Daily Light – March 21, 2019

Leave Behind the Weariness of Bitterness

(article by Jon Bloom, Staff Writer, desiringGod.org)

The gears of God’s justice sometimes grind slowly — so slowly that we may not even notice them turning during our brief sojourn on earth. We even begin to wonder if they’re really turning at all.

Asaph writes, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But . . .” (Psalm 73:1–2). But what? But Asaph had really struggled to believe that. His biblical theology and history told him God is good and God is just, but as he looked on the way things evidently operated in the “real” world around him, Asaph read a different narrative.

He watched unashamedly wicked people prosper, seeming to avoid the hardships most of humanity is subject to (Psalm 73:3–5). He watched them violently oppress others without God seeming to lift a finger to stop them or protect the oppressed (Psalm 73:6–8). He watched them in their luxuriant ease blaspheme God with apparent impunity (Psalm 73:9–12). Like many suffering Christians today, he watched while the godless flourished.

Hard on Those He Loves?

Meanwhile, when Asaph looked at his own experience, he couldn’t help wondering why in the world he was fighting so hard to keep his heart clean and his hands innocent, only to find himself “stricken and rebuked [by God] every morning” (Psalm 73:13–14). What’s with that?

Hard on those who love him, and seemingly easy on those who hate him — that looks a lot like turning justice on its head. Asaph’s “feet . . . almost stumbled” over whether God truly is good to Israel (Psalm 73:2). He could have said, as Teresa of Ávila allegedly did, “If this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder why You have so few of them!”

Thus, Asaph is endeared to us — an ancient friend who understands. He understands the hard experience of living in what can look and feel like a world of inverted justice.

Where Bitterness Takes Root

We know deep down God can’t approve of this inversion. The fact that humanity shares such a massive consensus regarding what’s just and unjust bears witness to what God considers just and unjust. Philosophers call this the “moral law.” Theologians call it God’s law written on the heart (Romans 2:15–16). Even the unjust bear witness to this reality by what they desperately try to conceal (or rationalize if their power is removed and they are held to account for their actions).

But when they aren’t held to account, when they do as they unjustly and wickedly please and God doesn’t intervene, we try to understand. And, like Asaph, we can find it “a wearisome task” (Psalm 73:16). We can become “pricked in heart” and embittered in soul (Psalm 73:21).

Here’s the real danger: the indignance we feel toward injustice — the way we’re supposed to feel toward injustice — can metastasize into bitterness in our soul toward God and his apparent lack of concern and willingness to take action against injustice. This can turn us “brutish and ignorant” (Psalm 73:22), leading us to fall away from God (Hebrews 3:12) or to distort his word into saying what it does not say, because in our lack of faith, we cannot bear it. Few things drive us to twist the Scriptures like the problem we have with evil and the pain it can cause us or those we love. This is a “root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deuteronomy 29:18) that defiles many, as Hebrews warns us (Hebrews 12:15).

Counsel for the Embittered Soul

So, what do we do when, like Asaph, our heart is pricked and we feel that bitterness in our soul that makes us question if God really sees, if he cares, if he’s really in control, if he really exists? The remedy God provides us against the brutish ignorance of unbelief is simple, but it is profound, and it is pervasive:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5–8)

This can sound so trite, so cliché, when what we want from God are answers— and, more immediately, action! This is not cliché. This is the Bible — all of it. The Bible is God’s book of justice. The whole thing is about God’s justice — about his ultimately making every wrong right and exhaustively settling every account of every moral agent, visible and invisible to us, that has ever perpetrated even the smallest injustice. Nothing will be missed, for God “will by no means clear the guilty” (Numbers 14:18) without fully satisfying his holy, righteous law — the one to which all our consciences bear witness.

God is working with a timetable toward this end that is long — and our lives are short. We may not see the justice needle move much during our time under the sun. That doesn’t at all mean God is not relentlessly and fearfully moving toward the terrible, unfathomable destruction of evil.

We must trust him with all our hearts and not lean on our own very limited perspective and understanding of the “real” world. If the catastrophe of Eden teaches us anything, it teaches us that we are ill-equipped to manage the knowledge of good and evil. The bitterness of soul that Asaph describes is a warning that it is time to hand God back the fruit before it bears something poisonous and bitter in us.

How God Treats His Friends

If the eucatastrophe of the cross of Jesus teaches us anything, it teaches us that God does not take injustice lightly — that he is, in fact, willing to go to extremes we would never imagine in order to fully settle accounts. At the cross, God’s righteous unwillingness to clear the unjust kisses his righteous desire to pardon the repentant unjust and be at peace with them (Psalm 85:10). It is the miraculous moment when the righteous Judge takes upon himself our unrighteousness, paying for it in full that we might become his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is the place where God becomes both just and the justifier of the unjust ones who put their faith fully in Jesus (Romans 3:26).

This is how God treats his friends: he gives his only Son for them in order to give them eternal life (John 3:16).

It is this God, and the remembrance of his mercy foreshadowed in the old covenant, that Asaph beheld when he “went into the sanctuary of God” (Psalm 73:17). Then his perspective on justice changed. He saw the long-term end of the short-lived unrepentant wicked. God was not inattentive or inactive as they brazenly oppressed and blasphemed.

Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. (Psalm 73:18–20)

He saw the mercy in his being “stricken and rebuked,” for it was this very discipline that kept him from going astray (Proverbs 3:11–12Psalm 119:67). And he saw an approaching judgment upon those who were not being led to repentance by the kindness of God (Romans 2:4). He remembered the long-term end of his short-lived afflictions: “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24), the same hope the apostle Paul expressed (2 Corinthians 4:17).

How Bitterness Leaves

And when Asaph gave up his wearisome task of trying to understand how God can let injustice and evil persist, and instead trusted God with all his heart, the bitterness left him. And out of the healing and refreshment he experienced, he sang,

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25–26)

Thus, if we have ears to hear, God is endeared to us — our far more ancient and future Friend who understands how hard it can be for us to endure evil while he “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). For it was his compassion that moved him to inspire these words in our friend, Asaph, and make sure his song of the rescued cynic was preserved in the canon to help rescue us from our bitterness of soul.

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by SightThings Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities.

Daily Light – March 20, 2019

(Happy Birthday to my mother…Ellen Mae Snodgrass Hester 1925-1999)

When You Do Not Know What To Do

(article by Dave Zuleger, Pastor, Lakeville, Minnesota)

When was the last time a trial came so swiftly and forcefully that you did not know what to do?

My wife has lived in chronic pain for eight years. Recently, however, she woke up one morning with new health concerns that brought another hard, confusing, and frightening reality — a heavy one laid on top of the one we’re already living with day to day. We had just moved to a new home, and were going to a new church. I was the new pastor of that church. Our newborn was only six weeks old.

We felt like the armies of our circumstances were closing in around us with nowhere to go. As a husband and father, I felt completely off-balance. No one could encourage me. I felt helpless to help my wife, overwhelmed by the weight of her suffering. Why, God? Even after years of her chronic pain — and seeing the good God does through it — I felt like I was back to square one of faith, just clinging by a thread. I was supposed to be pastoring others, but I felt like I could speak but one word to God: “Help.”

Pretending Self-Sufficiency

Around that time, I found a story of a king who felt helpless to protect and care for the people he was responsible for. A king also overwhelmed with fear. King Jehoshaphat finds out that there is a “great multitude” coming soon to attack his people (2 Chronicles 20:1–2) — an army they know they cannot compete with on their own.

Most of us will never feel what he felt; we will never literally be under the attack of a great army marching up to our door. But we can all relate to overwhelming circumstances in our life that make us feel trapped, helpless, and certain we won’t make it much longer. The Bible is honest about how King Jehoshaphat felt when he got the news about the army of certain doom heading his way — he was afraid (2 Chronicles 20:3). His response to that fear is remarkable. He calls a fast in all of Judah and gathers the people to seek the Lord and his help (2 Chronicles 20:4).

This is not a natural human response. If someone asks us how we are doing at church, the answer almost automatically spills out, “I’m good.” Our profiles put our best, most carefully portrayed images of strength and sufficiency forward. We don’t readily admit that we’re often afraid, broken, lonely, despairing, failing in sin, and struggling to see or trust God.

Jehoshaphat could have pretended he wasn’t afraid. He could have acted like he had it all together. He could have gathered the generals and made the best plan possible. Instead, he gathered the people, admitted his weakness, and sought the help of the Lord together — instead, he prayed. He prays, “We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). He not only runs to God in prayer himself, but he also calls others to pray with him.

Did You Not, Our God?

While Jehoshaphat is admittedly afraid and without a good plan himself, he is not despairing. In fact, his prayer rings with boldness and steady hope in the God of his people. Where does his courage come from?

Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, “If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you — for your name is in this house — and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.” (2 Chronicles 20:7–9)

Jehoshaphat’s hope is built on the promises and presence of God. It is God’s name that dwells in Judah, and therefore his glory is at stake in this great horde marching against them. Jehoshaphat knows that God is passionate about his glory and faithful to keep all his promises, so he appeals to him with great confidence and directness knowing he’ll find well-timed help because of the covenant love of God (Hebrews 4:14–16).

In the same way, even when we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances, steady hope lives and endures in the promises of God to us in Christ. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will lead us even in the valley of the shadow of death, pursuing us with his goodness and mercy all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:46). Jesus will not break a bruised reed or put out a smoldering wick (Isaiah 42:3). Jesus will pour out his all-sufficient grace as we boast in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord as he works all things for our good (Romans 8:28–39).

When we are afraid, we pray with confidence because of these sure and steady promises — promises that are ours because Jesus bled and died to make us sons and daughters of God.

God Spoke Through Whom?

As Jehoshaphat draws the people together to pray, God sends strength and encouragement in an unexpected way. The Spirit of God fills, not Jehoshaphat, but a man named Jahaziel (2 Chronicles 20:14). Jahaziel rises and declares, “Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s’” (2 Chronicles 20:15). Do not fear; God will fight for us. And despite everything we can see, we will win(2 Chronicles 20:17).

The particular word of hope that needs to be spoken does not always come to the king — or, in our day, to the pastor or small-group leader. As we suffer, share our burdens with one another, and seek the Lord together through prayer, God very often will speak through someone else.

Our individualized society, at least in the West, has often invaded our churches. We gather together once a week to sing, pray, take the Lord’s Table, and hear God’s word preached (still a beautiful thing!), but often don’t actually live like a blood-bought family — at least not like the one we see in the New Testament (Acts 2:42–4720:28).

Members of the early church were so close, and the self-giving love of Christ was so prevalent among them, that none of them counted any of their possessions as their own. They gladly met the needs of one another. The apostle Paul calls Christians to join him in prayer, so that as many pray and God answers, God gets more glory (2 Corinthians 1:11). It feels simpler and easier and more comfortable to keep our struggles to ourselves and search for our own answers. But God has placed believers in a body — in a family where he manifests his love through mutual care and prayer.

In other words, if we don’t let other people into our trials and crises, we miss out on the blessing we might have received from God.

What Is Our Victory?

The people of Judah received Jahaziel’s word with joy. The next morning, Jehoshaphat calls them to believe the word of the Lord, and they march out to face the army. Oh, that we would pause when the circumstances are hard and ask ourselves if we believe the word of the Lord, receiving the Spirit’s witness of the Father’s care for us in our hearts (Romans 8:15–16).

Again, they do a surprising thing. They send the band out first (2 Chronicles 20:21–22). This is not sound practice for winning a battle. It is sound practice for worship, when you trust the God who has given you a promise. As they begin to sing, the Lord routes the greater, stronger army. Israel praises his name for the great victory.

You might be thinking, How can I worship when it seems like the Lord is not winning the battle that way for me? How can we worship as we march into what seems like overwhelming odds, without a specific word from God about our situation?

The answer is that our victory in Christ is as sure as the victory promised to Judah, if we believe what God has said in Christ. The Bible promises us that, whatever we may face or suffer or lose in this life, those whom God predestined are called, those called are justified, and those justified are glorified. It is certain. Our future is secure. For us “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Welcome God (and Others)

We can lay down our self-sufficiency, invite others into our fears, and then pray and worship expectantly, knowing that one way or another, our victory is sure. As sure as Judah’s victory over the Moabites and Ammonites.

As my bride and I have walked through our current trial, we’ve felt God lead us to let people into the war with us. And we have been overwhelmed by the prayers and encouragement we have received. Under God, they have sustained us and held up our eyes to Jesus in the midst of what feels, at times, like overwhelming pain and fear.

God will work in and among his people to save and sustain us as we boldly approach him together. He has designed his universe to work this way, so that we are weaned off of self-sufficiency, into fuller dependence on him for everything we need, so that, over and over again, he gets the glory.

Dave Zuleger (@DaveZuleger) serves as lead pastor for Bethlehem Baptist Church, South Campus, in Lakeville, Minnesota, and graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Kelly, have four children.

Daily Light – March 19, 2019

Conclusion of article: Friends:  In early 2017, I wrote a series called ‘Let There Be Light’.  It was the original work, a short series, that was the catalyst for the Daily Light devotional studies.   Chapter II of that original series was “The Default Program”.   I continue to receive regular feedback from people from all walks of life who tell me that reading The Default Program opened their understanding as to the operation and function of the sin nature that dwells inside all human flesh with its purpose to keep non-believers blinded and separated from the light of God…and to keep believers from growing in their relationship with God and becoming all that God desires for them to be as to bearing much fruit.  People share that the information provided in this series helped them to come to a personal relationship with God and has helped them to grow in their relationship with him.   Thus I want to share Chapter II of the series with you over the next 4 days of Daily Light.  I pray that God will use it to give you freedom and power to experience more of His love and purpose for your life ‘so that’ you can have more light to shine His light out into the darkness of the world around you.   🙂 DH


The Default Program (Chapter II – 3 parts)  by Don Hester

Identifying and Understanding the Default Program  (Chapter II, Part 3 conclusion)

So here we have a catch 22. A catch–22 is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules (Wikipediea.org).

The main objective of the sin nature’s default program is to keep believers living in a less-than ‘full’ state. It is to keep the believer blind and deceived and distant from the experience and understanding of Gods design for ‘full.”  It is a default program that provides the ever illusive promise of gratification and satisfaction within a false reality.   It is an alternate reality that is designed to keep the system user from ever realizing or achieving the original designer’s purpose and intention. The default program installs a never ending loop and replay of its basic premise, which in reality is a lie-loop.  The idea of the loop can be likened to a hamster running on a wheel in a cage.  It constantly is moving, but not reaching an intended destination.  The goal of the default program is to keep us content and confined within a false reality so that we can never fully achieve our ultimate God intended destination of ‘full’.  It is a false reality and can never achieve ‘full’ joy, full peace, full love, or full understanding. It uses the same premise that it used with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. (My paraphrase from Genesis account: ‘Surely God did not mean that if you ate this delicious apple that you would die…surely not…what he didn’t want you to know is that if you did eat it..you will be like God.’)  Lies, more lies, and deception are the core tactics that are used by the sin nature.

The catch 22 is we are born with a capacity to realize God’s design for living life to the full, but we do not have the ability to realize or achieve it ‘without’ God’s source and supply. Without God’s light shining into our darkness and illusion, we have no reference or basis for ‘true full’.  Thus from our birth, we are tricked into thinking that quarter-full, or half-full, is true full.   The default program uses every experience we have within our quest to seek satisfaction for our created needs and seeks to create a false definition of ‘full’.  Its mechanism is to keep us busy in seeking ‘full’ satisfaction for our needs but blinding us and preventing us from seeing that ‘full’ can only truly be realized and achieved by entering into a relationship with God for source and supply of all our needs.   We are stuck in a loop of darkness and deception.  The default program mechanism’s primary objective is to keep the light of God’s truth from entering into the darkness and void of the loop of false reality.

The spirit of man was designed to be ‘full’ of God, with God. It can be likened to a pump.  The pump must receive input from one side to produce output on the other side.  The kind and type of what it takes in as input is what it produces of like and kind in output.  The sin nature seeks to be the source and supply for input into our pump.  It works hard to block us from coming to understand that its like and kind supply can never fully fill our spirit and give us ‘full’ joy, peace, love, and understanding.

The most powerful ability of the sin nature is that it works at an invisible level and cloaks its operation under a blindfold of illusion.  It even creates an alternate reality for our mind as to what we define and how we define and determine ‘satisfaction’.   It actually overrides the original designer’s programming and installs its own default program for how we can achieve ultimate satisfaction for all of our desires and needs.  The programming provides distortion, half-truths, lies, dead-ends, road blocks, and detours to steer us away from the pathways of understanding that lead to light and truth.  One of its major tactics is to provide pathways to gratification of our needs.   It provides a false illusion of satisfaction.  Once we taste of the illusion of satisfaction, the default program has the ability to write new code and it imprints the pathway, process, and memory of the illusion of satisfaction into our minds to install a go-to default pathway.  Over time, the effect of the sin nature’s default go-to pathways become a false-natural behavior for us as to what we know and understand or believe about how to fulfill our needs.  Thus we become stuck in the default systems lie-loop.   And the power of the sin nature’s ‘blindfold’ effect over our mind keeps us from seeing that we have been deceived.

The ‘god’ (Satan) of the default program, sits back in the control chair in his dominion of darkness and he laughs at us and delights in our blindness. He watches us run on our wheels in our cages that we build within our illusion of what and how life should operate.  He is thrilled to have us find pleasure and contentment within our false reality of what satisfies us in our pursuit to fill our needs.  He loves that we are ‘comfortable’ and content in our delusion of living life ‘full’ within his prescription for full.  And he is relentless in his objective to insure that the default program is constantly working inside our operating system to keep us comfortable and content at living life less than at ‘full’ as God designed us to live.  He delights in pushing his gotcha-again button on every occasion that his default system steers us back onto the wheel so that we are once again duped by the influence of the default go-to programming.

As ‘believers’, all of us, get stuck in the default programs loop of deception.   We all have our areas of personal struggle.  The sin nature is at war against us.  It jerks us back and forth inside the loop as it provides its half-full doses of joy and happiness and its doses of pain, sorrow, sadness, and failure.  It loves to push the gotcha-again button and cause us to feel the sorrow and guilt of condemnation. It knows when to inject us with some new placebo that gives us a short term dose of joy, love, gratification.   It works in each one of us the same, but differently.   For each, its objective is to create a customized  illusion to create that ‘just-right’ degree of satisfaction and gratification in our pursuit and seeking to fulfill our needs.   Even our blessings, the warmth of our home, our food, our cars, our toys, our pursuits, interest, hobbies…all of these good things…the default system creates a distorted view as to their value to us that is fashioned to appeal to our need for comfort and gratification.

As believers, it is vital that we know that the sin nature’s primary mission is to do everything in its power to keep us from realizing and achieving God’s design and intention for us to be fully functioning. It seeks to damage our internal ability to have faith, to see faith, and to understand how to operate ‘in faith’.  Ultimately it seeks to keep us from glorifying God and achieving his highest and perfect plan for our lives.

There is a war going-on on planet earth.  The bottom line is eternal life and death.   We are in the battle.   There is the side of light and truth, and there is the dark side.   If we are a believer, we are on the side of light and truth.   The rules of war have allowed the dark side to have the ability to interfere with our ability to become a great and powerful warrior on the side of light and truth.  This ability works at an invisible level under a cloak of deception.  It is so powerful that it can keep us from even realizing we are warrior in a battle.   It can keep us from seeing our destiny, our potential, our high calling to engage in battle.  Mostly it seeks to keep us busy, preoccupied, and content and comfortable ‘so that’ we will not come to life in the ‘full‘.  (end) 😊

Daily Light – March 18, 2019

Con’t from Friday:   Friends:  In early 2017, I wrote a series called ‘Let There Be Light’.  It was the original work, a short series, that was the catalyst for the Daily Light devotional studies.   Chapter II of that original series was “The Default Program”.   I continue to receive regular feedback from people from all walks of life who tell me that reading The Default Program opened their understanding as to the operation and function of the sin nature that dwells inside all human flesh with its purpose to keep non-believers blinded and separated from the light of God…and to keep believers from growing in their relationship with God and becoming all that God desires for them to be as to bearing much fruit.  People share that the information provided in this series helped them to come to a personal relationship with God and has helped them to grow in their relationship with him.   Thus I want to share Chapter II of the series with you over the next 4 days of Daily Light.  I pray that God will use it to give you freedom and power to experience more of His love and purpose for your life ‘so that’ you can have more light to shine His light out into the darkness of the world around you.   🙂 Don Hester

The Default Program (Chapter II – 3 parts)

Identifying and Understanding the Default Program  (Chapter II, Part 3)

We have carefully sought to establish that all men, as a consequence of the ‘fall’, are born with a ‘sin nature’ that is at work inside their body. The ‘sin nature’ is also identified in the bible as the old self, old man, and the flesh.  The sin nature belongs to the realm of evil and is controlled by Satan.  We defined this realm in prior posts as the ‘dominion of darkness’.   Its purpose is to create a false reality, an illusion, to blind the mind ‘so that’ it cannot ‘see’ the truth and light of God.   Its purpose is to keep men in darkness.

II Corinthians 4:4 NIV   “The god (Satan) of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light..”

1 Corinthians 2:14:   The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Romans 8:7-8 NIV   “…because the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so.”

Galatians 5:17-23 NIV “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

The sin nature has such ‘influence’ over the mind that it can create the illusion that the truth of God is foolishness.   It seeks to make the mind hostile to the truth of God.  From the time of our birth, the objective of the sin nature is to set the mind on a path of self-gratification as defined by the sin nature that is in contrast to and in opposition to God’s design and intention as to the ‘truth’ of how we are designed to function in life.  From birth, the default program of the sin nature goes to work to ‘blind’ the mind from ‘truth.

The bible divides all men into two classes.   These classes represent the difference between children of God or children of the devil, spiritual or of the flesh, believers or non-believers.  It defines the difference between actions, behavior, and attitude of the old man and the new man and those that are born of the flesh, or born of the Spirit.

The sin nature has a different agenda as relates to its objective for the two classes.   It uses different approaches and techniques to achieve its purpose within each class.   We will simply refer to the two classes as believers and non-believers.  Most of what we have defined heretofore speaks to the effect of the sin nature as relates to non-believers.  Its primary objective is to keep a non-believer as a non-believer.  To keep him ‘blind’ and in darkness to the light of truth about God.  To keep him from ‘divinely knowing’ God.   The default program of the sin nature literally installs a ‘block’ over the light of ‘truth’.  It is not that non-believers are unwilling to see the light of truth, to see ultimate spiritual reality, or to see God’s highest and best for us.  No.  It is that the effect of the operation of the sin nature literally makes a non-believer ‘unable’ to see, to come to, the light of truth.

Once a person comes to ‘divinely know’ God and belongs to the ‘believer’ class, the sin nature’s focus and objective shifts to a secondary agenda.   That agenda is to keep believers from becoming a ‘mature’ and fully functioning believer within God’s design and intention and plan.   The sin nature, the old self/man, the mind of the flesh, continues to work inside of the mind of a believer to keep them from becoming all they can become as a believer.   The default program of the sin nature uses schemes and tactics within its ability to install and re-play preconceived and erroneous beliefs and limited or false ideas and works to keep its programming as the minds primary ‘default’ go-to program. The default program’s primary mission is to keep the ‘old’ way of thinking and acting as the default go-to in our thinking and decision making process.

The sin nature’s default program, from our birth, works to define the ideas and thinking that drive our activity and our ideas. As an apostle and a ‘believer’, Paul wrote:

Romans 7: 23 NIV   “..but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members…”

The ‘mind’ of the sin nature, is referred to in the New Testament translations as the ‘sinful nature’ and the ‘flesh’. It is best defined in Romans 8:7-8 NIV  “The sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”

The first question of the Westminster Catechism is:   What is the chief end of man?  The answer given is:  The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27 NIV “ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

John 10:10 NIV   “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they you may have life, and have it to the full.”

John 14:27 NIV   “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.”

God’s purpose and intention in creating us is ‘so that’ we can enter into a personal relationship with him ‘so that’ we will glorify him and live our life to the ‘full.” God designed us within our three dimensional capacity of mind, body, spirit, to have the ability to experience ‘life’ within a prescribed order of expression that he defines as ‘full’.  Not half-full or partially full, but ‘full’.  God designed for us to have a ‘full’ body/mind/spirit experiential understanding of love, peace, joy, happiness, and understanding.  He designed us to have an internal hierarchy of needs that causes us to ‘seek’ to fully achieve the highest level of satisfaction and gratification related to his design for the fulfillment and expression of those needs.  God designed what our needs would be and he designed the ‘source and supply’ for how we would fully achieve those.  He wired us to fulfill our needs within his design for fulfillment.   God designed that our ‘needs’ can only be fully realized and experienced  in and through an interactive and dependent relationship with him.   God designed our internal operating system to be connected to his operating system.   God designed that all of our needs to achieve ‘full’ on the satisfaction/gratification reality gauge required our being necessarily dependent on him/God to be source and supply for our needs.   God designed the requirement into our human operating system that we could not achieve ‘full’ status in our joy, peace, love, understanding, without having his provision of source and supply.  God designed our operating software to work in conjunction with his operating software ‘in order’ that the ‘full’ operating objectives and system potential could be realized and achieved.  (conclusion tomorrow)

Daily Light – March 15, 2019

Con’t from yesterday….. 

 Friends:  In early 2017, I wrote a series called ‘Let There Be Light’.  It was the original work, a short series, that was the catalyst for the Daily Light devotional studies.   Chapter II of that original series was “The Default Program”.   I continue to receive regular feedback from people from all walks of life who tell me that reading The Default Program opened their understanding as to the operation and function of the sin nature that dwells inside all human flesh with its purpose to keep non-believers blinded and separated from the light of God…and to keep believers from growing in their relationship with God and becoming all that God desires for them to be as to bearing much fruit.  People share that the information provided in this series helped them to come to a personal relationship with God and has helped them to grow in their relationship with Him.   Thus I want to share Chapter II of the series with you over the next 4 days of Daily Light.  I pray that God will use it to give you freedom and power to experience more of His love and purpose for your life ‘so that’ you can have more light to shine His light out into the darkness of the world around you.   🙂 DH

The Default Program (Chapter II – 3 parts)

Series by Don Hester

The Function of ‘spirit’ (Chapter II – Part 2)

Genesis 1:26, 27 NIV   Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness”….So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.

Job 32:8 NIV   But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.

God created us in ‘his’ image. We are molded in his image.  We have some of what he is inside our being.  We are NOT God.  We cannot become God or a God.   We were designed with a spirit capacity, a spirit system, ‘so that’ we can ‘know’ God at the deepest level of our ability to know.  Humans, within their spirit ability/system, are distinct in all of the created life that lives on planet earth.  We have a spirit.  Animals do not have a spirit.   The primary function of our spirit is to provide ‘awareness’.  I am not speaking about physical/audio/visual awareness in the physical realm dimension.  I am saying ‘awareness’ at the spiritual level.  What is the number one ‘thing’ that you are constantly ‘aware’ of?  What is it?  It is ‘self’.   Self-awareness.  If you are asleep and you wake up, what is the first thing that you are conscious of?  You are ware of ‘you’..that you ‘are’…you are aware of your existence..that you exist.  A monkey is not aware of ‘self’.  It does not contemplate the day of its death.  It does not know its birth date.  It does not know the day of the week.  It does not contemplate its offspring.   It does not plan birthday parties or funerals.  It does not know that it is a monkey.  It has no sense of ‘self’ existence.   It has no sense of objective right and wrong.   It does not have a moral code written in its heart.   Objective self-awareness is a ‘human’ capacity.  Objective right and wrong, understanding, reasoning, are abilities/capacities of our spirit function. As humans, we operate our bodies from our control center which is our organic brain.  Our ‘mind’, the area of will, intellect, and emotion, is not simply a brain function.   Your ‘being’ is your body, mind, and spirit.  You, your being, because you are a human, you are immortal.  Your body will die, but your spirit being, which includes you, your self/mind, is eternal.  (I must inject herein that the most important reality within a person’s existence in this body is to understand that eternal bliss, eternal peace, an eternal ‘heaven’, is not an automatic spiritual destination after our body dies.  The major consequence of the ‘fall’ was that we are cut-off from a relationship with God, now, and for eternity.  There is no bliss, or peace, or heaven without God providing access.  In the future posts on ‘light’, we will provide God’s plan for reconciling us ‘back’ into a relationship with Him and entrance into eternal life.)

So, when we are born, we do not have a fully functioning spirit. We have already explained this in the posts related to the consequences of the ‘fall’.  God designed us in his image..gave us some of what he is…spirit… ‘so that’…we could know him.  For us to ‘know’ him…God’s Spirit has to have contact with, be merged with, our spirit.   His spirit needs to live ‘inside’ our spirit.   When we speak of ‘knowing’ God, we speak of knowing God at the ‘divine’ level of knowing.  Spiritual awareness at the deepest level.  When God’s Spirit merges with man’s spirit, ‘divine knowing’ takes place.

Romans 1:18-23 NIV   “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God or gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

In the verse above, Paul is telling us that ‘everyone’ knows God at a ‘general revelation’ level of awareness.  He is not saying everyone ‘knows God’ at the divine knowing level.  He is saying that everyone has a general awareness of God.   Every person, inside his spirit capacity, ‘knows’ about/recognizes/is aware of ‘God’.  Every person ‘knows’ there is a God.  But Paul says that men ‘suppress this truth’.  Paul says that even though everyone knows there is a God, (general revelation) they do not translate such knowing (general revelation) into coming to divinely know God.  He says they do not ‘glorify’ him as God or give thanks to him.  Romans 1:18-23 says that everyone knows God, but everyone doesn’t know Him personally.

1 Corinthians 1:21 NIV   For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him..

Galatians 4:8 NIV   Formerly, when you did not know God..

1 Thessalonians 4:5 NIV   not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;

1 Corinthians 2:14: The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The three verses immediately above all say that there are people who do not know God. Wait, I’m confused.  Romans 1:18-23 says ‘everyone’ knows God.  The 3 verses above say not everyone knows God.  The difference is knowing at a general revelation knowing within spirit function/awareness, and personal revelation at a divine knowing level within spirit function/awareness.

When the ‘sin’ entity, the principle of sin, entered the human body at the ‘fall’, it brought along its nature. Sin installs its own software operating system that becomes the primary default operating system for man in his fallen state.  The purpose of the default system is to ‘blind’ the mind of man to keep him from ‘seeing’ the glory of God.   It is to keep him from coming to a personal level of knowing God.  It is to keep him from coming to a divine level of knowing God.  And it serves to keep him from gaining access to eternal life in God’s presence.

(In the next post we will look at the principles of illusion that the default system uses to blind us to the truth and light of God.

Daily Light – March 14, 2019

Friends:  In early 2017, I wrote a series called ‘Let There Be Light’.  It was the original work, a short series, that was the catalyst for the Daily Light devotional studies.   Chapter II of that original series was “The Default Program”.   I continue to receive regular feedback from people from all walks of life who tell me that reading The Default Program opened their understanding as to the operation and function of the sin nature that dwells inside all human flesh with its purpose to keep non-believers blinded and separated from the light of God…and to keep believers from growing in their relationship with God and becoming all that God desires for them to be as to bearing much fruit.  People share that the information provided in this series helped them to come to a personal relationship with God and has helped them to grow in their relationship with Him.   Thus I want to share Chapter II of the series with you over the next 4 days of Daily Light.  I pray that God will use it to give you freedom and power to experience more of His love and purpose for your life ‘so that’ you can have more light to shine His light out into the darkness of the world around you.   🙂 DH

The Default Program (Chapter II – 3 parts)

From a series by Don Hester

The Old Man (the old self)  – The Flesh (the Sinful Nature)

Chapter II, Part 1

Romans 7: 23 NIV   “..but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members…”  (Romans 7:7-25, is the larger context related to the ‘internal struggle/war we have with the ‘sin’ entity at work in our body).

Romans 7:5 NIV   “For when we were controlled by the sinful nature…”

Romans 7:18 NIV   “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.”

Romans 7:25 NIV   “…but in the sinful nature (I am) a slave to law of sin.”

Romans 8:7-8 NIV   “…because the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so.”

Ephesians 4:22 NIV   “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;…”

Colossians 3:9 NIV   “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices..”

There is ‘something’ inside us, a law, an entity, a thing with a distinct existence, that is at war against the light and truth of God’s intention and design for how He created us to live/operate. The bible refers to this entity as ‘sin’, the law of sin, the old man, the flesh, and the sinful nature.  Many translations of the New Testament use the ‘sinful nature’ in place of ‘flesh’, and they use the ‘old self’ in place of the ‘old man’.  There are also places in scripture that refer to the old man as the ‘first’ man.  We will reference the understanding of the ‘first’ man in future posts.   I prefer the NIV translation for my personal use and study, thus I will use the NIV translation.

The old self, or the flesh, has a core nature of, or a mind toward, or principle of selfishness.   Its objective is to care for self, even above moral character.   Some translations and teachers in characterizing the essential nature of the old self/flesh/sinful nature use the word ‘carnal’, wherein other translations use the word/term worldly, sinful mind, and sinful nature.  The old self’s primary objective is to achieve and sustain self-gratification.   Its mission is to seek the highest degree of comfort within its hierarchy of felt needs.  It is presented within the context of scripture as being a force and power with intention and purpose to please self above all other things.  It works to influence the mind/will to achieve its ultimate outcome of self-gratification without regard for and in contrast to the existence of God’s intention and design for how we are to think, live, and have our being.

2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV “The god (not God the Creator) of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”

So the essential function of the sin nature that resides in our flesh is to keep us from ‘seeing’. Seeing what?  It is to keep us from seeing, from coming to a personal revelation of, from coming to a personal knowledge of God and a personal relationship with God.  Let me use my analogy of the default program software.  The default programs’ purpose is to ‘blind’ us, keep us from seeing the light of truth about God.  So it is not that non-believers are not ‘willing’ to see the light of truth about God…it is that they are ‘unable’…they are blind.

Let us regress a bit in order to provide further understanding. Let’s reiterate the consequences of the ‘fall’. In Adam, we inherited the sin nature.  It resides in us.   We are born with the default program software installed inside our mind from the time of our birth.   We are also born without a personal knowledge of God, because we were cut-off from God. Post Adam we cannot know God at an intimate personal awareness level.   We can know about Him like we know about all other things, but we are not born with a personal level awareness of Him.   Why can’t we in our fallen state ‘know’ God?  Knowing God is a spirit level ability.  At the ‘fall’ man’s spiritual capacity was damaged as a consequence of sin…it was thus greatly diminished in its intended function, purpose, and capacity…which by creation and intention…was to know God.   Man could no longer ‘know’ God because such ‘knowing’ occurs at the spiritual level where God’s spirit and man’s spirit are connected.  This ‘divine’ connection is where ‘divine’ revelation occurs.  The consequence of sin coming into the world…broke the connection.

Man has a spirit. God is spirit.   Human beings are distinct in all of creation ‘in that’ we were created with a ‘spirit’.  I am not saying we are a spirit.  I am saying we have a spirit inside our being.  We have a spirit capacity.  Think of it as a compartment or think of it as a ‘system’ like the respiratory system, the neuro system, the digestive system.  Our systems have purpose and function.  Think of the spirit as our spiritual system. But the spirit does not belong to our organic realm.  It is of spirit essence and belongs to the invisible realm of the spiritual realm.

Genesis 2:7 NIV   “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.”    Job 32:8 NIV   “But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.”  Proverbs 20:27 NIV   “The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being.”  Ecclesiastes 12:7 NIV   “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”   I Corinthians 2:11 NIV   “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?”  2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV   “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  1 Thessalonians 5:23 NIV  “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

John 4:24 NIV   Jesus says “God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

God is spirit. In John 4:24, there is no article in the Greek text before the word spirit, and such is to emphasize the essential quality or essence of the word.  Note the word spirit occurs first in the sentence to create such essence.  A literal expression of the intent of the verse would be akin to, “In the purest since of His existence as a being..God is spirit.” Jesus had intention in saying…” God is spirit!”

But a spirit is also a person, not an impersonal force which acts without purpose or reason. Only a ‘person’ has awareness, knowledge, beliefs, intents, goals, relationships.  An impersonal force or principle has none of these. God possesses the basic characteristics of personality—intellect, emotions, and will. He thinks, He feels, and He acts. And that is good news. Because He is a living person we can get to know Him personally and communicate with Him freely. If He were an inanimate object or an impersonal force there would be no hope of a personal relationship with Him. (con’t tomorrow 🙂)

Daily Light – March 13, 2019

Lord, All I Have is Yours

(Article by Jon Bloom, staff writer, desiringGod.org)

Jesus’s encounter with the rich young man has always unsettled me. I’m an American. I’m as middle-class as Americans go, which means I live in a level of affluence and abundance unknown by most of my co-inhabitants of this world today, and by a far, far lower percentage of people in history. In global and historical terms, I am that man.

The most disturbing thing about the young man is that he seemed so familiar with his affluence-shaped religious and cultural assumptions that he didn’t realize how out of touch with spiritual reality he was. I doubt that many around him discerned how out of touch he was. From the very brief glimpses of him we catch in the synoptics, and by Jesus’s response to him in Mark’s account, this man doesn’t seem to match the arrogant rich oppressor we envision when we read James 5:4–6. Those around him might have assumed his prosperity was God’s affirmative blessing.

After all, this man was spiritually earnest — running to Jesus and kneeling before him to ask him if there was more he needed to do to be saved (Mark 10:17). He had all the appearance of piety — having kept (or believed he did) the commandments Jesus listed since he was young (Mark 10:19–20). And he was sincere — Mark records that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (Mark 10:21). He was all these things, yet he lacked the kind of faith that saves.

Spiritually earnest, sincere, apparently pious — perhaps more than most around him. Isn’t that what faith looks like? No, not necessarily. Faith looks like trusting. And when it comes to what we really believe, trusting looks like treasuring. For when it’s all on the line for us, we always trust in what we truly treasure.

Show Me What I Trust

The most loving thing Jesus could do for this earnest, sincere young man was show him the god he trusted: “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). Then the man saw his real god, and he walked away from Jesus’s incredible invitation “sorrowful.” Why? “He had great possessions”(Mark 10:22). This led to Jesus’s devastating observation:

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! . . . It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23–25)

When it was all on the line for the young man, he trusted his wealth, his possessions, more than God. His wealth was his god, and that kept him from entering the kingdom. The thing is, he didn’t see this until he really had to choose.

Do you find that disconcerting? The disciples did: “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:26). As an affluent American living in the midst of unprecedented historical abundance, I do. I don’t trust my faith self-assessment (1 Corinthians 4:3). I can trust only God’s assessment (1 Corinthians 4:4). And since faith is really proven genuine only when it is tried (1 Peter 1:6–7James 1:2–42 Corinthians 13:5), we must be willing, like the young man, to say to Jesus,

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23–24)

And if Jesus doesn’t call us to leave our abundance, but to continue living faithfully in it — if we are to really trust God and not our abundance — then we need the faith to abound.

Faith to Abound

Paul said he had learned to be content in whatever situation he found himself:

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12–13)

If given the choice, most of us likely would prefer to be given the faith to abound rather than the faith to be brought low. I think that’s because we aren’t fully cognizant of the dangerous nature of material prosperity. Paul meant it when he said it requires God’s strength to “face plenty.”

“Abundance” (prosperity) and “need” (scarcity) are very different circumstances. They both require faith in order to handle them in ways that glorify God. But they demand the exercising of different sets of faith muscles. Scarcity requires faith muscles for trusting God in a place of needy desperation. Prosperity requires faith muscles for trusting God in place of bountiful material security.

Exercising faith in scarcity is not easy by any means. Most of us fear scarcity more than prosperity because the threat is clearly seen. But ironically, that’s one reason it can be easier to exercise faith in scarcity than in prosperity. Because in scarcity, our need is clear and our options are typically few. We feel desperate for God to provide for us and so we are driven to seek him — to exercise our faith.

But exercising faith in prosperity is different. It’s a more complex and deceptive spiritual and psychological environment. It requires that we truly trust — truly treasure — God when we don’t feel desperate for his provision, when we feel materially secure, when nothing external is demanding that we feel urgency. When we have lots of options that look innocuous and we can spend precious time and money on all sorts of pursuits and enjoyments. This environment is so dangerous that Jesus warns it is harder for people in it to enter God’s kingdom than for a camel to climb through the eye of a needle. Test yourself. When have you sought God most earnestly: in need or abundance?

When God Is Our Option

Christians have always found it harder to voluntarily give away security than to desperately plead for it. It requires different faith muscles to trust God in divesting ourselves of prosperity for his sake than to trust God to meet our scarcity for his sake. In some ways, it takes greater faith to trust God when you have other options than when he is our only option.

That’s why the laborers are so few when the harvest is so plenty (Luke 10:2). Few want to face worldly need in order to experience kingdom plenty. It makes the kind of faith that saints like George Müller and Hudson Taylor exercised so remarkable.

Yes, they trusted in God in scarcity. But what made this all the more remarkable was that they could have raised money in other legitimate ways to support their work and avoid many of those needy moments. But they voluntarily chose (which is different from being circumstantially forced) to place themselves in a position of desperation to demonstrate that God exists and rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). They, like Paul, learned the secret of facing abundance and need: fully trusting God, their Treasure.

Whatever It Takes

We Christians who live in abundance need to heed the story of the rich young man. We need him to unnerve us. For the whole history of the church bears witness to the general trend that the wealthier she grows, the more corrupt, indulgent, and apathetic she grows. And the less urgent over lost souls she feels. It’s harder for people in our environment to be real Christians than for camels to pass through a needle’s eye.

But Jesus does not leave us without great hope. He announces, “With man [handling material abundance faithfully] is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). So, let us run to Jesus — who has power to do what is impossible for us — kneel before him, and plead:

Whatever it takes, Lord, help me to truly trust you as my greatest treasure. I would rather lose my material security and gain the kingdom than gain the world and lose my soul. All I have is yours — my life, my family, my time, my money, my possessions, my future — and I will steward them as you wish, even if it means losing them (Philippians 3:8). And I invite you to search my heart and put my faith to the test.

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by SightThings Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities.