Stubborn

Me: Good morning Holy Spirit! I am perplexed by the way You told Isaiah to deliver a message (chapter 6) that Jesus later quoted in Matthew 13 to explain why He taught in parables.

Isaiah’s Commission

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9 He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

Jesus’ Explanation

13 Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,

‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
15 For the heart of this people has become dull,
With their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes,
Otherwise they would see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Holy Spirit: Good morning Jon! Part of the problem being addressed is willfulness. In your idiom, one might say “he didn’t want to hear it”, or some such expression implying a closed mind or heart. How does that work out in practice? The message being delivered is contrary to the belief or desire of the recipient, so he discounts it entirely.

Jesus taught in parables because they were stories that were easily remembered and contained a somewhat oblique example of the truth that He wanted to teach. This approach at least has a chance of getting past the mental defenses of the willfully disobedient to get some level of consideration. An important aspect of a parable is that it is about someone other than the hearer; it is not a direct challenge to his mistaken beliefs. Nor is is an override of the choice of the individual. He may take it or leave it; spend time musing about it, or not.

You were created with the ability to filter the information you perceive, to categorize, to make judgments as to its value and to remember what you consider important. Control of this process is mostly subconscious and is regulated by your beliefs. Filtering of information was designed to be subconscious. If it were not so, it would increase the burden instead of easing the work the attentive part of the mind must do. Taken together, your beliefs and understanding of your environment is sometimes called your worldview.

Looking inward, people have beliefs about themselves. The same filtering of perceptions takes place related to self and to one’s behavior. For example, if you believe “I’m a good person”, your are less likely to be able to determine if criticism of your behavior is valid than if you believe you are good insofar as you are submitted to the leading of Christ. No one is harder to correct than the person who is completely convinced he is right.

Me: Of course, I believe He is good, and what I do is good if it is of His leading. (Mark 10:18, John 15:5) Still, I recognize that I sometimes have a negative script running in my head. At least I may recognize it if it rises to the level of consciousness or if negative emotions get egregious enough to bring it to the forefront.

Holy Spirit: That is why the scripture tells you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). And you know from the process of learning anything difficult, that takes time and repetition. You should also recognize that as you have submitted to My leading that negativity has greatly diminished over time.

Me: You could remove it in the twinkling of an eye.

Holy Spirit: My way assures that it is obvious that it is your choice.

Me: Thank You Holy Spirit! I love You!

Holy Spirit: You are welcome! I love you!

Iowa Caucus – Monday Night

I used to write a politically-oriented blog because I care deeply about the country that I live in. I care about the Constitution that our founders have left us. I believe the Bill of Rights is an awesome expression of the grace we have enjoyed as a people. I am passionate about trying to help elect those who care about these things too. I care about those who have served in various ways to secure and protect the freedoms that we hold dear. Those traditions go back to the very beginning.

I served six years on active duty in the US Navy myself, longer ago than I usually admit. The “featured image” for today is of one of the ships that I served on during a transit near a typhoon that was churning things up in the western Pacific (photo credit – Ralph Turner) . But I don’t limit my honor to those with military service or to our elected officials, or even to our brave first-responders, who are using their specialized skills and regularly putting their lives on the line on our behalf. As heroic as all those are, who selflessly do these important jobs, I also recognize that the mom and dad who are doing their best to instill a sense of duty and service and love of others into the next generation are also on the front lines doing work that is critical to our survival as a nation.

Today, I spent the afternoon driving around rural Iowa, delivering some last-minute materials that will be used in the caucuses in my Iowa county on Monday night. I hope the turnout is better than the one we saw last year. There was a blizzard, and it was an “off” (non-presidential) year. Perhaps folks wonder, “What difference will it make?” To me, the difference is that I meet with my neighbors and together we show that we care enough to show up. The sacrifices we make to get together are so pale when compared to those who suffered the brutal Winter and supply crisis at Valley Forge (1777-1778) with General Washington. Or how will we compare our time of discussion to the withering fire faced by those who fought their way ashore at Omaha Beach? No, ours seems like a minor contribution. I take it as important in preserving our freedoms for the next generation, none the less.

You might wonder, since this is a passion that I freely own, why I gave up my political blog. The reason is fairly simple, and it was voiced by John Adams, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” I came to realize that as a nation, while we must work within our political system to do what we can, our fundamental dilemma is a spiritual one. Our diminishing state of spiritual existence probably helps explain the explosion of laws and bureaucratic regulations that have been passed to try to restrain us. Alas, the long line of legislators that we have had since our founding apparently felt the simple and direct Constitution had to be supplemented. The word “religious” used by Adams may not have exactly the same connotation in our day, as it did in his, but unless we return to our mooring as “one nation under God” as our Pledge of Allegiance has it, we will remain adrift and headed for the shoals of destruction – and all those regulations will not save us.

Heart Transplant

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. – 1 John 4:15-16

Ever ask yourself, “Why did I ever do that”? Jeremiah 17:9 gets right at the heart of the matter; more deceitful than all else and desperately sick. The link above will take you to the biblehub.com entry for that verse, where you can discover that the phrase “desperately sick” could be rendered “incurable”. That diagnosis would seem to paint us into the proverbial corner, wouldn’t it? How is one going to make good on well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions if one’s “decider” is broken with an incurable spiritual ailment?

The good news is that we are offered a spiritual heart transplant. Really, give that new heart free reign, and it can permeate the entire being, transforming and renewing everything!

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

That sure sounds like good news to me! If you haven’t made that decision yet, I pray you will put it at the top of your list and not put it off any longer.

Am I? Are you? #6


I am grateful for having made Eric’s acquaintance.

This is the sixth affirmation found on the piece of Christy Mitropoulous’ artwork that we have been working though.

I Am … More than a conqueror. Romans 8:37

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31-39

My life is mercifully devoid of deadly peril most of the time. Hardship? More like occasional inconvenience. Nakedness? Hardly ever in public, except nightmares remembered from childhood where I was a helpless mannequin on display in the J. C. Penney store. I guess I was feeling sorry for the public embarrassment of the mannequins that worked there.

Persecution? Well, that is certainly on the increase. It is a plot by dark powers faithfully executed by those who follow them, whether wittingly or unwittingly. The policies of most companies have been changed to restrict open expression of convictions supporting traditional moral values. They may or may not be regularly enforced, but are a snare waiting for the unwary. Does this documentation mean your company is actually against traditional values? They could be. Probably though, they are just observant and pragmatic. They observe that if a complaint is lodged against you they are open to be sued because of your beliefs, unless they have taken a position against them. The courts have proven repeatedly to come down on the side of anyone but the one who is following convictions based on Christian belief. Christ-believers are now in a condition where one can’t work for a living and vocalize one’s traditional beliefs without taking on significant risk.

Most of this is in a still-trifling state, compared to the full aims of the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). This passage in Romans 8 stands ready to console, however bad it gets.

Death? I am convinced, like Paul, that death is no enemy for the Christ-follower. This doesn’t imply my sense of self-preservation has ceased to function normally. Though I know that none of us gets out of this world alive, I am sure that this existence is not all there is. Yesterday, I learned my friend Eric, who had been valiantly fighting cancer, had passed. I watched him battle the symptoms at fairly close range and fervently prayed daily, expecting his restoration. I never talked with him when I did not come away uplifted by his sense of gratitude and grace. There is no doubt in my mind that the attitude he displayed was merely an artifact of the upward road he was walking, right to the end of this phase of life. There in no end of the list of things that Eric was conquering. If you had known him, you would have seen that clearly too. Death is now one of them.

Life is in Paul’s list of things that cannot separate us from the love of God. I need to be reminded at every turn that I am a conqueror over the issues of life. God has given us in the scriptures a perfect life manual, He has given us a reprieve in Jesus from the spiritual death sentence we each had earned. He has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us to move in the life we are called to live. Why, you might ask, would I need to be reminded that I am a conqueror over life? You can likely answer that question yourself before it is fully formed on your lips. Life is sometimes not a bed of roses. Sometimes if is filled with many of the other troubles in Paul’s list. For me, though, it is my past history as a serial abuser of the free will that God has graciously given me, doing things that I wanted to do that were not in my best interest. Why? Well, inexplicably, because I wanted to. Still, I find Him unfailingly faithful. Unerringly true to His word. Helping me to be more than a conqueror, even over life. And this is the best part, simply because He loves Me.

Christy Mitropoulos Signature

Are you? Am I? #5


I am grateful for the fascinating uniqueness of every person. You, our Creator, are AWESOME!

I Am … A new creation. — 2 Corinthians 5:17

(This is the fifth entry on Christy Mitropolous’ artwork.)

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Me: Good morning Jesus!

Jesus: Good morning Jon!

Me: I want to ask a hard question.

Jesus: Yes?

Me: I was grumpy and surly last night. Even working outside on a gorgeous spring evening, I seemed incapable of proper appreciation.

Jesus: You were preoccupied with comparing your performance at work against your perception of the many demands on your time. You scarcely notice the extra-special sunset I created. Have you thought about why having more to do than you can focus on causes you stress? One of the people you met with yesterday about the likely impact of changes to an electronic controller published an email naming you an expert on the subject at hand.

Me: The guy who actually made the changes was out sick. I knew the details because he reports to me and had graciously kept me involved because he recognized the stakes were high, business wise. But to your question, I feel like a juggler who is struggling to keep all the balls in the air. The last act of my day at work was fielding a question from my manager, who asked me something I had not had time to study. I had no idea.

Jesus: When I was “in the flesh”, so to speak, I answered such a question, about the consummation of all things.

I said, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”. Mark 13:32

My point is, there are things it is not up to you to know. Or do.

I am glad that you recognized your attitude was not right yesterday and then brought it to Me. If your peace is disturbed, it is a red flag that something in your beliefs is not founded on the truth that I Am in control and that I Am willing to guide you through. You have a tendency to think “new creation” implies final perfection. What it means is because the power of sin is broken in Me, there is the possibility. A baby is a new creation, who has a lifetime of learning and development ahead following the process of becoming (v21) what he is created to be.

Me: Thank You Jesus! I love you!

Jesus: You are welcome! I love you!

Christy Mitropoulos Signature

Are you? Am I? #4


I am grateful for more Spring-like weather! Time to rake the gravel out of the grass from plowing the driveway last Winter!

The fourth statement on Christy Mitropoulous’ artwork is:

I AM – A slave to righteousness. Romans 6:18

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 16:15-23

Me: Good evening Jesus!

Jesus: Good evening Jon!

Me: My wife reminded me of Jim Richards’ definition of righteousness, as living the way things ought to be (I’m paraphrasing).

Jesus: When you were living the way you thought things ought to be, you were not righteous. Finding out My definition of the way things ought to be and living according to that in the power of the Spirit is the way to be free from enslavement to sin.

Me: I have had large swaths of my life when I agreed your way was right, but still did not or could not follow it.

Jesus: Yes, mere agreement will not suffice to transform your life. What was the word Paul used as an indicator?

Me: Obedience?

Jesus: The proof is in the outcome. Obedience is a verb. Agreement is a position. Change requires action. Obedience in your own strength is works, and as you know from experience, you will ultimately fail. Obedience operating in My strength, in the grace I have extended to you, is key; I will never fail you.

The other day, in a meeting with friends, you observed that the trajectory of your life had gone from a steady downward spiral to one that was consistently upward. There are many ways to describe the divide Paul is speaking of in this passage. It all comes down to this: will you walk with Me, or not? Many think this means asking Me to walk with them. That is not the way to freedom either.

Me: Thank You Jesus! I love You!

Jesus: You’re welcome! I love you!

Christy Mitropoulos Signature

Are you? Am I? #3


I am grateful that I am free from sin.

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14

Me: Good afternoon Holy Spirit!

Holy Spirit: Good afternoon Jon!

Me: This third statement on Christy Mitropoulous’ artwork is one that my natural mind resists as presumptuous. It says, “Hey, wait a minute! I (insert reference to last bad attitude or hurtful thing I did here) and I clearly miss the mark of God’s best regularly.” I therefore have to get hold of those thoughts and compare them closely against the message of the gospel to bring them into subjection to the truth.

Holy Spirit: That is certainly one aspect of the necessary work of correcting things you have come to believe that are just not true. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 says, For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

Notice some things about this passage:

  • Every thought matters.
    • The notion that only what you do outwardly matters is as false as false can be. (See Matthew 15:19 or Mark 7:21)
  • Men’s ideas are one of the things that stand against true knowledge of God.
    • Men are proud of these ideas.
  • Getting your thinking straightened out is a war.
    • It is a desperate struggle.
    • Life and death are at stake.
  • I Am providing the power you need to break the strongholds of wrong thinking.
    • It is My power, the power that created the cosmos and all its mechanisms.
  • Correction takes time.
    • Not because I have yet to provide a way, but because of your ability to apply yourself to the process, to do battle in your spirit and reconcile yourself to the truth.

Me: I remember that word “master” also came up with regard to sin in the early chapters of Genesis.

Holy Spirit: Yes. Cain had some trouble with his thinking. He did not master it, and he killed his brother Able while he was still operating in self-centered anger.

Genesis 4:7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

The point of Romans 6:14 is that those who are in Christ because they have accepted the salvation purchased by His death for their sin are free from the power of sin. That is, sin’s power over them is broken. There are many passages of scripture that attest to this. Before we look at some of those, note the difference in the message to Cain and the one to believers (after the cross).

  • To Cain – “you must master it.”
  • To believers – “sin shall not be master over you”

This is the grace that has been extended to you.

John 1:29 — The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

John 8:34 — Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.

Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:6-8 — For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 10:10 — for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

Philippians 2:12-13 — So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Take this work seriously. Think of a demolition expert working to diffuse a bomb; he wants to get it right. Your life is at stake too. This passage does not mean that the basis of your salvation is your works. The basis of your salvation is the completed work of Christ. The work this passage is referring to is the same work as 2 Corinthians 10:5; the work of aligning your beliefs, and therefore your thoughts, and then therefore your actions to the Truth, which is Christ. Neither are you to attempt this on your own. I Am here to help you.

Me: Thank You Holy Spirit! I love You!

Holy Spirit: You are welcome! I love you! Here is some more help:

Hebrews 4:12 — For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Meditate on how I Am providing guidance to sort out what you believe and how that affects what you end up doing.

Christy Mitropoulos Signature