The Holiness of God – Psalm 101:1-4

God’s Love Is Tempered In Holiness

1 I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life-
when will you come to me?

I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
3 I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.

I hate what faithless people do;
I will have no part in it.
4 The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.

Just Judge

Almighty God is a loving God, full of mercy and grace.  He showers all of us – (unrepentant) sinners and saints alike – with mercies that renew every morning.  He shines the sun on all of us, and allows the rain to fall for all of us.  God woos us with His kindness, and declares His character through His creation.

God also is a holy judge.  He cannot stand sin in His presence.  He has been on task, calling all of us to repentance with His love.  But there comes a time when, after we have been continually wooed by His goodness and mercy, that He will instead give us His justice.

Clean Character

David greatly desired to know God’s character, and to participate in it.  He recognized the holiness of God – the complete and total absence of wrongdoing in God’s character – as something that was important to God, and important to him.  David recognized the need for personal holiness – a separation from sin and a separation to God.  David greatly desired to live a blameless life before God.  In the Psalms, many which were written by him, including Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, he declares:

1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

David recognizes that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  No one but Jesus Christ ever lived a perfect, sinless life on Earth.  David greatly desired to live in a way that shunned sin, and embraced holiness, in light of his fallen nature.

Insulated Inspection

David sought to shield his eyes from evil.  He did not desire to look upon anything vile.  The eyes, for most people, contribute a significant portion of all stimuli.  Men, in particular, are wired to react to what they see.  David purposed in his heart to keep his eyes from intentionally dwelling upon wickedness.

In Western culture today, the focus of advertising on television and the internet has a tendency to focus on sexual immorality.  And that is because sex sells.  The ironic aspect of this is that it is culture that both bombards men day in and day out with messages of promiscuity and satisfaction in lewdness and unfaithfulness and vilifies him if he consumes their product.  Once a man has taken the bait, and partakes of this “eye candy” and the forbidden fruit, the very culture that baits him with it are the very first people to turn on him, call him vile and degenerate, shun him, and destroy his good name.

David recognized this danger, and did his very best to keep his eyes from intentionally wandering towards that which would cause him difficulty.  It should be noted that the one time he failed, when he looked upon Bathsheba, he sinned mightily and paid a most dear price for it.

Despise Disloyalty

The desire for personal purity helped David to hate what faithless people do.  They wallow in their own sin, reject the law of Almighty God, and revel in their wanton disobedience to the One who created them and calls them back to Himself.  David does not hate the wicked, but hates what the wicked do.

It is important to make the distinction between hating someone and hating their actions.  It is especially important to make this distinction, for evil people will try to manipulate others by calling their own aversion to holiness and your disagreement with their thoughts, words and deeds as somehow being related to their personal identity and not to their personal ideology.  Unless we, as a culture, can separate what a person does from who a person is, we will be sucked into a violent maelstrom that threatens to pigeonhole everyone into accepting what is vile in order to avoid being perceived (and therefore accused in the public arena) as being racist, bigoted, and hateful people.

Somehow, people in their quest to be free from the responsibility that comes as a result of being created by God, even and especially to be His image-bearers, have lost their personal identity and replaced it with personal ideology.  In other words, you can no longer disagree with someone based on their thoughts and words without somehow casting an aspersion on their race or heritage.  The evil person tries to insist that the two are inextricably intertwined, thus forcing a person to accept their ideas in order to accept them as people, for to reject their ideas, in their mind, is to reject them and their value as human beings.

Purge Perfidy

David desires to have nothing to do with evil.  He goes to great lengths to prevent its influence and actions in his life.  He so greatly desires this removal from evil, he wants to place the perverseness of people as far as he can from his heart.  David loves people, and was called by God to be a shepherd over them as king by the prophet Samuel.  Yet David, in his role as king and judge, would not permit evil to flourish under his watch.

We too are to rid ourselves of the perverse things that so easily entangles us in sin.  There should be an active desire, fueled by the Holy Spirit, and guided by the word of the Living God, to separate ourselves from what is evil in the sight of God and separate ourselves to what is good in the sight of God.  Until we do this, we are, in effect, actively courting that which is offensive to a holy, sinless, and perfect God.  For people who claim to know God and claim to be His friends, this should never happen.  What true friend actively goes out of their way to cause others intentional pain and trouble apart from trying to strain the relationship?  But thanks be to God, for He is full of grace, mercy, and love!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  While seeking the grace and mercy of God, do I also in the same measure seek His holiness in personal practice?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a holy and just God.  You cannot look upon sin, yet You continually shower Your goodness and provision upon all who live.  Father, please help me to understand the depths of Your holiness, so that I can better understand why You hate sin so much.  Give me a hatred of my own sin, and help me to see it as You do.  Prepare my heart to do whatever is necessary to honor You, and to throw off the stench of my sin.  Help me to see it as I would rotting, decaying garbage.  I praise You, O God, for you have taken my sin from me and cloaked me with the righteousness of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to keep His cloak of righteousness from being stained by my moral failings.  Help me to bear up under Your trials as my sanctification prepares me to walk in holiness before You.  Help me to remember that You are a just judge, and that You will not tolerate willful sin from me anymore.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Forgiving Others – Matthew 18:21-35

Forgive As You Have Been Forgiven

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

A Quantifying Question

Peter asks a question of Jesus, which he then answers.  But Jesus does something that Peter doesn’t expect – He gives him an answer that is far beyond the fathomable realm of belief.  The prophet Amos indicated that three times was the appropriate number of times to forgive before exacting justice.  Seven times would have been more than gracious.  Then Jesus comes out with what appears to be a ludicrous number – seventy seven times.  Some translations of the Bible put the number at seventy times seven.  It is not the number that should be focused upon – no one would be able to mentally remember how many times that would be.  The number was so exceedingly high as to indicate that we should continually forgive others.

A Perfect Parable

Jesus then introduces one of the most frightening of parables.  It has royal intrigue, forgiveness, hardness of heart, and a terrible outcome.  We should take and internalize it so that we can understand its implications and realize the perilous ground that we find ourselves standing on when, by hardness of heart, we refuse to forgive others of their offenses against us, no matter how insignificant, nor how great and devastating.

Insurmountable Indebtedness

The debt was astronomical – ten thousand bags of gold.  Just for a reference, let’s place a fictitious weight in each bag, then get a rough idea of how much money was at stake.  Let’s say that each bag of gold held twenty pounds of gold (for the sake of argument).  That would be 200,000 pounds of gold.  Each pound of gold would have twelve Troy ounces – 2,400,000 ounces of gold.  And at today’s prices, even if we were to low-ball – $1000 US per ounce – that would be 2.4 BILLION US dollars!

This would have been an unfathomable debt for the average person.  But if it seems like someone could actually pay that off, multiply it times one million, or a billion.  The idea is that there is an unfathomable debt to repay, and that no reasonable person could repay it.  We find ourselves in that very situation.  For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.  Each of us owes a blood-debt that we cannot pay.

Royal Relief

The man who owed this to the king begged for mercy.  And in a show of great compassion, the king forgave the man of his debt.  Imagine the relief that the man must have felt!  And imagine the pain it must have caused the king to lose that much.  But the king was gracious, and the man greatly profited from his compassion.

This is the same situation that we each find ourselves in.  The price of sin is the blood of a sinless person.  Because none of us are sinless, we cannot repay our debt.  But Jesus Christ died for our sins, and shed His sinless blood for us, so that we could pay our blood-debt to God, and be free.

A Hardened Heart

The forgiven man then went out and found a man who owed him just a little money.  Possibly not having any money after squandering the billions in gold, he began to try to get some money from people who owed him.  And when the man who owed him asked for mercy, the forgiven man wouldn’t forgive his debt.

When we refuse to forgive someone of their debt to us, we are like the forgiven man who won’t forgive a much smaller debt.  We should be grateful that God has forgiven us, and show that same forgiveness to others.  When we will not forgive another person’s debt to us, we are acting out of a hardened heart.  We forget what God has done for us, and desire justice where there should be mercy.

Forgiveness harms the forgiver three ways:

  • The original pain of the offense
  • The pain in forgiving the debt
  • The knowledge that there will be no justice for the debt

Yet, God did this for each and every person who would believe in Him.  And it is up to us to do the same.  Is the pain real?  Yes.  Does it hurt?  Most certainly.  Will the pain ever go away?  Some pain takes longer than others to heal.  Yet, we are still to do what is right.

Colossal Consequences

When the king heard about the hardness of the forgiven man’s heart, he turned the man over to the jailer to be tortured until he repaid his debt.  Since the debt was not payable, he would be tortured for a very long time indeed.  We are warned that unforgiveness is a great offense to God, and that He will deal with us in a similar manner if we don’t forgive others as we have been forgiven.

We can look at this several ways.  We can look at this as an obligation, a direct command from God – forgive others, for I have forgiven you.  While certainly this is implied, it is difficult to do.  Another way to look at this is through the heart of compassion.  Do you realize just how much God has forgiven you?  Every mistake, every sin of commission and omission, every little and great thing we have done wrong, has been completely forgiven.  When we realize just how little a debt that others owe us in comparison to what we have been forgiven, we can place it in its rightful place and let it go.  Even terrible things like molestation, psychological and physical abuse, and other things that are so terrible that they can barely be spoken about, are minuscule in comparison to the debt that we have with just one single, little sin against God.  For when we break any part of the law, we have broken all of it.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When someone sins against me, am I quick to forgive them?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are gracious to me, and have forgiven my sin.  Help me, Father, to recognize just how much I have been forgiven.  Help me to have a heart of compassion and mercy to others, so that when they sin against me, I may forgive them.  Help me to embrace Your character, and to grow in grace and mercy as I put forth every effort to forgive.  And I pray, Father, that when someone does something that hurts me so bad that I don’t want to forgive them, that You would help me to put their sin in its proper place, and give me the strength, courage, and ability to lay their sin at the foot of the cross where it belongs.  And when the enemy of my soul, Satan and his minions, try to dredge up the memory of other people’s sin against me, I pray that You will give me the ability to remember that it at the foot of the cross, and to not be emotionally compromised by it.   And help me to remember that when the final trumpet is sounded, the enemy of my soul will be cast into the lake of fire, to be tormented forever, as justice is properly served.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Priests of God – Malachi 2:1-9

A Warning To Priests To Be Holy Before The Lord

1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.

3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.

7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

Coming Curse

The prophet Malachi gave a warning to the Levitical priests.  Because of their unrighteousness, God would turn their blessings into curses.  This would be the sign that God used to show the people that He would not tolerate their immoral behavior.  It is a terrible thing when the people who are responsible for administering the law do so in such a way that God’s name is disgraced.  With great privilege comes great responsibility, and God assured the people that He wouldn’t turn a blind eye to what was going on.

Regal Reverence

God expected His priests – the people who administered the law and provided instruction to the people – to be holy before Him, righteous and blameless (not sinless, for everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God).  God would reassure the people that He took his covenant with Levi seriously, and that He would not allow the corrupt priests to dishonor His holy name nor their position.

Tell the Truth

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”  Jesus was the embodiment of the word of the living God.  He was truth personified.  Everything that He said was truth, and their was no deceit on His lips.  The priests were to act as the spokespersons for God, and they needed to tell the truth to the people.  When the priests were deceitful, and warped the word of God towards their own ends, they were in effect marring the image of God.

God does not take this lightly.  Jesus has had the harshest words of criticism for those who have been entrusted with guiding the people who follow Satan as their father:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

What a terrible thing it was then when the priests of God, the descendants of Levi, turned from God and turned towards Satan, and allowed falsehood to come to their lips.  This should be a wake-up call to all who are called by God to be priests, even of the order of Melchizedek, to speak only the truth.  God is truth, and there is no falsehood in Him.  The priests of Melchizedek must also walk a life where truth is their native tongue, that they may honor God in their speech and actions

Honorable and Holy

The covenant that God had with Levi and his progeny was a covenant of reverence towards God.  The Levitical priests were to be honorable and holy before God.  They were required to keep themselves from unclean things, and to wash and prepare in special ways before they would offer the sacrifices of the people to God.

Although everyone is held to the same standard for what they do, the priests were held more accountable before God because of their position and influence that God had provided to them.  God expected much more from them, for they understood the law and what God required.  Their knowledge and position demanded a higher standard of adherence to God’s requirements to be holy before Him.

Partiality in Precept

And one of the worst things that the priests did was to subvert the justice of God.  They showed partiality in the law.  It is very similar to allowing the Former Secretary of State of the United States of America to disseminate classified information through unlawful means to be exonerated from the penalties associated with that crime, while people of lesser stature were jailed and fined for far less serious crimes of a similar nature.

When partiality of the law is encountered, the faith of the people in justice dwindles, and the holiness of God is tarnished.  The people may attribute false characteristics to God, because the very people God has chosen to display his righteousness and justice have, in treason to God, perverted justice and dishonored His name.  And their blessing will be turned into curses.  God may be so greatly offended that He would divinely intervene in the election of officials of a nation to show His displeasure and place people who would fear Him and restore faith of the people in His good name, even through people who have sinned greatly against Him.  For God is able to forgive and use people who are willing to serve Him and yield to Him.

And to those who hate and despise the God of the Bible, and refuse to acknowledge His name and character by profaning His name through their actions and speech?  God will turn their blessings into curses, and bring ruination upon their families for generations.  Learn, therefore, you leaders of the world, that God will not tolerate your injustice and hatred forever.  God is being gracious, and giving all of you the opportunity to come to Him.  You are cordially invited by Almighty God to participate in His gracious offer to repent of your sins, and to be cleansed by the precious shed blood of the Son of God.  Avail yourselves of this opportunity while you still have it.  Do not delay, lest you find yourselves one day in that dire situation where you no longer have the opportunity to voluntarily do so, and face the white throne judgement of God, rather than the grace and mercy that God extents to you now.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I properly reflecting the holiness of God in word and in deed?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You call out to us day and night, and woo us to You with your kindness, compassion, grace and mercy.  Help me to turn from all of my wicked ways so that I would instead embrace Your holiness and righteousness.  Grant me the ability to desire with my whole heart to honor and glorify Your name.  And help me to submit myself to Your Holy Spirit, that in the same way that Christ yielded Himself to You, that I would yield myself to You as well.  Forgive me of my sin, and be Lord of my life, for You are perfect, and everything that You do is right.  You know what must need to be done, and I pray that You would give my every thought, word, and deed in Your righteousness, for You and You alone deserve all of the glory and honor that comes from what You do through me.  This I ask in Jesus’ Precious and Holy Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Holiness of God – Isaiah 1:16-17

Wash And Make Yourself Clean

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

Washed White

During times of thanksgiving and remembering the birth of our Savior, we must not forget why He came – we have need to be cleansed from our sins.  God has washed our sins in the lifeblood of His Son, whom He sent two thousand years ago, to cleanse us of unrighteousness and place upon our shoulders His positional righteousness in place of our sins.  The Great Exchange permits us to approach God in His throne room as children and heirs to the kingdom. When we give gifts and feast on food without remembering why the Savior was born, we do Him a great injustice, turning the remembrance of the holy day of His birth into a commercialized endeavor to feel good about ourselves.

Stop Sinning

God implores us to stop sinning.  Acknowledgement of wrongdoing without a change of heart is merely being sorry we were caught.  True repentance calls for two actions above and beyond the mere acknowledgement of wrongdoing – a turning away from the behavior that we now claim is abhorrent to us, and a turning towards the One who has redeemed us from our wickedness.

Learn Lawfulness

The Son of God never once sinned.  In everything He did, He honored God the Father and did His will perfectly.  We too are challenged to learn the will and ways of God so that we may learn to do good.  If we don’t know what is good, how can we do it?  The law merely points out that we are sinners.  But it also provides insight into the attitudes of the heart and shows us the expectations of a loving God eager to see us walk in righteousness before Him.

Judge Justly

God has repeatedly stated in His word that we are to seek justice.  We are to ensure that all who come before the courts of law are to be treated with the utmost of respect, and to receive what God would have happen – that justice would occur.  Justice is meted out with mercy and grace where appropriate so that it does not become the blunt object of abject horror that merely seeks the letter of the law and ignores the spirit of the law.

Defend the Distressed

Is justice served when those who are oppressed are ignored?  God greatly desires that the oppressed be helped as well.  Whether being harangued by people or governments, we are to intercede when people are oppressed.  Justice demands that each person be permitted to live their lives without oppression or the threat thereof.  When this is not done, we risk the wrath of the One who will take up the cause of the oppressed and ensure that the ones responsible are brought to justice.  And justice will be done, if not in this life, then at the great white throne seat of judgment.

Help the Helpless

In remembering the Son, we are to remember that He championed the cause of those who had no representation.  The people who were helpless before the law and courts in the day of the prophet Isaiah, as well as our Savior, were widows and orphans.  With no one to help them, they were often ignored – or worse – taken advantage of by ruthless people.  We are to take up their cause, for if we do not, God will take up their cause at our great peril:

49 “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”

In this season of joy, let us remember the reason for the season, and bow down before the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who rightly deserves all glory, honor, power, dominion, and worship.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What steps am I taking to ensure that justice is being done?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a just judge, and cannot allow evil in Your sight.  Forgive me for my sins, and help me to see what I can do to ensure that justice is being done for the oppressed and the helpless.  I earnestly ask that You intercede in the affairs of my country’s government and instill within the people who have been placed in authority over us a proper sense of justice, that they would honor and glorify Your name as Your representatives in authority of Your people, for everything and everyone in the universe is Yours to do with as You will.  Bring about the change of heart needed in government so that You would be honored in the manner in which they conduct themselves.  Purge us of the evil that has infiltrated and obscured the workings of justice, and shine forth Your perfect light in such a way that those who shroud themselves in darkness would tremble and flee before the perfect light of Truth.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Obedience to God – Psalm 81:11-16

Victory Comes Through Obedience

11 “But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.

13 “If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Learning to Listen

Listening to God is not one of the stronger qualities of mankind.  For millennia, we have ignored the commands of God and have gone our own ways.  For us, obedience seems to be a fleeting concept, just out of the reach of men, beckoning to us yet remaining elusive with the draw of every other manner of pleasure, satisfaction, and fulfillment.  The flesh, the world, and the devil intentionally sabotage every effort at obedience through their incessant cries for attention.  Their efforts are like delicious chocolate dangled in front of the faces of children with obedience like plates of broccoli, brussel sprouts, and kale in warm butter and garlic just outside their reach.  As children, we know what we like, and we grab what we can, not realizing the error of our ways until it is too late.

God beckons to us to listen to Him and obey Him.  Obedience and faithfulness of our hearts have been two of His primary tasks since Adam and Eve.  They were given only one command, yet even then they could not even be obedient in that.  Given the option to partake in the forbidden fruit, we often give in to our desires in a moment of weakness, unable to resist the sumptuous and easy bait lying in front of us.  But God desires that we ignore the bait, and desire Him more.

Choices have Consequences

And when we continually fail to develop self-restraint and self-control, we spiral out of control and allow our desires to control us, rather than the opposite.  Cain, in a fit of rage when his offering was rejected by God, lashed out at the only one he could – he murdered his brother Able, who provided the accepted offering.  And so murder was born into the world of men.  As we mature, we learn more and more that there are consequences with our actions.  We may ignore them, or emotionlessly calculate the risks versus the rewards of them.  And when we do so repeatedly, without seeking God, He gives us over to our stubborn hearts.

How terrible is it to be ruled by our every desire.  When people are ruled by their emotions, they make horrible decisions.  They injure and kill their neighbors.  They burn down their neighborhoods.  They steal and rob from others.  The strong quickly overpower the weak and lord their power over their victims.  And as they continually allow themselves to be fueled by their emotions, there is no end to the depth of their depravity.

Veritable Victory

God gives us hope in the form of a promise.  When we are obedience, we will experience victory.  We will have victory over our sin.  We will have victory over our enemies.  And our enemies – also the enemies of God – will experience the punishment in the form of judgment by God for what they have done.  We cannot expect God to punish our enemies while we are participating in the exact same behavior that they are.  God does not show favoritism among men.  Victory can only come through obedience and submission to God.

Do you want your enemies to be brought to justice?  Do you want an end to your torment?  Do you want to have victory regardless of our your circumstances?  Be obedient to God who gives victory not only over our enemies by also over our own sin nature.  It is only then that we can live in a way that truly glorifies God and brings Him honor.  No matter the end result of our circumstances, obedience and submission to God are the only way to ensure our victory over our own nature.

Lest we forget, Jesus Christ was completely obedient to God and fully submitted to His Spirit, yet even He had to suffer on the cross for us.  But his victory was OVER death, and his reward was to sit at the right hand of God, given the world as His footstool, to reign in everlasting glory.

Rich Reward

God also promises to reward us for obedience and submission to Him.  When we, AS A PEOPLE, submit ourselves to God in obedience, He brings peace and prosperity to our nation:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

No longer will we suffer under economic duress.  No longer will we be pursued by our enemies.  God will bring peace and prosperity:

When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

And as mentioned in this Psalm, He will also do the following:

But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing my stubborn heart to overpower my desire to be obedient to God in submission to His Spirit?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me in Your word the importance of obedience and submission, and the nature of my heart.  You have given me a heart of flesh for a heart of stone when I believed You and your word.  Help me to keep my heart from hardening in this time of great trial and tribulation.  Soften it so that it would be more receptive to Your gentle nudging.  Give me the desire, patience, and ability to carefully listen to Your voice.  And when I hear You through Your word and Your still small voice, give me a heart like Abraham so that on that very day I would be completely obedient to Your will and desire.  Strengthen me and keep my heart from going cold due to the increase of lawlessness in the world.  Protect me from my enemies and from myself, for each day it becomes harder and harder to do what is right.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Cries for Justice – Psalm 74:18-23

God Is A God Of Justice As Well As Compassion, Grace, And Mercy.

18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, Lord,
how foolish people have reviled your name.
19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;
do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.
20 Have regard for your covenant,
because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the
land.
21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace;
may the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;
remember how fools mock you all day long.
23 Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries,
the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.

Remembering Rancor

God is a God of justice.  He will not forget His holiness or righteousness.  When faced with people who hate God and seek the ruination of His people, it is alright to ask God to remember their rancorous actions.  God knows everything, but when we cry out to Him for help, we confirm His righteousness and agree with it.  God is also a God of mercy and grace.  We need to keep everything in balance.

Appeal for Assistance

God hears our cries for assistance and intervenes on our behalf.  He is not deaf to our appeals for intervention nor does He wish us undue harm.  We must also remember that in everything God is a God of timing.  And the difficult situations we find ourselves in at the moment may be necessary for some greater part of His plan.  More than once God has used the suffering of His people to bring about the conversion of an unbeliever through their dedication and faithfulness to God, regardless of their circumstances.  Be faithful in praying for help from the unrighteous, and be prepared to wait for His timing.

Completing the Covenant

God has not forgotten His covenant with us.  He is unable to forget it.  It is not wrong, however, to ask Him to remember it.  We appeal to God’s character as we ask for His help.  When we do so, we are magnifying and confirming His character and our faith in God’s righteousness.  We should never give up hope while waiting for God’s timing, and continually remind ourselves of His faithfulness by appealing to His character – that God is unable to break His covenants.

Remembering Righteousness

In times when it seems that God will not defend Himself against the attacks of the enemy, we must remind ourselves of God’s righteousness.  And while in the present time the pain and suffering seem unbearable, it is for our sanctification that God permits these trials in our lives.

God has not forgotten about His righteousness, nor has He shed it.  He is waiting for us to grow and believe in His character regardless of our circumstances.  God will mete out justice for the ones who reject Him continually, regardless of the opportunities that they have been provided.  And many times, the destruction of the righteous are used as an opportunity for the unrighteous to repent.

God is a just God, and justice will prevail.  Let us never cease to remember His character, nor fail to appeal to it in times of trouble or even our own destruction.  In all things, may God be given glory, praise, and honor, even in our cries for His justice.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: When faced with difficulties that overwhelm us, am I being patient, waiting upon God’s timing, and appealing to His character as faithfully as He is faithful?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have said that You will never leave us nor forsake us.  In this time of great injustice, remember me.  The oppression of the righteous is overwhelming me.  I am being crushed on all sides.  Remember the evil of my enemies, O God.  In righteousness, deliver me from their injustice, for You are a just and holy God.  Do not let their actions crush my spirit, but renew my spirit within me.  Restore unto me the joy of my salvation, and be merciful to all who oppress me, for they know not what they are doing.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Leadership with God – Psalm 71:1-2

Pray For All Who Are In Leadership Over Us.

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
2 May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

Judge with Justice

The author of this Psalm cries out to God that He would divinely place justice in the king.  In governments that are not monarchies this would go to the one who was in charge of overseeing the law of the land.  We too should cry out to God that He would place true justice in the hands of those who would wield it correctly.  Far too often have people in this era been forced to endure either the misapplication of justice, or even just a lack of it.

When justice leaves a country, it begins to fall apart.  It crumbles from within.  Evil and petty tyrants come to power, and are brought down as well.  Power is then seized by bullies and people whose moral compass points counter to justice.  It is our duty to cry out to God for leaders who are just.

Rein in Righteousness

But not only should they be just, they should be righteous as well.  Justice cannot be correctly meted out without the proper frame of reference with which it can be done so in righteousness.  And although we all claim to want a justice system that is “fair”, it is mercy and grace that we seek when we are being accused of breaking the law.  “Fair” implies merely that the law is applied consistently.  But consistently applying the law unjustly does it no credit.

Only in righteousness can justice truly be meted out.  And righteousness requires mercy and grace.  For without compassion, justice is cold, harsh, and cruel.  It may not distinguish between self-preservation and premeditated murder when a person’s life is ended.  And wicked people will attempt to usurp blind justice to do their bidding.  We need only to look at the life of Jezebel, the queen of King Ahab, to see this:

1 Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”

3 But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”

4 So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” 7 on his bed sulking and refused to eat.

5 His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”

6 He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”

7 Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. 9 In those letters she wrote:

“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 10 But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”

11 So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. 12 They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 13 Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. 14 Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned to death.”

15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” 16 When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.

17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18 “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’”

20 Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!”

“I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. 21 He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. 22 I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’

23 “And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’

24 “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.”

25 (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. 26 He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.)

27 When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.

28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”

Creating a Chiasm

Now comes the interesting part.  Many of the writers of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible used a form of literary prose known as the Chiasm, or Chiasmic structure.  This is where two or more ideas are paralleled in a stepping stone fashion.  This has been used to juxtapose opposites, or to show the outcomes or natures of two different, but interrelated subjects.

In this case, the author of this Psalm chooses to show the theoretical or ideal of two subjects – Justice and Righteousness – in comparison to the practical application or implementation of them.  The Chiasm looks like this:

Righteousness – Judge in
with the sonrighteousness
/\
Endow Justice Justice
with the King for the afflicted

Notice how the on the left side of the Chiasm that the subject matter is to be endowed – it is the “ethics” of the situation that is being highlighed.  On the right side, it is the execution of those “ethics”, or practical “morality”, that is requested.  This type of prose can be found throughout scripture, and gives us insight to what the authors intended.  Without understanding this structure, it would appear that the author may either be rambling or just merely repeating themselves.  If taken chronologically, it could lead to some very incorrect conclusions about prophecy and other events.  But it is designed for a specific effect:  the juxtaposition of two parallel thoughts with the first thoughts from front to back, and with the constrasted thoughts being presented back to front, giving us a clearer view of the subject matter when compared to each other.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I give out justice in the same manner that I desire it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Praise be to Your holy name.  Thank You for Your insights to justice and righteousness that You provide to me through Your word.  You have revealed that You are perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  Your justice is tempered by Your mercy and grace.  Because of Your compassion, You did not destroyed me when I first sinned against You, but rather two thousand years ago sent Your Son to be my perfect sacrifice.  Help me to better understand Your character, and to display it to the world, for You have been gracious and merciful to me when I deserved justice.  Apart from the finished work of Your Son Jesus Christ on the cross, I would still be in my sin.  Thank You Lord Jesus!  I love You very much!  Help me to show that love through obedience to Your word and displaying Your character in my thoughts, words, and deeds.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Government and God -Daniel 1:8-17

Which Is Right In God’s Eyes: To Obey Man, Or God? You Be The Judges!

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

Acquiesce to Authority

At some point in our lives, each of us will be faced with a most difficult situation:  the leaders that have been placed over us will either enact laws that require us to disobey God, or we will be told by them to do something that we know to be contrary to the will of God.  When faced with this dilemma, we will each need to make a decision on how to address the issue.  For some, it will merely mean that they will lose their job/position/status in their society.  For others, it may mean that they will lose their lives, and possibly the lives of their other family members, friends, acquaintances, and perhaps everyone they know.

The most difficult part is that we have been given a directive by God through His Apostle Paul:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Whom, then, will you serve?

Father First

The life of Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (also known as Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) serve to give us guidance on how to live our lives in a world and culture that doesn’t know God, and that demands that we follow the rule of man rather than the rule of God.  In each case in the lives of these men, they placed God first in their lives.  And in each case, God blessed them for their obedience:

  • When asked to defile themselves with the King’s food, they offered an alternative – eating simple vegetables.  God blessed them with favor in the eyes of their captors.
  • When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were commanded to bow down before the king and worship him when they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, they respectfully declined, and declared before the king that they must obey God.  Thrown into the fiery furnace, God protected them and even the king gave glory to God.
  • When Daniel was told that he could only pray to the king, he continued with his practice of praying to God.  Thrown into the lion’s den, God shut the mouths of the lions until the ones responsible for placing him there were brought forward and placed in the same situation.  They did not fare as well as Daniel…

In each and every case where Daniel and his friends placed God first and obeyed God, the Lord God Almighty blessed and protected them, even when faced with what appeared to be certain death.  John helps us to remember that fear has to do with punishment, and that perfect love casts out all fear.  We are to live our lives in such a way that our enemies see no fear in us.  When they see that, it will be a witness to them that God is who He says He is.  It is then that they will experience fear.

Divine Delegates

But what about the leadership of men?  Does not God delegate his rule and authority over men to other men that He puts into place?  How do we reconcile submitting ourselves to the ruling authorities because God has instituted all authority and rebellion against what God has established is rebellion against God in the light of evil overseers?  In each case, God must come first.  And although God does institute all authority on Earth in men, we are to obey God first, and then obey men.

How do you obey a leader like Kim Jong-un, who lives at the expense of his people (to the point that they are trying to boil the bark of trees for food and are starving to death)?  Or Adolph Hitler, who attempted to murder all of God’s people, the Jews?  Or Ali Khamenei, who requires that anyone who does not pray to his god to be summarily executed by beheading?

In each of these situations (and many others throughout the world today and in the past) we are faced with leaders that scripture tells us God has placed in power, yet oppress or destroy their own people, and especially God’s family.  The Bible provides us with an answer, albeit one that provides little consolation to the present pain and suffering that is being endured by those who find themselves in these situations:  The just shall live by faith.

Trust in the Trinity

This was the cry of the Reformation.  Each of us must remember that regardless of the situation that we find ourselves in, that we are to trust in the Lord God Almighty and Him alone for the strength to endure and deliverance through our trials.  Paul notes in writings that he has had much, and little.  And God had taught him to be content no matter his circumstances.  In the same way, we must trust in the Lord God Almighty – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – that through our adversity and the terrible trials that we face, that the purpose is that God will be glorified.

When we take on the mindset that life is about us and our pleasure or ease of living, we have bought into the culture’s ideals.  For we are created to worship God and to bring glory to His name.  Nowhere in scripture does it say, “Once you become a Christian (or the disciple of Jesus, to be more precise) your life will become easy, and I will make you wealthy and protect you from any and all difficulty.”  On the contrary – when we become disciples of Christ, our lives are upended.  We have given Almighty God the tacit, willful approval to do whatever He wants to do in our lives.  And His purpose is to conform us into His image through sanctification.

The second half of Hebrews Chapter Eleven tells us of the saints that have gone on before us.  Many were raised up (like Daniel and his friends).  Others were martyred for their faith.  Some were driven from society to live their lives in solitude in caves and other places apart from the men who lived in darkness and despised the light of God.  In each and every one of their lives, there was a tell-tale aspect that needs to be highlighted.  Each and every one of them had faith in God, believed what God said, and it was credited to them as righteousness.

Royal Reward

Although Daniel and his friends were rewarded by God with Earthly accolades, positions of authority, power, and wealth, God has rewarded them with a far greater reward – eternal life.  In this life, we must strive to remember that the reward that we seek is the one in Heaven, not here on Earth.  For the disciple of Christ, we should be looking forward to hearing these simple words from our brother and Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  This is the reward and praise that each of us should seek.  If God sees fit to provide us with additional reward on Earth, that is nice, but not needed.  For do any one of us want to gain the whole world just to lose our souls?

We can rejoice that God is a God of justice.  And when evil men have been placed in authority over us, we can rest assured that God will take care of them in His time.  For this is what evil leaders have to look forward to:

5 indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.

6 “Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’ 7 Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey. 8 Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

9 “Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! 10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. 11 The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! 13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? 14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! 16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed! The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. 17 The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

18 “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. 19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”

20 The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What do I do when faced with evil leadership?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy and there is none like You.  You raise up leaders and you remove them from their lofty positions.   It is You who is sovereign over everything that is created – everything on the Earth, beneath the Earth, above the Earth, and the Earth itself.  Nothing is outside of Your reach and grasp, and everyone must give an accounting of themselves before You.  Father, You have shown Yourself to be full of mercy and grace, providing for my every need.  Remember me today, Father, as I struggle with the trials of life.  Grant me the strength to endure, the wisdom to be disciplined by these lessons, and the opportunity to give You glory and speak of You to any and all who will listen.  Thank You, Father, for reminding me that You are in control, and that my treasure is where my heart is.  May it always been with You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Trust in God – Psalm 56:3-7

The Wicked Twist Our Words And Malign Our Motives

3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise-
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

5 All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.

Fear is Folly

David recognizes that his heart fears certain outcomes.  Like a man trapped in a burning building with no place to go, the anticipation of the pain of his flesh being consumed by fire is not pleasant.  David recognizes that to fear man is folly.  After all, what can mere mortals do to him?

Train to Trust

Instead, David had trained his heart to trust in God.  God and God alone is the one who can save us, deliver us, provide for us, protect us, and vindicate us.  David lets us know that the first place that his heart went during his times of fear was to trust in the Lord God Almighty.  David made it a practice in his mind to direct his will to trust in God when his emotions were overwhelming him with fear.

When we place our trust in God rather than in men, riches, idols, or even ourselves, we can rest in the peace that God gives to us that defies understanding.  God greatly desires that we come to Him first with our problems and our difficulties.  He knows about all of them, but desires a greater dependence from us upon Him as well as a strengthening our relationship with Him.  It is in times of great distress and need that we see exactly who or what we trust in.  David chose to make God his first option, and he was rewarded for it with the praise of God:

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Warping Words

One of the tactics of the enemy is to twist the words of their opponents to misrepresent their position or their intent.  This enables them to attack the person by turning attention on their enemies.  This tactic is also used by those who practice the art of sleight of hand (magicians).  They intentionally misdirect your attention to where they want you to look so that you will not see what they are doing.  It provides them with cover to do all sorts of mischief.

For instance, let us say that two people disagree on something.  Person A believes that they are correct in believing that the sky is falling.  Person B says that the sky is not falling, that the droplets of water coming down are rain.  If person A wants to misdirect others concerning person B, they could characterize the words of the person B as disparaging them with regards to some aspect of their physical nature rather than with a philosophical or factual/observational disagreement.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that person A has greatly increased melanin in their skin, and person B does not.  Person A could then say it is because of their skin color and racial prejudice that person B disagrees with them.  This deflects from the true reason that the disagreement has taken place, and positions person A as a victim of racism and person B in the position of racist.  This type of posturing and twisting of words evokes an emotional response from both person B and anyone who hears the argument.  The mere re-characterization of the argument as one of race rather than fact/observation deflects the requirement for person A to defend their position and assassinates the character of person B.  In this scenario, it is a total win for person A:

  • Public trust in what person B is saying is now destroyed through the accusation or racism
  • Person B’s position is seen as the position of a racist, and since it is characterized as such, may be rejected on this basis rather than on any factual or scientific basis
  • Person A no longer has to defend their position in fact or science, and receives sympathy from the public, regardless of the validity of their position
  • Person A’s standing in the public as a victim of a hate crime bolsters the emotional support of the public for anything else person A has to say
  • Person B is unlikely to challenge person A’s positions any longer, knowing the societal cost that they will have to endure should person A falsely accuse them again.

Terrible Tactics

David lists some of the other tactics that his enemies have used against him:

  • Their every scheme is for David’s ruination
    • Their lives have become consumed with ways to discredit and ruin David.  This is the act of vengeful people.
  • They conspire against him
    • They use their collective resources to act in a way to entrap or otherwise cause David to fail.  A favorite tactic of the enemies of God, they look to the past to dredge up anything that their enemy may have done that can be used to embarrass him, disparage his character, or cause public opinion to be soured against him.
  • They lurk about
    • Imagine having someone follow you every second of your day, recording what you say and do, looking for anything they can use to take out of context to give you a bad name.  Welcome to David’s life.
  • They watch his very steps
    • If David breaks the law unknowingly, they will be there to witness it, accuse him of it, and see that justice is swift (usually with paid witnesses).

Judge with Justice

David consoles himself in the character and nature of God.  He remembers that God is a holy, righteous, and just judge.  David calls upon God to remember the wickedness of his enemies, and to judge the nations.  David’s enemies have failed to grasp the love of God as displayed in His mercy and grace towards them, seeking only the destruction of God’s chosen servant, David.  Rather than take matters into his own hands, David rightly gives his life into the hands of the living God – He who is righteous and will deliver him from all evil.  For those who have been justified by God, who can bring an accusation against him?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with enemies, who or what do you turn to first?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who have redeemed me from the miry muck.  You have cleansed me of my sin through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Since You have removed my sin from me as far as the East is from the West, no one can lay a charge against me.  Give me shelter and sanctuary when my enemies seek to destroy me.  Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.  Protect me from those who seek my ruination, who conspire against me to assassinate my character.  For I am found in Christ Jesus, and it is His character and His name that I take, and it is His name that they smear and disparage.  Give me strength to endure, and may Your love be displayed in my thoughts, words, and deeds, as my enemies surround me to do me harm.  Blessed be Your name, Lord God.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Message from God – Judges 3:19-23

A Grave Message From God

19 But on reaching the stone images near Gilgal he himself went back to Eglon and said, “Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.”

The king said to his attendants, “Leave us!” And they all left.

20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. 23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

Mysterious Message

God used the Judges of Israel to lead the people out of oppression from their enemies.  Israel had turned her back to God, and they needed to be disciplined.  God would often discipline them by sending them into captivity.  God’s hand would be against them, and no matter what the Israelites did, their enemies would conquer them and force them into servitude.

God had heard the cry of the Israelites, and sent them Ehud, a left-handed man.  Being left-hand dominant was a bit difficult in those times.  After relieving themselves of their scat, people at that time would wipe their behinds with their non-dominant hand.  For most people at that time, it would be their left hand.  So God, with a bit of a sense of irony, sent a left-handed man to do what no right-handed man could do.  Because of the scarcity of left-hand dominance, the guards would not check the right side of a person for weapons, for it would be very awkward for any right-handed person to quickly access the weapon to defend themselves, and no one would willingly wipe themselves with the hand that they ate with.  Because of this blind spot, God was able to use a left-handed man to deliver a “secret message” to Eglon, king of the Moabites, oppressors of God’s people at that time.

Judged with Justice

God’s message was justice.  Ehud successfully smuggled a knife into the palace on the right side of his body, and, when alone with king Eglon (who was vetted by his guards and thought Ehud was unarmed), pulled out a large knife (a cubit long, about 18 inches) and successfully delivered the message of justice from God to king Eglon. This message was very effective, because the king had grown obese and was unable to defend himself.

Although God will often use other nations to discipline His people, after the discipline is over, God has a tendency to destroy the nation that was used to oppress His people.  Even though they had been chosen by God as a rod of discipline, God keeps his word – those that bless Israel are blessed, and those that curse Israel are cursed.

Exquisite Escape

God is a God of justice.  If this assassination was not God-appointed, He would have surely made certain that His Judge would have been caught and put to death for murder.  In this case, the death of King Eglon was decreed and approved by God for the deliverance of His people from this wicked nation.

Ehud was able to successfully leave the palace, and to gather the Israelites together to rise up against the nation that had oppressed them.  God had given the country of Moab into their hands, and they took possession of the fords of the Jordan:

28 “Follow me,” he ordered, “for the Lord has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab; they allowed no one to cross over. 29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing anything that would require God to discipline me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of grace and mercy.  You have spared my life when I was still a sinner.  Forgive me for my sins, and train my heart in the way it should go.  Help me to be fully submitted to the Holy Spirit, so that I would not need to be disciplined.  Help me to have the same love for Your people, the Israelites, that You have.  Help me to always bless them and not curse them.  May the enemies of the Israelites receive the full measure of Your wrath and your anger in the day that You deliver them from their oppressors.  Help me to have the strength and courage to stand for Israel even when the leaders of my country refuse to honor You and them.  Remember me in my distress, Lord God, when my government acts in ways that deserve Your wrath, cursing, and destruction.  Help me to advise them and, if given the opportunity, to elect leaders that will honor You rather than themselves, culture, or Your enemies.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Justice of God – Isaiah 59:14-15

The Lack Of Justice Displeases God

14 So justice is driven back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter.
15 Truth is nowhere to be found,
and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.

Justice Jilted

Evil people seek to position themselves as far from justice as they can get.  Their works demand justice, and they seek to thwart the righteous by escaping what they deserve.  Darkness hates the light, and justice has a tendency to restrict evil from its effects.  Evil would prefer that justice turn its eyes away from their works so that they would not reap what they sow.  In that, those who are tasked to ensure that justice is meted out are threatened or outright bullied into submission, driven back from its rightful place in society.

Righteousness Rejected

Once justice is displaced, the people reject righteousness, because their love grows cold in the darkness of the wickedness that grows in the vacuum.  The only path to success when righteousness is rejected is to embrace evil.  The righteous will stand at a distance, for wickedness will turn its full force of anger and vitriolic hatred towards anyone brave enough to approach the wicked.

In the United States of America, as long as a person agrees with the wicked societal and political positions and stances that are prevalent, regardless of the person’s past indiscretions, they are left alone.  But when any deviation from that worldview is presented, the people who once shielded them become their biggest critics and cry out for their humiliation and destruction.  Labels of hater, bigot, hypocrite, and many others are relentlessly spoken about that person, until their character is fully assassinated.

Yet we are called to display God’s character.  In Jeremiah 29:7:, God calls the righteous to pray for and seek peace and prosperity wherever we are:

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

Truth Trounced

As this turning towards evil progresses, truth is attacked as well.  Moral relativism gives birth, and truth can no longer be heard, because, after all, what is truth?  Truth is rejected by those who prefer the power that historical revisionism provides to them.  If you can change what a person believes about the past, you can skew how that person views future events.

Take, for instance, the viewpoint that being of a specific race (color of skin caused by hereditary genetics) somehow magically makes a person “underprivileged”, “oppressed”, “victimized”, “downtrodden”, “targeted”, and any other number of emotionally charged words; it will have a tendency to affect how a person views events.

Predator and Prey

The innate need for unity in purpose forces evil to destroy that which cannot coexist with its ideology and worldview.  Truth and lies cannot commingle.  Those who live in lies despise the very thing that exposes their actions for the evil practices that they are.  Truth and righteousness are then hunted down and extinguished by the unrighteous, so that they will not be reminded of evilness within them.  Wicked people seek to salve their conscience, because their conscience conflicts with their goals and agendas.  Or, as we have seen with the LGBT community, it is not enough to merely tolerate the differences of opinion in viewpoints – everyone MUST agree with and publicly endorse their viewpoint, or be destroyed for their “insolence” in rejecting “the enlightened view”.

Almighty Annoyed

God is never pleased when the vehicles that He created to display His character, honor, and glory refuse to act in the manner for which they were created.  God is greatly displeased when Truth, Righteousness, and the shunning of evil are sought out and destroyed for doing exactly what they were meant to be doing – displaying Almighty God’s character and His love, mercy, grace, and righteousness.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we suppressing the truth with unrighteousness?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are very patient with us given the state of the world today.  Your word says that Your mercies renew every morning, but there will come a time when You can no longer be found.  Father, work in the hearts of those whose evil predisposes them to shun Your light.  Help their hearts to break over their sin.  Show them the price that needed to be paid in order to redeem us to You.  And guide each of us towards truth, justice, and righteousness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Obedience to God – Micah 6:6-8

Do What Is Required Of You

6 With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Sacrifices Scorned

A rhetorical question is asked by the prophet Micah.  What sacrifice is acceptable to God?  What can be offered for the sin of the soul?  The sacrificial system was set up in Levitical Law to show that there was a price that needed to be paid for sin.  The price was originally the life-blood of a creature – it’s very life was demanded.  These sacrifices pointed to the final, substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus’ perfect blood.

But God’s people had become prosperous, and the impact of the sacrifices were lost on the people.  After all, if you sinned, all you needed to do was to offer your sacrifice, and everything was OK.  The breaking of one’s heart over sinning against God had been dulled.  Even in the Christian churches today, we lean heavily upon the grace and mercy of God.  The impact of sinning against a Holy God doesn’t seem to grasp us as it once did when we were first saved from our sins.  It is only as we recognize the Holiness of God, and His view of sin, that we again realize the impact that sin has in our lives.

Micah even puts forth as a type of sacrifice something that was loathsome to God – the sacrifice of the firstborn.  This was a type of sacrifice that was required by false gods.  This was egregious to God, and should have startled those who heard and read these words.  But the Israelites had often worshiped both God and false gods.  We must always remember that God has required a specific sacrifice from us – Obedience.

Royal Requirements

Micah now points out the sacrifice of obedience:

  • To Act Justly
    • When we act justly, we are not taking advantage of our neighbors, but rather we are doing all things with them in mind.
    • Justice is one of the recurring themes in the Bible.  The people of God seem to lack the ability to give justice to those who need it most.  We have been warned by God to mete out justice, or the One who is Just will judge us.
  • To Love Mercy
    • The first inclination of human nature is to retaliate when we are wronged.  But God’s mercies renew every morning.  We need to adopt the character of God as we grow in our faith.  Mercy is a Godly characteristic that integrates with justice.  It is the tempering force that encourages peace and tranquility in relationship between two people.  It is the olive branch that helps to mend relationships and encourages friendship.  To withhold mercy is to promote the eventual severing of the relationship.  This does not mean that we should enable wicked people by excusing their behavior; we are to show mercy to help them see the goodness of God.
    • Even within marriage, God allowed divorce only in certain circumstances, and only because of the hardness of human hearts.
  • To Walk Humbly with your God
    • God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.  When we are humbled before God, He is able to shape us, guide us, and use us for His purposes.  Humbleness is a Godly characteristic that is antithetical to western culture, which now promotes self over all.  Western culture promotes pride in advertising, music, literature, art, and just about every facet of the human experience.  Humble people are looked upon as doormats by others who seek to elevate themselves at the expense of those who will not (or cannot) do the same.
    • Only in humility are we able to be in right relationship with not only God but with man as well.

Each of these points towards relationship with God – Justice, Mercy, and Humbleness.  If we seek to draw close to God, we should embrace these and put them into practice.  Since Christ is our final and complete sacrifice for sin, we have nothing else to present to God for our sin, for nothing else is needed.  Let us embrace these Godly characteristics as we draw close to the One who sacrificed His one and only Son to reconcile us to Him.  It is only proper that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, as our spiritual act of worship.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I broken by my sin, or do I take the blood of Christ for granted?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the sacrifice of Your one and only Son on the cross for my sins.  Thank You for Your mercy and grace.  Help me to see my sin in the same way that You see it.  Help me, Father, to be broken when I sin, that the hardness of heart that comes with sin would not infect me.  Help me to love justice, mercy, and walk humbly before You.  May Your character be found in me as I am on display for the world to see.  Strengthen me as I walk with You today.  Help me to draw close to You through Your word and Your spirit.  Guide me in all that I do.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Morality with God – Isaiah 5:20a,23

Moral Relativism Is Abhorrent To God

20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
but deny justice to the innocent.

Opposing Opinions

Free will is a gift and a curse.  It allows us to both make decisions in life, and have opinions, that are far outside the will and ways of God.  The author of the Book of Romans gives us some insight into how this process occurs:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

The first steps are:

  1. Ignoring God and his commands
  2. Belief that God does not exist
  3. Belief that Man’s deductions and interpretations of life are correct
  4. The worship of the Creation rather than the Creator

Moral Morass

The author of the Book of Romans now breaks it down for us.  Once God is removed from the picture, absolute Truth is no longer a possibility in their minds.  Given that opinions and desires change from time to time, as well as from individual to individual, people no longer adhere to Truth and Righteousness, as they have no external, immutable standard with which to base any semblance of morality upon.

Morality is now subject to the whims of man’s depravity, and thus, moral relativism is born.  What is right for you may not be right for me, but I must tolerate (read: agree with) whatever YOU think is right, even though YOU may not have to tolerate what I believe is right.  As such, truth no longer holds any value, as it has no basis with which it can be moored and evaluated.

The next steps are as follows:

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

After abandoning God, the strongest desire that God has placed in mankind is corrupted:

  1. God withdraws His hand from guidance in man’s sexual desires
  2. People engage in sexual ways that deviate greatly from the pattern that God set forth in the Bible.  This step involves sexual relationships that occur between men and women:
    1. Swinging
    2. Adultery
    3. Lewdness
    4. Orgies
    5. Etc.
  3. As time goes on, even more people worship the creation rather than the Creator

Pushing further, Man delves deeper into sexual unrighteousness:

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Being unable to satisfy their desires with the opposite sex (natural relations, as described by Paul the Apostle), they now choose same-sex partners with which to satisfy their ever-increasing desires and lusts.  We see this in the world today, but this is not the first time that sexual depravity has been reported in history:

  • Solomon reported, and rightly so, that there is nothing new under the sun.
  • Lot dealt with this issue during his days (including his daughters’ unrighteous acts of incest)
  • Amnon took his sister Tamar
  • Paul witnessed them during the Roman Empire
  • Monarchs and their families have been dealing with incest for generations (in order to keep the leadership in the existing families

Once they have embraced sexual impurity, the gateway to complete depravity is opened:

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

After the people become sexually “liberated”, they become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They don’t just do them; they approve of those that do the same.  Because of this, justice is no longer to be found in them.

Bought with Bribes

The Bible has quite a bit to say about taking and giving bribes.  God does not approve of bribery.  Yet, once God has given people over to a depraved mind, the idea that accepting and giving bribes is now excusable and may even become the way to do business.  Truth and honor have no part in the life of people who have been given over to their shameful lusts and desires.

Since they have abandoned the belief that God exists, provides for them, and that they are accountable to Him, they begin to believe (and as their viewpoint excludes God, it appears to them to be valid) that they have to take care of themselves because no one else will.  This opens the door to justifying all unrighteousness for the sake of self-preservation.

Inexcusable Injustice

Now that people have been compromised by accepting bribes, if there are laws against such things, they can be blackmailed to do what others want them to do.  Justice has been corrupted.  People who were once stalwarts of truth crumble in light of the possible exposure of their misdeeds.  The very people who provided the opportunity and pressure to cave are now the very people who threaten others’ livelihoods and loved ones if they don’t comply.  We begin to see where people who have always been strong in conviction do something that is antithetical to their stated and previously lived-out life.

Justice is now bought and sold.  The rich and powerful get a pass for unrighteous behavior, while the lowly and poor are given the maximum penalty allowed.  This truly becomes a two-tiered justice system.  Those who agree with the people running the country are given special privilege, and those who dissent are destroyed.  The courts are used as a battering ram to financially destroy their opponents, incarcerate the righteous, and provide such terrible consequences that anyone with lesser character will be easily cowed into silence or into publicly agreeing with their world view (if only in words).

To God, who is Holy and Righteous, this must be infuriating.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What or whom is our basis for truth?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of mercy and compassion.  Yet You allow us to go our own way.  You seek after us and watch expectantly for us to return, even though you know the outcome of all things.  You are to be praised and glorified forever.  Father, help me to be strong and to reject any bribery that is offered to me.  In all my ways, keep me from sinning against You.  Help me to keep You in mind at all times.  As I am pressured by people and circumstances in life, give me strength to resist and to stand fast in Your Word and in Your character.  Deliver me from my enemies, and thwart their every effort to oppose You and Your people.  Guard me and guide me this day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Justice of God – Jonah 3:6-10

Justice Must Be Tempered With Compassion

6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Doctrinal Dilemma

Many people have said the following:

“I can’t believe in a God who would send people to hell.”

What many people fail to realize is that God doesn’t sent them to hell; they send themselves to hell.  God does not arbitrarily point His finger and say, “OK, I’m going to send him and her and her and him to hell.”  Rather, God says the following:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

It would appear that God desires everyone to be saved from their Adam-inherited sinful, rebellious nature.  God is patient and seeks people for a long time.  We are told that should we hear His call, we should respond while He is near.  God has made Himself known to us, so that no one is without an excuse:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

So it would appear that:

  • God is compassionate
  • God is a just judge

This brings up an interesting dilemma:  How can a perfect God, who is full of mercy and grace, be a God full of perfect justice as well?

Beautiful Balance

We often impose our own moral values on situations, rather than look at them through the lens of God’s perspective.  Love cannot be merciful, graceful, and compassionate without being just:

  • Compassion without justice is anarchy
    • Without application of punishment for wrongdoing, we are effectively endorsing the person’s wrongdoing, and enabling them to repeatedly inflict harm upon others.
    • Without punishment, there is no recourse for the protection of law-abiding people from the wickedness of the evil people who disregard the law
  • Justice without compassion is emotionally void and cruel
    • There are appropriate penalties for wrongdoing based on the severity of the wrongdoing.  Actions have consequences.  We wouldn’t take a person’s life for a misdemeanor.  Nor should we give a slap on the wrist to someone who purposefully extinguishes the lives of others.
    • In each case, the severity of the transgression should be met with appropriate consequences.

Let’s define our words so that we understand what we are talking about:

  • Justice is the situation where the penalty for breaking the law has an appropriate disciplinary action based on the severity and type of crime committed.
  • Mercy is not getting what you justly deserve
  • Grace is getting a favor or blessing that was not earned (not based on merit)
  • Compassion is a deep sympathy or sorrow for someone who is in pain or suffering, with a strong desire to alleviate the pain and/or suffering
  • Holiness is the act of being set apart from ANY wrongdoing and set apart to complete and total righteousness (the inability to do anything wrong, and do everything right).   With the absence of wrongdoing, holiness is considered PERFECTION.

In order for Justice to be perfect, it must be tempered with compassion, mercy, and grace.  Otherwise, we have the knee-jerk reaction of the emotionless dictator who yells, “Off with his head!” to even the most trivial perceived rebellion.

Perfect Position

Since God is holy (and thus perfect), any rebellion of any nature must be punished appropriately.  The level of the rebellion must be met with the correct level of punishment.  God is infinitely holy and perfect, so any rebellion, no matter how small, needs to be dealt with justly.  The only just way to deal with rebellion, when perfection is the standard, is to remove the person from the population (through incarceration) so that they won’t harm anyone else.  Every country in the world has laws to protect its people from the evil of others.

So, why should we hold God to a lower standard?  People want God to just accept them as they are (which He does) and to not expect them to change.  This is the equivalent of a murdering cannibal going before a judge and saying, “You are an intolerant, racist bigot.  Just because I kill and eat people, you would deny me my freedom to be with other people?  How dare you!  I shouldn’t have to change to conform to your perverted sense of reality, judge!  My view of life is the correct one!  You must conform to my views!  You have no right to ‘judge’ me!  I demand that you immediately drop all charges, and I will be suing you for wrongful arrest and harassment!  You will see me in court!”

(Hopefully) No one would ever agree with that position.  Yet, when we say, “I can’t believe that God would judge me because I (fill in the blank), are we not doing the same exact thing?  Are we not saying that our morality and ethics are of a higher, more pure, more righteous, and more perfect nature than that of God?

God, recognizing that we have a sinful nature, has shown us compassion in His infinite wisdom.  He gave us an opportunity to be reformed and rejoined back to Him in relationship from isolation by sin.  God sent His One and Only Son, who never sinned, to die upon the cross to be a perfect substitutionary sacrifice for us. In this, he has shown:

  • Compassion – God wants to alleviate our pain and suffering by giving us the opportunity to repent
  • Mercy – When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we are no longer going to get the punishment that we rightly deserve
  • Grace – God didn’t have to provide a way – He is perfectly justified in sending the whole lot of humans to permanent incarceration within His holding cell – the Lake of Fire.  Instead, He gave us unmerited favor through the sinless shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, as an atonement (payment for wrongdoing) for our sinful rebellion against Him.

God has shown that He, and only He, has the perfect balance between Justice and Compassion.

Jesus paid our fine.  But who would consider a person “rehabilitated” if they refused to acknowledge that their actions were wrong by willfully continuing to do the same things over and over again without any regret or attempt to rectify the behavior? God loves us just as we are, but He loves us too much to allow us to stay where we are.

With reprieve comes the implicit understanding that the actions that led to the crime would not continue.  God calls this process sanctification.  We are being transformed from desiring evil and acting upon those desires into desiring righteousness and acting upon these new desires.  Even people who aren’t able to control themselves (the mentally ill) are placed away from the ability to do harm when they are unable to change.

Positional Preference

Our perception of God’s justice is marred by our sinful nature.  It is only when we see Him through the lens of Truth and Perfection that we can better understand and begin to grasp the wisdom, balance, and perfection that He displays when He operates in our lives.  We can no sooner fault God for injustice as we can exonerate ourselves from law by merely saying we don’t agree with the law.

While the laws of men may be (and often are) flawed, the laws of God are perfect.  They will withstand any criticism with one exception: those who are unable to critically think, and instead think with their emotions as it best serves them and their own desires – always at the price of others.  It is the self-serving that so piously and loudly denounce ethics and morality as unjust, antiquated, mean-spirited, racist, uncaring, and intolerant.  And the last is true:  Morality is intolerant of immorality (and, therefore, evil).  That is exactly why we have laws…

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we of the mindset that our morality is superior to that of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You that You are holy and just.  Help me to see past my own faults to gaze at Your glorious face, and see how far short of Your glory I fall.  Help me to remember that You and You alone are able to see without impaired judgement, as You and You alone are holy.  Help me to shed any and all attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs that do not conform to Your holy revelation of truth in Your Word.  Guide me in all that I think, say and do, that I would see everything through Your perfect eyes and perspective.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Justice of God – 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10

God Will Not Withhold His Wrath Forever

5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

Selected for Suffering

All who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior will experience suffering.  No student is above his teacher, and we are not above Jesus Christ in this regard.  We should take heart and rejoice in our sufferings, and decide to consider them as an indication that we are truly God’s people:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Woeful Wrath

Paul says something interesting here.  He indicates that God will pay back trouble to those who trouble us.  One of the most difficult things to do as a Christian is to bear up under the abuse of others. A “trick” that we can employ to help us with this is to remember that God will pay back those who trouble us.  This does not mean that we wish harm to come to others; it merely means that we can rest in knowing that God is Just and will punish the wicked.

In order to use this effectively, we must see through God’s lens of eternity and be satisfied with His Justice, resting in the outcome of eternity.  Let us take a step back, and with the revealed knowledge of what God will do (through examining eschatological [end-times] prophecy) understand that from God’s perspective, everything is already accomplished.  This is how God was and is able to endure the disobedience of man – He was able to see Christ crucified and resurrected before the beginning of the universe, as though it had already occurred.

We too should look at the wrath of God as already having been poured out upon those who refuse to believe.  In God’s eyes, as in ours, we should see that the punishment of justice has already occurred.  Those who wronged us but accepted Christ have their sins forgiven in Christ, so justice has been served – Christ paid for it with His holy, perfect, sinless blood, as He did ours.  Justice is served.  For those who refused the free gift of salvation, they are already serving their sentence in the lake of fire.  Justice is served.  Either way, justice has been served, and we can rest in the Holy Justice of God to let these things go so that no root of bitterness will grow in our hearts.

Ruler Revealed

All of this will occur when Jesus Christ is revealed as the Lion of Judah .  He first came as a lamb.  He now returns as the Lion to gather His elect and bring wrath to the unbelievers.  Jesus will be unveiled and the unseen will become seen.  Every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, whether they bow willingly or grudgingly.  We will know and be fully known.  What a wonderful and dreadful day that will be!

Destruction of the Disobedient

God will not withhold His wrath and anger forever.  He does not destroy us now because He would like to see as many that would believe would be saved and to display His mercy.  Those that don’t believe will face absolute destruction with the second death – spiritual death (the eternal separation from God in the lake of fire).  They will be tormented for all eternity because they refused to love the truth.  That should sober up every Christian when we think about it and propel us into action so that the message of the Gospel is delivered to all the world.

And when we fail in that, or are unable because the devil has complete control over a region, God will still reveal Himself to people through visions and dreams.  Many in the Middle East, where they are under complete Shariah law, are being reached through this method even today.  Because of this, many are coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Darkness has fallen there, and no one can work but God alone.  Darkness is falling across the entire world.  Places where freedom once reigned and Christianity once flourished and thrived are now being choked out by oppressive governments and their subjected peoples who sympathize with their government’s position.  Take Heart!  Christ has overcome the world!

Glorified by God

And when Jesus arrives, those who found life through salvation of sin in Jesus Christ will be with Him as He is glorified.  We will be like Him.  And we will marvel in His glory from that time throughout all eternity, praising and glorifying Him forever and ever.

Suffering a little now seems insignificant when we consider the eternal glory of God and being in His presence.  Endure the trials before you, knowing that you will be reunited with your Savior in joy and celebration for all eternity.  The pain you suffer now is great, but it is momentary in light of eternity.  Pray that God would comfort you through it, so that you would endure your suffering in such a way that it would bring glory to His name.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we bearing up under our suffering so that God will be glorified, as He seeks to prepare us for the time when we will be with Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I greatly look forward to the return of Jesus Christ as the Lion of Judah.  Help me to be prepared so that when He returns, I will be ready and found doing what I have been told to do.  Give me peace as I suffer in my trials, and give me Your eternal perspective on all things that I may be able to look beyond the present to see everything in the lens of eternity.  May this viewpoint bring me comfort and help me to grow in grace and righteousness.  Comfort me in my pain.  It seems as though it will last forever, but You have promised that when I am with You in heaven, there will be no more pain and no more tears.  I greatly look forward to that day.  Blessed be Your Name, Lord God Almighty!  Amen.

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The Justice of God – Isaiah 33:22

God Is a Righteous Judge

For the Lord is our judge,
the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king;
it is he who will save us.

A Just Judge

God is a just judge.  He judges from the perspective of righteousness, for He is perfect in every aspect of character.  The Bible tells us:

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.

3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

We should rejoice that God is just.  We can be assured that in His justice, there is no fear – for there is no fear in love.  We don’t need to fear a just judge if we are doing right; it is only when doing evil that we need to fear.  And how much more should we fear God as our judge than mere human judges if we are doing evil?

The Law of Love

As a just judge, God gives us laws to establish His authority over us, and to act as a mirror with which we can properly see ourselves and who we really are, not just how we think we see ourselves, or how we portray ourselves to others.  God established just one law when it was just Adam and Eve on the Earth.  He established the Ten Commandments with Moses.  He provided the Israelites the expanded version of law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  And he shows us that in Christ, love fulfills the law:

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

Kind King

God is a king, and He is our king.  God is also love personified.  Since God is love, and love is kind, we know that we have a kind king.  God shows this to us insofar as He does not immediately destroy us when we sin.  A harsh king – the idea of God from the world’s perspective – shows Him as an angry old ogre with His finger just above the “smite” button, just waiting for us to fail so that He has the opportunity to press it.

God shows us His love and kindness through the willingness to allow His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins, so that we can be reconciled to Him.  He patiently waits for us and woos us to come and reason with Him – to see His perspective on all things.

His kindness is shown through His mercy and grace.  Only the kindness in love would allow such a holy God – set apart from all sin and unrighteousness – to tolerate us as we come to our senses and accept the free gift of His Son Jesus Christ’s perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection as payment for our sin.  When we view the cross of Calvary from His perspective, we can come to no other conclusion.

Sovereign Salvation

Only a life of perfect obedience could be the acceptable payment for sin.  And God provided that Himself through His Son Jesus Christ.  Salvation comes from the Lord, for He is able to save, and desires that all be saved.  Rejoice in your salvation!  It came at a very great price.

When taking communion with the Saints of God, remember who it is that is your King, that we may properly discern the body of Christ.  Prepare your heart before you go to worship.  Seek your King with all your heart.  Read His Holy Word.  Be sanctified and adorned as the beautiful bride that He seeks.  Do not be asleep:

for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  As we reap the benefits of grace and mercy, are we really seeing God as a Just Judge?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You reveal Yourself to us through Your Word and through our lives.  Help me to remember Your Holiness.  Give me a better appreciation for Your hatred of sin.  Help me to keep in mind that no one can see Your face, for we would surely die if we did.  Thank You for Your grace and mercy.  Help me to see my sin as You see it.  Guard me and guide me in all my ways.  Help me to prepare my heart that it would be in a proper state to take communion every day and at all times.  Help me to be consecrated to You and Your purposes, that I would be useful as a holy vessel.  You have already declared that I am a naos – the holy of holies.  Help me to live up to that.  Give me a better understand of You as my King.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Justice of God – Psalm 112:5

We Are To Be Just Like Him

Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.

Holiness Hampered

We are told many times to conduct ourselves with justice:

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”  Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

Arise, Lord, in your anger;
    rise up against the rage of my enemies.
    Awake, my God; decree justice.

I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor
    and upholds the cause of the needy.

There are many more passages, but this should be sufficient.  But time and time again, we see where man has failed in this aspect of the character of God:

But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.

The way of peace they do not know;
    there is no justice in their paths.
They have turned them into crooked roads;
    no one who walks along them will know peace.

Even today, we see justice hampered due to personal gain, politics, or the judge’s mindset.  People are deprived of their rights to own and use the land they have purchased; the law is applied differently to those who have political influence versus those who don’t have money, power or friends with access to one or both; the illegal alien has more rights and access to opportunity than does the citizen, etc.  In all of this, God’s holiness is not being displayed by the very people He has chosen to be in authority over us.

Lawfully Lenient

But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, who died upon the cross for the sins of all.  In this tragic but very necessary act, Jesus has fulfilled the requirements of God’s perfect, holy law so that we can be spared from His righteous wrath.  And even though this free gift is available to all, most choose not to accept it.

Permanent Punishment

The end result of this is that those who do not choose to believe God are justly sentenced to eternity in the lake of fire.  Since God is perfect, He cannot allow sin to occur without being punished.  And since God is perfect, His justice is perfect, and His judgements are perfect.  And since God’s judgements are perfect, the sentences He pronounces are perfect as well.  And His proscribed sentence for refusing to acknowledging that God is righteous and we are not is eternal separation from God in his jail – the lake of fire.  This was not originally designed for humans, but for the demons and the devil who, being in the presence of God, rebelled against His authority.

Justice means nothing unless the law is enforced, and the sentence matches the crime.  The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross allows God, during life, to show us mercy and grace.  Without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection, God’s wrath would still be upon us, and we would face eternal separation from God in the lake of fire.

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I showing God’s mercy and grace in justice as I interact with others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown Yourself to be full of mercy and grace, in that You give us life and reconciliation through the death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us to be ever mindful of Your desire for us to show Your justice when we are in a position to do so.  Grant us wisdom and discernment that in all things we would act in justice, for that is who You are.  Provide us with the desire and ability to show the world Your justice, that the righteous will rejoice, and those who do wrong will tremble with terror.  Let not the oppressed be overwhelmed by the wicked, and may we see the removal of unjust judges in our court systems.  I pray, Father, that you would reconcile the lost to Yourself, that You would be praised and glorified.  This I ask in the precious and powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

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Perspective of God – Matthew 25:21-22

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

In another stunning turn of events, Jesus turned the tables on those who would follow the letter of the law on the outside, but refused to change on the inside. The Pharisees were notorious for following the letter of the law without allowing the law to change their hearts; and in doing so, they broke the spirit of the law.  Jesus makes it clear here that God wants us to follow both the letter and the spirit of the law.

In just this one chapter of scripture (Matthew 5:27-48) , there are no less than five additional places where Jesus provided clarification regarding the letter of the law and the spirit of the law:

[Adultery]
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

[Divorce]
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

[Oaths]
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

[Eye for an eye]
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

[Love for enemies]
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

In each case, Jesus show how we should act when the law is brought into account.  Our sin nature desires what benefits itself most.  It is natural, in our old nature, to merely outwardly obey what the law requires.  We can easily overlook the deeper nature of what is required of us when we just seek to be justified in our perceived fulfillment through a minimalist attitude regarding obedience to the law.

Jesus was so upset with this from the religiously pious leaders that he called them white-washed tombs with dead men’s bones inside.   That is an interesting analogy!  What an insult that must have been to the pious leaders – that they were tombs, places where physically (but in this analogy, spiritually) dead people were placed.  And, appearing squeaky-clean on the outside, giving an appearance of cleanliness and holiness, they were instead filled with the rotting (spiritually dead) corpses that if touched, would make one ritualistically unclean for worshiping God.

Another example of this is a man who claims to know God. He is a very nice guy to all that he encounters, and appears to be of good moral character.  Due to a workplace accident, he is on disability.  He works as many side jobs as possible (perfectly OK), and asks for cash only when performing the work (still perfectly OK).  However, he doesn’t report the additional income he earns from these side jobs to the government so that his benefits are not reduced.  And while we all chafe at egregious taxation, he fails to take into account what Paul said in Romans 13:1-2,6-7:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

We can easily deceive ourselves into making a righteous justification for just about everything we do that is counter to the Word of God in the name of “circumstantial difficulty”.  This is where moral relativism creeps into our lives.  And once we start down that path, we can then justify everything we do, and then fail to realize just how far short of the glory of God we are becoming.

So let’s ask ourselves the question: Am I following the letter of the law, or the spirit of the law?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, our hearts are filled with deceit, and we deceive ourselves when we merely follow the letter of the law.  Father, cleanse me now of all unrighteousness.  Show me where I have this attitude in my heart, and bring it into the light so that the light would dispel the darkness.  If this is rooted in bitterness of spirit from an experience of my past, please remove it, no matter how painful it is.  Help me to heal, and to avoid this attitude in my life.  Guard my heart, and keep it until the great and terrible day that Your Son, Jesus Christ, returns in Glory to claim what is His, and bring judgement on all that refused Him in life.  Bless not only me, but all who struggle with this issue.  This I ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Saved by God – Joel 2:32

And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance,
    as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
    whom the Lord calls.

For those who have questions:

What is being saved?

Being saved is a spiritual state where God has legally declared you righteous because of your acceptance of the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross as payment for your sins, as the final and only payment acceptable to God, and you have chosen to repent of those sins.  For it is by faith and faith alone, that we declare with our mouths that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead for our sins.  Because of this, God restores to us a spirit of life, for we are spiritually dead because of our sin nature.

What about works?

James says that faith without works is dead.  So what place does works have in our walk with God?  Works are the outpouring of our lives in gratitude for what God has done and is doing inside of us.  It is a visible manifestation of the change of heart we have towards God and sin.  Works do not make us any more acceptable to God than we already are – for it is Jesus’ righteousness that makes us acceptable.   God has prepared works in advance from before the foundation of the world for us to do in order to glorify His name, not to earn our way into Heaven.

Who can be saved? 

ANYONE who calls upon the name of the Lord.  And His name is The Lord Jesus Christ.  For all who would come to the Father must go through the Son.  Jesus said that if He was lifted up, He would draw ALL men to Him.  The Greek word translated “all” means exactly that – “ALL.”  Just because you are drawn doesn’t mean you have arrived.  If you are drawn to go to the Superbowl, but instead go bowling, it doesn’t matter how much you wanted to go; YOU WEREN’T THERE.  God says that He does not want anyone to perish.  But the wages of sin is death, so respond if you feel God tugging at your heart today.  For God so loved the world, He sent His one and only Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

What does it cost to be saved?

EVERYTHING!  It is like a drug addict on the verge of overdose coming to a methadone clinic.  They want to be healed.  But the only way to do so is to GIVE UP THEIR WAY OF LIFE FOR A NEW ONE.  If the drug user gets clean but refuses to stay clean, what good was it to them?  God cleanses us of our unrighteousness, and give us the righteousness of Christ.  We can then, with the power and help of the Holy Spirit (think AA with a multi-billionaire as your sponsor) you are able to live a life free from being enslaved to sin.  Sin is a drug – once it gets its claws into you, it is very hard to break free of its grasp.  And what you thought you could control, now controls YOU.  But God is merciful and full of grace, and is faithful and just to forgive us when we sin if we repent.

The good news is, just like the drug addict, when you come to God, He gets rid of your addiction, and then gives you His wealth and strength to crawl out of the hole you dug for yourself.  God says He owns all the gold and all the silver.  And He is more than able to give you what you need, for He created everything, and can create some more if He wants.  Not only that, He gives you Himself.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence in you to empower you, encourage you, direct you, and keep you clean and sober from sin. But because the world is like Bourbon Street, with bars lining both sides, it is hard to not walk in and have a drink.  When we do, the Holy Spirit becomes our advocate, and urges us to get sober, and gives us the strength to do so – no matter how embarrased we feel for falling off the wagon.  And as God helps us to grow in strength, it gets easier to say no to sin.  Whatever you feed inside you will grow.  Make sure you don’t intentially feed the monster by sinning…

When you come to God in intial repentance, you are basically saying that you are morally bankrupt.  God then fills your account with Christ’s righteousness until it is astronomically large (for you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing).  Who cares if you come to the table with 23 cents in your pocket?  God owns all the banks!  What’s 23 cents compared to immeasurable riches?  Change is never easy, is it?

How do I become saved?

Click here for more information.

Am I saved? 

Have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead as payment for your sin by faith and faith alone?  Then you are saved!  Read the Bible.  Pray to God.  Beg God to help you to live righteously for Him and to get rid of all the things in your life that are displeasing to Him.  God is faithful and will joyfully answer those kind of prayers!  Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.  Having put on the helmet of salvation, (experentially) know that you are saved!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us in Your word how good You are.  For You are a just God, and must punish sin; yet being filled with mercy and grace, have given us a way to be reconciled to You.  Father, forgive me for my sins.  I deserve to go to Hell, but you have given me a way to be with You instead.  Help me to live this life in obedience to You.  Carry me when I cannot walk.  Strengthen me for the battles ahead.  Provide all that I need physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, that I may be equipped to do Your will.  Guide me in the way I should go.  This I ask in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

Forgiven by God – Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

It is a blessing to be forgiven. What a relief!  It is also expected that we will forgive as we have been forgiven.  So why is it so hard to forgive when we have been forgiven so much?  We suffer three injuries every time we forgive:

  • The Initial Offense – We suffer from the harm that happened because of the event
  • The Pain of Reconciliation – We must come to terms with the pain of offense and let that pain go, since we consider it as though it never happened
  • The Absence of Justice – We suffer knowing that since we have chosen to forgive, justice will not occur for the offense

Yet, we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven.  But why does it seem that every day people are getting more evil than ever?  Perhaps this is why (Matthew 24:12-13):

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Besides, everything has already been paid in full already.  Just as some physical injuries take longer to heal than others, the pain of sin and forgiveness can take longer for certain events.  Either way, we are called to be perfect like God.  So, like everything else in life, practice makes perfect – make forgiveness the first state of mind when someone wrongs you.  And let God take care of the rest.  Lean on Him for strength and healing.  For:

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Be an oak of righteousness; forgive as God has forgiven you.  And let God give you the oil of joy and a garment of praise.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have forgiven us more that we can even comprehend.  From the worst of sinners as Paul described himself to the ones who led good lives, we have all sinned and fallen short of Your glory.  Forgive us this day our trespasses, and help us to forgive the trespasses of others.  Strengthen us as we deal with the consequences of not only our own sin, but the sin of others.  Help us to remember what it cost You to forgive our sins, that we might put everything into perspective.  Touch our hearts and comfort us as we draw close to you.  This we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Perspective of God – Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

“Reason together” is very interesting.  It is a meeting of the minds.  In our culture, it could be defined as, “let’s get together and discuss the matter.  You present your perspective, I’ll present mine, and we’ll meet in the middle somewhere.”  But that isn’t what is going on at all.  God is TruthGod is Perfect.  And a perfect and absolutely truthful God who knows all things is inviting us to see things from a correct perspective.  Although He sees our perspective (flawed as it is by our inherent sin nature which blinds us to the truth), He offers His perspective and beckons us to move to where He is to see things rightly.

Have you ever noticed that when you change your perspective – you move perhaps a step to the left or the right – that some things take on an entirely new meaning?  Have you ever seen an optical illusion, where if you move a little one way or the other, you see it for what it really is, but when you stand in just the right place, your brain fools you by filling in the gaps as it tries to define what it believes to be the truth?  It does this by using false, 2D perspectives in conjunction with interpolated depth perception (the ability of the mind to make rational calculations on what something should look like by comparing it to what appears to be a nearby known object of reference).

Take train tracks going in the distance.  Do the rails really get closer to each other the further away the rails are from us?  Why do they appear closer to each other then?  Our brains take what our eyes see and then creates a modified image using clues from other things around it to find meaning in what we see.  The brain has an internal mechanism that looks for meaning everywhere and in everything it sees.  Do you ever see bunnies or cars or birds in the way the clouds are formed?  Are the clouds really those things?  This is because God has given us the ability to intrinsically recognize intelligent designThis is why God can say that no one has any excuse for not recognizing that there is a God by looking at His creation. Since we are able to see that pattern (intelligent design), that ability permeates into other areas of our thought processes.

God offers a very wonderful opportunity to see the truth by pulling back the curtains on sin and righteousness and even time itself.  We are created beings, and as such, are bound at this time by the effects of the physical world, including TIME.  Rushing around, we are scarcely aware of the bigger picture, because time creates an interesting illusion – that it will always be around, and that there are immediate, temporal consequences for our actions.  It also fools us into thinking that when immediate consequences do not occur, that nothing bad will happen.  This illusion can guide us into being its slave, rather than helping us to use it for God’s purposes.  Timing is everything, right?

So, let’s take a step back and see the magic trick exposed.  What happens when we take a look at something through the lens of ETERNITY?

  • Justice is served.  How easy we get riled up when people do terrible things to us.  But God, being a just God, has ensured that justice will be served.  The Bible says that God can not be mocked, and a man reaps what he sows.  However, the transgression, in God’s eyes, has already been paid for.  Jesus bore the sins of the world, every sin for every person ever to exist – in the past, present, and the future – on the cross.  The lawbreakers (those who reject Jesus’s payment for our debt to God from sin) go to Hell (the Lake of Fire), and those who accept Jesus go to be with Him in Heaven.  Regardless, JUSTICE HAS BEEN SERVED. You can forgive the offender now.  The debt has already been paid.  In God’s eyes, since He sees the end from the beginning, He saw it as paid for even before the universe was created; and all of the lawbreakers are already in His jail, the Lake of Fire.

That was just one.  Take some time today, and with the Word of God, and the Lens of Eternity, what else do you see that you haven’t seen before?

A short prayer of preparation:

Our Father in Heaven, You are so good to us.  In our blindness, You offer sight.  You pull back the veil of darkness that clouds our vision and reveal wonderful new things in Your law.  You call us to draw close to You and to see things from Your perspective, a true and unvarnished perspective that transcends time and creation.  Guide us this day in Your perfect light, and remove the darkness that hides the true nature of reality.  You and You alone can see what is, what was, and what will be, and we desperately need Your help to navigate this life as we are crippled by our sin nature.  Blessed is Your name, that You seek us, redeem us, and keep us.  Your glory is beautiful to behold; may we bask in Your light, and be enlightened.  This we ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?