God’s law loves you too

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 27–28:19; Psalm 119:1–24; Isaiah 54; Matthew 2

June 22nd, 2016

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. – Psalm 119: 1-11

To me the law is a beautiful thing. It is full of judgement, mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23-24). The law is love written on our hearts (Romans 13:10, Hebrews 8:10). In my estimation, so that we are hardwired with the ability to love others with the love of Jesus Christ. Like an operating system for our soul, when we divert from the law and choose not to love another, the system gets confused and pushes back; “processing, processing, processing…” God reboot my soul, reset my system anew with love. My soul longs for it. God’s law leads me, directs me, governs me and to the extent that I accept this truth, seek after it and hold to it moment-by-moment, my soul is at rest in the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Still from time to time I encounter a sort of push back amongst Christians when the phase God’s law is used. For some the word law carries with it evil connotations of the very worst sort. To the extent the word ‘law’ or phrase ‘God’s law’ is perceived as an enemy of love. A fear arises in some that God’s law will push non-believers away. The phase “old testament god” is used, as if there were such a thing. God is God and has always been, no shadow of turning (James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8). Oh how this angers me. I hate this perversion of my Masters holiness. My anger of course is with the evil that has managed to redefine the meaning of the word law through hypocrisy.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. – Matthew 23:23–24

James Tissot, Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees.
James Tissot, Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees.

In my estimation, Jesus here criticizes the religious leaders for their blinding attention to detail that caused them to lead others astray from the truth of the law. My prayer is that the Pharisees and hypocrites perversions of the law will be untwisted and made straight. That we may dismiss the worldly definition of God’s law, wave God’s banner and return to the truth proclaiming a biblical definition of His law. That we would all fall in love with God’s beautiful law. That we would never be deceived into a judgemental nor self righteous nature. That we would not be fear-driven conditional lovers and so pervert God’s law. That any inner Pharisees within us would be vanquished by God’s truth (Psalm 139:23).

Judgement is not about one person assessing another’s keeping of the law but rather the law helping one keep their own affairs in order (Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:9–10; Micah 6:8; Habakkuk 2:4). Praise God for writing His law on our hearts that we may live abundantly (Jeremiah 31:31-34)!

Keeping the law is beautiful

Straining out the gnat is not evil in any way. Jesus makes it clear that we should do it. His criticism is that the Pharisees had done it to the dismissal of things that were more important.  Loving the LORD thy God with all one’s heart and soul and mind and desiring to do His will in all things; Beautiful. Thinking one’s self capable of judging another’s love for God. Ugly; Deep concern for one’s own stewardship; Wise. Being overly concerned for someone else’s; Foolish. Judgement is a gift from God to help us with our stewardship. Let us not pervert this gift by trying to unwrap it for another. Instead let us rejoice in it. Praising God for His gift to us in humility as we are judged in grace and mercy to the glory of God. As we are made whole and mature in Christ.

Let us also consider the inverse. If we pass by and see another straining out a gnat and think, “that hypocrite” are we not in judgement of another? Is it not a matter of their heart whether they should strain the gnat in secret or let the light shine? Are we capable of knowing their heart? By straining a gnat have they said everyone else must also do the same, that it is right for all, certainly this would be judgement on their part, but have they done this by simply straining out the gnat? If so how is one to obey Jesus command to let their light shine? (Matthew 5:16)

Shine Your light oh LORD and vanquish darkness. Here is truth about the law:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. – John 13:34–35

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. – Romans 13:10

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. – Matthew 22:36–40

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. – Matthew 7:12

 

Extra Credit:

  1. Check out the eight woes of the Pharisees, this post mostly drew on the fifth.
  2. Golden Rule thought experiment on the power of God’s law in love

Scripture: Matthew 7:12, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 13:5

God gives us a simple and basic, at the most fundamental level, instruction on how to keep the law well. Many call it the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). I say it is most fundamental because it is by way of that which we are most intimate with than any other; ourselves. We know exactly how we should like to be treated and regarded and so forth. Even if not consciously, subconsciously we are hardwired to love ourselves well. Follow along for one simple illustration of this truth. We know that love thinketh no evil or, put another way, keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).

What if we were to apply how we feel about ourselves in this matter on to others? In order to explore this question I encourage you to join me in a thought experiment on your being wrong. Popular exercise, I know.

  1. Name a time when you were wrong; no excuses, no circumstances at work that were out of your control, no anything but you and your wrongness hanging out being wrong.
  2. Let’s say you came up with something. Then let us go to how long it took to recall. Checking all those excuse boxes may have taken a bit of time. Well that one wasn’t really all my fault, etc. So how long did it take you to recall?
  3. Now think back to the first time you had admitted you were wrong in this instance. Think on how quickly and completely you forgave yourself. Did it even take a second? Did it really even register?

Is not love a beautiful thing?!?! Praise God that His law is written on our hearts! (Jeremiah 31:31-34) His forgiveness, His grace and His mercy are written on our hearts!!! The questions then become, does it take you as long to come up with something someone close to you has done wrong? Has it taken you more than a second to dismiss it from your mind?

The point here is that our love of ourselves is much nearer perfection in fulfilling the law than our love for our fellows. God has written it on our hearts to help us, to enable us for the good work He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). How can we not fall in love with His law? Is it not beautiful? Does it not equip us to save souls and rescue others from bondage as it all the time

Dealing with failure

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

Today’s reading: Numbers 27; Psalms 70–71; Isaiah 17–18; 1 Peter 5

May 18th, 2016

Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd. – Numbers 27:16–17

Dealing with failureWhenever I read these phrases about ‘going out and coming in before them’ in the Bible my heart longs to be a leader. I love. I thirst to serve and help others. Yet my desire brings about failure. Repeatedly. Today I pain for those I have failed along the way as we went out and came in.

Yesterday marked a failed attempt to restore a previous failure for me. This morning I sought advice from a stronger and better leader of what to do now. The chapter was titled ‘Dealing with failure’, from Mastering Self: To Lead Self and Others by Donald G Hanna. I was looking for a next step. Here is what I found.

Chief Hanna teaches that leaders fail for three basic reasons: relationship, commission and omission.

“Leadership is demanding of time, priority, and emotional energy. A tendency persists to neglect prayer, Bible study, spouse, and children. Relationships become strained or deteriorate with residual failure. Relationship failure occurs due to improper relations with God, family, superiors, or others. Commission failure results directly from wrong decisions, actions, and priorities. It results indirectly from wrong values, beliefs, attitude, and thinking. Omission failure results from failing to decide or do what should be decided or done. It often involves overlooking in lieu of overseeing, i.e., failure to exercise authority in oversight obligation. Procrastination and rationalization enhance omission failure.”

Chief Hanna goes on to say that, “three biblical steps are necessary to respond to a personal failure or wrong:

  1. admit the failure or wrong without rationalizing or blaming,
  2. seek forgiveness from the person wronged by your failure, and
  3. take remedial action if the failure or wrong can be restored.”

Praise God for a system of forgiveness. Oh how I rely on Him. Chief Hanna’s perspective on the causes of failure leave me with much work to do. How are you doing with your leadership?

God would you help me lead. God may You abide in me and I in You. This is my only hope. Amen.

Judging Others

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

Today’s reading: Genesis 44; Mark 14; Job 10; Romans 14

Judging Others

Throughout the Bible we are told, warned and even rebuked not to judge others. Here in Romans chapter 14 we are again commanded not to judge our fellows. This time Apostle Paul takes a logical approach as to explaining our deficiency in ability to judge others. It is almost as if he hopes to stop us from even going there. Telling us “you will fail at it, let me explain.”   

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. -Romans:14:4

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. -Romans:14:13-14

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. -Romans:14:17

For whatsoever is not of faith is sin. -Romans:14:23b

C.S Lewis puts it this way:

That is why Christians are told not to judge others. We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it.

The truth here is, in my estimation, that we were not built to weigh how the Spirit’s call applies to another and therefore are not capable of judging another. The Spirit moves in one direction but calls out to those in many places. These places are not physical but spiritual and so we, only perceiving the physical of another, can not judge. God may we realize this truth and may it serve as a deterrent to save us, so that we might be forgiven.

Further study: consider how this truth also applies comparison and jealousy.

Renew Your Mind

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

Today’s reading: Genesis 31; Mark 2; Esther 7; Romans 2

Renew Your Mind

From our past reading of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Jesus tells us the dynamics surrounding not forgiving our fellows having received forgiveness from God. When the King forgave the servant his debt it was obviously not about the money. If it were simply the money, what the servant owed the King, what the servant did after it had been forgiven would have no bearing on the matter. But what happened after the servant was forgiven did matter and so we know it was not about the money, the tangible, it was the principle of the matter, the intangible.

The King was giving the servant an intangible gift that unfortunately the servant did not really receive. The gift was meant to renew the servant’s mind. To change what he believed. But when the King found out the servant was collecting debts harshly, He knew the renewal of the servant’s mind had not taken place and so the tangible was gift was revoked and the penalty attached to it reinstated.

This link between the intangible and the tangible is the point today. Take Jesus’s sermon on the mount. It was all about the intangibles. You have heard [tangible], but I say [intangible]. You have heard “Thou shalt not kill” but I say “whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”. Blessed are the meek (intangible) for they shall inherit the earth (tangible). Jesus makes it clear that it is now about the heart and He made it clear that He knows our hearts. And the people were amazed because the word had become flesh and the word is sharper than any two-edged sword able to separate the soul from the spirit and able to judge the intentions of the heart. Jesus shows up and it becomes a matter of the heart.

From today’s reading Apostle Paul warns and even rebukes the religious who are looking down on and judging others; if the intangible is not present, the tangible will neither be.

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? -Romans 2:1-4

This word repentance here μετάνοια, means the changing of one’s mind. In my estimation Apostle Paul is basically saying; “If you truly understood and accepted God’s gift, your mind would be renewed and you would not judge others.”

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. -Romans 2:5

God may we receive Your good gifts in truth and may they renew our minds in Christ Jesus. Would you bless us in this way God? Thank You God! You are good! Amen.

Try Again, Go Deeper

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

Today’s reading: Genesis 19; Matthew 18; Nehemiah 8; Acts 18

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells a story of a King who calls to account his people, finding among them a debtor. The debtor unable to pay. His sum too great to bear; he begs for mercy promising to pay all. The King moved, forgives all and sets him free. What a beautiful story.

Until one day some of the King’s servants bring report of a great atrocity. The debtor had been found giving no mercy to those who owed him little. Upon receiving this report the King seized the debtor and handed him over to the tormentors. What a shame.

Had the debtor not received mercy to extend on? Had his debts not been forgiven? Should not margin abound so that he could extend mercy too? It does not make sense to me why he would act this way. Perhaps, could he have had trouble receiving the freedom?  Could it have been because he didn’t really believe he’d been forgiven that he turned so ruthlessly in the shadow of his great grace to collect? How could this be? What a tragedy. He had it all!

I recall the first time I read the Parable of the Prodigal Son and realized who I was in the story. It hit me quite hard. So hard I had a defensive response to laugh at my grand oversight. I suppose it was one of those ‘laugh or cry moments’ and I took the weaker way, not wanting to face straight on to wretchedness deep in my heart.

The Bible is full of lessons for us that come through stories. When we read of a protagonist, let us not be too quick to say, ‘that’s me alright’, but instead might we say “how can I become more like them”? When we read through the proverbs let us not be too quick to give ourselves a pat on the back that could end up deep in our hearts. Let us be careful what we believe for out of our hearts’ come the issues of life. More still, when we read of an antagonist let us not be too quick to dismiss; asking from the outside looking in saying ‘how could they?’ Instead, let us look from the inside out and say ‘how could I have?’ Then we go deeper. What is God teaching us? Who are you in the today’s story?

Go Deeper in God's Word

Oh God please forgive me of my wickedness, would You? LORD that I would even notice offenses towards me from others, which are so little and insignificant, within the shadow of Your beautiful and perfect and steadfast forgiveness of my great wickedness, pains my soul. God if you leave me to myself I will continue in my wickedness. Oh God, would You please rescue me from myself? God would you please help me extend a measure of the Grace You afford me for Your Namesake? God would You please be gentle with me for I am weak? I ask this in Jesus Name. Thank You God! You are good and worthy of all praise! Amen.

From today’s reading, after the king receives the tragic report:

Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. – Matthew 18: 32-34

From Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount:

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. – Matthew 6:12

The first thing Jesus Says after the Sermon on the Mount:

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. -Matthew 6:14–15

On the benefit of believing and understanding the gravity of the truth; that we are who God says we are: sinners deserving of all tournament; and that God is who He says He is: our Redeemer; and that Jesus can do what He says he can do: save us.

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; -Ephesians 3:8

2016-01-16 Logos Image of the Day

Forgiveness and Trust: Simplicity

To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

-Frederick Buechner

 forgiveness and trust: simplicity

 

Forgiveness: to let go: to let leave: to move on. Enough. Unresolved issues take up space. In his book, Crucial Conversations, Joseph Grenny argues that if you do not talk it out you will act it out. Passive aggressiveness. Acting it out, I believe, breaks down trust. A most useful characteristic. Trust speeds up. It bears time. Freeing us from needless worry about the distant future and distant past that we may focus on now and on eternity.

Acting it out creates more negative. Negative that slows and takes up more and more. That becomes harder and harder to forgive. That eventually break relationships. I believe margin works the other way round. If you have it, the hour conversation to talk it out now can be had. Which leads to more margin. Margin begets margin.

I have come to believe that if we lack margin now we can insert forgiveness and trust to set things on the right course.

 

-A takeaway from Simplify by Bill Hybels

-A takeaway from Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny

-A takeaway from Mansfield’s book of Manly Men by Stephen Mansfield

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.