Righteous Life

Psalm 112: 1 – 6

Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous. It is well with the man who is gracious and lends; He will maintain his cause in judgment. For he will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever.

Today’s passage shows the characteristics and benefits of a life lived in reverence to the Lord. It describes the life of the person who loves the Lord. Blessing and prosperity adorn his life and he is prosperous in all his ways. It also shows his personality traits, traits which are gained through living enamored with God.

The person who loves God is a righteous person. That does not mean he is holier than thou. It means he is in right standing with God. Our righteous standing with God is part of the miracle and part of the mystery of Jesus’ victory. If I boast in my righteousness it is only because of what Christ has done for me. Though we didn’t earn it, that righteousness entitles us to a benefits package. I think it has a price too. We are to trade our life in the world, and any benefits it may have, for a life in Christ. We give up our place in the world for a life in him. It appears as a sacrifice but once you have transitioned you realize that you gain far more than you give up. I find this is a process. We are beginning to glimpse the great joy and benefit of living in Christ. The more we give up of ourselves, the more we gain. That is just like our Father. His kingdom makes no sense to the worldly mind.

This life in Christ has a transformative impact on our personalities. Now, that will cause some people great consternation. “Do you mean I have to give up who I am to be in Christ?” No, not really, and then, absolutely yes. The laying down of our lives becomes a pleasure, a freedom rather than a sacrifice. And truthfully, you are not giving up who you are but rather the imperfected you in exchange for the glorified you. You will still be you but the 2.0 version, and then 2.1, etc. You are evolving, transforming, coming out of your chrysalis as the beautiful butterfly which was always in your DNA. This transformation is reflected in today’s passage. Please look at this language again, “He is gracious and compassionate and righteous, . . . [he] is gracious and lends.” You can measure your level of transformation by this quote. As the transformation takes place, you will find yourself more generous, compassionate and gracious. It strikes me that graciousness is listed twice. The repetition must have significance.

I was just thinking about how we bless and care for others and Father blesses and cares for us. The blessing must flow downstream. Jesus wants us to live intertwined with him so that he can take care of us and has told us that we are not to have care about our own lives. We are to care about others. Once our minds and spirits are free from worrying about ourselves all the time, and thinking about ourselves, then we are able to hear the Lord communicate with us about the needs of others. It really is a great joy to be used of God to bless someone else. It is an honor to be trusted with even a small fragment of Jesus’ ministry.

Blessed is the person who loves and reveres the Lord. Blessed and to be envied is the one whose life is intertwined in the Christ. May it show in our actions. Let God’s name be lifted up and praised because of the generosity and caring of His children.

Our Time

Psalm 111: 4

The Lord is gracious and compassionate.

My favorite verse in this psalm is actually verse 10, “The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” That is the verse I intended to use for today’s Word of the Day. I didn’t use it because when I read verse 4 this idea of God’s compassion overtook my mind and heart. I was immediately given to understand that being in the Lord is how we are able to express compassion and to be gracious. Those two traits might not be intrinsic to humans, but we have the ability to express them expansively because He is in us giving life to our mortal bodies. His life within us is filling us with His goodness so that we have His love to share with others. This, the love and compassion of our dear Father, is what the world needs now, most of all.

I had an interesting conversation, this week, with someone who shared with me the sense that Christians are not showing their love at this time. Where we ought to be the voice of love and grace, she hears judgment and hate. I am chagrined down to my bones. My spirit has not been so aggrieved in many years. How is it that in the midst of a worldwide calamity, Christian compassion is not the talk of the town. As I listened, I had to admit that I have turned off Facebook for the very same reason. I don’t hear love, compassion or Christ like zeal either. I hear judgement and division. I decided that my time was better spent in prayer and meditation.

This is a challenging time for us all and as a political science major and law graduate, I was initially drawn in by political analysis. This is a historical time and I wondered how history would record our reactions. I began watching how different political systems dealt with the crisis. It was fascinating and I wanted to be back with my political science buddies, hearing their thoughts. But then something happened. I was called upon to be the pastor that God has called me to be. It forced me into a paradigm shift where I had less luxury for contemplating political science kinds of questions. The world was hurting and that called upon the Spirit within me to respond with God’s comfort. I was blessed to see the immediate sense of community and camaraderie. That spirit of cooperation and teamwork waned though. I had a project in mind that would require the assistance of others. Before I could get it off the ground, compassion and caring were supplanted by politics, division and judgment. No longer was it all for one and one for all.

I am moved, however, in knowing that Christians are still praying. We are God’s hands and voice in the earth to bring comfort and peace. We have an important job to do and that is to spread the love, compassion and graciousness of our Father to all people without regard to race, country of origin, ethnicity, political party or jurisdictional borders. Only we have the power and authority of God for such an important mission and I don’t think we should be taking our role lightly. We shouldn’t forget that every single Christian is an important part in the body of Christ and, as such, is called upon in this time of need. Let others argue about face masks and politics. We have more important things to do. We have the real answers. Why should we burden ourselves with worldly thoughts and arguments? We must decide for whom we stand in this hour of great need. Is it a political party, candidate, position or our Father? Let’s not be argumentative, but rather understanding, compassionate and caring. Let’s reach out to each other and those who may not yet know the love of the Father and give them a taste of His unfailing love. Remember, if we do not show God’s acceptance and understanding, no one will.

You have been called to this day and don’t believe you haven’t, but not to political debate. No, we are called in this time to prayer and the expression of His love. This is the time when you must stand up for love and show your true colors. Turn off the TV and spend some extra time in meditation and conversation with your Father. Open your heart honestly and let Him give you direction and ideas. You are a powerful force for good and this could be the greatest evangelical time of our lives. Let’s not waste it being judgmental and divisive. You are the blessing God has put in the earth and though you may feel like you are not important, I can assure you that you are. Don’t waste your power and authority in Christ Jesus. Be the blessing and voice you were born to be. Be the voice of compassion and grace. Don’t miss your time. Don’t underestimate your value.

Lovingkindness

Exodus 34: 6 – 7

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.”

I wrote yesterday of my changing attitudes and if I failed to communicate this, I want to make clear that the only reason there is even a drop of compassion in my body is because our Father is full of loving compassion. He has given me the ability to feel His love and compassion for His children.

Do you love this passage? I hope it is rich and meaningful to you. Pick a word, any word and just let it speak to you and show you Father’s nature. I am a little stuck on the word “lovingkindness.” Other translations just say “love” and that is all that is necessary but it is almost like the translators of the NASB and earlier versions just couldn’t wrap enough sentiment around the word love so they had to reach into the richer meaning of the original language. It is not enough to be loving because it has to express the manifestation of love. God’s love does something. It is not a feeling; it is an action. It shows itself in His kindness, His graciousness, and His patience. He is abounding with love and compassion such that it is overflowing from Him. It is Him. He is love and compassion. He is not a wrathful God but instead a Father of infinite patience who is slow to anger. He is kind and forgiving at all times and each day He has a new supply of tender mercy for each of us.

We may overlook the word gracious but perhaps it is the word which will most bless your heart today. God’s grace means that He is thoughtful, affectionate, kind, caring and courteous. He purposes not to hurt or even embarrass you. He is gentle. A gracious person attempts not to hurt your feelings. They are tender and that is God.

He is the loving embrace you need today. He is accepting and understanding. You don’t have to pretend with Him because He accepts you just as you are. He loves you and wants to wrap His arms around you today and keep you safe. He cares infinitely about what you are thinking and feeling. His love for you knows no bounds which is what abounding communicates. Every morning His love for you is renewed so that there is a never-ending supply. He is a deep well of understanding.

Your God is love and loves you. He is pouring out His heart to you today so that you can rest in His compassionate embrace. You don’t need to bring anything to the meeting. Just let Him soothe you. He is non-judgmental so you can take whatever you think and whatever you feel and cast it at His feet. Every day, He only wants to protect and love you. Whatever you need today is in Him. Praise the Lord for His love is all encompassing and poured out onto the children of earth.

The Gracious Hand of the Lord

Nehemiah 2: 8

And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have all our  requests granted by the people we need favor with? My first thought upon reading this was, “Why was the hand of God on Nehemiah?” Then I remembered a passage from Ezra. In chapter 7, verses 9 & 10 we find that “the gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord.” I believe we have found the secret.

One question we may pose is, is the gracious hand of the Lord a reward for the studious observance of God’s Word or is it that grace just follows those who abide in the Word of God. I believe the latter is the correct answer but in reality, what difference does it make? If we know that favor and success follow those who are studious to discover and diligent to do all that the Lord has taught then that is, I believe, enough.

Gracious in the Hebrew means to: bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, bestow, to show favor and mercy. In other words, the graciousness of God causes Him to come down to our level in order to give us mercy and favor. The favor from God causes all people to see us in a pleasing light such that our petitions are granted. It seems like a very good deal that we have received. If we will devote ourselves to the study and observance of God’s teachings, then we shall have favor and good success with all people.