Tag Archive: abraham

When the Rich Young Ruler asked Jesus how to be good, and was told to keep the Commandments, he said that he was doing that already, and asked what else he needed to do.

“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”-Matthew 19:21.

Was Jesus joking, or did he offer the possibility of being perfect? And what does it mean, to be perfect? We answer these important questions, when we are born again, when we sin no more.

As we discussed last time, being perfect doesn’t mean that we’ll dodge unavoidable accidents. We slip, trip, and fall. I spill every time I pour something. But that is not hate (the every-day word for sin). Hate is our choice, our responsibility; we choose to sin. So we can choose to not sin.

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”-Luke 6:46.

If we aren’t going to do the work Jesus requires, then how can we claim to be his followers?

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”-James 1:22.

Too long have we remained enslaved by hate, believing ourselves powerless against it, yet claiming that Jesus saved us from our sins, and rid the world of evil. We can’t believe he saved us, while we’re actively sinning. We can’t be with him, and against him. To enter the kingdom of heaven, we must choose.

“He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.”-Luke 11:23.

Don’t panic. This is a slow process. We’re addicted to sin, and it’ll take a long time, and a lot of hard work, to kick the habit. Review the steps in mindfulness from Part 1, and stay in God’s presence. We can’t hate, when we’re loving God.

Before Jesus asked the impossible of us, God formed a covenant with his ancestor, Abram. The Lord changed the man’s name, symbolizing rebirth, to Abraham.

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. // Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.”–Genesis 17:1, 5.

We are all fathers of many nations. Whether or not we accept the responsibility, our deeds (good or bad) influence others, who influence others, and so on…until we affect, or infect, the whole world. Our will is insufficient to love all who hate us, or ignore us, and so we shirk the needs of others by hating or ignoring them: allowing the poor to remain poor, the weak to be trodden upon, and the wicked to triumph.

“LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?”-Psalm 94:3.

The answer? As long as we believe it’s impossible to follow God’s will.

Perfect is what I like to call “Bible shorthand.” We take our first step in understanding this daunting concept, by agreeing that God is perfect.

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler [or shield] to all them that trust in him.”-2 Samuel 22:31.

But we can’t be perfect like God, can we? Keep in mind we aren’t talking about avoiding mistakes, or shooting the basketball into the hoop every time. The Lord is perfect because He is without sin. By its most basic definition, to sin is to be apart from God: to hate, instead of love. God cannot be apart from God.

King David further illuminated this for us, passing along his wisdom, as his descendant Jesus did.

“God is my strength and my power; and he maketh my way perfect.”-2 Samuel 22:33.

Alone, we cannot be perfect. Hatred clouds our judgment. Without God, we sin, since that is what sin means: “without God.” But when we realize how insufficient our will is, that we are alone and unarmed, and facing an army, then we choose. Pride fails us at this point; we must let it go. We are outnumbered, out-gunned, out of luck, and out of time.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”-Matthew 6:10.

The kingdom of heaven comes when God’s will is done on earth, that is, by us. So we are born again when our will becomes God’s will. That is how we become perfect.

“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”-Luke 6:36.

Here’s where Jesus breaks down the Bible shorthand into something we can approach and understand. Perfect = merciful. Further, everything God is, is perfect, and whatever we do to serve the Lord, in the way that He wants us to do it (not the way we want) is perfect.

Here are some Old Testament synonyms, courtesy of King David.

Perfect = totally sincere (1 Kings 11:4; 2 Samuel 22:33), completely dedicated (2 Chronicles 16:9). And this Psalm of David further clarifies the meaning:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”-Psalm 19:7.

God’s love converts the soul, and causes us to be reborn, if we’re humble enough to receive it. When we admit our ignorance and weakness, and commit ourselves to loving all things, all people, then we simple human beings become wise.

The apostle Peter adds to our list and understanding.

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.”-1 Peter 1:15.

Holy is, of course, what God is. Not only that, but the term points us to the Holy Spirit, which Jesus called “the Comforter.”

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”-John 14:26.

To be a comforter to those who are poor, brokenhearted, sick, in prison, in the hospital, friendless, and hopeless is to bring to remembrance what Jesus taught.

And one more synonym rounds out our list.

“…as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”-John 13:34.

Here’s what we have so far, as we contemplate what Jesus asks of us, and will give us, when we surrender our will to God. We are to be totally sincere and completely dedicated. No half-measures.

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”-Mark 12:30.

God is love, and love is everything. Give it all. Hold nothing back. To enter the kingdom of heaven is to embrace love; we do this by following Jesus’ teachings. This is a life-changing commitment, a personal covenant, between each of us and God.

Our covenant includes our perspective, experiences, everything that makes us unique. When we surrender, we remain who we are, we lose nothing of ourselves. Rather, our gifts, and our shortcomings, our faults and sins, passions and dreams…We dedicate all of it to the Lord, to life.

So we are completely dedicated, and totally sincere. We are merciful, and love one another. How dedicated, sincere, merciful, and loving should we be?

“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”-Luke 6:36.

How perfect must we be?

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”-Matthew 5:48.

We must be as merciful as God, as loving as Jesus, as holy as the Lord. Now we see how the Rich Young Ruler felt, when he walked away, shaking his head at the thought of surrendering all that he owned.

Take a deep breath.

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”-Luke 12:32.

I know all this is scary: like a nightmare, where we’re a musician on stage, asked to perform on an instrument we’ve never played; or maybe we’re a casual jogger, who has to suddenly run a 10-mile marathon.

Keep in mind, we’re looking at the end, the goal. To reach perfection, we take one baby step at a time. Review the steps from my mindfulness essays. Keep God with you, or, rather, stay with God.

Also, remember that we aren’t alone in this covenant. Jesus blesses his students.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [or allow] you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”-1 Corinthians 10:13.

Temptation is Bible Shorthand for “testing.” It does not mean to seduce or trick, as we use the word today. Now and then, God tests us, to see how well we’ve learned Jesus’ lessons, and to prepare us for more advanced classes.

God will not give us more than we can handle, without also giving us the strength to handle the tests. What does the Lord give us, then?

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”-Joshua 1:9.

God replaces our fears and anxieties with love and hope. Think of it: no more doubt, worry, regret, or shame. How much of our strength do we channel into carrying these useless burdens? How much stronger will we be without them?

We either sail with the wind, or against it. In the latter, we spend all our energy to accomplish our own will. We fight against nature, refusing to go the way life asks of us. But in the former, the wind is at our backs. We barely have to lift a finger. Everything happens naturally, because we have given ourselves over to nature, to God.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. / For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”-Matthew 11:29, 30.

We think loving people who hate us is impossible, that we can’t live without returning their hate. Actually, love is the easiest thing in the world to share. What makes Jesus’ teachings so seemingly difficult is that we’re required to be like him; I don’t mean godly, immortal, or performing miracles; I mean meek and lowly in heart.

Pride is our ultimate defense mechanism: a small animal growling, to scare a larger predator. We are small creatures. Jesus asks us to see ourselves for who we really are. This is the difficulty. Once we surrender our pride, the wind is at our backs, and God is with us.

“And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”-Deuteronomy 31:8.

With God, we no longer need to hate, or take revenge, or judge others. We are no longer jealous and bitter, or, therefore, anxious and depressed. We love, because the Lord rights all wrongs.

“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”-Leviticus 19:18.

When we surrender pride, we rip hatred up by the roots, and throw that vile weed (and all of its effects) into the furnace. Leave these volatile emotions to the Lord; vengeance happens by His time table, not according to our limited, selfish desires, but by His infinite wisdom.

“To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.”-Deuteronomy 32:35.

Nature is balance; and the Lord is nature. We do not have to carry the burden of ill will. Instead, with God, all we have to do is be at peace, and love one another.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”-John 16:33.

Remember the world is not evil. The world doesn’t betray us, or hate us for our weakness, trying to devour us at every turn. We people hate; we are responsible for what happens. We cause tribulation in our futile attempts to overcome the nearly 8 billion other people.

Since that is so, we can, instead, bring good cheer. Breathe in the sin of others, and breathe out the love of God; inhale the false, exhale the truth. Make every breath count toward the betterment of all. That is the only way we win: not by seeking our desires, which is an endless and impossible task, but by joining the choir of life. Sing your hearts out.

“I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. / It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword.”-Psalm 144:9, 10.

We don’t have to hate ourselves and others. We can sing a new song. Join with God, with nature, and all things. When we love His world-the trees, rocks, animals, the sky, the earth, and each other-then we can draw strength, courage, and love from everything around us.

This is the covenant that Jesus offers: not eye for an eye, but love in return for love; hope, for hope; salvation, for salvation. The Promised Land is ours for the taking!

Behold the wisdom of Solomon, another of Jesus’ ancestors:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. / In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. / Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear [or revere] the Lord, and depart from evil.”-Proverbs 3:5-7.

We cannot be perfect in every way, but we can love perfectly. We cannot overcome the world, but we can defeat hatred. We cannot forge our own heaven on earth, but we can join the kingdom of heaven, by following God’s will-doing what’s right for all, not some, not just you or me, but feeling love for everyone, everything. This is who we are.

Loving, when we’re used to hating, will not be easy; Jesus promised that it would be like carrying a cross. Be patient. Breathe. Inhale sorrow; exhale peace.

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. / But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”-James 1:3, 4.

Inhale sorrow; exhale peace. Make every breath count for everyone. This is God’s breath: divine life, the word that has always existed, even before existence, itself. And that word is love.

To be born again is to give all we have to God, to love all, and hate nothing. When we are without hate, then we sin no more. Our love is God’s love for Jesus, which is his love for us.

“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”-John 14:20.

And that is the perfect love, the perfect life, the way, and the truth. May the Lord bless and keep you. Amen.


The first step of a new journey continues the last step of the old. Jesus came to fulfil a covenant that began with Abraham, and was then passed on to Moses, and prophets like Isaiah and John the Baptist; it was an agreement, a relationship that evolved over centuries, even millennia.

This isn’t just the story of the Israelites, and the formation of their religion, it’s a metaphor for personal growth that applies to us today. Sometimes, when I’m too lazy, willfully ignorant, and afraid of change, my complacency makes me stumble; but I have to pick myself up again, despite being hurt and embarrassed. This is when we show our true selves: during times of extreme hardship.

This is our time in the wilderness.

“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: / And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”—Genesis 12:1-3.

That first part sounds like a great deal, like what young adults might think when starting out on their own. If they have courage and faith, the Israelites were promised a paradise. But courage and faith are reactions; until we experience a personal apocalypse, we can’t know if we have those traits, which brings us to the catch in God’s covenant (or testament) with Abraham:

“And [God] said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; / And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.”—Genesis 15:13-14.

That would’ve taken the wind right out of my sails. I really don’t know if I could’ve been as courageous as the hero Abraham. Courage and faith aren’t givens; we have to step up, sprinting after running for so long that our legs feel like rubber.

God was referring to the Israelites being enslaved by Egypt for 400 years. While Abraham wasn’t told who would enslave his people, he did know that it would be 400 years before they even began to settle the Promised Land; like Moses, he would never reach it.

“Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. / And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”—Exodus 12:40-41.

Abraham acted for God, a proxy doing the Lord’s work. There were others who would be the voice of God, like John the Baptist. God needed someone here, on Earth, to do His work. To continue this old covenant, He needed someone new to take over for Abraham.

“And when forty years were expired, there appeared to [Moses] in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. / …Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.”—Acts 7:30, 32.

We decide (or discover) who we are when we’re young. As our situation changes, we step up, accepting with humility that we are always learning and discovering new things about ourselves, or we fall. For me, I usually fall first, and then find my courage, reaffirm my faith, and sally forth. It might take a while for me to build up strength; so long that I’m a new person by the time I cast aside my shackles. Even then, it’s a long road:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, /…And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.”—Numbers 14:26, 33.

Though the Israelites did reach the Promised Land, eventually, holding onto it was a daily battle. Just so, it is a daily battle within our souls for us to hold onto our paradise—what we love and aspire to most. Accepting weakness, striving for greater strength, Moses rose from the ashes of Abraham, as John the Baptist continued for (and was prophesized by) Isaiah:

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. / Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: / And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”—Isaiah 40:3-5.

The prophets were His voice, the mouth of the Lord—proxies, not for what God wanted to do, but what He wanted to say. They symbolized our internal voices, our conscience. The part I put in bold shows a fundamental break from the eye-for-an-eye philosophy, which dominated the Old Testament. This new approach became central for Jesus and the new covenant:

“For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”—Luke 14:11.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus read from the book of Isaiah.

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”—Luke 4:18.

He quoted Isaiah 61:1. Isaiah prophesized about Jesus and John the Baptist; he paved the way, as John and all the prophets did, for a new understanding—not just between God and the Israelites, but with God and everyone who would listen, not just listen to the Word of God, but to their own inner voices: the knowing within us all.

What John and Jesus preached about was not a literal promised land, a location on the map, but the satisfaction of being fulfilled, of facing the overwhelming force of life with the humility that comes from recognizing your place, and finding the courage to always strive to make things better.

“And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins, and his meat was locusts and wild honey.”—Matthew 3:4.

How I love crazy John the Baptist! (For further reading, and a real treat, check out this example of one of his sermons from Matthew 3:7-12.)

John was willing to show humility, weakness of mind before the Lord. Would you dare to act tough in front of a tiger, standing solid in the midst of a hurricane, or would you be willing to bend your knee, acknowledging the overwhelming force of infinity?

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. / But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? / And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.”—Matthew 3:13-15.

For those of you following along with a King James Bible, note that what I put in bold is the first red lettering, the first time Jesus spoke.

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”—Matthew 5:17.

Just as Moses took the torch from Abraham, and as the prophets passed the Word of God from one to another, Jesus came because of that original covenant. He came to continue it, improve on it, but most of all he came to fulfil God’s promise of paradise.

But, first, he would have his time in the wilderness.