God’s Forgiveness

C.S. Lewis on prayer once explained, though cryptically,

“Almost certainly God is not in time. His life does not consist of moments one following another… Ten– thirty – – and every other moment from the beginning of the world– – is always present for Him. If you like to put it this way, He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second off [a] prayer.”

The true context of Scripture is not the cultural milieu of the writer who penned its inspired message. It is the mind of God who, as C. S. Lewis correctly noted, “is not in time.” Calvary did not become just an historical event. Jesus’s death became the fulcrum for all history, before and after.  Nothing else of any real importance has ever happened because this single event, the Cross, eclipses all events backward and forward in time and defines their significance to mankind.

Calvary, to be sure, is an eternal plan overlaid upon the timeline of history. Calvary is a work of an eternal God in His eternity which means it applied as much to the Patriarchs and the prophets as to us. Calvary reaches back (in temporal terms) as well as forward. In Glory we might all agree that Jesus died on the Cross while we looked on in our sin and spiritual need. In God’s eyes, can we not say: we stood next to the centurion that looked on while Jesus was dying?

Calvary speaks, among other truths, to divine forgiveness.⁠1 Dare we say that while Jesus was dying at Calvary God forgave us every sin? God’s forgiveness reached back to the Ancients who served and worshipped Him and forward to our time and beyond.  It was and is an eternal act of God.  Was not His forgiveness complete and final through Jesus’s death on Calvary?

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.⁠2

All that remains is that we appropriate His divine provision. All that God’s forgiveness entails is ours through accepting Christ as Savior and letting God engender faith in our hearts to embrace it.


1 Luke 23:34 From the cross, Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” but some manuscripts do not have this sentence. The Bodmer Papyri, second century, P75, lacks it and evidence is now available that the Alexandria text goes back to an archetype dated second century. Yet many scholars today regard such readings as aberrant. cp. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Intro. xviii.
Metzger continues, “There is discernible [here] a Christological-theological motivation that accounts for them having been added …[but many] regarded the longer reading[s] as part of the original text.” [Metzger 191-193]
The main theological ground for the belief that Christ’s death was an act of eternal forgiveness relays on such verses as Hebrews 9:22 “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness
2 Colossians 2:13-14
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Inheriting the Kingdom, Mansions

It is understandable that believers are often imagining what living with God (in Heaven) might be like. But we tend to focus on our surroundings, on an environment we can imagine: streets of gold⁠1 and mansions.⁠2 [In modern terms. a mansion is a large and impressive house. Even if heaven provides us with lean-tos, we’ll be impressed!!!] As exciting as such thoughts might be, these are isolated references that do not begin to give us a reasonable picture of what we have to look forward to. What would be the special value to us of mansions rather than simple dwelling places or if the streets are gold or some heretofore unknown element?

There are other aspects of heaven that have no clear biblical explanation. If someone cuts a rose from a bush, does it die? There is no death in heaven. [Maybe there’s no scissors.] Will there even be roses there? I think so because God returns to the “Tree of Life” introduced to Adam and Eve in the beginning.⁠3

We also envision ourselves in our early 20’s, men having washboard abs and women with graceful forms, even though gender has no meaning in Heaven.⁠4 Perhaps, we might be shocked to discover once there that God’s favorite bodily form is obesity!⁠5

It’s fun to talk about such things and I would encourage us to do so but—really now—these possible external considerations, if they are verities, are still beyond the scope of our temporal imagination. Don’t you think!

Discussing what our heavenly surroundings might be inspires hope—as it should. Imagining anything of what awaits us there is exciting converse—but the overarching Biblical message found throughout Scripture is the relationship we will then enjoy with Christ. In both the Old and the New Testaments the desire of God toward His people,⁠6 Israel and the Church, is so prevalent as to suggest a theological emphasis in Scripture in which the Kingdom of heaven is centric.⁠7 This will later bring the message of the Beatitudes to the forefront in our studies. The overarching message in both testaments is that He is coming back for us⁠8 and He will establish His kingdom⁠9 with those who have been His faithful followers. It is absurd to read the Scripture any other way. A Holy God wants a holy kingdom peopled by holy followers. Instead of talking mansions, perhaps, we should be talking “relationship.”Our study needs to focus on who we are in God’s kingdom in relationship with God and each other. This takes up far more space in Scripture and should be of far greater interest to us as we converse over our eternal future.


1 Golden streets might be how things appear more than a literal description of what heaven’s thoroughfares are made of..
2 John 14:1 in the KJV translates dwelling places or apartments as “mansions” which in 1611 meant “a place to stay.”
3 Revelation 22:2 On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
4 Luke 20:35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage,
5 Proverbs 28:25 [KJV] he that put[s] his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.
6 There is no direct reference here to either Covenantal or Dispensational Theology. Whether Israel and the New Testament Church are viewed separately or as one, interpreting a believer’s inheritance in the King of Heaven in terms of the Beatitudes remains an overarching study.  I tend not to think in dispensational terms.
7 The Kingdom of God is the primary theme that binds the Scriptures and indeed all of history together. Only the kingdom theme flows easily from the pages of the biblical writers. It alone does adequate justice to the progressive unfolding of biblical revelation by viewing the historical covenants of redemptive history as keys to revelatory development in the Kingdom of God.” cp. http://pneumareview.com/the-kingdom-of-god-as-scriptures-central-theme-a-new-approach-to-biblical-theology-part1/
8 John 14:3 I will come back and take you to be with me
9 Isaiah 9:7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
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Inheriting The Kingdom of Heaven

Privileged to conduct bi-monthly services at a local resident home for the elderly we decided to share thoughts on the 8 Beatitudes in Matthew 5, Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount.”  Our original interest was how these  8 blessings impacted our service to the Lord in the face of ridicule, mockery and other forms of persecution. Our research labored under the theory that these 8 Beatitudes, from”Poverty of Spirit” to “Peacemaking” were somehow linked in the spiritual development of a follower of Christ.  We concluded in addition that the order of the Beatitudes is not incidental but an undeniable example of the divine genius in preparing each believer for divine service. Research into the various words used in Matthew’s recollection support this approach.

What didn’t seem as obvious at first was how these 8 Beatitudes (8 beautiful attitudes) represented the heart of a servant of God and in the process prepared them and qualified them for the kingdom of heaven—referenced twice in these few verses.  God’s grace, according to this text—is the claim here—is at work in the life of every believer preparing them to “inherit the earth., see God, and be called the children of God.” In another, Pauline, sense we are being prepared for citizenship in heaven⁠1 and as the Bride of Christ.⁠2  

Terms like meekness, mourning, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and the hapax legomenos⁠3 peacemakers require a close—not casual—look if this prima-facie idea is correct. Ronnie McBrayer made the point: “The Beatitudes are … a spiritual  .. list of the qualities God brings to bear in the people who follow Jesus.⁠4  It only remains to make the logical link between now and when, between the work God is perfecting in us in this life⁠5 and how it relates to the life to come.⁠6  

Lastly here: this work becomes a study of words based on the strong fundamental belief that every word is inspired. Yet scholarship has long recognized the limitation on some biblical terms to do justice to what God was introducing to us.⁠7 Professor R. C. Trench, lecturing on the importance of the study of language in the history of thought, remarked, 

“…words often contain a witness for great moral truths—God having impressed such a seal of truth upon language, that men are continually uttering deeper things than they know…”⁠8 

So we begin first with a look at some biblical terms before we tell our story, “Inheriting The Kingdom of Heaven.”

to be continued…..


1 Philippians 3:20 our citizenship is in heaven.
2 2 Corinthians 11:2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. compare; Revelation 19:7 …his bride has made herself ready.
3 found only here in Scripture.
4 Ronnie McBrayer’s “How Far Is Heaven?: Rediscovering the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now.”
5 Matthew 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
6 Matthew 8:11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
7 Dr. Milligan writes in his Introduction to The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, Alike in Vocabulary and Grammar the language of the New Testament exhibits striking dissimilarities from Classical Greek; and in consequence it has been regarded as standing by itself as “New Testament Greek.” In general it had been hastily classed as “Judaic” or “Hebraic” Greek; its writers being Jews (with the probable exception of Saint Luke), and therefore using a language other than their own, a language filled with reminiscences of the translation-Greek of the Septuagint on which they had been nurtured.
It is an endless debate among scholars as to the meanings of some words in the New Testament, whether they are more classical in meaning or somehow carry a special nuanced significance under divine inspiration.
8 Richard Trench. On the Study of the Words Lectures ( New York: W.. Widdleton, publisher. Unknown), 56.
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The Making of A Saint

The Beatitudes has become, I fear—in our new culturally acceptable world of christian service—a neglected study. Tony Campolo lamented,

“If we were to set out to establish a religion in polar opposition to the Beatitudes Jesus taught, it would look strikingly similar to the pop Christianity that has taken over the airwaves of North America.”

As harsh as that sounds, it rings truer than most believers in a civilized culture want to admit. The seven beatitudes clarify to our understanding the orderly progress of God’s work in a believer’s life, perception, heart, that transforms him or her into a faithful and emboldened follower of Christ.

In an overview, the first four are signs God is creating in us the heart of a faithful servant.

  1. They are ever aware of and grateful for their dependency upon their Lord. Matthew 5:3
  2. They develop an increasing appreciation for what pleases Him and conversely a sadness over what grieves Him; Matthew 5:4
  3. They serve Him willingly. Their service is more a part of who they are and spontaneous. Matthew 5:5
  4. Their service speaks highly of Him in that larger circle of the world. Matthew 5:6

God now has someone He can make into a  giver, the fifth beatitude. Matthew 5:7

True servants are givers, not takers. They are pure of heart, genuine, not sordid motive, sincere, non-hypocritical, transparent.  [An impure motive is characteristic of someone who is seeking to get or take something.  It is not characteristic of a giver.] Their service to God is driven solely in service to Him and not tainted with self-interest—The sixth beatitude.  [Matthew 5:8; I Corinthians 10:31] This is in effect a six stage work of grace, but there is one more:

“Blessed are the peacemakers.”  Not peacekeepers, not policing a corrupt world, not upholding any code of law or attempting to legislate righteousness or bring about a peace from chaos.

Peacemakers, a word found only here and in Proverbs 10:10 (only in the Septuagint, cp the RSV), defines the sons and daughters of God. Peacemakers are governed by the holiness of God.  Projecting peace, making peace, is a condition of God’s world, heaven.

Psalm 37:31 (KJV) The law of his God [is] in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

The commentary summarizes,

“The seven beatitudes form an ascending line, in which the new life is traced from stage to stage, from its commencement to its completion. At the basis we have poverty in spirit…. Manifestly, each of the beatitudes expresses a new relationship toward God, and, side-by-side with it, a new relationship toward the world.”

These seven beatitudes represent a two-fold lesson in truth:
In this life: The ultimate test of a disciple’s commitment and dedication to the Lord is their ability to represent the Good News—as only good news can be represented—with
an undying hope, an enduring peace, an unconquerable love, an unquestioning faith, and
an unquenchable joy.

The ultimate test of a disciple’s commitment and dedication to the Lord is their ability to represent the Good News—as only good news can be represented—with 

  • an undying hope,
  • an enduring peace,
  • an unconquerable love,
  • an unquestioning faith, and
  • an unquenchable joy.

In the life to come: herein is the description of the inhabitants of God’s heavenly kingdom.  “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. …they will inherit the earth. …they will see God. …they will be called children of God. …theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

We are being transformed in citizens of heaven. In a word: saints.

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A Look At The Beatitudes

I have been meditating on the Beatitudes [the beautiful attitudes] and wonder if there is an order to Jesus’ enumerated blessings in Matthew 5:3-12.  Although there are places in the Sacred text where the choice of words are less demanding, especially in ongoing narrative, here in the opening salvo of the Sermon on the Mount it is most likely that Jesus was careful to detail those characteristics that once developed, spiritually and emotionally, equip His followers to face the world they must minister in. The ultimate test of a disciple’s commitment and dedication to the Lord is their ability to represent the Good News—as only good news can be represented—with an undying hope, an enduring peace, an unconquerable love, an unquestioning faith, and an unquenchable joy.  But reaching this level of commitment is a journey through stages of spiritual development beginning with the first beatitude. For the dedicated disciple of Christ who takes seriously a commitment to be used of God, he or she must begin at the beginning by:  

  1. embracing poverty of spirit⁠1 or learning to humbly depend on God, in a most absolute sense. Now we are prepared to embrace the heart of God in ceaseless prayer—a prayer life,
  2. finding a profound sense of fellowship with God in sharing His burden⁠2 for souls.  The evil around us does not go unnoticed; it is a painful reality that we are not of this world. We are here on a mission.  We are 
  3. discovering a growing and spontaneous passion within to follow Jesus⁠3 unquestioning and without reason’s approval. We are
  4. Developing a hunger for righteousness, for representing Christ to our world, for a profound sense of commitment to living⁠4 a faithful witness.

And these are the first four steps that precede “showing mercy” where we pause to consider how these four are requirements for the Lord to mold us and make us into effective and faithful ministers of His truth.

Johann Albrecht Bengel taught: grace removes guilt; mercy removes misery.⁠5 The most basic expression of showing mercy would be giving to the poor, giving alms. Many are content to assign this meaning here to this beatitude but it more represents the spirit of giving behind the gift or a desire to lesson someone’s suffering simply because we can and God wants us to—without reward or recognition. 

We have defined giving in terms of institutional support, percentages of income, with a sense of duty or even guilt driving our interest and commitment.  But nothing here speaks to mercy.  Mercy enters a world of hurt and misery and is driven by divine love to do something about it, to lessen that pain, if even in the most minuscule, cup of cold water, pillow fluffing, way.  Mercy speaks to the heart of the giver, to a spontaneous outflow of caring love. Mercy sees all our resources as God’s, held in trust until God calls for them, until He chooses to use us to reveal Himself to another in their poverty, spiritual or natural. 

We are saying that a spirit of caring and giving is less likely if we fail in the first four beatitudes. And we are saying that the ultimate ability to endure suffering with a song of hope in our hearts and praise on our lips,  the last beatitude,⁠6 depends on the condition of our hearts going in.  It all depends on the condition of our relationship with the Lord: our dependence on Him, our passion to follow, our prayer life, a giving heart—the beatitudes that precede, if we are to stand strong when the winds of opposition blow hardest.


1 Mt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2 Mt 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted
3 Mt 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
4 Mt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
5 http://m.studylight.org/lexicons/tsn/view.cgi?n=37
6 Mt 5:11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad,

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Ellie and Me

Happy Birthday to Leah

Grandma and I were invited to attend a private family gathering to celebrate our three year old granddaughter’s, Leah’s, birthday. We brought gifts as did her maternal grandparents. It was promising to be an exciting time with pizza and a homemade cake decorated by the birthday girl, herself, with her and her one year old sister, Ellie, providing the energy to turn this all memorable. To offset this happy scene, I came in pain (probably my diverticulosis); so, I sat at the end of the table watching Leah engage mom and dad and three other grandparents in her design on the new presents she was opening.

Next to me in a highchair sat little Ellie, who seemed to discern something out of place. My quiet observing of a party in which I should be in the middle went unobserved by the adults, but not Ellie.  Ellie was enjoying some finger food momma supplied while she processed her observations. And here is where my story really begins.

Ellie repeatedly looked back at me with a sweet inviting smile that suggested she knew something more than we ascribe to one year olds. Did she know I hurt? Did she have inside information I didn’t have. Sometimes God shares with children—I am told—things we are too independent in our thoughts to receive. I muse.

Ellie. Have a bite. You’ll feel better.

Ellie, a few times, offered me a piece of her food. It was genuine, though, I politely declined. She seemed to understand. Even her eyes smiled her sympathy. (This from a little girl that just a few months ago was terrified by my old face.) But now, here was Grandpa King sitting beside her when he should be out on the floor with her dancing sister and Ellie was engaging in a caring way.

I jokingly informed my son to educate his one year old who was “hitting on me” that I am too old for her! haha. But the truth was that Ellie was providing me with a comfort in my distress in that private but meaningful moment.

I came away still asking myself: Did Ellie know something I would never think to credit to her young age? In her own way, she gave this old man an emotional hug that assuaged his pain and turned his thoughts away from his own discomfort—for which I shall be forever grateful.

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Grace

There is so much to learn.  In so many ways, God’s grace in dealing with us is beyond guessing.⁠1 Our view of God’s plan for our future is a 50,000 foot view with little detail visible to our understanding.  This simple point has escaped our attention since our active imaginations have, theologically speaking, built a ground level picture.  

Our Lord has only begun to surprise us!

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.⁠2

The details we argue as believers are mostly intellectual filler. Like the inactive substance that makes up most of a pill, much of our theology is inert and harmless as long as we learn not to argue too vehemently and not with a vitriolic passion that suggests we know what we are talking about. 

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him⁠3

But we have our positions and a need somehow to distinguish ourselves from others who are persuasive in what they promote.  We must defend the faith! Our voice has to be a “Thus saith the Lord!”

But beyond the message of the Cross, does it?

God has gifted us with an exciting message of great news in the story of His grace. Anyone, regardless of what they have done or what life or reputation they are living, can join the saintly band that is marching to a glorious place with Him that we call “heaven.”  We don’t really need to know how God made this offer possible, other than through His death and resurrection in the person of His Son.  What happened exactly on that Roman cross?  Did He die to forgive us? To reconcile us? To appease His wrath …against us or against sin? Was it the ultimate sacrifice for love?  Did He pay our debt or ransom us …or both?  The theories of our atonement are many but none can deny that this was grace!

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.⁠4

What we need to know only is that now the veil is rent and we have an audience with our God.  There is much to know, much to learn. Now begins the journey with Him, talking to Him, getting to know Him …a journey that will walk us into His living presence and into eternity with Him.  For now, why should anything else consume our interest or drive our passion for truth?  Jesus death is our starting line.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.⁠5

What He has told us in Scripture is worth our time exploring but only within the boundary of that revelation.  Outside that circle of knowledge there is so much more to know …someday in glory.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow…⁠6

And what about the Holy Spirit and the end times and Israel’s relation to the Church?  Unless we missed it, the Spirit is within our lives to enhance clarity and train our perspective on that Cross and the power of the resurrection in our witness for our Lord.  The Spirit truly hides in the shadows, works in the background, to put Jesus, His death, resurrection and intercessory work in the spotlight of eternal truth.  

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.⁠7

And we ask, “Why me?”  Was I chosen by grace or could I have said or done something that turned God’s ear first?  Why did He call me and not so many others? Why is the way that leads to destruction so wide and well traveled and so few take the narrow path to God?⁠8  How has grace not worked to redirect them!?  

We admit that our questions are many but answers should not be conjured up through a rambling theology that feels a need to defend the plan of God or justify what we think we know or observe about God’s dealings with His creation.⁠9 I am always brought back to Jesus’s final words to His disciples when they were near overwhelmed with apprehension and so many questions. They were restless, anxious; for, so the word “troubled” means in John 14:1 when Jesus spoke peace to their hearts.. And to ours:  You believe in God.”  You do, don’t you!  And then Jesus summed up what grace is all about making a thousand questions no longer necessary:  Trust me!


1 Romans 11:33 How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
2 Isaiah 64:4
3 I Corinthians 2:9
4 Isaiah 1:18
5 I Corinthians 2:2
6 Deuteronomy 29:29
7 John 16:13
8 Matthew 7:14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
9 John 21:22 Jesus answered, “… what is that to you? You must follow me.”
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A Heavenly Citizenship

[taken from my latest booklet: A Heavenly Citizenship: Living in a Strange Land.]

I am tempted to raise the political issues of the day to point out how little relevance they have in our lives other than to fret us about bridges we may never come to.  In 1973-4, while in the drawn out and worrisome process of transitioning with my family from one ministry to another, I was not even aware of the so-called “Saturday Night Massacre” episode of the Watergate scandal and an impeachment inquiry against, then, President Nixon.  My mind was on other things while I waited in long gas lines with my 2 dollars for a little gas or cleaned elementary school facilities as a part time custodian or argued with the wife about better times to come.  

Nixon, who?  While the country no doubt took sides or grew enraged at the political shenanigans that had to answer to a Congressional oversight of the national interests, I went to work, did a little teaching at a local Bible school, eventually came home, locked myself in a hot bath while listening to the ball game on my tiny portable radio, and then dove into bed until the next cycle hit.  It wasn’t the best approach to solving the problems of life, I grant you, but I would inevitably learn.  Yet, on the plus side, the political turmoil was off my radar—and that was, for me, a good thing!

What I am learning is that this world is not my home.  There is great comfort in knowing that everything God is doing or allowing in our lives as believers is a view to preparing us for His world. We should not compare the trials of this life with the glories of the next. 

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.⁠1

Perhaps, enough has been said to make the point that we should be living this life with a focus on the next.  It is the way of a peaceful co-existence with the many challenges we face. We should keep in mind that our true citizenship is not in the country we find ourselves domiciled. We should allow God to remind us through His Word of the promises of His providence and protection …and then sleep well at night.  

In a phrase:  Heaven is our true home.

Becoming emotionally involved in the political chaos of the times disturbs our peace and takes our thoughts away from the spiritual reality, our relation with God, that in actuality supports and nurtures us. Our personal history is being written by the providence of the God Who called us to serve Him.  No politician has a say in that matter.  We should view the “news” as simply the ongoing histrionics of a government (or maybe, Press) that mistakenly thinks it has broken free from God’s control. Watch the drama unfold. 

It is important for our sense of equilibrium, while the political world quakes about us, to spend time in God’s Word and christian fellowship.  It is important we maintain perspective, that we can envision in our minds—as Isaiah did—God high and lifted up upon His throne. In the biblical account, there was political unrest because the king of 4 decades was gone. …but God was there …still seated …still reigning!

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.⁠2

Don’t take the issues of the day personally.  We are truly insulated from bad news and news that is more editorial than fact if we continue to find our christian experience our primary reality, if we wrap our hearts in the message of Calvary, if we allow ourselves those personal moments in prayer when God through His Word says something special to us, reminding us that He is working on the problem.

But the overarching truth, again, is that everything the Spirit does in our lives—and there’s a lot—is but the first moments of an eternity to come. We may need to turn the news off to remind ourselves that the Kingdom of Heaven is already here.


1 2 Corinthians 4:18
2 Isaiah 6:1
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A Study in Oness

[taken from the Introduction to “The Henotic Relationship:  A Study in Oneness“]

…a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

To be more precise, what is the meaning of the  phrase “one flesh”? How might we come to appreciate its value theologically and in our modern relations?


The male anglerfish in a literal sense, after fertilizing the female’s eggs, bites into her side (she being much larger than he) and there he swims, physically welded after his bite “heals,” a part of her, visible only as an extra fin, for the  remainder of his life. The National Geographic called it “a weirdly clingy side” explaining, “after finding a female, the male black devil angler latches on and never lets go!⁠1

There are better translations of the word  “united”⁠2 in our verse. The King James’ translations “cleave” which is more accurate if less technical—reminds me of  an old german translation I once read “klebt an seine Frau” (glued to his wife).⁠3

And quickly: man cleaves to woman—not the other way around. Are the genders not interchangeable?⁠4

The King James’ use of a future “shall cleave” is not accurate.  This is a state of being which in the dynamic of the Hebrew language somehow speaks of a completed event, “is united.”  The Christian Standard gets closer:  bonds with his wife, and they become one.  I like the English Standard Version: The man shall “hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  There is no letting go in this verse! Letting go is my euphemism for divorce, something God came to “hate”⁠5

Guard your spirit,” the Lord warns,⁠6 against breaking this bond.


This single verse is like studying the Mandelbrot:  a captivating fractal that draws you deeper into its design but only revealing the same.  “One flesh,” in like fashion, the closer we look, the fuller and more real the “one”ness. To “cleave and become one” must speak of a relationship that parallels the mathematical beauty of the Mandelbrot, an infinite and eternal design for marriage that has no fissure to discover, no matter how deep we go searching into this awe-inspiring love relationship between Adam and his Eve.


1 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/group/anglerfish/
2 glued – דָבַ֣ק
3 This Lutheran translation is lost to me now since I cannot find it on the web and I must have given my copy away.
4 In the Old Testament economy men divorced women never the opposite.
5 Malachi 2:16 “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. [NLT]  The NIV is for me a poor translation, after the LXX: ἀλλὰ ἐὰν μισήσας ἐξαποστείλῃς λέγει κύριος ὁ θεὸς τοῦ Ισραηλ.  if thou shouldest hate thy wife and put her away (divorce her) …ungodliness shall cover thy thoughts.” That’s a discussion for another day.
6 Malachi 2:16b
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Justified by Faith

[taken from: Translating God: The Problem with Grace]

Is our salvation a declaration of our righteousness,⁠1 a vicarious imputation of Christ’s righteousness,⁠2 or a quality of our new nature?⁠3 

All three!

There is a work begun in each believer that is evident in a growing relationship between them and the Savior and with other believers in fellowship.⁠4  In many ways this is a process: in our behavior,⁠5 in our knowledge of God’s holiness,⁠6 and in our desire toward God compared to other interests.⁠7 

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. — 1 John 3:2

But what is the emphasis here of declaring us righteous? 

…know that a person is not  [declared or pronounced] justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be  [declared or pronounced] justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be  [declared or pronounced] justified. —Galatians 2:16

Righteousness is not a matter of law but a matter of grace.  It is a work of grace within the believer 

  • to transform our thinking and 
  • to conform us to Christ and away from the world. 

The evidence is a growing awareness that the desires of God toward each of us best represent 

  • who we are becoming and who we ultimately want to be, 
  • what makes us most happy, and 
  • a perspective  that sees the circumstances of our life more and more as God sees them along with 
  • a sense that how God is leading is indeed best.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. — Romans 12:2

Though God imputed righteousness unto Abraham because of his absolute trust in and obedience to God⁠8 the language suggests he was a righteous man, not only declared righteous.  The Greek form establishes the christian doctrine that it is not a work or effort on our part that provides for this righteousness which is now part of who we are becoming in Him.  It was Jesus as a sin offering that made provision for us to become like Him.  Christ in us, the hope of glory,”⁠9

God made him who had no sin to be sin [offering] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. —  2 Corinthians 5:21


1 Romans 4:5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
2 1 Corinthians 1:30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
3 1 John 2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
4 1 John 1:3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
5 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
6 2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
7 Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
8 Genesis 15:6 וַיַּחְשְׁבֶ֥הָ לּ֖וֹ צְדָקָֽה  (ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην) he credited it to him as righteousness.
9 Colossians 1:7 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
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