Category: The Christian Life

Fight For Our Rights ?

In the book of Hebrews Christians are being persecuted. Punishment for following Jesus raised a question for them: Should they lash out at the officials who were hassling them?

Fast forward 2000 years. The legislature passes a law that seems to whittle away our first amendment rights. We are enraged and furious. How dare they do this!  We’ll see them in court!

But what if political rights are a privilege and blessing from God, which we then receive with humble thanks? When we consider the whole gospel message, we are reminded that God in Christ gives me privileges that are much more than I deserve.

I am not saying we should passively accept it when our political rights are infringed, and do nothing. Rather, we can petition for redress while yet having a humble attitude rather than an aggrieved one of offended pride and entitlement.

The first amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; “

What if that were repealed?

Would we be boiling with rage …? and even taking up arms?……or would we see a stunning alternative:  that we have better and lasting possessions that are even better than the government allowing us free exercise of religion.   Here’s what Paul said:  

 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.  You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (Hebrews 10:33-34)

To joyfully accept having my property taken from me with no payment??? I must admit, that would be ridiculously hard for me! My natural reaction would be to feel super ticked. That shows me something, though.  I think am holding to and insisting on my rights tighter than I should, instead of being thankful for them.

Does the Bible directly give us any political rights? I couldn’t find any, but here is the one guaranteed right that I can find in the Bible.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12)

So we enjoy our first amendment rights but we hold them loosely. And we hold on very tightly to the privilege of being a child of God!

Can we slice God up?

The slices on this pizza correspond to the attributes of God. The most popular, of course, is love.

 But God’s attributes also include holiness, justice and righteousness. We all have fallen so far short on any of those three that we deserve to be doomed.

That’s why I am glad that love is the most vital attribute of God.   

Because think of what we deserve. We deserve justice and falling under wrath because of our rebellion. Thankfully, God’s love in Christ frees us from judgment. Jesus paid the debt we each owe for our rebellion. Indeed, our rebellion carries a high price. It’s higher than the national debt, which is $27 trillion as I write this. Yet for each of us who believes, we know that Jesus paid the price. God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

Forgiven, we are free to enjoy a life that is on the safe side of God’s holiness, justice, and righteousness.

But there’s a danger nowadays. All God’s attributes on the pie together make up what he is like. But people try to cut God up into slices.   And when they do, the only slice that they take is love. Now, the scripture does say God is love but it most definitely does not say God is only love.

When that slicing happens, we end up with a marshmallow love! All squishy with no firmness or character. This kind of love says that whatever feels right to us….is good.

If God has a marshmallow love I can be a monstrous whiner and complainer and filled with lust and not care in the least about changing.

But since God’s love is inseparable from all his other qualities, this means that God has a lion love. There is something quite fearsome about the love of God. God’s lion love is a jealous love. We smile when we think how that means he is protective of his people, but we are filled with reverent awe when we think of God’s fierce anger when we love other things more than he!

Jesus is the lamb of God but he is also the lion of Judah. When we grasp both God’s fierceness and  his compassion, then we can rejoice and be secure in knowing that our passionate God loves us with an unwavering love.

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31b)

Softened Hearts

My wife and I live in northwest New Jersey where the water is extremely hard, so we need a water softener. We don’t want our pipes to get calcified.

But another kind of calcification is a much greater danger. We need to be on guard because we don’t want our hearts to get calcified.

The original warning about having a hard heart was to the Israelites who were whining and complaining in the wilderness on their way from Egypt to the promised land. Listening in, you would hear them say “This journey is taking too long! The food is lousy!”

Centuries later, God renewed the exact same warning for Christians in the New Testament — because they still needed it. And two thousand years after that, we still need it!

So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice,
 do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
    during the time of testing in the wilderness
(Hebrews 3:7-8)

Thankfully, when we are threatened with hardness of heart, God provides heart softeners. Let’s look at one key softener today: The value of encouragement.

 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:12-13)

Our water softener has periodic cycles of recharging and regeneration. Otherwise it loses all its effectiveness. Just so with us. We might think we can do really well on our own, but we need our own recharging from mutual encouragement.  And this encouragement is needed daily to avoid getting hardened.

Almost all the wanderers in the wilderness were so hard-hearted that they did not make it to the promised land. But today, as we encourage each other, we trust that we can arrive at God’s destination for us: To be complete in Christ.

Who Built That Business?

“You didn’t build that business” Barack Obama.

Do you remember when President Obama caused controversy with today’s opening quote? Free enterprise individualists were very offended by it, but he was not totally denigrating their entrepreneurial efforts.  Rather, he was saying that we are greatly helped by factors we indeed did not create on our own, like the excellent infrastructure in our country and the supply of competent educated skillful people available for hire.

Today’s scripture shows a deeper meaning than the Obama quote. For here we are warned that when we take credit for what we have made, we are taking credit for what belongs to God.  

We will never again say ‘Our gods’
    to what our own hands have made,
    for in you the fatherless find compassion
(Hosea 14:3b)

I love how today’s verse tells us not only what not to do, but it shows something wonderful we receive as a replacement. As we renounce our idolatrous self-credit and give God the glory instead, we find and enjoy the fullness of his compassion.  

Some of us have an overpowering obsession with being a success. Our dads may have driven us hard towards achievement, and we thought that accomplishments would prove our worth.  But   valuing our achievements so highly makes them like a god — they become a modern-day idol.

Yes, our default mode is to want the credit, saying that our success is due to our own fine outstanding efforts and talents. Yet when we do turn and learn to give God the credit, we really do find that agreeing with “You didn’t build that business” gives us a taste of the lovingkindness of God.