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Long-View Living in a Short-View World

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In November of 1873, the French ocean liner, Ville du Havre, was carrying 313 passengers from the United States to Europe when it collided with the Scottish vessel, Loch Earn. The Ville du Havre sank within twelve minutes, killing 226 of the passengers, including the four daughters of Horatio and Anna Spafford. Anna Spafford survived the crash, having been pulled from the water while clinging to a piece of floating wreckage. Her husband, Horatio, was working in Chicago at the time of the collision.

When Anna Spafford landed in Cardiff, Wales, she wired her husband, "Saved alone, what shall I do?" Horatio booked passage on the next available ship to Europe in order to join his grieving wife. About four days into his journey, Horatio was summoned to the captain's cabin. There the captain informed him that they were over the place where his wife and children's ship went down.

It is on this grievous journey that Horatio Spafford penned the beloved words to one of the most widely known and sung hymns:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:7, ESV

The Peace Of God

Peace, ειρηνη, is not harmony between us and other men and women. It is not an absence of conflict. Neither is this a reconciliation with God. That has already occurred. There is something to this peace that is deep, profound, and internal. Note that it guards our hearts and minds, not our bodies and homes.

This is a subjective calm and visceral relaxation. And it is of such profundity that it defies both explanation and understanding. From that standpoint, it seems foolish to even blog about it. Blog about what? We don't understand it!

When my soul is troubled, even to the degree of Horatio Spafford's grief, I can bring all my anxieties to God, and in doing so find my heart and mind flooded with peace. Not peace from God, but rather the peace of God. I am not able to confidently quantify that difference, but I do believe it is precisely that distinction that makes this peace the peace that which transcends our ability to understand it.

I can no more wrap my mind around the peace of God than I can wrap it around God himself. Remember, this peace-giving God is the same God "who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20b).

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:7, BSB

God-Guarded Heart and Mind

This peace of God stands guard over our heart and mind. This guarding, φρουρησει, is very much a military term, one that describes protecting with a garrison of soldiers. As difficult as it is to do so, close your eyes for just a moment, and try to imagine the reality of the creator-God of the universe, the creator of all that exists, standing sentry over your heart and your mind. Given that reality, how can we possibly not be at peace?

It is entirely possible that the "divine sentry" guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus is what gives us the boldness spoken of earlier in the letter - "standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God" (Philippians 1:27b-28, NASB).

Our Too-Big-To-Understand God

I will never be able to figure God out, and in an ironic way, I don't really want to be able to do so, but I do keep trying. I have long maintained that anything I can wrap my mind around is not big enough to be my God.

It is not only the peace of God that is beyond our comprehension. It is much more than that.

  • Our gift of salvation is "indescribable" or "inexpressible." (2 Corinthians 9:15)
  • The "thoughts" and "ways" of God are far beyond our thoughts and our ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
  • The love of Jesus is such that it "surpasses knowledge." (Ephesians 3:19)

In the same way, this peace of God, the guardian of our hearts and minds, is beyond what we can comprehend or understand, but it is freely given to us as God's beloved children. We don't have to understand it. Just enjoy it.

And ponder this for a moment as well - If this peace that is guarding our hearts and minds is so profound that it transcends our understand as Christ-followers, with the indwelling Holy Spirit, think what that peace must look like to those outside of Christ who are drowning in the raging tempest of the world system.

If we are unable to spiritually discern the peace within, those without the Spirit of God have no possibility of doing so (1 Corinthians 2:14). To them, it is just one more puzzling layer of Christian nonsense, but its reality is undeniable.

God's Constant Protection

God never promised to keep us from trouble and turmoil, but rather to protect us through it. Indeed, Jesus was quite clear that we would have trouble from the unbelieving world (Matthew 10:22, Mark 13:13, John 16:33, etc.). But in all of our troubles, according to the apostle Paul, we will be hupernikkomen, "super-conquerors!" But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37, NASB).

I'll leave you with these words of encouragement from God:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. - Psalm 23:4, ESV
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the LORD your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
- Isaiah 43:1b-3a, NASB
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. - Isaiah 26:3, ESV

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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Twitter - @DamonJGray


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08/09/2018
  

This is a heart-wrenching story. Saddens me every time I read it. But, it is also a solemn reminder of your point. God does not promise a trouble-free life. He promises to be with us through it. An important distinction. 

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Science has seen a recent surge in popularity, primarily as a political football that is being kicked back and forth between Worldview X and Worldview Y. The term "science" is applied to debate subjects that have nothing to do with science, because injecting the term "science" to the discussion is believed to add credibility to one view or the other, and the "unscientific" viewpoint is subsequently ridiculed as foolish. To the unlearned, this may be effective, but to those who truly understand science, and the scientific method, we are not fooled.

True science is a systematic practice of gaining knowledge of the tangible through observation and experimentation. True science involves testable, falsifiable hypotheses. When a proposed hypothesis is disproved, it is either modified or discarded. When we reach the point that a hypothesis cannot be falsified, we likely have a truth under experimentation. Thus, true science has nothing to do with opinion or consensus, and everything to do with knowledge gained through non-disprovable hypotheses. Thus it is a fallacy to declare a truth based on "Eight out of ten scientists believe..."

By its very nature, science will be unable to give us all answers. There are some realities that are simply beyond the reach of scientific discovery. For example, science will never be able to tell us what is moral or immoral. Science will never be able to attribute ethical value to an action. Science cannot determine beauty or ugliness, because it cannot measure aesthetic quality. Science cannot answer any questions dealing with the supernatural. Science can tell us what, how, where, when, but can never tell us why. The why questions belong to God.

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' - Romans 9:20, ESV

Questioning God

Questions like the one above are perplexing for the Christ-follower. Other difficult "Why" questions include:

  • Why do the righteous suffer?
  • Why do the evil prosper?
  • Why is there even evil in the world?
  • Why did this bad thing happen to me?

Just last week, while hiking Mount Baker, my wife and I were pondering why God created mosquitos and flies. What is their purpose?

As you read the book of Job, you'll find that the text vigorously presses the "why" question. Job was a godly man, one of the godliest ever to have lived, yet his suffering was profound! Though strong in the face of calamity at the outset, as Job endured prolonged agony from failing physical health, the death of seven sons and three daughters, total loss of wealth, and a wife who despised him, Job searched for answers to his circumstance, and he pressed God for answers.

     Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. (Job 10:2, ESV)

     Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? (Job 13:24, ESV)

     Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know him never see his days? (Job 24:1, ESV)

Other examples exist, but you get the point. We reach a stage of frustration, and at times exasperation, where we cry out to God, "Why?"

Even Jesus, from the cross, cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46b, ESV) And yet, this same Jesus knew that there are purposes beyond our knowing and understanding. As he washed the feet of his disciples, he addressed their incredulity at that action by telling them, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand" (John 13:7b, ESV).

God is molding us, shaping us, maturing us, and doing so for his own holy purposes. Thus it is enough for me to know that he is God and I am not, he is holy and I am not, he is loving and I am self-consumed, he is good and I am sinful. What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.

Years ago, I had a conversation with a pastor friend who lost a young child. When addressing the "why" question, I was dumbstruck by his description and logic of the event. He said, "The question is not, 'Why did God let my child die.' The question is, 'Why does God let me live?'" That man has a worldview that awes me.

As I look at the condition of my world, with sin running rampant, virtually unchallenged and frequently celebrated, it is easy to fall into "Why" mode, or to cry out with Habakkuk, "How long, O' Lord will you let this continue?" Children are abducted and sold into sexual slavery. The strong oppress the weak around the globe. Greed, envy, and the lust for power erode morality and ethics.

Sexuality between a husband and wife is no longer a sacred event. Perversion is the new norm, and godly sexuality is considered perverse. We can become frustrated and anxious at this, with some succumbing to fear or anger. Others will decry those who are concerned as being over-reactionary - "Oh, that will never happen." they say. Yet it does happen, and we unleash a collective sigh as we whisper to ourselves, "I saw that one coming."

As homosexuality reached the point of such public acceptance that it is now celebrated daily with "pride this" and "pride that," transgenderism took the podium for similar advancement, and successfully so. Gender is now withheld from Certificates of Live Birth in order to allow parents to decide on a gender for their offspring, or to coach the young child through the selection process as it grows and matures. Thus, gender is no longer a matter of X and Y chromosomes, but rather a matter of personal preference and choice. As transgenderism, and gender dysphoria is now mainstream and out in the open, we are witnessing the birth of the next phase of debauchery.

I will admit that I have been horrified of late at the ongoing attempts to normalize pedosexuality (sexual activity between adults and children), which is now being described as a "movement," is endorsed and advanced by prominent university professors, and openly defended on social media. I confess here and now that should any adult attempt to engage one of my grandchildren in pedosexual activity, I will go "Bruce Lee" on them so fast and ferociously that they will think tomorrow was yesterday.

In the face of such societal decay, we understandably ask, "Why, God?" and "How long O' Lord?" And I suspect that any explanation coming from God will not truly serve to clarify much for us. Instead, asking "Why" serves more to solidify our frustration and anger.

Trusting God

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
- Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV

Rather than stress and fret over what we do not understand, cannot understand, and really do not need to understand, let's opt for a positive move of trust in the one who holds it all in his hand. We know that Jesus is upholding all things by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). We know that in Jesus all things hold together - he is the sustainer of all things (Colossians 1:17). I am much better off to trust Jesus to hold things together, and to find rest for my soul in him.

This concept is put forth by King David in Psalms:

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. - Psalm 16:8, NIV-1973

Everything in David's life was viewed through the reality of the one at his right hand. Through that lens, everything is as it should be.

Many years ago, a friend and member of my flock was dying of cancer. Everyone involved knew that from this side of the cross there was nothing that could be done. He was going to die. Toward the end of his life, without being overly descriptive, I'll just say he was in really bad shape. As I sat talking with him, I asked a very sincere, "How are you holding up, Paul?" I will never forget his response, "God is still on his throne, and so all is right with my world." That is the response of a man who is viewing every circumstance through the reality of the one at his right hand.

With the worldview of King David, and my friend Paul, we can walk amid chaos with complete inner-serenity. We can stand steadfastly in the face of danger and experience boldness rather than fear. We can be amidst a whirlwind of evil intent and know that God is good. We can watch the world's mess on the evening news and be free of anxiety.

I am not suggesting that we turn a blind-eye to any of that, but rather that we do not allow it to overwhelm us emotionally, and certainly not spiritually. Jesus is bigger than all of that, and we are "in Christ," and as such are safe in the care of the one who is truly in control. Our conversations with God evolve from "Why is this happening," or "How long will this continue," to "Lord, how can I trust you more deeply and glorify you in this circumstance?"

Circumstances are simply the window dressing of your glorious life. Regardless of what is happening in the physical world, you know the peace of God's presence. You will be unshaken when you set the Lord before you.

The LORD is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?
- Psalm 118:6, NASB

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray


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Last week, we took a dive into defining what it means to be a spiritual man or woman. This week we continue that examination.

You will recall that we looked at three classifications, or categories of persons:

1) The Spiritual - This is the Christ-follower who has the mind of Christ, discerns all things, but who is subject to no human judgement.

2) The Carnal - This is the Christ-follower who is not mature enough for the "meat" of the Christian walk, but who, rather, is dominated by the flesh, refusing to grow.

3) The Natural - This is the person outside of Christ, to whom spiritual matters are non-discernible gibberish.

But as it is written,

'No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
the things that God has prepared
for those who love him.'

But God has revealed those things to us by his Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God.
- 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, ISV

Better Eyesight

One of the characteristic marks of a Christ-follower who is growing in maturity, is depth of discernment. It is the ability to penetrate beyond the visible surface to the quick of life and unseen reality. The carnal Christ-follower cannot make such discernments, walking by sight, touch, and human reason, and as a result sees nothing of the reality that the spiritual Christ-follower sees.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food ... But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. - Hebrews 5:12, 14, NASB

The fact that the apostle Paul refers to these carnal believers as "babes in Christ," or "infants in Christ," (1 Corinthians 3:1) confirms that they are in Christ, and are therefore to be treated with the full honor, love, and respect that is due any fellow believer. Rather than condemn them, or berate them, the spiritual man and woman will call them to fuller submission, to crucifixion of the flesh, to God-glorifying selflessness.

Deceived Eyes

Some, believing they have deep spiritual insight, begin to view themselves as instructors and disciplinarians of the body of Christ, very high up in the discernment and maturity hierarchy. From this deluded vantage point, these brothers and sisters in Christ declare themselves to be discipleship authorities over those whom they deem less discerning than themselves. This self-aggrandizing attitude is teeming with the immature mind of the carnal Christian and devoid of everything it claims to espouse.

One who is spiritually discerning will quickly recognize such fleshly impulses, even within himself or herself, and reject them. Even the apostle Paul refused to become dictatorial from the position and authority of his apostolicity.

Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm. - 2 Corinthians 1:24, NASB

Responsibility & Peril

There is a responsibility borne by the spiritual Christ-follower, and it has been my experience that those who bear it well wish that they did not bear it at all. Those who wish to bear it, are generally those who ought not do so, as it carries with it a propensity for abuse. It is an unpleasant responsibility.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. - Galatians 6:1, ESV

Do not miss the goal, or the purpose of interacting with the transgressor. There is no hint of "spiritual one-upmanship" in this directive from Paul. Everything is done with a view toward restoring the transgressor, and the entire transaction is to be bathed in love and humility. There is no shaming, no harsh chastisement, no bold confrontation. Do not miss that term "gentleness."

I can recall so clearly a time several years back when there was a sin in my life that needed to be dealt with. I was ensnared and desperately needed to be set free. But rather than restore me in a spirit of gentleness, the pastor of the church glared angrily at me, repeatedly slamming his fist on my dining-room table, cursing profanely at me as he did so.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. - 1 Thessalonians 5:14

In love we "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ," (Galatians 6:2, NASB) and in humility, "if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself" (Galatians 6:3, NASB). We are called to speak truth, yes, but to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

There is a very real danger to religion-based arrogance. Keep watch on yourself lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1b). In this, there are echoes of Paul's admonition to the church in Corinth.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. - 1 Corinthians 10:12, ESV

James had something to say about this as well.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. - James 3:1-2a, ESV

And Jesus weighed in on the subject.

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? - Matthew 7:2-3, ESV

Speaking the truth in love is often quite difficult. We risk relationship. We risk the snare of spiritual arrogance. There may be anger and pain. But, in self-denial, we are called to endure the discomfort, even the occasional agony, of loving our brother or sister in Christ enough to bring healing and restoration into their life. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy" (Proverbs 27:6, NASB).

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. - Ephesians 4:1-3, ESV

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray


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Used by permission.

"Oh, he's so spiritual," or "She's so spiritual." We hear this from time to time, and may have spoken those words with reference to others, but what does it even mean to say someone is spiritual?

Society will offer up myriad answers to that question.

For example, a spiritual person is one who practices yoga faithfully, and who meditates daily. To someone else, a spiritual person is one who cares for people, is kind to animals, and who recycles everything. To still another, the spiritual person is one who can work the Tarot cards, and who is one with the universal goddess. For still others, the spiritual person is one who attends church regularly, has a daily prayer discipline, and who knows their Bible well.

None of these things is guaranteed to make us a spiritual person, not in the sense that God means spiritual - πνευματικος.

The Spiritual

But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. - 1 Corinthians 2:15

Who is this spiritual person that is appraising or judging all things, but who is judged by no man? He is the pneumatikos.

Pneumatikos is a descriptive term from which theologians have patterned the term "pneumatology," the study of the Holy Spirit. It is a combination of two terms, pneuma and logos, meaning "wind" and "word."

The "spiritual man" concept is strewn throughout the writings of the apostle Paul, and it is clear that he has a specific character in mind when he employs that term. Indeed, Paul seems to use three distinct terms in this regard. There are those who are Christian and "spiritual." There are those who are Christian, but "carnal," or "fleshly." And there are those who are not Christian at all, whom Paul calls "natural." The "natural man."

The natural man is the one who is completely puzzled by the spiritual man.

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. - 1 Corinthians 2:14, NASB

Since the natural man does not even possess the faculties to understand this discussion, we will direct our attention specifically toward spirituality as it pertains to Christians. Within that focal area we find both the spiritual man, and what seems to be this "in-between" person who wears the name of Christ, but who is not "spiritual." This is the believer who is lacking in maturity, living out their faith on a childhood level, refusing to give up gratifying their carnal desires and self-devotion.

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? - 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, NASB

So, obviously, simply being a Christian (in name, at least) does not result in me being a spiritual man. I can wear that name and be quite carnal.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. - Romans 8:5-8, ESV

From that passage, I gather that it is vitally important for us to get clarity on who or what is this spiritual man and spiritual woman.

It's the Mind, Not the Rules

To begin with, it is important to note that the apostle Paul is not addressing behaviors when he speaks of spiritual versus carnal. He is speaking of our minds! Look once again at the Romans 8:5-8 passage above. It is all about the mind - the mind of the flesh versus the mind of the Spirit.

When God grabs my heart and my mind, my feet and my hands will follow. When that happens, I no longer follow rules. I follow the one who holds my heart and my mind.

Paul says we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16b). This truth is emphasized when we realize that "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24, NASB). True worship is not a matter of location or activity. It is an outpouring of the inner man and inner woman. The apostle Paul says that living sacrificially and holy, with a renewed mind is our "spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1-2).

Walking by the Spirit

There is a war raging in the mind and heart of every Christ-follower, a war for control of our affections.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. - Galatians 5:16-17

This may explain why Jesus and the apostle Paul repeatedly call for us to deny self, to deny the flesh, to die daily, to crucify the flesh. The Spirit and the flesh are at war. The concern is far less what I do and much more what I want to do. It is what I love, that for which I am passionate.

By walking "in" the Spirit, or "by" the Spirit, or "according to" the Spirit, when we are "filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18), we will manifest the fruit of the spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These are attributes, or outpourings of the Christ-follower that can flow from us in abundance and never get us into trouble. "Against such things there is no law." No one is ever too kind, too patient, or too gentle.

Winning the War

Paul calls us to walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:6, NASB). We have to pick a side. We cannot play for both the home team and the away team - the Spirit and the flesh. We are with one or the other, not both. Jesus himself said, "A house divided against itself falls" (Luke 11:17b, NASB).

While it's true that Yogi Berra said that ninety percent of the game of baseball is half mental, I am asserting that one hundred percent of the life of a Christ-follower is lived in the inner man, the inner woman. Even the initial conversion experience is regularly referred to as making a "decision" for Christ. As far back as the prophet Ezekiel, God said...

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. - Ezekiel 36:26, NIV

The apostle Paul confirms this in his letter to the Roman church, saying, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2a, NASB), and it is precisely in this surrender that Paul can say, "We have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16).

The spiritual Christ-follower is one with a new worldview, a new way of thinking. We have a God-given system of values, a way of looking at life with God, allowing his character to flow through us and out from us.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment." - Matthew 22:37b-38, ESV
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." - Matthew 6:33a, ESV

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray


Comments

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Used by permission.

For the record, I intensely dislike writing this type of blog post, but alas, this is what God has laid on my heart for this week.

During the time of the prophetic ministries of the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel, the people of God held to a misguided belief that God could, or would never leave his temple. Secure in their belief, the people gave no heed to the warnings of the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel, exhortations to repent, lest Jerusalem be destroyed.

Societal and religious leaders rationalized that God would never allow the destruction of a city and temple in which he dwelt. In their exuberance, they cried out “This is the temple of the Lord!, The temple of the Lord!, The temple of the Lord!” (Jeremiah 7:4), similar to the way we might chant, "USA! USA! USA!" at an Olympic event.

A false sense of security is a dangerous thing.

I am persuaded to my core that the United States is perched precariously atop a false sense of security. Just like the deluded priests in the Jerusalem temple, the people of the United States are moving shamelessly and incrementally from one abomination to the next, screaming "USA! USA! USA!" while driving God out of our lives and our nation just as the priests drove the shekinah (glorious presence of God on Earth) from the temple in Jerusalem.

Drowning in our delusion, the people of the United States are rebellious, obstinate, and stubborn, deluded by our false sense of invulnerability and arrogant, intellectual superiority. We have convinced ourselves that either God does not mind our depravity, or that good is evil and evil is good, or that God does not exist, thus morality and ethics can be whatever we (in our intellectual superiority) decide they should be.

The day is coming when we will successfully drive God away, and calamity will befall us as a nation, just as it befell Jerusalem.

They will be appalled at the sight of each other and will waste away because of their sin. - Ezekiel 4:17b, NIV-1973
Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your vile images and detestable practices, I myself will withdraw my favor; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. - Ezekiel 5:11, NIV-1973
I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes which have lusted after idols. - Ezekiel 6:9b, NIV-1973

God In the Sanctuary

When Ezekiel had his vision, it began with God in the temple. God has always wanted to dwell among his people. We started out that way in the garden, but our actions drove (and still drive) a wedge between us and God.

And he said to me, 'Son of man, do you see what they are doing-the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary?' - Ezekiel 8:6a, NIV-1973

Shortly thereafter, God directed Ezekiel to the inner rooms of the temple, and there Ezekiel found the elders of Israel worshiping bugs and burning incense to idols. They felt safe doing so, saying, "The Lord does not see us;" (Ezekiel 8:12b, NIV-1973). They were weeping for Tammuz, and bowing down to the Sun - all of it happening inside the temple.

God At the Temple Threshold

When men and women of God live in filth, filling our lives with profane vulgarities, the glory of God will not remain among us. When we work to drive God out of our lives, he will oblige us by leaving.

Then the glory of the Lord rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple. - Ezekiel 10:4a, NIV-1973

At this point, the glory of God was still with the temple, but it had moved from the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies, to the threshold of the temple structure. In this, God is basically standing in the doorway. And though his glory still filled the temple, and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of God, the people refused to repent.

God At the Courtyard Gate

Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and … stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the Lord’s house. - Ezekiel 10:18a, 19b, NIV-1973

The glory of God has left the Holy of Holies, moved to the threshold of the temple structure, and now has moved to the gate of the temple courtyard. Bit by bit, the glory of God is being driven from the lives of his people, and they are ignoring the reality that they and their city are about to be laid waste.

Even from there, God continued to reach out to the hardened hearts of his people, pleading with them to renounce their filthy ways and to turn to him with repentant hearts. But they (we) refused. The result of their obstinacy, and ours, is not pretty. God will show himself to be God in the face of our headstrong arrogance.

And you will know that I am the Lord, for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you. - Ezekiel 11:12, NIV-1973

God Outside the City

With no repentance to be found, God left the city, and with that we have a distinct separation of the sacred and the profane. What is precious is on the mountain, while what is polluted destroys the city.

The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it. - Ezekiel 11:12, NIV-1973

What We Can Learn

The slow and gradual manner in which God left the temple, and ultimately the city of Jerusalem, gives us a clear indicator that God allows himself to be pushed out of our lives, but that he does so with great reluctance, and that he offers us every opportunity for us to turn things around, embracing him with love and repentant hearts.

We also see that though God’s forbearance and longsuffering are extensive, they do have limits. Matthew Henry noted, “But, though he bear long, he will not bear always.”

As we continuously push God out of our homes, our schools, our sporting events, our courtrooms, and dare I say it - our churches, there comes a point at which God will throw up his hands and give us exactly what we want. We want him to leave us alone, so he does precisely that. Hear it from the apostle Paul in Romans 1.

Pointing to our stubbornness, godlessness, and suppression of truth, Paul highlights God’s reaction to it. Three times, Paul says, God gave them over…

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie. - Romans 1:24-25a, NIV-1973
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. - Romans 1:26a, NIV-1973
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. - Romans 1:26a, NIV-1973

A common misconception is the idea that since nothing bad has befallen me (yet) that God must be okay with my hedonistic lifestyle and worldview. Don’t make the mistake of equating God’s patience with God’s approval.

The people of Israel made this mistake saying, "The days go by and every vision comes to nothing" (Ezekiel 12:22b, NIV-1973). God was quick to correct that, saying “Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to put an end to this proverb, and they will no longer quote it in Israel.’ Say to them ‘The days are near when every vision will be fulfilled’” (Ezekiel 12:23, NIV-1973).

As Philadelphia pastor, Joe Focht, is so fond of saying, “It’s not that God is approving of how I’m living my life. It’s just that I’m quickly running out of room.” The bridge is out, we're ignoring the signs, and we're rapidly running out of highway. And when we finally drive over the edge of the cliff, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head. - Obadiah 1:15

Obadiah's prophecy, speaking specifically to Edom, but in general to "all the heathen," is a dire warning regarding the pending "day of the Lord." There is a day coming when all of the nations will be judged by the God who created them, who died to redeem them, and who has been rejected by them, and that includes the United States of America.

From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. - Revelation 19:15, ESV

I cannot count the number of nations and empires that once existed (even during my lifetime) that have been driven to their knees and into obscurity, including Edom.

We have been spared thus far, but as noted above, though God bear long, he will not bear always. But if we, as a nation, will humble ourselves, pray, seek God's face, and repent of our arrogance and wickedness, I trust that our loving and longsuffering God will hear us from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land.

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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Acts 17:28 - ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν