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.
Romans 15:33 “Now the God of peace be with you all”
The God I serve and praise is more than an uninterested supreme being living up in some cloud. The God I find satisfying to my soul is my creator. The God I focus on every day is one of peace. God created us to have peace with him. He desires us to be at peace with everyone we encounter. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. God the author of peace wants peace with his creation. He seeks peace. My God does not rejoice in my pain or conflict. God does not sit with impunity, looking down and laughing at my stubbornness and rebellion. Peace was lost first by the rebellion of Lucifer. Again, peace was lost in the garden by Adam and Eve in their willfulness. In my stubbornness and rebellion, I can destroy my peace with God. It is my choice to go my own way.
It is also my choice to relinquish my obstinate and persistent attitudes and accept the freely offered alternative. It is my choice to have “the God of peace with” me.
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 28: 18,19,20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
My path has been far in traveling. I have not come to its end. I would have liked to have traveled further, to see all the mercies God has in store for me down the road. My steps are sometimes belabored. My burden causes my back to scream in pain. I trod my road set before me and am winded. “God, why can’t this be easier?”
What I have discovered along my path is that God seldom takes things away. Instead, God is in the adding. He is more a giver than a taker. When I run along my path in darkness, he does not take away the clouds but increases the sun. When my path seems terribly dry and my lips are parched, he does not heal the thirst but brings gifts of water. When my path is lonely to a point of panic, He does not take away the terrible foreboding isolation, He simply comes near Himself. He adds. When I stop and take a rest because of pain in my old joints, He does not take away the pain, but adds joy to the steps I can make. He adds.
What shall we call Him? Jesus the mathematician.
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.
Romans 8:35, 37-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.:
Paul decided. Facing persecution, arrest, deprivation, and worldly uncertainty, he decided not one of the things in his life that would destroy him would separate him. He decided there was nothing that would be a valid reason for separation. He was convinced. Yet, there are many Christians walking around like the walking wounded. Head held low, hoping against hope that the day ends without calamity. Living as if hell is greater than heaven. Sure, the world tries to separate. But for me, I refuse to live like a zombie crying and growling, stepping through life without hope. I refuse because I have decided. I stand up, put on a smile, and am well assured. I decide to open the gates of hope and assurance. I choose to make a fundamental decision to accept God at his word.
Lord, I have decided that you are able to keep to that which I have committed to you. I will walk in that assurance.
Titus 3:7 “When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
I can’t do it. If I depended upon my own merits, I would never make it. It just is not enough to overcome the negative ledger of my life. Fixing myself, again and again, to straighten my soul out, will never be sufficient. I must resign to the failure of every effort to measure up.
Jesus told the story of two men in the temple. One said, “God, here I am—all fixed up. Every hair is in place!” The other said, “Oh God, I just crawled in off skid row. Have mercy on me!” God forgave the skid row bum, but sent the other man away, hardened, unrepentant, and unforgiven.
When I come to God, I must know that all that is provided is out of God’s mercy. It is not my work. It is not a clever well-turned phrase that earns my mercy. It is not my effort to work out my own salvation. I come to Him just as I am in humble repentance. When the human spirit comes to God knowing that anything it receives will be out of God’s mercy, then repentance has done its proper work! God promises to forgive and forget and to take that man into His heart and teach him that all of God’s kindnesses are due to His mercy. What more can a sinner ask?
Dear Lord, You know me as I really am, yet You extended Your great mercy toward me. Thank You for Your divine love and forgiveness. I come to Jesus as I am!
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!
Mark 2:14 “As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.”
Why call a hated, despised tax collector to be a disciple? Why call odoriferous, gross, and rough fishermen? Why call a young man out of a tree? Why take a chance on a zealous Roman hater to join the merry men? Why select a man that was from the beginning unwilling to acknowledge Jesus? It would have made much more sense to reach out to the religious, to the highly born, to the Roman aristocracy. Jesus chose who he did just because they were unloved. They were neglected and marginalized. And to their surprise, the previously unloved found a place of acceptance and love. To be loved when you know you are unlovely. I am loved today. I will praise God all day for that acceptance and love.