A Faithful Friend is Better Than Economic Security

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

This brought to mind Paul’s statement  regarding money.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.  It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs

~1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV)

And Jesus:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.

~Matthew 6:24 (ESV)

In the US, one of the top concerns for voters (of all persuasions) is the state of the economy. We debate about socialism vs capitalism vs free market, federal/state taxation, world trade, national debt, local distribution and so on.

And we tend to panic when economic equilibrium takes a severe hit.

That is an interesting consideration.

Believe it or not, though, “the love of money” is NOT so much about money itself, but what the money represents.

Money (or “mammon”, in  KJV terminology) is simply the recognized currency of this fading world system.  It really does not matter whether we are trading in actual gold coinage, electronic transactions, or directly bartering goods…if the focus is primarily placed  on the material exchange, getting the best “deal”, and/or just building a comfortable home in this world, then we are at serious risk of serving/loving a master other than God.

 

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My Way….or the High(er) Way?

Proverbs 14:14 (ESV) The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.

Ezekiel 36:31-32 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations,
It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.

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Contemplation of the day. Please exercise discretion if you choose to read my thoughts.

So.
When God rescued Israel from subjection to Egyptian slave masters, the people quickly (and repeatedly) began to find fault with their new circumstances.
Many revealed a heart that would have willingly returned to their former state of servitude as they pined for the perks (appealing meals, a house to return to each day, relative security regarding what hazards to expect, etc…).

They were truly freed from oppression in Egypt, yet had developed a strong internal attraction to the few comforts that sustained their miserable physical existence.

Likewise, we have been given the gift of freedom from bondage to sin, yet also can complain or even openly rebel when faced with the difficulty of relocation to God’s promised place of peace.

In response, God sometimes gives us exactly what we demand. Exodus 16 offers an interesting narrative as God sent both a familiar form of sustenance (quail) and a completely “supernatural” one (manna, which came with specific instructions) to the grumblers.

Personally, I see this as illustrative of the choice we are called to make to be nourished by either earthly “food” (which our sin-nature craves) vs God-blessed spiritual enrichment (through faith in Christ Jesus).

It is important to read Numbers 11 (ESP v 13, 18-21 and 31-34) to get a better idea of what happened specifically with the quail. It was NOT good.
The people gorged themselves and literally got sick from indulging their own unbelief-based desires.

(Oh. The song is obnoxiously loud and repetitive. I included it because I think it helps emphasize the point scripture makes regarding how foolish and damaging it is to stubbornly insist on opposing God. The question echoes loudly: Are you finally “fed up” with the results you’ve gotten for yourself?)

 

Gates of Hell

 

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter replied, ” You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” ~Matthew 16:16-18 (ESV)

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Two thoughts.

1. The “rock” that the Church is built upon is positive affirmation of the supernaturally revealed truth that Jesus Christ alone is the Anointed One who was to come and reverse the effects of our ill-advised love affair with death.

2. Gates do two things.
~ Keep unwanted visitors out.
~Keep unwilling prisoners in.

Hell’s gates are no match for the awesome power of God’s love unleashed in the world.
The truth will be made known, and those who desire to be released from the realm of deception and torment can walk free.

The Truth About Truth

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Image courtesy Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Truth is beautiful, comforting, generous, gentle, freeing and healing to those who embrace it in its purest form.

It is also dangerously, destructively, unmercifully vicious when we try to cage and tame it to suit our own whims.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the Truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. ~Romans 1:18-19 (ESV)

“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)

Thoughts on Christian Culture 3: What’s LOVE Got to Do With It?

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Image courtesy Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Everything, actually.

*For the commandments…are summed up in this word; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.* ~Romans 13:9-10 (ESV)

Love is a topic that has continually made itself at home in my mind for more years than I care to admit. And, the more I consider what it ought to look like, the more I have to admit that we human beings tend to have a very skewed, self-centered understanding of what it means to love someone. Not everyone, of course…and not always. But, even the most dedicated disciple of Christ probably struggles to perfectly live out genuine love for their neighbor at some point.

If I’m understanding scripture properly, Love involves acceptance, honesty, kindness, patience and forgiveness. It affirms the value of all human life. (re 1 Corinthians 13).

It is not limited to just the things/people we like a lot. Nor is it entirely synonymous with the attraction involved with a romantic connection. It is not primarily an emotion, yet affects the emotions. It is not primarily action, but motivates our behavior. It is not primarily about what we can get to make us feel “happy”, but what we ought to be giving to ease the burdens others must carry.

Love is more a state of being, which empowers us to set aside selfish desires and focus on contributing to the eternal well-being of another person. For instance, love always should encourage others to pursue a vital relationship with Christ. It does not take pleasure in seeing others suffer (even if they might “deserve” it).

Love is protective in nature, and would never knowingly encourage someone to sin or approve of sin as a beneficial “lifestyle option”. In fact, love should be willing to do the unpopular thing and risk being hated for pleading with an individual to rethink any potentially devastating choice they may make. It doesn’t force people to stay against their will, yet will also welcome back those who repent of their mistakes and truly wish to engage in a God-centered relationship.

When we say “I love you” to someone, it should in some way reflect the pure, honest and unselfish nature of God.

This is just me thinking, again. I appreciate input from others, if anyone is so inclined.

Thoughts on Christian Culture 2: The Lawless Ones

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Image courtesy Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, Paul’s 1 Timothy 1:8 statement about “lawful use of the Law” is rather intriguing in light of current disagreement over what is the proper place of the OT legal code in Christianity.

Of course, when the immediate view is expanded to include v 9-10, it becomes apparent that Paul said the Law was given not for the just, but for the lawless, disobedient, ungodly, sinners, etc… In other words, these rules were intended (at least in part) to bring order to an unregenerate society that would surely destroy itself without them.

Me: The Law highlights the fact that human beings are sinners who tend to do things that are contrary to God’s nature. We need outside help because our natural, internal moral compass doesn’t work so well.


This also brought to mind Jesus’ Matthew 7:21-23 declaration that there would be many who one day would come to Him with both recognition of accountability and lists of things they believe should gain them sure reward and welcome into His presence.

Only…it doesn’t work. And He said He will dismiss them with what I believe is the most terrifying sentence in all of scripture; “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Workers of lawlessness. But good deeds done in His name don’t count?

This gets more interesting when we consider that Jesus’ audience included Jewish religious teachers who adamantly claimed to love GOD, to honor the Mosaic Law, and  had a thing for making even more rules to ensure that they looked extra good.

These people had Guidelines. Structure. Order. Religiously enforced. And they had penalties for breaking prescribed ordinances.

They were Law Keepers….right?

Wrong.

They were the false prophets, wolves and diseased trees that Jesus spoke against in Matthew 7:15-20.

Why?

Because the Mosaic code also told of a Chosen One who would come and fulfill their beloved Law in order to lift the curse attached to our inability to personally attain the perfection that is necessary to safely enter God’s presence.

They rejected their designated Law Keeper who is to be welcomed by faith in God’s goodness toward us (Matthew 5:17; John 4:39-40; Romans 3:20-26). And they led others away from the Truth, as well.

They were then warned by God Himself to repent of this stubbornly destructive, imagined sense of personal goodness. It is a very harsh-sounding reprimand, but I do believe it was actually done out of love for these people.

Me: To “keep” God’s law is not to simply follow a prescribed method of scripturally-founded ethical improvement. Neither does it involve the diligent consultation of a mutually agreed-upon set of church by-laws, for that matter. If a professing Christian is relying heavily on such things, then it is entirely possible there is still a need to attend the business of repenting of a rebellious, self-indulgent, God hating attitude. 

To keep the Law is to gratefully honor the One who embodies the Spirit of the Law, has freed us from the consequences of our sin, and who now teaches us what it means to love God and others from a renewed heart, the way the Law originally outlined.

Then they said to Him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:28-29 ESV)

As this is the result of my own study, I highly recommend that readers check my references and consider my words in light of the overall message of scripture before accepting or rejecting my conclusion. Thank you.

Don’t Kick ’em While They’re Down

This is interesting.

Zechariah 1:14-15 (ESV) So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion.
15 And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster.

Me: these verses are a partial answer made by God to the question posed in v 12. “How long will You be angry and withhold mercy from Jerusalem and Judah?” (Paraphrase).

The Israelite people of Zechariah’s day were experiencing the predicted disciplinary response for having turned away from following God (read Leviticus 26:27-46). Specifically, they would be subjugated by the surrounding pagan nations whose ways they chose to adopt in spite of receiving strict instruction to the contrary.

Verse 15 (above) indicates that the civilizations which the Hebrew people were subjected to took full advantage of the national disgrace of the Israelites…that they actively abused the people in a way that far exceeded the authorization God had given them.

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It left me thinking that God is always good to correct us and allow us to experience the well-earned results of our disobedient choices…for our good, to encourage repentance.

And sometimes, the temporal consequences we bring on ourselves are extremely unpleasant, to say the least.

However, it is a very bad idea to recognize that someone is being chastised/humbled and take it upon one’s own self to add a greater load of pain or shame to their burden through mockery, looting of their possessions or physical abuse.