Micah 7:18-19 “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
The Bible of the Old Testament refers to people most of the time as transgressors or sinners. Sinners condemned. Sinners in need of pardon. Sinners estranged. Sinners in need of acceptance and love. Sinners in deficit. Sinners falling short. Sinners who were deserving of a penalty. Sinners afar off. Sinners separated from God. A people who are deeply troubled, without hope, without expectations, and without vibrancy. The perfect image of God’s most treasured creation was seen as adulterated, corrupted, and broken. Conversely, we hear God responding as one who would bring pardon. Pardon at the expense of Himself. Pardon exercised in love. Forgiveness is offered, no matter how terrible my attempts at life have been. And that special pardon includes the purposeful forgetfulness of our past. Undeserved blessedness.
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Occasionally I receive remarks and comments on my writing. Not too long ago, I was called up short by a comment on the harshness of God’s view of man. God does see his creation as flawed and corrupted, and this willfulness on our part separates us from Him. Further, I understand how God has interacted with and often tested his people. The result of this testing has been mostly repeated failures. It is terrible to fall into an angry God’s hands. It is a terrible state of mind to only think of yourself as constantly unworthy. Conviction of my state is the first step to understanding my need to be forgiven. A need to experience God’s mercy and grace. Everyone, including me, has corrupted the image of God in which we were created. This feeling of being less than expected or even unworthy should point to something more than dwelling in the slough of self-loathing.
I am saved by grace. I am forgiven of my multitude of flaws. I have felt the mercy of God upon my face. I walk boldly in the calm, sweet, renewed path set before me, and I don’t look back.
Hillside Thoughts for Saturday – Day 274 of the year 2022 – October 1
Matthew 5:28 “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
The sermon on the grassy hillside continued with a comparison between the law of the Pharisees and the living law of Jesus. In this comparison, Jesus used an example from the Ten Statements handed down to Moses from the very voice of God.
Infidelity is the unfaithfulness of a love. It is an act of betrayal. The disciples look at each other with a calm assurance, “Not much of that going on here.” But Jesus goes further and points to the attitude of betrayal. To look with a wrong motive is now out of bounds. Jesus was explaining to us hillside dwellers that betrayal is more than an outward act.
Quite a few of the multitude take a dramatic breath. They are shocked. It was easy to say I have not betrayed anyone. Nevertheless, Jesus said a simple and seemingly uncontrollable desire brings conviction. Jesus convicted us all before God. If the constraining law was only an outward act, there is only puffed-up chests and egos. The inner heart is a betrayer.
This view of the intent of God had little to do with outward acts. My outward righteousness is not enough. My ability to do the right thing at the right time in the right place was not enough. I need God’s righteousness in my life. It is provided by Him for me. The law should drive us to Jesus.
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.
Thursday, May 19, 2022
Jeremiah 23:23-24 “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.
We live in a world defined by measurements. I have a GPS system in my truck, and it tells me about the distance between my home and Church. Not in a straight line but the distance driven along the path I must take to get there. We think feet, yards miles, and even hours to travel. Gas for that same truck is in gallons. Our lives are determined by measurement.
Further, in our need to define and measure everything, we cram God into our concept of space. We would containerize God. We push God to be up there somewhere. He is in a place where we can hide from Him.
God is not contained in heaven and earth as some seem to think. God in His person and His attributes fills heaven and earth exactly as the ocean fills a bucket that is submerged in the ocean depths. To assign God to a place up there is to deny God being everywhere.
Lord, you are more than I can define. Help me to see you in the dark places and the happy times. Thank you that you are not just in the destination and the journey and the starting place.
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!
Matthew 21:23 When He had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”
It is a question that has been asked for two thousand years. By what authority did Jesus do all that He did? Was Jesus more than a teacher, a magician, or a charismatic leader? Is my belief from God or is it just religion? The question asked of Jesus was more than innocent questions by religious leaders. These were questions directed to the center of my belief in God. Religious leaders ask. Elders ask. Leaders ask. You may well ask. The source of their asking was unbelief. Any authority would diminish their self-conceived importance. Any acknowledgment of the authority of Jesus diminishes their claims.
But the asking is not wrong. The effort to accept God’s authority over all others starts with asking. Let us not let unbelief and the opinions of others be our authority. It is quite acceptable to ask if you accept the answer that Jesus is Lord.
Luke 16:10-13 He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous 1awealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
My belief includes a concept of stewardship. I am called do many things in the name of my God. One of them is to give to others. If I have a Christian heart for the unborn, I can support charities that promote the sanctity of life. If I have a Christian heart for the hungry, I can work in a food pantry distributing food. If I encounter someone who is broken down along the road, I can stop and see if I can provide assistance. If I am prompted to mow my neighbor’s lawn because she can’t physically do it, I can pull the lawnmower out. I listen to the voice of God, that little, small voice within me revealing my responsibilities. It is not the responsibility of the local government. It is not justice warriors standing on the steps of the capital holding signs for justice who dictate my love. It is not those people or the sum of all these people that dictate to me what I can do for my neighbor. I do because that is what God expects of me. It is not your picture of justice, or some politician. Lord give me a heart for those you want me to help.
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.
I received a question on a post the other day and it caused me to do some research and soul searching. The question was about the place of the current descendants of Abraham, the Jewish people, in the necessity to be evangelized by the Gentiles.
Excellent question. From that question you have to make the assumption that the chosen people of Israel, those who are a direct part of Abraham’s family, are not saved. That opens a hole can of worms. There are those who think that God’s promise to Abraham to make him a great nation and the world will be blessed by them, only refers to the acts of bringing the Messiah to the world and does not afford any special privileges or spiritual status to them other than birthing Jesus. These of the Supersessionism movement would assert a theological view that the Old covenant to Abraham was replaced by the New covenant of Jesus. Following this line of theology, the Jews like the rest of the world must accept Jesus to be saved.
Supersessionism is a very well accepted theology in the Christian Church for the majority of their existence. Christian traditions that have championed this single Covenant Theology are the Roman Catholic, Reformed and Methodist. never-the-less in a recent poll of Christians, 60% believe there will be righteous Jews in heaven.
The other side of the argument is dual-covenant theology which holds that the covenant given to Moses is still valid and therefore the Jews do not need evangelizing. If a ethnic Jew is keeping the Law and as Micah states in 6:8, “O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to live kindness and walk humbly with your God,” then they are assumed righteous and deserve the associated rewards. They would take the statement of Jesus, “No man comes to the Father but by me,” and translate the word man as Gentile. That Jesus only came for the Gentiles.
If this dual-covenant theology then it opens the possibility
of a third and a fourth and a fifth covenant. This view is currently being
championed by Islam saying that the final and most authentic expression of
Abrahamic prophetic monotheism, supersedes and replaces both Jewish and
Christian teachings. The doctrine of tahrif teaches that earlier
monotheistic scriptures or their interpretations have been corrupted, while the
Quran presents a pure version of the divine message that they originally
So now back to the original question. In God’s eyes “Whosoever believes in Jesus” John3:16 includes Judaism. Whether we actively do so that is up to the individual and calling. But just because a person is a gentile or a Jew makes little difference. It is one of those things we will discover when we get to our final reward. But before then it is just a talking point.