The Freedom of Biblical Law


That’s an oxymoron, right? Modern-day Christians are given one axiom in regards to the Old Testament law versus the love-driven, Spirit-driven, Jesus-driven life of the New – and that is that the Law no longer applies. This belief – this precept – is pounded into us.

We like it that way, don’t we? That way, all we have to do is love. And that provides us the perfect shelter of all kinds of wonderful things – pre-marital sex and homosexuality to name two current topics of intense debate and discussion (although we gloss over pre-marital sex and living with our partners pretty quickly.) In the name of love, we can love whomever we want to – and then take it further. We can sin with total abandon.

If I haven’t lost you already, please keep reading. Because what we are being told chokes us – the Law – is in point of fact what sets us free. Christ said, “you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32). Of course He was referring to the Word, and y’all, the Word includes the Old Testament. That’s right.

Don’t be frightened by this. Consider the good news of Hebrew 10:1 in that “the Law has but a shadow of the good things to come.”

Whoa! Consider what Beth Moore said on the subject of this verse – and this doctrine – “The law poured concrete into God’s mold for human relationships, but it also whispered a kingdom to come in which order, sanity, health, and decency dwell under the safe shadow of Christ’s scepter. Jesus’ second coming will usher in a world in which children can’t be sold for sex or shot in their schoolrooms.”

The key world here is “order.” Not “sacrifice” or “altar” – “order.” The Law of the ancient prophets isn’t applicable in that we don’t have to go through a priest to get to Christ or to God, and we don’t have to sacrifice animals and food to please God and ask for forgiveness, or even to celebrate what He has done for us.

But the Law is much more than that. Matthew Henry, a wise man whom I use often to discover the context of verses that, on their own, mean one thing, but taken as a whole with a chapter or book, can mean quite another – put it like this: “Here the apostle (meaning Paul, the author of Hebrews), by the direction of the Spirit of God, sets himself to lay low the Levitical dispensation; for though it was of divine appointment, and very excellent and useful in its time and place, yet, when it was set up in competition with Christ, to whom it was only designed to lead the people, it was very proper and necessary to show the weakness and imperfection of it, which the apostle does effectually, from several arguments. As, [t]hat the law had a shadow, and but a shadow, of good things to come; and who would dote upon a shadow, though of good things, especially when the substance has come? Observe, 1. The things of Christ and the gospel are good things; they are the best things; they are best in themselves, and the best for us: they are realities of an excellent nature. 2. These good things were, under the Old Testament, good things to come, not clearly discovered, nor fully enjoyed. 3. That the Jews then had but the shadow of the good things of Christ, some adumbrations of them; we under the gospel have the substance.

First of all, what is “Levitical dispensation?” Well, “Levitical” refers to the Levites, a segment of the Israelits of the Old Testament set aside as priests. Easton’s Bible dictionary defines “dispensation” as “[t]he method or scheme according to which God carries out his purposes towards men is called a dispensation.” Therefore, how the Levites carried out God’s plan towards their fellow men, while of “divine appointment,” could not compete with Christ. At the time, it was a necessary thing for the Israelites. But Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection denied its usefulness when that curtain in the Temple was rent in two!

Matthew Henry acknowledges that the Law had its own weaknesses – and you don’t have to guess what the most important one was. It was that no one could follow it to the letter. And even if a person did, the sheer willpower of doing so would delete all actual closeness with God, because there would be nothing genuine left over to give to Him. God knew that. He wanted to give them a blueprint for how to live their lives in a pleasing manner to him and to each other. Here is the key point: to each other. He gave them direction, He provided a way out of immoral and chaotic worldly living. And when they – inevitably – screwed it all up, He gave them a way to make peace with Him, with each other, and with themselves.

But the ultimate goal wasn’t the Law – it was the love of Christ. Grace, mercy, and forgiveness do not negate the Law – they make it possible. By that, I mean they make our lives worth living when we fail. All the sins the Law listed are still, in essence, sins today. Some of them are more about what we feel and believe in our hearts rather than what we act out, but they are real, and they are relevant.

The Law brings freedom because it ushers Christ into His rightful seat at the table, folks. Just like we know our kids need boundaries for security reasons – and not just physical safety – we know in our hearts we need rules and order to survive what is truly an anarchic world – but taking it further into the depths of those very same hearts, we know we need the Law to thrive in it!

Blessings y’all!

Advertisements

Minding Your Own Beeswax & Whatnot


Oooooh, goody goody! I found a passage in Thessalonians that just made my heart sing! Some very simple verses caught my attention, and I promise I have done my due diligence in finding out what Bible commentator Matthew Henry says, but I can’t wait to add my own thoughts!

1 Thessalonians 4: Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

It’s actually verses 11-12 that I wish to have you consider this morning. So here we go!

  1. “To aspire to live quietly.” Henry’s observations coincided quite nicely with mine on this one. If you, like me, are not quiet by nature, this portion can be disheartening. But Henry and I agree that it means to have “a calm and quiet temper, and to be of a peaceable and quiet behavior.”

Whoops. He got me there at the end. Well, we can all agree that peace is of the utmost importance in this life when it comes to living a godly life. We aren’t to seek strife. We aren’t even to be striving all the time! Being calm and peaceful in a tense or negative situation is our aim. But Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for war and for peace (chapter three, verse eight) – basically a time for every purposed under heaven. So it’s the learning when to stay quiet and when to talk that’s difficult.

I think an excellent point about living a quiet life is akin to living a simple life. Complications steal our joy and peace, and while we all have to cope with complications every now and then, we don’t have to go looking for them – bringing them on ourselves!

For instance, as a mom, I have a choice: to employ my kids’ time in activities non-stop or to halt all the nonsense. It is nonsense! If your child has some ah-mazing athletic or musical gift, that’s one thing. But if you’re using sports and other extracurricular activities as babysitting or just because everyone else does i, you’re missing the point of a quiet life! SO many people complain about their time being sucked up by myriad events each week – even missing church on a regular basis! Well, y’all, you’re doing it to yourself.

2. “To mind your own affairs.” Well, this couldn’t be more clear! Henry explains why this causes a problem in our lives by stating the following: “Those who are busy-bodies, meddling in other men’s matters, generally have but little quiet in their own minds and cause great disturbances among their neighbors; at least they seldom mind the other exhortation, to be diligent in their own calling.”

Wow, Mr. Henry. Don’t sugarcoat it or anything! You see, he points out what we already know from personal experience – meddling in others’ problems just creates disquiet – angst – in our hearts!

3. “To work with your own hands” – this exhortation is two-fold, so let’s take the first. Does this mean that a businessman in a suit and tie, in a nicely temperature-controlled office, is doing something wrong?

No, it doesn’t. Works is work. Is physical labor more difficult than mental labor? Having done both, I’d have to answer in the affirmative. But that’s not what Paul is writing to the Thessalonians about!

What he meant was the work that God has called you to do. And that’s not necessarily your job. A pastor is working with his or her hands every moment, pretty much. Their work and their calling are the same. But what if, like my own husband, you have an office job and talent working on cars?

He’s in luck because twice a year, our church hosts a car-care service project. But if my husband only put those skills in serving others to use twice a year, he’d be wasting one of the gifts God gave him to help others! Instead, when he sees a need he pitches in, often spending his own money to do so. I could resent the time that occasionally takes away from his own family, but it clearly is a talent that he’s using to serve others. The work of his hands! Quite literally!

The work of your hands may be tutoring, singing in the church choir, teaching at school or at church – the things that come naturally to you are the things that God uses as your work. Now, when I typed the word “naturally” I had to remind myself of Moses.

Moses had zero desire to speak before Pharoah about God. Heck, he wasn’t too keen on going back to Egypt at all, seeing as how he murdered an Egyptian and that’s why we was out in the blasted desert in the first place! Not only did he have a fear of public speaking, but also he had a fear of being punished for murder!

Sometimes God takes our fears and erases them. Others He works with our natural abilities. In Moses’ case, He used his brother Aaron as the speaker. But Moses was the true leader! What might not seem natural to you at first can quite quickly become a natural talent.

Avoiding using these talents to serve God doesn’t just do Him a disservice!

4. “So that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” Henry wrote that the command to use the work of our hands “is enforced with a double argument; namely, So we shall live creditably. Thus we shall walk honestly, or decently and creditably, towards those that are without.”

God is clear – it’s not honest living to keep our gifts to ourselves. My husband could use his talent of working on cars to only serve our own family. That wouldn’t cost him as much money as it would to give that service away to someone else – even a stranger!

We once gave an old car away to a single mother. When we did, we put in the most expensive battery we could buy, knowing she wouldn’t have the money to replace it. At the very least, it bought her some time.

Does that make us super-special Christians? NOT AT ALL! Following God’s commands – obeying what He tells us to do – doesn’t make anyone super-special. It’s just what we’re expected to do.

Go be a blessing with your talents and gifts today!

 

The Many-Sided Story


Story. Situation. Argument. Error. Whatever the case may be, there is always more than one side to a story. Or is there?

Take the case of Tyrone W. Miles. He was sentenced to 25 years for attempting to cash a bad check at a California convenience store. I read about the story in the Saturday/Sunday edition of The Wall Street Journal, but a blog version tells the tale more quickly. His attorney did not, apparently, know that his latest arrest aimed a direct hit at him for punishment under the three strikes rule operating in California.

Miles committed a crime, and he was punished for it. In fact, Miles committed three crimes, and as punishable by law, he must do the time. Period.

This could be the end of Miles’ story, but is it?

The history of his criminal record goes back to when he acted as a “lookout” for two robberies. He did not actually rob anyone, nor did he physically harm anyone. Despite U.S. military service, he became a drug addict, which led him to pass bad checks due to “deteriorating finances,” according  to the WSJ.

Some might look at the case of Tyrone Miles and believe that since he did not commit a heinous offense, he should not be prosecuted under the three-strikes rule, or that if he were to be prosecuted, the fact that his lawyer did not seem aware of the impending crisis of his third strike, means he should serve a commuted sentence rather than 25 years. In fact, that is exactly what the Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes project is intending to argue for him.

I may have lost some of y’all,  who are wondering what in  the world this guy has to do with your life. I maintain he has everything to do with it.

When we are maligned in some way, or when we malign another, it is so easy to see our own side of things; the reason or reasons we did or said this or that. It is downright impossible, it seems, to see the side (or sides)  of another’s action or statement towards us. In the heat of our anger and hurt, all we want is vengeance. We do not want to see the other angles of the situation.

And yet, if we do take a look at how things play out for others, we run the risk  of being surprised and even ashamed at what we have done to them. How we have made them feel. This is another reason that we don’t want to consider the many sides to a story.

We can breeze through life, refusing to see our own actions in the light of truth, but in doing so, we run an even greater risk: the risk of being treated that way ourselves. That’s going to happen anyway, though, isn’t it? You bet. But it is better to be the one who thoughtfully considers all sides of the story, and  moves past our hurts. The only way to move past them is to realize that we may have played a role in them, or that there are extenuating circumstances that caused someone to hurt us. And one thing we must never forget: And there but by the grace of God, go I.

 

 

Where Were You When?


The assassination of JFK. The Berlin Wall. 9/11. The first time a Bieber record went on sale. There are things throughout history we remember,  and some of you have never even heard the Biebs croon a pop hit. In fact, an entire generation of Americans cannot tell you where they were when O.J. Simpson was acquitted.

I remember where I was. I was in the library of my small, all-white private school. The entire high school was crowded into the back room where there was a tiny tv. They may have wired it for cable just for this event. Just kidding. Anyway, we were riveted. We had very strong opinions, even as teenagers, about the verdict. We all knew he was guilty, and most, if not all, of us, had  heard our parents express  their outrage or opinions on how the trial went and how it would end.

Today I closed the page on Without a Doubt, written by Marcia Clark, someone else an entire generation will not remember. She was the lead prosecutor of the case. And she got squashed. I mean, absolutely pounded by what folks dubbedThe Dream Team,” headed by none  other than Johnnie Cochran. Rings a bell, doesn’t it? There’s a Cochran law firm. And I bet when you read the words “Rodney King” you start to get an idea of what we’re talking about.

After all, Rodney King was beaten by Los Angeles Police Department cops. Their acquittal is said to have started the LA Race Riots of the 90s, a truly brutal time in that city’s history. There must be a billion rap songs about it out there. He was, also, famous for his hair. What happened to Rodney King, despite what he may or may not have done illegally, was so wrong it’s sickening. And when O.J. stepped up to bat, an almost all-black jury gave him the go-ahead. Get-out-of-jail-free card. He walked.

He walked despite overwhelming physical evidence that he was guilty of the murder of Nicole Brown  Simpson and Ron Goldman. The brutal murders of these two people. And he had a recorded history of domestic violence with Nicole, whom he had two children with. There are those who believe that the O.J. verdict was direct retaliation for Rodney King. I happen to think it’s a very distinct possibility.

Here is some information Clark wrote about in her book that was published in 1997:

“The People lost this case not because we introduced too much evidence or too little evidence. We lost because American justice is distorted by race. We lost because American justice is corrupted by celebrity. Any lawyer willing to exploit those weaknesses can convince a jury predisposed to acquittal of just about anything…[A] handful of clever, expensive attorneys were allowed to manipulate the system by invoking the wholly irrelevant, yet provocative issue of racism…You took a jury itching to avenge Rodney King and incited it to nullify the law.”

Get on it Marcia.

Just so you know, O.J. did not fare so well in the civil trial. He was found guilty.

I have dealt with racism my whole life. In fact, we all have. You don’t have to be Southern, from Compton, or a resident of 8 Mile to know what I’m talking about. The fear of things we don’t understand is the human condition, and racism is born out of that fear. It is not mutually exclusive to whites. It is something I dislike but understand from the white perspective and sympathize with from t he black perspective. I’m not one of those white people who says I can totally put myself in the place of a black person, but anyone with half a brain can imagine what it would feel like to be brutalized or treated unfairly due to race. Oh, wait a minute…I actually can. I once was told I wouldn’t get a job in my field because I wasn’t in the right racial category the company was hiring from. Yep. I never want to work in my field again. I just don’t have the heart.

I have wondered how I would ever write about race. It’s an issue that polarizes just about everyone – at least how they respond publicly to it. Not everyone has looked at it from all the angles.I think I have. I have never been a slave. As you can see from my avatar, I’m white. So that explains it. I’ve never been black in the 60s. But slavery ended a long time ago, and blacks have the same rights we have. So I say let bygones be bygones.

I’m not simplifying the issue of race; I’m giving the only option that lets us move past race issues and into relationship with each other. I have no idea if that will ever happen on a large scale but we all know it happens every day, one-on-one. I don’t look at a black person as a “black person” – I look at them as if they’re a person, and I expect the same thing in return. I hate the term “race card” but the truth is that sometimes race does determine how a person is treated. You don’t have to use the N-word to be a racist. Harboring hateful ideas in your mind determines your character, even if you’re the only one who knows about it. Jumping on a bandwagon of unwarranted animosity is the same thing, but because it’s what a lot of other people are doing, it’s considered ok.

The perfect example works for both blacks and whites: the dislike of the President of the United States simply because he is black, or the support he has received simply because he is black. There are a lot of white people who voted for him because they felt it would somehow balance the scales, in my opinion. That’s just plain stupid, as is disrespecting the leader of our land due to color and not even trying to see his good points. I’m not a fan, by the way, of his presidency. However, I do see sides of his personal character that I  like (as well as those I don’t.) This is only possible if you strip your consciousness of unnecessary hindrances to understanding and appreciation.

I am not naive enough to think that one day,  we will all live in peace and harmony – at least, not until the Lord  comes back and we all get to heaven. Until then, we have to do the best with what we have. So who am  I appealing to? The white family who raises its children to respect those of all colors? No. The black family who does the same? Obviously not. I am appealing to those of any and all colors who raise their children and live their lives hating  the color of another person’s skin. To you I say: get over yourself. God loves variety or He wouldn’t have painted us so beautifully in the first place. And I know y’all don’t think you’ve got something over on Him, right?

It takes a strong mind, as well as an exceptional character (in my opinion) to give credence to different viewpoints, and at least to think about them. Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I do not have a strong mind nor an exceptional character. I am extremely opinionated, impatient, and strong-willed to the point of absurdity. But even I have trained myself to think through things that really bother me and consider all the different facets or perspectives. And when I can’t see any but my own, I always get the thoughts of someone else on board, which has taught me a lot. You wouldn’t even believe it.

A good example of this, I think, is the opinion a lot of whites have that Latinos are ruining the healthcare system.  Let’s say you believe this to be true. I can give you that, because there are a lot of people out there who would agree with you. Can you at least understand where the desire to flee to America comes from? Imagine living in a country that can’t provide you clean drinking water and you have children. Wouldn’t you be tempted to become a fugitive to give them a better life? Imagine living in a country where drug cartels run everything. The absolute danger you would live in, day in and day out. If you would  not even contemplate moving your children to safety, you have issues other than racial bias and you should probably explore that.

And let us not forget all the white people who got off easily: Lyndsay Lohan. Casey Anthony. Robert Blake. I once wrote a blog post about cosmic fame and how it totally distorts our perspective on reality. Celebrity status definitely played a role in the O.J. Simpson verdict, as well as these previously mentioned cases above. Casey Anthony wasn’t a star; she was a figure made famous over the Internet and on tv. It’s ridiculous the role fame plays in courtroom antics.

So the next time a racial thought runs through your mind, try seeing it from another point of view. When you see a white person living in a nice house, with nice things, instead of saying, or thinking to yourself, how entitled  he or she must feel, try to think about the possibility that he or she worked really hard to get those things. That person may even give some of it back to people like you! When you see a black person charged with a crime, try to remember that a lot of people grow up poor and don’t have the emotional and physical blessings of others,and that can lead to a lot of problems you, in your upper-class suburban bubble, will never understand. When you see an illegal alien sitting outside a gas station trying to find work for the day, put yourself in his place. What if you lived in a foreign country so you and your family could have a better life, and you couldn’t speak the language, understand others, and get a decent job?

Cosmic Fame


There are so many reasons to admire famous people. Excellent entertainment skills; astonishing athletic ability; exceptional leadership. Even great business sense.

I like reading about the accolades of celebrities. I like when they use their fame to good end. It shows a human side to people we so elevate.

However, it is that elevation that causes such trouble. CNN did a story about a woman who stood up to former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

As regards the Sandusky debacle, Vicky Triponey had this to say:

“The culture is deep,” she said. “The culture is making decisions based on how others will react, not based on what’s right and wrong.” It focused on the interests of those at “the top of the chain,” she added. “Others at the bottom didn’t matter.”

She had nothing to do with Sandusky and wasn’t aware of it happening; her problem came when she tried to institute penalties against football players who broke the rules, and she came up against a solid brick wall: Joe Paterno.

The names of celebrities who committed true crimes are endless. I won’t even mention any others. I just want to express that it is nice and normal and good to have people to look up to and admire. It gives us a goal as well; something to strive for. Something we want.

It’s when that gets out of hand – when the hero worship is taken way too far – that we need to take a serious step back and stop excusing famous people who commit crimes. I can promise you that whoever out there you would let off the hook for a critical wrongdoing would not do the same for!

Spanking in Pulic School? Sign Me Up!


Hallelujah! A Texas high school, recently under fire for allegedly aggressively spanking a sophomore, should be praised in my opinion. Why, you ask? Why would a mother in the 21st century approve of spanking, or paddling, students?

Because when used appropriately, corporal punishment is very effective. I myself was paddled once. I was in the fifth grade and was wrongly punished. The paddling itself didn’t hurt, and I wasn’t embarrassed so badly that it scarred me for life. The true punishment happened about thirty minutes later when my Daddy got to my school and gave me his own version, which was a lot worse.

I’m not helping my case, am I? That may be your opinion. But it isn’t mine. Although I didn’t deserve punishment for that “offense,” I do see the value in paddling. There is a level of embarrassment involved, and sometimes offenses are so wrong that a detention isn’t enough.

However, I just believe in corporal punishment in general. Time-outs and groundings may not work. But a spanking does. There was wording in the televised interview, though, that muddied the waters. The mother of this girl agreed to let the school paddle her, and then called it “hitting” because a man administered the spanking and she had “welts.”

Um, excuse me, but I have some of those myself, and this girl was moving too quickly and well, and sat down too easily, to have been “hit.”

Overall, I am just relieved that in some  places across this country, public schools have adopted the tradition of some private schools with corporal punishment. Good job!

A Mistake, or Running His Mouth?


You may have noticed that I am a Democrat, although not of the  Obama kind. So, unfortunately, this time I have to vote Republican. I know. Yuck. Gross. Eeewwww…Anyway, I was pleased as punch that at least Romney has a good-looking running mate. Haha. Literally.

Paul Ryan is under fire today for lying about his finishing time in a marathon, and it got me to thinking. Why would he do it, or did he do it? Lie, that is?

Let’s say he did. Let’s say he remembers his time from 1990 and fibbed. What does that mean? That he would make a bad Vice-President? Maybe. Maybe he lies about other things. Maybe that “great speech” at the convention was  just an arrogant liar running his mouth, and if so, he would remind me of an ex-husband of someone’s out there…ouch. That would really suck for this country.

But what if he didn’t lie? What if running a marathon was just a one-time thing, as it seems likely from both The Washington Post and Runner’s World? What if he really is health-conscious (good for him!) but doesn’t like the idea of doing a marathon but did it anyway, just for kicks, or to say to himself that he could do it? So, if it wasn’t such a huge deal to him, maybe he really did forget.

I hope it’s the latter, but only time will tell. Even if he is  a liar, does it really make a difference? If we want change, don’t  we have to vote for Romney even if his running mate runs his mouth too freely?