STAY WITH GOD

1 Samuel 12:20 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”

Pastor Eric used this scripture several weeks ago in his sermon. I have thought about Samuel’s words ever since. Our natural tendency is to hide from the Lord when we’ve done wrong. After the very first sin, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord. But Samuel is telling the Israelites to stay with the Lord. Face the Lord with what you have done. It is a brave and humbling thing to face God, but without God there is no life.

I was riding along in my driver’s training car when this thought came to me; Jesus told us what happens when we come to God with the guilt of our sins. In the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) Jesus tells us what to expect from our heavenly father when we turn to him. The prodigal son came to his senses and realized that in his father’s house there was life. He hoped for a lowly position. What he received was welcoming arms and celebration.

God loves us; we are his children. In God, we find forgiveness and grace. Stay with God, for there is no other place where we find life.

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SHOW ME YOUR WAYS LORD

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4&5)

This week, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 25. In this psalm, David expresses his trust In God, and explores what it means to follow God. Those of us who make decisions from a Godly perspective are often thought foolish by worldly standards. David asks, “Do not let me be put to shame.” But, David knew that those who follow the ways of the world will eventually be put to shame.

Verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 25 were part of a worship song we sang many years ago, so those words are very familiar to me. However, I never spent much time thinking about the words, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.” David articulates, in these words, the desires of all God’s children. Show me, God, how it’s supposed to be; guide me and teach me.

As I reflect on my years of following the Lord, they have indeed been learning his ways and seeking his path for my life. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in this favorite passage:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28&29)

My human nature continually fights against this rest that Jesus offers, but I stay in the battle, for I have this burning desire. I want to know his ways and learn his paths.

OUR PLACE BEFORE GOD

Since the beginning man has been fascinated by the universe. We have studied the stars for patterns and worshipped the sun and moon. Astronomers find that the universe is increasingly more vast than they had imagined. The Bible tells us that God spoke it into existence.

I had this contrasting thought this morning, I thought of the magnificence of God. The one who spoke the universe into existence, and then there’s me. So what is my place when I go before God, mouse before a lion, krill in the mouth of a whale? The humblest place I can find is not adequate. Jesus came to help with this dilemma.

He first referred to God as our Father. Father is a perception we can easily relate to. God, being perfect, would represent the ideal father. One who will love us, protect us, teach us, and provide for us.

Jesus went even further when he addressed his disciples. In John Chapter 14 when Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father he replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

Obviously, Jesus didn’t come as the whole manifest presence of God, but he represented the heart and character of God our Father. Jesus was all that an ideal father would be, and then he humbly gave his life for us.

My conclusion, I am on the receiving end of my relationship with God. My fate is entirely in his hands. I can never repay him for his love, kindness, and mercy. I can never match his humbleness. My place before God is one of gratitude. I will praise him and thank him the best I can for as long as I have breath.

JESUS, THE SOURCE OF LIFE

Our pastor, Eric Nelson, has been speaking on the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman recorded in John chapter 4. During his discourse Pastor Eric pointed out, “We tend to think that Christianity is about not sinning, but Jesus took care of sin. Christianity is about the source from which we draw life.”

What a great way to express this truth. Our walk with the Lord is not about becoming good people. This should not be our focus. We focus on building our relationship with Jesus and following his lead. The by-product of this relationship is we become better people. We also become more useful servants in God’s Kingdom.

Jesus clarified this with his disciples in John chapter 15. He said, “I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

To become a better, more useful person, we must draw the sustenance of life from Jesus. Our efforts apart from him are useless.

Love and the Ten Commandments

If you truly love someone you will treat them well.  You will honor them, and you will certainly not murder them.  You will not cheat on them, steal from them, lie about them, or covet what they have.  At least, if you love them, you will surely try.

To pull this off you’ll have to be patient, kind, not envious, and not work to look more important than the person you love.  I can’t imagine that you’d be rude to them or easily angered by them.  When they‘ve wronged you, you’d forgive and forget.  You’d protect them, trust them, and hope the best for them.

You may have guessed that what I’ve done here is to connect the Ten Commandments and Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  The Ten Commandments are not just rules to contain us, they are truly about love.  The first four commandments are about loving God.  The other six are about loving each other.  You cannot adhere to the Ten Commandments without love.  As a matter of fact, if you don’t love God or your fellow humans, why would you even try to adhere to the Ten Commandments?

Jesus summed it up this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  “This is the first and greatest commandment.”  “And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)  There you have it.  Love is at the root of what God commands.  Love as well as you can, and ask God to increase the love in your heart.

Humbleness, an Attribute of God

One of my favorite scripture passages is Matthew 11:28-30.  In this passage Jesus refers to himself as “gentle and humble in heart”.  Doesn’t gentle and humble sound safe.  I am drawn to him when I think of him being gentle and humble.  Paul supports Jesus’ statement that he is humble with this declaration in Philippians 2:6-8,

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!

Jesus not only declared himself humble, but he unequivocally demonstrates his humble nature on the cross.  When you think of God, do you think of him as humble?  That’s not my first thought when I think of God, but he truly is humble.  So, what is humble? In all the definitions of humble, I find that not putting yourself first seems to clarify its meaning.  Jesus did not put himself first.  He put our needs ahead of his.

Adam and Eve were humble because they were created in the image of God.  They lost this attribute as a result of the fall.  They then became self concerned.  At the start of Philippians chapter 2 Paul is exhorting us to return to being humble.  He tells us, (Philippians 2:3-4) “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  He follows this with the scriptural illustration in Philippians 2:6-8 of Christ’s humility.

In our desire to be more like Jesus, humbleness should be near the top of the list.  As I looked at this attribute of God, I had to ask myself, am I gentle and humble in heart?  Am I safe for others?  These questions will dominate my self reflections for the rest of the week.  How about you?

BE MERCIFUL

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23

 

The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.

 

To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.

 

Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.

 

Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.