Romans 3:30-31 There is only one God, and there is only one way of being accepted by him. He makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law. Let me start by saying that I don’t want to get into a debate over this issue. Obviously there are many sides to this and I’m not a religious scholar, so I don’t pretend to know them all. I’m just writing my thoughts…. I know there is some confusion over whether people are saved because they believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus and His forgiveness of sins or whether people are saved by doing good things and being good enough. I’m not sure why though. This verse seems pretty clear about what God wants. He makes people right with himself only by faith. It doesn’t matter your color or your background or any of that. All that matters is faith. The second thing here speaks to the questions I had about the Old Testament law and how we seem to pick and choose the parts of it that we follow today. I’ve had some great comments about how Jesus’ death and resurrection did away with the old rules and regulation because, as I mentioned above, we are made right with God through faith not through following rules. However, here it says that the law cannot be forgotten and tossed out just because we have faith! On the contrary, faith emphasizes our fulfillment of the law! So faith and the law somehow fit together. The law isn’t totally invalidated because of Jesus. Obviously, we still adhere to many of the ten commandments (particularly the ones like don’t commit murder), and some people still adhere to other parts of the law given to Moses such as not piercing or tattooing themselves. Yet, it’s interesting that people who adhere to this part of the law have no trouble wearing polyester or eating bacon, which is also forbidden just one verse earlier than the piercing and tattooing bit. Sorry, getting off topic! Anyway, I just thought it was interesting that Paul says not to throw out the law just because we are made right with God through faith. Faith should emphasize our ability to truly fulfill the law… perhaps by truly loving other people and loving God (which I believe is what Jesus said summed up the entire law anyhow).
Romans 2: 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, “The world blasphemes the name of God because of you.” I was reading Romans and this verse made me pause. First, the image of those preachers and people who get on TV and teach about God, but then turn around and are cheating on their spouses or stealing money from their foundation, come to mind. But then also I think about the times when I have behaved poorly towards other people, especially my students, and the verse really hits home. Do my actions cause others to curse the name of God because they see me, a Christ-follower, behaving in such a way that they think that all Christ-followers are like that and heaven knows, they wouldn’t want to be like that! Would they think, if all Christ-followers are like that, why would I want to know this God of theirs? That’s a scary thought! I want to be a light to those around me and act in such a way that people want to know what’s different – in a good way. I know that a lot (especially at school) I fall pretty short of that because I lose my temper or speak poorly of someone or complain because I’m frustrated. Thankfully God gives me a new start each day. Unfortunately, human memory is much longer than God’s, and the damage I do today may get forgiven by God, but live on ripping through the lives of others. So, the question I need to ask myself is, do my actions set me apart as a light in the dark, or do my actions spread darkness and cause others to turn away from God?
Romans 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. This is how I feel some days. Okay, a lot of days. I start out thinking I know what I’m doing, and end up feeling like a complete fool because I’m completely lost. Isn’t this at the crux of a lot of our problems? Pride. That’s pretty much what it boils down to. We laugh in movies when the character thinks he or she knows so much and we know they’re making total fools of themselves (dramatic irony, right?). And yet, in real life we do the same things… except it’s me in the silly seat. Right now I’m struggling with a situation where I need to be wise in how I handle things, and I really don’t want to behave foolishly. Part of me wants to lash out in anger and hurt and frustration. And part of me knows that this isn’t the right thing to do. There’s a lot of claiming to be wise from both sides of the table, but an awful lot of foolishness being acted out. Pride is a difficult thing. It’s sneaky. It’s the root of most of my issues. I see it (usually after the fact *sigh*) subtly infiltrating my life when I least expect it to. There’s pride in my fear. There’s pride in my interactions with my children. There’s pride in my interactions with my husband. There’s pride in my conflicts. The frustrating part is there seems to be an underlying current of pride in everything. So, here’s what I’m thinking. Pride in God and what God has done through me is not necessarily a bad thing. He created me with gifts and skills and wants me to use them. I need to take pride in my work and do a good job. However, pride in my knowledge or my ability to do things on my own isn’t such a good thing because really, without God’s strength and help I tend to make a helpless mess of things. I don’t want to play the fool and think I know better than the other people involved in this situation. God’s given them wisdom, too. But I also realize that none of us are right about everything, and that goes for them as well. Pride says to act like I know more than them and be condescending. And God says, “don’t be a fool about it.” So, help me God not to be a fool, to remember that all Wisdom is Yours. And help me to know how you would handle this situation with grace, mercy, and love.
Psalm 26:3 For I am constantly aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth. I think it’s pretty amazing that David could say this! I’m not sure I could. I’d like to, but I’m not sure I’d be telling the whole truth… Constantly is a pretty big word. This post by Skip Moen kind of goes along with that idea that I have no idea how to be all the things God has for me, and even less idea how incredible God really is: enjoy!
Luke 2:23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” In the Old Testament, according to the Law, the firstborn son had to be dedicated to the Lord. It was basically a tithe of your family. I don’t know if it was described that way, but it was very much similar to the the tithe. It came from the first fruits of the harvest, in this case the first child of the family. How very fitting that Jesus was this tithe (or maybe gift would be a better word). He would be that tithe in every sense of the word, even down to His death on the cross as a sacrifice. He was dedicated to the Lord, and He would spend several years prior to His death telling Israel about the Lord and what He was truly like. And, like all tithes, He was sacrificed, given away. But it wasn’t us giving to God, it was God giving to us. In the same way that Jesus was Mary’s first born and dedicated to the Lord, Jesus was also God’s first and only Son who was dedicated to the Lord. In our selfishness and pride, we would have kept Him among us because we didn’t understand the full weight of our sin. But in God’s love and humility, He sacrificed His Son, His tithe, His gift, for us, to give us a new gift of forgiveness and hope. Merry Christmas!
Psalm 50:13-14 “…What I want instead is your true thanks to God; I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High. Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” In this Psalm God is telling His faithful ones that He doesn’t need their sacrifices because He already owns all the resources of the universe and beyond. What He really wants is different – their thanks, the fulfillment of their vows, and their trust in times of trouble. I’d imagine those are the same things He wants from us. I was listening to the radio yesterday (Z88.3) and one of the DJs told a story of this woman she’d talked to who didn’t have anything to give her child for Christmas and didn’t really have any way to celebrate Christmas at all. The DJ was making the point that Christmas isn’t really about the gifts and presents and lights, but it’s about Jesus and what He’s done for us. What hit me though, was that I am so blessed! I don’t have a lot of money and most months I’m really happy to squeak by without running the accounts to zero. But God provided enough to buy gifts for my children and for my husband and me. He has been SO faithful about making sure we have what we need (not what we want, but always what we need) and then a little extra. That story really made me realize how much He blesses us. Trusting God in times of trouble sounds like it would be easy, but it’s easy for my first thing to do is try to fix it myself. Of course, that usually makes a bigger mess… But trust is hard for everyone, I think. So often when we trust people or things our trust is broken. I see this in politics a ton, but also in day-to-day life (someone says they’ll do something but they forget about it). We trust big companies to make products that help us but find out later they make them specifically to break down after a certain amount of time so that we’ll all have to go buy more stuff… The list goes on. So trust is hard. But God wants us to trust Him. In fact, He promises to rescue us if we trust Him! That’s a pretty nice deal! But, I suspect that we have to completely trust Him, without holding on to that last bit of rope. We have to completely open our hands and trust that He’s got us. That’s kind of scary for most people, I think. Ultimately, we can tithe all we want and we can give God things all we’d like, but what God wants is our thanks, or honesty, and our trust. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Matthew 2:2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.” There are several things that I find amazing about the three wise men. 1. They were persistent! They followed a star for two years! They must have come from very far away because they tell Herod that they first saw the star 2 years ago (that’s why Herod has all the boys two and under killed – this makes me want to cry because both my boys are around that age and I can only imagine the pain that order caused). I wonder how often we never find the prize at the end because we fail to follow the star for the time needed to get all the way there? 2. They weren’t as wise as I’d have thought. They asked the current king where the new king was. Did it ever occur to them that maybe he wouldn’t be happy about the thought that he was going to be dethroned? Of course, if they thought a new king had been born, it would be rather logical to look in a palace first rather than in a barn. So, maybe the two cancel each other out and make it a neutral point. 3. They kept their eyes on the bigger picture of who Jesus was. They were giving gifts to a two-year-old… I’d have given him a ball. But they remembered that he was a king, and they gave Him gifts that were worthy of a king. They didn’t lose sight of what and who Jesus was just because of a set of temporary circumstances – that he happened to be a two-year-old. That’s a good lesson for me. I need to remember who Jesus is and not get so stuck on the circumstances surrounding me that will change over time. Ultimately, Jesus is in control and is God and is faithful and is my Rock. The changing circumstances, whatever they may be, don’t change the fact that He is King over everything, even my craziness! Cool stuff from 3 kings!