Category Archives: Belief

Angry hearts aren’t free hearts

‘You shall not murder.” (Deuteronomy 5:17 ESV).

This is the immoral, careless killing of another (murder), but also includes the death of another because of negligence or carelessness (manslaughter).  This verb is never used when describing killing in war so apparently there is a distinction.  The bible prohibits murder because we are image bearers (Genesis 1:26–27; 9:6); we have special status as being reflectors of God’s glory in a unique way.  So murder is, in a way, an attack on God.

The polar opposite of murder (fueled by hate) is love as highlighted in Leviticus 19:17-18:  ““You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”

Loving our neighbor is repeated in the New Testament by Jesus, Paul & James:

  • Matthew 22:37–40:  “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.””
  • Romans 13:9:  “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Galatians 5:14:  “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”
  • James 2:8:  “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.”

Jesus’ teaching on this in the Sermon on the Mount gets to the real heart of the problem:  anger.  ““You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21–24 ESV).  If you are angry, then your heart is not free.  Jesus knows that if He gets our hearts under control then our actions will follow.  He is restoring His image within us so that we actually are becoming more human (as God designed us to be).  We can’t kill anger any more than we can produce love on our own – we need outside assistance!  Let us place ourselves in proximity to God’s grace by our spiritual disciplines and let us plead with Him to change our hearts, motivations & affections.

Worried?

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
O Israel,trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.
The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great.
May the LORD give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth!
The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!” (Psalms 115:1–18 ESV)

All that’s left to do is trust God. But that just happens to be the hardest thing for a human being to do. If it were natural to us, everyone would happily follow Jesus, and divided allegiances would be an aberration. But trust isn’t natural, and divided allegiances are the norm. We are all guilty of little faith and, to make things worse, it isn’t enough to simply understand this. Acknowledging the diagnosis does not automatically lead to a cure. You can confess it, and worry will creep in even during your confession! The cure is not to simply know what the problem is. The cure is to know the one we are called to trust. Keep looking at the triune God and how he has revealed himself throughout history. Don’t spend your time focusing on your wavering allegiances.

How do you seek the kingdom? When you seek the King, you are seeking his kingdom. This kingdom includes everything that comes from him. It includes his law, his grace and mercy, his blessings of life, adoption, and holiness, and all his promises throughout Scripture. Those who seek him feed on his Word and seek to imitate him.

Are you worried? Jesus says there is nothing to worry about. It isn’t our kingdom, it is God’s. We take our cue from the King, and the King is not fretting over anything.

He is in complete control.”

by Edward T. Welch, Dec 17, p 352.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

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Forgiven

““Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 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, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”” (Jeremiah 31:31–34 ESV)

“Is the evidence of having forgiven someone forgetting what he has done to you? Jeremiah 31:34 is often quoted, where God says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

There are at least two problems with this understanding of forgiveness. First, it is not realistic. Trying to forget a sin someone has committed against you will only encourage you to remember it. Completely erasing an offense from your memory is not realistic. Second, it is not biblical. Our omniscient God does not forget anything! The word “remember” in Jeremiah 31:34 is not a memory word, but a promise word, a covenant word. God is promising that when we confess our sins, “I will not treat you as your sins deserve. Instead, I will forgive you.” Forgiveness is a past promise you keep in the future. It is very important to understand these two dimensions of forgiveness. If you don’t, you will veer off in one of two equally wrong directions: (1) You will be plagued with doubts about whether you have forgiven someone because you think that forgiving equals forgetting.

Or (2) you will give in to bitterness because you think that, since you have forgiven someone in the past, you are allowed to hold onto the vestiges of hurt in the present. Neither reflects the way God has forgiven us.”

by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp, May 26, p 147.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

Abandoning Idolatry

“‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Deuteronomy 5:8–10 ESV).

God’s revelation to His people was audible, and therefore they should not create a physical image of the Almighty.  He is not physical and nothing that we could craft would accurately represent His glory and majesty.  He is eternal, infinite and almighty – nothing created can capture this.  Carved images were common to represent other gods (especially in Egypt and Canaan).  God is not limited or created, He is eternal and outside of the created order and is not only in one place at one time.  God had dramatically demonstrated that He is so far above competing deities by the plagues in and deliverance from Egypt that the people would likely have recalled this.  See Deuteronomy 4:12, 15–19, 23.  Additionally, God is a jealous God, visiting iniquity to the 3rd and 4th generation.  This is not God punishing, rather this is feeling the effects of our ancestors sins.  But, God is so benevolent because He shows steadfast love to those who are His in heart and showers them with love, mercy and grace for thousands of generations!

How often do we look to created things instead of the Creator of all things?  How often does the weight of our worship (think worth-ship) fall upon these created things.  This seems to be one of the central battles of the human heart.  To what are you looking to provide you with value, significance, worth, safety, security, meaning or love?  What do you dream about happening that you think will make life work or that you can’t live without?  That is the idol that you worship.

Why We Worry

Do not be anxious about your life. (MATTHEW 6:25)

“Why do we worry? Because we don’t believe. We’re not really convinced the same Jesus who can keep a sparrow in the air knows where our lost luggage is, or how we’ll pay that car repair bill. Or if we believe He can deliver us through our difficulties, we doubt if He will. We let Satan sow seeds of doubt in our minds about God’s love and care for us.

The great antidote to anxiety is to come to God in prayer about everything. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Nothing’s too big for Him to handle or too small to escape His attention. Paul said we’re to come to God “with thanksgiving.” We should thank Him for His past faithfulness in delivering us from troubles. We should thank Him for the fact that He’s in control of every circumstance of our lives and that nothing can touch us that He doesn’t allow. We should thank Him that in His infinite wisdom He’s able to work in this circumstance for our good. We can thank Him that He won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The promised result is not deliverance, but the peace of God. One of the reasons we don’t find this peace is that all too often we won’t settle for anything other than deliverance from the trouble. But God, through Paul, promises us peace, a peace that is unexplainable. It will guard our hearts and minds against the anxiety to which you and I are so prone.”

Gerald Bridges;Jerry Bridges. Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey Devotional (p. 81). Kindle Edition.

We are visually impaired

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

This is one of the most well known verses in all of scripture among Christians.  It is used to motivate people to live godly lives and accomplish great feats for the kingdom of God.  But the real question is how in the world is Paul able to say this when he has suffered so greatly for the cause of Christ.  He pens these words to the Philippians while in a Roman prison.  His logic is death would be better than life because he would get to be with Christ, while life means that he would get to continue for their progress and joy in the faith (v25).  Who talks like this?  Who says, “I’d rather die than live?”  He sees something that we don’t see and knows something that we don’t know.  It is easy to discount this as just Paul, after all he was an apostle and wrote over ½ of the New Testament.  But the same Power that was at work in Paul, is at work within us.  We are visually impaired, Paul was not – he saw things clearly.  “Oh Lord, enlighten the eyes of our hearts to see your beauty and to believe that knowing & loving You causes all things in this world pale in comparison.  Lord, make You our Greatest Treasure.”

The role of scripture is to reveal God to us

“Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” (Nehemiah 2:17–18 ESV)

Was it a surprise to anyone that they were in jeopardy because of the disrepair of the wall?  No.  A city’s wall was an integral part of its defense from outside invasion.  It provided safety, security and a place where people could live and prosper without fear.  So why hadn’t they rebuilt the wall before now?  Perhaps fear, perhaps a lack of leadership or resources, perhaps opposition.  But, why rebuild now?  Was it because Nehemiah was inspirational or especially gifted.  Maybe.  It seems more likely that it was because the “hand of my God had been upon me for good” (verse 18).  God had appointed the reconstruction for this time and Nehemiah to lead the effort and God’s hand was upon him in this effort.  Avoid the risk of running to scripture looking for self-help tips for being a better dad, husband, father, leader or worker.  You will find some help for these areas of your life in scripture, but that is not its intent.  We need to run to the scriptures to see God, plain and simple.  We need to ask God to incline our hearts toward Him and to obey Him (Psalm 119:36, 112).  Without a doubt we ought to be better men, husbands, fathers or leader’s, but that is not the end game.  The end game is an all satisfying pursuit of God that as our ultimate treasure in life.

Whose agenda are you pursuing – yours or God’s?

“So I prayed to the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 2:4 ESV)
“for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (Nehemiah 2:8 ESV)
“my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:12 ESV)

Nehemiah surveys the disrepair of the city wall at night (on the Southern & Eastern side) Nehemiah 2:11-15).  It is worth noting how Nehemiah views the task before Him:  “my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:12 ESV).  Nehemiah has a clear understanding of Who is driving the bus, Who is directing the show, Who’s work this is.  We often times seek out Nehemiah for leadership tips, but let us never forget that first and foremost Nehemiah is about a man who understands that he is utterly dependent upon the Creator for everything.  He is a model for us on what being faithful to God looks like – but Nehemiah seems to always remember that the work was not his to accomplish, but God’s.  If our service to God (whether formally or informally) is not marked by God’s divine intervention then we need to evaluate if we are pursuing our agenda or God’s agenda – and in who’s power we are trying to accomplish it.

Let us confidently draw near to God

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:19–25 ESV)
“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” (Hebrews 10:34 ESV)

Since we’re forgiven, the alter is closed, and our sacrifices are no longer accepted,

  • Let us confidently draw near to God because of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, the great high priest.  His sacrifice ripped the veil (signifying separation from God; Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45), in two.  v19-22
  • Let us draw near because of Jesus’ atoning work that cleanses the inner parts of us and creates hearts that long to worship rightly! v19-22
  • Let us hold fast to this truth, and not waiver.  Our battle is one of belief. v23
  • Let us consider how to stir up (provoke) one another up to love and good deeds. v24.  This is not a solo endeavor, but a community effort – as we seek to meet together to encourage, challenge and bolster belief, we provoke one another to love and service.
  • Let us remember that this is not our home – a better, eternal, perfect inheritance is in store for those who believeThis hope is the fuel for joy.  v34
  • Let us remember that our right standing before God has nothing to do with us, our performance or progress, but solely on the perfectly lived life and sacrificial death of Jesus.  LET US LIVE BY FAITH (trust in Another).  v38.

In light of this, endure, persevere, stay faithful, make your salvation sure, stick with it, do not lose hope – for God Himself will keep you.  “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” (Hebrews 10:39 ESV)