Category Archives: Life

Tension of Justice

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.

True Justice

Romans 3:28-31 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

_______________________________________

Paul was a dedicated, energetic, almost driven keeper of the Law. For Paul, the law was kept by acts of the will: doing things. Further the law was a social construct of behavior: it was designed for his group, his ethnicity, his class. All his life he had been taught the exclusivity of the “People of God”, the “God of the Jews”.

Then he encountered Jesus. That encounter changed everything. No longer was his fixation on class, race, gender, or lifestyle.  No longer were they a part of his life.  He saw through the eyes of God and saw the unity of faith. He now saw the law and justice as divine gifts, bestowed upon everyone. No longer was anyone defined by the group to which society was placing upon them. Sure, the law was kept.  But it was kept by faith in the perfect vision of God’s image of all people.  True justice.

Slay the dragon

George is living his life. He doesn’t do anything that would hurt anyone.  “Can’t we get along” is his mantra. There are times of happiness, but they are fleeting. There are occasions when George is moved to go the extra mile for someone else. In his own keep calm and carry on he has made great strides in being a good person.

 There is a foreboding presence in George.  Deep inside of George a terrible dragon dwells.  A dragon living in a dark and dank cave. A cave hidden from everyone but himself. That dragon craves for power, and reputation and self-reliance. Occasionally George is overcome by the dragon. Especially when he is really stressed. Out of the unfortunate events in his life the dragon growls.  The dragon shouts, “I can do it”.  Giving into the dragon brings guilt, pain, embarrassment. George has lost self-control and let the dragon direct his responses. Few see his dastardly dragon, but he is there.  The dragon shapes and overshadows all his beliefs, attitudes, and more than he would admit, his actions.

A day not to long ago, George heard the Gospel.

In the word of God, George hears, “I will make you mine and take possession of the cave and slay the dragon. Will you yield to my possession? It will mean a whole new way of thinking and feeling and acting.”

George replied: “But that dragon has always been with me.”  And with down cast eyes and with a whimper, “the dragon is me. Even though I am embarrassed by him, he is who I am.”

In a desperate instant George raises his eyes and shouts back at Jesus, “If you kill it I will die.”

Jesus says, “And you will rise to newness of life, I will give you a new identity, I will make my mind, my will, and my heart your own.”

In the depths of George’s hidden cave he hears the dragon roar.

George in a moment of great distress and resolve and willfully ignoring the dragon, says, “What must I do?”

He answers, “Trust me and do as I say. As long as you trust me, we cannot lose.” Overcome by the beauty and power of Christ, George bows and makes a pledge of eternal loyalty and trust.

George rises with a new resolve, “I will follow you anywhere.”

Jesus responds placing a great sword in George’s hand and says, “Follow me.” He leads George to the mouth of the cave and says, “Go slay the dragon.”

But George looks at him bewildered, “I cannot do it, I have tried to silence him.  He is invincible. He is more than anything I can or have tried.  I cannot do it without you.”

Jesus smiles. “Well said. You learn quickly. Never forget: my commands for you to do something are never commands do alone.” Shoulder to shoulder and the sword in hand, they enter the cave together.

It was a horrific battle.  But each swipe of the sword, the hand of Jesus was there guiding, enabling, strengthening. Christ’s hand became George’s hand.

At last, the dragon lies limp. George asks, “Is it dead?”

Jesus with a concerned knit brow states, “I have come to give you a new life. This new identity is what you received when you yielded to my possession and pledged faith and loyalty to me. And now with my sword and my hand you have felled the dragon of the flesh. It is a mortal wound. It will die. That is certain. But it has not yet bled to death. I will help you seal up the cave. You must hold constant vigil to make sure the spirit of flesh does not come and cause earthquakes in your life and loosen the stones. It is up to you to keep the entrance fortified and well built. I have this confidence in you.  With My sword and My hand in yours, this dragon will die, he is finished, your new life is secure.

Revenge does not belong to me.

Matthew 5:38-42 “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.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Revenge is an attitude the seems to permeate our culture. When we feel put upon, or canceled we quickly fall into response mode.  We want to react in to wreak vengeance upon the offender.  A simple sarcastic comment slips out of our lips or runs through our minds. Even occasionally even the most devout Christian has visions of due justice.  We want people to get exactly what they deserve.

God tells us we are not to seek revenge but submit these feelings to God and respond His way.  Jesus challenges His people to choose a different behavior when we are confronted with anger and want revenge. I must resist and convert my feelings of anger into attitudes of positive action.

Redemption

He was born in Boston the last of seventeen children. His parents He wanted their little boy to have a career in the church. He attended school only two years before giving up on formal school and thought being a tradesman was a better life. Working for his brother as an apprentice, he learned the printing business.When he submitted a letter to his brother for publication he was turned down as simply to radical. Undaunted, he began writing to the paper with a false name and the identity of a middle-aged widow. When his brother was jailed for three weeks , he was released from the constraining editorial comments. His pseudonym said, “Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom and not such thing as public liberty without the freedom of speech.” He left town and his brothers’ business a political fugitive.No one thought Benjamin Franklin would ever amount to much.2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here.”We all need redemption!

Living up to a name

Writer David Roper wrote of an account in an elevator. Three men were quietly and complacently riding down from their workplaces. None of them seemed excited or even aware of their surroundings. For them, the day was done and were anxious to go home. Two floors above the lobby the elevator stopped to let on more passengers. The doors opened and a larger-than-life image of cowboy stared in. He was wearing an old and stained grey hat, a stained sheepskin coat and well scuffed boots.

This tall, rough, and lanky man looked intently through the open door at the current occupants and said, “Good, evening men.” All three men immediately straightened up and squared their shoulders. They all were making a new effort to live up to the name “men.”

Living up to the name. Being a Christian is more than living a life not much different from everyone else. Being a Christian is not living up to an idea or an implied expectation. Being a Christian is straightening up our shoulders and bearing proudly our faith.

Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. I Corinthians 16:13

The Intent of God

Fear does not rule my life. I live in hope and great expectations.  Never-the-less, I look at our current place in history and perceive a radical change in our culture.  The number of persons which have no belief in God it at about 7%. Further 16% of the world’s population do not identify with any religion. Both these statistics suffer from the ebbs and flows of perception.  That is not what is disturbing me.

What brings me to a point of consternation is the change in the loss of the understanding of the true intent of God. Theology (Study of God), Christology (Study of Christ), Ecclesiology (Study of the Church), and the plethora of Bible resources all have become entities in themselves without much on the intent of God.  Study for study sake has taken the place of study to discover what God wants. To discover what God’s intent is toward me.  What does God want for me?

What does God’s intent mean to the way I live my life?  What does God’s intent change me?  Or for that matter how am I to know that I need to change?

Maybe I it is just to late for me to embark on a quest for God’s intent for me and simply and blindly follow all those who have boldly gone before.  Or just perchance there is an inner need that has to be satisfied.  A need to know.  And in knowing, a chance to change.

Violence

What is the cause of violence?  For what reason does a person “get into the face of another” and shout and curse and spit vitriol?  I think is it simply sin.  You see, sin is a riddle, a mystery, a reality that is difficult to define.  It is often ignored because there is no personal responsibility if there if it remains a nebulous concept.  Often, we try to think of this idea called sin and think of it as wrongdoing or transgression of some standard. But it also includes the failure to do what is correct, prudent, loving.  Sin offends people, it is violence and lovelessness pointed and directed toward others.  But more than that, it is disrespectful to God.

The concept of sin is very complex, and the terminology associated with is also very complex. And when I try to reconcile all the opinions of what is lawful and what is not, it is easy to be caught up in a definition hell.  To make a differentation between peaceful protest and rioters is charged with political condemnation.  Simply to say, all lives matter is seen as racist. But in reality, it is not about definitions or even spin or fake news. It is about the expectation of my behavior in relationship to all around me. To repeat the admonition of Jesus, “However you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the law and the prophets.” The cause of violence is simply not doing what you expect others to do to you. 

Why?

In my later years have been accused of being a little over inquisitive. I ask questions which cause seeming discomfort to myself and those who I ask. Asking why is the measure of my quest.  I can look up the how; there is always a video on YouTube to show me that.  I can weigh all the factors like my bank account and my calendar to determine the when.  I can even analyze the best person to do the how.  But when it comes to why, that question is different. 

Why? Why? Why? Any statement of fact can well be answered by the dreaded “WHY”. I was never satisfied with the, “because I said so,” in response to why I needed to clean my room. There is always a question in my mind. I can be annoying if you are the victim of most of them.  I am a curious sort and want to know everything: its origin, meaning, cause, and consequence. It can be profound or mundane. I have asked the great questions of life (or so I think) and also the base queries about ordinary stuff.

My why today is about the motive of those who express themselves in response to those around us.  It has been called peer pressure, or crowd think, or herd mentality. Why do we seem to want the acceptance of everyone around us even it may cut at the edge of public morality and personal ethic?  Why loot a store just because someone else broke the glass in the first place.  Why go along with the crowd and carry signs of solidarity with those who know little about? Why complain about the amount of cows that are in danger of being slaughtered when your own ox in the ditch (to use a biblical expression)? Or like Jesus said why worry about the speck in the eye of someone else when you have a log in your own.

I will keep asking why.  And if you don’t want to answer, Why not?

Sermon on the Mount

I am building a group of men to think for themselves.  To rightly divide the word of truth.  The vehicle for this building is a study on the Sermon on the mount.  It is in Matthews Gospel Chapter 5,6,7.

But as I read these words over and over again, I am amazed at the teachings of Jesus.  He was teaching the disciples on a grassy hill about the Kingdom of Heaven.  The hearers were amazed at the teachings of Jesus for it was from authority.  It meant something to them.  The sermon was one of those in which after the last AMEN, you simply said, “wow”. It pierced their hearts with truth. Not like another law book or set of rules.  Jesus taught them about the things which impacted their lives.  

The Scribes and Pharisees taught speaking and re-speaking the same words.  Words without life and conviction. Jesus said to those who listened, “your righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  This new law of the Kingdom of Heaven, this new way of truth and life, this abundant life points to dire need for a new righteousness.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a righteousness of faith empowered by the Holy Spirit to enable  you  to  lovingly,  willingly  and  delightfully  yield  your  will  in  total  submission  to  His  examination  of  your  heart  so  that  you  may  be  completely  set  free.

As with any revolutionary idea these words of Jesus were and still are misconstrued. It would be easy for anyone reading the Sermon on the Mount to wince once and a while. We have to be different from everyone else.  We can’t even think about getting angry and wishing someone ill, just looking at a woman is the same as having relations with her, divorce is out of the question, can’t make a oath, turn the other cheek and pray for my enemies.

In a quick read the task of obedience is overwhelming. “Jesus have you just traded one set of laws for another?”  The demands of Jesus are simply too difficult. Who among us have never hid wrong attitudes in our heart?  Who is not guilty of disobeying the rule of the King? 

The inevitable result is to fall short of God’s glorious ideal. We try and try to uphold that ideal with every ounce of our strength, but we fail again and again.  We end up living a life full of disappointment, guilt and failure.  And that is just the point. 

your conscience burns within you knowing that Jesus does not rule simply until you’ve had enough.  But rather than leaving you naked in your rebellion and exposed to judgment, He forgives you. He heals you. He restores you. He lifts you up and strengthens you to carry on the journey of faith for yet another day.

In our men’s study we simply say, “there are only two things in the Bible, 1) Revelation and 2) reconciliation.”  God reveals Himself in his plans and ideals and we are to reconcile ourselves to that revelation. When we fail.  And fail we often do. Failure should lead ourselves back to God for His strength, His guidance, His forgiveness, His love, His reconciliation.