Of Pigs and Men

Jesus meets a demon possessed man near a herd of pigs in the country of the Gadarenes or Gerasenes as recorded for us in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. He commands the demons, who call themselves Legion, to leave the man, and Legion’s last request is that Jesus allow them to go into the nearby pigs. Granting Legion’s request, they leave the man and enter the herd of about 2,000 which immediately rushes downhill and drowns itself in the Sea of Galilee.

Whenever I read these accounts, one of the first things that puzzles me is that the people ask Jesus to leave the area. Why, I wonder, would they send away such a powerful miracle worker, one who had returned one of their brothers to them? Why would they not rejoice that a local travel hazard was removed? What if the demons left that man and infected others?

Some teachers say that the expense of the pigs was a factor. Jesus had just cost someone (or maybe several someone’s) a lot of money. Others say that these people weren’t supposed to be growing pigs for market because pork was not to be eaten according to the Mosaic Law. I get that these were possibilities, and perhaps they can stay in the mix for explaining the incident. But they just are not that satisfactory to me. Wouldn’t the loss of the pigs be worth removing a hazard like a man who could break chains and attack people? I’d think so. Were the citizens Jews, who would care about the Law, or were they gentiles, who wouldn’t? The ESV study Bible says that they were Gentiles, but there must’ve been some Jews around too. And Jews aren’t exactly known for always sticking with all of the Law anyway.

I was able to make a great deal of progress understanding this situation as I read further in Mark and got to the rich young man of Mark 10, and the question on the authority of Jesus in Mark 11. Now how, you may ask, did I connect the people of Gennesaret unwilling to allow Jesus to stay in the area with a rich man unwilling to give up his riches and the unwillingness of the chief priests to answer Jesus about whether the baptism of John was from heaven or from man? I’m glad you asked that. (You might be guessing at the same conclusion as I because of the way I phrased the question.)

The chief priests could not answer a simple question, because they refused to acknowledge that the authority of Jesus was from God. If they did it would mean that their authority was from man, and they would have had to give up their cushy positions. The rich man knew that Jesus was a “good teacher,” but not so much that he was willing to suffer economic harm to follow Him. The Gennesaret people knew Jesus was at the very least a holy man of God, but were not willing to suffer further economic harm in order for Him to have stayed in the area.

In other words, none of these people wanted to go all the way. They saw the miracles done by Jesus, acknowledged His power and authority, recognized that He was from God, but didn’t take the next step of risking everything to follow Him.

In modern times we find the same sorts of attitudes. We hear people saying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” all the time, in song and prayer and sermons. We see regular attendance at a church service, with many an “Amen” during the preaching. There are bumper stickers and hats and T-shirts proclaiming that the wearers “know Jesus.” Mega-churches abound, pastors have carved out positions with nice paychecks claiming to speak for God, and television stars rake in the bucks while hawking their latest books and trinkets.

Very few will see the Kingdom of God because the ticket into the Kingdom costs a lot more than simply raising a hand and “going forward.” Faith is putting your money where your mouth is, like the rich young man refused to do. It is the willingness to give up possibly everything you have to follow Him, like the people of Gennesaret could have done. It is submitting your will to His, and giving everything to welcome Him into your heart unlike the chief priests, Pharisees, and other religious leaders then and now.

Jesus obviously had authority from God because He did what God told Him to do and taught what God wanted Him to teach. Everything Jesus did or said was right from the written Word, and could easily be checked if one wanted to do so. But we don’t want. We fear to give up our position, our money, our reputations or our lives because the short term suffering is not worth the long term gain.

Like Frank Sinatra or Cain, we want to do it our way. We want to retain parts of the world system and try to merge them into the Kingdom. We say “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,” not realizing that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. We want to patch the garment with unshrunk cloth because we don’t want the work of making it right. We try to fit new wine and old wineskins together when they are just not compatible.

We refuse to accept a message from the Christ because it will cause us too much trouble and might wreck the nice little corner of the world we have made for ourselves. It might cause us some discomfort. It might make us change. It might make us realize that even with the talisman of the name of Jesus we are still far short of what God requires of us.

Shalom

Bruce

Whole Bible Christianity, The Book

Our book Whole Bible Christianity has finally been published! It is on Amazon at this link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997501413/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1DQVER67Q2HMX&coliid=I1RPTLB6JQO1FI

There is a Look Inside feature, you can flip between the front and back cover, and it is only $19.50. If you would prefer, we will have the entire text on a web page when we update our website so you can read it online.

The book has about 800 direct quotes from the Word, around 1,500 entries in the Scripture Index, and is about 340 pages. One of the many uses of the book is as a handbook for whole Bible Christians everywhere who need a reference to help counter attacks against a whole Bible lifestyle. Chapter 7 deals with a bunch of the objections to following God’s living oracles, and chapter 8 has a list of blessings from doing what Jesus says.

Let us know what you think, and make sure to post a review on Amazon if you would be so kind.

Shalom
Bruce

The Book of Job

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:22, ESV)

The book of Job can be puzzling, especially when trying to compare the commentaries with the actual words being spoken. It helps if we realize that these events probably happened around or just before the time of the patriarchs (Job might’ve been a distant neighbor of Abraham or perhaps just before Abraham’s time). For one thing Job lives 140 years after these events (Job 42:16), and he had to have been upwards of perhaps 60 or 80 years or more to have what he had (10 kids, huge flocks and herds). That kind of life span was evident just before the time of Abraham.

The book seems simple enough on the surface. God thinks Job is doing a good job of following God, but Satan says Job worships God only because he is paid (has a hedge of protection). So God gives the okay to test the theory. Of course, true to his nature, the Satan hits Job with every bad thing he can think of. He never hits with good stuff, does he?

Job has his children and possessions taken away, and eventually his health. The verse above is inserted after he loses family and home, but before his health is taken away. After his health is hammered he still keeps his head though.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9–10, ESV)

As he’s sitting in misery he has four friends come to visit. They are appalled at his condition and spend some time just sitting with him.
Soon enough, however, they begin a discussion of the causes of the misery. Job’s argument boils down (you should know by now how much I like puns) to a protest that he is righteous and should not be treated this way.

You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me. Behold, he finds occasions against me, he counts me as his enemy, he puts my feet in the stocks and watches all my paths.’ (Job 33:9–11, ESV)

The first three friends think he must’ve done something wrong against God. Both groups miss the point: there are reasons for suffering other than our lack of righteousness. The fourth friend (Elihu) is younger and stays quiet until towards the end of the book (chapter 32). Then he pops his cork because the three older friends can’t adequately answer Job’s protests of innocence. Elihu’s arguments center around the wisdom of God, and the fact that Job’s wisdom doesn’t even come close.

“Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man. Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’? For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. (Job 33:12–14, ESV)

This dovetails with God’s response which at it’s root says the same thing. God has reasons for doing things that usually go way past what we know. He formed everything, and many of His plans for it we can only guess at. The main point of the book (and many other exchanges between man and God) is that God doesn’t do anything wrong (as our verse at the start of this article states so eloquently).

Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. (Job 34:12, ESV)

As Elihu speaks, a storm moves in and he uses some of the visuals to make his point. Pretty quickly we see that God is in the storm and speaks to Job from a whirlwind. Job (and the three friends) are rebuked quite strongly, with God telling them that all they know is not all there is. He shuts them all down with a series of questions the answers of which demonstrate His unequaled wisdom, power, and love. Job hastens to repent.

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3–6, ESV)

As I said, the key to this book is that we don’t charge God with wrong. Sometimes we suffer because we did something wrong. Sometimes we suffer because we did something right. And sometimes we suffer for reasons that go beyond our knowledge to fathom. In all things we do not question the wisdom of God to order things as He sees fit. He is good, there is no shadow of turning in Him, and all things work together for good to them that love Him back. We turned from Him in the Garden and our counsel is darkened without Him to shed light. We might be saved, but we are still under the curse until He makes all things right. In the meantime we do not charge Him with wrongdoing, instead accepting His wisdom in both good and bad events of our lives. We look forward to the revelation of more of His wisdom and love in our final redemption at the establishment of His throne on earth through His Son our Messiah Jesus the Christ.

Shalom,
Bruce

Perfect

Not long ago I had an exchange on Facebook with a man who posted this little tidbit.

“WWJD. We can’t be perfect like Jesus so in addition to ‘What Would Jesus Do,’ we need to be like ‘what would Jesus have me do given my current situation and given what He did for on the cross'”.

It’s a fairly typical comment coming from a fairly typical church educated person. Not unusual at all, really. But I have a little different view of the subject so I asked him, “So what then do you do with the words of Jesus?”

“Your therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, ESV).

His response was “We strive to be perfect like Him but never can because of sin. At least not here and now.”

It went on from there with him getting typically more and more upset as I presented more and more biblical evidence to support Jesus’ statement, and equally typically ended with him removing me as a friend. This happens a lot when church Christians are confronted with the Bible they claim to follow. Give ’em some truth and they fold up their tents and run away. Instead of practicing the love they claim, they practice anger and pride and cut themselves off from the truth.

The standard church teaching is that we cannot be perfect. The Bible teaching is that we can. How do we resolve this conflict? Either Jesus was telling us to do something well within our grasp, or He is a harsh taskmaster asking us to do something beyond our ability. He clearly tells us to be perfect like God. There is no ambiguity. Seemingly it’s a tall order. But perhaps not so hard when we realize exactly what biblical perfection really means.

The word perfect literally means lacking in nothing. It also means “complete.” (Compare 2 Timothy 3:17 in both the AV and the ESV for instance.) Sometimes it can mean mature (compare Ephesians 4:13 in the AV and ESV). So when Jesus says be perfect as God is perfect, He means exactly what He says. We have the Word, the Spirit, and a new heart of flesh. What else do we lack? We are complete, lacking in nothing.

“And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4, ESV)

So here’s the difference. The church says we cannot be perfect, which is a hopeless state of affairs. According to this teaching, we are locked into permanently displeasing God. They are saying that we cannot do better. We will never be able to please God. It is a subtle difference, and depressing, but it is also counter to what the Bible teaches. Jesus says that we certainly can do better. He is optimistic and encouraging. We have power in the Spirit. We have a love of God, and His Word to guide us. We can confess and repent and be forgiven. We can indeed be perfect.

We may not be “mature” all the time, but it is not because we CANNOT be mature. It is because we WILL NOT. We have it within our ability to perfectly follow everything God says, but we do not always choose to follow. This is the big difference. If we do not do something perfect, it is because we choose not to. We don’t like this, because our pride gets in the way.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:7–10, ESV)

But it really isn’t a big deal, because we can rectify it as soon as we realize what we did. We can humble ourselves, confess and repent. We also keep working on taking in God’s Words and moving toward greater maturity. The standard church teaching of “cannot” robs us of motivation. It is a hopeless teaching. Jesus on the other hand is hopeful. His teaching encourages us; His Word provides all that we need. Thank Him that we have what we need to be “perfect,” and can get out of the rat race of imperfection easily. We just have to want it with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12, ESV)

This is a sobering thought. It doesn’t make the average human very happy, because instead of sitting in our comfortable mud pen of complacency we have to move out of the pen and wash ourselves clean with His Word. We “cannot” use the excuse of “cannot” to stay comfortable and complacent. Well we CAN, it’s just not really an excuse that God will buy. We have a goal. We can do better. We can bear more fruit, and practice the fruit of the Spirit better than we do. It is not comfortable, but it is doable. Of course it is doable. Jesus said we could do it.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20–23, ESV)

Shalom
Bruce

Passover 2014

We are getting ready for our lamb barbecue tomorrow night, looking forward to spending time showing love for God by doing as He commands His people to do. We touch God and touch each other in an intimate fellowship that goes way past the physical markers and deep into a spiritual connection. His love flows to us, and our love flows back and between. We remember what God has done for His people, is doing, and will do. Remember means to speak or act on behalf of someone, which is why we can “remember” the future promises of God.

Some are speaking of the “blood moons” that will appear on this Passover and the Tabernacles celebration this year, as well as the same two holidays next year. I’m not big into that stuff, but it probably has some significance. Coupled with the increase in earthquakes, volcanic activity, and cultural degradation, we can definitely see that labor pains for the world are increasing. Maintaining our love for God through His commands is coming under attack at a greater intensity, but He said a “falling away” would happen before the end. Therefore be encouraged and keep your faith strong, standing on the Rock of His Word and our Savior Jesus the Christ.

I feel sorry for those who do not participate in God’s holidays, either because they just don’t follow God or because they classify His living oracles as “old” or “outdated” or for another group besides believers. Paradise awaits a change from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh, sensitive and trembling at His Word. All it takes is humble obedience to find out the nature of real love and spiritual renewal and refreshment. I feel sorry for those who choose their own way, like Cain, substituting their own understanding for God’s Word and offering slovenly disobedience through physical symbols such as ham and bunnies. The symbols show the disobedience in the balance of their lives, corrupt and unclean and spurning the love that is waiting. Compromise shows its fruit in sexual immorality and unfruitfulness through acceptance of behavior God said would cause death. No wonder they are known for hypocrisy. One cannot practice hate for God in trashing His commands and expect God to accept the resulting uncleanness using the cosmic eraser of Jesus. If we harbor iniquity in our hearts, our offerings mean nothing. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

Rejoice, children of God. Look up for our redemption draweth nigh. Stand strong in the Lord and the power of His might. Pursue righteousness through humble submission to every word of His glorious instructions. Hold fast to the hope He has given, practicing as best we can every tiny utterance from our loving God and Savior Jesus our Messiah. Eat His body and drink His blood, taking in every breath from God through His Word and breathing it back to Him. Rejoice as our meager offerings of obedience gain His regard and we find acceptance in Him because of our love and practice of His Word.

Shalom
Bruce

Prayers for Brothers and Sisters: Typhoon Haiyan, Philippines

Our thoughts, gifts, and prayers go out to our whole Bible brothers and sisters at whatever location Typhoon Haiyan affected them and in whatever way it touched them. Many are friends of this ministry, and we asked (and are asking) the Father for protection, restoration, and blessing through this frightening and trying time in their lives. Material help is on the way, and I pray it is distributed as needed and not gobbled up by the wicked.

Something I cling to in times of difficulty is that God is always working, even though bad things happen to us. It sounds trite but it is still true, that all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose. Appearances can be deceiving, and cause us to lose hope. So some of the words I speak are intended to bolster your hope in Him.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, ESV)

I’ve been praying and asking God for the right words to say here because I want them to be from Him and not just from me. I am not there; I can only imagine the difficulties you are experiencing. In my prayer and search for words for you I kept coming back to Psalm 10. The affliction mentioned there comes from wicked people, but it still applies because many times so-called “natural” disasters are responses from God to wicked men.

Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none. The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:12–18, ESV)

You have many idolaters around you; many people who are going their own ways unmindful of God and His ways. I cannot say for certain that the typhoon is a direct result, but it seems to me that it is still part of God’s warnings of His coming wrath. Sometimes we must suffer along with the wicked so that not only will we learn from it but that we may also help those who are being commanded to turn back to Him. Repentance is the main goal of events such as this, and hopefully many will see and exchange their wickedness for His righteousness.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5, ESV)

Words of encouragement in such a situation can be unintentionally hurtful. But in this format I bring your plight to mind for others. The voices of many lifted to our God, Father and Friend will help push back against any evil intent this disaster might have for you. I pray you have been and will be protected through the trials, and that His blessing will be upon you.

For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever! (Psalm 22:24–26, ESV)

Shalom

Draw Near

If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. (Exodus 12:48, ESV)

If any one term is the closest to the reason I follow the whole Bible, this is it. The term I’m speaking of is “come near.” In my view this is what Torah is all about. The term can be used for simply getting together (if we are talking about a pair or group of people), but when one of the parties is God it takes on a whole different character. We can “come near” God for judgment as in Malachi 3:5, or we can come near in love and intimacy. A similar term is “draw near.”

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8, ESV)

We “draw near” to God as we do what He says. The more we do, the closer we get. In humility we use His living oracles to wash the parts of us that get dirty. Though He has cleansed us wholly, we still need to wash occasionally.

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” (John 13:10, ESV)

We are clean, but we still need to wash some in order to continue “drawing near.” Notice that Jesus did the foot washing during the Passover meal. Jesus continues to wash our feet by the washing of the Word as we “draw near” to Him through His commands. There is a continual cleansing by His Law because we are in a dirty world and sometimes we step in something odoriferous that needs to be removed. If we judge (cleanse) ourselves and wash our hands (or feet) then Jesus doesn’t have to judge us. His eye is on us for good and not for evil.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. (Psalm 32:8–9, ESV)

Shalom

Am I a Violent Person?

A few years ago I was a participant in a forum of which I’m no longer part. A lady asked everybody for help in determining how to respond to a professor teaching a church Sunday School who was giving her a hard time about her beliefs. My response encouraged her to be bold and challenge him on the Bible, and I used some western gun-fighting illustrations. I love Louis L’amour westerns. I also love being bold and strong in the Lord. So I encouraged her to stand up and not let the professor mow her over.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (Ephesians 6:10, ESV)

One guy got on my case, telling me that I was an “anti-Semite” and that I was “speaking in crass language” and using “an incredible amount of violent terms.” This is the same thing as calling me violent. He was always getting on my case. He didn’t like the fact that I was against many traditions that I thought led away from the Word both Christian and Jewish. He had spent years learning orthodox Judaism (though he was a Gentile) and bristled every time I pointed out where that kind of stuff wasn’t in the Word or would detract from the Word.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. (Proverbs 28:1, ESV)

I’m not sure what constitutes an “incredibly violent” person. Scripture says we will know people by their fruits, so I would think there would have to be fruit in my life that was “incredibly violent.” Like maybe felony convictions for violent crimes. Or testimony from others (like police officers or judges) as to my “violent” nature and actions. This guy had none of that. All he had was some gun fighting analogies I used. I told him I would accept his name calling if he would accept a label of “pompous self-important Jewish wannabe windbag who uses knowledge like a hammer to make himself feel important at the expense of others.” For some reason he didn’t want the even exchange!

He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:36–38, ESV)

Jesus told us we would need swords. I’m sure He didn’t mean for beating up on people, but that things were going to get rough and believers would have to be bold and strong.

The guy falsely accusing me had nothing on me. He twisted the Word, when he bothered to use it at all, for his own wicked ends. There was no investigation as the Word requires and sadly the forum leadership went right along with him and punished me. But Jesus warned me about wolves in sheep’s clothing. The truly violent are those such as the hypocrites who arrested Jesus using trumped up empty charges and murdered Him for threatening their power. That’s what I was doing, threatening the name-caller’s power. He demanded adherence to traditions of which he approved. He wanted to be in charge, but I was a biblical thorn in his side. I was bold, I spoke the Word of power with the hand of the Lord strong upon me. Violent men are those who divert attention from themselves by decrying the actions of the teachers of the kingdom of God, calling them names. Jesus knew the nature of their agenda.

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12, ESV)

Jesus means that violent men were taking hold of Godly men and throwing them in jail or killing them. John, Jesus, most of the prophets and apostles such as Paul and Peter and more suffered violence from violent people with pious traditions. Darkness is always fearful of the light, and takes steps to quench it. They were killed by people who thought they were doing God a favor. But we will not be cowed; we will be bold in the Lord and continue to teach His Word. I’m not a violent man, but I am a man capable of action. I will defend my people and land against those who would try to take it by the hidden violence of the cowardly. I will not be fearful of wannabe Jews (or wannabe Christians) steeped in plausible arguments captivating people with philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition. I have the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6), and I’m not afraid to use it. That’s not violence. That’s just the power of the Spirit. The minions of darkness are right to be afraid and to fear the violence of the fiery wrath that is coming. All they have for defense is name calling.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10, ESV)

Shalom

When Is Love Not Love?

You ever read those articles, books or blogs that get all weepy about how much has gone wrong in the writer’s life and how God has given them more than they can bear? Or on the flip side the ones that just go on and on (and on and on) about how God’s love or grace is enough and how wonderful everything is no matter how much cancer has destroyed their bodies, how many relatives died horribly, or how many limbs are missing? I have, and they bother me. Sometimes they make me wanna throw up. Other times they disgust me. Occasionally I want to reach through the computer monitor and shake the living crap out of them.

It’s not that I don’t sympathize with people who are going through tough things in life. Like is hard. God told us when we drew back from Him in the Garden that thorns, thistles, pain and sweat would mark our days. It’s not that I don’t think God can or will intervene (or should). He can and does. He doesn’t want suffering, He wants us to come to Him and live.

I think I’ve figured out two reasons the weepy stories bother me. For the ones who lose it and claim God has given them more than they can bear it torques me that while telling me that “we are not under law” they break down and blame God. This shows the depth of their faith. Right up to the ankles. So much for freedom in Christ. The other reason, for the ones who act like everything’s peachy because they “have Jesus,” is that they are really saying that sentiment is the answer (not obedience). As long as they feel all warm inside then love must be happening. As long as they can get hugs from each other everything is fine. Both of these types of writings (and lifestyles) have one thing in common: they are self-centered instead of God centered.

I’ve gotten self-centered on occasion. Perhaps that’s why I recognize it in others so easily. But living the Law helps me see it when I am tempted to blame God for what is happening and take steps to correct it. God is righteous; nothing He does is wrong or out of sync with His gracious character. His Laws are gracious and teach us love. We, on the other hand, are quite selfish on a daily basis. We shrug off the Laws as if “shadows” don’t mean anything. We do not ask Him if we should do such and such a thing; we merely do it. Do we modify our diet based on His recommendations? Usually not. So why do we complain if we get sick? Do we ask Him if we should get a shot of so-called “medicine?” No. Then why do we complain about auto-immune diseases such as cancer? Do you ever watch those shows about strange, weird or horrible diseases people get? Did you ever notice that they have two things in common – pork and shellfish? Just coincidence? Let me ask you. DID YOU ASK HIM if you should do something? Did you ask Him if you should drive that car, fly in that plane, or leave the kid alone for just a minute? Did you ignore His Word then wonder what hit you? You don’t ask Him first, and you’ve got the nerve to sit around and whine about the consequences of your “freedom in Christ?”

The Love (or grace) is Enough (and we don’t need the Law) people really get me because they don’t know love. They’re usually just plastering over the pain with some superficial smiles and a couple verses. How do I know? Because it doesn’t last. As soon as circumstances change a little, the smiles turn to snarls. Give ’em a little truth and they turn on you. If you were friends before you won’t be now.

Love rejoices with the truth, it is not offended by it. Love doesn’t need a smile to be love. We can cry and still love God. We can hurt and still do what He says. Love doesn’t need the whitewash of a grace created by man that is thinly veneered permission to sin. Real love exists along with pain, endures in spite of pain, and sustains us through the pain. Love knows that God is ruler of the universe and orders it as He sees fit. Love knows we are in His hands even when it doesn’t feel like it. Love continues to follow Him and His ways of Life though we might cry out for deliverance from our own stupidity. It is not led by feelings of sentiment, but generates them. Love does what God wants first all the time.

Trials hurt. People get sick and people die. There’s no getting around it. The reason it usually hurts so much is that we are selfish and we want a pain-free life and we want the dead to still be around (though it’s better for believers to be with Jesus). I do not mean to say that there should be no trials, nor am I saying that they should be lightly dismissed. But a heart centered on abiding in His Word, doing all of His living oracles (the Law), can weather the worst trials without losing it or glossing over it. That’s one of the many blessings of learning obedience through abiding in the whole of His Word (including the Law). Abiding is love; love is abiding.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:9–11, ESV)

Shalom