Posted in Christianity, Faith

Gotta Serve Somebody

Gonna have to serve somebody

If there is one truth to which we should commit our whole selves, it is this: no matter how free we think we are, the very choices we make underscore our actual servitude, either to our Holy God or to the sinful nature that is the natural state of man, and woman, in a fallen world.

In his 1979 album, Slow Train Coming, Bob Dylan included a single that reflects on this truth, entitled, “Gotta Serve Somebody.”

Dylan writes,

You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance.
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
You might be a rock ‘n’ roll addict prancing on the stage,
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage.
You may be a business man or some high-degree thief,
They may call you doctor or they may call you chief.
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are,
You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna serve somebody.

The apostle Paul acknowledges the truth of this concept in his letter to the Romans. After explaining about the burden a sinful life places on the individual, he exhorts the benefits of choosing instead to serve Christ.  “You have been set free from sin,” he writes, “and have become slaves to righteousness” (6:18). Before righteousness, the possibility of which came to us when Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we were slaves to evil, which only made us more and more wicked. When we embrace being a slave to righteousness by accepting Christ as our Savior, we are made more holy, which leads to eternal life instead of death/damnation.

“What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?” Paul questions, referring to the sinful lifestyle that marks any life that does not choose to walk with Christ. “Those things,” he tells us, “result in death!” (6:21) Paul continues,

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23)

When Jesus promises us that His yoke is light, He is in part pointing toward this difference between serving “the new way of the Spirit,” as Paul describes it, “and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:16). Allowing one’s self to be ruled by the Spirit is choosing to serve our Holy, Forgiving God. His are the mercies that endure forever. Actions based on faith in Him make us a slave who does not feel the burden of his/her servitude, but instead experiences the lightness of spirit that exudes love and helps one sleep peacefully at night.

Our sinful nature, the body that is subject to death, is always ready to catch us in a moment of weakness, to be the sin living in us that causes us to stumble. Only as we repeatedly choose to be ruled by the Spirit of Truth in us do we join in Jesus’ triumph over death into a life spent with the easy yoke of a loving Lord.

Before Christ, all believers could expect was atonement for sin. They sacrificed on a regular basis to be washed clean of sin and even had ceremonies where they atoned for sins committed of which they were not even aware. At any given moment, even the most righteous of believers could be carrying around sins for which atonement had not yet been achieved.

When Christ died on the cross for the sins of all, the ultimate sacrifice, He achieved for us not only atonement but actual forgiveness for our sin. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Paul proclaims (Romans 8:1). We will be judged for our choices in this life, but those who have accepted Christ as Savior will never be condemned for those choices. 

It saddens me that Christians sometimes give the mistaken impression that we think the gift of Christ is exclusive to us, when what Christ offers is open to everyone who breathes. In the early days of the church, Peter tells his fellow Jews, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). Christ’s love extends to all comers, from the lowliest, most despised sinners to the most exalted people in the world. What He requires is a heart that loves Him in return, that understands the great benefit of choosing to serve the Lord and His righteousness instead of the evil one who plies his duplicitous trade in this fallen wasteland we call our mortal world.

You gotta serve somebody. Those serve best who choose, as Joshua of old, to serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15) The way of the Spirit is truly the lightened burden that casts off the crushing weight of a life bound by sin.

Each morning is a new day to choose to serve the Spirit. Will you join me in making a conscious choice each sunrise to serve a Christ Who loves you so much, He swallowed the wrath for your sin even though He had never sinned Himself? He is the only Master worth serving, the only One to whom service causes us to rise rather than stumble.

In Christ,
Ramona

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Posted in Christianity, Love

Seek Right By Letting God Do The Heavy Lifting

1 John 4:16

In their song, “Sawmill Road,” Diamond Rio reminisces about the past, lamenting that innocence went out of style, and we just watched it go. 

Too often these days, I feel the truth of that statement. In an effort to be politically correct, we have forsaken not only morality but even decency in our misguided efforts to avoid giving offense or to simply appear “cool.”

Could our failures come from a lack of understanding of the true nature of love? Jesus tells us that the whole of the commandments can be summed up in two objectives: first, love God above all things, and second, love others as you yourself want to be loved.

Too many of us make the mistake of thinking love means putting no restraints on others, that if we really love someone, we will let them just be themselves. But the love God models for us just doesn’t work that way. The freedom God gives us in love is to choose to do right, to choose to stay in relationship with Him, where the only true peace on this earth can be found. That also means we have the choice to disobey God, to take ourselves out of relationship with Him because of our sin. That choice usually brings about very unpleasant consequences. God’s love means letting us experience those things, too.

Choices that go against what God clearly asks of us disrespect our Maker and put us out of close relationship with Him. We all make these mistakes at some point in life, which is why we all need grace to save us. But, when we continually make choices that show God we do not actually love Him or even want anything to do with Him, we have to be aware that eventually He may just give us what we ask for. Is it possible that hell is not so much fire and brimstone but a reality in which there is no God?

For God, love is not never having to say you’re sorry. His word repeatedly reminds us that a loving father disciplines his children, that God will humble a proud spirit, that He alone determines not only how the tides ebb and flow but also the rights and wrongs of a world He alone created.

We humans too often mistake freedom of choice for a license to be free. God has gifted us with the will to choose to serve Him. But that free will does not negate the straight and narrow path that God has defined as the true sign of walking by faith.  Our freedom to do whatever we feel like is really limited to the narrow choice between following God or refusing to accept Him as Master.

What does God-love do with sinners? One of the best examples comes from Jesus’ experience with the adulteress in John 8. The spiritual leaders in the town want to stone the woman who has been caught in adultery. They are within their rights according to Mosaic law, but they want to catch Jesus in a trap. So, they ask Him what they should do. He replies, let the person who is guiltless himself throw the first stone. Since no one is without sin, the crowd disperses without lifting so much as a pebble. Jesus tells the woman He will not condemn her for her one sin, but He tells her to go forth and sin no more.

There are several love lessons in this interlude.  The first is that God alone has the right to condemn. This does not mean that God alone has the ability to recognize sin. Not only did the spiritual leaders know the sin committed by the adulteress. They also knew the sins they themselves were guilty of, the sins that kept them from picking up the first stone. The responsibility for not sinning falls on the shoulders of the individual. Jesus tells the woman, “Go, and sin no more.” Having been forgiven this sin, the woman is now tasked with refusing to fall into the trap of that sin ever again.

God loves the sinner but hates the sin, a balancing act we humans find hard to accommodate at times. We don’t quite know how to speak out against sins like adultery without giving offense to the adulterer. Sometimes, we take the risk and wind up making enemies because our listener hears only condemnation and not love.  Other times, we remain silent and leave the impression that actions that actually go against God are somehow OK.

When I live my life right, I am so busy keeping my thoughts on God and the ways that He wants me to make a mark on this world through helping others, that I am too caught up in living Christ to find time for judging other people. When I do these things correctly, I am also reflecting the kind of peace and “togetherness” that draws other people. They want to know what it is about me that makes me who I am. I become a living example for them of the importance of Christ in one’s life. When they decide to accept Christ, He does the work in them that will keep them from sin, just like He works on me every day of my life.

Trusting God to do the heavy lifting in this life is one of the hardest things for me to do, and yet when I succeed in embracing this philosophy, my life is always at its best. I pray to remember this lesson the next time I am confronted by those who want me to accept choices that go against God’s definition of right.

Posted in Christianity, Love

More than a Fish Story: An Old Testament Lesson in Grace

not just another fish story

On Memorial Day, we remember with a measure of sadness and a whole lot of pride those brave men and women who have given their very greatest gift for the sake of defending our freedom and way of life.

It seems like an appropriate time to remember the person who paved the way for such magnificent sacrifice, our Lord Jesus, who, having lived a human life and managed what none of us will ever do, that is to be without sin, sacrificed Himself so that we might have eternal life through His grace.

Most people want to place grace solidly in the New Testament. Some like to see God as a sort of split personality—the wrathful, war-like Judge of the Old Testament versus the loving, saving Lamb of the New. But God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so it isn’t really any surprise to find examples of His grace throughout the story of our relationship with the Eternal.

Take the narrative of the reluctant prophet Jonah. If you haven’t read his story since you were a child and more prone to concentrate on the concept of a man inside a fish, take a bit of time today with me to look at this Biblical episode, which is so about grace.

As I read Jonah’s story during my Bible study this week, I was impressed anew by its parallels to some of the events in Jesus’ life, and I was struck by its overpowering message of God’s grace. In fact, I found that some of Jonah’s goofiest reactions to God’s calling for him only go to underscore the truth of God’s mercy.

Jonah arrives on the Biblical scene at a time when the Jews could be doing better. They are a divided kingdom, running through a succession of kings who take turns being for God, ambivalent, or outright disobedient. Sometimes they worship as they ought. Other times, they cling to pagan idols.

But Jonah isn’t sent to prophesy to the Jews! Instead, God wants Jonah to warn the Assyrians in the metropolitan city of Nineveh to repent before He executes a mighty punishment on them. There may be more immediate reasons that God places Jonah on this path, but there is also an inkling here of God’s future message of grace. He wants all to be saved: Jews, God-fearers, Gentiles, even enemies of His chosen people like the Assyrians. And, as we shall see, this story also shows how often the Gentiles turn more quickly to God’s message of grace than His chosen people.

When called, like so many of us, Jonah doesn’t want to go. So, forgetting that God is everywhere, Jonah hops a ship and tries the impossible feat of outrunning Him. Jonah doesn’t get far. A storm begins to rage on the open waters. The sailors of the vessel, terrified, are surprised to find Jonah fast asleep as the storm rages.

Even though Jesus was not running from God, you might recall He, too, was found fast asleep during a stormy voyage on the open water. When His disciples wake Him, He calmly abates the storm. Jonah’s path to bringing about calm waters is clumsy by comparison.

The sailors cast lots to figure out who is responsible and then start questioning Jonah. He admits it is his fault that the storm has come and offers to sacrifice himself for their safety by being thrown overboard into the sea. (Jonah doesn’t know that God will save him, so he really is offering to die to save the men in the boat.) The sailors, reluctant to kill a man, even though he has brought this calamity on them in the first place, attempt to ride out the storm. Eventually, even they have to admit defeat and throw Jonah overboard.

Jonah stays inside the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights (another parallel to Christ, who was three days and three nights in the tomb before rising again). While sitting in the gooey, smelly darkness, Jonah prays, and what he prays about is grace and the salvation that comes because of it:

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.

God uses the vine to teach Jonah grace

If Jonah’s story isn’t already weird enough, it takes another strange twist once he has successfully fulfilled his mission. For, having prophesied doom so that the Assyrians actually repent of their evil ways, Jonah gets angry that God chooses to show compassion instead of reigning destruction on the great city:

That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish, Jonah complains. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

Showing how challenging the concept of grace can be for humans to grasp, Jonah accepts God’s compassion on an intellectual level but is so irritated that his prophesying was unnecessary since God did not condemn Nineveh that Jonah proclaims he is angry enough to die.

Jonah finds a place east of the city (won’t Christ come from the east upon His return?) and plops down to do just that. But, God isn’t finished teaching him lessons, or us, just yet. God makes a vine grow over Jonah that protects him from the elements. The next day, God allows the vine to be gnawed away by a worm, exposing Jonah to a scorching wind and blazing sun.

Now Jonah is really angry, but God gives Jonah a more merciful perspective to consider, one that takes into account the true meaning of the vine that Jesus later proclaims:

But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

Our God loves us. Even when we are most despicable, He longs for us to turn towards Him. He forgives yesterday, today and forever. He saves yesterday, today and forever.

During this Memorial Day holiday, as we pay honor to those who have given their lives in fighting for our country, we should begin by honoring the One whose sacrifice gave tangible proof of God’s saving grace. Because of Jesus, we creations of the mighty God know every moment of every day through all circumstances that God’s grace never fails.

Only God could tell us so much from the story of a reluctant prophet in the belly of a whale.

Posted in Christianity, Faith

This Easter, Learn the Difference When You Live What You Believe

He is risen indeed

One of the discount department stores is running an ad about their sales for the weekend, emphasizing great prices on dresses and dress clothes for the annual Easter Sunday church visit.

I wonder about those of us who only see the inside of church on these special occasions. We put on the cloak of Christianity like a garment we can choose to wear or discard as the feelings move us. We call out to God in times of distress as if He should overlook all the times He hasn’t heard from us, not even a simple thank you for our daily kindnesses and blessings.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the greatest gift God ever gave us—the potential to return to a healed relationship with Him through the salvation provided by Christ’s sacrifice for us when He died on the cross despite being blameless so that our many sins will not condemn us. But, we can’t maintain a healthy relationship that allows us to grasp the full potential of God’s blessings if we only work on that relationship every once-in-a-while.

Sometimes, I wonder if people who condemn those of us who believe in our mighty God really understand what it is they are rejecting. What seems like a fairy tale of a by-gone age to them is to me the spiritual and logical conclusion of a series of events that go back to the beginning of time.

God made a perfect world. He populated it with flora and fauna. He even made man in His own image to enjoy the fruits of His labor. Man, setting the example of a pattern of behavior that dominates to this day , didn’t waste much time ruining the gift of the paradise God created for them. Walking with God without shame, conversing with Him as if He were the kind neighbor from down the street and not the Creator of all things, just wasn’t enough for Adam and Eve. They wanted to know what God knows. They grasped the knowledge of good and evil as if the human heart, though made in the image of God, could yet somehow be god-like.

But, humans who know evil and good will inevitably sink to the level of evil because the human heart is not to be trusted. It cannot know evil without falling victim to the weakness of giving in to that evil. And when we commit sin, we cannot go forward in a relationship with the God-head as if nothing bad has happened. So, God gave man instructions on the kinds of sacrifices He required to bring a person back into relationship with Him whenever a person stumbles.

Why most sacrifices require the shedding of blood can be a hard concept to grasp if you have grown up in a world where you get trophies just for participating, where everybody is a winner. But, for me at least, the idea that I only truly understand the depth of my sin if I see the extent of the sacrifice to make me right again with God seems to be perfectly logical. I can’t trust my heart to tell me when I am in the wrong. My heart is quick to make excuses for me and an expert at giving me the benefit of the doubt. But the blood on the altar of an animal that had nothing to do with my sin is a definite wake up call for my need to straighten up my act. Having in me the genetic memory of first man’s close contact with our sovereign God, I long to return to that place of perfect peace where we walk in the garden, and I am not afraid.

No troubled hearts for those who believe

Do you like the humanist stand on morality better than the strict guidelines that unconditional love requires? I wonder why. If God does not exist, as the humanists proclaim, then what is the point of these randomly sequenced molecules that are the only explanation left in a world where no master Creator spoke the world into being? The closest thing I can find to one is Darwin’s idea of the survival of the fittest. And if that is our point, to be the strongest, the one to survive so that our genes continue to thrive, then what happens to kindness or thoughtfulness or love? We humans have proven how quickly and deeply we can fall into the depths of darkness.  We torture and maim, watch as children starve,  enslave each other. Auschwitz. Hiroshima. The human heart never leans toward the light, not when it does not acknowledge a God exists who has the power and desire to fill that heart with love and light.

When Christ sacrificed Himself, spilled His own blood because of my sin—He had no sin of His own—He tore the curtain that separated the unholy from the Holiest once and for all. When I believe Christ died for me, when I bow my head and acknowledge my own sinfulness, my wicked heart, and say, You are my savior, I invite the light and love of God into my heart. I allow Him to transform the heart from that which is only able to look out for number one to a loving light that knows the power of Christ’s gift of grace and can’t help but find ways to share the good news about that love with others.

In this world God created, those who survive best are often the weakest, the most humble. Survival is defined by staying in close relationship with God, in taking steps to love other people like we want to be loved. We walk in the perfect garden and are not afraid.

I like a world that is more concerned about what I am becoming for the next life than concentrating on making the most of this world because it is the only one we’ve got. When you celebrate Easter this Sunday, do it in full knowledge of the enormity of the gift Christ gave when He put your salvation before His survival.  You are no longer condemned, but bathed in the Spirit of Truth that will compel you to live according to what pleases God instead of trying to please other people or yourself.

I am so thankful God tore away the barrier that separated His holiness from my humanness. When I call, He hears me. When I make choices based on His teachings, I know peace.

And isn’t that what I am really seeking when I put on that new Spring dress Easter Sunday, my curls pulled back with a bright bow, and step into the sanctuary where the voices of those who believe swell in the still air like even the angels are singing?

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christianity, Faith, Love

The Greatest Love Story Almost Never Told

love-story

In a burial scene during the latest X-Men movies, one of the characters picks up the cross at the head of a newly dug grave and turns it before placing the two sticks back into the ground so that an X now stands at the head of the grave.

It’s supposed to be a simple statement about the person buried in the ground,  but I couldn’t help myself from seeing something deeper behind the symbolic gesture. It seemed to me that by taking down the cross in this way, the movie had literally “X-ed” out God.

But, should I really give in to the righteous outrage this degradation of my God stirred in my chest? If I look really hard at the way we Christians try, and mostly fail, to reflect why Christ’s message is good news, how can I really blame the secular world for its obsession in breaking down the things they perceive that I stand for?

I recently listened to one of N.T. Wright’s speeches at a Pepperdine Bible Lecture series. In it, he claimed that the story the world at large has learned from us when it comes to Christ is one in which God’s hatred of us led to the need for the sacrifice of His Son to save mankind instead of the truth of the absolute love story the gospel really is.

For God so loved the world. Growing up listening to too many sermons where I was reminded, like Jonathon Edwards’ congregation of the 18th century, that I might be likened to a spider dangling above the open flame of God’s wrath, I easily supplanted His overwhelming love in my fear of His inevitable judgment.

In a world where you are reminded of your failings, the love you feel from God too easily becomes understood as conditional. You have to earn His love for you, just as you earn the respect of your peers. Considering how often we stumble, I can only imagine how much He rightfully hates me. Looking at life through these conditional lenses, I can’t help but hate myself.

It’s easy enough to fall into this trap of doing to earn God’s love and salvation. We live in a world where we delineate winners and losers. We judge others according to their accomplishments. We study a Bible in which we struggle to match the Old Testament God of Wrath with the New Testament God on a Cross.

We Christians are not immune from failing to fully accept that our belief alone in Christ and His teaching is what saves us, even though nothing else we do adds anything to our actual salvation. Too often, we make these unconscious checklists of the things we should be doing to ensure what is already ours through faith, things like never missing church on Sunday or never passing a person wanting a handout without giving him something. These to-do lists are commendable goals for a grateful heart that wants to live for God, but making them a requirement for salvation proves we have fallen victim to rendering conditional a relationship that is actually unlimited.

If Christians are unclear on the absolutely unconditional love of God for humanity, how much more so will those who do not believe fall victim to our seemingly confused theology? We make it so much easier for a secular world to X out the one good thing it has going for it because the light we shine is shrouded in this confusion over the height and depth and breadth of God’s love.

The good news is that the story of Christ is not a story of sinners in the hands of an angry God, but a true love story, the truest love story, about a God who made us in love, in His own image, and has never stopped loving us unconditionally, even when we turn our backs on Him.

If you need examples of man’s inability to break the bonds of God’s love for us, the Bible is replete with them. How many times did the Jews turn from the ways of a God Who only wanted them to love Him first and foremost? And, every time, He waited patiently for the stiff necks to turn in true worship to Him once more.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is another example of God’s capacity to feel love, only love, even when we deserve His disgust.  When the prodigal wastes his inheritance, returning to his home only after he has led the most ignoble of lifestyles, the father doesn’t tell him that he got exactly what he deserved. The father greets him in love, with mighty hugs, tears of joy, and a grand feast. When one lost lamb returns to the herd, the Shepherd who loves beyond human understanding rejoices.

Perhaps the most powerful example of the love story that is Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation is the assurance that we who believe are no longer condemned. There is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Paul assures us in his letter to the Romans (8:1), one of the New Testament’s most powerful treatises on the gift of Grace.

We’re human. We’re still going to stumble and fall. But, no matter how hard we hit the pavement, God refuses to condemn a saved soul. That doesn’t mean He won’t want better from us next time. It doesn’t mean we should go through life without thinking about our actions or trying to be a better person. It just means we can free ourselves from the burden of judgment that has been lifted. The yoke of our Mighty God is truly light. It is a yoke held up by the truest love there is.

You want to argue politics or stand on your moral high ground about hot-topic issues? Maybe there is a time and place for all of those things. But today, in this divided country we live in, I think it is much more important to make the Christian job description conducive to spreading the love story of our Awesome God.

If you want to change the world, start by making sure the world knows just how much God loves it. He put a piece of Himself on that rough wood and gave up all the power of the universe so that His children, which includes all of us, could be in relationship with Him again in a heavenly home where love conquers all.

That’s a love story of the ages, for the ages. And it always has a happily ever after.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christianity, Faith

Crafted Glory: A Lesson From Solomon’s Temple

 

talent-1

The temple was magnificent, clothed in precious metals, high above the city, the very best that man could create in honor of an immortal, all-mighty God. Imagine the morning sun rising to its zenith, glinting off the gold and silver and bronze that had been hammered and polished until it gleamed. In a city that had known nothing except rebellion and blood shed, the uncertainty of a hostile world despite their powerful King David, how different it must have been to face each day with this overpowering symbol of God’s sovereignty, an ever-present promise of the peace and prosperity that marked the reign of the wisest king the world had ever known.

Reading the story of King Solomon’s completion of the temple this morning, I was struck by the challenges to human nature the building of the temple must have presented to its many craftsman. So many people had to be employed to contribute to the work that it took 3600 foremen just to oversee all the builders hand-working stones in the quarry to be carted to the building site. The temple itself rose from the ground in a kind of reverent silence.

Hiram the bronze worker made an 11,000-gallon bowl they called a Sea. Statues of bulls served as the pillars to hold it up. He crafted pomegranates to give ornament to the temple. He must have worked from the first light of each day until he could no longer see even by candlelight each night, and yet his work, as well as the others, was not completed for seven long years.

When your God gives you the skill to create that which will be worthy of representing Him to your peers, how do you not at first quake at the fear of failing Him and later, as you see the beauty of what He enables you to create, keep yourself from feeling a surge of pride bordering on obsession to perfect what glorifies Him and at the same time shines a reflective light on yourself as well?

cutaway-solomons-temple

I admire the humility of these craftsman who must have kept in perspective the absolute need for God’s backing to their success despite the very real temptation to stand back at the end of a long work day and admire one’s handiwork. Their success in completing the temple and the subsequent worship that God blessed there for many years to come tells us that they were grateful, obedient servants to His word, rather than those who might fall victim to pride, mistaking the beauty of what they had created as a thing glorified rather than realizing it only symbolized the glory of a God we mere humans can only begin to imagine.

The beauty of this building cast in precious metals would have meant nothing if it did not represent a living, loving God.  I think it also represents God’s understanding of our very human natures. He who defined light and shadow needs no building from which to rule or be exalted. But we humans, especially those living in a time where all kinds of gods were worshipped in elaborate venues, seem more inclined to understand our worship when it has some kind of physical representation.  Not only did Solomon’s Temple represent the quantitative wealth of the nation of Israel, it also represented the greatest wealth Israel would ever have—the honor of being the chosen people of the one and only God.

When I use the talent God gives me to glorify His name, I can only pray that I too give full credit to the One from Whom it comes. The moment I become more concerned with how well something I have done represents or reflects on me rather than God, I have put my trust in earth’s treasures instead of those which are in heaven. And I so want to have a chest full of heavenly treasures when this race of mine is done.

God is good all the time, and any work that strives to shine His goodness in a world cast in shadow is work that is worthy of our sweat and tears and devotion, whether that work takes seven years of hard labor to complete or a lifetime.

It may not be the lesson God intended in telling us how Solomon built the Lord’s Temple, but it’s a lesson I need to hear in my life, especially when I am tempted to think that my limited skills have anything to do with me instead of everything to do with God.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Christianity

It is NOT, in fact, all Relative

what-istruth

“How do we know what is true?” the speaker at a workshop I recently attended asked the participants.  She wanted us to say that we “feel” what is true. I know that because when I answered “because the Bible tells me so,” she didn’t like my response one iota.

Not wanting to shanghai the workshop by launching into a debate on relativism, I let it slide. We thankfully moved on to unrelated topics, and I was able to let this question about truth ruminate in my brain over the next few days.

Ravi Zacharias, a profound speaker on Christian topics, would explain the pitfalls of a relativistic outlook in this way: Because relativism by it’s very nature denies the existence of an absolute truth, it is a failed system before it has even begun.

How do you explain what is good without having an ultimate good to which to compare? In the very act of trying to define truth individualistically, people can only make meaning by finding their way to an unwavering Power they are consciously doing their best to deny.

The human heart is absolutely incapable of always doing good or even consistently knowing what good is without reaching for an absolute groundwork that is unwavering. This absolute does not have exceptions to its rules.  It does not allow for human happiness above the need for right over wrong. It operates from a place of love tempered by a spiritual perspective that is beyond the ability of the human mind to fully comprehend. We are designed to know when the rules are in alignment with the truth of His Word, but we do not get to decide which parts of His Word we will choose to attend to or ignore.

If it feels good, then it must be good. No story in the Bible is more designed to prove the fallacy of this concept than the story of King David, a man after God’s own heart. Even though he spent the bulk of his life pursuing God’s Will, acknowledging God’s goodness and superiority in his life, and actively making choices that would please God, even David’s heart for God managed to stray from the straight and narrow path of truth as David knew it from his own study of the Hebrew traditions.

David knew absolutes. He loved God so much that when Saul stumbled into the cave where David and his men were hiding, the fugitive youth refused to harm a hair on his King’s head because any harm done to Saul, who had been crowned by God, would be an offense against the Creator.

When David turned from the reality of God’s truths, it was relativism that made David give in to the lusts of his heart and steal another man’s wife. It caused him to underhandedly try to cover up his adultery by lying to the man he had cuckolded, and then, when that strategy failed, to actually have the man killed in battle. When David turned away from God’s truths to lean on his own understanding instead, he set forth a series of events that would cause his family to suffer for generations.

Relativism made David’s son Absalom convince himself he deserved his father’s throne so that Absalom slaughtered his other brothers and launched a nearly successful coup of his father’s otherwise powerful reign. In a world where God died to make it possible to wash away my sin, I am convinced He does not make bad things happen in order to punish us. But, I do believe He makes no promises to save us from the consequences of our own actions, only the promise to hold our hand while we suffer them.

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Relativism is easy on the surface. Live and let live leaves lots of time to seek what pleases, especially since standards based on happiness are really no standards at all. Its proponents don’t have to deal with any harsh reality because they make truth a liquid that moves with their own whims and wishes.

But God, who rules this universe He created, doesn’t operate on a platform of fluctuation. He is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the definition of an absolute, and His laws, natural, spiritual, and moral, are the ultimate movers and shakers of reality, no matter what social media or television dramas want us to think otherwise.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that God praises David and yet also graphically displays David’s humanness in order to prove to us that no person is capable of following God merely by “trusting his gut.” We know what is right and wrong not because of the “god” in us as so many Eastern philosophies would have us believe, but because we spend time in His Word and in relationship with His Holy Spirit in full knowledge of our dependence on Him for all things that are real and good.

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Sometimes, we love best when we are willing to stand in the truth of God’s Word, no matter if the world wants to mock and ridicule us for our belief in His absolutes. Often, doing right only feels good after the fact, when we can go to God in thankfulness that He helped us stay on the straight and narrow path. Sometimes, doing right, like sticking with a marriage to which you made a holy vow, can bring a whole lot of sorrow and pain before you round the curve back to the light. But always, when we follow God’s absolutes, we can walk forward in confidence knowing that God loves those who cling to His truth and seek His understanding rather than being guided by our ever-deceitful hearts.

Black and white is not just an old-fashioned television era when moms stayed home cooking and cleaning and the worst trouble their kids managed to wrangle was a broken window from a stray baseball.  Seek God’s truth, which is absolute, and you will ultimately grow into the person His master plan longs for you to be.

You are a key player in God’s ultimate picture for this life and the next. I didn’t say it. Christ’s broken, innocent body on a cross on Calvary did, where love and mercy, justice and forgiveness came together to save us all.

Absolutely.