Twisted justice

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”                       2 Corinthians 5:21

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
”                    Isaiah 53:6

Charles Dickens tells the Tale of Two Cities in a heart-rending way.
Sydney Carton is a dissipated, cynical English alcoholic.  Charles Darnay is a French aristocrat during the French Revolution.  They both love the same woman.  Carton exercises “the last full measure of devotion”* to his beloved by saving Darnay’s life, at his own expense.  Disguised as his look-alike rival in love, he takes his place in prison, that Darnay might go free.  Carton dies on the guillotine in Darnay’s place.

This is what Jesus did for each sinner in the world, if they choose to accept it.  He offered Himself as our Substitute.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”                                          Colossians 2:13-14

God did this by executing a shocking justice upon His sinless Son, who died in our place, so that our penalty would be paid in full (tetelestai) .  This made it possible for God to forgive, embrace, and welcome us into His kingdom, though undeserving.

He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”       1 Peter 2:24

Father, thank You for Your incomprehensible, sacrificial love for us helpless, clueless, hopeless sinners!  Thank you for taking our place on the cross, bearing our penalty Yourself, so that You could adopt us into Your own family.  Let my gratitude for being made alive from the dead strongly motivate me to live for You and Your kingdom.

* Lincoln, A., Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.

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Light

C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen:  not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” *

I pray to have God’s eyes as I view the world and pursue truth — and as I face the decisions before me.  This seems to be the wisdom and humility Elihu wished to see in Job, that says, “Teach me what I do not see; I will do it no more.”   Job 34:32

It is God’s light upon our path that shows us His truth and the path that is best for our well-being and for the flourishing of His kingdom.  This light can be found in His Word and in His Son.

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Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.
”                                            Psalm 119:105

The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it gives understanding to the simple.
”             Psalm 119:130

We hunger for this Light.  We are afraid of the dark and fear stubbing our toe, falling, and suffering loss.

This is why the Messiah came:

The people who walk in darkness will see a great Light.  Those who live in a dark land, the Light will shine on them.”                                     Isaiah 9:2

I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”                  Acts 26:18

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . .  The true Light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.                                                      John 1:4, 5, 9

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the Light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ”   John 8:12

Lord of Light, illuminate my mind and heart, open my eyes to Your Truth.  Evaporate my fears and confusion, as I see life through Your eyes.  And help me to live a life of order and purpose, as I act confidently on the Truth You show me.

 

* “Is Theology Poetry?” in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses, New York: HarperCollins, 2001, 140.

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Compassion

I wish I could be more like Jesus.  It comforts me that this is God’s unalterable plan for me, a process that is in progress now.  (Philippians 1:6, Romans 8:29)  Glory!  Bring it on!

A glaring example of the gap between what I am and what He intends to make me is my attitude toward “the multitude,” all those out there who irritate me and interrupt my agenda.  Or I am simply apathetic.  Which is a far cry from sympathetic.

When he saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.                                                  Matthew 9:36-38

From its Latin roots, our word compassion means “to feel or suffer together with.”  This requires putting ourselves mentally in the position of the other person, in order to feel their emotion — be it anger, fear, hunger, pain, or despair.  Jesus wasn’t irritated at the crowds around Him; He felt with them, seeing them as helpless and harassed, imagining their pain as His own.  Here, His response was to urge His disciples to beseech God for more workers to help meet their physical and spiritual needs.

When helping His disciples to get away to rest from the demands of the crowds, they found more demanding crowds waiting for them at their intended retreat (Mark 6:34).  But His response was compassion, which was acted out in patiently teaching them.  His response of compassion was worked out in different ways in various situations.  Faced with a crowd with nothing to eat, He fed them. (Mark 8:2)  Deeply moved and troubled by Lazarus’ grief-struck family and the mourning crowd (John 11:33,38), He wept and raised Lazarus back to life.

A repeated emphasis throughout Old and New Testaments is that the compassion we undeserving sinners receive from our gracious God obligates us to show the same kind of compassion to the undeserving people around us.  Not only should our compassion be given without consideration of how deserving the recipient is , but also our feelings should be expressed in actions.

O Father God, forgive me for my hard heart, critical spirit, and smugness.  Help me to see people as You see them — struggling, helpless, clueless, desperate.  Move me to do for them what You might do, were You still now here in the flesh.  Help me to meet their deepest need of the moment, certainly pointing them to You, the Fountain of Life, and perhaps meeting some physical or emotional need, as well.

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“If you should choose to accept this mission . . .”

When Jesus approached Paul near Damascus, He told him through Ananias that he was to be “My chosen instrument to take My message to the Gentiles and to kings as well as to the people of Israel.  And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15)  An ominous assignment!

Returning from his third missionary journey, Paul told the elders at Ephesus that he had been told “by the Holy Spirit that in city after city, jail and suffering lay ahead.” (20:23)  In Caesarea, he told those wanting him to go hide himself from danger, “Why all this weeping?  You are breaking my heart!  I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem, but even to die for the Lord Jesus.”  (Acts 21:13)  This was very much like the response Peter got from Jesus, when He outlined the sequence of His certain death approaching in Jerusalem.  “Get behind me, Satan!  You are not thinking God’s thoughts but man’s.”

abandoned ancient antique architecture

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This is really bold devotion to God’s assignment!  Both Paul and Jesus were totally committed to God’s plan for reconciling men to Himself through them, even if it would cost them their lives.  Paul must have been “prayed-up” to prepare him for the moment, when carried on the shoulders of the Roman guards to get him out of the murderous hands of the Jewish mob, asked if he could have a word with his accusers.  He saw and seized the opportunity to speak publicly to a large crowd of people.  (37, 39)  This eventually did get him imprisoned and much later executed, but it provided many months of opportunities for him to speak before Jewish leaders, Roman authorities, soldiers, and judges.

None of Paul’s difficult circumstances happened by accident.  All was planned and known by the Lord, who is always busy bringing glory to Himself and bringing new children into His adopted family, in belief and trust. He is always in control, sovereignly bringing to pass His unstoppable plan.  Nothing can kill us or stop us, until God is through using us to accomplish what He has planned to do through us.

O Lord, help me to trust You in the difficult circumstances that naturally come in life.  May You use every crisis to Your glory and the extension of Your kingdom.  I trust You to preserve my health and my life until such time as You have completed what tasks You created me for.

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Humility

As one approaches the house where the Japanese tea service is offered, the middle gate (naka kuguri) is purposefully small, requiring slight stooping to enter.  This is intended to help those who approach to do so humbly, reverently anticipating the experience.  This is a time of quiet self-awareness and -examination, and an openness to personal growth.

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Likewise, we do well to approach God humbly, reverently, aware of our neediness and of His majesty and power.

But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”       Isaiah 66:2  NASB

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”                                                                                    2 Chronicles 7:14 NASB

A good place to start in our journey to seek humility would be to fear God appropriately.  For this leads to wisdom, and wisdom teaches us humility.  It opens our eyes to who we really are and who God is, in comparison.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
”                        Proverbs 9:10  NIV

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”                                  James 3:13   NIV

O God, help me to voluntarily learn my rightful posture before You, so You do not need to forcefully teach me humility.

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O come let us adore Him!

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”                                             Revelation 4:8, 11

Half Dome at SunsetThe first phrase of praise to God comes unceasingly, day and night, from four living creatures who are within and around His throne in heaven.  Holy is an attribution to God that He is totally other than anyone or any thing in all creation.  There is no one like Him in heaven or on earth.  A feeling that is similar to what might provoke us to say Holy would be our uncontrollable gasp in awe when we first step up to its edge and look into the Grand Canyon.  Lord let me daily approach You with such appropriate awe!

God simply identifies this totally overarching Being as Him from whom all things were created and to whom all things are due.  Lord conveys a more personal relationship of King/subject or Father/son, implying ownership, caring, and responsibility for the well-being of the lesser party.  That this personal Lord God is also Almighty is comforting and reassuring, since He dedicates Himself to our well-being.  Were He not also our caring Lord, His infinite power would be terribly frightening.  The four living creatures attribute to this Lord they worship that He has always existed and always will.  He is the only self-existant One.  He will make things right, and He will always be there to keep them right.

The next verse (11) is voiced by His believing human creation, the 24 elders, now translated into heaven.  They honor their Lord by casting before Him the crowns awarded to them.  These 24 elders praise Him for His power and His sovereignty, for He creates anything He wills into being by simply willing it to be. 

O give me a heart that approaches You with appropriate humility and contrition, acknowledging Your infinite majesty and control over the universe and my total dependence on You to order every detail of my life.

 

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Misusing the Precious Gift of Sex

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.  “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.  You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.”  The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?  Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute?  Never!  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?  For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”  But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies.

This last half of 1 Corinthians 6 addresses the foolhardiness of taking license from the undeserved grace of God’s forgiveness to live a life of misusing His gift of sexual pleasure.  Paul’s logic is that, 1) though forgiven, these sins are not good for us,  2) it is never good to be enslaved to anything,  3) sexual joys are only for this world; spiritual joys and living by the Spirit are for eternity,  4) our bodies are important, as they will be raised up at the end of time, so we must be good stewards of them,  5) we are both parts of Christ Himself (He is the head; we are His body, as in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27), as well as temples of the Holy Spirit, so we must not desecrate ourselves in this way, and that  6) we are not our own.  We have been bought with a price.  So we must live in a way that fits in with the designs of our Maker and Owner.

Lord, help me to live in such a way as to honor and please You.  Help me not to waste my precious time on earth wallowing in mud or misusing your precious gifts.

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