30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 7: God’s Law

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The One Who made the laws of God is the only One Who can keep them.

Scriptures of the Day:

Romans 3:20

“For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”

Romans 5:20

“Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more.”

Psalm 19:7

“The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced.”

I am a rule follower by nature and cannot comprehend why someone would willingly choose to go against rules that are in place. That said, um, I have been known to speed on occasion and break diets faster than they were begun.

Despite all of our best intentions, we all break the law, most importantly the perfect laws of God. We are flesh and in desperate need of grace. God’s law is, in fact, grace. For in the moment that we became aware of His laws, we became aware of our ability to keep even one of them. How is this grace? Why make laws that we cannot fully keep?

Every single precept and command He has given are given for our good. Sin destroys us, but abiding by God’s laws preserves us. He could have left us in our sin, ignorant of our transgressions, but He loved us too much for that. We were made for SomeOne more than just living for our flesh and this world.

The One Who made the laws of God is the only One Who can keep them. This loving God showed us His Holy standard then bore all of our consequences for breaking His righteous decrees. What a gracious God Who would not leave us without a standard, but would help us meet that standard, too.

Oh, God! Thank You for Your perfect law and for fulfilling it on our behalf! Thank You for a righteous standard for us to live by.

 

Twelve Days of Christmas Day Three: The Law

Gift of Gods law

 

Psalm 19:7

“The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced.”

John 1:17

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ.”

This Christmas, when we think about getting what we want, I am thankful that God in His wisdom does not always give us what we want.  Further, in His mercy, He did not give us what we really deserve – His judgment.

We are all rule breakers in one way or another, often rationalizing our weaknesses away, but God’s righteous standard is held.  He does not leave us in a state of deception, but opens our eyes through His perfect law found in His Word, revealing our sin and need for a Savior.

What a gift – absolute truth – steady, unchanging and Holy in a chaotic relevant world.  In a culture that demands its own way and makes laws to condone its sin, there still stands a righteous standard.

Many feel that this standard set by God steals our freedom and joy, but no greater freedom has anyone than the one who can see his sin that shackles him and can walk away from it.

Even though we could never fulfill God’s commandments perfectly, God in His sovereignty and mercy fulfilled it for us.  His law brought condemnation so we could see our need of Him.

As we visualize ourselves opening these gifts that You have given us, Lord, help us to see Your law at work in our lives and to submit ourselves to Your will in every area of our lives.

 

 

Mundane Monday: The Purpose of the Law

Photo credits: pinterest

Photo credits: pinterest

1 Timothy 1:5-8

5 “But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have strayed from these and turned away to empty discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or the things they insist on so confidently. 8 But we know that the law is good if someone uses it legitimately.”

Psalm 119:30

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.”

Here it is a Monday again.  The day-in, day-out drudgery of the work week awaits us as we open our eyes to a new week.  Well, that is one perspective.  Another viewpoint is one of gratitude.  Today is Labor Day and today I thank God for the gift of work and for a mission He has called each of us to.  We are blessed to have work and blessed to be able to work.  Work is one of the occupations God gave us to do in His sovereign wisdom that sometimes our flesh resists, much like the laws He has in place, which is the topic today for all of us rule breakers at heart.

Laws.  Deemed as spoilers by some, a means to judge others or of self-righteousness to some, and to still others a moment of grace – of seeing our need for salvation once we see within ourselves the inability to perfectly adhere to God’s law.

Everywhere there are signs of mankind’s desire for no limits.  What is it about rules that sparks a seed of rebellion in our hearts and deceives a people?  To some, breaking rules seems like freedom.  We are doing what we want to do.  Or are we?  The irony of submitting to our fleshly desires is that in doing what we want to do, we become a taskmaster for our own destruction.

The limits set in place by an all-wise, all-knowing God are intended for our benefit.  In our deception we strive for what we perceive is a thing of beauty – no accountability, no hindrance of following someone else’s idea, and yet that pursuit is what becomes our prison, after all.

It is so beautiful that the aim of God’s laws and instruction is love.  God is not a spoiler of fun.  Sin destroys us and He wants us to be in relationship with Him – not separated from Him.  He hates to see us suffer from poor choices made at the altar of the gods of self and pleasure.

We are all subject to God’s laws, universal and spiritual, whether or not we want to be.  No one escapes the law of gravity, and while some might escape the consequences of disobeying civil or spiritual laws for a season, seared consciences are the penalty borne and ultimately all deeds will be judged by the Perfect law maker and giver, Jesus Christ.

A rule breaker can be deemed as “cool” by the world and a rule keeper seen as “prudish”, but it is how one keeps the law that matters.  Just as rebellion is not acceptable in the sight of God, neither is legalism.  Rationalizing which rules are important and which ones are not also does not change the premise of walking in the liberty of following God’s laws regarding ethics, big or small laws.

Our flesh does not like to be held accountable or to have to conform to someone else’s plan, and yet His plan is best.  We want our way, and yet God beautifully has designed a structure of leadership and accountability that ultimately provides care for those who will submit to His leadership.

People can use laws for their own ends, manipulating the original intent in an attempt to justify their actions.  But inside a voice cries out for truth and righteousness if we listen.  Breaking rules does not bring the peace of God nor satisfy the heart cry of our soul.  God’s loving and perfect laws are safe boundaries He designed that are kept and fulfilled only by the grace of God.

Lord, thank you for revealing our need for your salvation.  Help us to love the boundaries You have so wisely set in our lives.  May we resist the flesh and live lives for Your glory.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Photo Credits: halepringle.com

Photo Credits:
halepringle.com

Exodus 13:9

It will be a sign for you on your hand and a memorial on your forehead, so that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth, for with a mighty hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. 17 When Pharaoh released the people, God did not lead them by the way to the land of the Philistines, although that was nearby, for God said, “Lest the people change their minds and return to Egypt when they experience war.”

Exodus 14:4

“I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them. I will gain honor because of Pharaoh and because of all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So this is what they did.

Exodus 16:3-4

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this desert to kill this whole assembly with hunger!” 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people will go out and gather the amount for each day, so that I may test them. Will they walk in my law or not?

With a mighty hand God delivered His people, yet three days after many miracles, including parting a sea, granting favor to the Israelites so they plundered their enemies and prophesying and fulfilling 10 plagues, they doubted God.  They replaced the faith they had learned to have in God quickly with fear and doubted God’s goodness and character.

God’s people did not understand His purposes and looked at their circumstances of discomfort and misinterpreted them.  A good God would never have them wonder if God would faithfully provide, would he?  Why would He test them?  Because He knew their tendency was toward the superficial.  They wanted to be provided for, but did not expect that a relationship with God would mean they would have to go without to make them see their need of Him.

God knew them and their tendencies to go astray, but they were not acquainted with God’s nature.  We often displace our own character flaws on others, but God has none.  The LORD wanted them to know Him.  He wanted even their enemies, the Egyptians, to know Him.  He wanted them to learn to walk faithfully with Him.

The Israelites had forgotten their purpose.  The main thing for them became their happiness.  They became self-focused and disillusioned when trials came.  They began to think that the grass was greener on the other side, but forgot that the other side was slavery.  Suddenly the “feast” they used to eat while there was embellished to be something they missed.

We might think this happened only in Old Testament times, or with an unintelligent people who were ignorant of God’s plan, but we, too, are easily distracted and forget what we have been saved from.  We forget our purpose, our mission.

We become enchanted by the world or begin to be lulled into thinking this world system and the here and now are the most important.  Eternity hangs in the balance for all those around us, yet we are often preoccupied with worries of this world and distracted with trivial things.

The Israelites thought God’s deliverance was all about them.  They focused on their freedom or on the comforts they wanted. God’s purposes always run far deeper than ours.  He chose us and wants to use us for His glory.  He loves the world and does not want any to perish.  God help us to keep the main thing the main thing . . . knowing Jesus and making Him known.

Lord, help us to remember daily Your promises and to fulfill the mission You have called us to.  Help us to keep You at the center of our lives and your salvation as the main purpose of our lives.

Worshipful Wednesday: Provision of Promises

Photo Credits wau.org

Photo Credits
wau.org

Psalm 37:30-40

“30 The godly speak wise words and promote justice. 31 The law of their God controls their thinking; their feet do not slip. 32 Evil men set an ambush for the godly and try to kill them. 33 But the Lord does not surrender the godlyor allow them to be condemned in a court of law. 34 Rely on the Lord! Obey his commands!  Then he will permit you to possess the landyou will see the demise of evil men35 I have seen ruthless evil men growing in influence, like a green tree grows in its native soil. 36 But then one passes by, and suddenly they have disappeared!  I looked for them, but they could not be found.  37 Take note of the one who has integrity! Observe the godly!  For the one who promotes peace has a future. 38 Sinful rebels are totally destroyed; evil men have no future. 39 But the Lord delivers the godly; he protects them in times of trouble. 40 The Lord helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from evil men and delivers them, for they seek his protection.”

We cannot fully appreciate the grace of God until we understand salvation and what we were saved from.  Nor can we really apprehend God’s promises until they are all we are holding onto.  Until we have walked in the steps of suffering, we do not need to hang onto the precious promises contained in this chapter of Psalms and they will be a concept we learn and trust in by faith.

When we consider this reality of suffering, gratitude for the challenges of this life consumes us.  We recognize that we would not have the relationship with God if it were not for struggles that cause us to turn our face upward.  Sure, it would be great if we did not have to walk through dark valleys to appreciate God, but our nature is to crave comfort, not trials.  Our relationship with God would be shallow and we would not know the joy of intimacy with God.

These promises are completely free – for those who qualify.  I know, there is always a kicker to gaining promises.  But the thrill of this Good God is that living in the manner prescribed by God is the most blessed life, anyway.  When we are immersed in His word, His Spirit quickens our hearts to do what is right.  What kind of God would save us, provide promises to encourage us to keep pressing on, then remind us through His Holy Spirit and then enable us?  God Almighty.

Those who study His Word are apt to want to keep it.  Some think of it as brainwashing, but meditating on God’s word is life to our soul, not mere religion nor an attempt to just reform our external behavior.  The Word of God has power to change us from the inside out.  What an awesome God who set a standard, instructs us how to walk in that standard, gives us an incentive to follow His precepts, then grants us grace and forgiveness when we fall short.

Especially precious to me is when I read specific examples of God’s action in the lives of His children, like in this scripture passage above, and see times when God honored those very same promises in my life.  I praise God today for the fact that He makes promises to us at all.  We certainly do not deserve it, but He is the Covenant Maker and Keeper who faithfully continues to show us signs of His never-ending kindness and mercy.

Lord, thank You for providing for the righteous demands of Your law and graciously giving us promises to hold onto when life sends us on different roads we never thought we would travel.

The Modern Sabbath

Photo Credits crazybread.wordpress.com

Photo Credits
crazybread.wordpress.com

Leviticus 26:2  “You must keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary.  I am the LORD.”

Mark 2:27 “And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

Hebrews 4:9 “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”

Leviticus 23:3

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.

Matthew 5:17-19

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Isaiah 58:13-14

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

I confess a dread to cover this topic, because I fear I fall so very short of fulfilling it.  Not because I am under law and feel a compulsion to fulfill an obligation, but because it is unclear to me what a Sabbath rest looks like today, and I very much want to honor God.

The hectic pace we all run today makes rest a scarce commodity.  I laugh when people complain of boredom – I do not know what that word means.  My “to do” list is never completely accomplished, and I often feel guilty if I just want to rest without doing something.  Yep.  Type A personality.  Being diligent is an attribute that God desires for us to aspire to, but He also, being God, made time to rest.  He modeled rest from the beginning, commanded it for His children, and when He came in the flesh, Christ, too, modeled rest.

It is often said that we are not under law anymore, so the Old Testament does not apply to us.  None of it?  Why would God give us the Old Testament, then?  The verses above indicate that the Old Testament is completed in the New Testament. Together, they are the framework for how the believer should live.  No longer outward obedience, but inward.  No longer a priest as an intermediary, but Christ.  No longer God on a mountain, but God within.  The standard is higher, the application of the principles constant.  Obvious changes in culture and the new covenant mean a different application, but the same Spirit authored both covenants.

So, a Sabbath remains.  What does that look like?  Does it mean outward rules and specifications from the Old Testament, or a vibrant relationship with God which guides us?  Asking God what He wants you to do with that time.  What rest looks like to one, might not be the same thing to another.  Some might have a conviction of not eating out, for that prevents someone else from enjoying the Sabbath.  Another might choose to eat out to have a break from cooking.  But if obeying the call to a Sabbath becomes a litany of rules and obligations, I fear we have missed the point entirely.  In general, it means coming apart from our hectic pace and honoring God.  Worshiping Him and devoting time to rest in Him, to refuel and recharge.  I have an image in my mind of crawling up in His lap and resting in His embrace.  Sounds good about now.

Man is not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man.  What a good God to command us to rest.  It seems paradoxical to us overachievers, but my weary body admits the folly of not carving time out for what God has commanded and knows our bodies and our souls need.  May we be thoughtful how we approach the Sabbath day.  Whatever day we choose to honor the Sabbath – a Sunday, a Saturday, a Monday or a Friday –  it is all about His glory and enjoying time with our Creator.

Lord, help us to pause.  Help us to create spaces where we can rest in you – daily, weekly, moment by moment.  Convince our souls of this need and be glorified in it!