Truth

Think on These Things

Think on These Things

Transcendent

Before we consider transcendent things, let’s define transcendent. This word means “existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe.” To set your mind at ease, the transcendent traits of God have nothing to do with false religions such as transcendental meditation. Now let’s consider the following verse.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

This verse has always been difficult for me to understand. It’s God’s Word, yet I find it difficult to think deeply about these things. I always change “think” into “do.” It’s easy for me to read this verse as an action verse. For example, I’m amazed how God used John Bunyan, the author of “Pilgrim’s Progress,” to live his life, raise his family, and enrich the Christian world. But I’m thinking about his works, and that’s not what today’s Scripture is about. So, I dug into this verse, and there’s more to it than I expected. What the Apostle Paul lists are transcendent traits of God. And we are told to think about these things. Here’s an example to show the difference between transcendent traits and dependent actions:

Soldiers

Two soldiers serve valiantly during their deployment. Both have earned honors, but this doesn’t mean that the world has run out of “honor.” Millions of people may earn honors, but the world will still have the same amount of honor. Whether no one receives honor or millions receive honors, honor is transcendent, while acting honorably is a dependent action.

God is Training Us

Now that we understand that “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy” are transcendent traits of God, we can better understand that Godly actions depend upon Godly traits. A person may do something excellent, but excellence is the transcendent trait of God, while the act of excellence is an action that comes from God’s trait.

So, the Apostle Paul is telling us this: when we consider dependent actions – someone does something lovely – if we think about it, this lovely act will lead us to find and consider the true nature of God’s transcendent characteristic of loveliness. The Holy Spirit is training us, teaching us, and transforming us by renewing our minds. (Romans 12:2) This is the point of this post.

Trained Like a Hound Dog

When we consider things that happen in our lives or the lives of others, we have an opportunity to discover the transcendent trait(s) of God in these events. The more we “think on these things,” the better prepared we are to know if something is “of God” or “of the world.” It’s as if God is training us like hound dogs. We learn to smell the scent. Is it of God, or is it of the world? Does it have the aroma of life or the aroma of death? (2 Corinthians 2:16) As we learn to “think on these things,” we learn to find God’s loveliness easily or quickly discover worldly impostors of loveliness.

Good News

We are changed when we “think on these things.” As we learn to see God’s traits and to recognize worldly imposters, we will marvel at these traits of God. And, when we consider them, each one leads us to transcendent wonder and beauty, which are also traits of God. As we “think on these things,” the Holy Spirit will help us to see life from God’s perspective, and that’s good news.

Image from Pixabay


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cartoon of a man and a woman both saying that each is right

Yes, I am Intolerant

Yes, I am intolerant, and I pray that you are too. This seems to fly in the face of love! Aren’t Christians supposed to love everyone? Yes, we are. But love and intolerance are not mutually exclusive. The question is, “What are you intolerant of?” If you are intolerant of hate then you can love and be intolerant. Right?

We are an Intolerant People

Today, I am referring to the intolerance that we have towards compromising the truth of Jesus. As Christians, we are single-minded towards the life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus. We must be intolerant when it comes to what Jesus taught. We wholeheartedly believe Jesus when He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) The same is true for what is written in the next chapter in the book of John. Jesus said:

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 15:18–19

A Chosen People

Jesus chose us! It’s a great feeling to be chosen. To be picked to be on a baseball team, chosen by a company to become one of their employees, to be proposed to for marriage, but none of these come close to being chosen by Jesus:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9

So, after having been redeemed by Jesus, how could we compromise His truth and His promise. God made one way for humanity to be saved and that is by Jesus, God’s Beloved Son. So we must be intolerant.

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12 NLT

An Unshakeable People

Our unshakeable, steadfast, uncompromising faith that only Jesus saves makes us an intolerant people and serves as a cause for people to hate Christians. But let us remember: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)


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Jesus Action Figure

The Brand or the Man

I’ve written on this topic before but felt that I should touch on it once again. Back in 2020, I wrote Building Our Brands. Today, I want to bring out another facet of this subject.

Son of Man

Jesus and His work resonated with the Israelites, but here’s an important bifurcation, the division of something into two branches. The people wanted Jesus to be a king that would immediately defeat Rome. But Jesus referred to Himself during His earthly ministry as the Son of Man. In fact, Jesus is referred to as the Son of Man eighty-eight times in the New Testament. This title carries great meaning. There’s an awesome post titled, What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of Man? If you want to learn about this topic, I recommend this post.

In Matthew 12:14 we learn, “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.” and in John 6:57As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me” and in John 6:66–67, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’

Not a Brand, but the Son of Man

In these verses, we see that Jesus wasn’t influenced by the people that surrounded Him. He didn’t live to be a brand, He lived to be the Man, the Son of Man. He lived to annihilate what satan had done to God’s creation. In this act, Jesus provided a way of escape for the children of Adam.

Fast forward to the 21st century. We see Jesus as the Brand on almost everything marketed to Christians for Christmas. I’m not judging Christmas or the traditions of Christmas. However, we can’t choose to pray to “baby Jesus” (Talladega Nights).

Jesus is not a product. His actions are motivated by love for us. Perhaps we should start using, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” as our Christmas tagline. That would draw the lost towards the Son of Man (Romans 6:23) and away from Jesus, the action figure – 9 Christian action figures you won’t believe exist. By the way, how could a kid play with Jesus the action figure? I can’t wrap my head around that!


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The Whole Commandment

When Moses, through God, had led the Israelites to the edge of the promised land, he spoke these words to them:

The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers.

Deuteronomy 8:1

Notice that God’s criterion for living and multiplying and possessing the land was for the Israelites to keep “the whole commandment” that Moses had spoken to them.

Throughout God’s Word, He tells us over and over that we can’t accomplish all of what He wants to do with us and for us unless we give our ALL to Him. It’s like when a small-town high school Hoosier basketball team defeats a top-ranked team. The announcer always says that they won the game with their heart. They were all in, all of the time, and played all of the game until the final buzzer rang.

The Israelites were going into a war zone. Their mission was to take the whole land that God promised them. The Israelites were told to be all in, to obey the whole commandment and they would win. Likewise, as Christians, God’s Word tells us that before we enter the “war zone” He has assigned us to, we must put on the “whole armor of God.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Ephesians 6:11

God tells us these things because He loves us. He has plans for us. We were born for a purpose, for the purpose Almighty God made uniquely for us before there was even one star in the sky. Anything less than receiving God’s all means receiving less than God intended for us. If I want to make some scones (I love scones!), I need all the ingredients. I can’t have scones without flour.

How easy it is for us to bypass the whole Word of God and feed on the “Cliff Notes®1”; those popular verses that are repetitively quoted, tickling our ears. We need to acquire everything that God makes available to us. If God thinks that we need it, we can be certain that we do!

Image by khuntersr from Pixabay 


  1. Cliff Notes®

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old letters

Return to C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.

Proverbs 21:2

C.S. Lewis wrote the Christian satire, “The Screwtape Letters” in the early 1940s. What he wrote is, sadly, still true.

“Screwtape” is employed by the “Lowerarchy” of Hell, and acts as a mentor to Wormwood, his nephew. Wormwood is an inexperienced and incompetent tempter. In the book, God is called the “Enemy” and the person that Wormwood is trying to lead away from God and to the devil is called “the Patient”. – Wikipedia

The opening paragraph

My dear Wormwood,
‘I note what you say about guiding your patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naïf? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false”, but as “academic” or “practical”, “outworn” or “contemporary”, “conventional” or “ruthless”. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.’


Notice C.S. Lewis’ point that, “They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning.” People today are completely unwilling to change, even when they think through the logic and see that something is true; they still call it false. That is the nature of humanity.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Revelation 22:20

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 


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man yelling

All Truth

All truths are not always spoken to all people. Truth is true wherever you find it for all truth comes from Jesus. You may find truth in a secular song, a novel, or just in everyday conversations. But remember, Jesus is the source of truth for He said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ” (John 14:6) The challenge for us is to know when to share truths with others. It’s always proper to tell the gospel, but there are more profound truths in God’s word that should only be shared when mentoring someone or digging deeply with a mature brother or sister in the Lord. Here are some verses that confirm this truth:

Matthew 7:6: Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Matthew 16:20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Matthew 17:9 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Mark 1:43-45, Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Mark 5:41-43 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Revelation 2:17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

Truth is True

Truth is true wherever you find it for all truth comes from Jesus. You may find a truth in a secular song, a novel, or just in everyday conversations. But, remember, Jesus is the source of truth for He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ” (John 14:6)

Christ’s statement about truth is absolute like in trigonometry when we talk about axioms, that’s what Jesus is telling us. The challenge for us is to know when to share truths with others. It’s always proper to tell the gospel but there are deeper truths in God’s word that should only be shared when mentoring someone or digging deeply with a mature brother or sister in the Lord. Here are some verses that confirm this truth:

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary, we find: All truths are not to be always spoken to all persons, but such as are proper and suitable to their present state.” and the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything“–but not everything is constructive…Therefore, it is imperative that we remember our calling and not be drawn into needless disagreements. If we are to be mocked, abused, or killed let it not be because we are speaking truths that are not for the weak or unsaved but let it be for preaching Jesus and Him crucified.

Don’t Trip Over Words

I’m sure we all know someone who lives to create arguments about the Bible and Christianity. They argue for the sport of it, not to turn the conversation to them to the good news of Jesus even though it says in 2 Timothy 2:14, “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.

I confess that I have been guilty of worthless disagreements. Today I confess and repent of this sin. I pray that we will not be drawn into these useless disagreements but, instead, live in peace and tell the good news.

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the passion of Christ

Is It I?

Playing the Part

At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples He knew one of them would betray Him. Each asked Jesus if it was him. The Pharisees had paid Judas to betray Jesus, yet in Matthew 26:25: Judas, who would betray him [Jesus], answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him,You have said so.

Judas was still playing the part of an apostle while having no understanding that Jesus knew everything. Judas was saving face by parroting what the other apostles asked Jesus – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.Proverbs 16:18 So when Jesus said, You have said so, was Judas surprised? I mean, how blind was Judas?

Spiritual Amnesia

Do we sometimes find this same spiritual amnesia crippling us? Do we “say grace” over our meals at home but refrain from doing so in restaurants? Do we tell co-workers, “Good luck” but tell fellow Christians, “I’ll be praying for you?” Do we cheer at sporting events but stoically sing, “Amazing Grace?”

If not amnesiacs, then perhaps we’ve learned to be chameleons, not even aware that we take on the color of our surroundings. I include myself in this problem. One of the outstanding characteristics of my dad was that if you knew him, you knew him. He was the same person as a university professor, a member of the faculty senate, a deacon in his church, a Sunday school teacher, a farmer, a business partner, a dad, and a grandpa. He was not universally liked. He was a Christian. It was your choice how you reacted to him.

Is it I?

As a child of God, I need to be acutely self-aware. In every situation, and among all people, I need to be “all in” for Jesus and His Gospel. May I never ask Jesus, “Is it I?” when I know it is.

Awesome stencil on a book cart outside of Green Apple Books in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond district.

Without Preconceptions

Prejudices and Preconceptions

So often, we approach the Bible with suitcases full of prejudices and preconceptions. Maybe we don’t think Jews should possess Israel. Perhaps we cringe at the Scriptures that evangelists have shouted. We refuse to accept any Scripture penned by the apostle Paul because we adamantly oppose some verse that he wrote.

Most people approach the Bible with prejudices, whether they are aware of them or not. The same is true with preconceptions. God is love, so everything He does, He does from His heart of love. Furthermore, God extends mercy, so every passage of Scripture must demonstrate God’s mercy, as we define it.

We pack these heavy loads of prejudices and preconceptions into baggage we carry with us on all our journeys. We bring it into small group church meetings, Sunday School, Wednesday Bible studies, and especially into any Biblical discussion with family, friends, or co-workers.

I marvel at the size of some of our pre-judgments (prejudices). Packed into our over-stuffed bags, we add secular things that we value, such as science, psychology, sociology, and family history. Then, somehow, we shoehorn them into our biases of the Word of God.

Reading God’s Word

When we enter the Word of God, we should leave our baggage at the door. God’s Word is meant to be read and studied with reverence, with surrendered souls, with our hearts bowed from humbleness and humility.

When we read the Bible, we need to let God’s Word define its boundaries, such as to whom it applies, any distinct groups, or possessing universal meaning. Always, when we approach the Word of God, it is His Word that must define our doctrines, not the other way around.

Who are we to tell God how He should act and to whom He should extend His Mercy? God’s Word states, “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (Romans 9:18)” Hmmm. That may be counter to who you expect God to be.

As for the love of God, we also should remember, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalms 11:5)” And, as for the land of Israel belonging to God, and Israel:

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion;
    he has desired it for his dwelling place:
14 “This is my resting place forever;
    here I will dwell, for I have desired it.

Psalm 132:13-14

40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time. 

Deuteronomy 4:40

Be bold, release your baggage

Of course, these are just a few examples. Whatever prejudices or preconceptions we have toward God and His Word, we need to release them. They are burdens that provide no value to our souls.

Instead of being burdened with baggage, we can embrace God’s Word and interpret His Word from other passages of His Word. So let’s not go running after famous teachers that say what people want them to say. Instead, trust God, trust His Word, and whatever is difficult for you, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into the proper understanding of what God has said (John 15:26).

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candy hearts that have the word "truth" on them

A million lies cannot produce a single truth

This is a true story: I was recently chastised because I pointed out that a favorite Scripture that is claimed as a promise from God for any believer is not a promise from God for everyone but, in context, was for a specific people at a particular time. Oh no! Too many sermons, too many devotionals, too many Sunday school lessons have taught people that they can acquire that passage for themselves. Would I hurt people if I told them the truth?

It makes no difference how pervasive a heresy is, it’s still a lie, and it cannot provide life. A lie cannot be transformed into truth even if some good may come from the lie. From the Church’s very inception, it has continually been called on to build up Christians to withstand heresy.

It has been said that the best lie is one that is mostly true. Church heresies incorporate Truth but then defile it by adding to Truth lies based on human desires.

Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6). Therefore, it is impossible for a lie to strengthen the Church. Truth maintains its integrity in all circumstances and situations.

Many modern churches seem to be acquiring heresies faster than Microsoft acquires companies. These feel-good lies can never feed people real nourishment. Many theologians know these lies, but they look the other way, fearing retribution or merely thinking the lies will make people feel better.

A lie cannot improve truth because it is born from the flesh. Only God’s Spirit can birth truth that strengthens the Church.

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Portrait of a couple in love

Withstanding Compromise

Husbands have a knack for frustrating wives. I heard the story of a sweet little girl that visited a Sunday School class. To start the class, the teacher asked if anyone had a favorite Bible verse. The girl quickly raised her hand. Feeling so pleased, the teacher asked her if she could quote the verse. She said, “‘Curse God and die!’ That’s the verse Mommy tells Daddy when Mommy gets mad.”

Yes, Job 2:9 states, Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’” But Job refused. Job’s life demonstrates to us the value of not yielding to the pressure to compromise Truth. For His children, God will take our mess, our pain, our most profound disappointments, and He will make something good out of them.

Our faith must be firmly grounded in Jesus Christ, our Lord. When it is, then we can rest in Romans 8:28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Job’s faith in God cost him everything

If we had lived during Job’s lifetime, we might have come upon him during his time of testing. If so, we would have found him sitting in a pile of ashes while scraping off boils that covered his whole body. He probably would have been crying because of the murder of his children and their families. He also lost all his earthly possessions, and his friends called him a sinner and said he deserved all his troubles!

Perhaps more painful than these troubles, his wife, the person that knew him better than anyone else, decided he was a fool for standing firm in his faith in God. How completely devastating her statement must have been to Job. Nevertheless, Job withstood all the troubles that satan poured out on him. He would die but never yield. He would not compromise.

Withstanding compromise

Right now, in our world, we are approaching a tipping point. The evil to come will be as ubiquitous as the evil before Noah and the flood (Matthew 24:37). We must not think the way worldly people want us to think. We must not act the way worldly people want us to act. Those of us who put our trust in God must remain in God – “Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. (John 15:6 NLT)” 

God has drawn a circle around His people. He has told us to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)” Those that are in God’s house are His, and those that are not are not His. In or out, there is no other place. 

The good news

We cannot be of the world and be reconciled to God. We must come out and be entirely His. Salvation through Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters(Hebrews 2:11 NIV)”

The good news is that, as we withstand the pressures of the world to compromise, our love for Jesus and our love for others grows intimate and purer. Take comfort in Psalms 16:1-2:

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”

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