Category Archives: Faith

A Heap of Hot Coals

Many of you know how much I’ve been simmering on the unprofessional and unethical behavior of a few people since March and how much I’ve hated it. Because I’m not supposed to hold grudges (See Ephesians 4:26).

Until I noticed a small mistake one of them made that, if not fixed right away, could cause them some embarrassment.

Yes, I considered saying nothing. A little payback or karma if you will. But then God kept whispering Proverbs 25:21-22 to me:

“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”

So I resolved to be the better person and informed him of the error. He seemed grateful and fixed the issue in time.

My reward: When I saw him the next day, I felt no twinges of anger or irritation. I was able to give him a genuine smile and treat him with respect without having to force myself.

He seemed a bit startled by it, but no matter. By God freeing me from all that negativity, I no longer care how he receives my words or deeds.

Although, I do hope he felt the heat of the coal I heaped in his head, and that he will be a bit wiser in how he treats others in the future.

An Imperfect God?

I recently saw a short discussion on Twitter and it got me thinking.

It went like this:

“The God of the bible is not the same as the god of the Quran.”

“god [sic] mentioned in the bible [sic] depicts him to be imperfect, while The God depicted in the Quran is absolutely perfect.”

“Imperfect how? And where?”

“For starters, 1 Samuel 15:11.”

1 Samuel 15:11 states (ESV): “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.”

Does this suggest that if God expresses regret over something he did, would that mean he’s admitting to making a mistake and is therefore imperfect? That’s certainly what the Twitterite above is implying.

But is he correct?

We must first go to what “regret” means:

According to Mirriam-Webster, regret (verb) is defined as: 1(a): to mourn the loss or death of; 1(b): to miss very much; 2: to be very sorry for.

So the question is, how is “regret” defined in the above passage? Was God expressing sorrow (first definition) over Saul’s faithlessness, or stating he had made a mistake (2nd definition)?

Let’s turn to the Hebrew term: נָחַם pronounced naw-kham’.

Strong’s and NAS Exhaustive Concordance define it as “to be sorry, console oneself.”

Brown-Driver-Briggs goes even further and defines the word per passage in the Old Testament. For 1 Samuel 15:11, regret is defined as “to be sorry, rue, suffer grief, repent, of one’s own doings.”

If we are to trust the last one, God is indeed sorry for or repentant of appointing Saul king—admitting he’d made a mistake.

Now that we’re back to square one, I ask again: is God expressing regret, admitting that he’s imperfect? Is it truly impossible for a perfect God to have regrets? Or is that assumption incorrect?

I’ve heard people say, “Scripture interprets scripture.” If one finds a contradiction, such as 1 Samuel stating that God is admitting imperfection, whereas other verses show God to be perfect (such as in 2 Samuel 22:31 & Matthew 5:48), one must look deeper.

The first step is to read the entire chapter to discover the circumstances as well as its context and audience.

In this case, the answer over the definition of “regret” is made clearer in verse 29: “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”

That says to me that God is expressing sorrow over Saul defying his word, not admitting to a mistake derived from imperfection.

What do you think?

Ill Will

I normally don’t hold grudges. It’s not in my nature. Doing so doesn’t necessarily hurt the person I’m angry at, but it always hurts me. Holding on to anger is akin to living in the past, preventing me from enjoying the present and looking forward to the future.

Yet that’s exactly what I’m doing. I mentioned a few months back about some people I work with acting in an unprofessional manner, made worse by the fact I still have to work with them and still be professional when I want to be anything but.

I can’t wait for the day I no longer have to interact or work with any of them. Ever. Again.

In short, while I may never outwardly show my contempt as much as may want to, I look forward to, at the very least, giving them my indifference.

As of now, though, my attitude is so sour, I find myself wishing—praying even—for them to fail at everything they do. I want others to see what I see and abandon them. I want their reputation to take such a spectacular nose-dive, no one else will ever want to work with them, either.

I know what you’re thinking: That’s not very Christ-like of me. After all, does not God love them as much as he loves me? Does God hold his mercy and grace back simply because this piddly little human is angry? The idea is utter foolishness when seen from that perspective, isn’t it?

While my heart is a rabid animal gnawing at the bars of its cage, growling to be let loose to rip apart and devour those who hurt me, my brain is holding the door closed, whispering calm. Reminding my heart that grace, mercy, and forgiveness are always the best roads to travel.

God never wishes me ill will no matter what I’ve done, so I can do no less.

Nor am I supposed to wait until I no longer have to deal with someone in order to do so. God wants us to forgive when it matters most, because he forgives us when it matters most.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” ~ Ephesians 4:29-32

I Am Stone

I see people on fire for the Lord. They spread the Good News like flames surging through dry brush during a summer drought.

While I stand on the edge of the field. Watching. Silent.

Envious.

I am not fire. I am stone. Hard and heavy. Immovable.

Yet that is my gift. Because God can use stones to spread the Good News, too.

How, do you ask?

Stones provide strength, a firmer foundation on otherwise shaky ground, such as a beach where sand gives sway to the waves and wind.

Why God chose to make me a rock over a flame, I don’t know. Perhaps I will. Someday. Then again, it’s not a question that deserves an answer. What matters is I remain that rock and depend on God to make me stronger.

All who get fatigued need a place to rest, and be certain that where they rest will be steady. Immovable. And yes, even silent, because sometimes it’s in the silences that we hear God’s voice the clearest.

So while those on fire will find the ones who need to be set aflame themselves, I will watch and wait, not with envy, but with anticipation for those who need a rock to stand on or rest upon. Perhaps, God willing, so they can hear God’s voice in the silence.

“Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant.”

Anyone who’s read my blog and comments will be familiar with one of my most loyal readers, Arnie Fleck.

He didn’t always agree with me, and he was also never afraid to say so. Our discussions were often lively yet always respectful—with some humor thrown in now and then.

Whenever I wrote an entry, especially with regard to Jesus, scripture, or religion in general, I always thought of him and tried to anticipate his reaction. Doing so always helped me make certain I made my stance clear so as not to awaken the dragon who learned how to argue in law school.

I tease, but his love of Jesus, scripture, and law, and to always look deeper has always inspired me.

He passed away on April 1, 2021 at the age of 63.

I will miss him, his words, his encouragement, and, yes, his almost eager willingness to disagree, but I also look forward to the same lively discussions when I, too, reach beyond this mortal veil.

God speed, my friend.

Abandoned?

Last night I watched Episode 2, Season 2 of The Chosen, and it undid me. I bet I blubbered for five minutes after the show ended.

In one scene, the character, Nathanial, cried out to God when a building he designed failed, and how could he fail when everything he did was for God’s glory? At one point he even asked, “Why have you turned your face from me?”

Later he meets Jesus, and one of the first things Jesus said was, “I could not turn my face from you.”

I can’t count how many times I felt as though Jesus has turned away, that all I do—or at least attempt to do—to glorify him is nothing but ash, meaningless, without purpose, a waste of time.

Yet Jesus has not turned away from me, or any of us who seeks him out. We just have to be patient and understand that how we’re using our talents/skills today may take an entirely different turn tomorrow. That our failure may instead be a new opportunity, and Jesus is ever present, ever aware, and will never turn his face away.

A Walking Eyeball?

The instructor for my Wednesday Bible study could be described with one word: evangelist. Her heart and soul is filled with desire to bring others to Christ, to the point of overflowing. She sincerely loves Jesus like few I’ve ever seen.

I am simultaneously inspired, envious, and saddened at my own lack of the same.

Unlike her, I don’t feel the same pull to evangelize to non-believers. As such, I can’t help but ask why. Am I lacking in my own faith? Am I not focused enough on his voice and his word, so in the end he has no (or little) use of me?

Some of you will be rolling your eyes at me, I’m sure. Me questioning my strength and faith is nothing new, and some of you have expressed (for years), that I’m silly to doubt my faith.

Let me assure you that I don’t doubt my faith. My questions derive from my need to strengthen it. How can I do that if I don’t ask questions and seek out where I’m weak?

So back to my question. Am I lacking in something, because I have neither the gift nor desire to win lost souls to Jesus?

Or do I have neither, because Jesus has other plans for me?

One thing I love about both Jesus and Paul are their surgically sharp use of exaggeration and rhetoric to make a point.

In this case, how Paul describes the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Because of its imagery, verse 17 in particularly has always stuck with me: “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” The first part makes me think of Mike Wazowski in Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”

Silly imagery aside, it’s the perfect vehicle to make a point, or as Rush Limbaugh used to say, “Being absurd to illustrate absurdity.”

Paul was illustrating the absurd notion that all our gifts should be the same.

Thus proving my own absurdity for believing I (and my gifts) are lacking, simply because my life, gifts and desires don’t mirror others.

So what then are my gifts? What does Jesus intend for me to do if it’s not to evangelize to the lost?

All I can do is ask where my passions point toward instead of where they don’t.

In the simplest terms, I love the Bible, God’s Word. And what I hate is when people (Christians especially) twist scripture to mean the exact opposite of what it says, or when they ignore certain passages in favor of others in order to give themselves license to act a certain way.

That’s not to say I shouldn’t point the lost to Jesus. Quite the contrary. That is the ultimate goal of all within the Body of Christ—of which I’m a part. I’m simply not an evangelist whereby that’s my main and singular goal. Perhaps my job instead is to encourage and help those who do.

So does my passion make me an apologist instead, perhaps even a critic?

I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t know ten percent of what I should about scripture… I know just enough to be dangerous. Yet lately I’ve been in a studious mood both with the Bible study as well as reading non-fiction by those far more knowledgeable about scripture than me.

Or maybe I’m not an apologist so much (at least not yet) as I am a student. Either way, that’s where I belong in the Body as of now (because that could always change). And who am I to argue with God that I’m an ear instead of an eye—figuratively speaking?

Brain Food

Everyone approaches Jesus a little bit differently. Some approach him with the heart, others with the head. Many of us use a combination of both, which is important, I think. The most important part of God’s law, after all, can be summed up with “Love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.”

I can appreciate those who search for and find Jesus with their heart. I, however, am not one of those. That’s not to say I’ve never felt God’s presence, or that he’s never comforted my heart when I needed it. He most certainly has. Yet I still seek him with my head first. I long to know him as much as I enjoy feeling his presence. I want him to teach me all about himself, and for him to show me all of his creation and how it works.

So when I saw the book at my church by Lee Strobel called “The Case for the Real Jesus,” (Zondervan, 2007) how could I, in my insatiable intellectual curiosity, not pick it up?

This one addresses five attacks on Christ’s identity, namely that the resurrection never happened, Jesus never considered himself the Messiah, the early church suppressed other, equally valid and important gospels, that scribes tampered with the Bible, and how Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is a “barbaric concept that would make God guilty of cosmic child abuse.”

I’m on page fifty-three so far, and it’s feeding my brain. Hence the title of this entry. Lee Strobel, like me, approaches God with logic, rational arguments and digs for concrete, verifyable evidence for Jesus. His approach is similar to Dennis Prager, another one of my favorite biblical/religious scholars, but that’s a side topic…

Strobel takes nothing on faith alone. Everything he believes—or chooses to believe—must be verifiable. Like his other books, he brings us along on his journey of discovery, to ask the difficult questions knowing that such a journey could end up changing all his notions of who God is. That’s a hard road to travel, because few people want their beliefs—especially long-held beliefs—to be proved false.

It’s often a matter of pride, that fear. Who likes to admit they’re wrong or perhaps been deceived? I know I don’t.

Yet I also know, like Strobel, and even in Matt Walsh’s book I discussed in a previous entry, the truth matters more than anything. It does not change or become a lie simply because we chose to ignore or disbelieve it.

So do any of the above attacks against Jesus and Christianity have merit? You’ll have to take that journey of discovery yourself. As of now, for me, my brain is full. It’ll be hungry for more in the morning, I’m sure. Luckily, unlike real food, brain food doesn’t add literal fatty pounds to my belly.

Seek Thee First…

Every Monday evening, I participate in an hour-long Twitter chat using the hashtag “healthyfaith.” One person hosts and asks 10 questions either about a certain religious subject or a particular chapter/verse of the Bible.

Last night’s was about meditation and how Christians should view/practice meditation vs how the world views/practices it.

The short version is while eastern meditation (which many in the Western world have embraced) relies largely on emptying the mind, for the Christian, it’s the opposite. We must instead focus and fill our mind with prayer, worship, scripture, and God himself. Because if we empty our mind, something will eventually fill it, and that something may be something that should not be there.

I also mentioned during the discussion that I don’t take enough time to meditate on God’s word, prayer or praise. I make daily time for my friends and family, why then do I not do the same for the Creator of the universe and the one who died to save me from my sins? Shouldn’t he be first on my mind in the morning, throughout the day, and the last thing on my mind as I search for sleep?

Apparently God isn’t finished teaching me this lesson. A few years ago, I purchased a book called “Morning and Evening: The Classic Daily Devotional” by Charles Spurgeon. Based on last night’s chat, I figured it’s time I set at least fifteen minutes each day with God and God alone. Reading (and pondering) the morning lesson in the book would likely be a good start.

Because God loves symmetry and likes to poke at me to prove how well he knows me—in this case by teaching me the same lesson over and over again, I bet you can guess what the subject of this morning’s devotion is.

Yep, it’s about finding God where we set him aside (or lost him). One example he gave was, “Did you lose Christ by neglecting the Scriptures? You must find Christ in the Scriptures.”

He also says, “Take care, then, when you find your Master, to cling close to Him.”

So here I am, reading, studying, pondering. Giving him a moment of my time so that I may learn to cling to him, never again to let him go. We’ll see how long it lasts… but at the very least, I’ll know where to find God if I lose him again.

Keeping an Eye on the Sunset

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Ephesians 4:26

This has always been one of my favorite verses. I remember it often (although not always) when I get angry at someone or something.

As to the first part of the verse: We sometimes think anger as a negative emotion, something to avoid. Some have even been told or believe that anger itself is a sin.

Yet, like fear can be healthy (as I described in a previous post), so anger can be, too. It spurs us to act against injustice, bad behavior, and other sins. There are plenty of instances in scripture where God, Jesus, and many of his faithful acted in anger, and few could argue those acts were absolutely righteous and correct.

So how are we to know we don’t sin in our anger? One is to take a step back, to look upon the situation with our head as much as our heart. To ask any action helps or hurts the innocent, and does it glorify God.

That leads us to the second part.

It’s important to solve every disagreement as soon as feasible, or let go of an unsolvable issue before the sun sets, because when we don’t, that anger grows and festers.

As anyone who’s ever held a grudge (and that be all of us at one time or another), knows how it can harm and eventually ruin relationships.

We live in a time of anger, and too many of us are destroying our families and friendships over what amounts to very little in the grand and eternal scheme of things.

So if you find anger prowling around, even though it may be justified, make sure to show it the sunset before it digs its claws and teeth into your psyche.