From Judgment to Faith – the Weaning

‘But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.’ Psalms 131:2-3

The Gospel maps the “weaning” from a life led by the flesh, judgment and law toward one of the Spirit, faith and grace. Peter is my favorite example of this with his desire to protect Jesus from injustice only to fail in frustration by denying his best friend three times (Romans 7 playing itself out). Peter was truly the archer taking aim and missing his intended mark (= sin). His experience as explained and concluded in his own letters reflect the above Psalm so well.

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:20,21

Thoughts after Ezekiel 33

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.” Ezekiel 33:7

Think of Jesus as the watchman (to the world).

God’s statement in the same chapter, “When I bring the sword against a land…,” is also true of any conflict. So today I can say God brought the sword against Ukraine. Sounds unfair, right? But even the Ukraine/Russia conflict isn’t about territory or politics (in God’s eyes), it’s the age-old conflict between law (sword) and grace (Eph. 6:11,12)—a conflict God invented (and solved) at creation. War at its heart is a spiritual battle and calls for spiritual, not physical armor to truly resolve. Unfortunately that won’t play well at the UN.

I keep thinking of Notre Dame when it burned, and the picture of the gleaming cross in the blackened sanctuary that flashed across the internet. In spite of its misuse, the world today knows that the cross—above all—symbolizes the mercy of God.

The watchman has sounded his trumpet.

A Discussion on Reason

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” Isaiah 1:18

Funny that I should think of myself as a “free-thinker.” Free-thinkers generally follow reason as their source of wisdom in a godless universe. But can’t one use reason also in a universe created by a living God? After all, with the so-called “Big Bang Theory,” an origin is recognized by both atheists and Creationists—the only question being, was the universe happenstance, created through some invisible subatomic particle; or conceived and formed through an invisible personal God?

Evolutionists view the universe as something going on to bigger and better with wide-open potential. It depends on mutation to create variability. “Life wins!” I’m told, is the theory that keeps things from getting out of hand.

Creationism, in contrast, depends on the dynamics of a seed. So the universe is only fulfilling its potential. Everything the universe can be, has been determined at its origin.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” says Hebrews 11:1. 

To rely on either theory creates its own world-view. Each is an act of faith.

Shadows and Photos

“Jesus Walking on Water” Daniel of Uran, 1433

Discussing religious tradition, ceremony and the use of icons with an Orthodox believer, I quoted from Hebrews 10 that “the law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.” These things are intended “tutors,” as Paul called them (Gal. 3:24,25), nothing more. They can easily become distractions.

“If you kiss a photo of your family you are not substituting them. It is a reminder. Nobody thinks the icon substitutes Jesus,” came one reply.

But the photos are put down when the family is there. By faith I interact with God all day long. Photos (and icons), as valuable as they are, can wait.

The Law on Trial 2


Bible translations use the words transgression, offense, debt, iniquity, trespass, disobedience and sin almost interchangeably. But it’s worth noting that they don’t all mean quite the same thing. An iniquity, for instance, is an injustice or unfairness. Disobedience is a refusal to follow an order. And a transgression or offense violates a standard. But of all of these “sin” stands apart. Unlike the other words, sin is a transgression that’s actually unintentional. It’s a word meaning, “to miss the mark.” Sin is an archer taking aim but going off target. 

The first biblical example of sin in the Bible came with the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2 & 3). But “when the woman saw that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Gen. 3:6). 

Encouraged by the serpent the woman didn’t intend to disobey, but was “deceived” by her senses and desires—and she “fell into transgression,” as Paul describes to Timothy (1 Tim. 2:14). Working mostly for our benefit, the senses and desires aid but can also deceive. Caution is given then, don’t get carried away with them (James 1: 13-15). 

For comparison, Adam was not deceived, but disobeyed, doing exactly as intended (Rom. 5:19). He hit the bulls-eye. 

Intention however is a distinction without a difference in regard to the consequences or law. But who would have thought the intention to do right could have the same result as the intention to disobey? 

The apostle Paul calls this “the law of sin” in Romans 7 where the passions of the body overrule the principles of the mind. (Paul used coveting as the example—the woman’s downfall.) “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” he asks. “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:26).

Jesus was anointed to lead the world out of this contradictory mess—not through justice, as the world expects of a Messiah, but through dismissing injustice with forgiveness. The rescue would be by grace through a relationship with God (faith), not by character-building through the commandment. The resolution is a matter of life over death, not righteousness over sin. And what is life, but “to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent.” (John 17:3)

“Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life (= the relationship with God) has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). 

So the focus goes from sin and righteousness to relationship with God, where sin has no influence (Rom. 6:2). These are two different laws and two different realms, so best not to confuse them (Rom. 8:9). Salvation isn’t to be reformed, it’s a paradigm shift.

Thanks be to God indeed!

That Judgment Thing 15 – “Lead Us”

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread. 

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6: 9-13)

People generally understand the “Lord’s Prayer” as one of petition. As in, perhaps if we repeat this often enough we’ll get these things?

Not me. This disciple sees the prayer as a simple outline of the Gospel—a contract even—to those who would take Jesus on, by faith. In his three year ministry, Jesus presented his Father to the world, revealed the kingdom of heaven and did his Father’s will as he was provided everything he needed. Jesus also forgave, resisted temptation and stayed away from evil.

That’s the prayer.

The pivotal and most demanding part of the prayer is right in the middle. Forgiveness. That was the point of first contact—God’s kindness toward me. But now because Jesus forgave, we’re pressured to forgive others. Cuts right to the heart, doesn’t it? (I think it’s meant to.) But I’ll take it as an object lesson.

Demonstrated in the Gospel, forgiveness isn’t a piecemeal operation—it’s absolute, once and for all. And in the prayer, it’s a bi-lateral agreement. But if God has forgiven me, and I have forgiven others, who is left to judge? Absent of such judgment, all I can have is faith—faith which in this case is an assurance and confidence in God, not in his promises or my expectations (Heb. 11). Jesus set the example of a faith that entrusts judgment of good and evil to “the one who judges justly” (1Pet. 2:23). Outright forgiveness is hard, but this I can do.

So forgiveness is really about who gets to judge. (Wasn’t that what the warning in the Garden was about? – Gen. 3)  But having turned over my rights to judgment (“your will be done”), God and I are going to be bonded together (Matt. 11:29). From now on.

Following this section, the prayer then says, “Lead us.” This is a disciple’s response to Jesus’ original request of, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17).  Now, where Jesus has gone already (see above), it’s my turn (Rom. 8:29). Understanding doesn’t come all at once, but God doesn’t rebuke (James 1:5). And bonded in this way with him, he explains his business as we go along (John 15:15). One-on-one.

The Law on Trial 1

The Democrats won’t let go of Russian collusion. And the Epstein death will be dragged into conspiracy by the Republicans.
But justice must be served. So virtue and guilt are endlessly debated.
“You know how to forecast the weather,” Jesus told the legal pretenders who were distracted by their own set of current events (Luke 13:1-5). “Why can’t you determine what is right?” he asked, advising settlement over a court case (see Luke 12:54-59).
News headlines, opinion shows, common gossip… they only make sport of the conflict. Maybe we should just put the cause of what’s right to a vote and finally be done with it!
So finding the captive innocent—but still at odds with the accusers—Pilate addressed the people one last time. Then he washed his hands in front of them… (Matt. 27)

The Question of Sin—Romans 7

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” (Rom. 7:21,22)

“Sin,” comes from a word meaning “to miss the mark”—an archery term. People think that sin, then, is “the failure to hit the mark.” But what does the archer aim for? So Paul describes the archer’s (sinner’s) situation in ch. 7:14, “For what I want to do I do not do…”

The Law of Moses was the perfect vehicle, to expose this dilemma. It also proves that attempting to improve the aim isn’t the solution.

Consequently, Jesus didn’t describe eternal life as “hitting the mark.” He described it as “knowing the one true God” (John 17:3). This takes us down an entirely different path than our righteousness-geared minds expected.

But when was the last time you heard sin described as “our attempt at righteousness?”

Now read all of Romans, and every time you see the word “sin,” plug in, “my attempt at righteousness.” It will change your understanding and clear up many questions about Paul’s reasoning.

Observations of a Pilgrim in His Own World – Taking the Burden Out of 1 Peter

I’ve worked at my job full-time for 25 years. When I was hired, my employers explained among other things, the pay schedule—which changed over the years from monthly to bi-monthly, to every other week. They delivered faithfully. Never once did it cross my mind that if could be any other way.

In Matt. 5: 19-34 Jesus talks about God supplying what we need from food to clothing. He builds the argument with pictures: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them;” and, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you…?”

I naturally tend to worry about this or that. (Hate change to begin with.) As a result I have understood “Do not worry” to be just another commandment to be burdened with. In fact most sermons on the subject treat it as such—justifying Jesus’ discourse with his closing reasoning, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Any good psychologist could have told me that).

But the thrust of Jesus’ argument is, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

So like my paycheck, “Do not worry,” is about God’s faithful provision, and a conclusion—not a commandment.

And Jesus wasn’t talking about worry. He was talking about trust.

Peter uses the same tact in his first letter. Though it seems he is talking about marriage and employment behavior, he’s really talking about trust. Removing the apparent commandments to “do this,” or “be that” from the context in chapters 1-4 (the, “do not worry” phrases), it reads as an inspiring epistle of encouragement.

And his advice on servants, husbands and wives are applications of two thoughts: When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2: 23); and Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God 1 Peter 4: 1,2).

Like seeking first the kingdom of God, we “entrust” ourselves to God. to make any judgments. Not our job.

Observations of a Pilgrim in His Own World – Unexpected Perseverence

“The Boatman” – Winslow Homer

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” – Job 42:5

James called it the “perseverance of faith” (Jas. 1:3). We often get the phrase wrong thinking we need to gut it out first. But perseverance begins with faith, not the other way around—then faith proves itself out.

Speaking frankly, I hate this wonderful world that God has made. It has let me down (see Ecclesiastes)—and continues to. But God never said there would be anything satisfying about it. In fact, all he promised is trouble (John 16:33).

Having realized that a few years back, I asked him, “Why?” Passionately (Matt. 5:8). And finally he got my full attention (Job 42:5}. That’s all he wanted. And that was all I needed.

Funny how this works: my feelings about the world haven’t changed, so I keep asking God the same question as I go about my business (Prov. 3: 5.6). I find there’s no theology, belief system or anything else to learn. And only him to know (Rom. 1:20, John 17:3). Oddly I think, how can it get any better?

For me there’s nothing to wait for. I have it all right now (Phil. 3:7, 8).

James was right.