The Word of God Is Living and Active

Unlike the other sacred texts I read, the Bible was hard-edged, and it confronted me with me! It penetrated my heart, and I wanted to look away!


I have made the statement in a previous article that the truth of God is not hidden from those who truly seek Him and desire to know Him. The truth is only hidden to those who don’t really desire to know God for who He is.

The following statement was made in the sermon I heard today: “Holiness and wholeness are hidden where only the humble can find them”.

I recognize that it’s easy for someone who believes in God to say these things. A person might even say these things in an arrogant and elitist sort of way, but that attitude would be 180 degrees wrong.

God is not an elitist. Elitism is antithetical to God and the fruit of the Spirit that should characterize those who believe and know Him.

Jesus, who claims to have been God in the flesh, came not to be served, but to serve and give his life. God “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness….” (Philippians 2:7) These are not the actions of an elitist God.

The Gospel story of God descending from His place of privilege and power as creator of the world to enter His creation is not the story of an elitist God. He didn’t come as the greatest of all men with power and might. He came as a child, and He embraced the life of a servant, washing his disciples feet, healing lepers by touch, embracing prostitutes, and loving vulnerable people on the edges of society.

We also read that God created all humans in His image. Therefore, all human beings have intrinsic value. Since our value is given by God, it has nothing to do with our station in life. That value is not connected to how gifted or smart we are. It is not dependent on who our human ancestors were, or anything other than the image of God that we bear in ourselves by virtue of being born.

The flip side of that is the statement that God is “no respecter of persons” (He doesn’t show favoritism according to our standards). (Romans 2:11-16) If God is hidden to some people, His hiddenness is more a reflection of what people are looking for than who God is.

As a case in point, His own people, the nation to whom He spent hundreds of years revealing Himself, didn’t even recognize Him when He entered their world in real time and encountered them stripped down to human form:


He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God….”

John 1:10-12


Jesus confronted the elite, religious leaders. He called them blind guides. They, of all people, should have been able to recognize Him, but they didn’t.

We see in those interactions that they were looking for a savior that would overthrow the Roman Empire and ascent to the throne of Israel. They wanted an earthly savior. They were jealous of his popularity. They didn’t expect God to come to them humbly as He did. They didn’t remember their own Scriptures that say,


“though the Lord is exalted, yet he regards the lowly”.

Psalm 138:6


They didn’t remember or perhaps understand that the long-awaited Messiah would not fit a worldly model of power and strength. They should have known that he would have “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him” and “nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”. (Isaiah 53:2) They should have known that he would be “despised and rejected by mankind”, “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” who would be “held in low esteem”. (Is. 53:3)

At the same time, we can understand why they missed these details or didn’t understand them. God is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! Why would He stoop so low? The kings, lords and rulers of the world did not stoop.

God called the nation of Israel to separate from the nations around them and to be different, but they continually failed to do that. God’s revelation from the beginning was an exercise in demonstrating that He is different, and not like the other gods, but they like the familiarity of those gods.

God’s people demanded a king to be like all the other nations. In doing that, they were rejecting God as their King who was distinctly different. They embraced the other nations’ gods; and Israel became indistinguishable from the character of the other nations.

They were meant to be a city on hill, a light to show the uniquely different character of God to the nations around them. They were continually urged to welcome strangers, to care for widows and orphans, and to do justice. (See 25 passages, including 19 Old Testament passages, with these instructions.) God desired them to be different from the world around them, as He is different from the gods of the other nations, but they failed to be different.

It’s no wonder that the Jewish leaders in the days of Jesus failed to recognize him. The Pharisees were so focused on the minutia of of their religious observances they neglected the “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness”. (Matthew 23:23) They failed in their religiosity to appreciate and embrace God’s character that is embedded in the concepts of righteousness and justice. (Psalm 89:14)

They didn’t recognize God in the flesh because they lost sight of His real character. They were religious, but they lacked a real understanding of God.

The prophets, like Jeremiah, warned the nation of Israel many years earlier that they were going astray. The human heart is deceitful. (Jeremiah 17:9) We fool ourselves too easily.

Our fears, insecurities, pride, desires to be like the Joneses (other nations) and many things that get in the way of knowing God for who He is take priority in our thoughts and attitudes. We buy into narratives of ourselves, others and God that are warped.

Religious people are not immune to self-deception, and Christians are no less susceptible to self-deception than others. This is the lesson of the Pharisees, the leaders of God’s people in the days that Jesus walked the earth. In fact, religious people may be even more susceptible to self-deception because we use religion to legitimatize and justify our deception!


“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

(Matthew 6:22-23)


What is the cure for this human malady?

There is one thing that is specifically designed by God to reveal (expose) the hearts of people. It may not work exactly as we might want it to work. It isn’t a magic device, and it doesn’t work unless we submit to it. Rather, it’s the tool God uses to do His surgery in our hearts if we allow it in to our hearts to do its work. That tool is the inspired word of God.


“[T]he word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Hebrews 4:12-13


Continue reading “The Word of God Is Living and Active”

Is God an Ancient Elitist?

God and His message are hidden to so many people, but it isn’t a mystery. It is “hidden” in clear sight!


Some people seem to think God is an elitist. Some people believe that God can only be understood by people who crack God’s code and discover access to His secrets. Another, label for this kind of thinking about God is the occult, though we sometimes put a more acceptable sheen on this kind of thinking.

This kind of thinking even creeps into churches and personal views on God. Christians sometimes give into temptations to divine the future or hidden truth in numerology, astrology, tarot cards, palm reading, tea leaves, etc.

Other people find in the “hiddenness” of God reason to doubt His existence. They argue that God shouldn’t play hide and seek with the world, that God should be obvious to all, and the fact that He isn’t obvious to all people means that God doesn’t exist.

I don’t find truth in either proposition. At the very least, neither proposition describes the God of the Bible. I have addressed the hiddenness of God several times in my writing, I don’t recall addressing the occult, much. Today this view on spiritual reality that I am describing here as the elitist view of God comes by way of inspiration from Dr. Michael Guillen.

My inspiration for this post comes specifically from a podcast episode titled, Numerology, Gematria & Kabbalah, in which Dr, Guillen spent most of his time talking about the cult of Pythagoras, numerology, gematria and Kabbalah in a thoughtful, objective way. Did you know that Pythagoras worshipped numbers? Especially the number 10?

You probably have heard of claims that the Bible is full of hidden wisdom and truth that can be uncovered with the right application of a numerical code. You will learn some interesting things if you go to the link and listen to whole podcast episode.

Michael Guillen has a personal history with numbers. At UCLA, he earned a B.S. in physics and mathematics. He went on to Cornell University, where he earned an M.S. in experimental physics and obtained a Ph.D. in physics, mathematics and astronomy. Guillen’s own “affection” for numbers gives him unique perspective on mathematics and the love of numbers.

If anyone with religious inclinations might be tempted to worship numbers, Dr. Guillen would be a likely candidate. He even wrote a book titled Five Equations that Changed the World: The Power and Poetry of Mathematics.

One might doubt that a legitimate scientist would be so ignorant as to be religious at all, but history is full of scientists and great thinkers with particular religious leanings. Pythagoras, who headed up a cult that worshiped numbers, is an example. Not all religious leanings are the same, though.

As a young seeker and avid learner in college, I encountered religious thought for the first time in a World Religion class. Though my professor described all religions as roads to the top of the same mountain, I saw a difference in one religion and one religious text.

If you listen to Dr. Guillen tell his own story, which he does at various times in his podcast episodes, he saw the same thing. One religion and one religious leader stands out, and one aspect of that difference can be understood with the observation that Guillen makes: God is not an elitist.

We are tempted as human beings to think that truth is something that only the smartest and most clever people are able to figure out. Perhaps, this is why we are fascinated with books like The Da Vinci Code. The less religious among us might say that only those people with privilege, means, and a good education are able to know and understand truth; the rest of us are doomed to ignorance.


My thoughts today are on the former group of people. Guillen challenges the claims of people who believe that the Hebrew Scriptures contain a hidden, numerical code that can be deciphered with the right “key”. Guillen asserts that the truth of the God revealed in the Bible and Jesus, who claimed to be God in the flesh, are not hidden behind a code in the text that needs to be deciphered, and I agree with him.

Continue reading “Is God an Ancient Elitist?”

Lift Up Your Eyes for Perspective and Purpose

Though God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts, God invites us into his perspective and purpose.

We live “under the sun”, as the writer of Ecclesiastes describes our existence, filled with existential angst.  We live year by year, month by month, week by week, day by day, and moment by moment. The inertia of our lives is focused on the here and now, with our dying always looming in the near distance like a great mountain range rising up to the clouds we cannot conquer.

Our perspective is limited. It is finite. We stand at any given time on a small planet in a small solar system in one of billions of galaxies that exist in a universe. We stand “under the sun”, and our perspective, therefore, limited.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

(Isaiah 55:9)

That verse from Isaiah is a way of saying that God has a different perspective than we do. God has a purpose, and he invites us to consider the difference between His perspective and ours. He desires for us to seek to understand His perspective and to align with His purpose.

When Jesus says my yoke is easy and my burden is light, I believe he was encouraging us, at least in part, to understand and to adopt his perspective and his purpose. Our momentary lives include existential angst, dread, suffering and pain, but God has a purpose and a plan for us that is greater than what we see and experience under the sun, and it is liberating!

I see three concrete examples in scripture of the difference between God’s perspective and purpose and ours. (I am sure there are many more.) As God invites us to consider that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways, I think it is appropriate to consider and meditate on these three examples.

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What Does It Mean that the Word of God Was Inspired by God and Received and Passed on By Men?

The Bible, itself, doesn’t claim to be one hundred percent, word for word, accurate (or even inerrant). The closest we get to a statement like that is that it is “God-breathed” (inspired), and that the people who were “inspired” by God received that inspiration and passed it on.

The written word of God was so important to the Jewish culture that scribes were a distinguished, respected and critical role in Jewish society. The importance of the painstaking process and precision with which they copied Torah, the Prophets and Writings was embedded into the foundation of Jewish culture going back to Moses.

Moses produced the Ten Commandments etched in stone. Those stone tablets were carefully placed into the Ark of the Covenant, carried with the nation of Israel as they traveled through the desert, and kept with ritual detail in the most sacred place in the Tent of Meeting wherever they came to rest.

Scribes who carefully and painstakingly copied Scripture were still honored at the top of Hebrew culture in the First Century when Paul, also known as Saul of Tarsus, was trained as a Pharisee of Pharisees under Gamliel, the most respected scholar of his day.

For that reason, I find it interesting, to say the least, the way Paul described the process by which the word of God was given by God to the people. He would have been intimately acquainted with the disciplined, careful and thorough way a scribe would copy Scripture. Yet Paul says,

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

God-breathed, or inspired, is the way Paul described how people received God’s word and passed it on. If Paul wanted to convey the idea of dictation from God, as Muhammed claimed with the Quran, he would have likely described the process like a scribe taking dictation from God, but he didn’t.

I wrestled with what inspiration means in recent articles here and here. Given the way people like Paul described the way Scripture was conveyed and received, it is very likely he didn’t mean verbatim dictation from God.

Instructive are the other ways Scripture is characterized in the New Testament. Peter, for instance, wrote the following in his second epistle:

“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture becomes a matter of someone’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

2 Peter 1:21 (NASB)

Peter seems to be saying saying that the prophecy was not initiated by human agency, but by divine agency, and it was not interpreted by the people who were moved to communicate what was revealed. They simply communicated what they received.

The Greek word translated “moved” in this text is φέρω (pheró), meaning “to bear, carry, bring forth”. It has the same connotation as the idea of a conduit or conduction.

If Paul meant to say that the Word of God was “dictated” and copied down verbatim, like the scribes copied Scriptures, he would have likely used a word related to “scribe”, rather than inspiration or receipt, as in conduction.

Paul describes his own encounter with the risen Christ in this way. He says:

“For I would have you know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel which was preached by me is not of human invention. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” 

Galatians 1:11 (NIV)

Paul uses the same language in his first letter to the Corinthians when he says:

“For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received….”

1 Corinthians 15:3 (NASB)

But what does it mean that the writers of Scripture were inspired, did not invent it, and passed (merely) on what they received without interpretation?

If they didn’t take “dictation” from God, what does it mean that God inspired men, and they passed on what they received?

Continue reading “What Does It Mean that the Word of God Was Inspired by God and Received and Passed on By Men?”

The Dilemma of God Demanding Justice from Beings Incapable of Meeting God’s Standard

There is one critique of the Christian notion of sin and the justice of God that is troubling on its face. That key critique for anyone who claims that God demands justice for sin is that God is seemingly unjust to require justice of beings who can’t measure up.

Many modern people bristle at the Christian idea of sin, and they bristle even more at the idea that God would punish sinners. Frankly, I think many modern people simply don’t understand what sin is and who God is.

But, that aside, there is one critique of the Christian notion of sin and the justice of God that is troubling on its face. That key critique for anyone who claims that God demands justice for sin is that God is seemingly unjust to require justice of beings who can’t measure up.

Alongside the notion that the God of the Bible and demands judgment for not measuring up to God’s just standard is the notion that all people are sinners who don’t measure up. In fact, the New Testament is fairly read to say that people are incapable of living up to God’s standard.

The doctrine of original sin says that we are all corrupted because the sin of Adam and Eve has been passed down generation after generation. Even if we don’t believe in the doctrine of original sin, however, the Bible is clear from the Old Testament to the New Testament that human beings don’t measure up to God’s standard:


They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
    there is none who does good,
    not even one.

Psalm 14:3


They have all fallen away;
    together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
    not even one.

Isaiah 53:5


as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
   .
 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”

Romans 1:10-12


Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18 (NIV)) Yet, he says, “Be perfect … as your heavenly Father is perfect?” (Matthew 5:48)

This is the dilemma: How can we be perfect?! “To err is human” the bard once said, and so it seems we are imperfect by our very nature.

Many people reject the idea that God can be just and demand justice from people incapable of measuring up to the standards God’s justice demands. They say it would be unjust for God to demand justice from beings who have no ability to act other than they do, and so fail to meet God’s standards.

God seems to be acting unfairly to demand that we meet His standards when we are 1) created beings, 2) born into sin, and 3) incapable of living up to the perfection God requires.

Other questions tumble after these thoughts: Why didn’t God create us perfect? If we are born sinful, how can God blame us for being sinful? If we are incapable of being perfect, how can God punish us for our imperfection?

Continue reading “The Dilemma of God Demanding Justice from Beings Incapable of Meeting God’s Standard”