Are Your Thoughts And Ways God’s?

Is there any relation between what you think and what God thinks? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the problems in our age with Biblical interpretation is many times we can get so centered on one way of interpreting a passage and we hear it so often that we never consider that that could be a wrong interpretation. The danger of a wrong interpretation is twofold. First off, we will believe the text says the wrong thing. Second, we will miss the truth that the text is giving us.

Isaiah 55 has one such spot. Let’s go to the text.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

So what is going on here? A lot of Christians will look at this and say that it means the thoughts of God are totally foreign to us. You cannot think what God thinks. It’s entirely different. Some use this to say that God can even be illogical. God can make a contradiction true for instance. Is that what is being said?

No. In fact, I have deliberately left out the surrounding context. If you think anything that is true, you agree with God. You say God exists? God agrees. You say that Jesus is the Son of God who rose from the dead? Assuming you’re properly understanding what those terms mean, then yes, God agrees. While there are aspects of the mind of God we cannot know, we can know what He has revealed to us.

So if that is not what is being said here, what is being said? The reality is that this is a beautiful passage on grace and forgiveness. Our bad interpretation has caused us to miss the truly good one.

Let’s look at what comes before it.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Many of us have a mindset that we fear God will judge us for some big sin that we’ve committed or something that we picture as a big sin. We also have a hard time accepting forgiveness. “I just can’t forgive myself for what I’ve done.” In this way, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts and our ways are not His ways. We are treating God like a common man and saying that this is what we would do, so this is what God would do.

God says it’s not. His way is to forgive. If the wicked will come, they will not be condemned. They will instead receive the mercy and grace of God. This passage isn’t making a claim about the mind of God being totally foreign to us. It’s making a claim that God does not act like we do towards the wicked or dare I say it, even ourselves.

We can all seek to know the truth and be in further agreement with God, but one truth we should accept is grace. We all when we sin are the wicked. Our ways with ourselves are not God’s. His ways are higher.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Christians Should Care About A Snowflake Culture

Do snowflakes indicate that Christians in the West have some concerns? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Much of the news today concerns snowflakes. No. I don’t mean a story about global warming. I mean a story about especially people in high school who can’t seem to stand the thought of anything contrary to their opinion and have to have safe places where they will not be challenged in anything.

I don’t know what to call these people besides snowflakes. I know that chronologically, kids doesn’t fit, but what do you call people who for all intents and purposes are adults and yet need to be in a place where their opinions aren’t challenged and this in college where you SHOULD be having your opinions challenged? What do you say about children who need therapy dogs and coloring books not because of some serious major hardship, but because their candidate lost an election?

Unfortunately, the snowflakes didn’t just come out of nowhere. There came a time in our history when arguments mattered less and less and how one felt about the arguments mattered the most. In this day and age, someone can think they can refute the Old Testament by pointing to a commandment, saying “I don’t like it” and moving on from there. Never mind that you might actually want to attempt to understand the culture and see what was going on, but for many people, that’s not necessary. Being offended is enough to show that it’s wrong.

I have been engaging on Brent Landau’s post that I wrote about last week. It has been amusing to be accused of abuse when as far as I know, the worst crime I have done is telling people they’re spreading nonsense and don’t know what they’re talking about. What kind of nonsense? Oh, Raphael Lataster, David Fitzgerald, and Richard Carrier. Jesus mythicism is alive and well for internet atheists. What it tells me is these are people who care so little about the truth of historical Jesus scholarship, but when they’re called out on it, rather than defend the arguments, they try to take the moral high ground and play the victim. It’s a way to avoid “Okay. I don’t know how to answer this point,” and turn it into “You’re a mean person for arguing with me!” The subject becomes the objector then instead of the data itself.

Sadly, we Christians aren’t innocent in this. Why? Because we have bought into gentle Jesus meek and mild. Make no mistake about it that when it came to sinners seeking forgiveness and coming to Jesus in hope, he was meek and mild. Look at the Pharisees by contrast. Jesus was not meek and mild towards them. A meek and mild Jesus does not make a whip in the temple and clean it up. Jesus had a problem with these people and took them to task because their behavior and the claims they were making were hurting the people who were wanting to enter the Kingdom. Jesus was also sarcastic with them believe it or not. Consider when His disciples were picking grain on the sabbath. When confronted, Jesus said, “Have you not read about…..” We could get into the whole discussion of if Abiathar was the high priest at the time, but notice that Jesus went to the scholars of the Old Testament in His day and said, “Have you not read this?” It was a great insult. “Hey, guys. You’re supposed to know this stuff. Have you ever even read this passage?”

It’s been in more recent times that we’ve started to think contrarily. Now don’t get me wrong on this. There’s no need to unnecessarily offend someone. There are times where it will be necessary. In fact, if you give the Gospel, you will have to offend people. Seriously. You think people like being told they’re sinners living in rebellion against the King and that they will be judged if they don’t change? That’s a great insult to them, but it’s also true. My policy is if stepping on someone’s toes is the only way to get someone to move towards Christ, then watch out because I plan to stomp hard!

If people say they want to go the more peaceful route, I just like to ask them how that has worked for the homosexual crowd. We thought we could just have peace and give an inch. Now what has happened? The shoe is on the other foot and tolerance is no longer the big deal it was. When the homosexuals did not have the majority opinion behind them, they shouted out for tolerance. When they did have it, Memories Pizzeria was targeted and received death threats and had to have a GoFundMe in order to survive. Florists now lose their livelihood just because they’re trying to live by their Christian principles. How did that work out?

Now does that mean we should have been absolute jerks to the homosexual community? No. It does mean that sentiment is not always the best way. Love is sometimes tough and it is tough because it seeks the best for the other person. Love is not giving that alcoholic an extra drink even though he’s crying on the couch begging for one to end the pain. If you love someone, you will often see them go through hardships and hold back on giving them what they want.

With the snowflake culture now, it is harder and harder to get contrary thought into the minds of others. After all, who are you to dare to suggest that someone is wrong? If politically we can’t even get a conservative speaker to show up on campuses, how much harder will it be to get a minister of the Gospel to show up on these campuses?

I wish I knew a good solution to this, but many might be too far into it. The best I can think of is to teach our own children now not to be snowed by these arguments. Remember that the data is primary. Look at an argument. Ask what the claims are. What are the reasons for believing those claims? How good is the data for them? Does the conclusion follow? Teach them how to do good research.

Remember, walking like Jesus does mean being delicate to those who are sinners and are seeking a place of forgiveness and grace. It also means guarding them with a rod and protecting them from those who wish them harm. If you have only a hammer, everything does look like a nail, but if you have only a hug, everything looks like a kitten, even if it’s really a destructive tiger. A good shepherd knows how to use a rod to deal with wolves and a staff to lead the sheep both.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

A Contrast On Suffering

If you’re suffering, is God angry with you? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday a friend shared something on my timeline with a pastor speaking about how much money he had and why some people were still poor in the audience. Contrast this with what I was reading in Jeremiah Johnston’s Unanswered about the church in China. For them, the book of Acts is a living reality as miracles are taking place. Not only are miracles taking place, so is persecution. Christians are targeted and killed for being Christians. That is also in the book of Acts. It’s really fascinating when you consider hearing about both of these accounts on the same day. One of them is honoring of the Gospel. One of them is a mockery of it.

It’s strange that we look at the suffering in our lives and think that that means something is wrong. When we start to undergo suffering, we look back and see if there is some hidden sin in our past that we need to repent of and God is waiting until we find that sin and when we do, God will restore us. Many of us will turn to the book of Job in this, not realizing that Job in fact has Job suffering not because of any sin and the very idea that all suffering is a result of our individual sin is in fact denied in that book. It’s really more about will you continue to serve God even when life is hard.

If we live in a place like America in the West, we treat our own lives as the norm. This is the way Christianity is supposed to be and has been and when persecution comes, (Which we really haven’t seen yet) we treat it as something foreign to us. We have this idea that everything is supposed to go well and then there’s a lost job or a fallen marriage or a death in the family or cancer strikes and we figure God must be judging us somehow. We pray and we don’t hear anything from God and we think that He must be mad at us. (It doesn’t help that unfortunately, the church is loaded with pastors who talk about how God speaks to them and how God communicates with them and calls them and where God is leading them to go.) We think that if we aren’t hearing from God or experiencing a miracle (Yes. I’m talking to you preachers on TBN who seem to expect miracles-on-demand) then there’s something wrong with us.

Have we considered that there are Christians all around the world who are dying and suffering in prisons for their faith and not getting miracles to get out and not hearing from God and even more amazing, they probably have more joy in their lives than we do?

Why is that so?

Because we have ultimately become ungrateful people.

We have got so used to our standard of living that we think it’s practically owed to us. Christian. God does not owe you a single thing. The only thing He guarantees you is that which He has already promised you. God will keep His covenant. The question is will you keep yours? Will you honor Him always? If you will not come to Him and worship and praise just because your life is hard, then are you really worshiping Him for who He is instead of what He does for you? Now this does not mean there’s no place for questioning and doubt and even complaint and anger. Go read the Psalms. They’re loaded with those. It’s quite fine to have that. What it means is that you still don’t withhold from God even when life is hard. Anyone can be faithful when life is going good. The question is are you going to be faithful when life is hard.

Maybe when we get to this point where we’ll realize God never promised us safety and doesn’t owe us anything, then we will realize that all that He has given us is a gift of grace. Maybe instead of then looking at all that’s wrong in our lives, we’ll look at all that is good in our lives regardless. We’ll be more like martyrs in China and elsewhere when we do that. As it stands, if we are here in America and whining because life doesn’t go the way we want it to go, we are not ready to be martyrs and we will not be ready for whatever comes down our way. If we want to thrive and make a difference for Christ, we must change our attitudes. He promised He would walk with us, but He never promised He’d remove every burden from us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: The Forgiveness of Sins

Do we recognize what forgiveness is? Let’s dive into Deeper Waters and find out!

C.S. Lewis has a wonderful essay in his book The Weight of Glory on the forgiveness of sins. Don’t we all believe in that? Oh we say we do. But do we really? Lewis points out that many times when we say we want to be forgiven, what we really want is to be excused. Many times when we come to God in prayer, we list our sins and we often tell about how it happened and why we did what we did and how we tried so hard to resist a temptation and we just gave in. Then we ask for forgiveness.

When we ask for forgiveness, we really mean that we want it treated as if it never happened. Too often however, we ask not for forgiveness, but for our sins to be excused. We want God to simply understand why it is that the sin happened. We want Him to overlook what happened, but when we do that, then in essence, the sin is still there. (Of course, I do think God truly forgives it, but for us, it is there.)

Forgiveness is not excusing however.

You see, there are realities many times that can make it harder to resist a sin. A guy with sexual addiction for instance could have a hard time driving past a store selling pornographic supplies even if he is a Christian. Now someone like myself who is someone who very much enjoys sex, really has an attitude of wanting to avoid that as much as possible and wanting to honor my wife with my eyes. Can there still be a temptation? No doubt, but that temptation is not as strong as it is for someone with an addiction. I would be more prone to fall short in other areas, like losing my temper unnecessarily with my Allie or in a struggle with pride.

So let’s suppose someone with the addiction goes in anyway and then later confesses. The reality is, God knows all the excuses the man can give. In fact, He knows them better than the man does. He also knows what a struggle it has been for the person. He knows there are several factors at play. But He also knows one thing on His own. He knows that there is a sin. There can be no excuses for the sin. In the end, the person did do something wrong even if it was harder for him to resist and that part cannot be overlooked. That part is a blight on the face of God.

You see, sin is in many ways a sort of divine treason. Let’s look at all the things we implicitly say when we sin.

We deny the goodness of God because we think He is keeping something good from us.

We deny the love of God because we think He is being unloving keeping something from us.

We deny the omniscience of God because we think He doesn’t know that this is something we should do.

We deny the omnipresence of God because we think He doesn’t see.

We deny the omnipotence of God because we think He won’t judge.

We deny the righteousness of God because we think He has no place to judge.

We deny the rule of God because we are rebelling against Him.

In fact, we are committing divine treason. We are saying that God should not be on the throne. We should be. We want to be deity.

I have a theory also on seeing sin as uncreation. In creation, God makes a world good and beautiful. Our sin changed much of that and whenever we do sin, we are undoing the work of God. When we do that which is righteous, we are extending the work of God. We are being traitors to our own side and we will be held accountable for that.

Unless we are forgiven.

So really think about that. God does what we think could not be done. He really forgives us. He knows there is no excuse for what we did. There is no justifying it. Nothing can ever make what we did right. Yet despite all of that, He willing to treat it as if it didn’t happen and He is willing to restore us to a place that we don’t even deserve in the first place, in fact, to a place even better than the garden.

God never justifies sin. He cannot. He will not. There is no justification for anything that is done wrong. God justifies sinners. His hatred and disgust of sin will never change. But so also, His love of those of us who struggle with it will also never change. You cannot do something to make God love you less. You cannot do anything to make Him love you more. It’s constant.

Because God already loves you, He will forgive you when you ask. You do not earn forgiveness. You never could. It is a gift and it is a gift that is freely given. When God forgives you, He truly does. He no longer holds your sins against you. Too often it is we who still hold them against ourselves. If only we could grasp for a moment even the forgiveness of God and live with it for the rest of our lives.

Rest assured Christian. If you have confessed, you are forgiven, but go and sin no more. Yet when you do, confess and be forgiven. God is with you in your struggle.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Marriage One Year Later: Grace and Hatchets

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Tonight, I’m going to be continuing my look at marriage one year later by seeing how grace works in the marriage relationship.

We’ve all been told about burying the hatchet. In theory, everyone agrees it’s a good idea. In practice, we seem to have a hard time doing such. C.S. Lewis wrote about how in marriage it would seem many of us will be granted grace for all the times we could have said a “zinger” and refused to do so. Often the point of the zingers is not the betterment of our spouses, but our proving our own selves. There are some things better left unsaid.

There will be disagreements in the marriage. That’s a fact of life. The point to keep in mind here is what is going to be done when those disagreements are done? We can say that we will bury the hatchet, but most of us usually have a good idea where that hatchet is buried and wish to recall past disagreements so that we can use them in future battles.

To the Christian reader, a question. What would it be like if God did that to you?

Do you think you could handle if he kept pulling your past sins to account to you again and again, knowing that He was entirely right?

But that’s what you want to do to your spouse anyway?

The concept of forgiveness includes letting the past stay in the past. Natural consequences will play themselves out, but it should not be an offense totally held over someone’s head. Now you might have to avoid some things true, but you should not do so as an indictment of bad character but realizing your spouse has difficulty in an area and at that time you need to help them in that area in their growth of personal holiness.

There have been times when I’ve been driving with my wife out somewhere and then she’ll confess something she’s done that I won’t like. Usually, I don’t. I’ll ask her about it some and then get some clarification without getting angry or raising my voice. Then, when we get there, I just let her know firmly that I did not approve, and I love her and know she’s better. That usually follows with something like a hug.

What we need to remember is to love our spouses the way God loves us. When we go to the cross, all our sins are right there and God says that we are forgiven by trusting in Him. He will not bring the past to account against us anymore. Such a great love and grace is extended to us and why ought we not to show that same love and grace to the person we say is the most important person in our lives? Why not show such love to the one who we claim to love the most?

Bury the hatchet, and KEEP IT THERE!