Category Archives: Devotionals & Meditations

Love: Between Yes and Amen

“For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” – 2 Corinthians 1:20.

The hardest part about being a Christian is getting our “Yes” (intellectual assent) to line up with our “Amen” (making it so). The biggest problem is that when we first come to hear about or meet Christ we have no real grasp of what He is all about. But our Yes is motivated by the deep, abiding love that comes from God to us and we are drawn to Him. It is well that love is the first real knowledge we have of God and the magnet to which we are drawn…for God is love (1 John 4:16).

But love transforms us as we come to understand love in a new perspective. Love in worldly perspective is two things that confuse our concept of God and the relationship He desires to have with us: emotion and reciprocity. Most of our earthly love relations are first based on emotional attachment. Sadly, more often than not, it is ultimately a selfish attraction. We want to be loved so are drawn to relationships that make us feel loved, that is, appreciated, attractive, wanted, respected. We also respond out of our physical nature, drawn to fulfill the “multiply” command. It is a hormonal response that can overwhelm all sense of logic and prudence.

When we give love, according to our standards, we expect, even demand, love in return, and if it is not reciprocal we begin to isolate our feelings and start justifying, rationalizing why we should terminate the relationship since it no longer serves us emotionally and / or materially. Many are those who have walked away from a relationship with God when the emotional phase passed (see the Parable of the Sower!).

But for those who yield to the Amen!

Our emotional response to attraction or kindnesses bestowed is a hearty “Yes” as we seek to be known and to delve into intimacy with another. It is a matter of wanting to be safe, of being able to trust others with our deepest self. Out of fear, another emotion, we often hide from the other, keeping something of ourselves to ourselves, and thus short-circuiting true intimacy. Our relationships stagnate here at a level less than all they can be and keeping us from fulfilling our true selves.

“Amen” crosses a significant line. Amen means “so be it,” a statement of fact, not feeling. Amen then takes us beyond the emotional self into being what we truly claim to be. Amen means vulnerability, making our deepest, seemingly repugnant self known, willingly and without fear. It means living sacrificially where the needs of others take on higher meaning than our own needs. Amen is the way of the Cross, the way we are to take up daily. Amen is a commitment to action.

When we enter into the Amen of Christian faith it is as we are empowered by love, being perfected in it, without fear of judgment or rejection. We may yet be rejected in this world but there is a security found in knowing that we will not be rejected by God for the weaknesses and stumbling of our humanness. Yes drinks of the milk in our infancy with Christ, but Amen eats solid food (Hebrews 5:12-14).

God says, “I love you.” Our Yes comes from feeling loved and accepted. Amen comes from that love becoming more than words and we find peace, entering into the assurance of salvation and can comfortably take action on behalf of others. Yes is our “out-of-the-gate” response to God. Amen is the step into Christian maturity that says, with Job, “though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15a), into a faith that fears nothing at all, including the costs of self-sacrifice.

(This essay is one of twenty one included in Considering Faith, available in Kindle format for $4.99 here at Amazon.com.)

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Devotionals Available for Android

I have started writing devotionals for an Android app called Beyond Daily Bible Devotion. The original app (Daily Bible Devotion) is free from http://www.jctrois.com and offers very short devotionals (approximately 100 words including a verse from Scripture). The Beyond app is $2.99 and will offer considerably more depth. The first couple of months worth already in the queue are about 300 words but I am ramping up those that will start appearing around June 25th and beyond due to popular request. Most of them will be 500-700 words. This gives me a lot more flexibility in exploring words in the original Hebrew and Greek, contextual issues of the time of writing, tying more Scripture together, etc.

I am always open to addressing specific questions and issues about Scripture or theological issues and welcome input. As much as possible, I want to be as responsive to readers as I can so your input will have a great deal of influence.

Also, in the next few months, the Beyond app will be made available for Apple platforms (iPhone, Ipad), just as the original Daily Bible Devotion is already.

I hope to hear from folk and please share this across your LinkedIn and Facebook networks.

Shalom,

Dave Doty

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Integrative Thinking (Ironically, Almost Two Essays for the Price of One)

For all practical purposes, our universe is a closed system. Do not think I am discounting the role God’s intervention from “outside” creation plays in human history and destiny. However, creation is an integrated economy. That is to say that everything affects everything else though we may not see the connections between things. But ignorance does not render truth untrue. Because I am simply unaware of the correlation of things does not mean they are not connected, even if by nuance or along a convoluted path.

Previously, I have written on “The Value of Reading Broadly.” Great creative thinking comes by integrating great ideas (synthesizing – literally, fusing propositions). Creativity is a hallmark of the presence of God’s activity. But our specializing world  tends to undermine creativity on some levels and foster creativity in others. But narrow thinking is not a desirable trait in leaders or followers.

The loss of integrative (or, holistic) thinking has been driven by post-Enlightenment scientific categorization, whether in technical disciplines or social structure. We tend to isolate various factors of reality (compart-mentalizing) so that, in isolation, they can be reduced to quantifiable categories and tight enough detail to make them “knowable” to a high degree. Specialization is both a driver and an outcome of the increased complexity of society, especially in the proliferation of the marketplace. Integrative thinking steps back to see a bigger picture of how the divergent things of life connect.

Thomas Friedman, in his seminal book on globalization, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (2000), bemoaned this “lack of sight” amidst the increasing complexity of post-modern life, and especially the over-arching nuances of globalization. Electronic communications bring the world to our laptop and we are faced with a breadth of inputs heretofore unknown. Our natural reaction is to simplify news articles to sound bites and headlines so as to not be overwhelmed by or try to capture a comprehensive view of a world that is changing faster than our imagination can keep up.

Perhaps, however, one favorable outcome of this inundation of information will be the evolution of human thinking that, given the broad disparity of inputs, will begin to grasp the ecology, the integration, of all things and foster more of what Friedman labels the globalistic perspective.

Given too many choices and faced with a multitude of perspectives, we tend to choose to hear what does not disturb us by too many degrees in one sitting. We favor tunnel vision and the rejection of ideas outside our own way of thinking. The only option to grow is to embrace the tension (and humility) that comes from not being able to settle with all the data and the innumerable and indecipherable events that never cease.

As a Christian, I take this emotionally and intellectually destabilizing effect and turn it to a positive thought: I cannot control the world nor its influence on my life, so must turn to something or someone outside myself to make sense of it all. For coherence, I find Jesus Christ as the source of hope. My Bible promises that it will all make sense in the end though I may spend my days baffled by the pain and atrocities of a broken world. At least the Bible explains why it is broken and that, though I am not yet satisfied with the state of the world, gives me a sense of peace when I mesh it with the sovereignty of the love of an Almighty God. The path to human destiny has a purposeful end. While I may (and am called to) work diligently to create a better world, I can rest in faith in a good God who can see, understand, and synthesize all of reality toward that better world.

The mission of God in the world is the hope of the Kingdom Gospel that we can share with the world, as salt and light, living into that hope and demonstrating the better Way. The world is at odds with God and with itself as self-interest pervades global society. It is not overstating the case to say, outside the Kingdom of God, just as it was with Adam put out of the Garden of Eden, it is every man for himself.

But, if we can think (and thinking is one enormous gift of being made in the image of God) and have faith, we can align ourselves with God as He goes about resolving the brokenness of the world by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. We need only faith and obedience to follow Christ.  God is setting things right, working in and through us to to transform the world.

Integrative thinking begins with the reunification of our spiritual self with our temporal self. To be human, at least in this lifetime, is to be a being conjoined. We have unfathomable potential though it is constrained by our sin. We are too often in conflict with ourselves (Romans 7) but we are able, by faith and in Christ (Romans 8), to overcome the constraint of our corrupted flesh. Our temporal self is only temporary but it is out of this constrained state that we can begin to move into Kingdom living, developing our spiritual self, growing in grace, and bearing witness to the glory of God as our actions are brought into subordination to God’s will.

Dr. Kenneth Collins, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, wrote an article several years ago, entitled “Spirituality and Critical Thinking: Are They Really So Different?”[1] Even here readers might unconsciously isolate the spiritual part of themselves from the intellectual, assuming the two to function independently. But we are whole beings. Every aspect of our earthly life is connected to all the other aspects whether emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, and a lot of other “-als.”

Western individualism has contributed to the notion that we are somehow autonomous. We are not. Made in the image of God also means that we are communal beings by design. My physicality, intellect, spirituality, etc. do not function in isolation from each other or from these realities in others. Creation is creation, a unified (albeit, damaged) whole. Hence even the human race is not an isolated function within creation but rather an integral function of creation. Genesis 2:15 does not command Adam to work and take care of creation. The text implies that those are functions of being human by the simple omission of an overt command in the statement: “God placed the man in the Garden to work and tend it.” It is a declarative statement rather than a commandment, but an imperative all the same.

The whole point of creation is relationships—between God and us, within the human family, between us and “nature.” Creation has only been dis-integrated in the collective psyche of humankind blinded by sin. But vision has been restored in Christ such that, if we are willing, we can see that the expanses of the universe are built one subatomic particle at a time and it is all joined and held together by the electrical impulse (divine motivation) emanating from the heart and mind of God.

This discussion passes into the metaphysical and it should. God is beyond our comprehension and in many ways remains a mystery. But the mystery is tempered by trusting Him as we recall manifestations of His goodness (outcomes of love). With faith in our Heavenly Father, we can reconcile with our wisdom being foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19) and our righteousness being filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). God knows . . . we all fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23).

But despite our frailties, God opens the door such that we might grow more into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). Our growth includes a change in perspective that we are part of a much greater whole. Our lack of true, godly wisdom should humble us, making us less ready to reject the ideas and beliefs of others as we each come to terms with the degrees of our own shortsightedness (1 Corinthians 3:12). Perhaps as we set aside our attitudes of superiority, isolation, and umbrage, we can see as God sees the kaleidoscopic view of creation, of each other, of the many expressions of the Church, and of the hope of the redemption of all creation. Perhaps we can begin to see beyond the distortions of our own views that which has never been disintegrated in fact. God’s renewal of creation is the renewal of ourselves, that we would live into the very good God created in the beginning whole, integrated, perfectly functional, without death, or pain, or tears: paradisio for the family of God – His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Integrative thinking will lead us to a deeper understanding of the “otherness” (holiness) of God, and more effective witness and ministry to the world.

 

Addendum: Out of my pursuit of integrative thinking, I blend my thoughts of particular disciplines with devotional or contemplative essays. All is one in our relationship with God. Some question how a devotional (or meditative, or theological, or reflective) piece is relevant amidst discussions of business as mission or outreach ministries. It is precisely that God is in the midst of those discussions that reflection is of utmost relevance and importance. I have a growing appreciation for those who delve into Christian mystical thinking. I belief that mystery is the significant aspect lost to the pragmatism of much of the Church. We work according to our plans more often than following God’s inspiration. God inhabits His movements. There is no separation between the spiritual and practical. My hope is to help infuse our work with resting in God, knowing that it is not we who deliver salvation but God working in and through us as the hope of the world.

I do many practical things which, at least momentarily, distract me from their spiritual reality. But as I reflect between those activities, I am finding more of God within the activities. These insights often come in conversation with or reading the thoughts of others. I often find connections between my faith and my temporal being through a diversity of reading both Christian and non-Christian texts. Awareness of those connections, as understanding grows, lighten the burden of His yoke (Matthew 11:29-30). It is only with a great struggle that I shed the driven nature of our ungodly, driven culture. But Adam’s work before the Fall was without toil or the sweat of his brow, the ground was not cursed, producing thorns and thistles, and Adam lived without fear of death (Genesis 3:17-19). Even if we cannot understand, though it is worth the time amidst our busy-ness to slow down enough to think about God, “restfulness” is the truth of God’s restorative Kingdom for those who believe. My prayer is that by becoming more aware that God wants to spend time with us, rather than to be our taskmaster, we can find a way to integrate our conversation with Him and with each other . . . to see a grander vision of who God is and His presence and centrality in every moment.

God calls us to become like children (John 1:12). When we cry out Abba, Father (Romans 8:15), it is as a child unburdened by the assumption of our ability to resolve the perplexities of life. It does not absolve of us the work we have been given but it removes the laborious nature. It is not toilsome but rather with the joy of childlike play, knowing we serve purposes beyond the work itself, beyond the outcomes as ends unto themselves, and a God beyond ourselves. It is for this joy, this unburdened freedom, that we slow down, or even stop (Psalm 46:10), to know and hear God amidst our calling and work. Otherwise, all that we build is our vanity (Psalm 127:1).

            “In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight”– Proverbs 3:6.

            “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart” – Psalm 37:4.

            “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” – Matthew 6:33.

Spending time with God should come before work. Intimacy with God precedes any worthwhile fruitfulness we bear. But Immanuel, God with us, abides as we work. The reality of God is integrated with our own, and with all we are and do . . . and with all others created in His image. Abandon I-they. In Christ, we are re-integrated as one body: We. Does your work work for the We of God and His creation, the integrated Kingdom of every tribe and tongue and nation?


[1] Collins, Kenneth J. “Spirituality and Critical Thinking: Are They Really So Different?” Evangelical Journal, 16(1) (1998): 30–43.

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Abandon

Can I put this world in proper place,

To seek and find and see Your face?

Can I prevail over ego and id,

And walk with God as Jesus did?

This dying  world would offer much,

But can I ever be satisfied with such?

And when I hear the mystery calling,

Can I keep myself from falling?

Can I let lose what little I know,

And follow where You would have me go?

Can I abandon all that I hold dear,

So Your voice I more clearly hear?

Help me, Lord, let go of fear,

Let Your Word my heart so sear

To renew in me the heart of stone,

With Your great love and life alone.

Forgive me, Lord, my halting way

And draw me closer day by day,

Shine through me Your Light divine

So the world can see you’re mine.

My only hope, the Love of Life

Put to rest the endless strife.

I abandon all for this one thing

So that praises I might sing.

Give to me none else but You

And into me heart healed and true,

That I might live as You did die

Humbly before the God Most High.

Can I put this world in proper place?

To seek and find and see Your face?

Can I prevail over ego and id?

And walk with God as Jesus did?

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On Doctrine and Unity

I have been blessed that my research and networking has put me into contact with conversations and writings from a wide range of Christian thought, from Pentecostalism to Roman Catholicism to Calvinism to Wesleyan-Arminianism. What has struck me is the kaleidoscopic array of doctrine and the questions it poses about being right or wrong and what we do with such a spectrum of thought as a divided and, in many unfortunate ways, dysfunctional Church.

It fascinates me that so many highly intelligent people can reach such different conclusions from reading Scripture. There are surely cultural influences and assumptions gleaned from our formational church traditions and surrounding culture. I commend those who defend doctrines of their denomination or tradition but more for their zeal in the pursuit of truth than for their unflappability in adhering to what they hold true. The big divider there is “the pursuit of truth.”

I have come to think that the Church probably holds 95% or more of truly critical doctrinal beliefs in common–the Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Christ, the atonement for sin of the Cross, the Resurrection, and so on. We hold these things as truth and should. Sadly, the other 5% that divides us tends to be where our conversations break down and we go our separate ways in frustration or even in anger.

What is troublesome is that we hold so tightly to doctrine we are willing to sacrifice relationships for the sake of “knowing” that we are right. That flies in the face of the Bible’s consistent message of reconciliation. Of course it would be absurd to cling to doctrines we did not believe. So how do we handle these differences? How do we live with the tensions of not knowing which is right?

Much of the conundrum is created by our propensity toward stating our claims in either / or format. Two problems can arise from such an argument. One, it is possible that the two are not actually contradictory but only contrary. The either / or positions presents them, however, as contradictory and so we assume we must believe one or the other carte blanche. The second problem is that we end up with all or nothing propositions, that is, statements or stands that allow no shades of gray or nuances. Ultimately these propositions are the seeds of legalism.

The origins of holding too strongly to one’s positions are pride and fear. We want to trust in what is “seen,” that is, in propositions we can clearly define, or nailed down, if a very graphic reminder can be allowed. We like black and white because they give us a clear perception of reality. But let us consider what we are discussing here. To follow God we try to know God then formulate our opinions of how to act based on that knowledge. In many cases the appropriate actions are clear enough. But here again, a couple of problems arise.

The first problem is that we create rules. We often hear teachers and preachers talk about how Israel (and we) could not / cannot keep even the Ten Commandments…just ten little rules. The sad thing is, Adam and Eve could not keep even just one! What makes us think we can keep the rules we can state clearly, to live by standards we create from our limited understanding? Or, that we can state enough clearly to be righteous before God? The New Testament is clear…rules divide, the Law kills. In our failing to keep all the rules, we are separated from God. At stake here is living in vital relationship with God, just as we live daily in vital relationship with our sisters and brothers in Christ, with our children and parents and spouses and co-workers and church. Circumstances change and our reactions to these folk ebb and flow depending on how they are acting or responding or based on the circumstances of the situation itself.

Notice that Joshua says that he and his household will serve the Lord (24:15). He frames his religion in terms of availability and obedience based on historic interaction (vv. 2–13), not doctrine. He understands that God commands, leads, and intervenes situationally. Joshua will serve as a response to all that God has done for the patriarchs and the nation Israel. It is about a dynamic relationship. And Jesus lifted David up as a righteous rule breaker (Matthew 12:3–4) in denouncing the legalism of Israel’s religious leaders.

The second problem occurs in our relationship with God. In effect, when we carve our doctrines in stone, we are killing the relationship with God. Rules-making is, in effect, trying to keep God in a box. We reduce God to our control. However, if we were to quantify what we know specifically before the presence of God, it can be defined mathematically as 10-∞, that is, ten to the negative infinity. God is infinite and His knowledge is infinite. Ours can only be expressed in the negative by comparison. Science bears out that we have achieved virtually nothing in trying to understand all of physics and human physiology, let alone trying to comprehend the mysteries of God. We should take to heart 1 Corinthians 3:18-21:

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” So then let no one boast in men.

To me, “to become foolish” is to recognize my own limitations and, in so doing, to recognize the limitations of others.  Andrew Murray makes the claim in his small book, Humility, that we will be humbled when we recognize God as God, for Who and What He is, and recognize ourselves in light of God. I am a fallen creature redeemed by the blood of Christ. But my flesh, that dwelling place of my pride and fear, would try to convince me that I have attained far more than I have. If I do not make myself aware of my lowly state, of body and mind, then I am truly a fool. If I choose to “become foolish,” I can more easily submit to God and be honest in saying “I don’t know” when it is appropriate, or listening intently for God’s voice when others present ideas or thoughts contrary to my own. That is iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17).

I like Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. This passage sets us up to see that we are faced throughout life with changing circumstances and possibilities of response.

1 There is an appointed time for everything.

And there is a time for every event under heaven– 

2 A time to give birth, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted. 

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to tear down, and a time to build up. 

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn, and a time to dance. 

5 A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones;

A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing. 

6 A time to search, and a time to give up as lost;

A time to keep, and a time to throw away. 

7 A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together;

A time to be silent, and a time to speak. 

8 A time to love, and a time to hate;

A time for war, and a time for peace.

The whole point of this essay is that we should humble ourselves and, I think, most especially where it comes to points of doctrine. We are all operating with incomplete knowledge and our pride (thinking we know more than we do) and fear (not trusting those of other doctrine and traditions to the oversight of God) compel us to discount the opinions of others, and even to divide the Church over our opinions. Though we claim to know that we see as through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12), we are quick to offhandedly dismiss everything someone from an “opposing” camp has to say.

Who among us can say that our understanding of the Bible is the right one? The cartoon below has shown up on Facebook, posted a couple of times by my friends. The absurdity of the cartoon would be funny if it were not so sadly true. Paul wrote, in Philippians 2:3: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.”

We must not place our trust in those doctrines that consistently divide. Satan knows the Scriptures better than any of us. He also knows us better than we know ourselves. We must be on constant guard to assess what is happening relationally when we find ourselves vexed by various opinions, or more importantly when those opinions start pushing our blood pressure toward the roof.

To justify our positions and our “righteous anger,” we even go so far as to convince ourselves that we have the discernment that Christ had when He became angry in the Temple or called out the Pharisees for their legalism. To appropriate (and adapt) a famous line once delivered during a political debate: “I know Jesus Christ…and I am no Jesus.”

Ultimately, holding our doctrines loosely honors God in the humble recognition that His ways are far above ours (Isaiah 55:8). Do we want to worship a God that we can understand to the nth degree? Our God is far more than we are, beyond our comprehension…able to save us from ourselves when we cannot. Allow God to be mysterious. Love people, even sinners, more than doctrine. Jesus did.

The life of the Church and of the world is at stake here. That is, our spiritual well-being hangs in the balance as we are the Church and the agency of Christ sharing life with the world. What witness is it to the world when within our own body we are afflicted, disjointed, and broken without healing? What value are we to the Kingdom when we stand on being right before we kneel in humility before God?

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The Redemptive Logic of Subjectivity

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” – Philippians 2:3

As I continue research and press forward toward launching the marketplace ministry I believe God has called me to, I find a broad range of views and concerns within the Church expressed along many different lines. Conversations on the theological level, thankfully, in the marketplace arena have not diverged too deeply into the differences of various Christian traditions but there are some interesting conversations that do arise. One twist is the concern over the division of the Church into its various traditions (Eastern, Roman, Protestant) and denominations (now numbering something like 30,000 among Protestants). I am an ecumenist and I believe the greatest opportunity for the unity of the Church may reside in the marketplace where how we go about ministry can easily transcend the particular flavors of faith in which we find ourselves. We even find ourselves thrown together in the marketplace and recognize the shared foundations of our faith without overt concern about how we might differ. Rather, I am encouraged by the focus I continue to find directly toward worshipping God in the overwhelming commonalities of our faith, especially the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

As I awoke this morning, the phrase “the logic of subjectivity” was drifting about in the fog of emerging from sleep. I wondered how that applied to the Christian faith and especially to the marketplace of God’s blessing and ministry to His Church and the world.

I am sure I will get no argument along the line of recognizing my own limitations. I am like everyone else, painfully aware of my own finitude. I have had some great Bible teachers in my life and have sought to study it extensively on my own. But if I have learned anything it is to hang on very loosely to much of what I think I know. I have had the opportunity to meet many gifted Bible scholars. For the most part, these are women and men who will quickly concede, ultimately, they do not know all that much.

I think the idea comes to light if we consider our limitations in light of the unlimited nature of God. That is why we all now see as through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12), simply due to our complete inability to truly grasp God. He makes Himself known to us in a great many ways but no one of us, or even all of us together, can know Him even remotely as He truly is.

Unfortunately our egos too often get in the way, crowding out true humility as we seek to know God in the context of our relationships with His people and the rest of His creation. We do not care for the tension between our limitations and God’s infinity, so we tend toward pride in establishing all that we think we know, rather more than the foundations we all likely share, as chiseled in stone. Our relentless grasp of various doctrines and beliefs not only chokes our own ability to grow in the Spirit but serves to cut others off from that same grace.

Why would God allow such things? It certainly is not His plan or desire. Jesus prayed for our unity (John 17:11). How can we be unified when we hold so many different positions and opinions?

There is but one path that will “take us home.” The diversity of the Church holds a subtle key to God’s redemptive stroke in overcoming our pride, the pride that divides us. That key is humility. How do we reconcile our differences? By standing on our commanilities. Jesus Christ is Lord, He was crucified, and He arose from the dead. Those facts should astonish us enough.

I consider it nothing other than a demonstration of God’s redemptive genius that by the Holy Spirit He leads us into relationships where differences must always occur. We each live according to our beliefs born out of our unique experiences and knowledge. Not two of us have identical histories. Our views of life and the world on most topics are therefore necessarily subjective, our individual interpretations of reality no matter how closely we align ourselves with a particular sect or teacher.

The genius lies amidst those relationships for, as we encounter the views and beliefs of others (again, within the Christian faith), we are confronted, if we are open and honest, with our own limitations. Hence the opportunity to walk in the humility that is due our created nature. God is God and we are not. His knowledge is perfect. Ours is constrained by our limits and tainted by our broken, sinful flesh.

God’s redemptive logic in allowing us to be so limited in this particular allows us the opportunity to see ourselves honestly. He grants us the opportunity to grow in grace and humility. The kaleidoscopic nature of the Church…of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation (Revelation 5:9)…gives us a view and an opportunity to behold some of the beautiful glory of God. If we cannot step away from our egos, our vision is limited and we will miss it.

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Hidden Treasures

The following is not a sound approach to biblical interpretation, but was a “reading” that revealed a powerful reminder. I like to confuse people by telling them that Nehemiah 10:12 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. I see confusion on their faces as they look back at me and typically ask, “Are you sure?”

Nehemiah 10:12 simply lists three names: Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah. The verse is in the list of leaders agreed with Nehemiah to follow God’s law. But that is beside my point.

As I read the list of names one night, I wondered, more or less asking God halfheartedly, “What’s of these names here? Why am I reading them?” There was instantly a response in my mind, “Look them up.”

Zaccur means mindful or remember.

Sherebiah means Jehovah has scorched.

Shebaniah means Jehovah has increased.

Remember, God scorches, God increases. I was somewhat taken aback that there seemed to be a statement here . . . God is like the refiner’s fire (Malachi 3:2). Remember the refiner’s fire.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2–4

The refining fire of God’s discipline, which we would all just as soon avoid, is for our cleansing, purification, and our perfection. The refiner makes the gold pure . . . it is not destroyed, like the burning bush (Exodus 3:2) was not consumed.

My other efforts to find hidden treasures in the Scripture this way have failed. But I can trust in the Lord that the Bible often speaks to my heart in far more ways than I might know.

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