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Mile 2: Settling Scores with Love

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Five to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42

Image result for 2 mile markerRemember that Jesus came not to abolish the Law of Moses, which did in fact contain the phrase, Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth [Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21]. In each instance, the prescribed punishment is to be equal to the crime or the injury visited on another person. A punishment should fit the crime, not exceed it.

In other words, the phrase was meant to deter people from hurting others to begin with, so that they wouldn’t suffer the same pain they inflicted. Instead, common cultural practice perverted the phrase to justify revenge, excusing private vengeance outside the court of law.

A slap on the cheek wasn’t about personal injury, it was an insult. A punch in the pride.

In the Old Testament, it was illegal to keep someone’s cloak from them overnight, because it was commonly used as a person’s only blanket. A knee to the need for self-preservation.

And under Roman law, Roman soldiers were allowed to force someone to carry the soldier’s belongings for them, but only for the distance of one mile. An attack on time.

But Jesus pushes this command to its heart intent.

1) Leave vengeance to God [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19].


2) Love our fellow human beings, even when–maybe especially when–they aren’t loving us in return.

After all, blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth [Matthew 5:5]. In his pride the wicked man does not seek [God], so we Christians should not be like the wicked [Psalm 10:4]. We should not let our pride well up and keep us from seeking God’s will in any and every instance.

God alone is our protector and provider [Philippians 4:19]. When others wrong us, we look to Him for our safety and well-being, not to ourselves.

And we should be leaving time in our daily lives for divine appointments such as these opportunities to show the love of Christ to the lost and dying, to the wayward and wicked.

Our choice to love in these humbling circumstances is just like Jesus’ meekness and silence as He was led before His executioners [Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32]. And our selfless attitude is a light, that possibly, may be the very thing to win the wicked person to Christ.

Do you settle your own scores? Or do you respect God’s equality system and act in loving self-discipline?



The Sin Limit

“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of the assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'” Isaiah 14:13-14 [NASB]

Image result for crossed armsGod is sovereign. That means that He alone determines what is sin and how much sin–if any–is permissible.

Most people recognize the government’s authority to institute speed limits and to set and enforce consequences for disobeying them. Extrinsic school rules and government laws limit the exercise of our freewill. Yet without such limitations, society would fall into utter chaos, so people are glad to be good citizens.

However, there are plenty of people–who sit in after-school detention, or in-school suspension, or traffic court, or U.S. prisons–that refuse to acknowledge that they have done any wrong. Why? Often it’s simply because they disagree with the authorities. They want to be their own parent, their own school principal or superintendent, or their own police officer and president wrapped into one.

These same transgressors get bitter and angry about having to live according to someone else’s rule. They skirt the compliance line as closely as possible, trying to take back as much autocracy as they can.

You see, Satan lied to all humanity when he said that we could be our own sovereign [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. Because of this feel-good deception, we rebel against God’s stringent No-Sin policy [Deuteronomy 1:26, & 9:7 & 23; 1 Samuel 12:14; Daniel 9:9; et al].

Yielding to no one but self as god, we think of ourselves more highly than we ought [Romans 12:3]. I’m not so bad. I’m better than other people I know. I’m good enough. I don’t commit the really big bad sins.

All of it denies God’s goodness as our standard.

It denies His righteousness as the only truth and way to eternal life, justifying the works of our own hands. It is no less than modern idolatry.

It denies His transcendence–that He is equally outside of all sin. To God, sin is sin. There is no grey. No better or worse sins. Not even better or worse people. Just those who have accepted forgiveness and those who refuse Him.

In His sovereignty, God sets the sin limit for inheriting eternity–and He set it at zero.

But all have sinned [Romans 3:23]. It is not our righteousness that opens the gates of heaven to any one of us–not a godly parent or grandparent, not a pastor, not the disciples, not a martyr, not Mother Theresa or Billy Graham. All our righteousness is as filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6]. It is by Christ, who alone is sinless and who has become our righteousness, that we receive eternal life [John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9]. And that’s not license to keep sinning [Romans 6:1]!

Do you think of your own goodness more highly than you ought? To whom does your heart yield? Are you skirting the lines of godliness?


Hallowed, Vain or Profane?

“He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.”” Luke 11:2

Image result for clean lipsGod is infinitely holy. That means that everything about Him is also holy. His name alone bears a holiness that could crush or redeem a person.

Jesus instructed his disciples to respect God as their own Father and to revere His name as holy, willing His kingdom’s presence. It seems almost paradoxical to consider God our Father–in light of the casual relationships many of us have with our parents–while at the same time honoring Him with all due reverence.

So it is the third clause that binds the first two together in our understanding. Jesus is reminding us that we are God’s children and, therefore, coheirs of God’s kingdom with Christ [Romans 8:16-17 & 9:8]. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and we will reign with Him  [1 Timothy 6:15; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 17:14, 19:16 & 20:4-6].

But claiming to be His children and doing things in His name versus living as His children and giving all glory and honor to Him are two different things [Matthew 7:21-23].

In the second commandment, God instructed us not to use His name in vain–that is in an empty manner [Exodus 20:7]. Remember that rendering something holy means that it is filled with a special purpose. God redeemed us to make us holy–to refill us with the special purpose with which He created each and every one of us.

The devil seeks to empty our lives of all that our good and loving God seeks to give us in more abundance [John 10:10]. Satan wants to use us up in vain–emptiness–and spit us out. God wants to breathe purposeful life into our freewill.

And He rightly expects us to treat Him accordingly. To speak His name with reverent purpose rather than emptily tossing His holiness about like an empty wrapper.

His name fills us with hope, peace and healing. His name is a strong and mighty refuge in our stormy world [Proverbs 18:10]. His name is above all names, a firm foundation and mighty to save [Exodus 18:11; Isaiah 63:1; Zephaniah 3:17]. His name casts out demons–and they shudder in fear [Mark 9:38; James 2:19]. His name causes the nations to tremble [Psalm 99:1]. And at His name every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He alone is God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10].

His name is full of life. It is the wholeness that we, as sinners, so desperately need. It is the purpose that fills our lives and makes us holy.

And using it in vain only drains all of the fullness, wellness and purpose out of our lives.

Have you spoken God’s name in emptiness? Have you used it to profane–that is irreverently to disrespect? God will forgive it if you ask, and He will make you wholly holy to His glory and honor–only reverence His name as you wear it before this world.


Mindful of Grace

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action. Be sober-minded. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do: for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” 1 Peter 1:13-16

Image result for mindfulnessThe idea of mindfulness is trending across our nation today. It can be found in everything from school curriculums, to health ads and articles, to social media and the evening news. From the world’s viewpoint, mindfulness is being fully aware of one’s own thoughts, emotions and circumstances moment by moment. Psychologists suggest that simply being aware of self will bring internal peace because it encourages a person to accept life as it comes, nonjudgmentally–especially where self is concerned.

All truth being God’s truth, there are some facets to this idea of mindfulness that have been usurped from the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Satan, being the prince of this world [John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2], has corrupted the heavenly idea of: being mentally prepared–always considering what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue and praise [Philippians 4:8]; being sober-minded–not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought [Romans 12:3]; and fixing our eyes on eternity [2 Corinthians 4:18], which is that grace freely given us and meant to transform us.

Worldly mindfulness starts with accepting Satan’s lie that we can be our own god and decide for ourselves what is good and bad [Genesis 3:5]. That is why the focus of so-called mindfulness is self.

Biblical mindfulness, on the other hand, is centered on the One True God. It acknowledges that self is sinful. It recognizes God’s grace and repents of said sinfulness. It is allowing the Holy Spirit to bring deeper awareness and thoughtfulness to each moment with the very mind of God [John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:16]. And God, being infinitely wise and knowing, granting us understanding and guidance each moment of our life brings an infinitely greater and truer peace than the calm we can ever hope to conjure in our finite selves.

Don’t be deceived by the feel-good rhetoric of cultural trends. Examine God’s word for yourself and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you into all understanding. Know God’s mind on any matter that the world–or for that matter, the church–presents. Don’t accept good ideas blindly, because many are half-truths that fall short of the glory of God and deny God’s true power [Romans 3:23; 2 Timothy 3:5].

God always intended us to live with eternal awareness–heavenly mindfulness. But the world wants to focus our mind on the temporal. The here and now. The moment by moment cleansing breath, centering the search for peace on self. Instead of the eternally cleansing power of God’s grace through Jesus’ blood shed for our sins.

Will you look to self for inner peace? Or, being mindful of grace, will you be transformed by the renewing of your mind and know all peace [Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:7]?


In the Heart of the Receiver

“‘There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One who owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’ And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.'” Luke 7:41-43

Image result for girl in loveMercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

Unmerciful gods with limited powers riddle the pantheons of many mythologies–Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Norse to name a few with which I am familiar.

The One true God, however, is all-powerful and He is Sovereign–that is He has all authority over everything. As sinful human beings, we break His commands and His laws. We break the pattern of His image in us. And we break His heart.

While we are in sin, we are enemies of God–because we are at war with Him [Romans 5:10]. As sinners, we continually rebuff Him, and yet He steadfastly pursues reconciliation rather than penalty.

God is merciful–despite our sin He loves us and freely offers all forgiveness and peace with Him [Micah 7:18; Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21; Romans 5:2; et al].

When we come to the place where we recognize that we are sinners and God is holy, sovereign and good, then we must make a choice: accept God’s merciful forgiveness or reject it. Accepting forgiveness restores our hearts with love for God. And the more we love God and recognize the depth of the sinful state from which He lifted us, the more we love Him for His mercies.

It becomes an ever-deepening whirlpool. The more we love Him, the more we understand our sin nature. The more we understand our sin nature, the more we enjoy His mercy. The more we enjoy His mercy, the more we love Him.

How tragic that many will not examine themselves to understand their own sinful heart [2 Corinthians 13:5]. And more tragic still that they will never reciprocate God’s unfailing love [Psalm 32:10 & 33:5; et al]. But even these will one day bow their knee to God and confess the Lordship of Christ before Him [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10]. By then, however, the time for mercy will be passed [Revelation 20:15].

What’s in your heart? God’s love and mercy? Or sinful self?


Justice Not Judgment

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though once we regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Image result for light handGod is just, and He made us in His image. We are to act justly, as our gracious heavenly Father does. That is, we are to behave according to what is morally right and fair.

Who determines what is morally right and fair? Our just God–Creator of all that is. His character is our standard of morality. His person defines what is good and separates it from what is bad.

So how can we, as sinful human beings–prone to doing wrong–know what is good and right?

We develop a personal relationship with God through prayer and studying His Word [Hebrews 4:12]. We meditate on those things that His Word defines as good, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy [Philippians 4:8]. We allow the Holy Spirit to prick our consciences and to counsel us in God’s wisdom [John 14:26; Acts 2:37].

Yet while God is just and has charged us to live justly, justice–like vengeance–is not ours to mete out [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19]. That does not mean that we are not to establish courts of law or punish criminals. On the contrary, upholding impartial criminal justice is a part of living justly. But we are not to judge others [Matthew 7:1-6; Luke 6:37].

When we judge how others are or are not measuring up to God’s Word, we invite that same judgment back on ourselves. Even Jesus did not come to judge the world, but to save the world through Him [John 12:47]. He proclaimed that God the Father would be the ultimate judge in the last day, and because of this, He would not retaliate for the wrongs suffered at the hands of men [John 12:48].

We can get so busy being judgmental of others and the sinfulness all around us. We can be so bound up getting revenge on those who wrong us, that we miss the fact that we ourselves fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. If it weren’t for God’s grace in my life and in your life, we would be nothing more than unforgiven sinners just like any other unbelieving person [1 Corinthians 15:10].

And God is just, but He is also gracious, merciful, loving and compassionate. He forgave us our sins and spared us our death penalty [Matthew 26:28; John 3:16; Romans 5:12-21 & 6:23].

Knowing this, how can we possibly stand in judgment on any other human being? Not that our condemnations will last past this life. And not that our judgments of them matter in light of their eternity anyway. Instead, the role that God has called us to play in His justice is simply this: to be an ambassador of His reconciliation message.

Do you play judge of the world? Or do you live justly, a light guiding others to a saving knowledge of Jesus?


Justice and Morality

“Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25

Image result for justiceGod is just. He constantly acts according to what is morally right or fair, morals being the principles that determine what is good and bad.

God is the moral law. Our Creator is the standard of right and wrong, good and bad. And He is unchanging in His promises [Hebrews 6:18]. He cannot be defined by whim or caprice [Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:21]. Though His judgments are unsearchable by the human mind [Romans 11:33], His justice is as unchanging as His character.

Throughout human history, cultural values and moral judgments have shifted. But with God that which is right today is what has always been and what will always be right. Likewise, that which is wrong today is what has always been and what will always be wrong.

Most people don’t like this attribute, because–having bought into Satan’s lie that they can be their own god–they want to decide for themselves what is good and bad, what is right and wrong, what is just and unjust. So much so, that people will surround themselves with others who say exactly what they want to hear [2 Timothy 4:3] just so they don’t have to deal with God’s truth on the matter.

But God is the judge of the whole earth. Everyone will stand before Him alone one day [Hebrews 9:27]. Everyone will answer for the things done and said in this life [Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12]. Everyone will bow their knee and confess God as God and Jesus Christ, His Son, as Lord of all [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10].

In that day, God will separate the righteous from the unrighteous [Hebrews 4:12]. The one blessed with eternal life and the other cast into the lake of burning sulfur [Matthew 25:31-46].

The choice is as simple and clear cut as black and white. As God posed the question to Cain, let us also consider, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted [Genesis 4:7]

Who determines what is morally right and good in your life? Which side of eternity will you be on?