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.
Close your eyes and imagine a church sanctuary filled with those who all think, believe, and feel the same. They all say AMEN at the appropriate times. They all pay exactly ten percent of their income. The songs are all well accepted and sung with both bravado and familiarity. The Preacher of the day is recognized with constant bobblehead responses. After service, everyone remains to greet each other and inquire about the glorious victories of overcoming.
Open your eyes and realize this perfected vision is not real. Christians are not cookies cut out of the heavenly bread of life each perfectly identical to the other. This picture is what Psychologists refer to as groupthink. It is a place where the congregation values consensus and conformity over vulnerability and self-examination.
The church needs a liberal sprinkling of skepticism. Without criticism, dissent, and critique, there is no place to grow. There is nowhere to go to be more than the status quo. An unexamined faith only leads to idolizing an ideal image, a disdain for outsiders, a denial of personal faults, and a lack of growth. Without a dose of dissent, there is no place for healing.
We need a liberal dash of skepticism, uncertainty, critique, and self-examination. Further, this infusion of questioning is to be handled with care and respect. The number one roadblock to faith for a true skeptic is not a theological stance about Jesus, but the behavior of those who claim to follow Jesus. Those of us who diligently question almost everything find it striking that those who are in the knowing, act as if they have a monopoly on what it is to be proper or good. This ownership comes with dread, a rejection, a fear of any who would ask why.
Those who have doubt or uncertainty should not silence their questions to be accepted by the Body cemented. We should not silence the skeptic for the sake of the comfortable. Being a skeptic does not automatically mean heresy any more than the status quo automatically equates to perfection.
Those who are asking questions are vital to the church. They make the church vibrant, accepting, and accessible. They give the comfortable a chance to grow a little.
Isaiah 25:9 “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
I am peculiar. I act peculiar. I have a belief that is peculiar. I have a faith that is peculiar. I am so peculiar that I believe God caused a virgin to give birth. I am so peculiar that I believe in walking on water, healing the sick, raising the dead, and a man being God simultaneously. I am so peculiar that I believe that the same man who was beaten, spit upon, and died on a cross was raised on the third day. I am so peculiar to believe that this same man now sits on the throne of the universe. I invite you to join me in my peculiarity!
April 1, 2022
Psalm 28:6-7 “Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
This day is often referred to as April Fool’s Day. In Poland, this day takes on epic proportions. Serious activities are avoided, and every word spoken from early morning to noon is presupposed as being a lie. It is a day when pranks are the norm. Hoaxes are prepared and the media goes along in the spirit of the day with fake news. Even public institutions backdate all documents to the day before. Today I would rather it be a day of celebrating the absolute truth of assurance. It is not a hoax! It is not a false promise! It is an absolute in my life. My emotions want to jump for joy. I sing “Blessed Assurance Jesus is mine.”
John 5:26-30 “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
In the world today, I sense a tension between the implementation of Justice as man sees it and justice as demanded by a God. One a man-centered approach and the other a God-centered approach. The vision of the current man-centered justice is one of bringing a utopia through policies. To see government as the savior to all the world. They would legislate morality, through laws and regulations.
The God-centered approach sees Jesus as savior. Jesus bringing heaven to earth when He returns. At His return, Christ will restore all things and execute perfect justice. In the meantime, I will express God’s love and justice by showing kindness and mercy to those who are less fortunate. I will be the hands and feet of Jesus to my little world around me.