Tag Archives: righteousness

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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Jeremiah 9, 10; 1 Timothy 3

This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken! Jeremiah 9:23-24, NLT

What the Lord says.

I remember Jeremiah being called the weeping prophet. Jeremiah takes his heart and tears to the Lord and lays it all out. The underlying sentiments of the things he tells, I think we can all relate to at some point in life–the brokenness of a sinful world. I sit with somber thoughts.

I sit for a very long time.

I try to steady my thoughts to one place, and my focal point can be any number of things in the reading. And won’t those things affect how I frame a situation?

So I pick what the Lord says.

Courtney (66books365)

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Psalm 120-123; I Corinthians 6

I cannot help but feel that in Corinthians 6, the Apostle Paul felt like shaking his finger at the Corinthian Christians, raising his voice, and staring them down as he sarcastically yells at them, “is it so, that there is not even one wise man among you?” I can imagine that each one reading his letter felt like a worm about to be squashed.
Criticism can be hard to take, especially when I think I am in the right. What is interesting in this passage is that Paul does not give a “ding-dang” (as my older sister would put it) about who is right. He goes on to say, “Why do you rather not accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?”
Wait, just a minute, Paul! Do I have stupid written all over my face?! This does not sound like good advice. In fact, this sounds like I am going to lose in the end and that other person will get away with what is mine.
I rather like the assurances in the Psalms that indicate all my whining and complaining about false tongues and lying lips (Psalm 120:2), all evil (Psalm 121:7), and all contempt and scorn of the proud (Psalm 123:4) will be dealt with by the Lord God, Himself. He will “preserve your soul,” (Psalm 121:7) That’s better; go get’m, God!
So does this mean that I should say to the offender, “Fine, you win, but just you wait; God will pay you back, and I’m going to be there laughing when it happens.”
You may not be as sick as me and maybe you would never think to say these things or say what you really think about the wrong that has been done to you. Yes, I would like to pretend I never thought this way, either.
Maybe I should explain the rationalization that I use to justify my righteousness or at least give my excuse for wanting to come out on top, ‘smelling like a rose.’ The joy of being in God’s hand, in His house, and with His friends has lifted me to a place where I want to dwell always. All is good. All is right with the world. All is safe. These troublesome people or situations that plague me interfere with that peace; they cause my joy in the Lord to take a nose-dive. If only I can be sure that God will vindicate and justify me, I will be happy all the time. These are my thoughts right before the bomb hits.
God said that it is I who needs mercy, (Psalm 123:2). Why would I need mercy if someone else is attacking me? Why would I need mercy if someone is taking what is mine? Isn’t mercy given to someone in need of forgiveness? Why do I need to be forgiven? Upon reflection, I suspect my foolish reactions and my irrational, wandering thoughts about what is really no more than “filthy rags” of righteousness have reached to the heavens. Only an explosion of mercy will save me. Ironically, prayers of mercy are the ones that are always answered. Mercy for my unbelief, fear of man, fear of loss, fearless pride in who I think I am. Prayers of mercy on me – not prayers of destruction to my enemies. Communication of divine law comes through the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ and God the Father. I prefer His mercy. I’m a little slow, Paul, but I am not so unwise as to miss this point.

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