The Zeal of Paul
“If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so.” – Philippians 3:4
If there was ever anyone who didn’t need God – it was Paul. He was born chosen by God, a Jew of Jews. His family had religiously performed every requirement of God for him and educated ardently in law and prophets. Paul knew every command of God and fulfilled them as passionately as any man. He even defended the faith against those who would corrupt it and put many to death in his great fervency for God. He did it all.
He was as informed, as righteous, and as dedicated as any man who has ever lived.
And it wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t enough to impress God. In fact, in his sold-out zeal, Paul found himself actively fighting God. Why? He had done everything humanly possible and he was still wrong. Self deceived. And lost.
Can’t you feel the anguish his spirit must have experienced sitting in that house in Damascus (Acts 9)? Three days, blind, repetitively reviewing how you got that far off target. Crying out to God, for His help because for the first time, you realize you need Him.
Nothing you have or have done is enough.
Paul’s heritage was not enough. Nor the rituals he faithfully performed. Nor his great store of knowledge. Not even his sincere words and work for God.
It was not enough to gain him favor with the King of the Universe or ultimately, eternal life. In Damascus, Paul was confronted with the truth: He (like I) needed Jesus – the only One Who, as both God and man, can intercede between a holy God and sinful man. While blind, Paul saw clearly where he was in the eyes of God: in desperate straits for the One he had been trying to stamp out of the hearts and lives of his people.
If Paul couldn’t buy the approval of God with works (and he couldn’t), there is absolutely zero hope for me. This body is too weak and this spirit too frail. But God (of course!) knew this way before I could even considered it and provided someone Who could and did earn His approval – Jesus Christ. Hallelujah to our Great God!
“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” – John 6:40
Life, Logic, and Excel Spreadsheets
You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me up into glory. – Psalms 73:24
I was using Excel. I was so proud of my columns of six-plus digit numbers. They looked impressive (if I do say so myself). The formulas I applied to them worked flawlessly.
They looked perfect. But they were wrong.
To get the right answer you have to start with the right numbers. If your numbers are wrong, your answer will always be wrong, even if your math was stellar and your logic impeccable. Just like life.
If your premise is wrong, your logic may be faultless and your thought process streamlined, but you will always arrive at the wrong conclusion. You have to start with the right premise to consistently make right decisions.
Of course, if your logic is flawed that’s another issue all together. But consider this: Your starting point often dictates to your logic. Your premise will explain what your goal is and the boundaries within which you may pursue that goal.
If your premise is: I am the master of my fate, the creator of my destiny. The goal is to carve out a future for yourself. ‘I’ is the center of this thought. Thus, anything that is good for me is permissible.
But if your premise is: My chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Confession). The goal is twofold. Paramountly, glorify God. Secondly, to enjoy His presence. God is the center of this starting point. Thus, what is acceptable to God is the only way I can achieve this end.
In math, 2+2=4 (always). When the answer is not ‘4' one of the ‘2s’ is not a ‘2'. Either the premise is flawed or somewhere logic has been misled. There are no other options: it’s a math problem. In life: Right Premises + Right Logic = Right Decisions (always). Right decisions yield the best outcomes; not perfect, not always what I want, but, when God is in my decision making, right choices produce outcomes to His glory.
What is my premise for life? What is the logic that flows out of it?
Recognize the Enemy
For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. -- Hebrews 13:14
For several years I commuted via train. One afternoon, I overheard an innocent comment that reminded me how easy it is to grow comfortable and feel at home with sin instead of seeing it for what it is. Sin is an intruder. It is a farce and usurper. And one day it will be finished forever.
I sat behind a grandpa who was telling his granddaughter about poisonous snakes; how venomous snakes are brightly colored but non dangerous snakes are brown/green for camouflage.
Death is the result of sin and thus, carnivorous behavior, camouflage, poison, and offensive and defense mechanisms. Sin brought pain and fear, sickness and tears. In the beginning all snakes were beautiful. Sin opened the door for poison, lethal fangs, and made it so the "ugly" were more likely to survive. And sin produced a ‘beauty’ – now marred -- of beautiful colors for venomous snakes even as it drove genetic selection to leave most snakes plain.
Sin tends to look beautiful and alluring...before you get too close.
All beauty is from God but sin and Satan have twisted everything. Intimacy. Love. Beauty. Strength. Leadership. I have gotten so accustomed to sin, it is beyond me to even envision perfection.
To imagine intimacy without lust.
See love devoid of selfishness.
Comprehend beauty, enduring, without vanity.
Envision selfless strength devoid of pride or anger.
Consider that leadership could be free from self-interest and arrogance.
I can’t even imagine what it was like in the beginning or what it will be in the end.
I truly see through a mirror dimly. My eyes are dim.
A Beautiful Sound
A beautiful sound. Wind talking through the trees is a beautiful sound, a beautiful sound to me. But what is a beautiful sound to God? That is the sound I want to make.
The sound of a bird’s wing slicing through the air is a sound of majesty – God’s majesty – to me. But what is a sound of majesty to God? That is the worship I want to bring.
The sound of the silence at a cliff’s edge is a glorious sound. But what is a glorious sound to God? Oh to bring a beautiful, majestic, glorious sound into the court of the King, to the very throne of the Lord of all creation.
Let my prayer come before You… Psalms 88:2
10 Thoughts on Prayer
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?... He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol... – Psalm 24:3-4
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.