Galatians 3: 6 – 7

In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.

Righteousness is one of those ideas which confounds us. We often confuse it with holiness. We tend to think it has much to do with our behaviors. It turns out that righteousness is a measure of the condition of our hearts.

I have heard righteousness described as “rightness” with God. I find that a very practical definition. One might say, we stand in our “right” place with God or we are in right standing.    In this, we are drawing near to an understanding. Our right standing isn’t about what we’ve done “right” or, indeed, even the absence of having done something wrong. It is not a holiness measure. Paul shows us that right standing with God comes by faith.

In this passage Paul wrote that it was Abraham’s belief, not in God, but in what God said that marked him as righteous. Abraham believed God. That means he counted as truth the words from God. Likewise, Paul wrote, those who also believe God, believe His words and put their faith in Him are the children of Abraham and heirs to all the promises.

I wonder, sometimes, what draws people to be children of God. What causes us to give our lives to God. Purely from self-interest, the promises made to Abraham should motivate people to draw unto God. When we read the promises, do we believe God? Surely, most people desire to walk in the blessing, but do we truly believe that God will cause those things to happen for us?

It is precisely when we take God at His word that He counts us as righteous. I know this is backwards from the way we think. However, we would do well to wrap our minds around this ideal. Even the sin in our lives will not bar us from righteousness if we believe God. Now, that is a huge statement. It flies in the face of convention. However, it is also truth. Am I advocating nonchalance towards sin? Of course not. That is plain foolishness. We are to walk as Jesus walked. However, the walk begins with faith and belief. If we take care of the belief problem, the sin problem will sort itself out.

Ask yourself today whether, or not, you truly believe God and Christ, his son. Do you just believe in them, or do you believe them. See, believing IN God, really doesn’t say much. If you think about it, Satan believes in God. He is a usurper precisely because he believes in God. Yahweh is asking us to believe Him which equates to believing His Word. Challenge yourself to believe what you read in the Bible. May I say, if you are not reading His Word, it is improbable that you can believe it.

I have been sent to Christians rather than to the unsaved. My mission is to call Christians to higher ground, always higher and more enlightened in the things of God. In so doing, we become that family of believers that God desires.

The Established Throne

Isaiah 16: 5

When oppression and destruction have ceased and enemy raiders have disappeared, then David’s throne will be established by love. From that throne, a faithful king will reign, one who always does what is just and right.

This is an interesting verse because it shows an important link between two biblical principles, love and righteousness. We have talked about righteousness lately, learning that it means that things are as they should be. Really a good way to think of righteousness is that things are “right.” That is what this verse says about the faithful king, the one who reigns forever. He does things right therefore his throne is established in righteousness.

Of course, this righteous, faithful king is Jesus. He sits on the throne. What I find interesting, especially in that this is an old testament verse, is that the throne is established “by love.” Of all the ideals that Yahweh could have chosen for the founding of the everlasting throne, He chose love. Why not righteousness or justice; why not faith?

I have noticed a change in me. I remember a time when I thought the pastors who preached on love sounded like sissies. Now, I would only follow the teachings of someone who is rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3: 17). I have come to understand that our Father is love (1 John 4: 8).

We spend a lot of energy on a lot of emotions, but much of it is wasted. When we eventually circle back around to love we find peace. I have decided, for myself, that I am only interested in the messages that acknowledge that our Lord is seated on a throne established by love. God isn’t beating people up. He isn’t angry. Some of the preachers who yell judgment and condemnation are the very ones who quote John 3: 16 to us day and night, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” How is it that we miss the key word, the reason God sent his only son? Love.

I don’t, and I don’t think you should, follow teachers who don’t spiritually, practically and theologically set up their abode in the doctrine of love. God established His throne, anchored it and founded it on love. That should be good news for us all. Don’t let anyone lead you down the path to an angry God because that is not Yahweh. We can never establish our destined relationship or find our destiny if we do not first understand that Father is always motivated by and moving by love. It is one thing you need to know about our Father. It is our one pursuit. To know Him is to know love.

Getting it Right

Matthew 6: 5

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

2 So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

5 When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

I think this is a fascinating study and I hope you are enjoying it and really thinking through it. Imagine sitting with Jesus when He began to teach on righteousness. Wouldn’t you be curious to discover his ideas on what constitutes righteousness? What would your reaction have been when he began to discuss a relationship between practicing righteousness and being rewarded by God. Would that have made you uncomfortable, as it did me. As you sat there, anticipating what Jesus would say next, what thoughts were racing through your mind?

We think of righteousness as holiness. However they are not the same. In our skewed mindset, the last thing most of us would expect Jesus characterize as a practice of righteousness would be donating money. Money is dirty, right? And we certainly think it is profane for people to suggest we give away our money. It’s not so dirty when it’s in our hands but it certainly takes on a vile stench when someone suggests we give it away. Further, to link righteousness with filthy lucre is insane, right?

Well, we should all feel a bit more comfortable today because Jesus’ second point regarding practicing righteousness was on prayer. He said that some people make pretty, public prayers just so they can be seen as spiritual. He said they lose their reward. Ooops! There goes our holiness meter again. Doesn’t Jesus know that it is sacrilegious for him to suggest that our Father will reward us for praying? I mean, isn’t that kind of repugnant to our way of thinking?

Interestingly, that is Jesus’ whole point in this New Testament teachings. His ways are not our ways. He came painting a different spiritual landscape. Almost everything he said ruffled peoples’ feathers. That much has not changed.

We are going to have one more devotion on this subject before we move on. In that one, we will learn even more about the reality of righteousness. For now, I hope we have been able to loosen some religious strongholds and see truth from Jesus’ perspective. In these few verses he showed us that practicing righteousness is as simple as giving money and praying. Second, he taught that these are to be private practices, just between us and the Father; not secretive, just private practice. There is a difference. Selah! Third, Jesus taught that the Father rewards us for practicing righteousness. Because of Jesus’ teaching, we should expect to be rewarded. Many of us might need to shake the holiness dust from our robes and put on the new garment of Jesus’ teaching. It is befuddling, I agree, but, after all, Jesus is the stumbling block and blessed is the one who does not stumble over him and his teachings.

I hope you have been challenged, but I also pray that you have found liberty so far. Where Jesus is, there is freedom. All his teaching is truth, and his truth sets us free. Let this righteousness teaching revitalize you and lift you higher.

Making it Real

Matthew 6: 2

So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

Last week we looked at verse 1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” We said this was Jesus’ opening statement, disclosing that he was going to speak about practicing righteousness and being rewarded by God for so doing. This week, let us continue by asking what Jesus means by “practicing righteousness.”

Many of us may not think that righteousness is a practice. We may think it is a goal to be pursued, or perhaps an ideal which cannot be achieved this side of heaven. Jesus’ teaching should immediately challenge our perception. As I read the first verse, I find myself curious and expectant. How do we practice righteousness? Jesus said this is a practice which we are not to do before men in order to be noticed by them. That means, it may be something we do in the sight of others, but not for any emotional or tangible reward we get from a public display. Second, Jesus may be suggesting that righteousness is also practiced in private. Okay, we are with you so far Jesus, but what is the practice of righteousness? Is it public prayer? Is it church service? Tell us what to do in order to practice righteousness!

In verse two Jesus begins to show us this practice. Giving alms, that means money, is an act of righteousness. Two things hit me when I read this. First, I wasn’t surprised that God would treat giving as an act of righteousness. He often responds to occurrences by giving (John 3: 16) and encourages, even expects us to do the same. The other reaction I had was disappointment. I was looking for something more holy than donating money.

That’s just like us, isn’t it? We look for a spiritual ritual of great magnitude and holiness that will set us apart from this mundane earthly experience. Instead, we find Jesus teaching us that righteousness is practical, hence, a practice. It is as simple as giving money. Are you kidding me? As I read verse two, I could scarcely read it because I quickly began to scan below to find the “holy” answer. Was this really the answer to my question about how I am to practice righteousness? In verse two Jesus told us what not to do. Verses three and four contain instructions of what to do, “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Is this as loud to you as it was to me? These verses find Jesus instructing us on practicing righteousness, declaring this is something we can and should do. Second, practicing righteousness is as simple and ordinary as giving money. Third, when we perform this very modest act, our Father in heaven rewards us. Wow! I think that is amazing.

Jesus revealed a spiritual truth, a holy practice, and it turns out that it is something I can do easily. However, I must do this simple practice of giving in private, not bragging or shouting about my great righteousness, not banging a gong, or even whispering a secret. I give and no one knows how much, and God reckons that as righteousness! I am astounded at this teaching.

Moreover, Jesus revealed that God wants to reward us. He encourages us to practice righteous giving by promising to reward us. I know that we think to expect a reward is unholy and vile, but in our sanctimonious fervor, we imply that we are more holy than God! Can you see that? If rewarding us is God’s response to our practicing righteousness, then how can the reward or the act of rewarding be anything less than holy? Didn’t we say, above, that giving is how God responds? How, then, can it be anything less than holy? We are emulating the Father when we give, and He rewards us for acting as He acts. That reward is just the simple act of Him giving. It causes me to wonder if we will ever find an act that is more holy.

Next week, we will see what else Jesus had to say about practicing righteousness. In the meantime, enjoy your practice!

Practice Makes Perfect

Matthew 6: 1

Take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

The idea I wish to share with you today will encompass more than just this first verse of chapter six, but let’s pause here and hear what Jesus is going to speak about.

When I read this recently it got my attention differently than ever before. I read this first verse and stopped in my tracks because of two things I heard. First, Jesus is going speak with us about righteousness. What is it and how in the world do we practice it? The part that really got my attention, though, is at the end. Jesus said that the Father would reward us for practicing our righteousness. What? Let that sink in for a moment. What does that mean and who ever thought that Father rewards us for acts of righteousness?

Can we be honest with one another for a moment? Some people are so “holy” and self-righteous that they scoff at the idea of Father rewarding us for anything. In their minds, we are to be servants of God and not expect anything in return. Let me be blunt. They are wrong. Well, either they are wrong, or Jesus is because he is about to speak with us about rewards. This first verse is a caution because Jesus doesn’t want us to lose our reward.

We need to understand that God doesn’t want servants. He can make those. He didn’t send Jesus to earth so that He could get a bunch of slaves or employees. Yahweh wanted kids. He sent Jesus to earth to build a family. Those people who scoff at the idea of Father rewarding us are actually trying to earn their righteousness. They probably don’t even realize that is what they are doing but, in their hearts, they don’t believe they are worthy of the Father’s promises. The rest of us know we aren’t worthy and that sets us free because we have accepted Jesus’ substitutionary miracle, our brokenness for his righteousness. In these next lines, Jesus is going to teach us exactly what he wants from us. He is going to show us what practicing righteousness looks like and, yes, he is going to speak to us about rewards.

Get ready! This is going to be a short, but fun, study. Perhaps you wish to save today’s Word of the Day because next week’s will pick up where we leave off today.

Seek and Receive

Matthew 6: 33

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Last week I wrote to you about Matthew 7: 7 – 12 (See Word of the Day, Fish or Snake, May 15, 2020). The substance of that article was asking and receiving, seeking and finding, knocking and the door being opened. We look for God’s blessing and God is not a man that He would give us a snake if we asked for a fish. He gives good gifts to His beloved.

I was out on a bike ride Friday with those ideas still running through my mind. I stopped at a church to pray, as has become my habit. It sort of feels like with all the churches empty and the parking lots vacant, it is good for me to utilize that space to offer prayers. So, I was leaning on my bike praying when I saw this sign. This verse is so familiar that I almost missed the significance but as I prayed, all of a sudden truth dawned on my consciousness. SEEK AND RECEIVE!

Now before we dismiss this as materialism, take note that God said, ALL things. Jesus was talking about our needs being met, so yes, he meant that our Father would meet our material needs but Jesus is the fullness of all things so this would include your need for social contact and friends, needs for peace, tranquility, relaxation, meaningful hobbies, projects and work. No matter what you need, or want, Jesus included it when he said, “all these things will be added to you.”

The key word, though, is “seek.” Ask, seek, knock; receive, find, have opened. The epiphany that went through me Friday was that “seek” is the word that we should hear and which ties these two passages together. It is worthwhile to note that both passages are part of the same presentation. Each is taken from the Sermon on the Mount which is Jesus’ most comprehensive soliloquy.
We are instructed to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness and everything else will be given to us besides. It is almost to say we will not have need to ask for those other things because we have sought, and received, the one thing. Our receiving is tied to our seeking and that which we are to seek is God’s Kingdom. God knows what you need, and He does not want you to seek those things or even worry about asking for them. Seek Him and His way of doing things and He will provide for your needs and everything else for which you ask. That surely makes for a powerful prayer life. And on that note, when you are at the point where your needs are met and you don’t spend your prayer time on those things, and, when you know you will receive what you ask, imagine how big your prayer life can grow and the things you will pray about. Seeking God and His kingdom really opens up life. It creates a great release of spiritual energy. We are changed as we move into the Kingdom because we reside in God’s presence.

Ask, seek and knock, but in your seeking, seek the one with all wisdom. Seek God and His ways.


Psalm 99: 4                  NLT

Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established fairness. You have acted with justice and righteousness throughout Israel.

Our God is a God of justice and righteousness, but it must also be noted that He is a God of fairness. Fairness is one of those ideals that gets a bit lost sometimes. Some people say life isn’t meant to be fair. I disagree whole heartedly. Children have a basic sense of fairness. It is one of their measures of life. For some completely bizarre reason, as we grow up, we abandon the idea of fairness. Well, I say we should not and my evidence for this is that our Dad is fair. He upholds the ideal of fairness so I shall too.

One point which is of some interest in this verse is that fairness is paired with justice. Can you be a just God and at the same time fair. Better yet, can one be just if they are not fair? In today’s verse, justice, righteousness and fairness go hand in hand. It is good to know that God regards these things together. It certainly gives one a sense of ease knowing that His judgements are always fair.

The mighty and the powerful do not have to be fair. They have power. That may be one reason people think God is a harsh judge. They judge Him by a human measure. Some part of our inner self believes that because He is so powerful, He is also harsh. Nope! God is love and He loves justice, truth and even fairness. So, the next time you are in a position to dispense justice, let fairness be your guide.

Are you enjoying Psalm Mondays? Write and let me know.