The Price of Negligence

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Leviticus 5:1

“When a person sins in that he hears a public curse against one who fails to testify and he is a witness (he either saw or knew what had happened) and he does not make it known, then he will bear his punishment for iniquity.”

Leviticus 5:5

“When an individual becomes guilty with regard to one of these things he must confess how he has sinned.”

Leviticus 5:17

“If a person sins and violates any of the LORD’s commandments which must not be violated (although he did not know it at the time, but later realizes he is guilty), then he will bear his punishment for iniquity.”

I love how reading passages over and over again there is always something to glean from God’s Word! Leviticus is often thought of as being dry and a lot of jargon about offerings and prescriptions for dealing with sin. It couldn’t apply to us today, could it?  As a mother of five children, I have often heard the expression, “I didn’t know”, or “I forgot”, or “It was an accident”.  What strikes me in the verses above is that there are no excuses given for the offender’s lack of knowledge of their own transgression.  Instead, there is a prescribed solution, and the One to whom we are accountable paid it.  We cannot take care of our sin our way, though.  It must be in accordance with the One with Whom we will give an account.  While it is difficult for our generation to understand the slaughtering of animals for the propitiation of our sins, both for known and unknown sin, we have the same sins going on today and the same excuses.  Acknowledging our shortcomings is just as necessary and required by our Holy God.

We are good at making excuses for ourselves in this generation, but the idea of the scapegoat has been around a long time.  In Hebrew, the word scapegoat is Saʿir La-ʿazaʾzel, (one interpretation is “a goat for Azazel”, which means strong God).  This refers to a goat being used to bear the sins of Israel during the ritual of Yom Kippur.  The scapegoat has been used in most cultures, ironically.  Whether the goat was sacrificed or set free to bear all of the iniquities, it did not have a choice – it was chosen to take away the people’s sin.

Mankind recognizes it has a need to have sin dealt with, if we are honest with ourselves.  But we often create our own solutions as to how to remedy our sinful status.  We can also come up with excuses, rationalize or placate our guilt.  Maybe the standards were to high, or maybe someone else is responsible or to blame. But not in God’s economy. No fig leaf is sufficient to cover our shame or guilt and redefining our guilt to make ourselves feel better really doesn’t.  We still need covering for our hidden and known sins today, but we do not have a scapegoat – we have the Lamb – who chose to bear all of our sins.

Recently, I became aware of negligence in an area of my life.  It was hidden from me in that I did not recognize it as sin, just an inability.  Becoming aware of something as sin is not fun and we can easily dismiss it as maybe we are not talented in a certain area or lack understanding.  It can be easier to avoid it rather than face accountability.  Maybe it is not a sin, after all.  But once I are aware, I am culpable.  No more ignorance to hide behind.  Although it is difficult to have to work on those areas of our character that are challenging for us, we cannot pretend any longer that we do not know.  We must instead ask God to help and to strengthen us in our areas of weakness.

I am grateful that God exposes our sins.  He does so to free us.  The deeper we go, the more unrighteous we may appear, but cooperating with the Holy Spirit when He illumines our hidden sins, which we often couch as inabilities or habits that are a part of our personality, is ultimate victory.  True, we each have our own unique challenges in our perspective walks with God, but He is sufficient to help each of us in our time of need.

Thank You, Lord, for lifting the veil so we could see and gain access to You.  Thank You for Your grace and love, which always seeks to rid us of the cancer of sin and draw us nearer to You.  Praise Your Name!

True Righteousness

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Philippians 3:8-9

“More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ  9 and be found in Him not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s righteousness.”

Isaiah 64:6

“We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind.”

Under house arrest, Paul was free to pen this precious book of the Bible.  Sometimes I wonder if house arrest is what it takes for us to accomplish God’s will – our busy lives have to be paused so we can really focus on what God has called us to.  Certainly times of illness or breaks in schedule give us an occasion to pause and contemplate.  Paul wrote this book as a “safeguard” (3:1) to his brothers and sisters.  What was he trying to protect them from?  False righteousness.

Full of zeal, few compared to the righteousness by the law that Paul had achieved.  Yet he recognized that what was formerly viewed in his eyes and others as righteous was now disgusting to him and not true righteousness at all.  Paradoxically, he saw that his loss of that perceived position of righteousness was truly a gain.  Though we are in the new covenant, we have the same systems of righteousness today, seemingly unnoticed.

There is a danger today of ascribing holiness externally – what we wear, what we eat, how we serve the church.  And while these outward signs done in accordance with God’s Word are evidence of fruit born in the lives of faithful followers of Christ, they are not our righteousness.  This does not mean we cast off the wisdom in approaching decisions of dress, food and service as insignificant because they do not make us righteous.  Rather, our hope is not in them and there is no pride we can have for making the supposedly “right” decisions.

The graphic image of righteous acts being likened to a menstrual rag is crude.  The LORD does not mince words with us – He knows how futile the pursuit of righteousness apart from Him is and makes it plain that it does not come close to what He says is righteous.  The price of blood for sins is also repulsive to us – the requirement seems so unnecessary and disgusting – slaughtering an animal for our iniquity.  Until we catch a glimpse of the holiness of God.  Sin is death.  False righteousness is death, not life.  It leads us away from a close relationship with God and instead into a dead religion.

Our lips can say the right words, we can outwardly manifest all of the “religiously correct” standards according to some, but still not understand what it means to be truly righteous.  Until it is etched into our hearts that we truly do not contain any righteousness on our own, we are indeed far from righteousness.  Maintaining that understanding is so very difficult, for we begin to see God working in us and can be deceived that it is actually us being righteous.  In God’s economy, His righteousness would be imputed to the unholy.  Completely undeserved, blemished lambs covered in His Holy blood.  I am undone.  Praise His Name.

Oh God – we kneel before you poor, destitute, having no righteousness of our own.  We come before You recognizing that only You are truly righteous!  Please help us to be like Paul – always cognizant that we are chief of sinners – and to live sold out for Your glory alone.

From Tragedy to Blessings – Stories of Grace – God is on Your Side

Darrell Creswell - A Study of Christian Grace

II Corinthians 4 8 God is on your sideI met a man named Jared this week that told me his incredible story. I noticed that he was limping and I asked him if he had injured his leg. He began telling me his unbelievable story.

Earlier this year, he was in a retail store shopping. He was standing at the check-out counter when he felt something push him from behind. The next thing he was on the ground and a car was above him. A driver had lost control of their vehicle, and plowed through the front of the store running him over in the process. The car had broken his hip and leg.

Jared had struggled over the last year financially as his business has fallen on hard times and he had become quite distraught as he struggled to make ends meet. As he rode in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, he wondered what…

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God Notices When You’re Stuck in the Mud

Jeremiah 37:2  “Neither he nor the officials who served him nor the people of Judah paid any attention to what the LORD said through the prophet Jeremiah.  16 So Jeremiah was put in prison in a cell in the dungeon in Jonathan’s house.  He was kept there a long time.

Jeremiah 38:6  “So the officials took Jeremiah and put him in the cistern . . . there was no water in the cistern, only mud.  So when they lowered Jeremiah into the cistern with ropes he sank into the mud.

Jeremiah 38:9  “Your Royal Majesty, those men have been very wicked in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah.  They have thrown him into a cistern and he is sure to die of starvation there because there is no food left in the city.

Jeremiah 39:12Find Jeremiah and look out for him.”

Jeremiah 40:4 “But now, Jeremiah, today I will set you free from the chains on your wrists.  If you would like to come to Babylon with me, come along and I will take care of you . . . go wherever you choose.  5  Then the captain of the guard gave Jeremiah some food and a present and let him go.

Life has many twists and turns, most of them unforeseen.  In the middle of chaos, we can begin to wonder if God is aware, but once we are on the other side of turmoil, the treasure gained from the ordeal far surpasses any temporary hardship.  Of course if the trial is severe, one shudders at the thought of having to journey that path ever again.  The doubt of God’s enablement prior to hardship, though, has been changed forever in the presence of a Sovereign God Who was truly sufficient to meet our every need.

The story of an individual who was noticed, rescued and provided for by the King evokes respect and a sense of awe.  But when one contemplates what came before the honor, I wonder if anyone would want to go through all they have to in order to receive the blessing on the other side.  We cannot see in the future, though, which is where faith comes in.

Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet, and after reading once again from the book of Jeremiah, I can surely understand why.  Imagine hearing from God and being His mouthpiece, only to be rejected for your obedience and thrust into imprisonment continually and a deep pit of mud.  Was that a part of God’s plan?  He allowed it in – but why?  How could He receive glory for the torture of His chosen servant?

We have seen this before by those chosen to serve God.  Joseph saw a vision and ended up being sold into slavery – God kept him from being murdered and eventually elevated him to second in command of the land.  Wow.  Even though we delight in the end of the story, we often do not understand the middle of the story, but God does.  I love how the Lord ensures that someone was looking out for Jeremiah.  Imagine getting the mud cleaned off and then going before the king and the Captain of the Guard, who gives you a present and more importantly, your freedom.  Israel was under siege and all the Israelites were being captured or murdered.  But Jeremiah was set free. 

God knows our suffering and all of the inner workings of our lives have a very specific end which He already knows completely.  When we read all of the accounts of faithful followers of God and see how God always kept His covenant promises, we should never be given to doubt.  But life’s pain creates a raw sense of reality that causes us in our flesh to wonder if we have been a fool to trust in the One who would permit such atrocities.

Just like the individual who was late on 9/11 and whose life was spared, I have to wonder if Jeremiah’s life was spared as he sat in the mud and wondered.  Israel was under attack – Jeremiah had foretold it and even told the king how he could avoid Babylon’s punishment.  It might have seemed like God was not in control when His servant was dying in mud.  Not so.  Not exactly a glorious picture of how one would want to die, though, and I am sure fear gripped his heart.  Kind of reminds me of a story I heard of someone who suffered a humiliating death when they were hit by a potato chip truck.  Tragic.  We don’t want to see such an end for a man of God.  Not suffocating in mud.  Not Jeremiah.

Are you in the mud of life right now?  Feeling forgotten and beginning to wonder if your Deliverer will ever come?  He hears.  He sees.  He is weaving something beautiful out of that pain.  He promises.

Lord, when we do not understand, help us to place our faith in you.  In our fragile humanity, help us to rise above our circumstances and abide in You.

Thoughtful Thursday: Flattery’s Fool

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Proverbs 26:24 “The one who hates others disguises it with his lips, but he stores deceit within him.” 

Proverbs 26:28 “A lying tongue hates those crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”   

Proverbs 27:4 “Wrath is cruel and anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

James 3:14 – “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth.

James 3:16 – “For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice.” 

Romans 12:9 “Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.”

Whenever someone is praising me, I am given to pause.  I acknowledge in my heart that anything good in me is only Christ and remind myself that nothing good dwells in me apart from God.  Compliments and flattery feel good.  If flattery works ruin,though, I do not want to embrace it nor accept it.  On the other hand, encouragement is beneficial, necessary and a biblical mandate, so how can we differentiate between encouragement and flattery?  At first blush I would rather have flattery than blatant hatred, until I consider the insidious nature of flattery.

There are haters everywhere today, but some of them might be even within your closest circles.  They might not even believe it themselves if they were confronted with the hate they are concealing.  Sometimes they want your approval, sometimes they pretend to be your biggest fan, but you get this feeling that betrays their outward praise. What causes this deceitful tongue?  Jealousy, which is ultimately hatred of the one envied.  Jealousy is discontentment with what God provided and the wrong belief that we deserve what the other person has.  The object of jealousy reveals the motivation of the heart.  Is it the outward appearance that is praised?  Then vanity could be the root cause of envy.  Is it talents that are praised?  Jealousy of ability might be to blame.  Or perhaps it is because you do not give that person something they want from you, which they can really only get from God.  They wrongfully expect something from you that you are not led to give, so they hate you for it.

The scriptures above reveal a wicked heart that would seek your destruction and yet couch it in kindness.  Wow – what a scary picture.  Our enemy is crafty and ever seeking our demise, but we can naively think his tactics would be obviously evil.  Even a Christian can be used by the enemy if envy and anger are left unchecked in his heart.  No one likes to be the recipient of another person’s disdain of themselves, yet I am certain everyone reading this blog has also had moments themselves in which they were a tool of the enemy in this regard.    So, while I am shocked when I see people harming me with insincere flattery then gossiping about me behind my back, I realize I am just as guilty or as capable of the same sin. So, how do we combat this evil?  Giving that sin the worst name, realizing what I am really doing and praying for deliverance from it.

What strikes my heart the most when I am tempted to hate another human, is that this precious life was made in the image of God.  Flawed, yet beautiful to Christ.  They might have injected harm and pain into my life and be a thorn in my flesh, but they are loved by God.  They might not even understand why they do it themselves.  I do not have to become best buddies with them, but I can pray for them and ask God for wisdom in what a relationship with them looks like.  Mental health is a big part of victory in this area of our lives, too.  Recognizing that I cannot stop or control someone from envying or hating me, but I can put on love and place them in God’s hands, instead, is crucial.  Love must be sincere.  I do not have to pretend I am someone’s closest confidant or be manipulated to do what someone is demanding in order to be godly.  In fact, that would be inappropriate and harmful.  No, instead, I can die to my desire for man’s praise and worshiping at the altar of acceptance, when it is fleeting.  I can rise above the small-mindedness and dwell on God and His word.  Let’s not be flattery’s fool when we realize any crown of praise or flattery we would receive should just be laid down at His feet, anyway.

Thank You, God, for revealing our hearts and setting us free.  Help us to not get caught up in the quagmire of sin often found in superficial relationships that can entrap us.  Help us to love sincerely from our heart and forgive one another, all for Your glory!

Maintaining Integrity

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Psalm 101:2-5

NIV “I will be careful to lead a blameless life– when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart.  NET 3 I will not even consider doing evil; I will have no part of it. 4 I will have nothing to do with a perverse person; I will not permit evil. 5 I will destroy anyone who slanders his neighbor in secret.  I will not tolerate anyone who has a haughty demeanor and an arrogant attitude.”

1 Kings 9:4

“You must serve me with integrity and sincerity, just as your father David did.  Do everything I commanded and obey my rules and regulations.”

Job 2:9

“Then his wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding firmly to your integrity? Curse God, and die!'”

1 Corinthians 9:27

“Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified.”

1 Corinthians 10:12

“So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall.”

Proverbs 10:9

“The one who conducts himself in integrity will live securely, but the one who behaves perversely will be found out.”

Hebrews 13:18

“Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to conduct ourselves rightly in every respect.

1 Chronicles 29:17

“I know, my God, that you examine thoughts and are pleased with integrity. With pure motives I contribute all this; and now I look with joy as your people who have gathered here contribute to you.

Psalm 51:6

“Look, you desire integrity in the inner man; you want me to possess wisdom.”

Psalm 101 was one of the first verses that captivated my heart.  There is something so pleasant about choosing, by God’s grace, to walk in integrity in every corner of your life.  I recall those early days of my salvation when my heart was quickened to not do things I had done before – things I did when I walked in darkness.  Suddenly I was excited to throw out music that did not honor God, which just moments before I could not live without.  In a moment I no longer wanted to just celebrate the holidays the culture around me embraced.  I wanted to live thoughtfully and walk in obedience to what the Holy Spirit convicted me of.  What a miracle salvation is!

Eyes opened to God’s requirements and my falling short, there was an eagerness to walk uprightly and still is.  Walking with others who also desired to live godly lives, I surrounded myself in this culture of integrity.  Sounds wonderful – I thought I would never have to worry about fading.  The problem is, in that Christian culture we can be deceived and go into autopilot.  We can begin to place confidence in past shining moments of our salvation and not recognize the natural slow drift that slowly pulls us away with compromise, the devil’s language.  We can forget that the very ability to walk in integrity is dependent on continuing to walk closely with God, not a once-and-done character change.

Sanctification means that our salvation is still being worked out.  We never walk in the dangerous path of thinking we have arrived.  We dare not accept every opinion around us just because it was spoken by a godly person.  We dare not think we are ever above accountability and transparency in every aspect of our walk.  No, we have to maintain our integrity and constantly filter our hearts and minds through the lens of God’s Word.  Grace applied liberally, some will try to tempt us to let go of our integrity, denouncing us as legalistic or too vigilant.  A legalistic approach begins to make walking in integrity another good work, which man will praise you for.  Whatever man’s view, God requires integrity – in the innermost parts of our soul, not just an external behavior.

Devastation can set in when you recognize a lack of integrity in your own life.  Don’t permit condemnation hurled at you by the enemy, but instead acknowledge the sin that is revealed and submit to God to change you.  Be grateful that you can see and don’t placate or make excuses for the rising conviction in your soul.  We are all humbled at the recognition that none of us is always full of integrity – but we can continually seek to be.  Lastly, the only comparison to be made with ourselves is to Jesus – the only truly Righteous One.  Comparing to others to elevate our own integrity proves we still lack it.  That age-old definition of integrity – you are who you are when no one else is around, is still a good barometer, but even greater is not just an outward performance, where we glory momentarily at doing what we are supposed to, rather an inward circumcision daily of the heart.

Lord, test my heart and reveal my inner motives that are hidden from me.  Help me to never grow weary of seeking to walk blamelessly in every aspect of this life that You have given.  Thank You for Your faithful mercy and forgiveness.  Awaken the bride of Christ to continue to walk in integrity.

Finding Joy Again

Exodus 35:21, 26, 31, 34

“Everyone whose heart stirred him to action and everyone whose spirit was willing came and brought the offering for the LORD for the work of the tent of meeting, for its service and for the holy garments.  26  And all the women whose heart stirred them to action and who were skilled spun goat’s hair.  31 He has filled with the Spirit of God – with skill, with understanding, with knowledge, and in all kinds of work.  34 And he put in his heart to teach.”

Exodus 36:2

“Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person in whom the LORD had put skill – everyone whose heart stirred him to volunteer to do the work.”

Romans 12:11
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

So often, Christian workers get burned out and lose their passion.  I’ve been there – have you?  I love this snapshot of God’s people, filled with passion, calling and skills by God, joyfully bringing their capabilities and serving God. They recognized that their talents were from God and wholeheartedly offered their skills to Him.  It reminds me of when I was first saved.  The people joyfully served, the worship was vibrant and everyone was excited to be alive in Christ.  I have often wished that my life would be characterized by those beginning days and years in Christ.  I daresay that the same feeling I recall at that time has waned . . . tempered with harsh realities encountered in this life and the reality of the church not being perfect as was once naively believed.  But my faith has also deepened, along with my understanding and love for the LORD.

I deeply love the LORD and weep each day when I write these blogs and consider how great and good God is, but admittedly something is different.  The deliverance we experienced was supposed to mean everything would always work out as we expected, right?  How do we get that passion reignited? Human nature has a tendency to be excited about anything new.  But when time passes and we are numbed by the presence of sin and its affect on people around us as well as ourselves – broken lives and a diminished utopia, we can become disillusioned and lose our joy.    Once disillusionment sets in, the once rose-tinted glasses can easily become a pessimistic view – or not.  Depending on what our focus is – abundant life in Christ or a comfortable life without troubles in America – will determine whether we truly experience and comprehend the definition of happiness in Christ.

Examining God’s people in Exodus, it is apparent that gratitude, expectations and motivation each played a big role in their passion.  It does not mention that they had an expectation or motivation to ascribe toward higher positions within the church, just thankfulness and contentment exuded by their manner in which they served.  Notice that these people had a calling on their heart – they were not necessarily there every time the church door opened, or serving in every capacity, but knew instinctively what God has called them to and did it with joy.  Sometimes we forget the simplicity of the Gospel and our salvation and lose sight of what really matters.

But perhaps the view that was darkened by life’s reality can actually see clearly, after all.  Maybe joy looks different and feels different than an initial shallow joy untested by life’s challenges.  Thinking that life should be perfect after coming to Christ sets us up for disaster, but joy looks different to a mature believer who has drawn nigh to the living God.  Continuing in that joy is the key.  Knowing God’s enablement and strength when life tries your very soul is the greatest peace and joy on earth.  Remembering our initial joy in Christ is a great catalyst to reignite our fervor, but focusing on the hope we have in Christ can help us rise above present circumstances into our reality in Christ.

The One Who finished the work will complete it in us, but sometimes when hard times crash in and distract you, it can be hard to see past the valleys.  This earth is temporary – may we not waste our life away regretting or thinking things should feel or look differently.  Looking to the example of those early Christians and asking God to restore the joy of our salvation back to us reminds us that our initial joy was never dependent on earthly happiness.

Lord, forgive when we take for granted Your salvation and grow lukewarm or forget how amazing You are.  Ignite us with a passion for You and Your people all for Your glory.  Help us to know our calling and to obediently serve You in a manner worthy of You.

Slaves to Righteousness

The Thankful Slave

Philippians 1:1

“From Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”

Philippians 2:5-8

“You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, 6 Who though He existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.  8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!”

I had the privilege of attending a revival last week in which the guest pastor spoke about our position in Christ being that of a slave.  As I have been contemplating his message, today I read the verses above – confirmation to go deeper on this subject to try and understand what it means to be a slave of Christ.

Slavery is viewed in modern society as a cultural sin, unfair and evil.  For the purposes of this world, it has indeed been an evil that has existed in many cultures for the benefit of the rich and the economy, where man is devalued because he is esteemed by sinful man as less.  In God’s sight, each soul is so precious, whether slave or free – and while He created us to be free, we are indeed simultaneously all slaves.  It is, in fact, in our slavery to God that we find our greatest freedom.  For the slavery in this world is founded on wickedness and a lust for power, where the slavery in Christ is founded upon righteousness, humility and selflessness.

We are all slaves to what we give permission to rule over us, slaves to habits, slaves to cravings, and ultimately all slaves of God.  I can feel the cringing when I type that word.  Slaves.  Slaves.  Slaves.  That is what you are.  It is uncomfortable and smacks in the face of political correctness.  Our Savior, holding a lamb, calls us friend – not slaves, right?  Yes, but He has also made us joint heirs – us – the lowest of the earth – recipients of an eternal bliss we did not deserve.  Not typically how a slave-master would treat his slaves.  But every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and in hell below.  We bow because He is the only Worthy One, the owner of us all and of all we see.  He is indeed our Master, whether or not that reality is recognized by the creation.

Paul over and over again reiterates in the epistles his slavitude in Christ.  He does so in a rather boastful manner.  He is not ashamed of being a slave for the Gospel, but fully submits himself to that role.  A slave understands that he has a Master.  He comprehends that He is not the one in charge, but the one who must give an account.  This is at once humbling and the highest privilege one could conceive of.  Imagine being a servant in the White House – how much more a servant in the Kingdom of God.  A servant in God’s Kingdom is entrusted with the most precious gift of all – the Gospel.  Are we serving our Master well in this regard?

A godly servant does not question the Master or become angry and throw a fit when he does not get his way – he understands his position and his greatest pleasure is serving the King. He does not question whether or not he should tithe – he understands it all belongs to God and he is obedient.  This servant recognizes he was bought and does not deserve any kindness due to his transgression.  He is under authority – ooh – another difficult, not politically correct word.  In an age where children are rebellious to the authority of their parents and disregard the structure that God has set in place, being a servant under authority is indeed not popular today.  Nonetheless, we are slaves under authority.

Most humbling of all to me, is that my King, my LORD, chose to become a slave.  Think about that.  When has a King chosen such a role?  When He is righteous and knows that none of His slaves could ever pay what they owe their Master, He chose to serve.  What an amazing God!  May we joyously walk in our slavitude and the wonder that He grafts us in and calls us His children, too.  In that glorious day, all slavery will be abolished – slavery to sin, slavery to man, slavery to the flesh – no more sin, no more brokenness – nothing to keep us from Him any longer.  Glorious day, when our souls are finally set free.

Lord, forgive our pride and motivations that desire to be served rather than to serve.  Thank you for demonstrating real servanthood, even though You are above all.  Help us to glorify You by modeling to the world a holy, reverent walk with You.  Amen.

Passing the Baton of Righteousness

Jeremiah 32:17-19

17 ‘Oh, Lord God, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you! 18 You show unfailing love to thousands. But you also punish children for the sins of their parents. You are the great and powerful God who is known as the Lord who rules over all. 19 You plan great things and you do mighty deeds. You see everything people do. You reward each of them for the way they live and for the things they do.’

Jeremiah 34: 14b-15a, 18a

‘But your ancestors did not obey me or pay any attention to me. 15 Recently, however, you yourselves showed a change of heart and did what is pleasing to me.’  18 I will punish those people who have violated their covenant with me.’

Ezekiel 18:20

‘The person who sins is the one who will die. A son will not suffer for his father’s iniquity, and a father will not suffer for his son’s iniquity; the righteous person will be judged according to his righteousness, and the wicked person according to his wickedness.’

Exodus 20:5-6 (also Dt. 5:9)

‘I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.’

Deuteronomy 24:16

Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.’

Ezekiel 18:20

‘The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.’

Generational sin.  Like a prison cell you are confined in and cannot escape – or can you?  A child is born into a household in which the father is abusive.  Is the child at fault?  Will he suffer for his father’s sins?  Will he be just like his dad?  It breaks my heart when children are told that it is seemingly impossible for them to escape the sin handed down in their families, as if they were destined for them by a wicked legacy they cannot escape.  The righteous requirements of God’s law require that God punish evil. When evil is unpunished, it begins to grow and thrive.  But what is meant by the Scripture which says children are punished for the sins of their parents?

Taking all Scripture together and knowing God’s character that has been revealed to us, we know God would not be so unjust as to punish one who is innocent of sin.  But what is meant by the Scripture above which says God “punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”?  Certainly if one is born into an ungodly environment it will affect him adversely.  He will also bear consequences if he does not recognize the sin all around him and chooses to live a similar lifestyle.  We have possibly all witnessed the effects of sin in a family which continue generation after generation, whether for righteousness or evil.  But is a child at fault if that is all he knew?

I was once in darkness, until one day when God opened my eyes.  The Holy Spirit revealed sin in my heart and my need for salvation.  No matter what had happened to me or what I was surrounded by, God in His justice and mercy convicted me of my sin nature.  The Holy Spirit convicts all of sin and righteousness (John 16:8).  We are all without excuse.  Innately we all have different struggles in the flesh that we must master, before sin masters us.  We cannot blame our predecessors for our weakness, but admittedly the influence of sin can have a profound affect on us.

No words exist to adequately convey the gratitude I have that the LORD revealed the sins of my family and in my own heart.  Apart from this revelation, I could easily have continued in the sins before me and would not been saved.  The blame for our own sins lies within each one of us.  We are also not culpable for other people’s sin, but if we cause someone to sin, we will bear judgment from God (Matthew 18:6).  But what a difference choosing to walk in obedience to God can make for your life, your children’s lives and their children’s lives.  To a thousand generations.  Wow.  Notice that the judgment from God is only a few generations for those who hate God.  But a thousand generations for those who love God and keep His commandments.  God is merciful.  He is kind.  He reaches down into the individual steeped in sin and offers forgiveness and enlightenment to live a different way.  Your past does not define you, nor your upbringing!  You can CHOOSE this day whom you will serve.  Amen!

Thank You, God, that you are just, kind, merciful and forgiving!  Praise You that You reveal our sins to us.  Help us to walk blamelessly before you that we might pass on a legacy of righteousness and hope to those who come behind us.  May we be found faithful, testifying to Your great salvation.

Thoughtful Thursday: The Heat is On!

Photo credits

Photo credits

Proverbs 17:3 “The crucible is for refining silver and the furnace is for gold, likewise the LORD tests the heart.”

Proverbs 25:4 “Remove the dross from the silver, and material for the Silversmith will emerge.”

Malachi 3:3 “He will act like a refiner and purifier of silver and will cleanse the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will offer the LORD a proper offering.

Romans 5:3 “Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance…”

Analogies can help us comprehend deeper spiritual application, but we no longer live in a time where the local silversmith is around the next corner.  Scriptures detailing the process of purifying silver might not seem as relatable to our microwave generation.  The process of purifying silver takes time and careful attention.  Standards can be lowered when impatience is allowed to reign over quality and purity.  But it is uncomfortable to remain in the heat and difficult to tarry when refining hurts.

Another analogy has proved helpful to me in understanding this process of refining that God does in the life of His children. If we had to undergo surgery for an infirmity but hopped off the surgical table every time there was pain, we would never be healed. But remaining in God and trusting His hand despite the perceived harm will produce a rare treasure.  If the uncomfortable shaking allowed into our lives was avoided or placated by running to alternative sources of comfort rather than God, then perhaps the refining would be extended – not out of cruelty, but out of love and a desire to rid us of dross in our lives.

The humanistic philosophies of the day would say we should tolerate and accept our dross and not judge one another for our shortcomings.  That is actually not kindness at all.  Neither should we judge when someone is going through a difficult season.  We cannot understand why, but loving accountability walks alongside and knows that we all have dross that must be purged.  To keep the cancer of sin in our lives or to make excuses for it instead of submitting to God to remove it is folly.  Who would choose to keep a disease if there was a known cure?

Sometimes we can think the refining process is pure evil – why do such difficult times have to be allowed in to produce beauty?  I remember foolishly asking the LORD why I had to go through such difficult trials until I understood they were the very source of inspiration for my music or writing.  I could wish that I would not have to undergo such dire circumstances, but then I would not trade the closeness to God in the midst or the character gained in that fire.

The bride of Christ is being made beautiful, one crucible at a time.  Through blurry, tear-filled eyes it can be difficult to see clearly the fruit that God is producing, but to rejoice in that moment of suffering at what it is achieving is truly seeing with eternal eyes.  The jewel in the rough is becoming a gem that will shine forever.

Lord, help us to yield to You when in the fire of life’s challenges.  Make us more like you!