vis other people.

This message from God’s Word, the Bible, is relevant and much-needed at any time, on any day, but it seems superbly fitting for the Christmas season, when worldwide we commemorate in mass fashion when Jesus gave us the greatest demonstration and example of humility, just like the proceeding Philippians 2:5-11 passage so lovingly lays out for our daily living and lifelong benefit.

And now coming full circle by ending this one with where the previous post (Part 1) started…

As we all know, what matters most isn’t how one starts a job but rather how one finishes.  Not a team’s results in the first half but ultimately how they perform in the second… so let’s see if Democrats keep being kings and queens of cohesion and unity and effectiveness in pushing and passing their political convictions and views and agenda as beloved by their base voters as they did when they were in charge in the previous (Pelosi-run) Congress, or whether House Republicans can finally muster a molecule of harmony and manage the House in an effective, functional, wise – which is to say, united – manner, in stark contrast to the data-confirmed massive dysfunction demonstrated in their first year back in power, in their “first half” as it were.  (Humanly speaking, unlike a mere football game, the very fate of the nation  may well depend on it.)

And as we covered above, there’s just one way to become – and stay – united and thus not just survive but thrive as a family or church or company or country, and I can sum it up in just two words:  Humility.  TOGETHER.

 

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