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Thanksgiving 2014 Day Thirteen: For the Law

imageNo escaping it I am under the rule of law, natural law (what goes up must come down), civil law (speed zones, property, taxes, etc.), moral law (ethical behavior) but what place does God’s law have in my life as a Christian saved by Grace?

As a Christian, one thing I know, I cannot keep God’s law, but as a Christian, I know God’s law is meant to illuminate a righteous path. Taking only the Ten Commandments, as a Christian I now see them not as “Thou shalt not’s” but as “how to live freely’s” .

“Be faithful in your marriage” rather than “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

The law no longer condemns; the law lights my path as a Christian and I am not alone for the Holy Spirit works within me till every chain is broken.

I am no longer condemned by the law:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭1-2‬ NIV)

For in Christ the Law is being fulfilled in me:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (‭Matthew‬ ‭5‬:‭17-18‬ NIV)

And so today I am thankful for all the laws of God, natural, civil, moral and spiritual for with Christ they free me and keep me grounded.

Questions from a Friend: 1. Can you legislate tolerance or morality?

Recently Jeff M. of Louisville, KY posted the following on Facebook:

“So, I have a few questions for you: Do you think we can or should legislate tolerance or morality? How important is political correctness? Can intolerance promote tolerance? Can violence promote peace? Do you hesitate expressing your view here and if so, why?”

The comments with some back and forth discussion numbered were well thought out, sincere and I think reflected the thoughtful worldview of those who responded. I heartily cheer those who responded and expect others wished to respond, but hesitated to do so, especially in light of Jeff’s final question.

Reading the forum that his questions initiated, I recognized old debates restated by intelligent people who were born and raised in a postmodern world, where skepticism of anything and everything trumps “walking by faith”. Frankly, I encounter skepticism among my peers who like me are older, but that usually involves “technology”.

I personally am less inclined to debate issues, finding that words well chosen often lead to a “winner” but not always to the truth. But still Jeff’s questions intrigued me, because they are not new and yet they are timely. So thank you, Jeff for making me take a new look at old issues.

imageDo you think we can or should legislate tolerance or morality?

Not really sure if tolerance belongs in this question, but more about that later. Can morality be legislated? Should it be? And to what end? Apparently, it can be since Moses traipsed up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. Whether one is a believer in God or not, one has to acknowledge that these ten standards or at least five of them establish a foundation for civil and moral law. Just read them through, all ten:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:2-17 NIV)

And yet if you read the Bible or even if you don’t empirical knowledge supports the fact that the intention of the law to govern behavior worked part of the time with some horrendous lapses and the true intention of the law to change the inward man or woman failed pretty much 100% of the time. The intention of God’s Law to shape inner character, love, grace even in the most faithful fell short, because alas we are a fragile, flawed people. As a Christian, I could now lead into a discussion of how Jesus fulfilled the Law of God and set us free from its power, which involved a massive load of guilt for those trying to follow it. But, I will continue to weave that into my posts rather than digressing from the point of this one. Suffice it to say, everything I say and everything I do if it has any worth comes from the rock solid center of Christ in me the hope of Glory.

So can morality be legislated through civil law? Yes. Should it be? Yes. Is all law intended to legislate morality MORAL? No. (for another time) Am I bound to follow it? In most cases, yes? Will it change my inner self, my views, my beliefs? Probably not, but it might open my eyes to a new way of looking at things. Will it produce a kinder, gentler people? Only in those who truly seek to be kinder and gentler and in others who do not care, it will create practiced hypocrites. It will create the facade of political correctness with no depth of human compassion.
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Next time: How important is political correctness?

Burning the Suitcase

Galatians 3:23-29

Joy’s name did not suit her.  As an infant she had been placed in the custody of Child Protective Services.  Her story could be the story of a multitude of kids in the Foster care system.  By the time she was 5 and ready to enter kindergarten, her mother had surrendered her rights.  By kindergarten, Joy had been in eight foster homes.  Her cardboard suitcase, a gift of one of her foster mom’s, was battered, but it and its contents were her prize possessions.  She refused to allow anyone to touch it.  Joy was a sullen, distrustful child…not the least bit joyful.  Although legally adoptable her age and frankly her disposition and behavior made that option unlikely.

In many ways, Child Protective Services had saved Joy’s life.  Conditions in her mother’s care threatened her growth, safety and her life.  The guardians assigned to her case followed her diligently and her foster care met the guidelines.  They tried to prepare her for a time when a family would choose her as their own.  And when Joy was 7, a couple did adopt her.

In Galatians 3:23-29, we learn that God put his chosen people under temporary guardianship, custody of the Law.  Over the centuries from Moses to Jesus, the Law did what it could to protect, preserve, and watch over the people of God.  The Law’s guardianship ended when God who had already chosen his children sent Christ.

For Joy, like us sometimes, just being chosen doesn’t necessarily do the trick.  Just because they buy you new clothes and you have a room of your own doesn’t mean you can trust them.  Joy carried her cardboard suitcase into her new room and lived out of it for months.  She chose to wear clothing far too small for her growing frame and refused to wear her new things.  Her hostility wore on her adoptive parents, but they prayed, waited, and continued to love her…including disciplining her consistently.  

No one really knows what happened in Joy’s life that changed her, but gradually she began to trust their love and by the time she entered 5th grade, she had chosen her parents just as they had chosen her.  They were a family.  She even threw the cardboard suitcase and its tattered contents away.

So it is with us, when we by faith choose Christ, who has already chosen us, we entered God’s family as full members, siblings with those like us and those different from us who have also chosen Christ.  We belong and in that belonging we are reclothed in Christ…out with the tattered, dirty, stained sin clothing and on with Christ clothing.  We are everyone of us heirs to the Kingdom!

Time to toss out and burn that cardboard suitcase!

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Nothing Between Me and God

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Galatians 2:15-21

“IF they would just spell out their expectations, then I would know exactly what to do to meet them.” A co-worker of mine once complained about the lack of clear cut job description and performance measures. If you have ever worked under a teacher or boss, who expected you to understand what you were supposed to do and when, without giving guidance, then you can relate to my friend’s concerns. With her you can shout, “For Pete’s sake, just spell it out!”

Well, God did that!  He gave his people the Law. And then over and over again, they broke it.  Over and over again, God disciplined them and forgave them.  By the time Jesus came, the Pharisees, priests, rabbis, and lawyers had worked God’s law to serve them.   Still as Paul points out even the best rule keeper, and he declares himself to be one, cannot keep the law.  

Welcome to Galatians 2: 15-21!  The Epistle reading in the Revised Common Lectionary…you know, random thought again, I should check out the “Common Lectionary” and figure out what has been revised..oh, well, another day.  Galatians 2: 15-21 finds Paul dealing with “THE EXPECTATIONS” of the Law, which he calls the best system of rules in the world and being RIGHT with God through our faith and by His Grace.  In the scripture right before this reading, he has rebuked Peter for snubbing the Galatian Christians on his visit there.

The Jewish Christians in Paul’s day had a problem, one ingrained in them from birth.  They accepted Christ as the Messiah of God and as their Savior, but felt they still needed the FRAMEWORK provided by the Law and they really felt that made them Better Christians than the Gentile believers.  I mean those folks had no CLUE, what they could do or couldn’t do to please God.  Best to get them under the thumb of legalism as quickly as possible or else they might roast a pig for a Fellowship Dinner.  

Today some Christians lean toward legalism, preferring to be told how to be a Christian, preferring a definate list of do’s and don’t’s.  Some just want the structure, but some want to be able to point a finger at “SIN” in others. Paul saw those tendencies in the 1st Century Church.

Paul, Pharisee of Pharisees, Big time Law Keeper and Enforcer, before Jesus got his attention on the Damascus road, before his three years in Arabia with the Holy Spirit, this same man profoundly understands how important it is not malign the Law, but to live in the freedom of Christ.  He cuts to the chase, when he states, “I have been crucified with Christ–I died to the law–Christ lives in me and I live my life for Christ…not to please other people or to put on a show of piety.  

I really love dwelling on the last verse because it gives me chill bumps, “I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!”  If I can be good enough, follow the law perfectly, if I COULD SAVE MYSELF,  then Jesus leaving heaven, limiting himself to a life in the flesh, suffering, and dying was a completely useless sacrifice.  

Elijah breaking down on the mountain, David crying out to God, Paul encountering Jesus…imperfect men enabled to do great things with God.  They could not save themselves.  They weren’t looking for more defined rules, they longed for, pleaded for, desired GOD!

That’s why we must live our lives in Christ with Christ inside, God heard our cries.  He whispered to Elijah, He restored David, He chose Paul and He reaches out to each of us so that we can have a relationship with Him and not be fenced in by the finite law, but alive in infinite grace.

Nothing Between

Pray as if there were no boundaries
Nothing between you and God
Live as if there were no mountains
Nothing God cannot solve
Live the life Christ has given
Nailing your sins on His Cross
Live as the Spirit flows thru you
Live in the freedom of heaven
Nothing between you and God.

Have a wonderful Thursday!!!

Carolyn
 

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