A Shield About Me

Psalms 3:3

Psalms 3:3

I’ve been singing a song a song based on this verse the last few weeks.

Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me
You’re my glory
You’re the lifter of my head
Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me
You’re my glory
You’re the lifter of my head

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
You’re the lifter of my head

There is so much to think about in these few, powerful words.

A shield about me: It’s like the song, Christ in me: before and behind, above and below, with me and in me, like a shield, a big shield!

You’re my Glory: the source of honor, blessing and sustenance.

The lifter of my head: lift your head, raise your eyes, lift your hands and face our Lord courageously and with thanksgiving!

Hallelujah: Praise the Lord!

There are several people and families I’m praying for that are facing medical problems, some very serious. I’ve been singing this song over them, that would feel the shield of the Lord, His Glory and lift their eyes to heaven and keep their eyes on Him, the Healer of our souls.

Advertisements

Is Anyone Righteous?

Psalm 73:26

When faced with the news and revelations of secrets of those you have admired, or held as a model of righteous living, it leads you to believe that no one is righteous! I admired Dennis Hastert when he represented me in Congress. Now his past sins have been exposed (by money transfers, no less) and he has been judged and sentenced.

Unfortunately, liberals often make headlines out of those who have fallen from the righteous Conservative podiums. Are only fallen conservatives lacking righteousness? Going to the definition of righteous: “morally good, following religious or moral laws” you’d have to ask how you would measure the “righteousness” of someone that doesn’t follow religious laws. You’d have to know what the moral laws are in order to judge the righteousness of someone not following God, I guess. Is there a list someplace of dos and don’ts that we can refer to when establishing the righteousness or unrighteousness of a person?

The Bible has a lot to say about the righteous and righteousness. There are at least 600 uses of the words in the Bible. The one that sticks out is:

“None is righteous, no, not one;” Romans‬ ‭3:10‬b ‭ESV‬‬

Which is referencing the verse:

“They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” Psalms‬ ‭14:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If that’s not enough, read Proverbs 10 and see all the examples of righteous behaviors contrasted with foolish behaviors.

None of us are perfect and we all sin and make mistakes. But if we hide those sins and mistakes, and pretend we never did anything wrong, we are hypocrites. But if we publicly sin and say it is OK, aren’t we still hypocrites?

Back to the question “Is anyone righteous?” We need to look at the hearts and minds of those we hold dear, those we model ourselves after, and those who are in the public eye. The truth is, we can’t really see into their hearts or know what they are thinking. Instead we look at their behavior and what they say. And then a secret is revealed. How do they behave then? What do they say? Do they deny any wrong doing? I can think of a couple of Presidents who got caught and denied wrong doing. They even tried to convince us they did no wrong, that their “rules” of behavior were right. I can’t remember either of them admitted guilt and asked for pardon. And one was a Democrat and one was a Republican.

So if you don’t look to the Bible or God for a sense of what is right and what is wrong, how do you gauge righteousness? Are there clear moral laws we can all agree on? That way, we could clearly judge those who are unrighteous. There is the code of law. Is the behavior legal? That is where the courts get involved. If it can be proved you broke the law, then you are judged and punished accordingly.

What if my idea of right and wrong disagrees with your idea of right and wrong? Who has to compromise? Do we all agree that Hastert broke the moral law of society? Do we all agree that the terrorist bomber broke a moral law of society? Where do we draw the line on unrighteous behavior? This is where the controversies and contentious behavior have taken hold in our society. We don’t agree on what is “right” and what is “wrong.” We turn a bit gray on some issues and don’t draw a firm line.

Perhaps the most misunderstood concept of Christianity is righteousness by faith. This is in the Old Testament, the Torah, about Abram:

“And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”  ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭15:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Because of faith, Abram was counted as righteous. We know from Abraham’s story that he didn’t always follow God. Yet he is counted as righteous.

Righteousness by faith is described by John this way:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John‬ ‭1:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We are cleansed and made righteous by faith when we confess our sins, repent, and ask for forgiveness. A few of my favorite bumper stickers are “I’m not perfect, but I’m forgiven.” Or “Christ isn’t done with me yet.” Both describe the Christian faith as one of redemption of sins. At issue though, is that I need to acknowledge I sinned. I need to repent, turn away from, my sin. I need to ask for forgiveness, which means I humble myself before God and seek his ways.

Paul says it this way:

The Righteousness of God Through Faith:
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans‬ ‭3:21-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The righteous walk by faith. The unrighteous follow only their own ways. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The righteous know this and ask for forgiveness and the strength to walk in God’s ways. The unrighteous do not know they have sinned. They ignore, justify, or flaunt their sins, without repentance, without remorse.

I guess it’s pretty black and white to me. Break God’s laws: you’ve sinned. Admit you have sinned: you’re forgiven. Please note however, that while forgiven you will still need to face the consequences of your sin in this world. You may be punished by the courts, you may grieve a choice, you may have broken trust with someone you love. But if you stay right with God, He has promised to redeem our mistakes.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Even our sins can be redeemed and good brought from them if we allow God to work in us and through us.

So is anyone righteous? Only God is truly righteous in all things, at all times. And He will give us His Righteousness when we lift our hands to Him and seek Him and follow Him. So I am made righteous by my faith in Jesus Christ, not by what I do, but by what He did for me.

When I was reading and writing this, I kept hearing an old song in my mind:

“You are the strength of my heart! You are the strength of my heart! You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever!”  Hence the verse at the top of this post.

To Choose or Not to Choose

Joshua 24:15Facebook can be both a lot of fun and a pain to read at the same time. We can share things, keep up to date with family, and reconnect with friends from long ago. You can express yourself in many ways. And see others’ expressions of interest and opinion as well.
When you create an account, you set up a profile, telling basic information, favorite movies and books and many other things. Today I was struck by one item in the profile: Religious Views.

In the past, you would have been asked the name of the church you attended. Some left it blank.

Sometimes we are asked for your Religion. Most enter a denomination, religious set of beliefs, or the leader of the beliefs followed. Few enter none, or agnostics or atheist, even though they do represent belief systems.

But Facebook asks for Religious Views, and allows you to enter, well anything or nothing. You can express yourself in any way you wish, or leave the field blank. I ran across an interesting answer today: “personal choice, I choose no” and I started thinking about the views of my friends.

I chose a sample of 10% of my friends and checked what the entry was for Religious Views. 63% left the field blank, though a number I know are Christians who chose not to enter their views. There was one nihilist, one spiritual, and one Messianic Judaism (4%). The rest, 33%, openly describe their Christian faith with a variety of answers: the Lord my Savior, lover of Jesus, born again and/or Spirit-filled Christian, disciple of Christ and Lutheran.

No one said agnostic or atheist. So back to one who said: “personal choice, I say no.” It is a very true statement. We make choices. We look at what we know, and don’t know. We may read or talk to people, or be taught in college what philosophers have said. We may continue in the faith of our parents, never questioning, but still making a choice.

This all reminded me of a quote that I had to research to find. It is called Pascal’s Wager:

1- If you believe in God and God does exist, you will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven: thus an infinite gain.

2- If you do not believe in God and God does exist, you will be condemned to remain in hell forever: thus an infinite loss.

3- If you believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded: thus a finite loss.

4- If you do not believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded, but you have lived your own life: thus a finite gain.

Choices have consequences. We accept that for our children as we teach them how to behave. When choices are illegal, then the courts get involved in consequences.

I’ve heard comments like “I’ll think about it when I’m older” and “the church I was in were all hypocrites.” Many who have no religious views blame the church, ministers, sermons, and such. Many just don’t have time to go to church or study the Bible.

To not make a choice is to actually make a choice. You are choosing not to choose, if that makes sense. And to say you are agnostic or atheist is also making a choice. (Though I do find it interesting that you have to use the word “God” to describe your choice.)

So, when you give your religious views in a statement on Facebook, you are choosing whether to reveal to others your views, to make up your own words, to give a church affiliation, or to simply say “follower of Jesus” to express yourself.

And yes, I’m a Christian, a Bible believing, Spirit-filled Christian. And there will be consequences for the choice. 😇

How do I live and honor my God in these days?

Psalm 73:28

I’m reading through the book of Daniel a chapter at a time, reflecting on Babylon and how Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego not only lived, but were seen as successful in a society that was anything but Godly. Today, Daniel 3:16-18 gave me the directions on how I should live in this world that has become so separated from God’s ways.
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.””
Daniel‬ ‭3:16-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How should I behave? Today, I’m looking at what these verse say I should do:

  1. I do not need to defend my beliefs.
  2. If that means I will be punished, then so be it.
  3. My God is able to deliver me from the punishment.
  4. But even if God does not deliver me from the punishment, I will still praise Him.
  5. I will not praise the gods of the world, or their images!

Note that the three Hebrew men acknowledged the ruler of the country and were respectful. They used his title in an honorable way. (I think we could learn from this in our politics.)

When I read the Law and the Gospel, it is apparent that many of Gods ways are broken in this world. But yet my call is for me to be accountable to God and to follow His ways in my life. I am not called to judge or condemn, but to follow as an example, so that God may show His Power and Glory through my life. It is not easy to be obedient. The pressures of the day, the list of things to do, the news of even more atrocities, and the flaunting of sin, make it easy for me to think about others and not about me being accountable to God for my sins.

Jesus died on the cross for my sins. When I accepted Him as my Savior, I knew all the sins and mistakes of my past were forgiven and cleansed. But every day I fall short. Every day I need to stay accountable to my Savior. Every day I need to be forgiven and cleansed. When I forget this, it is easy to judge others.

I confess that I fall too easily into condemning sin in others and too reluctant to see my own sin. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not spend time telling Nebuchadnezzar all the things he was doing wrong. They stood on their beliefs and were not ashamed. They trusted and were obedient to God.

Sometimes, we as Christians, are too quick to point out sin and shortcomings. We judge, we condemn, we do anything but love. How can the lost be saved if we yell in their face and call out their sins? Do they see the love of Jesus in that behavior?

Judgements and division, hatred and anger, are driving emotions to become a god. We sacrifice to the altar of a god that demands a fuel of emotions that are negative.

We should be the voice of calm, of love and acceptance, to the world. We should be willing to be obedient, but not expect others who do not know God to be obedient to His laws.

Psalm 73:28 tells me what I must do:

  1. “But for me it is good to be near God;
  2. I have made the Lord God my refuge,
  3. that I may tell of all your works.”

‭‭

The Land of the Free, Trusting in God

We no longer live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I feel we live instead, in the land of the fearful and the home of the angry.
Those are my thoughts this morning as I think about the rhetoric of the presidential debates and read the comments posted on my Facebook wall.

I read a devotion today that talked about “practical atheists” as those who do know deep down there is a God, but choose to live as if He doesn’t exist. The Bible verse was:

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” ” Psalm‬ ‭14:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

This describes much of our country today, based on behaviors, rhetoric, and life styles.
So there is no deep trust in God, but in self. And in ourselves we see no way to control the violence and ideologies that we read about in the news.
A friend shared verses to contemplate as we pray for Burkina Faso and the violence that erupted there.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭37:7-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This should be our posture. Trust in God and know He is in control and is the only one who can deal with the violent attacks that know no border in this world.  I think it used to be easier to be brave when there was a country attacking us. But now, it is an ideology.
So how should we respond to the angry behaviors and rhetoric of our friends and neighbors? They will not be satisfied with ‘trust in God’ because they do not accept that God exists or can be known. I have taken to ignoring certain posts on Facebook and am contemplating hiding some from my feed. Otherwise, my heart gets filled with fear and I struggle to cease doubting and begin trusting again.
It has become too easy to stereotype the ideology that leads to violent attacks, seemingly from nowhere. But only God can see into the hearts and know who is contemplating violence. I can’t. So my call is to love. And this is the verse I’m contemplating:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Colossians 3:12-17 ESV

Put on love. Return to the land of the free and the home of the brave. Open our arms to those who have been terrorized. Show love, no matter what. This will take bravery. But it will mostly take trusting in God, no matter what.

What A Difference An Apostrophe Makes!

Pure Light

Love’s Pure Light

How many times in my life have I sung Silent Night? How many times have I read the lyrics as I sang this carol. And yet today, an apostrophe gave me pause. What a difference it makes!

In the third verse, the words start:

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light

Not “loves” the verb, but “love’s” the noun. So, I always thought, Jesus, the Son of God, loves the purity of the light of God. But that’s not what it means with an apostrophe.

“Love’s” is a possessive noun. In grammar, we use the apostrophe a few ways: omission of letter, possession and for some plurals. In this case, you have to ask whose love possesses pure light. So I go to math.

Son of God = Jesus
God = Love

Love’s pure light becomes God’s pure light.

So, Jesus is God’s Pure Light. Or Jesus is Pure Light.

Quite a bit of a difference from Jesus loving pure light.

Where is the “there” we are to return from?

Deut 4:29 NLT

Where is the “there” we are coming from? Because from “there” if we search again, we will find the LORD our God.  This is part of a section in Deuteronomy called A Warning Against Idolatry where Moses is instructing the Israelites.  The verse before this one says:

“There, in a foreign land, you will worship idols made from wood and stone—gods that neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭4:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Worshiping idols made from wood and stone, in today’s terms, could mean idols made of material, or man-made things, as well as elements of the created world. “There” is in a foreign land, a land far away from the LORD our God.

Idolatry is defined in Websters as:  the worship of a picture or object as a god. A thing. An object. Maybe a person. Maybe a feeling. Maybe even a drug, or experience. Some have said it could even be ourselves. Putting ourselves first could be a form of idolatry.

It begs the question, who is an idolator? Who worships idols made of wood and stone? There are a LOT of verses about idols in the Bible, but in Romans, Paul says this:

“They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.”  Romans‬ ‭1:25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

They traded the truth about God for a lie. “There” could be the lies we believe. They worshipped and served the things God created. “There” could be the love and attention we pay to things around us, the things we desire, or the creation, and not the Creator.

My thought is that “there” is any place but God’s Presence. It could also be that “there” is anything we do that doesn’t bring glory to God.

It could be that “there” applies to prodigals, or even those not living a life according to God’s commandments. It easier to think of “there” as not where I am.  I am here, in God’s Presence, because I went to church and worshipped Him yesterday.

But what if “there” is where I go several times a day. When I lose patience. When I don’t cherish every life. When I stray from the commandments. When I lose hope. When I doubt. When I say unkind or untrue things.

That is when the second, marvelous, part of the verse comes in. Hope renewed, doubt cast out, grace abounding, the fruits of the Spirit overflow. Because, ” if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.”  Deuteronomy‬ ‭4:29‬b ‭NLT‬‬

No matter where “there” is, no matter where you have strayed, no matter how far you have strayed or how long, no matter if you’ve never found the LORD our God before, if you search for him with ALL your heart and soul, you WILL find him.

He promises this. And He is a God who is faithful, and patient, and righteous, about all of his children. And you, me, our neighbor, our leaders, even those who hate us, are his children.

Pray that those who are “there” will begin to seek God with all their hearts and souls. Pray they will find God, and choose to worship Him. Forever.