Devotional Thought of the Day:
73 You created me, and you keep me safe; give me understanding, so that I may learn your laws. 74 Those who honour you will be glad when they see me, because I trust in your promise. 75 I know that your judgements are righteous, LORD, and that you punished me because you are faithful. 76 Let your constant love comfort me, as you have promised me, your servant. GNT Psalm 119:73-76
God “commanded” the world into existence (Ps 33:9; Isa 45:12). All creatures and elements therefore obey his command (cf. I Kgs 17:4; Job 37:12; Ps 78:23). God also directs the course of history by decreeing crucial events; indeed no determinative event happens without God’s ordaining it (Lam 3:37). Indeed he decrees that his people be victorious (Ps 44:4 [H 5]).
What God commands to be done, he provides the means to accomplish, e.g. he instructed Moses concerning the building of the cultic furniture and buildings; then he inspired Bezalel and Oholiab with the Spirit of wisdom to be able to accomplish the work (Ex 31:2–6; 35:30–36:1). Regarding the making of these objects the text first details the instructions and then describes Israel’s careful fulfillment of God’s commandment (Ex 25–30; 36–39; Lev 8; cf. Ex 39:5, 7, 32, 42f.).
Over the last year and a half, one of my Bible Studies has been slowly working through Psalm 119. Over and over it talks about the joy that is found in the law of God, in His commands, in His directives, in His ordinances!
The challenge is that we Lutherans tend see this only as Law – the commands that we cannot hope to keep, and therefore find ourselves. condemned. My old denomination as well had this problem, as it divided the covenants of God into Law and Promises.
We hear Law, we head commandment, we hear precept and our mind automatically goes into “theology mode”. This is God’s command, we have to fear when we hear it because we cannot hope to meet its demands, it will only point out our sin.
But that is not how the Psalmist continually refers to God’s law in Psalm 119, and in most of the Psalms. It is a delight, a joy, something that grabs our attention and holds it, breathes life into us! It inspires and empowers us.
It is not just what we refer to as the terms of the covenant, or the law which we properly distinguish from gospel. It is the entire Covenant, the law and gospel complete and in perfect tension. The entirety of theology, the word of God complete. Our need for salvation, His saving us at the cross of Christ.
As the apostle Paul put it so beautifully,
“3 Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! For in our union with Christ he has blessed us by giving us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly world. 4 Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him. Because of his love 5 God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children—this was his pleasure and purpose.” Ephesians 1:3-5 (TEV)
This is what God tells us He established by His very commands from the beginning. It is His reason, His word, it is Christ’s pleasure and purpose, as well as the Father’s and the Holy Spirits.
The quote in blue, for the word law in the psalm quote, coems from a Hebrew Lexicon. It states it well, what He commanded, He establishes the means to accomplish, indeed the entire Trinity is invested in making it come to pass.
For us, so that we could be His people, His children, so that we would know Him as our God, our benevolent, loving, caring, comforting Father. So He has commanded this to be, and so it is!
Let that bring you great peace, great joy! What God has established, ordained, commanded, made His law is now. You are His. AMEN!
Hartley, John E. “1887 צָוָה.” Ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 1999 : 757. Print.
Devotional Thought of The Day:
16 “Now come close to me and hear what I say. From the beginning I have spoken openly and have always made my words come true.“ (Now the Sovereign LORD has given me his power and sent me.) 17 The holy God of Israel, the LORD who saves you, says: “I am the LORD your God, the one who wants to teach you for your own good and direct you in the way you should go. 18 “If only you had listened to my commands! Then blessings would have flowed for you like a stream that never goes dry. Victory would have come to you like the waves that roll on the shore. 19 Your descendants would be as numerous as grains of sand, and I would have made sure they were never destroyed.” 20 Go out from Babylon, go free! Shout the news gladly; make it known everywhere: “The LORD has saved his servant Israel!“ Isaiah 48:16-20 (TEV)
Consequently this teaching concerning faith is not to be accused of forbidding good works but is rather to be praised for teaching that good works are to be done and for offering help as to how they may be done. For without faith and without Christ human nature and human strength are much too weak to do good works,call upon God, have patience in suffering, love one’s neighbor, diligently engage in callings which are commanded, render obedience, avoid evil lusts, etc. Such great and genuine works cannot be done without the help of Christ, (1)
333 The best way of showing our gratitude to God is to be passionately in love with the fact that we are his children. (1)
As I read the passage from Isaiah this morning, I was amazed to see the tension between obedience and grace.
God teaches very clearly that what we miss when we disobey Him are the blessings of a life lived in peace, a life lived full of blessings, a life lived content, and flourishing in ways beyond our imagination.
Instead, we treat His law with disdain. Before we come to know His grace, we dismiss it as archaic. We think it has no relevance to our lives. We believe we know better, and we toss it aside the way in favor of what we think i right. (and it seems that everyone of us has our pet sins to declare good, even as we have our pet sins to condemn)
But those that don’t follow Jesus aren’t the only ones to dismiss the life, the masterpiece God has in mind for us. We see that in the blue quote above. For some have been accused of forbidding good works, and some have denied that what God has commissioned should have any influence on the life of those who have been called into a relationship with God. There are different ways this is done, a denial of the third use of the law is a technical way of describing it. Others will talk about being free from the bondage of sin, the power of satan and the fear of death and God’s wrath as a freedom to do that which they want – for God in the New Testament is only a God of law, and not of judgment. There are some who see the issue that we cannot earn or merit God’s coming to us meaning that we should just give up being good, or somehow we will automatically believe and do what is right. (Those who say this ignore that Romans 7 discourse is part of the larger 6-8 discussion about the struggle with sin)
The Psalmist doesn’t leave us thinking of what could have been, if we obeyed. He does hold that out, he does make it clear that the way of life God commissions is not for His benefit – but ours. It is having realized this, that we can then hear the glorious news, God has been merciful, He has saved us. He’s adopting us, cleansing us, claiming us. He has delivered us, saved us, reconciled us, redeemed us, rescued us, loved us.
Obedience, what the lutheran confessions call “New Obedience” then comes from seeing what God commissions/commands as a son taking instruction from his Father, learning the family business and the tasks we work as we walk with Him. Think of a dad teaching his son to play catch, or how to change a bicycle tire, or a mom teaching her daughter to cook (yes I know I am using old fashioned traditional types). The instruction is beneficial, practical and present. Not a Lord’s laws layed down, but a Father’s guidance, which can be heard and put into practice, for when it is heard, the heart receives it as well as the mind.
That’s what grace does. It teaches us that God is our Father, our caring, loving Father who desires the best for us, and is wise enough to know it. Are we gong to screw up, disobey, struggle and even rebel? Yes, but like the prodigal, we will remember Him, and His love.
Obedience, the fruit of grace and mercy, and dependent upon it.
Lord, thank you that you have mercy on us!.
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 46). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1320-1321). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day….
8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. 12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. James 2:8-13 (NLT)
“When the church meets sinners with hate, condemnation, and a lack of mercy, we deserve the persecution that we encounter. When we treat “their sin” as somehow more defiling and vile than our sin, we deserve persecution. For then all we are doing is beating up those who are blind, deaf and in captivity. When we are persecuted for trying with all the grace of Christ to reconcile sinners to God, then this is praiseworthy, not praising us, but the One who empowers us to endure in grace.” (facebook comment)
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me….I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see! (John Newton)
In the past day, my facebook feed has been filled with much emotion, and to be honest it reminds me of a schoolyard ball game. Some are so jubilant in their “victory” that they have gotten in the cyber-face of those they think wish them ill-will. Others are so dejected in their loss, that they claim the end of the world, as they prophesy of torture and persecution. The posts of the first enflame the latter, the reactions of the latter are used to justify the former. I probably hid no less than 100 posts, sickened as I was by the reactions of both sides.
I did respond to one or two – and the italicized words above are part of my response. A response which will possibly infuriate both sides of the argument. (normally I pride myself on being able to do this, this time, I only grieve that it is possible.)
Sin is sin is sin is sin. It doesn’t matter which sin it is. James point that out in the quote from His epistle above quite clearly. And yes, I hold to the position of scripture, that sex outside of a marriage between man and woman is sinful. But it is no worse a sin than gossip, or murder, or white lies. James makes that clear as well.
But that is where I think we get the mission of the church very confused. The church is not a place that is primarily engaged in behavior modification. It is not our raison d’etre, the focus of our being the church. For if that is our existence, we are failures, and will always be so, just looking at who is within us, never mind the rest of the world. Behaviors will modify, but that is a role that is God’s alone, and it doesn’t start with legalism – it starts with love, His love, poured out on us.
That is why I wrote what I wrote. As the church, our voice should confront sin, but only in the hopes of pouring out the forgiveness of God. Apologetics is not about proving that sinners are lost and condemned to hell, but why I, the chief of all sinners, ( or at least in contention with St. Paul over that title) can have hope in spite of my sin. We are to bring healing to all those broken by sin, and take special care with those that haven’t yet realized they are broken. That is why I wrote that there are times – especially yesterday, where our reactions surely deserve any persecution we receive. Because we are not looking to bring healing – but our reaction is one of fear, of anxiety, of condemnation. Because of that we are rightfully judged, and to be honest, I am less worried about the world’s condemnation in that case, than of God’s. We’ve taken His mission – and corrupted it.
If we believe what we sing in Amazing Grace, do we realize the very people we are reacting to are where we once were? Wretches that are lost, blind, in bondage to sin? Do we realize that our task isn’t to brutalize them but to bring them comfort? Do we bring them God’s love, do we go to them with the intent of showing them mercy? Do we dare to do so in a way that leads to peace? Are we willing to be patient with them, as God is patient with us? Do we realize that we have been, and are as broken, but also realize the healing we have in Christ Jesus?
Some hard questions these days bring to those who trust in Christ… but the questions need to be aimed at our actions, our words, and how we will serve those broken in heart in spirit.
Lord have mercy on us all.
God’s Own Child
† Jesus`Son`Savior †
May you realize the joy of being the very children of God!
The Joy of Baptism
After one of the recent baptisms, as I was walking out of church, someone said to me, “Pastor, you really enjoy baptisms, don’t you?”
I am not sure if it was a surprise to them, or just a an observation, but yes, I do. More than anything else I do in ministry, I love it when there are sacraments delivering God’s miraculous grace to those people He loves, to those He has called into relationship with Him.
When God takes a person and the Holy Spirit breathes faith and eternal life into them, declaring them to be His children.
It is an amazing miracle….
Matter of fact, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper and Absolution, all three of the major sacraments are miracles, something to be incredibly joyous about. They are, in my opinion, more important than any other miracle, more important than healings, or the story in the gospel of the man who was freed from demon possession…more incredible than the parting of the Red Sea, or anything else.
We’ve witnessed a miracle, one that has happened in our own lives as well.
Scripture describes what happens in baptism in many many ways. We often focus on the cleansing of sin, the being united with Christ’s death and resurrection, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, with a transformed life, even if it takes a while to see it completely. In baptism we are clothed with Christ, and the old sinful nature is drowned. We’ll talk about some of these things in our Bible Study today… but in the sermon, there is one thing, that sums up this miracle…
It’s there in verse 7, J, and all that are baptized know this…. you are God’s own Child…
I would hope that our reaction to realizing what Jesus has done here, and did in each of our lives would be like what the response of the man given life in the gospels did.
Jesus sent him home, saying, 39 “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.
Including this amazing fact, that each of us has been made God’s own child!
The Law was More than A Friend
If we are going to tell people what God has done here, and in each of our lives when He baptized us, when He cleansed us and gave us abundant and eternal life, we start as Paul did, talking about where we were before this.
He uses this great illustration about the law being our guardian, that God’s rules were put into play, not to condemn us, but to protect us. That’s not usually how the law is presented to unbelievers by many Christians. Many people think evangelism means talking about how the law condemns us, how people who don’t know about Jesus fail to live up to its standards, and need to do something about it.
Paul explains it differently here, that the law is our guardian, our teacher, the pedagogue, or to use and older term – our governess. It’s job isn’t to condemn us, but to protect us until we come to trust in God, until we journey on this “way of faith”, until we are united in baptism.
The law served, in many ways, like our babysitter – with carefully laid down rules so that we couldn’t maneuver around them, or find the loopholes in it. Yes, it pointed out what we’ve done wrong – but it always points to the solution, that God would provide a way of forgiveness, a way that He would make it right…
He did that, in our baptism. In clothing us with not just with Christ’s righteousness, but with Christ Himself.
But the law was there, bringing us to Christ, showing us our need, like a teacher guiding us on a field trip – ensuring that we are safe, ensuring that we would get to our destination in time. The moment the way of trusting Christ was available to us.
But there is something so much more!
It is not just baptism that should excite us, but what it means for the rest of life, in a real way, the beginning of life.
It’s like yesterday, when James and Doran were married up in Seattle. A lot of planning goes into a wedding – and a lot of excitement builds up as the event gets closer. I have heard it can even become stressful for some brides.
The day is nothing compared to the life together that has begun. There may be challenges, there may be days where they will be tired, but they will be there for each other. Weddings are a blast – but they now have a life together. They have a blessing beyond any other blessing.
In a similar way, the journey only begins this morning for J. She will walk with God all her life, as each of us does who trusts in Him, who realizes that He has claimed us as His children in baptism, that we have been given Christ’s name, that we have been given Christ’s spirit, sent into hearts.
We will never be alone, we will never be without hope.
We’ve been claimed… His children…the one’s He takes care of, the ones that don’t need the law keeping guard on us, because He is with us.
That’s the miracle that is in baptism – that’s the power of Christ’s death and resurrection – it’s not just about the sins that are gone… it’s about the relationship that is revealed, that begins, for God has adopted us, made us His own children, claimed us as His own.
Talking to God!
Hear it again…
4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
If baptism as an event is important – then this, the idea that because we are the very children of God, that the Holy Spirit prompts us to call God, Abba! We are prompted, by the Holy Spirit to call God – Daddy – that’s the point of it all, that is why this is so amazing, that we can call out to the Creator of the universe, to the God who placed the Sun and the moon in their positions! We can call out
in time of need,
to fix the things we have broken…
to help us be able to deal with things we cannot understand..
or just call out to Him.. to praise and adore Him, Father, we love you!
So I get excited about days like this – for the right time has come, and we have a new sister, who will share in all of the blessings of being clothed with Christ.. who will with us, walk in great peace with God, who will feast with us, who is like us,
God’s own child.
That’s something to praise God for… even as we realize again, what He has done to each of us. AMEN?
- Our Place is His Place! (justifiedandsinner.com)
Discussion/Devotional thought of the day:
5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:43-45 (ESV)
It is challenging enough to love one’s friends, one’s neighbors. Yet Jesus calls us to love as He does – to love even our enemies – as we love ourselves. Some may hear this as law – noting the impossibility of such love, and use that as an excuse for not fulfilling this law – or even trying to fulfill it, citing Christ’s fulfillment of the law. They dismiss the command, and seek a cheaper form of grace – one that is reactive, not proactive.
St Paul in Romans 6 would highly disagree – noting that we shouldn’t continue in our sin, that grace would abound more. Instead we should strive to obey and love our enemies – asking God to turn their hearts toward Him. A challenge indeed. I love how one of my favorite authors put it.
440 When you have finished your work, do your brother’s, helping him, for the sake of Christ, with such finesse and naturalness that no one—not even he—will realize that you are doing more than in justice you ought. This, indeed, is virtue befitting a son of God! Escriva, Josemaria, The Way (Kindle Locations 1083-1085). Scepter Publishers.
Love results in action, it’s not just “being nice” or feeling good about someone else. It brings a cup of cold water to someone working, then takes their place while they work. It goes two miles with the person who demanded (fairly or not) that you go one with them one.
Love your enemies – this will not only take the mercy of God, a true level of realizing how much you are in Christ and depend on His strength, but it will give you a new appreciation of His love for you!
Lord have mercy! And as you do, help us show your love and mercy to our enemies and our neighbors,
( by the way – this includes those politicians you’ve been complaining about recently!)
“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to keep all I have commanded you, and lo I will be with you always, to the end of the age.!
It’s an incredible passage, one Christians and pastors – especially those who are focused on the mission of the church know well, at least we think we do.
Some focus on the going..
Some focus on the making of disciples…
Some focus on what it means to baptize,
Some focus on what they think teaching them to “keep” all that have I commanded you”
Some rightly focus on the incarnational presence of God – with us – for there is no way we could live our lives in Christ without knowing we do that which we do…
Been there, done that, have the t-shirts, the bible studes, the sermons i have written on all five of those great things….heck – talked people into going places and doing things – and those who did the right thing… may have done it for the wrong reason….
In the last few years – I’ve spent some time thinking and dwelling on this idea of Keeping and what is that which is “commanded” . Obviously this is a major part of our responsibility of the church – the vocation of all of us. So it bears a look into it.
First let’s deal with “keep”, which is sometimes erroneously translated “obey”. It is far more than simply obedience. And understanding the difference between keep and obey is critical. Keep in English is from the old English term for that place where you put that which you treasure, the castel keep was where the kings heirs, his wife, and the treasure – his and that of the people – when they are under attack, with they are oppressed. So to it is in Greek – it comes from the word for guard, to protect – to keep safe because it is a treasure. You can obey someone – without treasuring them…
That is far greater than the simple idea of blindly or knowledgeably obeying that which we are directed to do. We have something which is a treasure – it is more incredible than anything else we have! This which we teach to those who walk with Christ and those we are instrumental in bringing to walk with Christ – is something they are to treasure, something that will mean more to them than anything else that they have – could ever have.
So what is the treasure? What is it we ar to guard, to hold onto, to KEEP?
Our translations call it what Christ has commanded.
I have always thought it referred to the Ten Commandments, or the entire list of do’s and don’t in scripture. It’s more – to grasp that – we have to look at what did God “command”
Look to Creation…
He spoke the word, and there came into existence..
Look to our Re-creation…
The centurion’s cry, “only say the word and my servant shall be healed..
the demoniacs were dismissed by the command of the Lord…
We were declared righteous and holy… by the command of the Lord…
Our being called – our being cleansed and brought back to God, as St Paul says – “we are His worksmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” He commissioned us, He has commanded that we are cleansed and given life…. life with Him. Think of Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones… and the Son of man commanding the bones to join and become enfleshed, to stand – and the command given to the Spirit to breathe life into those bones….
Yeah – that’s the treasure that Christ has commanded.. the Creation and Re-creation – of our lives with God.
That’s our treasure… that is what, as we make disciples, as we baptize them…. that is what we teach them to treasure, to keep, to guard….
On facebook these days, there are a lot of pictures of people graduating from high school or college… many of them the children of my high school peers… (which is weird because mine is only 5! – that’s another blog) But it has gotten me thinking about my school days….and the teachers that I liked the most, and now I look back at how they taught, and what it means to educate someone… and then, I look at how we disciple people in the faith.
Do you remember flash cards? You know those things you used to memorize stuff – either math facts ( 2+2=4 or was it 5?) or definitions of words in your early years of school, and languages and formulas and such later on? I hated them – because if you showed you knew the stuff once, for months they still made you practice with them! The answers were easy, and I suppose it gave you a sense of accomplishment. But it was data – and you basically ended up as a computer printer – able to print out whatever was told to you to print out.
Probably because of my dad – I learned to love those things I have heard others dread – word problems. Driving around with my dad -he would ask practical things – like how many bags of cement would we need – to extend our stone wall, or make a planter. How fast he was going over the speed limit.. Or what Carl Yazkremski’s batting average would be if he went 2 for 5 against the Yankees But then I loved them in school. There was something practical that would develop from knowing at what time the two trains coming from point a to point b ( I always rewrote the question to assume they were on the same track!) But the difference in educational strategy is simple – one causes us to spit back the right answer – the other develops in us the ability to apply what we’ve learned…
In discipleship, while making people memorize things is good, we can’t leave it there, or we have created robots, not people in relationships with a loving God who wants to be part of their life, and share His life with them. Memorizing the creeds isn’t enough, if what they teach can only be spit back, but never taken to heart. Remembering what hymn # 347 is in the old hymnal, (and getting upset when the numbers are all changed in the new one!) isn’t beneficial, enless those words as well, pierce the heart and there is a deep connection to what they are saying. Sometimes that connection is sub-conscious – sometimes not… but it is good to think through them and see how they relate to our life.
Ultimately, “word problem” faith is the kind of faith that allows us to see how God sustains us, in the midst of things we cannot understand. It gives us the ability to see God’s word as more than just laws, but the way in which He has designed us to live, how to reach what Maslow called self-actualization, what the Army calls being “all you can be” (though neither really gets it) or what we call holiness – being set apart for a special relationship, to live in a special community, one that God has crafted for Himself, and His people. It is the kind of life that finds joy in the midst of sorrow, grace and mercy in the midst of betrayal and sin, light in darkness, life in the face of death. Far to often we reduce what God has commanded to “flash card” status, not realizing that what He has commanded (See Matthew 28), (better translated commissioned ) is Creation… and for us… our new birth, that He has created us anew.
The “Word” in the midst of the problems… which aren’t so big anymore….for we have the WORD (another of Jesus’s titles) present in our lives… always.. and we get that!
So this day, as you are going about, working with the Father, crafting disciples…..teach them to treasure, to guard that which God has commissioned…