Posts Tagged ‘Christian Ethic’

This is a second post started on October 30, 2013.  It was a time of processing the trial that God had already brought us through and preparing for what was ahead.  i have no direct memory of what brought me to Psalm 118 but remember well the joining of Blessing, Sacrifice and Thanks in my heart and soul.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.  Psalm 118:26-29

As I was reading today I found this passage of Scripture interesting in its fusion of concepts:  Blessing, Sacrifice and Thanks.  We are always excited about blessing.  We see ourselves as coming from our Lord God and appreciate the blessings that come from Him as well as those that come by way of His people.  Likewise we are often prepared to lavish our thanks on Him in prayer and song.  However when it comes to the centerpiece of this Scripture we tend to balk a little, or a lot.  In a culture of individual value the concept of personal sacrifice in service of our God has been watered down almost to the point of non-existence.

How we hesitate (or refuse) to bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.  This act was in preparation for sacrifice.  It may be that the picture that David is painting is of a temple court crowded with animals to be sacrificed.  Binding them to the horns of the altar committed them to God as they waited to be placed on the altar.  The Hebrew word for cords here is indicative of a celebratory garland as opposed to utilitarian rope.  Sacrifice is in celebration of the blessing and the thankfulness that arise from our faith in a good and loving Father.  How often we bind our sacrifices to the altar with the dingy and weak cords of reluctance.

“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7

We need to wrap our sacrifice in the garland of joy and love.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of Worship.”  Romans 12:1

Jesus has led us to the path of real sacrifice.  It is absolute.  It is sacrifice of being.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking  the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. Philippians 2:6-8

Once we come to this place sacrifice becomes culture because we recognize that it is all His to begin with and that the true nature of sacrifice is abundance freed from circumstance.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

I do not believe that this is talking about a quid pro quo relationship with God.  He is not a God of “this for that”.  We do not sacrifice for reward, this would be meaningless, and probably not qualify as sacrifice at all.  Instead we demonstrate our capacity to receive blessing by embracing the sacrificial example of Jesus Christ.

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Tablet heart

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.

Proverbs 3:3

I recently read this verse during my morning devotions.  It was only about 5 minutes later that I snapped at one of my daughters for something silly (probably for interrupting my morning devotions….).  The importance of Binding kindness and truth around your neck became readily apparent.  Have you ever bound something around your neck?  How about something heavy.  Kindness and truth are not lightweights.  They have an heavy impact on everything we do.  How about writing them on the tablet of your heart?  The picture here is not the easy process that I am using now (typing quietly into my laptop, with the delete button just a fingers width away).  It is not even pen or pencil on paper.  The picture here is a clay or stone tablet (sorry not an Ipad or Android) inscribed by a stylus or sharp instrument.  Once written it could only be removed with considerable effort.  The deeper the inscription, the more permanent the message.

The picture is not complete without consideration of the physical impacts.  I do not think that the writer wanted to shortchange the difficulty or even outright pain of righteous living.  It is neither comfortable nor enjoyable for things to be cut into our hearts.  Consider our modern culture.  TV shows, movies, books; they all extol the virtues of the free heart.  Our clothing is loose and light, even high quality body armor is extolled for its lightness and the fact that it does not inhibit the movements of the wearer.  We do not want to be restricted.  Here is a truth from this passage:  Kindness and truth are restrictive.  They set limits on our behavior both internally and externally.  Our human nature chafes at these limitations.  We want to redefine them in a way that maintains our perceived freedoms.  Kindness becomes a touchy feely thing we do from time to time when the circumstances are right.  Truth becomes a function of what is working well for us for the moment crossed with what is currently most inoffensive to all of those around us.  They cease to be bound around our necks nor etched forever on the tablets of our hearts.  Instead we wear kindness like a fancy necklace and truth is penciled in, with an eraser close by.

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart…. not as easy as it sounds.

 

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So, here I sit, pondering bravery.  What does it truly mean to be brave?  I have greatly enjoyed reading every devotional from those who have shared.  As I read them, I say all too often, “yep, me too.”  There always seems to be a little nugget I take away.  Morning after morning, I sit here, listening to my children clicking away on their computers while they work on school.  I listen to my mom busily cleaning.  I listen to the giggles of Nisa Faith and her daddy playing, and I ask myself once again, “What does it mean to be brave?  Who are my heroes of faith?”  Each day has been a different answer, and a different way their actions were brave.  But when I look at each one, one thing I see they have in common.  They are human.  Yep, that’s it.  They are imperfect humans.  [Well, I can do that, correctly? :)]
Today, I think of Beth Moore.  If you have never heard or read her story about the hairbrush, it truly is one you should Google. (I will also post it in the FB BGB group).  It is an amazing act of bravery.  But what I love the most about the story is how incredibly human she was in it.  I think so often, we raise people up much higher than they should be.  Many times, I have felt people do that to me.  We look up to them and he/she seems to have it all together.  Wanna know something?  No one truly has it all together.  We are all walking a road.  No one walks their roads perfectly.  None, but Jesus.

 

I shared in my last blog about my struggle with fear.  Paralyzing fear at times that robbed me of peace.  As I read my own words, something hit me… flashes of brave moments throughout my life came pouring through.  Girls, I think it is time to stop getting hung up by our human moments.  We need to start looking through God glasses and start accepting what He says we are. So many of us can go through this long list of how we are not brave,  but being brave doesn’t mean we don’t have fear.  We are brave while being afraid and doing “it” anyway.

 

Last February, I had gone through one of my most difficult rounds of chemo.  I was extremely sick, truly wondering if I would live to see another day. Would my husband ever kiss my forehead? Would I have another deep talk with my teenagers? Would I be here to kiss the hurt away for my preteen? Would my newborn baby have me as her mother?  I remember lying in bed, crying out in my heart for God to help me.  I thought about Jesus calming the sea in Mark: “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:37-39

 

I begged God to calm my sea… then I remembered another story… much like this one only with a twist: Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them:“Take courage! It is I.  Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” Matthew 14:22-32

 

Did you see it? Jesus called Peter out of the boat with the waves crashing around him. Jesus did not calm the sea first. When they climbed back into the boat; that is when the wind died down.  Jesus touched my heart saying I am the God who will calm your sea, but I am also the God who will have you step out in your storm.  This was a moment that Jesus encouraged my heart to be brave.  He may calm your storm or He may call you out of the boat with the waves crashing around you, but regardless, He is always there to catch you.

 

Allana Guidry: Urban Missionary at The Lewis House in Toledo, Ohio. Attends Compelled Church.  Three Passions:  Teaching children praise dance, Teen Outreach and sharing the Truth about God’s love for us with all who will listen.  (Facebook)

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Leadership strengths are often found in close proximity to blindspots. An overpowering strength, in particular, usually has an associated blindspot.”   Robert Bruce Shaw  Leadership Blindspots

 

I got this quote in one of the secular leadership blogs that come in my email.  Honestly most of them I don’t even look at closely anymore.  However this one caught my eye.  I am always intrigued when a secular article espouses a biblical truth.  I am certain that if you read Mr. Shaw in depth he differs considerably from Paul’s view on this subject.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

In Philippians 3 he talks about what was becoming a huge blind spot for many of the Jewish believers.  They had a strong belief in the overpowering strength of their religious heritage. Paul’s reply to this blind spot was that if anyone had reason to rest in the strength of religious heritage, it was Paul.   He goes on to say:

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death ;

These apparent strengths can even be gifts from God.  Unfortunately as the author notes, the more overpowering the strength, the closer the blind spot.  Consider Samson, called to save his people even before he was conceived and dedicated to God as a Nazirite from conception.

“Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. 4 “Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. 5 “For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb ; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” Judges 13:3-5

He had two great strengths.  The most obvious one was his physical strength.  The second was his godly discipline as a Nazirite.  As the story unfolds we see the blind spots that develop as he grows to be comfortable in his strengths.  He achieves victory after victory and as happens all too often, the blind spot involves a growing sense of powerful self eclipsing the very God that is the source and sustenance of that power.  He ignores the godly counsel of his parents and after that does not even seek wise counsel, after all he is the Nazirite, he is the chosen one of God, who would counsel him. Even when 3000 men of Israel come to hand him over to the Philistines he does not see the selfishness of his actions.  He uses the strengths given him by God out of anger, out of hurt yet he continues his disciplines and as promised God sets him as Judge over Israel.  We so often attribute success with righteousness.  We see the Spirit of the Lord come upon Samson time after time so he must be in a right relationship with God, right?  This is a misconception that leads to great disappointment and injury.  When men and women of God exercise their gifts in blind spots, God’s will still moves through those strengths but when we measure their fruit by Galatians 5 we see the disconnect.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control ; against such things there is no law.

Samson’s disregard for his parents; his failure to seek godly and wise counsel ( as his mother did cf. Judges 13:8, 8 Then Manoah entreated the LORD and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom You have sent come to us again that he may teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born.”); his lack of concern for the consequences of his actions on the very people he was sent to save all point to the blind spots that Samson fostered and ignored.  While Scripture does not record it as a parent I can only imagine their continuing and more desperate attempts to reach their son.  Wise counsel whether it is from parents, mentors or just from people that God places in our lives is key in illuminating the blind spots that the Enemy will manipulate to our harm and harm to those around us. Samson is an apropos example of blind spots because in the end it brought physical blindness.  The will of God for his life was ultimately achieved as he brought the house down on Philistine power in the region but how much more of a story if his blind spots  had not interspersed such tragedy into God’s call on his life.

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 And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’  “This is the great and foremost commandment.  “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’  “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” 

Matthew 22:37-40

The title of this post might indicate that it is a discussion of our need to continue in love even when those around us make it exceedingly difficult.  There could perhaps be an enumeration of all the ways those both near and distant make it hard for me to love them.  However this is not the case.  We are looking at love as a prime characteristic of perseverance.  It was established in the last post that biblical perseverance is a gift from God, not something that we work at, struggle at and achieve on our own or through our own efforts.  This does not relieve us of the responsibility of opening and exercising this gift, we just need to understand its source.  Remaining under Jesus regardless of our circumstances (good and bad ) is something that Paul understood.  Consider his statement to the Philippians

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  Philippians 4:11

He also understood the centrality of  love to the very existence of God’s children expressing it wonderfully in 1 Corinthians 13.  It should be no surprise that we find love at the center of biblical perseverance and that we have perseverance at the heart of biblical love.  The salvation story extending from Adam to Jesus to the first century church and beyond is a wonderful statement of this idea.  It expresses love without regard to circumstances, appearances or reciprocation.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

Paul directly links the nature of God’s love and perseverance in Thessalonians 3:5

5 May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ. (Here Hupomone is translated steadfastness)

The love of God is supremely expressed in the steadfastness of Christ and the course of action that He undertook to be our salvation. ” 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8

So we have seen that hupomone is not something that we slog through on our own.  It is not “super-moaning” as we hold the course through difficult times.  It is a gift from God.  Biblical perseverance is at its core God allowing to to partake in His divine nature and all that this means.  As such it brings with it all of the fruit of the Spirit so that with Paul we can be “content in whatever circumstances” (Philippians 4:11) we find ourselves.  It is the overwhelming Love of God that is at the heart of the transformation process that conforms to the nature of Christ and separates us from the nature of the world.

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Change is a part of the Christian walk.  Some change is sudden and some change comes slowly.  Last Friday our whole world changed but our hearts did not.  As The Lewis House website is no more I wanted to post this here.  The Lewis House is gone, a sudden death, and our lives have been turned upside down since this was recorded but our heart of ministry continues unchanged, building the Kingdom of God one relationship at a time…

 

 

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I have been looking over my posts over the past couple of years and a couple of them stand out so I thought that I would throw them out there again. This post has become so much more meaningful over the past year as Allana and I have walked through the storm of Leukemia and a bone marrow transplant.  It also connects nicely with my series on perseverance because at its core persevering as a Christian IS walking in the miraculous.  When we truly “remain under” Christ Jesus as the covering for our lives the miraculous is bound to show its face.  “Open the eyes of my heart Lord” the popular song refrains.  Open my eyes to see Your miraculous hand in and around my life everyday!

 

Walking in the Miraculous

“So then does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”  Galatians 3:5

Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of this new life that God has called me to at The Lewis House is one that I should have had in my Christian life regardless of my profession.  It is one that I am still learning to embrace because (unlike my beautiful wife) I am a bit too logical in my make up and a big part of me want to live on the basis of logical observation instead of spiritual expectation.  God is teaching me to walk in the miraculous.

When we truly hear the Gospel with faith there should be an expectation of the miraculous.  It is part of the package.  This is not a mystical toy store or the ability to bend God’s power to our will for our happiness.  It is simply expecting God to act in my life and then walking out my faith and getting to watch Him moving and working in an around me.  The cool thing is that the miraculous looks a little different every time.  I think that one of the mistake that we often make is when something miraculous happens in our lives we run around expecting that very same thing to happen over and over or even just one more time.  This may be in part to our desire to control the miraculous.  Humanity has always had an inherent fear of the things that we cannot control.  Better to have a god who responds to our requests exactly the same way all of the time, speaking into our lives in the ways that we want Him too (as opposed to in ways that sanctify us, ever conforming us closer and closer to the mind of Christ).

The author of Hebrews reveals the purpose of the miraculous.  “…how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?  After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”  Hebrews 2:3-4  It confirms to us our salvation.  This approximates Paul’s statement in Galatians that we already looked.

The other amazing thing is that God will not be put in a box.  Sometimes we mistake the fact that he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow for the fact that we will be able to manipulate and predict his actions in our lives.  This error is revealed in Isaiah, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways, My ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are my ways higher than your ways And my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9  Does this mean that we just drift along being pushed here and there by a capricious God?  Not at all!  We cry out our needs, concerns, suffering and desires to God and the open our spiritual eyes wide and watch Him work.  It will be amazing, and often in ways that we least expect.

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