Author: kennethstuartbaker

Jesus Is Enough

jesus is enough

Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:5)

This Leviticus verse is a typical Old Testament command.  Very direct. But doable? Unfortunately, throughout the Old Testament, people’s obedience was too poor to be able to live up to this directive. They would try and fail. Try and fail. Over and over.

But there is one great Old Testament character, Abraham, who shows us a different and better way :

 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:6,9)

This truth started with Abraham 4,000 years ago. Then 2,000 years later, Paul showed how we can get that same credit. We get it through faith in Jesus Christ—if I believe God through Christ, that gives me a turbocharged deposit of righteousness credited to my own account.

That free deposit is the exact opposite of the default mode that I work in: a voice inside me asks whether I am doing “enough” good deeds. How easy it is to drift into the bogus view that being a Christian means that we must do more and more and more and more—- rather than having simple faith. When I get caught up in the “more and more” mentality, sometimes it is so exhausting that I am tempted to say, “Why bother?”

Paul knew how impossible it is to keep the commands on our own. We must die to our futile attempts at law keeping.

 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God (Galatians 2:19)

If “do more and more and more” Christianity is my law, I must die to that law so that Christ may live in me.

Then, I can discern what it means to live by faith in exactly the body, time, and environment that I have been placed into. I can then walk in the freedom of being set free to do good things because of the faith Christ has given to me and the power of Christ working in me.

What a delightful difference – – – instead of struggling to do “enough” good deeds as a slave to the law, I can now cheerfully do just the good that Christ tells me to.

Living by grace instead of law is a wonderful way to live! Today, dwell on this beautiful paradox: we are simultaneously personally bankrupt and fully empowered to have an abundant life through Christ.

Desires of My Heart

Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4)

Kid-in-Candy-Store-200x140

You mean I can get anything I want?
Like a kid in a candy store?
Or like the old Janis Joplin song: Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

Yes and no.

First, we need to consider a warning from the book of James.

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you
quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3)

Wow, what James says here sounds so negative. Does this mean I should never ask for something for myself?  That anything I ask for myself is automatically selfish? I need a way out of this trap!

Thankfully, God has made a way—it’s shown by what the prophet Ezekiel says.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

Good news: The Lord in whom we delight, is a Lord who loves us and loves to change us.

So, as I take delight in the Lord, the very things I desire begin to change.  As I delight in the Lord he changes the desires of my heart to align with what he wants…then I ask for them…and then he gives them to me.

It’s this new heart, that is not filled with envy and quarreling and fighting, that does ask for the right things with the right motives!

So back to the original question—does God like to give us stuff? Yes, you can see him liking to give a good vacation. Or to provide a runner like me with some injury-free running. Definitely it is more likely to be a yes if we ask from soft heart… the Lord may yet say no, but…our new heart knows we are on the right track walking with him as we ask. We delight when the answer is “yes” and are content if it’s “no”.

Today’s takeaway: Our new heart of flesh asks for the right things and our new heart is at peace with God’s answer.

 

 

Praising in Spite of the Slop

pig eating slop

LORD, our Lord,
     how majestic is your name in all the earth ! (Psalm 8:1)

The pig food above stands for all the slop that permeates our world.

And since we live in a fallen world, it’s easy to see many things that fall short. Some may be quite trivial, but others are life-threatening —King David faced many threats to his life, and even resorted to hiding in caves.

But in Psalm 8 David does something very curious. As David praised, he overlooked the slop. His enemies were actively, and viciously plotting against him.  Yet throughout this entire Psalm he proclaimed God’s majesty.

Does this mean that David lived in a la-la state of denial, pretending the slop of evil and sin did not exist?  No, in Psalm 11 David does mention the slop. He asks questions like, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (verse 3) However, even while being acutely aware of the slop, David’s overarching theme is:

“In the Lord I take refuge” (Psalm11:1a) despite the mishaps and slop.

For us today: do we agree that God is majestic in all the earth, despite things going on that appear  to contradict that truth?  If yes, then we are starting to see what it means to walk by faith:

 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:)
 For we live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

In context, both verses say we should have a hope of eternity in our lives. We look forward to the time when God removes all the slop. Then, we shall see all we hoped for. In the meantime, we trust, knowing how God’s in control even when we can’t see it.

Are we able, like David, to spend times in unadulterated praise? As the song 1says, “Let’s for – get about our – selves  And magnify the Lord and worship Him”.

  1.  https://www.jamesarthurreed.org/public/chord-sheets/We%20Have%20Come%20Into%20His%20House.pdf

 

Desperate for Calm?

May your love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles without number surround me (Psalm 40:11b-12a)

peace in storm pale

There are always troubles of one kind or another just from living in this fallen world of ours.  Each day these difficulties can bug and trouble me if I let them, even when I am much less exposed to troubles than many, many other people.  One recent example was when I felt frustrated that something that wasn’t working correctly on an internet site login—only to realize that the silly problem would be automatically resolved by simply logging in one day later –there was no rush– why did I fret?

The Psalmist had a good experience of the Father’s protection. But he lived before the coming of Jesus. We, however, have the huge benefit of being able to enter into and dwell in the Son’s presence. Because we can, we have an amazing, special way to experience supernatural calm.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phillippians 4:7) 

The Bible encourages us to have mature scriptural wisdom. I love studying the Bible; I have many verses in memory; I have a mental understanding of many concepts — but that can only go so far. For despite what I think I know, I am puzzled when I do not get answers to prayer right away or see why God is doing or allowing something.

It’s times like this when I desperately need God’s peace!

And there’s something beyond our knowledge even greater than God’s peace—it’s Christ’s love.

Paul prays that Christians  May have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

When we are in the middle of a storm and everything is hitting the fan, I agree with Paul—I pray that you and I be filled with Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge!

Judge Not?? [Part 2]

angry-judge

The Apostle Paul issues a rebuke because a guy is sleeping with his stepmother. He says:

I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. (1 Corinthians 5:3b)

And then we read what Paul says in Colossians 3:5:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

We might say “What gives Paul the right to judge like this? Is he on a holier-than-thou high horse, superior to everyone?”

Well, first off, he is aware that he, too, is a sinner:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus 
came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)

Taking being a sinner seriously would surely act as a constraint on Paul being self-righteous. Since Paul knows he is the chief of sinners, he is not quick to judge, but…. he does judge.

How does Paul judge?

Look at this verse from the Amplified version which captures Paul’s heart 
well:
Brethren, if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you 
who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] 
should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of 
superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, 
lest you should be tempted also. (Galatians 6: 1)

Why does Paul judge?

Paul desires anyone who falls into sin to turn and grow to be more like Jesus. See the result:

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Takeaway for us:

  • Before we rebuke we need to examine our own heart
  • We rebuke in order to see someone increasingly filled with the love of Christ.

Judge Not?? [Part 1]

Judge-not

In recent years, the doctrine of “non-judgmentalism” is becoming more and more popular.

Non-judgmentalism means that you are not allowed to declare something wrong.  If you do declare something wrong, then you are guilty of being “judgmental”. To attempt to prove this, part of what Jesus said is trotted out: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”.

So, if, as a Christian, you make any sort of moral judgment, the non-judgmentalist says “So you claim to be a Christian? Jesus did not judge. Who are you to judge?”

But let’s respond by considering Jesus’ whole quote.

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.    For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)

So, Jesus is not issuing a blanket order against judging, but rather is emphasizing having the right attitude when we do judge.

See how Jesus deals with a woman caught in adultery. As her accusers are preparing to stone her to death, Jesus says “You who are without sin, cast the first stone.” (John 8:7b) His intervention prevents the woman from being stoned to death.

But Jesus’ final words to the woman are often overlooked:

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)

So, Jesus did not tell her: “Who am I to judge?” He is judging, but his attitude is much more “I am grieved that you are doing this” …. than “Ha, Gotcha!”

Think of the mercy of Jesus showed when, instead of condemning us, he died on the cross for us. In the light of this price Christ paid for us, how could we dare to judge with a harsh attitude? Doesn’t Jesus make us merciful people?

Do we render our judgment tempered with mercy? Or prefer to risk judgment without mercy? It’s the very attitude we judge with that will be applied back to us

A “Gotcha” will be repaid with a “Gotcha”. A merciful attitude when correcting someone will be repaid with the same mercy.

Bite the Bullet

angif-bite-the-bullet-def

Today I’m giving two translations of a well-known verse. One translation makes our lives look like the bullet-biting picture above. The other one gives us hope.

The verse is Philippians 2:4. First, the translation that makes life very hard for us, from the New International Version:

 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Here is what’s so discouraging about this translation: It looks like we are not ever allowed to ever take some time for rest or something we simply enjoy doing; that would be selfish. We must be 100% dedicated to the service of others 24/7. We must bite the bullet.

The NIV translation is especially harmful for someone with a sensitive conscience. Reading it recently, I felt all beat up since I surely don’t measure up to it. How could I ever please Jesus? So, using the interlinear Bible1, I researched what the verse said in the original.  The meaning is quite different!

The King James Version captures the original Greek meaning perfectly.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Of more recent translations, the New American Standard translation is spot on too: do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

So, I saw the Lord is not saying for me to never think of myself, but to think of myself in the right way.

All day long, Christ is present in us, via his Spirit.  Both when we’re giving ourselves to help others and when we are enjoying personal downtime, we can still enjoy the presence of the Lord. For myself, that means the Lord is present even when spending an evening out listening to music at a jazz club.

Wonderfully, the desperate feeling that we must bite the bullet and hammer ourselves down or Jesus won’t like us starts to disappear!

Instead, since Jesus has given us a clean slate, then in all that we do, we know that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19b)  

 

  1. http://biblehub.com/interlinear/philippians/2-4.htm