In spirit and in truth

What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

Today’s reading: John 4

Jesus explained that God is spirit, and the Bible teaches us that Jesus is “the Truth”. The Old Testament has the law, then Jesus Christ gives us grace and truth.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

I think of worshiping in spirit as an emotional state; coming from the heart. Without having emotional investment in the worship, I’m just going through the motions.

Worshiping emotionally with passion but with no truth, I have missed the point. I’m pretty emotional when it comes to viewing a beautiful sunset or eating tacos, but if I worship the sunset or the tacos, my worship is in vain; it is worship without truth.

Two weeks from today we’ll cover John 18 but I wanted to share this verse ahead of time as it ties into today’s theme:

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)

I also take this “truth” another way in that when we seek truth, seeking God’s will, seeking to be shown our sins with a repentant heart, we are worshiping in truth, we seek to listen to his voice.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26)

Had the woman been drinking some of that well water at the moment Jesus proclaimed himself as the messiah, don’t you think she would have spit the water out in a dramatic fashion? In my mind that’s exactly what happened, although I have no proof. Adding this to my list of questions for Jesus.

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” (John 4:39)

He knows all I’ve ever done, and if I am willing to listen to Him, he’ll tell me all I’ve ever done. At the end of my life he’ll also show me everything I’ve ever done; sins upon sins piled high like a garbage dump outside a big city reeking stench and attracting the lowest of creation. Fortunately along with this embarrassment, my death sentence will be pardoned by the man, the Son who will say “he’s with me”.

Unlike me, Jesus listens unconditionally, and if I confess what he already knows to be true, and I repent in spirit and in truth, he will forgive me of all of my sinful past and present. Focusing on me at the center I see no sin, but with a humbled heart, seeking his truth for earnest repentance, he shows me my many sins. An entangled mess that no man can sort on his own.

Perhaps the reader will believe based upon my testimony, but then come to know him more richly when hearing for himself or herself.

And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:41-42)

Call out to him in spirit and in truth; believe because of his word, he will listen and respond, and you will know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.

All You Need Is Love

When Jesus speaks of the perfect life, He is very clear: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” -Luke 10:27. In perfect love, God desires our wellbeing, our fellowship and obedience.

Obedience is a hard word for me to hear, let alone to say or do! But obedience to God’s precepts ultimately make us better, stronger, healthier and happier. God’s law is no longer imposed, but encouraged in love. It’s not offered in oppression, but in freedom from sin through a life of tangible fellowship with the Creator of the Universe. Obedience to a perfect God is to seek the love Jesus speaks of.

Love gets more complicated when we are concerned for our well being, when others threaten our way of life, our freedom or interests. This is when we must chose between our own understanding or trusting God.

I am fascinated by the intensity of the discourse after this very unusual and surprising election. I have had to remind myself that God is eternally sovereign and we are not.

Living out our faith is about love in action, showing love without favoritism, loving the unlovable, practicing grace and gratitude. It is helpful to recognize our hypocrisy and self-righteousness, avoiding demagoguery, so easily embraced.

Personal spiritual transformation is the true source of social change. It is born in Love. God’s Spirit guides us. There is no other way.

God is sovereign and everything, even political power, comes from Him or is allowed by Him.

We have a lifetime of opportunity to live out values like kindness, humility, forgiveness, bravery, sacrifice, integrity, generosity, and compassion. We might easily claim these as our own, and overlook them in others, but love is the champion of justice and truth.

More than anything Jesus is saying to me, “trust God, surrender all to Him and love each other like there is no tomorrow.”

Perhaps John Lennon had it right; “all you need is love!”

1 Chronicles 15; James 2. Secret: Amos 9; Luke 4

A New Covenant

But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.Hebrews 8:8-9

As I read about this New Covenant I wonder: Why did we need one? How does it work?

God once made a covenant with His chosen people. These were the descendants of Noah, and the children of Abraham. He promised to bless them and save them; and to save the world through them. They, in exchange were bound to his law, essentially the Ten Commandments. Law that focused primarily on loving God and each other, putting God above all while striving for purity and relying on ritual sacrifice to receive God’s atonement for sin.

As I read through the book of Kings and 2Kings, it reinforces the tremendous disappointment God experienced in the almost constant rebellion of his people. Though God appeared at crucial times, rescuing His chosen people, offering many signs and wonders, still they turned away — worshiping other gods, sacrificing their children, and leaning on their own understanding.

The New Covenant came despite God’s disappointment, perhaps even because of it. It came as an expression of His constant love for people. This is not His plan “B” but the final reconciliation, through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Considering our tendency to rebel, it’s remarkable God extends salvation to us. When we receive God’s grace, in an instant our sins are washed away and we are made righteous by faith! No longer under the power of the law, we are set free in Christ and given freedom to pursue a relationship with the one true God. A holy God who declares our innocence, though we are guilty. A self-sacrificing God, who takes our place on the cross and dies for our sins so we don’t have to.

The New Covenant is based on an act of love that restores the fullness of God’s intended relationship with us — His created beings. Once set free from sin, we are able to pursue holiness in the power of God’s Holy Spirit and a life in the presence of a living God who offers everything we cannot attain on our own. In this way we are blessed with peace, freedom, power and joy in the truth and security of an eternal, dynamic relationship with the very creator of the universe! This is the New Covenant. Thank you God!

Reading: 1 Chronicles 1–2; Hebrews 8; Amos 2; Psalm 145

Counting Steps

Today’s Reading: 2 Kings 6; 1 Timothy 3; Daniel 10; Psalm 119:1–24

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Psalm 119:1

Good Morning Everyone, let’s put on our Fitbit for God and look at our daily steps.  These devices can count our steps and can also check our heart-rate.  It can tell us where we have gone and guide us to where we want to go.  With the touch of a button this information is shared with you and others if you would like.  As Christians, having God’s word available is like a press of a button allowing you to navigate every step towards an eternity with Him.  This Fitbit helps us stay on track with our faith and training for growth.  So let’s push the button in the start of Psalm 119 and see where we are at as we count our steps.

Step: Psalm 119:1 Blameless and Walking in the Law of the Lord – stay righteous Proverbs 11:20

Step: Psalm 119:2  Keep His testimonies – love and serve Deuteronomy 11:13

Step:  Seek with a Whole Heart – 100% all the time Psalm 139:23

Step: Psalm 119:4 Precepts keep diligently – focus and be intentional about his commandments Deuteronomy 4:13

Step: Psalm 119:6 Eyes fixed on Commandments – Ephesians 1:18

Step: Psalm 119:7 Praise Him – He deserves it all for all he has done and will do Psalm 33:1

So as you take steps today push the button to take a pulse on each step, each interaction, each hour spent, each conversation, each thought, each prayer. Allow God through His word guard you, teach you, focus your heart, and open your eyes to all that he has in store for us. Go ahead take the next step. God is with you always!

Deliver Him to Satan?

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 24; 1 Corinthians 5; Ezekiel 3; Psalm 39

August 31st, 2016

When first read, 1Corinthians 5:5 can have a puzzling effect on the reader. At least it did for me. Still when I read this and other similar instructions it causes me to slow down and think deeper on what I’m reading. A command to hand someone inside the church over to Satan, to abandon them, seems like it could be at odds with love which never fails (1Corinthians 13:8). It gives a feeling that we are being told to give up on a person. A closer look shows that is not the case at all.

  1. Abandoning the person to their owns ways will give them the best chance at learning the right way (1Corinthians 5:5). Perhaps condoning sin may have the opposite effect. God’s law is everywhere, convicting iniquity and reinforcing truth. It is there to help us understand that we are sinners in need of saving (Romans 7:7).
  2. The more I study this I have come to believe it is a matter of humility. The prideful lie is that this person’s salvation rests on our shoulders. That God is relying on us and us alone. That we must save them. More, that if we were to somehow offend them, that we would be responsible for their lack of salvation. That removing them from the congregation would somehow be our choosing to condemn him. If this were to be believed think of the consequences. How the sinful behavior could corrupt the whole (1Corinthians 5:6-7). Instead I think the truth is to love them in peace and entrust them to God, exercising the perfect balance between love and justice. The scripture tells us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). The conclusion here I believe is that Paul was not giving up on this person but rather that he was committing them to God’s sovereignty and trusting in God’s plan for showing people their need for Him.

God thank You for Your justice that makes everything right: Selah. Thank You for Your love, perfect with no conditions. Thank You for Your Grace and Your mercy LORD and for coming to save us. May we love others with the love of Christ that You have given us. May we be fishers of men. Amen.  


God’s law loves you too

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 27–28:19; Psalm 119:1–24; Isaiah 54; Matthew 2

June 22nd, 2016

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. – Psalm 119: 1-11

To me the law is a beautiful thing. It is full of judgement, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23-24). The law is love written on our hearts (Romans 13:10, Hebrews 8:10). In my estimation, so that we are hardwired with the ability to love others with the love of Jesus Christ. Like an operating system for our soul, when we divert from the law and choose not to love another, the system gets confused and pushes back; “processing, processing, processing…” God reboot my soul, reset my system anew with love. My soul longs for it. God’s law leads me, directs me, governs me and to the extent that I accept this truth, seek after it and hold to it moment-by-moment, my soul is at rest in the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Still from time to time I encounter a sort of push back amongst Christians when the phase God’s law is used. For some the word law carries with it evil connotations of the very worst sort. To the extent the word ‘law’ or phrase ‘God’s law’ is perceived as an enemy of love. A fear arises in some that God’s law will push non-believers away. The phase “old testament god” is used, as if there were such a thing. God is God and has always been, no shadow of turning (James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8). Oh how this saddens me. I hate this perversion of my Master’s holiness. My anger is with the evil that has managed to redefine the meaning of the word law through hypocrisy.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. – Matthew 23:23–24

James Tissot, Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees.
James Tissot, Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees.

Gnats and camels alike where considered unclean. Camels were likely the largest unclean thing while gnats were likely among the smallest. Religious leaders would strain out gnats before drinking wine to be sure to uphold the law and not unknowingly consume something unclean. Jesus here describes a rather comical situation. Imagine watching someone meticulously straining wine through a linen to “be sure” to uphold the law in every way, the whole time a camels is somehow sitting in their cup, which they then gulp down proudly.

In my estimation, Jesus here criticizes the religious leaders for their blinding attention to detail that caused them to lead others astray from the truth of the law. My prayer is that the Pharisees’ and hypocrites’ perversions of the law will be untwisted and made straight. That we may dismiss the worldly definition of God’s law, wave God’s banner and return to the truth, proclaiming a biblical definition of His law. That we would all fall in love with God’s beautiful law. That we would never be deceived into a judgemental nor self righteous nature. That we would not be fear-driven conditional lovers and so pervert God’s law. That any inner Pharisees within us would be vanquished by God’s truth (Psalm 139:23-24).

Judgement is not about one person assessing another’s keeping of the law but rather the law helping one keep their own affairs in order (Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:9–10; Micah 6:8; Habakkuk 2:4). Praise God for writing His law on our hearts that we may live abundantly (Jeremiah 31:31-34)!

Keeping the law is beautiful

Straining out the gnat is not evil in any way. Jesus makes it clear that we should do it (Matthew 23:23). His criticism is that the Pharisees had done it to the dismissal of things that were more important and where lost thinking they had not only kept the law but kept the finer points that others had missed. 

Loving the LORD thy God with all one’s heart and soul and mind and desiring to do His will in all things; Beautiful. Thinking one’s self capable of judging another’s love for God; Ugly. Deep concern for one’s own stewardship; Wise. Being overly concerned for someone else’s; Foolish.

Judgement is a gift from God to help us with our stewardship. Let us not pervert this gift by trying to unwrap it for another. Instead let us rejoice in it, praising God for His gift to us in humility as we are judged in grace and mercy to the glory of God as we are made whole and mature in Christ (1 John 4:17).

Let us also consider the inverse. If we pass by and see another straining out a gnat and think, “that hypocrite” are we not in judgement of another? By straining a gnat have they judged another? If so how is one to obey Jesus command to let their light shine? (Matthew 5:16)

Shine Your light oh LORD and vanquish darkness. Here is truth about the law:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. – John 13:34–35

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. – Romans 13:10

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. – Matthew 22:36–40

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. – Matthew 7:12


Extra Credit:

  1. Check out the eight woes of the Pharisees, this post mostly drew on the fifth.
  2. Golden Rule thought experiment on the power of God’s law in love

Scripture: Matthew 7:12, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 13:5

God gives us a simple and basic, at the most fundamental level, instruction on how to keep the law well. Many call it the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). I say it is most fundamental because it is by way of that which we are most intimate with than any other; ourselves. We know exactly how we should like to be treated and regarded and so forth. Even if not consciously, subconsciously we are hardwired to love ourselves well. Follow along for one simple illustration of this truth. We know that love thinketh no evil or, put another way, keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).

What if we were to apply how we feel about ourselves in this matter on to others? In order to explore this question I encourage you to join me in a thought experiment on your being wrong. Popular exercise, I know.

  1. Name a time when you were wrong; no excuses, no circumstances at work that were out of your control, no anything but you and your wrongness hanging out being wrong.
  2. Let’s say you came up with something. Then let us go to how long it took to recall. Checking all those excuse boxes may have taken a bit of time. Well that one wasn’t really all my fault, etc. So how long did it take you to recall?
  3. Now think back to the first time you had admitted you were wrong in this instance. Think on how quickly and completely you forgave yourself. Did it even take a second? Did it really even register?

Is not love a beautiful thing?!?! Praise God that His law is written on our hearts! (Jeremiah 31:31-34) His forgiveness, His grace and His mercy are written on our hearts!!! The questions then become, does it take you as long to come up with something someone close to you has done wrong? Has it taken you more than a second to dismiss it from your mind?

The point here is that our love of ourselves is much nearer perfection in fulfilling the law than our love for our fellows. God has written it on our hearts to help us, to enable us for the good work He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). How can we not fall in love with His law? Is it not beautiful? Does it not equip us to save souls and rescue others from bondage as it all the time rescues us from a hopeless existence with ourselves? God Your beauty is unimaginable! Your goodness unsearchable! Your ways are beyond me my God and my redeemer! Praise Your Name!

Need For Speed

Numbers 16; Psalms 52–54; Isaiah 6; Hebrews 13

The idea of authority is a double edge sword. We like believing there is justice in the world, some ultimate authority establishing order; but we also want to live lives of our choosing — making our own rules.

I just returned from spending most of this week in Las Vegas at a convention for the Manufactured Housing Industry (MHI). This event is really a big annual reunion for a diverse community of friends, fellow investors, home manufacturers, brokers and other service providers for an industry that provides affordable housing for approximately twenty million Americans. At an event sponsored by my incredible brokerage team, we offered clients an opportunity to drive ten of the most expensive sports cars in the world on a racing track with a personal professional driving coach; Ferarri’s, Lamborghini’s and others, you get the idea. This was sort of a drivers education for car racing. The driving coaches shared the rules of the track, the laws of physics and just in case we lost our minds, they had a brake pedal on the floor of the passenger side. We were instructed in the art of racing, when to go fast, how to go faster and how to negotiate curves at the highest possible speeds. Trust me when I say that I payed very close attention to my professional driving coach!

After five laps I was at the food truck talking with a friend about wealth and privilege. I asked him a question that popped into my head. “If you could design the perfect life for yourself — would it really be perfect?” He wasn’t sure he knew the answer. I believe we all desire the “perfect life”. The desire to find perfection is written on our hearts. But how do we find it? what are the rules, and who makes them?

If we make our own rules, aren’t we missing the opportunity to follow something better? Where do we find the rules for driving the best cars on the fast track of our lives?

I knew that in the absence of the belief in a personal God (one that’s still involved in the world He created) people often gravitate to the ideas like karma. But somehow karmic “authority” seems too vague for me even though I liked the concept. In theory, following this simple principle might even make life a little easier. If we believe that by being generally good, the universe will generally be good back to us, then we can then operate with a general, perhaps even self justified, sense of what the rules are. In this model, justice becomes more vague. The notion that someone is in charge, or that there are specific rules to follow, is more specific, more personal and more challenging. “Who said so?” and “why should I?” were my typical responses.

At times we accept the authority of science. We don’t seem to have much of a problem discovering and responding to the laws of nature as we understand them. You can choose to ignore gravity if you want, but the consequences always turn out the same.

Authority is also accepted when we want to learn a critical skill from someone who knows. If I want to learn to drive fast and safe, the importance of good instruction and understanding the rules is easy to grasp. So if we can respect the laws of physics; and advanced drivers education can be embraced by confidant adults, is it so hard to imagine that the creator of the universe might have laws for us to follow? Is it hard to grasp the possibility that there is a divine authority on how to live our lives? Might there be a more elevated definition of what it means to prosper, higher than those that the world offers us or that we can invent for ourselves?

God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. -Psalm 53:2

As I have come to have a personal relationship with God, I have come to understand the power and authority of God and how important it is in guiding my life. But the crazy thing is this; it was by experiencing God’s incredible love, through His amazing grace, that I was able to discover His awesome power and authority. God is the fairest of judges and the ultimate authority over heaven and earth. He does not condemn His children by grace. He loves and empowers and encourages and directs our steps along paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He has made a way for all of us to return to Him, to return to our rightful place, to fulfill our destiny. God offers redemption to all. And through Jesus Christ  by grace we are given the power to live extraordinary lives, by receiving God’s Holy Spirit. Faith in God offers us lives in the spiritual fast lane. Lives of adventure and challenge and of the greater fulfillment than we could ever imagine. Will we listen and learn?

Ladies and gentlemen it’s time to start your spiritual engines! Amen.