26 Aug

Jesus As God (From The Old Testament)

I talk with Jehovah’s Witnesses when they come knocking. We also have some Unitarians who attend the Christian school where I teach (I teach Science, Bible, and Electronics at a high school level). These families do not sign our trinitarian Statement of Faith, though they are some of the loveliest people you might ever meet. Combined with a growing knowledge and desire to live the Christian life, and to worship God, from a trinitarian perspective, these things lead me to spend a lot of time meditating on the Trinity and on scriptural proofs that the Trinity is an accurate representation of God.

 

I want to share with you, and explain the significance of, two Old Testament passages mentioning YHWH (the name of God in Hebrew, pronounced Yahweh). These two passages are referred to by the New Testament writers and used by them to identify Jesus as YHWH. YHWH is usually translated in smaller sized capitals, LORD, so that the reader does not make the same association as the word Lord (without the extra capital letters).

 

I will attempt to clearly show that the biblical Christian God with the name YHWH is the same as the person Jesus. This will demonstrate that Jesus is indeed the divine God, an essential building block toward the full doctrine of the Trinity.

 

Giving credit where it is due, I have heard these two links in several places but the most recent, and clearly presented, was from Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. I thoroughly recommend regular watching of his Dividing Line webcast to keep in touch with what is happening in the apologetics scene and to keep sharp with your own arguments.

 

First, let us take a look at Psalm 102 and I am considering verses 18 to 27:

 

“18  Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD: 19  that he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the LORD looked at the earth, 20  to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die, 21  that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise, 22  when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.

23  He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days. 24  “O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days — you whose years endure throughout all generations!”

25  Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26  They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27  but you are the same, and your years have no end.”

 

The key thing to note here is that the context is clearly about God and His eternality. YHWH, the LORD (verses 18, 19, 21, 22), is referred to as He (verse 23), God (verse 24) and “you” (verses 24 to 27). To emphasise the point, the LORD is the person from verse 27 of who it is said, “you are the same, and your years have no end.”

 

Now we turn to Hebrews chapter 1 in the New Testament, and we consider verses 8 to 12:

 

“8 But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

10 And,

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11  they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12  like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”“

 

Verse 12 in Hebrews chapter 1 is quoted from Psalm 102. I have included from verse 8 immediately above because you should be able to see, quite clearly, that the Son is being spoken of, in these verses from Hebrews chapter 1, saying that his years will have no end. Hebrews chapter 2 identifies the Son from chapter 1 as Jesus. So we can see that Jesus is YHWH.

 

Where this text from Psalm 102 is stronger than the previously mentioned “God” in Hebrews 1:8, is that Jesus is not just called God. Jesus is also called YHWH. There are a few rare uses of the word god which are not applied to YHWH, and context must determine whether the God or god is YHWH or not. Context is usually clear enough but, by using the stronger link to divinity of the name YHWH/LORD, we demonstrate a clearer understanding from Scripture that Jesus is divine.

 

Our second Old Testament passage is from Isaiah chapter 6. Consider verses 1 to 5:

 

“1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory!”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”“

 

Once again, we see the name LORD used to describe the person who Isaiah saw, not in verse 1 but in verse 3. This is straightforward, so we’ll jump quickly into John chapter 12 to compare. Consider verses 36 to 43:

 

“36 When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,

and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

40  “He has blinded their eyes

and hardened their heart,

lest they see with their eyes,

and understand with their heart, and turn,

and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

 

Verse 36 establishes that this section is talking about Jesus. If you follow the section down to verse 41, you can see that Isaiah saw “his” glory and spoke of him. Again, to emphasise the obvious, Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of him. This is a clear link to the passage from Isaiah chapter 6, where Isaiah saw the LORD (YHWH). The verse from John above which directly quotes Isaiah (verse 40) is taken from the same chapter in Isaiah when Isaiah saw YHWH (Isaiah 6:10).

 

These two Old Testament links to Jesus as the divine LORD, or YHWH, are very strong. I haven’t heard anything remotely solid that addresses this particular defense of Jesus as fully God. If you do hear of, or know one, please let me know. Otherwise, may these words be a blessing to you, a strengthening to your faith in Jesus, and a useful tool for your defense of the true Christ – the only one who is able to save.

 

God bless

Sam

 

21 Nov

Who Goes To Heaven? by Sam Hight

It bothers me. A famous person dies. While they are not known for their Christianity, they may have made a significant contribution to their local community, or even the world, and everyone of faith is so eager to support the notion that they have gone to heaven. Sure, they may even have contributed a great deal to curing cancer for small children, but how do you make any sort of judgement either way? What actually gets a person into heaven?

We could take a look at certain aspects of their life. Every few years they divorce and remarry, they make foolish sounding boasts in the media about ridiculous goals which they are most definitely not going to achieve. They join religious groups which are known for weird practices… Yet they are known for having a vague sort of faith and that seems to be enough in the eyes of the adoring masses.

Is it enough to just have faith? Is it fair to judge, even hesitantly, based on media reports alone?

Now look, it seems obvious to me that the details of the paragraph above are fairly indicative. This does not sound like a born again believer to me. It doesn’t sound like a person who was saved and is being discipled towards being more like Jesus.

Granted, you can never know for sure, and who knows what has run through a person’s mind immediately prior to death. However, we know that the number one purpose of salvation is to glorify God. That’s why he saves us. He saves us to show his saving power and his character in forming a people who will represent that character faithfully.

The mark of a person who is saved is their growth in Christ-likeness, their practice of righteousness which trains them to become more holy. If that doesn’t come through in their life it is highly unlikely that they have the Spirit at work within them. It is unlikely that they are saved.

Yet again, that is ultimately God’s domain so I won’t go quite so far as to undercut all hope. But there isn’t much. Seriously.

I don’t believe that true deathbed conversions are common or reliable for the same reasons. God wishes to show his glory by changing people – not just by ticking up numbers for the kingdom.

I urge you to look at the fruit of a person’s life by the standard that scripture sets. I urge you to look at the things that a person is known for believing.

If the Spirit of truth is teaching them and revealing truth to them, if he is growing godly character in them, then you can have a measure of certainty. But at the same time, we can’t make an absolute call in this direction either. It’s a matter of confidence and a weight of evidence.

Consider these scriptures:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (Galatians 5:19-24 ESV)

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)

I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. (1 Chronicles 29:17 ESV)

May God bless your thinking on this matter.

Sam

 

25 Oct

The Sovereignty of God in Creation, Revelation, Redemption, and Final Judgement by Sam Hight

This is a devotion I presented to my colleagues at Hamilton Christian School expounding the second point in our statement of faith. It was well received by staff and again with students later, so I thought I would share it here also. I pray it is edifying to your soul.

Traditionally, when we come into the presence of a King, we must be on our best behaviour. If we offend the King, he has authority and power to have us beheaded! If we travelled to a far away country, ruled by a monarch, we become subject to his rules as soon as we cross the border and enter his land. This is the sovereignty of a ruler: to have ruling authority and power over his dominion.
Now, the sovereignty of God is not limited the way it is for a mere man. God’s sovereignty is perfect and absolute. There is no sneaky revolt or resistance against God. You cannot overthrow the rule of the King of the universe.
Creation, revelation, redemption, and final judgement. God rules over these things perfectly, and accomplishes his purposes perfectly. 

God’s sovereignty in creation is expressed in his totally free choice whether to create or not. Nobody existed in eternity past to persuade him to create. He did not need to create as he is totally self-sufficient within his own triune being. It is ultimately a mystery to us why he did choose to make the universe, but we do know that his creation exists to glorify himself, and that the fall of all creation was no surprise to him but is a part of his perfect purpose in glorifying himself.

All this talk of self-glory sounds awfully arrogant and lacking of humility to our human ears, but God is right to seek his own glory because he is God! He rightly loves himself the most, and gains the most joy out of loving himself perfectly within his triunity… I wish we could even begin to comprehend what that looks like!

God’s sovereignty in revelation is shown in his totally free choice to reveal truth to humanity. This is not only the special truth of his personal self and the gospel in the Bible, but is general truth as seen in the natural order of things too. The Spirit of God is active in a more personal sense also, revealing himself to each of us who believe through his word. God would have been well within his rights to leave us ignorant of any truth, fumbling around in existence without a clue about the difference between our back and our front… Yet he goes so far to bless us with the wonderful knowledge of himself!

God’s sovereignty in redemption is shown in his totally free choice to save us from our sin by sending Jesus. This is closely linked with his free choice to judge sinful humanity and justly punish all that offends him. God freely chose to create hell, as the deserving punishment for sin and the necessary consequence of his free choice to allow the fall to happen. He freely chose to take the weight of hell upon himself in Christ, his Son. This was an uncoerced deed expressing absolute love and glory for God in:

  1. His ordaining this plan through the Father 
  2. Carrying it out in obedience through the Son, and  
  3. Effectually applying it to those who are born again through the power of the Spirit.  

God’s love for us, even in salvation, is firstly love for himself, as all expression of our love for others should be too. We love because he first loved us and loving him can’t help but lead to loving our neighbour.

Finally, why is this in a statement of faith that separates us from the world and from liberal forms of so-called faith? Because this foundational knowledge of God is essential to everything we should seek to do in life. There is no purpose in serving ourselves or some godless philosophy. Ours is a life of joyful service to our sovereign and most worthy ruler, the eternal King Jehovah.

09 Oct

Exploring the Concept of Free Will by Sam Hight

We live right on top of a railway line. Trains rumble by at all hours of the day. You don’t hear them pass so much as you feel the ground shake and shudder. Trains are massive monsters of metal, marvels of engineering, unstoppable in their mission along the tracks.

Imagine walking on to the track and trying to derail the train by the strength of your body alone. Even charging into it with all your might you will not succeed!

The train’s path is God’s free will to follow the direction he chooses. Your life is lived on the tracks. Your will can’t hope to change the path of the train, but you can choose to throw yourself against the train, even if it is futile and foolish to do so. The only wise approach is to get on the train and go in the same direction as God.

People have serious problems accepting their lack of ability to govern their own life and eternity. The ultimate lack of our free will is in the fact that, if we don’t do what God commands in this life, he will punish us forever in hell. There is no freedom to opt in or out of this plan of action.

Doesn’t that make the question of our freedom to choose salvation a bit pointless? We should be throwing ourselves at the feet of God, clinging to Christ as our only hope in life and death, not debating whether our choice is genuinely free or not! Why would anyone want the freedom to choose anything less than salvation anyway? Why would anyone feel less than complete love and gratitude toward the One who says he will not reject anyone who comes to him (John 6:37)?

Only the person who doesn’t really believe in God, or want to believe in God, will find serious enough issue to make it a deal breaker.

There is an incredible amount of ongoing controversy within Christian circles about ‘free will’. This is also true, but perhaps to a lesser extent within secular circles. Nothing seems to prompt more arguments and misunderstandings, and even divisions, within the church.

The discussion and debate is often centered around whether we have free will to choose God or not. In teaching about this and in discussion with random people on the street, there is an assumed notion that we all have free will. That God has given us this wonderful gift.

I want to submit the controversial ideas that

  1. free will is not taught in scripture (though we are commanded to make choices for which we are still responsible for the consequences)
  2. free will is a foolish idea at best and an idol at worst, and
  3. free will is never actually possible for us anyway!

We shouldn’t confuse religious freedoms with freedom of will in Christian salvation. One is granted by government or constitution to worship whatever god or non-god we choose, the other is a decision that is made for us when God causes us to be born again (or leaves us to perish in our sinfulness). There is no coercion with God, he just makes you see that there is no other way!

No matter who you are, your choices are subject to your preferences, passions, and constitution. Whether by nature or nurture, you can’t make a decision without it coming from some prior cause that has made you want to choose that way. God is not bound by a prior cause to choose one way or the other. This is what makes him who he is. This is amazing. God is extraordinary! Just as God has existence that does not depend on anything external, his choices do not depend on anything external. Our decisions do, and scripture is clear that nobody has the ability to see the truth of salvation unless God gives them his Spirit (1 Cor 2:10-14).

Some questions for both sides of the debate to consider:

If you believe that we have free will, particularly in salvation, does that leave us room to boast that we are smarter or wiser than the person who doesn’t choose salvation? Does that then contradict Ephesians 2:8-9?

If you believe that we don’t have free will in salvation, does that make us robots who are unable to love God truly? Love must be freely given, says the assumption, or it’s not truly love – is this correct? I don’t think so, but that’s a discussion for another time.

We have to be careful not to put human philosophies into the mix. We have to be careful to hold as true all of the truth that the Bible declares. If these truths seem to conflict, then we must admit our inability to see things as God sees things, we must trust the amazing parts that we can understand and transfer this same trust to the parts that don’t work in our tiny brains.

The Bible says that we must make decisions and that we are responsible for those decisions (Deuteronomy 30:19). The Bible also says that we are subject to the will of our maker, that we have lots of plans that won’t come to pass because God has his own plans for us (Proverbs 19:21).

Some might say that using mystery is a cop-out, that if we can’t make sense of it then it is nonsense. I believe that the parts we can understand earns more than enough trust for the difficult parts. I believe it is foolish to think that we can understand God completely, because then we would be God. God is a mystery in his fullness. We can only understand parts and aspects of him as he has revealed himself to us.

Consider the Trinity: Can you split infinity into two or three and have less than infinity for each of the three? No. In the same way, God is triune, three persons, but one being. God is not split in such a way to be separate from the other persons though. This is a mystery and we are rising above ourselves to claim to form an understandable version of God. This is where Unitarians on one end and Mormons on the other go wrong – they are trying to form an understandable version of God that fits into human categories. God is both three and one, not just one or just three.

The idol of free will is that we think we can understand God in a way that he hasn’t revealed himself to us. We think that we have more power than we do, to choose, and God has less power than he does. It is also that we want to rebel and have freedom of choice which is something only reserved for God. We do not want to acknowledge that we are merely vessels, made by God for a purpose, and subject to his decision about whether we will be used for honourable or for dishonourable use (Rom 9:21-23).

Here is a final perspective. God has made all people to glorify him. Some will glorify his mercy and grace through forgiveness of sin in Christ and the resulting eternal life. The rest will glorify him through the justice seen in eternal punishment. It was God’s will to make it this way. Whatever your feelings on the matter, it is best to cling to Christ, as the only hope and saviour, for eternal life. Choose life today!

There are many unasked questions on this topic. Feel free to ask the in the comments or on Facebook, I’d love to dialogue further!

 

24 Dec

Self Control – The Neglected Fruit Of The Spirit by Sam Hight

I’ll keep this brief. There is a huge problem in many Christian circles. We are severely lacking in self-control, one of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians chapter 5. We see a lot of love, joy, patience, kindness, and more, but not so much self-control. As a result, we don’t see as much personal holiness as we should either.

I won’t go into whether that is a sign of absent salvation or not, but that is something you might like to think about for yourself. You should see more self-control in your life as the years pass if you have the Spirit of salvation growing fruit in your life.

What we should see is a greater ability not to give in to temptations. It might not be easier, but we should be giving in to the lusts of the flesh less and less. You know what your particular weaknesses are: pornography, speaking untruths, gluttony, giving in to fits of anger, putting yourself above others in your opinion of who is better, being wise in your own eyes, etc.

We should see more encouragement between saints to be holy as He is holy. We should be unashamed of our weaknesses and trusting one another to remind us and strengthen our resolve to overcome.

When was the last time you were encouraged to aim for holiness and blamelessness from the pulpit of your church? When was the last time you opened up to someone trustworthy about the struggles you were facing that week and sought their prayers for your deliverance? When was the last time you heard about someone being asked to leave your church for denying their sin and failing to repent? When was the last time you heard someone taking sin seriously enough to risk embarrassment by confessing their weakness?

I want to list some ideas to think about for fixing this awful state of Christianity, but before getting to that there must be an acceptance of the problem. Take a moment to search your heart… Do you lack in discipline and holiness? Is there a culture of self-discipline and encouragement of holiness in your church? Your family? Your relationship with your spouse?

I urge you, nay plead with you: Please be prayerful and honest before your God in this, and remember that there is mercy and grace to be had for our failings.

Consider these as possible parts to the solution:

1. Get clear on the importance of self-control and personal discipline in personal and communal holiness.
2. Encourage one another in holiness (identify where we are lacking, praise the good done, lead in positive ways by example)
3. Raise the profile and practice of spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, scripture memory, prayer, fasting, etc.)
4. Engage your brain in worship more. The emotions need to be informed more by the truth of Christ in this age of sensuality and emotionalism. We need to worship in specific truths about who God is and what he has done to save us from our sin and not just “the truth” in general as a vague notion. The enemy of holiness is our fallen human instinct which is sensuality and over-emotionalism.
5. Discipline is difficult. We need to make it easier on ourselves by having greater structure in our lives so that we live by the structure without having to exert ourselves mentally every time a situation pops up which tests us. We must be willing to bend our lives around self-discipline and not make our self-discipline something flexible that shifts to suit our lives. Our lives are not our own anyway: we should serve Christ our Lord, not run around expecting him to serve us at every whim of fleshly desire.
6. Pray, pray, pray!
7. Talk about this with your church leaders.

I hope and pray that this leads to further holiness and self-control in your life. If you are not a Christian I hope that you will see your own lack of holiness and your need for the power of God to save you from the consequences of your sin. Hell is real. I hope that some would even receive greater assurance of their salvation through reading this.

May God bless your pursuit of holiness!

07 Oct

Preaching To My Two Year Old by Sam Hight

“35 Jesus wept” – John 11:35 (ESV)

We’ve begun experimenting with scripture memorisation for April (2 years old). She learns many words and phrases from us so we thought that this would not be an impossible task. Even so, we decided to start with the shortest verse in the Bible.

It’s not a perfect process by a long shot, but that’s not the point. It’s the spiritual discipline of scripture memorisation which we want her to develop.

When April quotes this verse she doesn’t quote the chapter and verse. We’ll keep working on that but larger numbers are not very consistent for her yet. She also says, “Jesus wet,” which isn’t really too far off since she knows that weeping is crying and crying is a wet process. I doubt it is deliberate interpretation at this stage but it is very cute.

This morning April was sitting on my knee while I was reading my Bible. I thought I would show her the verse in the book so she could see that it came from God and not just from mum and dad.

Our children see us reading a fair bit. They know the words are the important bit and that we can read words from a book or from a screen and they are just as important. But the Bible has a special significance, whether electronic or paper, and our children know this too.

As we read the two words of April’s memory verse, I was struck by how much text was on the screen and I considered what a two year old would notice when they looked at the jumble of words. Too many words for a child who has to consider each letter carefully to decipher them one a a time – very overwhelming.

I decided that an explanation of the verse was called for instead of just marveling at words and letters.

I started with a question, “April, do you know why Jesus was crying?”

“No, papa.”

“Jesus was crying because his friend had died.”

No point in sugar coating it, I thought, but that’s not something she could comprehend yet… How to communicate this concept to a small child.

“That means his friend had gone away for a long time and Jesus wouldn’t see him any more. Jesus would really miss his friend. It’s like when you and papa visit Queenie and Rangi and we start to miss mamma.

Jesus was really missing his friend so he wept.

But Jesus is special so he made his friend come back.

When you and papa are away we can’t make mama just come back. We have to get in the car and drive all the way to her. Jesus can just make mama to be there with us so we don’t miss her any more.”

I watched her thoughtful two year old expression for a few seconds…

And then her attention span was at an end and she slipped off my lap and went to dance to the music playing in the background.

If I had the attention of little April for longer I would like to have shown her how she can ask Jesus to fix things that upset her. Or to make her feel better when things can’t be fixed.

Any opportunity to show the character of God to my children, even on a very simple level like this, is well worth the time spent. We parents must constantly be on the look out for opportunities to glorify God before our children. Some are obvious like this, but some are not so obvious such as keeping cool when something goes wrong or frustrations mount up.

I’m certain that most of what I said went over her head, but this is a message we will come back to regularly with April. Just like adults, children need to hear things over and over before they stick. I think it’s important to note that God’s word won’t return empty as it will accomplish what he sets for it to do (Isaiah 55:10-11). This applies for children or for adults, even if it might seem a little silly to speak about such deep concepts with children.

It is always worth it to speak holy truth to our children. Always. I can also testify that it is such a rewarding feeling if children hear something from the Bible which makes them happy. The caution then is to not just stay within the happy parts of scripture like blessing, mercy and love. Death, sin and judgement are also important, but at the right time.

Please feel free to share your experiences with teaching God’s word to your children. God bless.

05 Jul

Extended Scripture Memorisation Experiment by Sam Hight

For the past two and a half months I have been trialling the memorisation of larger chunks of the Bible. I have successfully memorised the book of Jude (25 verses) and the first two chapters of 1st John (39 verses) and will continue the practice as long as my life (God willing).

I’m not sharing this to brag. I’m sharing this because I think pretty much anyone is capable of doing this and it is a given that such memorisation is good for your spiritual development.

I’ve had a number of obstacles through this process which have made it a challenge to keep up the practice, but despite these it has proven surprisingly easy. If you are similarly challenged I want to encourage you that you can do this still, and if you are not facing similar obstacles then you have no excuse at all.

Some Of My Obstacles (And Why They Should Not Stop You)

Time – this must take a while to work on right? Actually, it takes about five to ten minutes in the morning over breakfast in my modified version, and a few minutes scattered here and there through the day to check and correct what I learned in the morning. The long part is daily reciting the whole of what I’ve already learned (developing long term retention) but this I do while driving or riding to and from work, or while spending a few moments with my eldest daughter while putting her to bed (she asks, “Papa lie on the floor?” and I quote about 30 verses)

Tiredness – This can be hard to overcome and takes a little persistence. However, if I keep in mind that the method will definitely work, even through the foggy-tired-brain of a father of sleepless young children, I do manage to stay positive during the practice until each part is successfully completed. Because the method is basically repetition it is almost a mindless process anyway. It tends to go faster if the mind is engaged, but it can definitely be done under less than ideal mental conditions.

Distractions – similar to tiredness, distractions require some persistence to overcome. This is not because of the interruptions to the memorisation process, which you just make time for when there are no distractions around (get up a little earlier or go to bed a little later – when all of the distractions/children are asleep). This is more an issue of an overworked or divided mind which refuses to focus on the task at hand. Once again, trusting the process and committing to completing the verse repetitions is all that is required.

Really, all hurdles to completing such a beneficial practice for your spiritual walk will be overcome if you just commit to doing it, and trust God to make it happen. You will always find a way through if you are serious about making the effort. I hope I have inspired you to make the effort!

Resources:
Extended Scripture Memorization by Dr. Andrew Davis (free PDF or for purchase on Amazon)
Video of me showing how to do the daily memorisation, minus the extended quoting of the entire previously memorised section:


Video of me quoting the book of Jude:

15 Jan

Made In The Image Of God by Sam Hight

When challenging ourselves to treat others with love and respect, it can be difficult to see anything worth loving and respecting in them. Drug dealers, dole bludgers, disobedient kids, and disabled people (who may seem like a drain on society).

It is easy to put yourself above these others because you have no illegal addiction, work for your livelihood, obey the rules, and contribute more than you take. But these things are very minor, vanishingly minor even, compared to the one thing which gives each of us our surpassing worth.

You, me, and everyone who makes you grind your teeth in “righteous” anger at their worthlessness – we are all made by God and made in his image. Being an image bearer of the God of the Universe is a crown of high royal standing and worthy of love and respect. This is true even if those people are not living up to the standard for which they were created. Mistreat royalty, even if they mistreat you first, and it is “off with your head”.

I want to say it again because it is so important that you understand this: Our worth comes from our relationship to God. He made all of us. Our actions don’t really reflect our worth because we all fail to live up to that high, high standard which our Creator has set for us.

A quick note on love: love is not always a feeling, and that is true most especially in this case. Love is committing to do what is caring for another’s wellbeing and reputation, and honouring their inherent value through actions. The feelings tend to follow in any case. Sometimes it is hard to feel love for certain of your family members but you do the loving thing anyway. It’s not such a huge step to love your enemies from there. It is often those closest to you, who you love the most, who will wound you the worst anyway!

A quick question: We can see now (hopefully) that everyone is worthy of your loving kindness, but are you truly living up to the value of your own royal worth? How can you know? What can you do if you are failing in this?

You can only know what is expected of you by reading the instructions from your Creator and following them as best you can. Read your Bible for the details but here is the essence of those instructions:

You are expected to be perfect in pleasing your Creator. That is what he made you for. Nobody has lived up to that level of worth and we are all guilty of undervaluing ourselves and others. This is such a wicked crime because it means we are undervaluing the One who made us and stamped his image on us. We have failed to please God by our actions and attitudes towards each other and towards God.

But God is merciful and made a way for us to be forgiven and to be restored to the function for which he made us. Rather than take our own deserving punishment in hell, God’s son Jesus will take it for us on the cross if we turn to him and follow his way of living. This will begin a personal transformation toward purity which will continue through this life. And when Jesus returns at the end of the age we will complete that transformation and we will be perfectly pleasing to the Lord. We will never again undervalue him or his image.

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08 Jan

Set Your Mind On Things That Are Above by Sam Hight

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” – Colossians 3:2

It’s hard to believe that every Christian can feel as Paul the Apostle did when he said that he was the chief of sinners. He was responsible for the death of many genuine and godly believers in Jesus, and had made it his mission to quash Christianity completely. Yet I can tell you that it is not only our actions but our thoughts which condemn us, and this raises each of us to the level of the worst sinner ever.

Jesus was clear on this in the Sermon on the Mount when he raised lust and anger to the level of adultery and murder. The thoughts of your mind are exceedingly sinful when they are set on the wrong things.

I think we all know enough to be able to tell when something is bad in our mind, but often these things occur to us without any conscious ability to control them popping into our awareness. The first appearance of wicked thoughts is not sin, but it is a sign of our sinful nature. It is sin when you set your mind on them, that is, when you think them again because you are dwelling on them, when you linger a little longer on these hellish thoughts than you should.

As fast as you can you need to set your mind on things that are above – godly things – and not hide these sinful ideas inside yourself and nourish them and grow their power over you.

I’m not going to mention specific thoughts and ideas of evil, for a number of reasons which I won’t go into here, but the general terms for these things are commonly mentioned in the Bible:

“sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” – Galatians 5:19-21

I’ve been a Christian for 15 years, since I was 18 years old. During this time I have been fighting sin in my life in thought, word, and deed. I’m far from perfect, but by the grace of God I have continued to grow in holiness and purity of mind. However, just a few years of setting my mind on things that are on earth – doing all that I wanted to fulfil my earthly desires without restraint (except for the restraining notion of the shame of being found out as a terribly wicked person); these few years of practising evil and thinking about evil things have continued to be a burden as I’ve tried to practise holiness.

15 years in the pursuit of holiness and I am still worn down by the wickedness of my mind to suggest evil things. Just a few years of unrestrained evil during my teenage years has set a pattern of thinking which, while thankfully reducing every year, will be with me until I die or until Jesus returns.

It is so vital that we encourage young boys and girls to set their mind on things that are above from an early age so that they are not worn down by the battle against themselves when they are adults. This is in part so that they can spend more of their energy building the Kingdom externally amongst God’s people rather than internally inside themselves.

Now, some might object that these thoughts are not really that bad, that they are definitely not as bad as carrying out the acts for real. That may be true because you are not involving anyone else in your sin, causing them to participate in the actions which you think about. However, we have seen from Jesus that a thought is as good as a deed at condemning you to hell, so there must be a little more to it.

I think that this is because the gravity of a crime is determined by who that crime is committed against. And all sin is against God, who created us for a holy purpose which we deny and corrupt by our evil thoughts and actions. As far as God is concerned, since he sees the thoughts and intentions of our hearts as clearly as he sees our actions, there is no difference.

Others might object that such thoughts are more than humans are capable of thinking for themselves and that it must be devils putting them into their mind. Again, there is an element of truth to this objection, that Satan can have enormous power over people to suggest such things, but you must not underestimate the creative imaginations of humans to come up with wildly wicked ideas.

God has intended our intelligence and our creativity for good, but we continually use them for bad. And that is why we must set our mind on the things that are above, because in doing so we train our conscious and our subconscious to dwell on holy things. This way, we will find that less evil thoughts from the back of our mind, which we are less aware of, will be sent forward to full awareness in the front. This then leads to less sinful and distracting thoughts for us to deal with.

An important note to remember, for Christians and non-Christians, is that Jesus has died to take the punishment for sin. If we put our trust in him to do this for us, we can then put our failures of mind and body behind us and set ourselves on doing what we know is right. Every day is a battle for holiness, but our failures do not need to weigh us down. We must continually thank Jesus for the forgiveness that we have for our daily errors, and then set our minds on things that are above so that it becomes more natural for us to think right and to do right.

And we can also look forward to the return off Jesus, when every evil notion and urge will be completely removed from all of creation, and we will finally have the rest in our minds which Christians should crave daily. What a wonderful relief that will be!

Some practical ideas for setting your mind on things that are above:

    Read your Bible – how much closer to things that are above can you get than filling your mind with the Word of God? And every day, multiple times a day, you should fill your mind with Scripture rather than filling it with the latest TV series about worldly fancies.
    Memorise Bible verses – perhaps pick Colossians 3:2 to start so that in those moments where evil thoughts pop into your mind you can immediately quote to yourself “set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”.
    Make a practice of wondering about people’s faith backgrounds and where they will spend eternity – many of our unholy thoughts are about other people, so when you talk with people or walk past them in the street you should look them in the eyes and try to consider their eternal fate or detect clues about their faith so that you can ask about these things.
    Keep yourself busy enough mentally and physically so that you do not have an idle mind which is waiting for something to occur to it – hard work is not bad, games are not bad (sudoku, cryptic crosswords if you can), reading is not bad, so fill your mind and life with activity which will grow your potential to be holy and to think holy things.

What other practical ideas do you have for setting your mind on things that are above? Add them in the comments below.

04 Jan

The Word In The Old Testament by Sam Hight

Under the Old Covenant, which was started during Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, the High Priest would enter into the tent of meeting (the most holy place) to meet with the Lord. God’s visible presence marked the tent as holy, either by falling on that location as a cloud or as fire.

It is impossible to know just how the people of Israel would have felt when witnessing this, but we can be sure that a holy fear or terror would have been a part of the experience. Imagine for a moment that you are standing in front of a bonfire which is raging as it burns a pile of wood. Or maybe you’ve experienced the fear of being in the path of a furious bush fire – out of your control and heading right for you…

Consider the fear, but also consider the privilege of being able to enter that tent without being consumed by the fire.

In that tent there were a number of items. Some were man made and some were made by the hand of God himself. The elaborate garments, utensils, etc. were man made – his best efforts to produce an offering that was acceptable to God, and worshipping him how he said he wanted them to worship. All of these things were made from the matter which God had already made in Creation. And from God there was his law, written by his own hand, and the miraculous bread from heaven.

There was bread made by man and bread made by God in that place. I think that this was the only item which both brought there. Is there symbolism in a shared meal, fellowship over potluck food? I think so. Now we have Jesus though, the Bread of Life, from whom we will never need to eat again once he has fed us of himself.

Also in that place of God’s presence was the law of God. This shows that his presence is there when we read the Bible today. This is one of the most privileged positions, in the presence of the Word of God, and now blasted wide open, beyond the bounds of a mere tent and veil, for all to partake of freely if they care to do so.

Do we value the Word as we should? Do we treat every detail as a deliberate part of the message from God? Do we enter into his presence often to hear from him in the sure word of Scripture? Do we?

I urge you… Please do.