Born Again = Sin Less NOT Sinless

I’m thankful that I was able to muster sufficient time to take one of my many-mile mega-walks today.  As mentioned several times in the past, other than the time spent “hunkered down” in my daily Bible memory sessions, these walks are probably my most prized and precious pastime or activity of any kind.  Because (very similar to my memory sessions, not surprisingly) they invigorate me physically, stimulate me mentally, inform me intellectually (just being amid nature does that ever time!) and renew me spiritually since I’m able to focus on and listen to and speak with the Lord with utmost intensity and clarity and consistency (thus giving a whole new meaning and texture to the phrase “walking  with the Lord” =).

Today’s walk was without a doubt the most creativity-drenched I’ve ever experienced; literally, I’d walk a fraction of a mile and another interesting and impactful thought would come to me.  And right after filtering it through my mind, a new one would manifest itself… so instead of trying to cram them all into a single post, I think it would be better to publish five of these distinct thoughts in their very own post; I won’t include the billion little, split-second thoughts, just the big ones, of which there are several so, specifically, these next five  posts (starting with this one) will convey those thoughts that hit me along the way on my walk today.

Okay, let me say without delay if I may that I’m definitely, absolutely, certainly NOT sinless… but I do sin less  each year than the one before.

You see, though saved, even saints slip on a proverbial banana peel (or, for fellow alliteration lovers, proverbial plantain  peel =) from time to time; the key is firstly to confess and repent of that sin (1 John 1:9) (the sooner, the better) and secondly that, like the chart of a failing stock, the presence, the occurrence of sin in a Christian’s life should surely show a clear trend DOWNWARD.  (Or conversely, righteousness and good deeds in a Christian’s life should have a consistent UPWARD trend overall, like the sun that gets brighter and brighter as the morning progresses.)

  • “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the fullness of day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

Which is why we are warned by the Bible’s magnificent mirror multiple  times to check the “stock chart” of our life to see whether or not there is in fact that upward trend of goodness and downward trend of sin, since such signifies and indeed confirms that a person is truly saved and thus headed for heaven when their time on earth ends.

  • “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10)
  • “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
  • “Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.  But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.  If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.  This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:21-27)
  • “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious:  anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.  We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love abides in death.  Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?  Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.  We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him, in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.  And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.  And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him.  And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (1 John 3:10,14-24, emphasis added)

In other words… during our time on earth (which, compared to eternity, is like a single breath you see for a split second in cold weather according to James 4:14) Christianity has NOTHING to do with being sinless.  But the Bible bids us to be crystal clear that Christianity has EVERYTHING to do with sinning less.  Or put most simply and concisely:  a Christian will NOT be sinless  but WILL sin less  overall from the time of our spiritual birth (the “born again” of John 3:3,7 and the “born of water and the Spirit” of verse 5) to our physical death (or, for a comparative few, Christ’s return or as it’s often called, the Rapture, which will preempt death at that time).

The Bible blesses us by giving these clear and wise words of warning; likewise, the goal and pointed purpose of this post is NOT that you’ll question your salvation but rather than you’ll CONFIRM it, i.e., to increase confidence and destroy doubt.

And derail deception.  You see, for our entire time on earth, our sin nature within will never stop trying to deceive us…

  • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

… to make us think we’re headed for heaven when we’re actually headed for hell, or to make us think we’re headed for hell when we’re actually headed for heaven.  The fallen human heart hungers and constantly seeks to deceive; it literally plays both sides of that equation.  This is exactly why it’s so important to take time at regular intervals to truly and honestly look at our lives through the lens and “mirror” of the Bible to CONFIRM that we are indeed redeemed, to not just believe but KNOW that we’ve been born again.

 

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Where Would I Be Without You?

The song at the end of the previous post starts with a solemn question to the Lord:  ”Where would I be without You?”

That’s one question to which I definitely know the answer!

Nowhere.

At all.

I often think “What in the world would I do without the Lord living within me?”  How could I muster the courage or strength to even try to survive without His hallowed hand of help, fond friendship, frequent forbearance, and precious personal presence?

I’ll end this  post with a song which poses that question far more beautifully than I ever could.  It always brings tears to my eyes… tears of immense and immutable joy and gratitude and love.  Thank You, Lord, that I don’t have to ever actually find out what I’d do without You in my life, since You’ve promised and proven  to “never leave nor forsake” me or any of Your children.  It’s true:  I don’t know what I’d do without You.

 

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“I love it to death!”

When I was a mere child in elementary school, there was a common saying when we really  liked something:  ”I love it to death!”

Pizza?  ”I love it to death!”

Popcorn?  ”I love it to death!”

Ice cream?  ”I love it to death!”

Watermelon?  ”I love it to death!”

The Huffy bicycle my parents gifted me for Christmas when I was ten?  ”I love it to death!”

Jesus loves you to death.

Literally.  He loved and loves you and me so much that He left the comfort of Heaven and willingly set aside the voluntary use of His very Deity and took on all of the aspects of human living except for sin and then capped it all off by letting sinners sneer and snicker and sarcastically salute as they hoisted and nailed Him to an old, rugged cross so we could gain what we cannot lose if we simply give what we cannot keep (to paraphrase pilot-turned-missionary-martyr Jim Elliot).

Therefore, our lives should truly be one long, unending effort to let Him know, to show  Him, to return the favor and demonstrate our  love toward and for Him.

He has graciously granted “great big blessings” by which I’m humbled and for which I’m grateful on this special late-November day and the other 364 each year… “I love You, Lord Jesus – my Love, my Life – I am in awe of You.”  For Your awesome – and awe-inspiring – attributes, and Your faithfulness to them, to Yourself, to us.  But most of all, just for who You are… I am indeed in awe of You.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Teamwork

I recently wrote a post about the importance of teammates in our walk with the Lord, in the spiritual “sport” of wise and godly living.

On Sunday I saw a spectacular play which exemplifies this principle and perspective particularly well:

Starting at the six-second (0:06) time-stamp of this video, note how the Wide Receiver wearing #9 literally “lays out his own body” so that his teammate (#5) could extend his run all the way into the end zone for a terrific, timely touchdown.  And lest you think that was a fluke, here’s another example from the exact same team but different  runner and blocking wide receiver who did the exact same thing last month (1:37 time-stamp) as #9 did on Sunday:

I don’t take many of my cues for daily living from the NFL but these two video clips serve as a superb snapshot of self-sacrifice, the giving of oneself for the greater good of the team.

  • “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Now when your significant other complains that you watch too much football/sports, you can truthfully tell them that you’re furthering and deepening your knowledge of key biblical principles! 😉  (And just in time for tomorrow’s tripleheader after a certain turkey dinner… enjoy!)

 

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What Love Is

He who knew no sin died for those who knew no love until  He demonstrated His own love toward us, for the first time forming the phrase “we love” but only because He loved us first.

  • “He [God the Father] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” (Titus 3:3)
  • “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
  • We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Amazing love indeed!

 

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What Love Isn’t

I was able to take one of my many-mile mega-walks today, this time on the matchless, magnificent Mall in the heart of Washington, DC.  The massive monuments were majestic and beautiful as always.  Seeing the number of people living on some of the side streets?  Not so much.

But such a sight did serve a poignant purpose in hissing this crystal clear conclusion:  I know what love is…

… and what it ISN’T, like letting “lowly” people live in tents and linger and literally waste away on lawns, parking lots, and public parks.  Whenever I see that I always wonder why in the world we as a society or our political leaders let that happen, how is such even possible in the wealthiest (on paper, anyway, but that’s a topic for another day) country on earth?  No, that’s not love; it’s indifference at best and hatred at worst.  And heartbreaking to behold in any case.

I haven’t yet set my mind on seeking a specific solution but the current cold-heartedness can’t continue, we have got to figure this out as, per the quote marks, these people are anything but “lowly” in my eyes and I’m sure your eyes and most importantly the living Lord’s loving eyes.

Looks like the next great mission field to me… more to come as my mind mulls this matter over these next many months, stay tuned.

 

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Practicing Personal Purity Pulls Open the Portal for People to Possess Proper Perspective, Perpetual Peace, and Palpable Power

Several states saw some stunning results in yesterday’s off-year elections.

So many savvy “savior”-seekers saw Governor Glenn Youngkin as their next great hope politically, but it’s widely deemed that those dreams were dashed and debatably destroyed after he fought so hard but failed to win the Senate and actually went in reverse  in losing the Virginia House of Delegates, too.  (But both just barely, by a baby  whisker, but damage was undeniably done… what a dramatic, diametric  difference a day can make.)

And ruby-red Kentucky really had heads scratching after electing a Democrat as their governor.  Again.

And Ohio, which went with Donald Trump by a big nearly-ten percentage points both in 2016 and 2020, approved a ballot measure to instill in that red state’s constitution the right to have an abortion – by a landslide, two-to-one, i.e., those voting yes doubled  those voting no, despite a decisive number advantage of Republicans over Democrats there.

But I think the most shocking thing I saw occur last night was this:  not only that a woman chose to run for the House of Delegates in Virginia after having publicly participated in a super-sordid scandal… but that she came within an inch of winning.

Let that set in for a second.  After her public scandal of unmentionable immorality, many people dwelling in that district deemed her perfectly fit to fulfill a position of political leadership.

We’ve all seen that telling the truth has become an endangered species in society.

So has purity.

The personal and public problem with this is that purity is literally the gateway for wisdom.

  • “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17)

In other words, it’s impossible to possess much less practice wisdom without first putting on purity, without mustering much more than a modicum of morality in one’s daily living.

I’m not shocked at all that she ran for office.  But it is sad to see so many men and women (“the masses”) vote for her.

There’s a palpable price to pay when the public pursues impurity and eschews wisdom.

May we double-down on our decision as Bible-loving, Bible-living  believers to turn our back on and outright reject the things so readily and roundly applauded by the sinful, siren-song-singing world system.  May we live life looking  to lovingly share the transforming truth of the Bible in general and the Gospel in specific with others, that they too may put away those things, to “die to sin and live to righteousness” and enjoy the purity, peace, and power certain to ensue.

  • “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

And may we never, ever forget that there but by God’s grace go (and went!) we.

  • “And such were some of you…” (1 Corinthians 6:11a)
  • “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” (Titus 3:3)

And I’ll end on this very upbeat note:  that both of these verses use the word “were”, not  ”are”, and that the very next  word in both cases is a big, beautiful, blessed “but” – praise the Lord!

  • but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11b)
  • But when the kindness and affection of God our Savior appeared, He saved us…” (Titus 3:4-5a)

Wisdom is wonderful and indescribably blissful, but the Bible does so sufficiently for our finite, fallen minds to figure out more than enough about it that we will want and work and wait for it to fully materialize and manifest itself in and through our otherwise-little lives.

  • “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who obtains discernment.  For her [wisdom’s] profit is better than the profit of silver and her produce better than fine gold.  She is more precious than pearls; and NOTHING YOU DESIRE COMPARES with her.  Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.  Her ways are pleasant ways and all her pathways are peace.  She is a tree of life to those who seize her, and all those who hold her fast are blessed.” (Proverbs 3:13-18)

Beautifully put, but please keep in mind that the very first step on the precious path to palpably possessing it is the perspective and practice of personal purity.  Possible only by the grace and goodness granted by God, not garnered or generated by anything inside or inherent to man.

Praise the Lord indeed!

 

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Deception Projection (and Protection!)

This very narrow, very specific aspect of Bible memorization will no doubt differ from person to person but I’ve found it to be most effective to do so while watching or listening to something in the background (mainly news-focused shows or live events for reasons I’ll discuss in the future), so for today’s Bible memory session I was watching a (wacky) trial being televised from Florida.

Most of the commentators and commenters kept saying how “long” and “boring” and “brutal” the day had been, but frankly I found it “fascinating factor six”, to paraphrase Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary.

Specifically, it was fascinating to watch the murder conspiracy defendant take the witness stand.  Always high drama and tension when that happens, producing not only great TV but also probably the pinnacle of sociological observation fests.

This particular instance was even better than most in that “everyone and his brother” knows the defendant is guilty since the evidence previously put on by the prosecutors was, well, overwhelming.  And yet the fellow concocted an obviously reverse-engineered “story” which “just happened” to “answer” or “explain” (in intricate, all-encompassing detail) every single damaging piece of evidence against him.  I literally can’t recall a time that it was more obvious that someone was lying through their teeth.  And it didn’t help that his entire testimony was totally scripted  by him and his attorney and delivered accordingly in front of the jury.

I hope he reads Revelation 21:15 ASAP, before it’s too late… lying is a low-down, terrible, horrific thing.  Yet as I’m sure you’ve noticed, it has become more and more rampant in society over the past decade or two in particular.  Yes, it has always been with us, literally, since the Garden of Eden… but not to this extent, never so widespread.

And blatant.

And, in the vast majority of cases, obvious.

But not to those who do the lying.  It’s crystal clear that they first deceive themselves and then, like clockwork, try to deceive others. In other words, they project their own deception and “gullibility” onto other people, onto the public writ large.

Another stunning example of this is an unrelated murder case working its way through the courts, also from Florida, wherein a woman is awaiting trial for killing her boyfriend by (wait for it) zipping him up in a suitcase and letting him suffocate overnight and then staging the whole scene and story she’d soon be telling two detectives.  (AGE-APPROPRIATE/TRIGGER warning:  please don’t allow children or subject-sensitive people to watch the video of that interrogation but if you’d like to see exactly what I’m talking about, in action, you may click here.)  Another case in which a person is O-B-V-I-O-U-S-L-Y lying through the teeth yet, due to “deception projection”, doesn’t realize how see-through it is to other people.

Far too high a percentage of people have become like toddlers playing “peekaboo”, who cover their own eyes and thus think that because they can’t see other people then other people can’t see them.

But you know what was even far more concerning, far more of a societal “red flag” today than seeing that defendant lie, and so obviously, yet still try to convince the jury that he wasn’t?  It was the fact that, when the host who was live-streaming the trial asked the audience to note in the comments section if they believed “even HALF” of what the defendant was saying, a (frighteningly) large number responded that they believed him and swallowed his constant lies not just in part but in whole.  Making me wonder if his ploy will work and produce a mistrial by hung jury.  (We’ll find out in the next few days.)

It breaks my heart and saws my spirit to see how undiscerning  so many in society sadly have become.  But thankfully I and many others have found the perfect solution, an amazing antidote:  the Bible!  And especially Bible memory, i.e., ingesting and internalizing the Bible which is not only “living and active/powerful” (Hebrews 4:12) but also the epitome and indeed very essence of truth (John 17:17).

May we always be careful to tell the truth ourselves, and also be discerning when others don’t.

And may we never, ever, even for a moment, lose sight of what a true treasure we have in the Bible!  It is indeed “a lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path.” (Psalm 119:105)

 

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With a Whisper (and True Tongue-Twister)

The world system seldom sings its “siren song”.

It whispers  it.

Stay strong.  Stand firm.

  • “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10)
  • “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, firm in the faith…” (1 Peter 5:8-9a)

May we wisely and willingly not let the world’s whispers work to weaken our walk with God, which always makes one whimper.  May we not let it bring about that bane but rather be blessed by staying spiritually sober and strong and standing firm in Him, on His holy, living, life-giving Word.

  • “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” (Psalm 119:11)

Always but especially those days and times you feel weak or vulnerable:  directly or via Bible reading, study, or memory, may our merciful, mighty Master grant more power to ya.

 

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Hollering a Heartfelt Hallelujah

The newest batch of eighteen souls slipped into eternity very unexpectedly last evening, practically in the proverbial blink of an eye since they merely went to have some fun at a bowling alley and billiards hall.

It’s understandable and even proper that people perpetually put this perfectly practical pregunta  to me:  “Why does God let bad things happen, why does He allow so many of us to suffer and even die?”

To which I always wonder, “Why would He allow us to live?!”  To summon Shakespeare, that  is the question we should be asking.

We weakly wander away from His Word, will, and wisdom so willy-nilly that I know exactly why He lets so many of us suffer and die (Romans 5:12, 6:23; 1 Corinthians 11:30) but why would He patiently put up with our pervasive pride and unpretty pettiness and lingering lust and mistrust and frequent failings, foibles and flaws, far too many for man’s mind to count much less comprehend?

I’ll tell you why:  because of His lasting love.  And perfect patience.  And complete compassion and miles-long mercy.

  • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • “And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience…” (1 Timothy 1:16a)
  • “You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” (James 5:11b)

So even as we rightly mourn the seemingly senseless loss of life last night, let us take those eighteen and every other passing-into-eternity as a warning and renewed reminder to rightly examine our own souls to see, to make certain that if we were to ever leave this life “in the blink of an eye” and unexpectedly move on to the one to come, we will find ourselves in heaven, not hell, thanks solely to the love and grace and patience and compassion and mercy of our magnificent Master.

Even amid mourning, it’s more than enough to make my heavy heart holler “Hallelujah!”

 

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