Finding the Balance

‘We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.’ [1 Timothy 1:8 NIV]

Image by Kostya Kisleyko

Image by Kostya Kisleyko

This verse stood out to me when I was reading my Bible last week. It reminded me of what we say about many things in life when used properly. For example a nail gun. When used properly this tool is very helpful, but if not, it can be downright dangerous.

So then, the law, if not used properly can be dangerous too? Or at the least detrimental? It made me think and reflect on different Scriptures.

The law, when adhered to stringently, can be binding. We can become so inflexible on rules and regulations that we lose sight of grace. We become unbending and judgmental to those around us.

On the other hand, if we become too liberal, taking advantage of the grace offered us through Christ’s death on the cross, we disrespect all that He has done for us. As it says in Hebrews 10, ‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.’

Therefore, it seems we must find a balance — use the law properly. The law must be written on our heart as a high standard we aspire to, though with the knowledge that if we fail from time to time, we are covered by the grace wrought on the cross. Neither living in condemnation nor without any self-control or discipline. The law, when used properly serves to protect us and help us be the best we can be.

Where are you today? On the legalistic, judgmental side, or too liberal with your morality, or have you found the right balance?

Published in: on 24th June, 2013 at 10:52 am  Comments (4)  
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Lavish Grace

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” [Ephesians 1:7-10 NIV]

Photo by Charles Thompson

Photo by Charles Thompson

I love the thought that God lavishes His grace on us. It sounds so generous and extravagant, and wouldn’t you know it, when I looked up the meaning of lavish, that is exactly what it said – ‘bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon.’

Lavish can also have the connotation of haphazardness, to me anyway. To lavish sounds spontaneous and an expression of largess. But God is in no way haphazard or careless in how He tosses His grace around. He uses all His wisdom and understanding – it is purposeful. He specifically poured out abundant grace on you and I, in order to bring us into life with Christ.

His grace is a wonderful, extravagant, designed and purposeful gift. And the gift is sealed by the Holy Spirit in our lives — proof of His grace and approval — proof that we belong to Him.

How cool is that! Could I possibly love Him anymore?

Published in: on 10th June, 2013 at 10:51 am  Comments (2)  
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You Are What You Worship

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold,  made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,  eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,  nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them,  and so will all who trust in them.” [Psalm 135:15-18 NIV]

Although in some cultures, people still worship idols, in our western civilization, we worship different man-made idols. It might be our career, it might be our house and car — our material possessions, or it might be our lifestyle. Whatever is most important in our life is what we worship.

The problem is that most of these things can’t do much for us. They can’t speak to us and give us advise on life. They can’t hear or respond to our troubles and struggles. They can’t intervene when we are about to make a bad decision. These things have no life of their own. they are things.

According to these verses, those who make their idols will become like them. Our lives become less than they can be. We can lose  our voice, our heart, our ability to see clearly (in the sense of wisdom). We can become less effective, frozen, shrivelled up.

We  need the life-giving breath of God moving in and out of our lives to have truly abundant life. When we worship God, we become more like Him. That is an image worth heading for, I think. I would rather emulate the living God than bricks and mortar. How about you?

Published in: on 27th May, 2013 at 10:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Worthy of the Call

‘With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ [2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 NIV]

iStock_000004696356XSmallWhat does it mean to be worthy of our calling? I guess it means we are living it out, rather than sitting around doing nothing. I love that this Scripture says that God does a lot of the work. HE makes us worthy of our calling. HE brings our desires to fruition. HE takes over once we step out in faith to fulfill His purposes in our lives.

On the opposite end of the scale, when we hide away from His purposes for us, we can be likened to the man with the one talent. (See Luke 19). This man hid what he had in the ground, he didn’t even try a little bit. He didn’t step out in faith, even though it meant risking the little he had. As a result, he lost everything.

To be worthy of our calling, all we have to do is step out on the Father’s word and watch Him make our little steps bear fruit.

“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.'” [Luke 19:26 NIV]

 

Published in: on 20th May, 2013 at 8:13 pm  Comments (2)  
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Hands Off

‘David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”’ [2 Samuel 16:11-12 NIV]

Vacant placeI find the way David responded when he heard Absolom was marching against him very hard to take sometimes. You would think he would take up arms and fight for his throne. You would think he would stand up for what was rightly his, God ordained even. But no, he takes his men and leaves the city — retreats.

At first thought, this seems like cowardice, defeatist, weak. But on closer inspection I think David did something that goes against our natural human tendencies. He put his future and his throne in God’s hands.

David had made mistakes, several of them. One of the worst being adultery and murder involving Bathsheba and her husband. He knew he wasn’t entirely guiltless. And he had seen what happened to Saul when that king stopped obeying God — God removed him from the throne. So, perhaps David thought his time was up, that perhaps God had drawn the line.

Instead of rising up in pride with the attitude that the throne belonged to him and that he had a right to it, he humbly stepped back and allowed God to have His way. It is reflected in this one statement he made above. ‘Maybe the Lord will restore me to His blessing.’ He didn’t presume to know God’s will, in spite of receiving several promises on the matter. He simply allowed God to be the one to restore him, instead of doing it in his own strength.

How many of us can say we have acted with such humility when something we think God has promised us seems to have been stolen from under us? Something to think about …

Published in: on 13th May, 2013 at 10:21 am  Comments (2)  
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Flawed Forgiveness?

Yet he was merciful;he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return. [Psalm 78:38-39 NIV]

Forgiveness - all within my handsThe first time I read through the Old Testament as a teenager, I became quite frustrated both at the Israelites and at God. At the Israelites because they couldn’t keep their promise to worship only God, turning away from Him over and over again, and at God for continuously forgiving them.

I remember saying out loud one day — ‘Why didn’t God just wipe them out?!’ They didn’t deserve another chance. It was too much.

But then my mum, in all her wisdom, said something which hit home. ‘Aren’t you glad He doesn’t wipe you out?’

Her words shut my mouth. For I knew it. If the Israelites didn’t deserve another chance, another round of forgiveness, then neither did I. If God had given up on His people in the desert, or even through their years in the new land, then surely He would have given up on me. There would have been no sacrifice for our sin — He never would have sent Jesus to the cross.

And so I stand humbled, always grateful for my God’s long-suffering, for His patience and forgiveness that goes beyond the endurance any man could withstand. His forgiveness is not flawed. His forgiveness is perfect and I bow my knee in worship.

What about you? Have you ever thought God’s forgiveness was flawed?

Published in: on 6th May, 2013 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Another Way to Repay

“Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;
    let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
    and may his prayers condemn him.
May his days be few;
    may another take his place of leadership.
May his children be fatherless
    and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars;
    may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has;
    may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him
    or take pity on his fatherless children.
May his descendants be cut off,
    their names blotted out from the next generation.
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord;
    may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.
May their sins always remain before the Lord,
    that he may blot out their name from the earth.”

[Psalm 109:6-15 NIV]

As I was reading this Psalm the other day, I began to think about David and how he lived. David was not the kind of man to lift a finger in revenge. Time and time again he was wronged and he never took matters into his own hands.

King Saul was out to murder him — you can’t get much worse than that — and yet David refused to be involved in his death. And when David was king there were plenty of times when he was betrayed and opposed, but he never acted in vengeance.

Photo by Jesper Noer

Photo by Jesper Noer

But, when you read some of the Psalms, you see what he would like to see done to his enemies. Instead of reacting in anger and bitterness, David went to God and poured out his vengeful thoughts to Him. And in most cases, by the end of the Psalm, David is praising God.

It makes me think — what do we do with our anger? Do we lash out at others? Do we bottle it up and suppress it? Do we plot revenge and hold on to our bitterness?

Perhaps, like David, we should go before God and let it all out. God knows our hearts — He doesn’t mind hearing how angry we are and even if we wished someone were dead. As long as in the process of pouring out our grief to Him, we actually release it and hang on to it no longer. Instead, we should be able to walk away praising our Father in Heaven in the freedom of forgiveness.

Do you have something you need to release today? Take it to the Lord — He has big shoulders. 🙂

Published in: on 29th April, 2013 at 10:42 am  Comments (2)  
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Destiny Shaper

‘When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. As they danced, they sang:

“Saul has slain his thousands,
    and David his tens of thousands.”

Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David.’ [1 Samuel 18:6-9]

Photo by Jeff Miller

Photo by Jeff Miller

Do you ever wonder how different history would be if one detail changed? Recently as I was reading this passage, I did exactly that. What if Saul had not reacted to the way the women were praising David higher than he?

When love prevails, we want only the best for those close to us. If Saul was walking in the right attitude, he would have listened to the song of the women and realised he had a special servant in David. If Saul was in the right frame of mind, he would have known the submissive and respectful nature of David’s heart. If Saul was not so self-absorbed, he would have, on the basis of David’s successes and talents, promoted him to more responsibility.

Imagine how different the world would have been if Saul did not take offense to David’s popularity. He might have held on to his kingship for much longer. David may never have been a king. Who knows?

The point is, I guess, that our attitudes can shape our destiny. Saul’s attitude was one of selfishness and suspicion — in the end his whole family lost the honour of being in the royal lineage. He died, and most of his relatives along with him. David, on the other hand, had an attitude of submission to God and even when he was wronged in terrible ways, he would not raise a hand to harm the king. In the end, he became one of the greatest kings of Israel’s history, and generations after him ruled as well.

What attitude are you holding wrong today? Perhaps it is time to hand it over to the Lord and adjust your thinking, so that you can walk into a better, freer, future.

Published in: on 22nd April, 2013 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Compelled

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…” [2 Corinthians 5:14 NIV]

Photo by Spiz

Photo by Spiz

It’s a funny thing about love. When we are loved, it brings a sense of security, confidence and stability — giving us the freedom to look outside of ourselves. When it is absent from our lives, we are more easily plagued by fear and mistrust — our hurts make it hard to reach out to anyone.

And I’m just talking about the love of our families, spouses and friends.

The love of God takes it to a whole other level. His love goes so deep that He was willing to die to have us with Him in heaven. That kind of self-sacrificial love does more than give us a feeling of safety — it compels us to pass it on to others. This kind of love can’t possibly be kept to ourselves.

Over the centuries this love has driven people to travel through hardships, face beatings and even death, in order that more may know about the love of God for mankind. It’s the reason preachers preach and pastors shepherd their flock. It’s the reason us writers write and singers sing. It’s why people work to feed the hungry and clothe the homeless. We can’t keep it to ourselves.

It’s just like Jeremiah says — if we try to keep quiet, keep His love to ourselves, it burns like fire in our bones (see Jeremiah 20:9).

What is it you feel compelled to do for the gospel of Jesus today?

Published in: on 15th April, 2013 at 10:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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I Can’t

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan  is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”  The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” [Judges 6:15-16 NIV]

Photo by Adem Kader

Photo by Adem Kader

The story of Gideon is such an inspirational one. Here is a man who is hiding away to do his work, but God chooses him to lead the Israelite army to a great victory. Straight away we see the message that God can and will use anyone, as long as we are willing. And Gideon is willing — after asking for and receiving confirmation several times. But that doesn’t mean God made it easy for him.

The Midianites joined forces with a number of other eastern armies and so a vast enemy came against Israel. Gideon called all the Israelites together to march against the Midianites and thirty-two thousand (32,000) men joined him. Gideon might have thought, ‘with this size of an army, maybe we stand a chance.’

But then God said, ‘you have too many men to go up against the Midianites.’ As if Gideon wasn’t already petrified enough and feeling as though he wasn’t good enough to do the job. Now God wanted to make it even harder?

In obedience however, Gideon offered the men a chance to go home. ‘If you’re too scared, you may go.’ I reckon Gideon himself would have liked to take up that offer, but he didn’t. Twenty-two thousand did though (that’s a lot of scared men!), leaving 10,000 to stay and fight.

But even that was too many for God. He wanted the miracle to be obvious. I wonder if Gideon thought God might be crazy, but again he obeyed. After another whittling down, there were only three hundred (300) men left. The perfect number to defeat a gigantic, terrifying enemy according to God. And defeat them they did.

Do you ever feel like God is stretching you too far? Asking too much of the little you have? Well, be encouraged. With God on your side, you can accomplish anything He asks of you. Just trust Him and obey.

Published in: on 1st April, 2013 at 9:43 am  Comments (2)  
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