I John 2:17 “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
We live in a world of distractions. Thousands of voices call us to change our focus from what really matters. These voices use our feelings of inadequacy to charm, seduce and dominate our lives. We have an idea that our lives must be lived to the fullest. That every moment must be crammed full. Our attention span shrinks in the onslaught of these distractions. All these things that would grab us and enthrall our minds are just fleeting. Whatever achievement, thrill, or body enhancement we accept into our sphere of life will mean little 50 years from now. Our infatuation with the now is simply tragic. Look to the unseen, the invisible realities of hope and faith in Christ for true fulfillment. Do so and live not in the moment but forever
Thought for January 23– Day 23 of the new year
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Our times seem to be becoming ever more difficult. Cancel culture, perceived racism, homeless in the streets, and the destruction of past norms, all seem to point to a need for mercy and grace. We hear from all sides this is the “new normal.” Nevertheless, if this new way of seeing the world leaves out our dependence upon God, I want no part of it. Instead in our times of need, my reach must be much further than my grasp and my vision must be more than what I perceive. God is here and He is willing to hand out both lavishly and perfectly the love of mercy and grace. Today I am in need, so please forgive, and pour out your mercy and grace, as I do so for you. Renew in my heart the desire to seek God before any other solution.
Hillside Thoughts for Thursday – Day 279 of the year 2022 – October 6
Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Imagine for a moment what our world would be like if just the Christians stopped fighting. Think for a moment where every Christian on your block would reveal themselves by caring for the less fortunate. What would be like if two billion redeemed by the blood Christians, conformed to God’s intent? Would it be a wonderful blessing to begin to do what Jesus asked us to do by showing unconditional love, unbounded kindness, and unlimited grace to all?
If we belong to God, the God of grace, there is a mandate for us to become a people of grace. That is how we can imitate God. It is being the extension of God to everyone you encounter today. Just do it and begin a wave of Jesus to all.
Hillside Thoughts for Wednesday – Day 278 of the year 2022 – October 5
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 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. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
Is Jesus suggesting that I must allow the evil in this world to triumph? Am I to assume the role of victim in any encounter with someone who would do me harm? Is all that I own subject to anyone who wants to borrow it? This teaching of Jesus is tough. I don’t want my cheek slapped. I don’t want to give my shirt away. I don’t want to go the extra mile. I don’t want to lend my favorite fishing pole to a clutz. There must be something more here than a radical reaction to an offense.
The culture in which we live remains resolute in its ability to accomplish much. There are many things the secular world can do better than the church. There is a place for government to do things the individual cannot. Industry can build a car without being Christian. But there is one thing the world around you cannot do. That thing is the offer of grace. Jesus was saying we are to be different from our culture or government or industry. We have the ability to look beyond the requirements and need to go a little further and be grace and mercy.
James 1:17-19 “Every good thing is given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will, He gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. You know this, my beloved brothers, and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
You are a special gift. A gift from God. Your unique identity or personhood as created by God is simply without equal. The message of practical James sees no jump in logic from your gifted unique identity to the accompanying responsibility to be just to those around you. James is calling for a process in justice, listening carefully, restrained in our response, and measurement of judgment. He calls for due process for all accused of not living up to the image of God.
In the world in which we live, we have a responsibility not to pass judgment without due process. The right to a timely trial, to an unbiased judge and a jury of our peers, a presumption of innocence, presentation of corroborating evidence, to know the charges or accusations, to confront witnesses, legal counsel, and the right to defend yourself are all part of this due process. Justice is allowing the process to work. I cannot and will not make any judgment based on emotion, prejudice, innuendo, gossip, or without evidence. That is justice. Justice is dictated by my faith and by God.
Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
My name is Larry, I am created in God’s own image. I came from Him and someday I will be going back to him. My worth is not dependent upon your opinion. My worth is not dictated by societal norms. My life is much more than what you may see of me or even your judgment of me. Who I am is much more than the cultural group to which you think I belong. Do not segregate me because of some outside, physical attribute. I refuse to be canceled. Just societies are built on the acknowledgment and acceptance of the truth of all human beings are bearers of God’s image. They all have equal dignity, incalculable worth with rights that cannot be taken at the whim of any other. It was C.S. Lewis who wrote, “There are no ordinary people, you have never talked to a mere mortal.” The essence of my dignity is not man-made. I am not an earthy person experiencing spiritual things, but a spiritual person experiencing earthly things.
Genesis 18:19 “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”
Webster was right when he said, “Justice, sir, is the great interest of people on earth.” Without justice, there is no hope or expectation of continuance for our culture. A just society must first acknowledge a moral law higher than itself: a supreme lawgiver to whom even the most powerful are held into account. America’s founders writing the Declaration of Independence, in the very first sentence acknowledged the existence and dependence upon something greater than themselves. Our nation is founded on a supreme, objective basis of justice and righteousness. Justice is not a whim of whoever is in political power at any given election cycle. Justice is based upon the supreme lawgiver. To substitute man-made morality or even personal political ethics as a new standard is just folly. God’s perfect justice is established by His unchangeable nature. To set any other ultimate measuring stick of justice is foolishness.
Matthew 1:19,20 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded putting her away privily. When he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
In the King James Version of the Bible Matthew calls Joseph, the husband of Mary, and “just” man. When he learns of her pregnancy, he wants to protect Mary’s reputation and “dismiss her quietly.” Then, as a more authentic expression of his justness, Joseph takes to heart the angel’s words that Mary has the Lord’s blessing. He makes a conscious decision to take on the responsibility of being a husband to Mary and a dad to the child.
The culture in which Joseph found himself demanded justice of banishment or stoning. Even if Mary was not accused of adultery, it would mean the equivalent of a divorce. Either would involve the religious leaders of the town. Either would include condemnation and rejection. Joseph chose a third course: to listen to God, a voice of compassion and love. Was Joseph still just? Was Joseph still righteous? Joseph would raise, nurture, and help educate a stepson. Joseph chose to love. The greatest attribute of justice.
Colossians 3:2-3 “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
The world has drilled into our minds a need for conformity from early childhood. We must always adjust to its norms. There is a “norm” to which we must conform. Our culture tells us that success and happiness depend upon how well we adjust to it. And once we have God in our lives, this religious experience is an add-on.
We must recognize one of the great problems in our modern Christianity: Those who come to Christ probably have their minds made up that they must remain “adjusted” to the society around them to stay sane. We will add Jesus to our lives up to the edge of our culture, but not an inch over. It becomes an adjustment. This brand of Christianity simply tries to conform to the culture. It is a life groping in the darkness dragging Jesus along the way. All the while we are filled with puzzlement, fear, and frustration. The world does not have any idea where it is going.
Thankfully, it was to this kind of world Jesus came. He died for its sin and now lives for the salvation of all who will trust and not adjust.
Lord, the world seems to be filled with tragedy, pain, and an irreversible downward spiral. There is no time to be wishy-washy about my faith.
Colossians 2:6 “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.”
It is simply wrong to think of God as a drive-in critical care service. To assume that Jesus is a kind of a heavenly nurse to go to when sin has crept into our lives and we need a quick fix. And once fixed up we can simply say “Thanks”. To think of Jesus wanting to heal and cleanse without any commitment to different actions is specious: plausible but not true.
I can’t see anywhere in the Bible that allows the cleansed to continue in their behaviors that caused the need in the first place. Jesus can save us and clean us, but for the outpouring of his grace and mercy, we have a responsibility. A responsibility to walk with Him. Not to go by our merry way and follow our own path. Following, keeping close, walking as He walked, and responding to the will of our Lord are required afterward. In the same manner I have received, so I walk in Him.
Father, You are my Savior and my Lord. My debt to You is huge! I owe You my life and my following.