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Archive for the ‘Piety’ Category

 “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, so that you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4

There resides deep within our collective thinking a dichotomy that somehow there is a separation between love (or kindness) and truth. The word dichotomy comes from the Greek and means literally “to cut in two”. This implies that love and truth are mutually exclusive, that is to say, the only thing they have in common is that they have nothing in common. You know this in daily conversation. “Oh, she’s just a bleeding heart liberal who couldn’t see the truth as plain as the nose on her face.” Or “He is just bullheaded (1) and unkind and only cares about the facts.” “She thinks she knows so much, but doesn’t care a bit about people’s feelings or how much people are being hurt.” “He is gullible but such a helpful and friendly guy.” We evaluate churches and ministries in a similar way. “I love that church. They are so caring and help people regardless of their lifestyle or beliefs.” “They uphold the truth but there’s no spirit in their worship.”

I see four possibilities here: 1) Kindness and truth are two different concepts with two different ways of applying them to life. 2) There is a societal dichotomy in thinking, speech, and action surrounding kindness and truth. 3) Personal perspectives and biases cause us to see a dichotomy in kindness and truth where there isn’t one. Or 4) there is no dichotomy apart from our misunderstanding and application of these two concepts.

Even with all of the biases of perception, it is obvious that there are significant differences in how people do life, and some lean toward kindness more than truth and others toward truth over kindness. But are these two concepts poles apart or two sides of the same coin? Have we misunderstood what they are and how to apply them in our lives? I try to find answers to my questions in Scripture, which communicates the truth and love of God. Let’s look at some things it says.

Proverbs 3:3-4 says, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, so that you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” The verses are explaining that both are important and should go together in your clinging to them. You should take both to the seat of your emotions and will and make them visible in how you do life. God will be pleased and you will gain a good reputation with people even if you don’t always please everyone.

Romans 3:24-26 “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” I see truth in His righteousness and being just. I see kindness in His grace and being our Justifier. There would be no need or love of His kindness if there was no truth and He was not just. There would be no need or love of His truth if there was no kindness to rescue us and restore us to that truth.

Psalm 145:17 “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.” Only He could pull off both at the same time. That is what “just and the justifier” means in the previous verse.

Psalm 116:5 “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.” Righteous means “morally right”, which then is based on truth. Compassionate means feeling and showing concern for others, which is based in kindness toward others.

Psalm 5:4 “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You.” Wickedness and evil necessitate a right and good, which means there is moral truth. But we see here and in the Luke verse below that because of God’s goodness, He acts kindly and rejoices over sinners who turn away from wickedness.

Luke 15:10 “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” God loves those who love truth. He knows you cannot pay the price for your sin, but He does require that you admit to guilt before Him and call on Him to save and change you.

Micah 7:20 “You will give truth to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old.” There it is, the strongest most straightforward statement that truth and love are merely two sides of the same coin. Hebrew parallelism (2) helps us to expand our concept of truth and our concept of love. They are part of each other. The reference to Jacob and Abraham, both mean their descendants, the nation of Israel. (3) When God gives one, He is giving the other.

II John 1-6 “The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.” Truth and love are intertwined and of equal standing and part and parcel of one another. Love is to obey truth; truth is to embrace love.

I Corinthians 13:4,6 “Love…does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” Love is not merely a warm fuzzy feeling. It is a way of thinking about what is right and true and therefore best for someone with whom love is felt and expressed in words and actions.

Ephesians 3:19   “…and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” This love of Christ does not mean that knowledge is useless by comparison, but rather there is a higher knowledge, loving Christ.

Colossians 2:2-3 “…that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”   The love that is knitting their hearts together is resulting in full knowledge.

These verses make a very strong case for kindness and truth being inseparable concepts. They are not the same but are like two sides of coin, facing in opposite directions, holding equal value, and part of one another. That being the case, what can we do about the tendency to treat them as mutually exclusive?

We pursue them equally. It is not loving to allow someone to continue in ignorance or wickedness. Supporting evil in society that is clearly counter to the truth of the Word of God is not loving and tolerant. It is wicked and unloving. Jesus did not say to woman caught in adultery, ‘I know your upbringing and circumstances were difficult so I forgive you of your sinful lifestyle that you continue in because you can’t help it.’ Rather “Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) They both knew she had sinned, but Jesus extended forgiveness for repentance (“sin no more”). This does not mean we excuse wickedness and that there are no consequences for evil acts. It means we work with people who are repentant to live through and above the consequences. It is not truthful to overlook people’s needs and pleas just because you can or the law supports you in it. Have compassion and empathy in feeling and action. It will reveal deeper truth and benefit the recipient and benefactor. 

  1. not the term usually used but I don’t repeat the ones that are
  2. Hebrew Parallelism – The Christian Researcher provides a very good article on this concept.
  3. The context assures us that this refers to the people of God- Micah 7:14: “Shepherd Your people with Your scepter” and 7:20: “Which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old.”

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I am participating in a Ligonier Connect Bible Study online with my pastor and six or more other believers at my church. After answering questions and listening to a short lecture online, we have a Zoom meeting on Saturday evening to discuss the content. Fellowship with the saints over the Word of God, Christ, and our walk with God is always invigorating, encouraging and raising one’s spirit. Our topic is particularly encouraging since it is on assurance of saving faith. It can and should be sought after by the believer, because assurance strengthens faith, which in turn develops godliness and a desire for godliness.

In this last week’s lecture, Dr. Joel Beke mentions the key passages on assurance: I John, Galatians 5, Matthew 5, and II Peter 1:6-10. John states his theme toward the end of his book: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). Galatians 5:22-24 lists the fruits of the Spirit. Matthew 5-7 is the “Sermon on the Mount”, which Jesus begins by stating the “Beatitudes”, characteristics of those who are kingdom citizens. Peter is exhorting the believers to exercise “His [God’s] precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (v.4) by “applying all diligence” (v.5) in your faith. There is not a contradiction between what God gives and our proper utilization of it.

Dr. Beke’s lecture was very good, emphasizing the need to both trust the promises of God and “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (II Corinthians 13:5). I appreciated most that he dealt with the nuances of testing your faith to be sure you neither deceive yourself into thinking you have saving faith when you have none nor deceive yourself into despairing of faith. I wanted him to provide a list of the assurances, the external and internal (“practical and mystic evidences” as he said it). Since he did not, I have attempted to list and organize them for my benefit and yours. Dr. Beke said there are about 30 evidences in these passages. I came up with the number 37. I combined some because they seemed to be saying the same thing, but I am sure I combine differently than he does. For example, I speculate that he may have clumped all beliefs about who Jesus is into one evidence, whereas I kept them as four separate items. Also, I expanded the II Peter passage by three verses, adding one more evidence.

I further tried to organize the evidences into categories. This is where I ran into problems. At first I had a catch all category that was titled “Emotions/Intentions/Actions”, but I quickly realized that would include everything on the list. So, I separated out “Practice of Righteousness”, but that is still too vague. On that point of vagueness, John lists “practicing righteousness” as a way to know you know God, but that seemed to be a summary of all that he meant and not merely a concrete evidence. I say all of this to say, the process of delineating every single evidence of saving faith is not easy, but the testing of yourself to see that you have saving faith is encouraging and faith building, joy producing, and useful and advisable. I hope that you are encouraged as you read the Scriptures from the list that I have provided. Don’t hesitate to suggest ways that I may better organize my list.

Evidence for Assurance

Or click here to see a clearer Word document version.

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If ever I could hope that one of my blog entries would go viral, this would be the one!

What is the way forward in this time of crisis for our country? Is is sociological, psychological, judicial, political, philosophical? There is a Facebook post shared among some that is a Venn Diagram having four circles representing perspectives on our present troubles (You can see it here). Simply put, it says that a person may reasonably hold that murder, looting, and corruption are wrong and that lawful protests are legitimate responses. When my friend posted the diagram, I had an immediate two-fold reaction. Firstly, I agreed with the diagram. Secondly, I felt like it was incomplete and needed a fifth circle. I assumed at the time that the fifth circle would be a part of a five-circle Venn struggling to overlap in the middle. Later it occurred to me that the fifth circle should surround the other four, being both foundational and all encompassing. 

Circle Five: Until and unless we repent and forgive none of these other ideas or steps we may take will matter.

We will continue to deteriorate as a society. Fomenting elements will continue to stir up the crowds. Unreasoning anger will continue to prevail. Corruption will proceed unchecked and at length increase in various levels of government and in the streets. Fear and hatred will increase.

America, repent! Lord, begin with me. Cause me to love my fellow created beings regardless of culture, color, creed, or craft. Cause us to see our eternal and daily need of a savior, the Savior, Jesus, because we are full of hatred, selfishness, apathy, and unbelief. 

America, forgive! Lord, begin with me. Enable me to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged me. Change us so that we do not suspect every neighbor of ill toward us, but desire and work for their good.

Church, pray! Lord, begin with me. Give me a persistent spirit of intercession for our nation and the Church. We are in dire and perilous times. If we don’t see it, it is because our enemy is not visible. The spiritual forces are stirring up trouble and trying to destroy our freedoms and blessings. God is calling on us to arise and call on Him for help. He will not continue to tolerate our evil and refusal to acknowledge Him. 

God be merciful to us. Pour out the knowledge of Yourself and Your ways upon Your Church who is slack in their piety at best. Extend mercy in salvation to a lost nation which is satisfied in their self-righteous refusal to acknowledge their sin and need of You. We need a revival of the Church and renewal of our nation. May You be merciful to give us repentance and forgiveness.

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On the drive to church this morning,
I wrote the first verse of the following poem.
Hands free communication (as with a cellphone) disallowed me
to write it down, so the beginning of the second verse was lost
to me before I could write it down. But the direction in which
I was thinking remained for the rest of the poem to come this afternoon. God’s grace and goodness are so great, especially in contrast to our inability to comply to His commands and wishes.

So much wickedness in my heart
Made in God’s image, tarnished art
Frequent failings, falling away
To often straying from the way

Desire to follow ever grows
Distracted by pleasures and woes
Many small failings of the heart
Who will give me a brand new start?

Jesus only, beginning, end
Power to enable, transcend
All my failings and weakness
Distracted thoughts and selfishness

All by grace He has given me
From Him any good that you see
This fragile glass His strengths reveal
Demonstrates His goodness is real

One day my faulty service gone
Perfect obedience will dawn
In good time I will be steadfast
Then I will see God at long last

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When I am walking in an unfamiliar part of the woods, I give attention to my feet to avoid snags and stumbles, what is beyond a log I am stepping over, the topography, stream flow direction and size, water, food, daylight left, cloud cover, and sounds. The quietness and loneliness of the woods encourages a tendency toward introspection. But these observations are needed focus; one needs to be circumspect. It is important to give attention to these variables. And it does not mean that I am paranoid or overly worried. Most of these observations are part of the enjoyment of being outdoors. Nature is enjoyable to observe because God has given it much beauty and intricacy. But I have been in enough potentially harmful situations in the woods to look around and take calculated risks.

“The basic meaning of Latin circumspicere is “to look around.” Near synonyms are prudent and cautious, though circumspect implies a careful consideration of all circumstances and a desire to avoid mistakes and bad consequences.” Math students know that a circumference means around a circle. And many types of training from military to pilot to driving to playing sports involves keeping one’s “head on the swivel”. It is important to have situational awareness for many pursuits, both enjoyable and serious.

But this way of walking in the woods is but a metaphor for the more challenging spiritual walk. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.” What brought this word to mind happened just last Sunday at my church when we recited our  covenant together,  which includes the phrase, “…to walk circumspectly in the world…” What is the practical outworking of these ideas? Following are a few Scriptures and thoughts on walking circumspectly.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” Proverbs 3:7

“Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.” Proverbs 8:33

“prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3

“And he answered, “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

 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

There are many hundreds of verses that could be quoted about walking circumspectly. The focus that I intend here is care to avoid pride in the areas of truth and relationship. Or to state the idea in a positive and more casual way, be humble about what you know, teachable, convinced of God’s truth, and be humble and kind in how you relate to others.

We are given many good gifts. One is life. God has a purpose for us being alive.

Another is time. We should use it efficiently. I don’t mean by being a workaholic because of some vague guilt that you must utilize every minute in profit making pursuits. Instead, seek the deeper profit of following God’s leading. It may seem a circuitous route, not at all according to your day planner. Rest is profitable. Stopping to converse is profitable. Enjoying a few moments of contemplating nature is profitable. Completing a job in a timely fashion is profitable.

Another gift is work, because it gives purpose. “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” (Proverbs 18:9) 

So, my preliminary, totally non-exhaustive definition of walking circumspectly is be observant and prudent in how you handle truth, relationship, and pursuits so that “whether… you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31) May God grant us each a deeper, more careful, more enjoyable walk with Him through this world.

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Let me begin with a few excuses: 1) not much time, 2) more than normal rainfall, 3) injury, and for good measure 4) wasn’t sure it was worth it. My wife had asked me to weed the flower beds in front of the house several times. I must confess that the only thing that got me motivated to actually start was the avoidance of another chore I detest more, scrapping paint. Now that I’ve blown my cover about a few of my procrastinating personality flaws, here is the point I considered while yanking crabgrass leaders out of the soil.

Weeds run deep. They grow fast. Ignoring them makes their removal harder. Weeds can choke the life out of things. Apart from poison that contaminates everything, the only way to prevent weeds is to replace them with desirable plants that leave no room for weeds.

I have another flower patch that has very little weeds in the middle of it. Weeds have no room for roots and very little sunlight. The various kinds of lilies simply grow too close, having produced more bulbs with each passing year. I will not be thinning them because I don’t have to weed that area. English gardens make more sense, with their crowded beds of profusely blooming flowers. Undesirable weeds just can’t take root in this environment.

It is the same way in our lives. It is not enough to root out something unprofitable or wrong in our life. We must replace it with something better, more desirable, healthier, God-pleasing. Otherwise the weeds will return all the faster in the cleared, well-tilled ground we just cleared.

It reminds me of what Jesus said, “When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26) What Jesus states is in the more extreme, related to demon possession and salvation. But even for those of us who are already saved by His grace, we need God in every area of our lives filling up the void spaces, working righteousness in us, teaching us prudence, kindness, and discipline. Our lives filled with the good things of the Lord are far less likely to be encroached upon by the seedier tendrils of sin and unbelief.

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Weeds all gone

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Totally gone

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Dead azalea, too

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A transplanted daylily (not the one in bloom) and a Purple Speedwell

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A Gayfeather and White Speedwell with volunteer Cala Lily in between

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spreading Purple Verbena

Now that I’ve begun to clean the inside of the cup, I guess it’s time to spruce up the outside as well. Oh, I hate scrapping paint.

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains