Tag Archives: righteousness

I Kings 21; I Thessalonians 4; Daniel 4; Psalm 108, 109

Jesus Christ summed up the Ten Commandments in two statements, one of which is to love the Lord God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind. The other is to love your neighbor as yourself. I wax and wane in my passion to love God even though I never want to leave His side. And I sometimes step back when loving my neighbor is at stake. That is, I have to take a time out to rethink my words, reframe my motivations, and reign in my emotions before asking questions, making and answering requests, or commenting on what others say and do. Years of not getting this right and experience in hurting others or causing chaos in my relationships has heightened my vigilance for preventing problematic encounters, yet nothing can stay my heart and my tongue like the chastisement of God.

As I read I Kings 21:5, 15, I recognized how Ahab was influenced by his wife. Specifically, I relate to my own behaviors that incited my husband to defend me in situations where I needed to humble myself, instead. Like Ahab, I displayed a sullen, pouty face about something that I could not have. In the Old Testament, Ahab’s wife Jezebel, asked, “Why is your spirit so sullen that you eat not your food?” She then orchestrated the murder of Naboth so that her husband could have Naboth’s vineyard. Like Ahab’s spouse, my husband sought solutions, and sometimes that meant compromising his own righteousness. And what did I do? I did just like Ahab: “So it was when Ahab heard Naboth was dead, that Ahab got up and went down to take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” That is, I allowed my husband to do something that I would not, but then was happy to have what I should not.

Isn’t it interesting that in marriages, a spouse can either encourage and inspire or manipulate and blame.

In other situations, trying to love thy neighbor as thyself has left me confused and disappointed. I think I am in good company because even the saints cried out to God in similar situations: Psalm 109:4, 5 records these complaints, “In return for my love they are my accusers, But I give myself to prayer. Thus they have rewarded me evil for good, And hatred for love.”

Yes, I pray, and yes, I want justice. Yet one meaning of justice is “a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people,” (https://www.google.com/search). Do I want this just for me or do I love well enough to desire this for all others? I’m afraid my ill will too often highlights the sin of entitlement. Instead of agreeing that others deserve happiness, I speak this lie to myself; “I deserve an easier life.” Thus, what naturally pour out of my mouth are words of bitterness, jealousy, and anger. Like I said, experience has taught me this.

Walking with God, the Father, however, has taught me better truths. I now know that I despise inciting or attacking others worse than accepting being sad, frustrated, or afraid. I know that I can praise the Almighty, loving God who is able to confront or defend me, as He sees fit. Daniel 4:37 says, “I…praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” I do not have to play the Holy Spirit in another person’s life; my task is to love God with all my heart, my soul, and my mind; and to love my neighbor as myself.

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

All Scripture and commentary quotes from: The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 2002.

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Filed under 1 Kings, 1 Thessalonians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Daniel, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

1 Samuel 12; Romans 10; Jeremiah 49; Psalms 26-27

I have read Romans so many times that I have become somewhat numb to the impact it had on Jews and Gentiles alike.  Romans 4:11 shocked me for the first time; “He (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision as a seal of righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them.”

Why did God choose circumcision of all things to represent a condition of the heart? It’s a graphic symbol about a part of the body we don’t discuss in mixed company. Isn’t it just like God to keep me from becoming too spiritual when it comes to faith? Abraham’s faith in God, calls him to place his son on the altar as well as undergoing circumcision. And what did Sarah think about all of this?

Abraham challenges me; I take faith far too lightly. God’s grace is serous business; it holds the knife over the most tender places…places I do my best not to expose.

But the good news of this grace finds me every time I cry out to God, every time I consider His word:

“But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart…” Romans 10:8  and “so faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” Romans 8:15.

I have to speak the good news of Jesus Christ to my heart multiple times a day to keep myself off the hamster wheel of works and self righteousness. It’s his grace that saves me, not what I do. What I do is a response to his grace. When it’s not, He is waiting to restore what I broke. He loves me that much, not because I merit it, but because, quite simply, that is who He is. He sees the most vulnerable parts of me— the places hidden from others and even myself, and He never turns away.

Holy Spirit, may your grace and peace settle deep into my soul so that I live in the freedom and joy of your grace. Jesus, thank you for taking my rags and giving me your righteousness to wear. I thank you for the wonder of who you are and the healing and restoration you bring to me. Your love, your sacrifice is my joy.

Kathy

 

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Numbers 1, Psalm 35, Ecclesiastes 11, Titus 3

“I don’t believe in heaven and hell. I don’t know if I believe in God. All I know is that as an individual, I won’t allow this life – the only thing I know to exist – to be wasted.” (Celebrity quote)

Although there have always been naysayers and critics of God’s true word, I feel like we are living in a culture that is more self dependent and selfish than other times in history. The days of common moral values are gone and people are out to get everything they can. It’s truly a dog eat dog world and why not? Aren’t we all entitled to the American Dream?

Slogans are so common you could finish these off without me typing the words. Slogans such as “Live everyday like it was your last” or “Create your own happiness”. We are conditioned to believe that we are responsible for our happiness and our own good fortune and outcomes.  We are quick to take credit for our own accomplishments and good works but can just as quickly turn around and blame God when “bad things” happen.

Even in Solomon’s day he knew there was a balance between good works, enjoying life and being accountable for one’s own actions. We are called to live each day to the fullest but who are we living it for is the real question that differentiates good works for the kingdom of God rather than for selfish and prideful gain. Solomon’s wise words also come with a warning:

So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.[b]

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

10 Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain[c] from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. Ecclesiastes 11:8-10

Yes it is important that we live each day to the fullest but it is only by the grace showed to us by Christ and the washing of our sin with his blood that any “good” work is seen by God as righteous.

 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:3-7

The irony in the celebrity’s quote above is that the very thing he is trying to avoid (wasting life) is exactly what he is doing by living for himself and his own glory. Without Christ, everything is meaningless. May our enjoyment and blessing of each new day be evident in the our good works, done not for self pleasure or advancement in to heaven but in gratitude to our Savior who gave his all for our sin!

Dear Jesus, than you for your blood that washes over my sin. Thank you for dying in my place so that when the Father looks at me he see’s your righteousness. Holy Spirit, help me to live each day joyfully devoted to good works that bring you glory. Amen!

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Job 12-14; Psalm 100; Revelation 13

“No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!” The ‘patience of Job’ seems to have run out as evidenced by Job’s caustic answer to his critics. I can relate to Job; after I stop listening to the opinions and perceptions of others, I go straight to God for answers. However, I do think it gutsy and a little frightening that Job utters these words, “I desire to reason with God.” I’ve heard it said that God is not ruffled by our questioning His allowance of evil in life or His silence in unanswered prayer, yet I am reticent to go to God’s throne to state my case. I cower at Job’s question, “Will it be well when He searches you out?” I fear that the three-legged stool of Righteousness, Faith, and Salvation, upon which I stand, will not hold up to the weight of my defense.

My first argument attacks the leg of righteousness. Can I say in my defense that I have been a good girl this year — that I have tried my best to follow God’s will – that I have borne suffering well? This defense is about as laughable as that of the innocent faced, little boy on Santa’s lap who threw his toy truck at the neighbor’s cat when no one was looking. I would like to believe that I have been good, but my conscience, pricked by the Holy Spirit, daily pulls me up short. Those natural urges to blurt out foolishness to cover lack of confidence or the oozing sarcasm and gossip used to minimize irresponsibility are just a few opposing arguments hurled against my righteousness.  Then my irrational thought that even good girls make mistakes, which is understandable and therefore forgivable, leads to a second questionable defense.

“I know that I will be vindicated,” (Job 13:18b). The leg of faith has been gnawed on by various theologians; and my own faith has several layers of meaning. One is tied to belief in God’s sovereignty and His character. I believe that He is concerned for the lives of men and that He will do as He has purposed. Faith also means to me that worldly circumstances do not dictate eternal outcomes. I believe that faith is a supranatural view that allows miracles and other divine interventions in this world to add special sweetness and foretaste of the heavenly life to come. What my faith lacks, however, is the certainty that I should be vindicated. Can I honestly say that God should be on my side in any given situation? What seems fair to me or in my favor may be subjugated to what God is doing in others. Should I count loss as lack of faith or just accept loss as the will of God?

With two legs missing on my stool, I teeter precariously, balancing with years of practice trying to save myself. This arms-out, eyes down approach to holding onto my salvation isolates me from looking up for help or gripping the Lord’s hand reaching down to save.  Fear of falling. Fear of failing. Fear of being forgotten.

And there it is – the thought that God has turned away from me knocks the stool right out from under me. My defenses gone, I plead mercy. Better to be judged and chastised than tossed aside. Yet, my fears dissolve in God’s overflowing grace. It is not my righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ Jesus that the Almighty God is looking for. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that … in him we might become the righteousness of God,” I Corinthians 5:21. It is not my understanding that increases faith, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith; and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:8.  So why argue my case at all? Revelation 13:8 alludes to the names written in the Book of Life of the Lamb. Knowing He has written my name there from the foundation of the world is my assurance of salvation.  That is reason enough to “Serve the Lord with gladness and come before His presence with singing.”  Truth is that getting off of my man-made stool of spiritual understanding will allow God to come to my defense; for “The Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5). That is how I am vindicated.

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Psalm 40, Proverbs 19-21, Romans 16

Have you ever felt invisible? Or maybe there has been a time when your hard work, act of kindness or good deeds went completely unnoticed or unappreciated.  From motherhood to the workplace, the day to day of living a life that is set apart from the way of the world is difficult and thankless.

I am always surprised by passages like this one in Romans 16 because just when you think the little people go unnoticed, names pop up that you have never heard before. At different points in my life I have definitely felt like a “no name” and that all my efforts are in vain. To make a name for yourself, you typically have to be over the top, smarty pants, super successful, rich or loud OR on the other end of the spectrum; ignorant, disruptive, or violent. Often, there is little room for the middle man if you want to be noticed.

But here in Romans 16, Paul recognizes 25 “no names” that never had their own book of the bible but made a mark in the faithful, day to day service to their Master. Here they are called patrons, fellow workers in Christ Jesus, fellow prisoners, chosen. Some “risked their necks” for Paul’s life and all of them worked hard for their fellow believers. Paul not only mentions these people by name but asks that the Romans would treat them in a way worthy of the saints and to accept them. These people’s faithful service in the day to day grind paid off.

When I read through the list of names and descriptions Paul gives, one word comes to mind; consistency. These believers didn’t just do one random act of kindness and then move on. They lived lives of service to the Lord. Some of them had actually walked with Jesus and other’s converted after he had already risen but they remained faithful to the Lord’s service. I know that deeds to not gain my entrance ticket to heaven but somewhere my name is written- I am not a no name any longer.

Before Paul closes out his letter to the Romans he gives a final word of warning to these people who have remained consistently faithful over the years.

 

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites,[f] and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Romans 16 17-20

 

Some things never change. That warning from Paul over 2,000 years ago is still true today. His warning is a reminder that if we are not careful our once faithful hearts can quickly be lead astray. As Romans 16:25a, 27 says, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

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2 Samuel 13-14; Acts 28

David’s life appears to be a cautionary tale. The man who is known and loved by God as “a man after His own heart” transitions from relentlessly steadfast to tempted and fallen. As a father, he lacks discipline and is intimidated by his children. His family is the picture of dysfunction and discord. How did he get to this point? I want to believe that love for God translates into godly children and a wonderful family life. David’s life tells a different tale. But the story of God at work in the lives of ordinary humans doesn’t end there.

God’s story is not about our ability to get it right and follow Him as He deserves. It’s not about producing nice and tidy lives. The Bible is the story of God’s righteousness at work in selfish, vulnerable lives. When we believe that Jesus died so that we may assume his status as perfect before God, the transforming power of the his Holy Spirit is released in us. Sometimes we don’t realize that God is at work. Other times we fall to our knees in awareness of His presence. His redemptive work in not only us, but in all of history is like a river. It carves through the mountains of our lives so that when we look back at the landscape of our lives, there is no denying the undeniable force of His presence.

Fast forward to Paul. Historians would describe him as a fanatic…one minute persecuting believers, the next minute preaching the very Gospel he despised and sought to exterminate. How does one explain such a turn around? Insanity? No, it’s all because of the magnificence of what Christ has done. This week I have been reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians over and over again, as if it was written directly to me. I get a taste of God’s redemptive, untamed love. It defies imagination and Paul describes it better than anyone I know.

No wonder this man Paul couldn’t help himself; he risked everything to travel and tell others of Jesus and the love that changes everything. “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 28:31And today, his words continue to invite us into to life with Christ and all its richness. I pray that we are like Paul, captivated by the unrestrained, unimaginable wonder of God’s love so that we are transformed and made whole.

Amen

 

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Jeremiah 17-19; I Timothy 6

Jeremiah 18:5, 6 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!”

I have never tried to sculpt pottery, but I acquired an interesting set of handmade and individually painted pieces made by a Bulgarian master potter. They have rough, terra cotta bases with smooth, shiny harvest-gold backgrounds and earthy, green and brown images baked into them by the artist’s whim. Each piece is unique in its purpose – a large fat-bellied pitcher for water, a long-neck wine carafe capped with a lady’s delicate face; a half dozen mugs with thumbprint handles to sip from Bohemian crowns of funny-faced urchins; large, scooped out bowls designed with separated rings of non-repeating swirls, lines, and scalloped edges; and heavy plates emblazoned with proud peacocks.

How long it took the potter to produce each of these pieces, I wonder sometimes. And how many pieces were started, flattened, and reshaped on the potter’s wheel before placed in the fire for hardening? How many others were found cracked and thrown in the scrap heap upon inspection?

Like pottery, says the Lord, we are pliable in His hands. He is able to shape us through our family of origin, significant events, daily trials and temptations, revelation through His word, and divine intervention. As His wheel turns and His hands smooth and etch His unique design in each of us, we can yield eagerly to His touch or become rigid and in danger of breaking. Jeremiah 19:11 “Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot be made whole again…”

How can we become His masterpiece, vessels of honor, and how will we avoid being dashed into pieces, for which there is no superglue or fixing us in the end?  I Timothy 6:11 “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” As we trust Him and hope in Him, the Lord’s creative Spirit spins into our lives righteousness and godliness, and as we sway to His touch, He presses down a sturdy base of faith, whirls rings of patience, and gently hollows out the inside, deep and wide for filling with His love.

Then we will be like yet another image of beauty and strength produced by the Lord’s care. Jeremiah 17:7, 8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

Fashion me each day with Your skillful hand, Oh, Lord!

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