Category Archives: Righteousness

Being a Positive Influence

Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all created by the same God? Then why do we betray each other, violating the covenant of our ancestors?

Judah has been unfaithful, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. The men of Judah have defiled the Lord’s beloved sanctuary by marrying women who worship idols. May the Lord cut off from the nation of Israel every last man who has done this and yet brings an offering to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.  Mal 2:10-12

This section of Malachi deals with the condemnation of the Jews who intermarried with women of other nations.  Ezra and Nehemiah chronicle how this was happening:

After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. Ezra 9:1

Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. Neh 13:23

It shows us that it is important to keep ourselves away from negative influences.

Ken has been really big on this lately.  He’s been listening to lessons by David Bercot, who espouses that Christians should maintain a strict purity of life.  Bercot says we need to be very vigilant against letting the world corrupt us through the media, etc, and monitor what we watch and listen to.  He says we even need to be vigilant against not letting worldly Christians corrupt us.

And then yesterday when Mike was preaching, he read, “bad company corrupts good character” in I Corinthians 15:33.  He said that we shouldn’t be best friends or spend much time with those whose lives aren’t centered around the resurrection of Christ.  I must confess, that sounded a little extreme to me, but I understand where he is coming from.  We don’t mean to, but we really do become like those we hang around with.

So maybe we’re not guilty of being married to someone who worships other gods, but what kind of detestable practices do we tolerate?  How often do we look the other way?

Ken and I were listening to Proverbs when we were driving up to Atlanta this past weekend, and we heard this convicting verse: “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”  Prov. 25:26

Do we give way before the wicked?  What do we do when our friends and coworkers cuss, lie, gossip, make sexual innuendos, and so forth?  Do we try to separate ourselves?  Or have we become so inured that we just carry on, or even join in?

Do we really think we can be keep ourselves from being polluted?  I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we can see that we ARE affected by proximity to the world, be it through the people we’re around, or the things we allow ourselves to engage in.  Either we are tempted by it, or our hearts are hardened to it, and it doesn’t seem as bad anymore.

And, like a virus, our  pollution becomes contagious.  “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?”  II Cor 5:6  We can’t fool ourselves.  Others Christians will do what we do, and they will be affected by it as well.

That brings me to one of the most convicting parts of this passage in Malachi:  “why do we betray one another?”   As it says, we are all children of the same Father, and when we cohabit with the world, we betray our sisters and brothers because we are not helping them have a pure holy life, with a hunger only for God.  Instead, we’re helping them to have a hunger for other things.  I have been realizing more and more how necessary it is that we feed our heart with good things, and not with junk that clogs our spiritual arteries and diminishes the flow of our love for God.

In the end, I don’t know how to sort all of this out.  We don’t want to become monks or Amish.  But I do think we need to be much more cognizant of how the world affects us, and how we affect others as we engage in the things we do.

I am going to close with a little story from this weekend.  Ken and I went to see our family and go to my granddaughter’s birthday party.  As we helped my daughter get ready for the party, my husband decided to scrub at some of my daughter’s walls, which had been scribbled on by the kids.  He knew that she was embarrassed to have the birthday guests see the walls, but hadn’t been able to clean them.  So my husband got a cloth and some cleaner, and applied a lot of painstaking elbow grease.  After awhile, my son saw him scrubbing, and got a cloth and helped too.  And they were able to get the walls clean, and it looked so much better!

My daughter told me later that it reminded her of Jesus, and how he washed his disciples’ feet.  Her dad washed the things that were dirty and embarrassing, that no one else wanted to work on.  And then his good deeds influenced her brother to wash as well.

Good deeds are contagious.  Bad ones are too.  Let’s make it our goal to live a holy life and be a positive influence, not be a negative one!

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. II Cor 7:1

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

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Filed under Holiness, Malachi, Righteousness, Servanthood, Uncategorized

Fighting for the Honor of God

“And now, you priests, this warning is for you.  If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.”   Mal 2:1-2

Yikes!  This is intense.  We see that honoring God is uber important!

But what does it mean to honor God?  Because it’s not just puffing him up so he looks good or feels good, the way we might honor someone in the world.

God goes on in chapter 2 of Malachi to give us an example of someone who DID honor him:

“And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty.  “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name.  True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.”

The Levi spoken of here is the tribe of Levi, who served God as his priests instead of getting an allotment of land like the other tribes.  But this passage probably also refers to Phinehas, the son of Aaron.  Phinehas was a pretty bold dude.  In Numbers 25, some of the Israelite men were committing sexual immorality with Moabite women, and worshiping their god, Baal Peor.  God was super mad about this.  He said these men needed to be put to death.  But before that could happen, an Israelite guy, in flagrant disregard for God, brought a Moabite woman to his tent right in the middle of the camp, in the sight of everyone.  So Phinehas stood up for the honor of God.  He got a spear and skewered both this man and his partner, killing them.

This totally impressed God.  He told Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal.  Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him.  He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”  Numbers 25:10-13

Because Phinehas was zealous for the honor of God, God spared the unfaithful men, and made a the covenant of peace with the priesthood.  This same covenant is the one that the priests at the time of Malachi weren’t keeping.

Phinehas was a prototype of what a priest should be, someone who stood up for what was right, and in doing so, saved people from destruction.  Let’s look at Malachi 2 again and see how God described the ideal priest as one who honored him, one who “revered” him and “stood in awe of his name.

First, it says that “True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. . . . For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.”   A priest speaks the whole truth.  He doesn’t water it down or shade it with his opinion.  This is important, because people are LOOKING for someone to tell them how to please God.  The want to know how to live a functional life, not a dysfunctional one.  They need the correct message.

Second, it says that “He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.”  A priest walks with God and by doing so, he keeps the people from walking away from God.  God doesn’t want anyone to go down a bad path.  I mean, I’m a parent.  When I was raising my kids, I wanted them to respect me.  But even more, I wanted them to make the right choices so they would have the full life I dreamed for them.

So a priest honors God by helping the people honor God, and so have the abundant fruitful life he created them to have.

Today, the Bible says in Peter that WE are priests:  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”   We help people to honor God by walking in obedience to him, so that it will go well with them.  We teach people that God is REAL and it MATTERS how they live their life.

Because that’s often why people don’t honor God.  They don’t think it matters.  They don’t realize that the reason their life feels out of whack isn’t because they need to get better at following the American dream, it’s because they need to get better at following God.

People are becoming less religious.  I just read a NBC news article about a study on current religious beliefs.  The study reports that the number of young adults who have serious doubts about the existence of God has doubled in the last 25 years.  It also reports that the percentage of people who believe that the Bible is “is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men, rather than the word of God” has gone up from 14% in 1984 to 22% in 2014.

We need to fight for the honor of God!  We need to be zealous for it, just as Phinehas was.

I have a couple of examples I’ve seen lately of people who are zealous for God’s honor.  One of my friends was at work, and her boss stated a belief that didn’t seem to jibe with the Bible.  Instead of just letting it pass, my friend spoke up and said she didn’t agree, and asked if she could email her boss some scriptures to think about.  My friend stood up for the integrity of the scriptures in a way that was bold, but also respectful.

On Wednesday night the members of my house church went out to share our faith and invite people to a special church service we’re having.  One of our members hadn’t done this before, but when he saw my fifty-something year old husband walking over to talk to some young men sitting on a bench, he jumped into motion.  “Ken needs someone young to help him,” he called to us as he ran over to share with the guys.  Afterwards, he was energized, and his face lit up with enthusiasm.  He loved going all out for the Lord.

THIS is the way to do it.  We go all out for the Lord, and we end up living our best life.

And then we need to help others live their best life, teaching them that God IS REAL, and it MATTERS how they live.

In practice, it’s so hard, I know.  But let’s let the words of God in Malachi 2 be a motivation for us to “resolve” to honor his name.

Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.  I Tim 4:16

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess”  Deut. 30:14

 

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Faithful in Relationships Part 4 — Utterly Awesome!

. . . if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.  II Tim 2:13

God is faithful.  Nothing we do can change that.

We will ALWAYS be on His heart.

Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD.
 Jer 31:20

His love is boundless, endless, measureless.  The more we realize it, the deeper it goes.

Every day we can discover new dimensions of God’s love and righteousness, and be in awe.

God is committed to us.  The question is: Will we be fully committed to Him?

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. II Chron. 16:9

Will we be committed to others?

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Prov 18:24

For this is what our soul craves.  This is what matters.

A God who has our back, who is our everything, who is our delight.

Friends who are partners.

And as we see more and more that we have this, WE ARE faithful, because it is our greatest joy.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you. . . Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live . . . Ps 63

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.  Ps 16:3

We SING and CELEBRATE, just as God celebrates us!

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. Ps 63:7

And when the world seems like dust around us, when chaos rules, when failure is palpable,when we are overwhelmed, the perfection of God that includes faithfulness is a lifeline.

As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. Ps 18:30

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.  Deut 32:4

Until finally, we are ready to commit to Him in intimacy our very spirit.  Trembling and vulnerable, we bring it out and lay it into His hands.

Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.  Ps 31:5

As our Savior did, we entrust our lives completely, because He is completely for us.

And when we do, in our Savior, faithfulness is multiplied.

We have the Spirit, an intercessor, forgiveness, freedom from sin, answers to our impossible prayers.  We are thoroughly equipped for every good work.

There is grace upon grace, and every spiritual blessing.

There is faithfulness so deep, so high, so all encompassing, so strong, how can we but walk in peace and fullness of heart?

For as the ultimate act of faithfulness, He gives us His righteousness as our own.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  II Cor 5:21

I will find joy in the LORD. I will delight in my God. He has dressed me in the clothes of salvation. He has wrapped me in the robe of righteousness like a bridegroom with a priest’s turban, like a bride with her jewels.  Isa 61:10

tia wedding

tia and Karl

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Beauty of God, Righteousness

Mind boggling!! Faithful in Relationships (Part 3)

God is committed to us.  We’ve been studying it, and it is rock solid true.

I can’t stop talking of it, and finding examples.  Chris Lucy did communion on Sunday and talked about Hosea.  What a fantastic illustration of God’s commitment to his people!  God told Hosea to marry an adulterous woman as a symbol of how God will be faithful to the adulterous nation, Israel.

The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

That is just amazing.  Anyone would think that Hosea should dump his wife for good, and yet he takes her back after she has been unfaithful over and over again.  The Israelites sinned against God time and time again, yet He was faithful to His relationship with them.

This is how He was faithful:  He PROVIDED a way for the relationship to endure.

As it says in Isaiah 59:16 about God,  “…he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him.

Through Jesus, God himself rescued Israel when she was mired in squalid unfaithfulness.

And at the same time He made available a rescue for all of us.  “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

Because that is who God is.  Look at Ps 40:1-3  I waited patiently for the LORD. He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay. He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure. He placed a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

God hears.  He is moved to the depths of his heart.  He cannot but act.

“I called on the LORD in my distress. I cried to my God for help. He heard my voice from his temple, and my cry for help reached his ears.  Then the earth shook and quaked. Even the foundations of the mountains trembled. They shook violently because he was angry. . . He reached down from high above and took hold of me. He pulled me out of the raging water.” (Ps 18)

You know, everyone loves Jeremiah 29 because of the passage, I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.”

But do we see this passage as a picture of God’s faithfulness in relationships?  Even though He would allow Israel to go into captivity, He would bring his people out again and shower them with abundant prosperity. “This is what the LORD says: When Babylon’s 70 years are over, I will come to you. I will keep my promise to you and bring you back to this place.”  Jer 29:10

And then it would be as Zephaniah prophesied: The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph  3:17)

Like the father of the prodigal son, God can’t wait to CELEBRATE his relationship with us. That relationship means everything to Him.

God is RIGHTEOUS. He won’t let us down.  He sticks to us like glue.  He will rescue us, even when we don’t deserve it.  He will answer our prayers.

Just let the immensity of that, and what it means for you, sink in for a moment.

And let it change your outlook, and your day.

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Relationship with God, Righteousness

Faithful in Relationships (Part 1)

Righteous God

One of the most life changing concepts I have been studying lately is righteousness.  I’ve blogged about it before, but the article that inspires me is “Right or Righteous” by Fred Faller.

The idea is that being righteous isn’t just doing the right thing according to a moral code.  Hebraic righteousness, that of the Bible, means doing right by someone.

Understanding this starts with the recognition that there are obligations associated with having a relationship.

The more I think about this, the more I realize this is true.  We gave a shower Saturday for our friend Tia.  Why did we give the shower?  Because she had been a part of our ministry, and we love her.  What kind of friends would we have been if we just wished her well and went on?  Having a relationship with Tia meant that of course we would celebrate her upcoming marriage with her and give her gifts.

IMG_6040

After that I went door knocking with Ken.  I was so tired, this was the LAST thing I wanted to do.  But my husband was motivated to do this, and I am his partner.  So I sucked it up and went out with him.

Friday night I got a phone call from my old friend Lin.  I could have let the call go to voicemail, but I answered.  Why?  Because I care about Lin.  I’m not going to blow her off.  Friends are there for one another.

Thursday my neighbor was having a tree cut down in his front yard, and it fell on my house and bent my gutter.  My neighbor made sure that I knew he would take care of getting the gutter fixed.  Why?  Because that’s what you should do for your neighbor if you mess up their property

I could go on and on.  Our days are filled with things we do for people because we have some level of a relationship with them.

God is the same way.  He does things for us, not simply because He is good.  We are his creation.  We are his people.  He cares about us.  And thus, He sees it as an obligation to take action on our behalf.

For God, love is not just a warm mushy feeling towards someone.  One Hebrew word for it is “checed,” “lovingkindness,” which can also be translated “covenant loyalties.”  God sees himself as bound to be loyal to His people.  That is His very nature.

The Hebrew word "checed"

So here is a great exercise for today.  As you go through your day, identify ways that you are fulfilling the obligations of a relationship.  Then try to see how God is the same way in His relationship with you.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matt 7:7-11

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Filed under Relationship with God, Righteousness