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“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

See the source imageGod is transcendent. He is equally above the highest earthly authority and the basest of criminals. He is equally above the ordinary good guy and the saintliest of saints.

Just as we grade levels of badness, rank acts of evil and sort them from minor wrongdoings, so too we rate our own goodness. How do I measure up when compared to another human being? I’m not as good as Mother Theresa, but I’m not as bad as my drunken neighbor who beats his family.

But that’s all human perception, and actually, human misperception. Sure our faith should spur us on to good works [James 2:17-26], but those good works do not save us [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Rather, by God’s infinite grace, it is our finite faith that saves us. And while we will each have to give an account of ourselves to God [Romans 14:12], it is only the Christ in us that will justify us before our heavenly Father [Romans 5:1-2].

Consider walking across a beach. Each grain of sand is so small underfoot that we don’t register which ones are larger and which ones are smaller. We are equally larger than the minute variations in each of the millions of grains of sand that make up a single beach.

Or consider the stars. The distance to each one from the earth varies considerably. Yet to the naked human eye, the night sky paints them all as if they were hung side by side.

It’s not a perfect analogy–nothing is when we try to fit our infinite God into our finite understanding–but it gives us a very basic idea of all this transcendence business.

When we stand before God, it’s all going to come down to the same thing–faith in Christ. God loves each of us the same. God sees each of our sinful natures the same. And God’s goodness is equally above any and every good work that we find to do. He has no favorites [Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25]!

Do you think of yourself more highly than you ought [Romans 12:3]? Are you resting on your own merit? Or, through faith, are you resting on God’s grace–Christ?



Temptation’s Deception

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Image result for temptationGod is faithful. He does not tempt us–which leads to sin and death, but rather our own desires do [James 1:13-15]. Yet through it all, no temptation is so great that we are incapable of resisting it [Genesis 4:7]. And especially when we see and know that God faithfully provides a way to escape the temptations that come.

What are these escapes? Well, the original Greek term here is ekbasin which literally translates issue. Moreover, the Greek term commonly translated as endure it is actually hypenenkein or to carry on under it. I don’t know about you, but this renders a different image in my mind.

When we are tempted–which, remember, comes by our own sinful desires [James 1:13-15]–God will bring the issue to light so that we can carry on under the pressure of the temptation. You see, in a way, it’s like the Garden of Eden all over again for each us. Not that we each usher sin anew into the world, but we each face the choice to love God or love self.

Why is that Adam and Eve weren’t tempted to eat from the tree of life and live forever? That tree also stood in the center of the garden near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil [Genesis 2:9]. Satan played on their desires, but also their ignorance. Since they didn’t know death, they didn’t understand that life could be taken from them. So they chose the love of self. Question God. Ignore God’s words. Satisfy self’s desires. Gain more for self.

God told Cain that he didn’t have to choose sin as his parents had done [Genesis 4:7]. Though we are all sinners [Isaiah 53:6-8; Romans 3:23], willful sin is a choice. Willful sin can be mastered. Including the willful sin to deny God’s existence and refuse to understand His Word so that we can plea ignorance of the law–except we can’t. Satan played Cain’s desires, but also his anger. In the end, Cain chose the love of self. Reject God’s words–both His law and His preventative admonitions. Indulge self’s desires by satiating self’s anger. Gain more for self.

In both accounts, the sinners had a choice. Yes, the temptation was there. But so too was the more excellent way [1 Corinthians 12:31].

You see, the biggest deception about temptation is that, while we temporary indulge and satisfy self, we do not gain the more that we desire. On the contrary, we lose the very thing we seek [Matthew 10:28 & 39 & 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24 & 17:33; John 12:25]–a full life [John 10:10]. All of the temporary riches and positions hold empty promises, but laying them aside to pursue the kingdom of heaven in this life brings eternally abundant life [Matthew 6:19-20 & 19:24; Mark 10:25; John 3:16].

Are you listening for God’s faithful voice in the midst of your temptations? Will you take His more excellent way so that you can carry on under the weight of them?


Everywhere Here

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:7-12

Image result for hiding in shadowsGod is omnipresent. He is everywhere here. There is no place where He is not, no place where we can step out of His presence or hide from Him. And why should we want to?

It is the sin in our lives, the guilt and shame when we recognize that He is holy and we are unworthy, that lead many to try to run away from the presence of God. But it’s like running on a treadmill–though miles and days and years may pass, running from God gets us nowhere good, fast. We find ourselves still bound by the same guilt and shame of the same sin, still seeking to hide ourselves from God’s presence but still having to face Him all the same.

So what about the adage: Where sin is, God cannot be also? Doesn’t that mean that there are places where we can hide from God? That we can bury ourselves deeper in the muck and mire of sins and God will never be able to look on us again. Not so. This adage is not a scripture verse, but rather a pithy distillment from a sermon taken out of context. It is the message that sin separates us from God [Isaiah 59:2] twisted to an inaccurate point.

A more accurate scriptural statement would read: Where sin is, God is not embodied. Though He does see us in our sins, He is not embodied in the temptations that lead us to sin [James 1:13-15]. He does, however, envelop us in that everywhere-here-omnipresence even while we are still blatantly sinning [Psalm 139:11-12], indiscriminately doling out love and grace and mercy so that all may see Him and come to a saving faith in Him [Matthew 5:44-45].

Because as long as we have this life, the Lord may be found, His salvation accepted [Isaiah 55:5-7]. And being omnipresent, He is everywhere here with us so that when we seek Him we find Him right beside us. And so that when we turn in repentance to give Him our hearts, He is right there to accept us–to redeem us–and to make us clean and whole. No lines. No waiting. No crossing the world on fire and waves to find a distant, impersonal God.

Do you know the God who goes with you? Have you met Him? Have you called out to Him and made Him your closest friend and constant strength?


From The Student Question Board: Why Did God Make Us if He Knew We Would Make Bad Choices and Be in Distress All Our Lives?

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” Psalm 147:10-11

Image result for jewel eyeSince God is, always will be and always has been omniscient, He knew perfectly well that Adam and Eve would choose to disobey in the garden. He knew that their choice would usher sin into His perfectly created world [Romans 5:12]. And He knew that in the broken sinful world, we would have trouble [John 16:33].

So why did God bother creating us at all?

Because He also knew that He would love us without fail [John 3:16]. Because He also knew that He would send His Son Jesus to redeem His fallen Creation [Genesis 3:15]. And because He also knew that love comes only by choice.

And He desires our love just as He desires to lavish His love on us.

God considers us the apple of His eye [Psalm 17:8; Zechariah 2:8]. This term of endearment more literally equates us to the pupil of the eye. The pupil allows light to enter so that the eye can perceive. When God calls us the light and salt of the world, it is a double entendre–that is, it has two meanings! We are light and salt to the lost around us, but we are also a light of joy and the salt of good pleasure to our Creator God.

He delights in us [Psalm 147:11 & 149:4]!

Remember His love when you are worried or wearied by the troubles of life [John 16:33]. Remember that everything comes to pass in its season [Ecclesiastes 3:1-8]. And remember that the season of human life is just a disappearing mist or a fading flower in the expanse of eternity [Psalm 103:15; James 4:14; 1 Peter 1:24].

These troubles have not come to stay, but if we stay the course we will find abundant life in this life and eternal peace and rest in the New Creation [John 10:10; Revelation 21:1-4].

Do you know who God created you to be? Are you living as the apple of His eye? Do you delight in your Creator as He delights in you?


Wisdom in Temptation

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Image result for plant growing in heartGod is wisdom. And for us, He is the ultimate sound judgment applied in any and every situation we face.

Often, the situation is or contains a temptation–a very attractive and alluring yet unwise wrong that tugs at our desires. And more often still, people attribute the tests, trials and temptations of life to God.

But Paul, the writer of Corinthians, warns his readers from Israel’s own history, that this is not the case [1 Corinthians 10:1-13]. And James agrees that we shouldn’t say that God is tempting, trying or testing us [James 1:12-15]. Nor should we even believe that He would.

Paul writes from the backdrop of the Israelites’ desert wanderings. And when we reread those passages we see the words test and tested several times [Exodus 15:25, 17:2 & 7, & 20:20; Deuteronomy 6:16, 8:2 & 16, 13:3, & 33:8]. Each time the expressed purpose is knowing the Israelites’ hearts for God. But God is omniscient, He already knew their heart. He didn’t need to test anything.

Here we come again to Genesis 3 [vs.9. 11 & 13]. Three times God asks Adam and Eve a question and each time it is to open the eyes of their own understanding so that they could measure the distance of their newly sin-infested relationship to God.

Similarly, in the case of the Israelites, God proves–often translated as  tests or tries–His chosen people, not to Himself because He already knows. But a demonstration to Moses that the people can be instructed in the things of God. An opening of the Israelites’ own eyes so that they can see to enter into a relationship with their Creator.

And Moses uses the same vernacular about the Israelites behavior toward God. Not that human beings can test God, but that they were calling Him into question. They desired that He prove Himself to their demands.

But in this way, every thing in life can be considered a test, a trial of our faith, a proving of our heart. Will we choose to acknowledge God by our actions? Or will we affirm the lie of self-as-god instead? God already knows the answer. He has no need of testing us to learn it for Himself.

That is why James cautions, do not say that it is God who tempts–tests or tries. Because everyone is tempted and tested when our own sinful human nature encounters a moment of decision however small or great [James 1:13-14]. If we give in to the desire to deny God and promote self in each moment–for this is the essence of sin–then the sin has rooted and, unless checked and removed, will grow up in our lives until it strangles the life of eternity out of us [James 1:15].

But if we allow God to be our wisdom in each moment, then His will takes root and grows in our lives from here through eternity.

Is God your wisdom? Is there any moment or action that you believe is too small to consider according to God’s will? Will you allow God to change your speech about where the temptations, trials and tests of life come from?


The Person of Wisdom

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” 1 Corinthians 1:18-20

Image result for wisdomWisdom is the ability to apply knowledge [understanding gained from experience] to make good judgments in any given situation. God is wisdom, and He is infinite.

Therefore, God is the ultimate sound judgment applied in any and every situation we face.

He Himself possesses all wisdom because He is the all-knowing [omniscient], sovereign Creator of all. He is the eternal who can see every minutia from the beginning to the end of human history and consider it all at once. He is the infinite, unbound by the limitations that cause us to need the wisdom that He is.

But long ago, Satan, the adversary of God and the antithesis of wisdom, peddled a shrewd lie–you can be your own god. You can decide your own right and wrong. You need only to look inside yourself for all the wisdom you need.

Paul is writing to the Corinthians that Satan’s lie has been exposed! People created so many schools of thought to try to quantify this world we live in, to predict the uncertainties life holds and even to try to come out “on top,” so to speak.

But academics, without God, are just foolishness. Business savvy, with eyes fixed only on the temporal, is futility. People and emotional smarts are only helpful for the here and now. At the end of it all, only what was done for Christ will last [Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:11-13].

All science [knowing] comes from the all-knowing. All philosophy [love of wisdom] belongs to the One who is all love and all wisdom. All true understanding comes from He who was, and is, and is to come [Revelation 1:8]. Earthly wisdom is nothing more than shrewdness, finite judgment, limited in scope and applicability.

Do you need wisdom? Get into God’s Word [Psalm 19 & 121]. Do you need wisdom? Ask God [James 1:5]. Do you need wisdom? Believe on Christ and fear the Lord [Proverbs 9:10; Psalms 111:10; 1 Corinthians 1:30].


From The Student Question Board: How Many Sins Are Too Many? Is There a Specific Number of Sins that Will Disqualify You From Heaven?

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Romans 5:20b

Image result for infinite loveGod is infinite. In every way. He is not bounded in by anything.

In the long war between God and Satan, God is patient, not wanting any human being–who are the apple of His eye [aka the central object of His affection]–to perish [Psalm 17:8; Proverbs 7:2; Zechariah 2:8; 2 Peter 3:9].

Yet in the midst of God’s infinite patience, sin increases. Every minutia of sin manifests and grows. Arrogance, abusiveness, disobedience and ungratefulness increases [2 Timothy 3:2]. Exchanging God for self increases [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. Wickedness, evil, greed and depravity increases [Romans 1:29].

But God’s grace is boundless.

There is no amount of sin that can disqualify you from God’s love. And if by grace through faith you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you are forgiven. Period.

That’s fantastic news! Because we all sin every day, we all fall short of the glory of God in every way [Romans 3:23].

But there is a caution.

If we can’t out-sin God’s grace, then why not just keep on sinning and asking for forgiveness? Paul wrote to the Roman Christians who were struggling with this very question. The answer? By no means! In other words–absolutely not!

As forgiven believers, we died to sin just as Christ died for our sins. And we live in God’s freedom. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace, [Romans 6:12-14].

It’s like quitting smoking because you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer, getting healed, and then continuing to smoke. Smoking destroys our health, just like sin destroys our spirit man. People who have been healed from cancer, are best advised to live a healthier life so that the cancer doesn’t move back into their bodies. And Christians are called to come out of the culture we live in and be Godly so that the destruction of sin doesn’t move back into our lives [2 Corinthians 6:17].

God’s mercy is infinite, just as all of Him is infinite. Sin is limited by human imagination, ability and longevity [or lack thereof]. Choose this day which one will shape your eternity. Finite sin, with even more limited moments of pleasure that lead to death and rejecting God, therefore bringing eternal condemnation [James 1:14-15]? Or infinite mercy, with abundant life now and forevermore [John 3:16]?