Justified Journal

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Tag: God

Shaken, not stirred

I live in earthquake country.  I have been through so many earthquakes that I sometimes act a little too casually when they hit.  Instead of panicking, I walk to the “safe part” of a building to wait it out.

Strong earthquakes are another story, though.

When they hit, I move more quickly and hope that it won’t last much longer.  Then, I try to reach my family to make sure they’re o.k.

The author of Hebrews tells us that God will shake both the earth and the heavens (Hebrews 12, ESV):

26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

In the heart of this terrifying threat is a hopeful promise, there are things that cannot be shaken, but will remain.

Earlier in the chapter, the author writes about the discipline of God’s children.  He doesn’t allow us to be spoiled and arrogant.  He uses physical ailments, sickness, persecution, and other trials to drive us back to His word.

It is His means of purifying the faith of His children.  It is also the evidence of His presence in our lives (along with scripture and the sacraments).

The pain and suffering He sends are like a cross that we must bear.  And some will actually be killed for the very faith they have.

But this isn’t God’s wrath.

That comes later, when He will shake the heavens and the earth.

It is the promise of a “hellish” day which everyone will witness.  It is the fulfillment of the “Mount Sinai” experience of ancient Israel.  God will be seen as a “consuming fire”.

For those who have been put through the trials and suffering meant to drive them to faith, they will remain secure on “Mount Zion”.  That is, of course, if they remain believing in the one who secured their salvation in the first place, Jesus.

Who is Jesus?  “… the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Through Him, we are, ” … the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (12:23).  And, as the author writes at the end of the chapter, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken …” (12:28).

Jesus is our Mount Zion.  He is the temple that will not be shaken.  He is the foundation upon which our faith is both founded and perfected, now and forever.

Want to stop sinning?

Why the Law cannot help you stop sinning by Tullian Tchividjian:



9th inning, two out, down three runs

SVG drawing of a baseball bat.

SVG drawing of a baseball bat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s that time of year again.  Baseball is in full stride and my team is doing well.  The other day, though, they got beat pretty bad.  If you looked at the seats in the last hour of the game, they were emptying out.

Game over; mercifully.

The disciples had a more disappointing 9th inning, when Jesus went to His death via the crucifix.  Perhaps they hoped for some last-minute reprieve from Pontius Pilate.  Or, maybe they thought Jesus would put on His running shoes and take off for Egypt.  Instead, time ran out, Jesus died, and the game was over.

Funny thing about God, though.  He loves hopeless, utterly hopeless situations.  He wants to wait until hope is lost, faith is a mere cooling ember, and everyone has left the stadium.

It’s actually the best time to go back and see what will happen.

You see, while everyone was talking about “how good Jesus was” and how disappointed they felt, and they were beginning to mourn, God was resurrecting Jesus.  The lights were out (in the tomb) the door (stone) was closed, and everyone was back home.

But the light of the world was about to show them the Glory of God.

He didn’t listen to the game being called at the end of the 9th.  Instead, God made a tenth inning.  An eternal tenth.  A tenth inning in which He began the victory over not just the world, but the flesh and the Devil as well.

With just one small piece of wood, Jesus hit the home run of all home runs, bringing all the stranded base runners out of condemnation to the home plate of eternal grace and salvation.  He crushed our enemies like a deep ball to left field.

And people are still running home on that hit.

May God give us the strength and courage to proclaim the greatest victory in the history of humanity to all people, Amen.


The benefit(s) of reading God’s Law

Geek alert!!:

“Bene factum” is the Latin foundation for the word benefit.  It means “good (bene) product (factum)”.

So, what is the “good product” of reading God’s Law?  If the Law is Holy, and I am sinful, it reveals the contrast between God’s perfection and my imperfection.  Isn’t this a downer?  Why would I want to read something which highlights my failures?  In this way, the Law is an amplifier of sin.  It acts as a projector, taking things we think are small issues and magnifying them a thousand times bigger.  Why is that a benefit?

It’s important to remember the context in which God delivered the Law to Israel.  They were a lawless people before Moses guided them out of Egyptian servitude.  This does not mean they were cannibals or anarchists.  Israel was a large body of people needing order and a foundation for nation-building.

Unfortunately, their lawlessness was deeper than the need for societal boundaries.  Even as Moses was up on the mountain, they were busy breaking the law by making a golden calf.  They thought they could create order and appease whatever deity by developing their own object of worship.

This is the heart of lawlessness.

And, modern Christians do this with God’s Law as well.  They replace the revealed Christ with the “do’s and don’ts” of Scripture.  By reading and attempting to hold to some of the stringent laws of the Old and New Testaments, they shift the focus off of the cross and onto themselves.  Their performance is the heart of their faith.  This is often called “sanctification”.

In reality, this is self-justification.  It is a denial of the work of Jesus Christ.  It is anti-Christian.  Instead of leading us to the cross and the finished work (and, by the way, continual working) of Christ, we are lead to the vomit of utilizing God’s Law to appease God.

But, Jesus undoes this in His deeper requirements set out in Matthew 5-7 (know as the Beatitudes).  James follows a similar path in the book bearing his name.

Only the sacrifice of God appeases God.

So, what benefit is it to read the Law? As I have been reading Deuteronomy, God’s Law is rarely alone.  It comes with blessings and declarations of God’s promises to always be the God of His people.

Additionally, God’s Law has to do with how Israel was to relate to people.   Compared to many societies of that time, Israel’s Law was incredibly compassionate, providing for those less fortunate.  It also demanded a respect to the boundaries of individuals, creating harmony among neighbors.  God shows how he cares for widows, orphans, and foreigners in His Law.

God’s Law does highlight sin, but also created a means of restitution in sacrificial offerings.  God provided a means by which people could be cleansed of sin.  Our eternal sacrificial lamb is Jesus.

God’s Law corrects our shifting view of what is right.  Like others, I have a tendency to fall into relativism and self-justifications.  God’s Law dispells a reader of his/her delusional self-perceptions.  God’s Spirit testifies to our Spirit through the Law what is right and what is wrong.  God’s Law destroys the mistaken belief that we are god.

Finally, in reading God’s sobering Law, you and I can be thankful that although there is injustice in the world, there will be a day when God will correct all injustices.  God has already corrected the injustices we have committed by dying for us on the cross and redeeming us from sin.

As a footnote, when we read the Law in the light of what Christ has done and is doing for us, we might feel a desire to live “in line” with His desires.  After being measured by the Holy Law, found guilty and been given forgiveness, there is a new desire produced to attempt to live in light of His will.  Perhaps perspective of the Law is transformed by the Christ who has fulfilled every “jot and tittle” so that we don’t have to.  Ultimately, however, it is God’s forgiveness which creates a desire to pass on His love, kindness and forgiveness to others.  In that, the Gospel has its final Word.

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