Psalms 33:15 | Complete Perfection

made

What is the greatest thing you have ever created? It is an interesting question because there are so many ways to answer the question. I am not an artisan or an engineer so my physical creations are not all that great. I am happy with some of the things I have built, but great is not a word I would use. I like to write but those creations are a work in progress. My children are a great creation, the greatest, but biology is more involved in that creation than the work of my mind and hands. Oddly what does jump out as an answer is one of the early software development efforts I was assigned. I was given a task to modify the check printing software of the company to be able to print checks in French Canadian. Building logic to write out any number like “one hundred fifty-two” in French with all the nuance of that language on the payment line was something I was excited to create.

How does God answer this question about the greatest thing you have ever created? Would he pick a particular animal? What galaxy or star would be his greatest? What about the unseen beauty of the structure of DNA or the atomic level? My creation was just a replication of something that already existed. God creates from nothing out of nothing and the amazing functionality and beauty of his creation is a depth I can’t express.

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. Genesis 1:24 ESV

My software creation was confirming to an expected standard using an existing tool. Check writing has fixed rules of right and wrong. God on the other hand speaks animals into creation and he created the rules of right and wrong at the same time while using no tools other than his mighty word. God’s creation is not only perfect but consistent according to his plans for his creation.

So, what is God’s greatest Creation? For a being that is perfect I would think that whatever was planned first is the greatest. God tells us what was planned first from the very start.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:15-16 ESV

Paul in this verse is talking about Jesus. Jesus is the firstborn and through him God creates everything. More than that God also uses this greatest creation to reconcile mankind unto himself. What we broke about the creation with our free will already had a fix in place. It is amazing that God knew in advance that Jesus would be needed to complete creation and so he was created first. Jesus is the greatest creation and he is the completion of creation.

My awesome software creation is broken but I had no idea. My changes were ultimately a waste of time. Only after I was complete did I realize that it would have been acceptable to simply place the number “152” on the payment line. The tables and lines of code I had in place with all the French words and sequences were not even needed. Worse yet 20 years later that code is obsolete and not even being used anymore.

Jesus suffers no such waste. His death on the cross completes the creation plan with the rules of our being and through him we have purpose. God has set right and wrong in our being. God is actively involved in all our lives from the beginning of time to the end time.

13 The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; 14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, 15 he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. Psalms 33:13-15 ESV

God knows everything. He knows our hearts. He knows our selfishness. He knows our every thought. The Palmist writes he “fashions the hearts” of us all. The Palmist also writes that our every day is known by God.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalms 139:14;16 ESV

He has formed you. He has involved himself in the life he has given. He has created the perfect reconciliation and the perfect purpose for life if we surrender it all back to him. Thank him as Father, Creator, and King. Give him all that is his to begin with. Christ only always.

1 Samuel 2:25 | Intercede for Me

church_cross

I have made mistakes and hurt people. I cringe when some of those events come to mind. What happens when make mistakes are made that reach the court system? The idea of getting wrapped up in court or dealing with police would cause me enough stress that panic attacks would not be far behind. So when I read news reports like the recent one that an elderly nun, Sister Catherine Rose, while in court dealing with a lawsuit collapsed and died I immediately think of the frustration and the anxiety of that situation contributed to this sad news. The court case is regarding a property dispute in that the nuns wanted to sell their property to a particular individual but Katy Perry, the famed pop star, also wanted to purchase the property. Before fighting for my rights in anything when it comes to judgment of a court I would want to take measure of the cost and make sure I was well represented. This nun spent her last moments in court and her death is now sadly linked with Katy Perry and Perry must live with the result. As intimidating as man-made laws and courts might be I have a greater fear and that is standing before the God of Creation and being left to represent myself on my own merits.

Eli a priest of God for the nation of Israel had a problem with his sons. His evil sons were breaking laws of men and God for their own selfish gain. These sons were abusing the people they should have been serving. Eli pointed out a problem and truth that they refused to understand.

25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” 1 Samuel 2:25a ESV

Eli’s question is profound. We have arbiters, mediators, and peace makers who might broker restitution between men but who is qualified and who is strong enough to broker reconciliation between God and man? Eli’s protégé Samuel years later answers the question that Eli proposed. Samuel had become the priest and leader of Israel when the rebellious people came to him seeking God’s mercy.

5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah. 1 Samuel 7:5-6 NIV

Eli asked who could intercede between man and God. Samuel answers the question with action. As priest and leader between the people and God he could intercede and he could bridge that gap. Samuel is a great defense attorney navigating the perfect justice of God. Samuel tapped into God’s mercy just as Moses had done generations before.

7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. Numbers 21:7 ESV

This kind of intercessory prayer seems to have been lost in the generations between Moses and Samuel. Eli the previous priest asked the question, but had no answer and it does not appear that he knew how to intercede for even his own children. God knowing that people are limited put into motion a plan to create the perfect unlimited priest. A priest that would not die or be limited by space and time. God provided for mankind a priest that could be perfect representation to all people at all moments.

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:22-25 ESV

Jesus always lives, Jesus continues to live making intercession for anyone ready to accept his gift. Notice when Moses and Samuel interceded for the people it was an act that started by the people asking for help and submitting to the authority that Moses and Samuel represented. Jesus does not just represent that authority. He is that authority and he ready to intercede for anyone who calls on his name and that is God’s perfect gift to creation.

Isaiah 26:7 | Level Paths

path

I enjoy hiking on mountain trails in search of new views or waterfalls. Just being out to get exercise with family in tow is part of the most important activities of life. I pray my children will fondly look back on these times and will desire to explore God’s creation when they come into their own. After miles of up and down on technical terrain one of the most enjoyable places of a hike is a level area of soft ground covered in pine. Usually this calm level area might be near a winding stream with plenty of smooth rocks to hold and throw. This section of the trail is perfect for a break and a place of rest to enjoy on an otherwise difficult trail.

I find that hiking is a wonderful analogy to life. Both are a journey. Both are more difficult if we try to forge our own path. Both contain beauty. And both are unknown as to what the journey or the destination will reveal to our own eyes. Until I walk the path and arrive at the destination I don’t really know what will be experienced. Even if I have a map or a guide the journey is still unique to my experience. Life is this way also. On this journey of life, the Bible tells us that God has a path for each person and he has made available a light for that path through his Word the Bible.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 ESV

But he has done even more than provide a light and direction on the path. He can be active to a life that is surrendered to his direction.

The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous. Isaiah 26:7 ESV

He makes “level” the way. God levels the path of the righteous and I think about those level soft sections of trail where the switch backs and difficulty are put on hold. Where one can walk comfortably and revel in the glory of the trees. This is the kind of path that God makes for the righteous.

Now this begs the question who are the righteous that God has given a lamp and a level path? Especially if an attempt at righteousness for many is a burden of work and journey of its own.

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray. Proverbs 5:21-23 ESV

Am I righteous? Have I done enough good things or prepared enough for the trail ahead? God knows that I have not. God knows my thoughts. He knows my ways and they are not his ways. He has seen all my selfish thoughts. He has seen all my evil done in secret.

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. Romans 3:10-11 ESV

Never could I be found righteous before his perfect standards. So, God provided a solution so that his plans for me will be accomplished. God has made those who are called by his name righteous. Not by works or by effort but by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God knows we fall short of his perfect standards so he came to earth in the form of a man and lived a perfect life on our behalf. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. God lowered himself to be part of his creation. To save his creation.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law … the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. Romans 3:20-22 ESV

Righteousness is given to all who put their trust and faith in Jesus. For those that accept what Jesus has done God is then free set them on a path that brings them home as his children. Dear reader now is the moment of grace to accept Christ and submit to his desire and plans for your life. God calls to you as a loving father calls his children home.

Does a level and lighted path mean that life becomes easy? Well no it does not. This life is full of consequences many of them our own doing. There is a promise that I hang on as I daily put my trust in God. Daily as I want to submit and honor him. That promise is that the righteousness given to me through Christ allows me to get back up every time I fall short of where I should be.

for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. Proverbs 24:17 NIV

This proverb tells us the righteous will fall but get back up. But those that reject God will stumble in that day of judgement. But note that the righteous do not get back up on their own. It says that even if they fall seven times they rise. Seven is the number of God and stands for perfection. It is through God’s perfection, through Jesus Christ and the perfect life he lived that those who are called by his name will rise again and continue on the journey to find rest in God.

Worry vs. Anxiety

worry

Some of the literal translations of the Bible do not do not contain the word “worry” anywhere in the contents. Search a KJV or ESV Bible for the word worry and it will not be found. Many people think that the Bible tells us not to worry because God is in control. While it is true to a degree it is not true in the way we might think. Dictionary.com defines worry as “to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts” and that sounds awful. The Bible does use a similar word, “anxiety”, that many people use interchangeably with “worry” in every day speech. In fact many of the newer translations use “worry” and “anxiety” interchangeably. The KJV does not use the newer words “worry” or “anxiety” but uses older words like “Be careful for nothing” or in Christian speak one might say they “cast their cares to God”. But in modern language worry and anxiety have taken over the conversation. Anxiety is the primary word used by the ESV when it translates the Greek μεριμνάω (me-rēm-nä’-ō). This Greek word, μεριμνάω, means “to be anxious or to be troubled with cares”.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

I do not think of myself as a worrier. Crazy scenarios like bears attacking me in my sleep while camping might pop in my mind but then I just shrug my shoulders and go back to sleep. My wife on the other hand worries about all kinds of plausible ill-fated scenarios while camping. Moms by nature are known for their ability to worry. Is that a bad thing to be concerned about the pitfalls of life and want to avoid them? I don’t think so and I doubt God would want his people to not worry about clear and present dangers. The greatest danger of all that every person alive should worry about is where they stand with God. If you are not saved by Christ then you should be gravely worried.

I may not worry about much but I am anxious. I have been an anxious person my entire life. My anxiety is in full force when it comes to interactions (like parties) with people. The nervousness of it all wears me out. Dictionary.com defines anxious as “full of mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of danger or misfortune”. Reasonable worries might be used in a productive way to keep one safe. Anxiety however is full on mental trouble that may be crippling in any productive life. Psychology Today has a great article that breaks down the difference between Worry and Anxiety. Here are two key points.

“If you’re concerned about getting fired because you did really poorly on a project, you’re worried. If you’re concerned about getting fired because your boss didn’t ask about your child’s piano recital, you’re anxious.”

“Worry tends to be more focused on thoughts in our heads, while anxiety is more visceral in that we feel it throughout our bodies.”

That last one really hits home for me. My anxiety around people impacts me physically. On occasion I have a duty that requires that I speak publicly. The last time this was required my anxiety got the better of me and while practicing the presentation my blood pressure spiked so high that I went into a full headache and nose bleed while practicing my first run through (I know that sounds crazy but it is true). The energy I need to get on stage and speak to a crowd is consuming of all my physical and mental energy. The insanity of this is that logically I know that I am prepared, capable, and encouraged to present. Why my body reacts with such stress is beyond me.

The question then dear reader is your life full of worry or anxiety? How much do the cares and troubles of this world paralyze your life? Hopefully we are all fortunate that worry is limited to practical and productive problem solving in a sin cursed world. While I do live an anxious life (at one time even writing this blog in front of the world would have been too much for me) I prayerfully live that life in submission to God’s desires for me. I serve him and if he wants me on a stage speaking before a crowd then I will summon courage not from myself but from Christ.

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Luke 12:22-25 ESV

The reality is that anxiety does not add to life but takes away hours and days. Jesus speaking to the disciples tells them not to be anxious in serving him. If they can learn to trust him and draw strength from him for the basics like food and clothing then the they can trust him with power that changes lives.

26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Luke 12:26 ESV

It is natural and normal to worry about practical issues that are right in front of you. But take to heart the words of Paul and submit your cares and anxiety to Christ. Bring him everything. Nothing is too small or too trivial for God provides even our daily bread.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

Gift’s are for God’s Glory

clang

I have taken many kinds of strength profiles, and career assessment tools over the years. There are two that stand out. The first is the one I took through the high school. What stood out in this skills assessment that was given to all of the students were the results. It provided job and career ideas related to the category one fit within. I remember this because one of the job suggestions was Mineralogist. I was the only person that got this recommendation. I did not even know how to get into this field or what it would involve. It is certainly not something that any high school person I knew wanted to grow up to be. The second profile test that I remember was in college. The pastor of my church was taking the smaller Wednesday night crowed through a biblically based spiritual gifts assessment and to my surprise “teacher” was on the top of the list. At that time teacher was the last job that made up my passions. I showed the results to the pastor and told him the test was broken. Every person is given skills and gifts. The science behind tests like these can be informative about our personality and what we might be good at and bad at in life. Both of those tests were not wrong in their suggestions even if I was unaware of my own self at that time. We all have gifts and skills the question is to what end will we use these gifts?

In some Church cultures, there is a powerful desire to speak in tongues or speak prophecy. These miraculous type gifts are elevated to a high standing and become a mark of someone who has attained significant favor from God. While these gifts are included in the Biblical narrative and may be true in contemporary society the real question I want to know is to what end are these gifts sought and used? Paul clearly states that the Holy Spirit gives gifts for the good of the Body of Christ so that the Church will be equipped to carry out God’s will.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV

Whatever gifts the Spirit has given whoever God has created an individual to be then in turn Christians must not be proud about that strength and one should not seek visible gifts for status or control. Just a few lines later Paul gets specific to warn the Corinthians about the role of these gifts.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV

Those who are saved and part of the body have a purpose in the Church. The Holy Spirit will gives a desire and skill to accomplish that roll. These gifts work together to accomplish God’s plans. When people attempt to use them in the strength of man or for a selfish purpose then how does God get the glory for what is accomplished? Lecrae in his song Chase That speaks of the worst type of sin and that is the sin of selfish ambition while claiming to do it for God.

[the Devil] lies to us all, told Adam he could ball
“why you following God when you can go get it all?”
I tell you what’s better, or better yet worse.
chasing your own glory while doing the Lord’s work,
so holla if it hurts, but we were made for greater
our greatest satisfaction is making His name famous

The mark of someone serving God is Love. They have a love for God and a love for their fellow man.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV

Love makes the gift useful. Service inside the body with Faith, Hope, and most importantly Love is used by God for His purpose. Do you love God? Are you broken to love others more than yourself? If so then go and obey what God has placed on your heart for His Glory.

* Revised and Edited. Originally published on Human Effort May 2014.

Here I am! Send Me.

woe

If God is the same today as he was yesterday then he is constant never changing. If God changed something from wrong to right then he would not be God and he would not be perfect. God can’t change and God will not change.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19 ESV

The consistency of God is a blessing because the rules are set. The goal posts are not moving. The anger of sports fans when the officials are inconsistent is real and justified. Much of political discourse boils down to pointing out the person on the other side that did the same immoral behavior without consequence. Everyone wants consistent rules to play by and God is the perfect law giver and sustainer of those rules in life.

There are people who want to bend the rules to benefit themselves. This raw selfishness is the stuff of life and it takes ugly form in injustice. Those in power pull the ladder up after themselves. They pass rules that prevent others from the benefits of wealth they themselves enjoy. Politicians rig the system in favor of certain elites. Dictators take from the innocent to give to those with blood on their hands. In Israel before exile Isaiah warned the leaders that God would not tolerate breaking the rules.

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! Isaiah 5:21-23 ESV

Justice is a hot topic today. Supporting a business because of their social justice cause is popular and makes one feel good about themselves. Asking people to affirm the life styles of others is a fashionable way to root out bigotry and a wonderful way to make sure everyone knows what side of humanity one lives. The most current craze in this trend are teens and pre-teens who are telling the world they are not male or female, straight or gay, in their gender and sexual orientation (see Miley Cyrus being “pansexual”).

 In his book, the Benedict Option, Rod Dreher quotes from a poster to his blog “There’s nothing like having your twelve-year-old come home from school and start ticking off which of her classmates are bi, the reader said, “I told my daughter it was statistically impossible for there to be that many bisexual students in her class, and that for most girls – and they were all girls – seventh grade was entirely too early to make pronouncements on their sexuality. In return, I got a lot of babble about gender being fluid and nonbinary.” This is what children are being taught is true and they are aware of the shaming of anyone who does not celebrate the new norms.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 ESV

When I was younger the argument was “I was born this way”. Today such limiting options are not sustainable because everyone wants to be included in the celebration of the movement. Now born this way is irrelevant. Gender and sexual preference are “fluid” moving in whatever direction society wants it to move. God however has set boundaries and rules. Isaiah warned the people of his time “Woe to those” who break and bend the set rules of God the creator. Life lived contrary to God’s perfect law is not sustainable.

What is the “Woe” that Isaiah was warning about? What are the ramifications of ignoring God’s perfect plan? In Isaiah’s day, the woe was an incoming army that would destroy society. Israel as a nation was destroyed ending the rules they had set for themselves. It is hard to sustain rebellion against God when life becomes only about survival and death.

24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. 26 He will raise a signal for nations far away, and whistle for them from the ends of the earth; and behold, quickly, speedily they come! Isaiah 5:24-26 ESV

While that fate was pronounced on the nation of Israel in those generations what does such a “Woe” mean to the contemporary reader? First read into this a “Woe” on all the nations vs trying to tie it back to America. While God certainly could have America ruled by some other nation let the reader take a larger view of God’s intentions toward human kind of today. Second how does this Woe stand in relation to the revelation of Jesus Christ? In verse 24 above it states they have “rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One”. If the people and the society reject God and his Holy One, Christ, then what more can be done? Shall the game be continued to be played by these rules? Shall the creation say to the Creator “No more of you”? Christ has come to give life but if the people only want death then maybe his return is imminent.

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:36-39 ESV

No more armies from a faraway land will be needed to restore a lawless society. Christ himself will come like a flood sweeping away the disorder and the sin that has overcome societies. Third and finally in this “Woe” is the commission of those who are saved by Christ.

5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:5-8 ESV

Reader know that you can have the guilt and the rebellion atoned for in Christ. God himself will restore people who are currently breaking every rule. Real life and relationship with the Creator is possible, real, and wonderful. God is calling “Whom shall I send” who will live truth over lies, right over wrong, and sweet over bitter? I pray the answer be “Here I am! Send me.”

The Hard Work of Discipline

prize

Discipline is a word that brings up the concept of short term pain for long term gain. No pain; no gain the adage goes. Discipline also brings up the idea of how to correct unruly behavior in children. To spank or not to spank? Spare the rod spoil the child. While these two views of discipline are similar they are not the same. And in our relationship with Christ both have implications. The Bible speaks of discipline a great deal. In modern translations like NIV or ESV one can find the word from 40 to 50 times. But in an older translation like the King James version it is only used once. The King James translation liked the word “chasten”. Whatever changes have occurred to the English language over time the idea of discipline has not become any less important.

Discipline #1: The engagement of the believer in Christ to organize life in such a way that the relationship and service to God is more effective.

Living a life that puts Christ and His priorities first is not easy. There are varying degrees of success in this endeavor. Some people have lived amazing miraculous lives that are examples to us all. Some have been called saints and some have died unknown and forgotten to all but God. But others seem to barely understand the Christ that saved them. Their lives seem undistinguished from the rest of the world. What separates these two extremes is discipline in Christ. Those who show Christ have lives marked by life of discipline that maximizes praying, reading, loving, serving, and sharing God with the world. They became intentional as some level and through discipline bent their desires to be subject to Christ. The power of this relationship becomes accelerated through the discipline and self-denial of one who is seeking Christ first.

11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 ESV

The author of Hebrews states that in the moment discipline seems painful. The King James translation uses the word “chasten” which means a moderating and restraining effect. This kind of discipline is talking about how adults correct mistakes in their life and how they learn to curb the passions of life. Fasting is not fun. Serving others is a chore. Denying a life of hedonism does not seem all that wonderful to those who are young. But later on, from the other side of chasing Christ is a peace and comfort of a life lived as God intended.

Discipline #2: The act of a perfect Father correcting a child and training a child for the future.

God is no passive Creator that is only now watching his creation evolve. God became a man and died on a cross to reconcile people to Himself. God is actively involved in the life of every single person. For those whom God calls son or daughter he will correct and discipline. God has not left his children without a way or without his love.

19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:19 ESV

The loving correction of a Father may produce tears in the child but this kind of correction sets a child on a path to a life well lived. God’s correction will set one to life eternal. God’s correction will draw one closer and will allow one to respect Him and His plans for life more. It is no accident that listed along with the types of sin that will destroy a man are those that are disobedient to their parents.

29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:29-32 ESV

If honoring parents made it into the 10 Commandments how much more so is the obedience of submitting to a heavenly father’s correction and discipline.

These two forms of discipline are vital. First is the loving correction of God to remove and cutout sinful behavior and second the effort and restraint where we choose to organize our lives around prayer, church, fasting, and serving to know him better. Together these disciplines done through Christ will draw us nearer to the prize of life in eternity.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 ESV

And now for the Payoff

payoff

I watched a military leader of some stripe promoting a new book he had written called Make Your Bed and he had written it as a wisdom book about being successful in life. His wisdom being that making the bed first thing starts the day in the right direction. This act establishes discipline and therefore allows more accomplishment as the day moves on. Very sound wisdom… Maybe my life could be more successful if I become more disciplined? Success and being successful is a huge motivator for most people and that raises some questions for me on what it is we expect from this life.

A large percentage of people might agree with the following statement… “When I grow up and am done with this life I want all my arduous work and effort to payoff.” This is the heart of much advertising especially around sports. The problem is how many people start a work and never see it realized? How many have died before seeing their children grow? How many have been taken advantage of and lost everything they ever saved? How many refugees are forced to move because of war leaving behind everything including family? A wise man once complained of how evil it is that a stranger might enjoy the work of someone else’s toil and savvy.

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. Ecclesiastes 6:1-2 ESV

What are you committed to right now? A sport? A way to become famous? What if you fail? What if all the work does not pay off? Is the work still worth it? If all that you have is taken by a government or lost in war is the life still worth living? These are questions that many people the world over have had to not only ponder but live out.

While coming up short on some major desire or plan for life might be a “grievous evil” what about the person who abandon’s everything to follow God’s call and God’s promise but never sees it fulfilled? In Hebrews, the chapter on faith, the author points out this problem that many of the Old Testament believers experienced first hand.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Hebrews 11:13 ESV

God called them to live an unusual life, many times not a pleasant life, and showed them a future promise that they would not live to experience. Dear Reader would you tolerate such a situation? These men and women not only tolerated such a seeming disappointment they are commended for their faith and trust in God’s bigger picture. Note what it says they came to understand. That they were strangers and exiles on this earth and this life. They understood that this is not their home. Strive, work, make your bed, and be successful. However take stock in why and for what reason one desires success. In the statement “When I grow up and am done with this life I want all my arduous work and effort to payoff.” The real question is what is the payoff at the end of all that work and success?

12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:12 ESV

If the payoff is not God’s grace and the fellowship as a son or daughter through Christ in eternity then that successful life lived will be dedicated to an earth that is not home and will not last.

Jesus Got Married

Psalm 45 is a wedding song that points to a divine King with an eternal kingdom. This king is blessed beyond any other king and hold favor from God like none before or after. This king is going to be married.

6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; Psalm 45:6-7 ESV

The Bride is of royalty herself and a subject of the king. She will bow to the king and be a part of his kingdom going forward.

9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. 10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, 11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him. Psalm 45:9-11 ESV

This marriage speaks of a unique King and Bride because they will rule eternally. There is only one eternal King and his name is Jesus. The idea that Jesus will be married is a shock to some since it is well known Jesus did not take a wife when he was on earth. God’s plans and future for His perfect kingdom are documented in advance and Psalm 45 is the song He had written in advance of the wedding day. So, the question one might have is what Bride would be worthy of Jesus? What bride will spend eternity ruling with Christ?

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Revelation 21:1-3 ESV

The new Jerusalem prepared as a “bride adorned” for her husband. A holy Kingdom where Christ is married to the people in the city where “the dwelling place of God is with man”.

Paul builds on this truth throughout his letters. He plainly tells the church to be faithful as one who is engaged to be married. Paul also brings forth the promises that a dutiful husband holds in laying down his life for his wife.

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2 ESV

If you call Christ Lord, then know he is your eternal King and you will be joined with Him in heaven. Be faithful, purse holiness, and flee from the distractions of this temporary world. The new Jerusalem is where he will rule and it is where the joy of a perfect union will be found.

 Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! Psalm 40:4 ESV

Mistakes were Made Fault is Found

better

Why is this world so messed up? There are some truly evil things, people, and circumstances that make any caring person angry. Life is hard and many make bad choices that compound the difficulty of life. If God made everything then one can naturally look toward this Creator and ask the question. “Why!?” Why is life so hard, so short, and miserable for so many? Why can the evils around the world of people murdering other people continue? What God are you doing to fix the mess?

Mostly the answer to these questions is found in an understanding of the nature of the fall and curse brought on by man’s rebellion. Essentially this world is temporary and the imperfect nature of this world is a direct result of men choosing to live selfish lives. The Bible is the story of God’s personal intervention into His creation to draw people to himself. Personally, I have struggled to understand why God would need a “new” testament in His plans to restore the relationship with mankind. Did God make a mistake with the “old” testament?

6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. Hebrews 8:6 ESV

Obviously, the ministry of Christ is superior to the old testament laws and sacrifices. Why it is “enacted on better promises” I will leave for another discussion, however for now the question is was the old way a mistake. Did God make a mistake?

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. Hebrews 8:7 ESV

The author of Hebrews seems to indicate that yes, the Old Testament had a fault so God did make a mistake. His laws, prophets, and priests where not sufficient so he needed a do over. But that idea that the first covenant had a fault is not consistent with a God who is all knowing and perfect. God can’t make mistakes because if he did then he would cease to be God.

The mistake however was not on God’s part. In the same way that the evil of men and the nature of life on this world being cursed is not God’s fault so too is the fact that the Old Testament’s fault is not God’s mistake. The author of Hebrews clarifies where the fault falls…

8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. Hebrews 8:8-9 ESV

The mistake is on “them” the people when they did not continue following the perfect plans that God laid out. God who saved the people from slavery and provided for them a perfect religion and God to worship rejected him. They followed their own ways and chased after gods of stone and hedonism. The fault was the rejection by the people of the perfect religion and relationship with God.

God made no mistake. Through the law, God showed people why their relationship with Him is broken. The Old Testament proves that on our own we cannot and will not meet His perfect standards.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19-20 ESV

Jesus being “enacted on better promises” comes to earth. Jesus being God in the flesh completely fulfills the Old Testament covenant on our failed behalf. Jesus, who is God, lives a perfect life. The better promise that Jesus is founded on is his giving us credit for the perfect life he lived by imparting Jesus into our hearts. We will know who God is at our very core.

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12 ESV

My prayer: Father my hope is in you. My prayer is that you would place your law and your ways into the mind and heart of all people, men, women, and children that draw near to you. I pray that you would ready us all to draw near to you. Thank you Father for allowing us to know you, to fellowship with you, and for remembering our sins no more. In the name of Jesus, I pray.