Keeping The Law

“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “do not commit adultery,” also said, “do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” – JAMES 2:8‭-‬13 NASB

Jesus said this about the Law:

“…… but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – MATTHEW 5:28 NASB

“Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” – MARK 7:6‭, ‬21‭-‬23 NASB

“He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” – MARK 7:9 NASB

The Law is so much more than our actions! The Law of GOD is all about our hearts and our minds. If those are right, then our actions will automatically follow. I implore you to search your hearts. Are you as Jesus states, “experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition”? We know what is right. Now follow through.

Betrayed

Who betrayed Jesus the most, Judas or Peter?

Both men loved and were loved by Jesus. We despise Judas for what he did, and we call anyone who betrays us a “Judas”. Does taking money for his betrayal make him worse than the one who swears allegiance and then denies Him? I’m not convinced that there is a “worse” between the two. We like to vilify Judas, and we praise Peter because of his missionary work after Jesus ascended. We know that Judas hung himself in remorse, and Peter went on to become a champion for Jesus. Does that make up for Peter’s betrayal?

Judas –

“When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” …… “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” – JOHN 13:21,26‭ (“Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He. ” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.” – JOHN 18:3‭-‬5)

Peter –

“Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.” – JOHN 13:26‭, ‬38 (Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” ….. Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.” – JOHN 18:17‭, ‬25‭-‬27)

Judas felt deep remorse, so much that he couldn’t live with his conscience, and so he ended his life by hanging himself. Did he, in his guilt and shame, receive forgiveness? I hope he did. As heinous as his action in betraying his Lord, Judas did what was required of him to bring Jesus to the place of His sacrifice for our sins. He did as God ordained. Who am I to judge?

“Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.” – MATTHEW 27:3‭-‬5

Both men were separated from God by their actions. We can see from the scriptures that Peter received Mercy. Did Judas? Sometimes I feel like a Judas, knowing that things I have said and done in my life were motivated by money, and other times, like a Peter, denying knowledge of my Lord either by words or by omission. Do you ever feel like either of these men?

All scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Stuck In The Muck and Mire

“But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” – LUKE 22:21‭-‬22‭, ‬40 NASB

When I turned on the radio this morning, and a new song by Matthew West was playing. It’s called “Unplanned.” I was unplanned. My 2 younger sisters and my younger brother were unplanned. Should we then not be allowed to live? How many of you, my wonderful readers, were unplanned by your birth parents? I can’t hear the song without being brought to tears. What a slap in the face of the Creator it is each time an unwanted, unplanned baby is destroyed! We betray our Lord with each abortion that is performed. I supported the abortion industry for years until I realized exactly what I was supporting. I wasn’t supporting women’s rights, I was supporting a massive industry that was all about money. As a society, we are stuck in the muck and the mire of political correctness, in which there is very little that is correct.

“…. behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table…..”

That hand was my hand. Betraying the God of the Universe; betraying His Son, and putting His life on the line, just as we put the life of every single innocent baby on the line with each abortion performed. Jesus had to bear that sin on the cross!

Charles Spurgeon, one the greatest evangelists to ever live, said this, “for those claiming to be Christians, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper will also deceive you, if you rest your salvation on them; when you are near death you will find them too frail to be supports to bear the weight of an immortal soul’s eternal interests. It will be worthless when you lie dying, if your conscience prompts you to say, “I went to church or to prayer meetings so many times a week.” You will find it a poor dressing to your soul’s wounds to be able to say, “I made a profession of godliness.” Oh, your facade will all be torn away from you by the rough hand of the skeleton called “Death”; you will need a real Savior, vital godliness, true regeneration, not baptismal regeneration; you will need Christ, not sacraments; and nothing short of this will do “at the end.”

Are we merely claiming to be Christians, the Christians Charles Spurgeon talks about, resting our ‘Christianity’ on an outward show of rituals and attendance, or have we put Jesus in our hearts and our consciousness? Are we listening to our Lord apeak in our lives? I am a massive failure at hearing God in my life. Many times, I hear Him and then I do what I decide to do. I know one thing: I do not want to continue to be that hand on the table betraying my Lord! Abortion – or rather, the opposition of it – may not be your ‘sword’, but I believe it should be in every Christian’s arsenal.

Please hear this: There is forgiveness for having an abortion, or for having facilitated one (or hundreds). That doesn’t mean it’s okay to sweep our participation under the rug, so to speak. I am grateful I didn’t have an abortion, even though I was not prepared in any way to raise a baby*. I was blessed beyond measure that a family member was there to step in and adopt my child, and I know that there are hundreds of Christ-followers who would give almost anything to be able to have those unplanned, unwanted, babies. (*I wanted my baby, but was emotionally, physically, and financially unable to care for the child…. and the father was even more ill-equiped than I.)

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” – PSALMS 139:13‭-‬16 NASB

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” – ISAIAH 53:4‭-‬7 NASB

Jesus bore the weight of every single child lost through abortion. Like Him, they are lambs, and we are the sheep that are silent. We will do well to immitate Him. As Peter tells us,

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit ….. ” – 1 PETER 3:8‭-‬9‭, 12,18 NASB

Matthew West announced this song on Twitter with the following message, “As long as my God holds the world in His hands, I know there’s no such thing as Unplanned. Watch the music video for Unplanned from the @UnplannedMovie at the link below. https://t.co/hsd7HT0ruT pic.twitter.com/yg1bU2L3WN

Oh I don’t believe in accidents
Miracles, they don’t just happen by chance
As long as my God holds the world in his hands
I know that there’s no such thing as unplanned

“And When You Are Praying …..”

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way:

‘OUR FATHER Who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come. Your Will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [ For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. Amen.’ ]

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” – MATTHEW 6:7‭-‬15 NASB

Um, what? I have to forgive those jerks, those disgusting, bigotted, evil, unscrupulous, narrow-minded, stupid ……. (need I go on???) ……

Yep. That’s correct. I have to forgive them. They may be at fault, but the Father insists that I / we forgive them. That stinks. It falls upon us, dear brothers and sisters, to forgive not only those who have hurt us specifically and individually, but also to forgive those who hurt us collectively. It occurs to me that if I sue someone in a court of law, then I become the guilty party because of my unforgiveness. If I am spiteful to someone because they have treated me badly, then I become the guilty party. When I refuse to forgive, I become the sinner.

I am not saying we have to forget the wrong. Whenever I hear someone advise to “forgive and forget,” I have to (respectfully) disagree. In many, if not most, instances of wrong, I think we need to remember what happened in order to prevent the situation from repeating itself. Punishment is different from judgement, just as remembering is separate from forgiving. I don’t have to like the person to forgive them, and it isn’t necessary to become their friend – although it is possible.

When it becomes necessary to forgive, remember that our Father doesn’t expect us to do it on our own or in our own human strength. He has provided us with a Helper, One Who can take the weight of forgiving the unforgivable off our human shoulders and shifting it onto His infinitely stronger, supernatural shoulders. There are times when the only words we can say are “Oh GOD” or “Jesus, help me.” In fact, we are told in Paul’s letter to the Roman church, “….. for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words …..” – ROMANS 8:26 NASB

Thank GOD. Amen!

Child of GOD – 1 John 3

“We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous.” – 1 John 3:12 NLT [Genesis 4:1-16]

Am I like Cain or Able, shepherd and caretaker or tiller of the ground? “Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” – Genesis 4:6‭-‬7 NLT

I’ve heard many questions about this passage – what was Cain doing that was so wrong, that GOD refused his gift but accepted his brother’s? I don’t know exactly what Cain did to anger GOD, but I think it is a warning to us to be careful about the how and the why when we do a thing. Being a gardener or a farmer, or a rancher or hunter – these are all noble occupations. GOD gave us the earth to be caretakers of it all. After all, they both feed us and clothe us; farmers with all the various plants, and hunters and ranchers with meat and hides. GOD wasn’t angry because Cain was a farmer. Was it pride that triggered Cain’s anger? In verse 7, it is very plainly said: “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.”

As we grow in our lives as Children of the LORD, we offer different gifts to Him depending on how we have been gifted. I would not offer to lead a choir (it would be disastrous!), but I could happily wrangle the animals for the Christmas pageant! If I insisted that I be the one to lead the choir and direct the pageant, would it be sinning? I expect so, because it would be pride alone speaking, not ability, because that is not where my talents lie. Was that where Cain got his anger? Was he jealous of his brother? It seems to me that much of our stumbling can be laid at these feelings of pride and jealousy. Stubbornness, too. I have kept on a path, knowing it was wrong, just to prove I could still reach the desired end – only it never works out well, because it is that sin crouching at the door that trips me up. Every time.

“But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the SON of GOD came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into GOD’s Family do not make a practice of sinning, because GOD’s Life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are Children of GOD. So now we can tell who are Children of GOD and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.” – 1 John 3:8‭-‬10‭ NLT

As Children of GOD, we want to break the cycle of sin. How do we do that, when it has such a strangle hold on us? Certainly not on our own power! When we accept JESUS as LORD of our life, the desire to do good and to follow in His example should – will – begin to grow, especially as we begin to study and learn His Word. Will we ever get it right? No. Sorry to disappoint, but no, not as long as we live in this sin-filled, imperfect world, with sin ready to waylay us at every corner. Don’t let that stop you! Every slip, every stumble, is an opportunity to grasp the Hand our LORD has extended to us and take another step up and forward. Remember, even though we may let go of Him, He never lets go of us! Now that’s a PROMISE.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before GOD. Even if we feel guilty, GOD is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:18‭-‬20 NLT

Again: Even if we feel guilty, GOD is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.”

Guilt zaps confidence. GOD already knows our feelings, and He is greater than our feelings. He knows our heart. Guilt is not what He wants for us. He has taken away our sin, so why do we feel guilty? What do we have to feel guilty about? That feeling of guilt is not placed there by the LORD. It comes from the devil, the Enemy, and from the depths of hell. Guilt is not from GOD.

“Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to GOD with bold confidence. And we will receive from Him whatever we ask because we obey Him and do the things that please Him. And this is His Commandment: We must believe in the Name of His SON, JESUS CHRIST, and love one another, just as He commanded us. Those who obey GOD’s commandments remain in fellowship with Him, and He with them. And we know He lives in us because the SPIRIT He gave us Lives in us.” – 1 John 3:23‭-‬24 NLT

HALLELUJAH!

The Offering of Cain and Able, 12th Century mosaic, Palatine Chapel, Palermo

#NOT_Entitled

“And [JESUS] said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” ” – Luke 22:35‭ ( also read v. 36) ESV

“Places in the Heart,” a 1984 movie with Sally Fields, Danny Glover, and John Malcovich was on last night. It was my first time to view it, and I found it to be poignant and moving; a story of suffering, strength, and overcoming. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. Set in 1938 rural Texas, a homeless man and a blind man set out to help a recently widowed Mrs. Spaulding (Sally Fields) save her farm. Moses (Danny Glover) showed up on her doorstep without anything (“no moneybag or knapsack or sandals”) – but he was willing to do whatever needed to be done. The blind man, Will (John Malcovich), had been put out by his well-to-do brother-in-law and had very little with him, yet he was also helping however he could. Mrs. Spaulding’s sister was betrayed by her husband’s infidelity, and Moses was brutally beaten by the Ku Klux Klan (self-professed Christians and deacons of the church in the movie).

Moses, Will, and the sister are great examples of the way we should be reaching out to those in need around us. The last scene in the movie is a church service where the preacher reads 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love passage.”

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1‭, ‬4‭-‬7 NASB

Although it didn’t excuse the bad behavior of those pious, so-called Christian men against a widow, a black man, a blind man, and a wife, you could see the guilt on their faces; the shame and embarrassment for their actions. They thought they were entitled to their behavior because of the color of their skin and their social status. No matter the skin color, from whitest white to blackest black and every shade in between, discrimination and judgement are far too common among us. Example: I am discriminated against because I am a divorced, radically conservative, Christ-following white woman …… I could join the marches, screaming obscenities (or wearing obscene hats), but I won’t, because to me, it appears that the most vocal, most discriminatory, and most judgemental are the most entitled. (Yes, I’m judging, but look for yourself at the designer clothes, expensive hairdos and manicures, and the cars they drive….. )

As a Christian, a Christ-follower, it is expected of me (of us!) to show the LOVE and the Mercy and the Grace that I (we) have received. Not expected by the world, but expected by our SAVIOUR. I confess, I struggle with it! My faith is tested whenever I know I need to step out of my comfort zones. To literally let go of every material thing, and to embrace what JESUS said …… where is my faith? Letting go – not so much, but holding on? Now, that I’m good at!

Remember the two criminals being crucified with our CHRIST? One was mocking JESUS and rebuking Him, telling Him to save them all from the death they were facing. The other criminal replied to the first with these words – and we are that other criminal: “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” ….. #NOT_entitled, but Forgiven ….. Hear what JESUS said! “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” ( – Luke 23:41‭-‬43 NASB)

Lauren Wells sings “Fully known and Loved by You….. ” Listen!

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ” for Your sake we are being put to death all day long ; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” – Romans 8:35‭-‬37 NASB

From Mathew Henry’s Concise Commentary:

God having manifested his love in giving his own Son for us, can we think that any thing should turn aside or do away that love? Troubles neither cause nor show any abatement of his love. Whatever believers may be separated from, enough remains. None can take Christ from the believer: none can take the believer from Him; and that is enough. All other hazards signify nothing. Alas, poor sinners! though you abound with the possessions of this world, what vain things are they! Can you say of any of them, Who shall separate us? You may be removed from pleasant dwellings, and friends, and estates. …… the soul that is in Christ, when other things are pulled away, cleaves to Christ, and these separations pain him not. Yea, when death comes, that breaks all other unions, even that of the soul and body, it carries the believer’s soul into the nearest union with its beloved Lord Jesus, and the full enjoyment of him for ever.

Well said, Mr. Henry. (And nope, not a relation 😉 )

Follower of Christ, Lover of those who don’t know JESUS – the unlovable, picking up my sword to follow Him; deserving the absolute worst and receiving, instead, unmatched, unimaginable Love and an eternity with Him ….. that’s my goal. What’s yours?

Image from:

https://www.heartlight.org/articles/201305/20130527_feetofjesus.html

The LORD Is My Portion

The author of the book of Lamentations is disputed, but regardless of whether it was Jeremiah, his scribe, or someone else, it is a book expressing deep torment. It was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC. At one particularly bleak period in my life, had I the eloquence of Jeremiah, I could have written this about my own life. These verses can apply to both our physical lives and our spiritual lives. Can you relate it to your life?

“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.” – Lamentations 3:19‭ NRSV

Despite his sorrow and angst, Jeremiah doesn’t lose his trust in the LORD. Like David, Jeremiah suffered through soul wrenching sorrow, but his faith didn’t waver ….. unlike mine. I questioned GOD, I blamed GOD, and I cursed the situations I found myself in. I know – my choices, my consequences. When I finally said, “Enough! I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!” Then I could call out to JESUS, LORD, and allow Him to pull me out of the muck and he mire and the just plain ugliness of my life. Am I always thankful of GOD’s Mercies? Do I always accept His Portion and let contentment into my life? The answer is a resounding “No, I do not.” I am human, and my ‘feelings’ and emotions can overwhelm me. Sometimes I prefer to wallow in my self-pity, but a mentor said to me, “Feel sorry for yourself for 5 minutes, then get up and get on with your life.’ Don’t let the ‘shoulda coulda woulda’s’ run your life, because they will ruin your life!

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have Hope: The steadfast Love of the LORD never ceases, His Mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your Faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will Hope in Him.” ” – Lamentations 3:20-24 NRSV

I have HOPE in the LORD, AMEN!

Image of the prophet Jeremiah from Wikipedia Commons

Fool Me Once, Shame On You

“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!”

JESUS said it before it was made generic: “Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear Me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” – John 8:43‭-44 NLT

Shamed because we listen to the enemy; we are fooled by his lies. Ah, but they are beautiful lies! He says to us: follow my way, and I will make you rich, famous, sexy…. whatever we desire, no matter our dreams, the enemy promises it all to us, with a single caveat: turn away from GOD. He doesn’t require us to deny that JESUS is the SON of GOD, because even Satan and his demons know that our JESUS is alive and fighting the Good Fight for us. The liar simply does anything and everything he can to turn us away from our Creator. The same GOD Who created us and the universe created Lucifer, aka Beelzebub, aka Satan; that rebellious fallen angel, who has this mis-guided idea that he is also a god and that he will be victorious over our LORD and that he will be the ruler of heaven instead of GOD.

Note this! Satan will not win, no matter what tactics he uses. He knows this, but refuses to believe it, and he has made it his goal to take as many humans as he possibly can to share his eternal torment in hell. And so he lies, and twists the Truth into a more palatable truth; a truth that cannot save us from GOD’s Wrath.

“But we belong to GOD, and those who know GOD listen to us. If they do not belong to GOD, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the SPIRIT of TRUTH or the spirit of deception.” – 1 John 4:6 NLT

“And you will know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will set you free.” So if the SON sets you Free, you are Truly FREE.” – John 8:32‭, ‬36 NLT

What is your truth? Is it the ‘truth’ of the father of lies, or the TRUTH of our CREATOR GOD and His SON, JESUS CHRIST?