Friday, June 29, 2012

In My Heart

Do you like debating about the things of God? I do. It’s not so much that I like debates; I often lose them – especially with my husband and daughter. But I love talking about God. I love focusing on Him with my whole mind and trying to understand Him and His ways. The negative side of debating is that not all Christians understand the scriptures the same way. There are the historic debates about things like predestination and eternal security and some of the old ones have surfaced with new clothes. That’s okay unless the debating gets ugly. The thing is, we can’t possibly understand God fully. We’re finite and He’s infinite.

God hasn’t told us everything. 

Thankfully, we’re not responsible for what He hasn’t told us. But we are responsible for what He has told us.

In this verse from Deuteronomy Moses has just reviewed the Covenant between God and Israel. This is the Mosaic Covenant - the law. He’s reminding the people of Israel that they are responsible for keeping the law.

But I’m in the New Covenant; it’s a covenant of grace. So I don’t have to keep the law, right? 

Wrong. I’m still responsible for keeping the Covenant. In the New Covenant God has written His laws in my heart and on my mind. I don’t have to post them on my wall so I’ll remember them or work hard at keeping them. The Holy Spirit is at work in me to do that.

When God gave the law to Israel, the people tried to keep it (some of the time) with warnings of curses if they disobeyed. Even when they sincerely tried, they didn’t succeed. That’s why there are 613 laws in the Old Testament. They were given by God to help the people keep the Covenant. They had an impossible task.

The New Covenant is different. During the last supper, Jesus told the disciples that His blood was the new covenant, poured out as a sacrifice for us. The New Covenant is based on the grace of God.
Now God puts His law in the hearts of His people and we are able to keep it because Jesus died for us. He does all the work.

So there are things I don’t know about God, but what I do know is that Jesus has made me able to be responsible for the things God has told me.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Human Dilemma

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis describes the dilemma that all people face. “Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it.”

This dilemma is apparent in this passage. The only people who can stand in God’s presence and worship Him are those with pure hands and hearts. But no one is pure, so no one can stand in God’s presence. Thankfully, God has offered us a solution to the problem since we have no way to solve it. Lewis goes on to say, “The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person . . .”


Before I can worship properly I need my Savior to put me in right relationship with God.

Now that I’ve established that, I can look at the requirements for worship. My hands are about what I do and my heart is about what I love. My actions and attitudes.

What I love (what motivates me) and what I do (how I act) must be pure. defines Pure as being “free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind; free from extraneous matter; free from foreign or inappropriate elements; clear; free from blemishes.”

The greatest commandment is to love God with all my being and to love my neighbor as much as I love myself. If I want my love to be pure I have to put God and my neighbor before myself. Pure love is unselfish love; it’s loving the way God loves.

And pure actions should flow from pure love. As John said in his first letter (v. 18)

     "Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions."

So I must love God first, other people next and myself last. And if I do, it’ll determine how I live. Then I’ll have a right relationship with God my savior and I’ll be able to stand in His presence to worship Him. (I love the way God works in a circular fashion to resolve the human dilemma.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Love the Truth

God hates lies. Stop doing it. 

God hates stealing. Stop doing it.

When God’s people stole from others and swore falsely in God’s name, He cursed them. The curse was banishment from the land and the total destruction of the houses where it occurred. That’s a pretty serious punishment. Since God is just it must mean that the crime was pretty serious.

We live in a society that accepts these two things as ordinary. On the individual level we take pens home from work and we fudge on our taxes. We say we’re okay when we’re not and we don’t bother returning library books. On a societal level we accept exaggerated claims in our advertising and we expect our politicians not to always tell the truth.

How can Christians please God by living in this world?

God loves His people. They angered Him when they turned away from Him and lived lives that were characterized by lying. But later He wanted to bless them and He was determined to do it. What they had to do was tell the truth. Individuals had to tell the truth to each other. The courts had to render true and just verdicts. They had to stop loving lies.

That’s what He really wants. We Christians should stop telling lies, but what God wants is for us to stop loving lies. He wants us to love the truth, just as He does. Actions follow the attitude of the heart. So, regardless of the attitude of the society I live in, I want to love truth. I don’t want to stretch it when it’s convenient or to protect myself. I don’t want to accept little white lies. I want to love what God loves.

He loves the truth. He doesn’t lie.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Justice Outside the Camp

This is one of the Old Testament stories that makes people say they couldn’t believe in a God who would do such a thing. God condemns a man to be stoned to death just for saying a curse. It sounds pretty extreme to us. What happened to love and forgiveness and grace?

I think that we can only begin to understand this judgment when we focus on God instead of the punishment. The crime was against Him. The guilty man blasphemed the Name of the Lord with a curse. We must always remember that God’s name is who He is. It’s not an identifying label; it’s the expression of His character. Blaspheming His name is defaming His character. God is holy so He deserves (and has required of us) reverence.

The context for this judgment is a list of other punishments, including the well known “an eye for an eye.” Many people think this is revenge, but it’s intended to make sure justice is done. The punishment fits the crime and it prevents excessive punishment. But some crimes require death.

If you take an eye, you lose an eye.
If you break a bone, you have a bone broken.
It you knock out a tooth, you lose a tooth.
If you kill an animal, you replace it.
But if you take a human life, how can you replace it? So you lose yours.

This understanding of justice gives me a new understanding of blasphemy. To blaspheme His name is to deny His holiness. If an injury is paid back in kind, what punishment could repay God for damage to His character? Compared to God we have no holiness; our characters are already damaged. So the penalty must be death. Either we follow Him or we go our own way. Either we worship Him or we worship ourselves. Either we submit to Him or we rule ourselves. Either we believe in Jesus or we deny Him. The second of those options always leads to death. We all deserve death because we all blaspheme His name.

When the guilty man was taken outside the camp to be stoned, God told the ones who had heard the curse to lay their hands on his head before he was stoned. In doing so their guilt from hearing the curse was transferred to the victim. It absolved them of the guilt of unwillingly participating in his blasphemy.

It’s the name of Jesus that absolves us from our guilt. He was taken outside the camp to die and our guilt was placed on Him when He hung on the cross. We trust in His name to restore us to the right relationship with God. 

Isn’t it amazing that grace resides in the very heart of God’s justice?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Don't Blaspheme God

I grew up believing that the United States is a Christian nation. I discovered how wrong I was when I started working at a large university. There I met Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Baha’i and Pagans. But mostly I met people with no religion. And many of them were hostile to Christianity. So I can agree with the Psalmist when he says God’s enemies blaspheme Him.

The king of Assyria blasphemed God and found out He really does exist and really is Sovereign over all creation. He had conquered other nations who trusted their gods, but they didn’t rescue get rescued from the might of Assyria. The king didn’t know the true God so he didn’t think He was any different from any other god. He made the mistake of underestimating God and classing Him with man-made gods. His army was camped outside Jerusalem when God sent an angel to kill 185,000 of his soldiers. So he broke camp and went home, where his sons assassinated him while he was worshipping his god. (God knows a bit about irony doesn’t He?)

I don’t think I blaspheme God, but what can I learn from this event? 

Do I underestimate God? He’s sovereign and omnipotent and He keeps His promises.

Do I fail to trust Him to protect me and rescue me? I must remember when He has protected me in the past.

Do I make peace with evil for the sake of prosperity? God is my provider.

Do I believe the world offers life, not death? The way of sin always leads to death.

Do I fail to listen to God’s representatives? I must faithfully read the Bible and listen to the teaching of my pastor.

Do I compare God to the gods of the world and doubt God’s power? I should study God’s character and His ways and deeds.

Do I do what I want because I don’t know who God is? Remember He is my savior and Lord and let that motivate me.