Justice

Tuesday Devotional: Habakkuk 1

bibleHabbakuk 1

“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.”

I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep cross the whole earth
to seize dwelling places not their own.”

God is unbelievable.  The Bible is unbelievable.  The Gospels are unbelievable.  Jesus is unbelievable.  Not because they cannot by trusted and therefore must be false,  but because they contradict our human nature and instincts as storytellers so much that if they could not possibly have been created for literary or moral purposes.  The Bible contains far more honesty than we like.  It contains far more justice than we are comfortable with.  It also contains far more wisdom than we are even able to fathom.

The God of the Bible never acts out of consideration for our feelings, interests or desires.  The God of the Bible ONLY acts on behalf of what is true and what is just.  Therefore, when we need correction, He gives it.  When we need instruction, He gives it.  When we need compassion and gentleness, He gives it.  When we need discipline, He gives it.  In fact, God challenges us to believe the unbelievable in regards to His approach to discipline and suffering.  Through Jesus we no longer have to fear punishment from God, but suffering persists.  Why?  If the suffering is not a sign of God punishment, what is it?

The purpose of our suffering or hard times has one purpose and one purpose only.  It is ONLY to see God as sovereign and us as entirely fallible.  As Jesus is Emmanuel and therefore with us in any and all situations, the purpose of the suffering is ONLY to move us to seek the face of Jesus, to take up His grace in order to carry us through the storm.  But let us never forget that suffering will persist.  Bearing the name of Christ not only means that suffering will persist but that it will inevitably increase. 

But in the face of increasing suffering we are never to disown the name of Jesus by interpreting our hard time as the divine punishment only Jesus has any right or claim to.  We were not and are not punished because Jesus already was.  Therefore, the suffering we experience is present with us to reveal the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And in His name and because of His Lordship we will prevail amidst the suffering and we will see His face in the storm.  The presence of God in our lives through Jesus does not yield to suffering and sin.  It overcomes sin and suffering entirely.  Jesus rose on the third victorious over sin and death proclaiming, “Where, O death, is your sting?  Where, O death, is your victory?”  God allows suffering to a degree of such intensity that to create such a God out of thin air would not only fail to appeal to anyone but would be mocked rather than worshipped.  While one side of the world writhes back in disbelief in the face of God’s grace and compassion, the other writhes back in the face of God’s justice.  The only message relevant to the entire world is a message that is true to both sides of the world.  In Jesus, truth is united at the cross, revealing God’s grace and justice simultaneously.  The extent of both God’s grace and His justice are truly unbelievable, but in Jesus they CAN be believed and they CAN do more than we think.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Nahum 2

Read Nahum 2bible

The world we live in is not a world of justice.  We strive for justice, we seek for it, we need it, but we are always left feeling that injustice retains its overwhelming presence in this world.

Why do we feel the need for justice?  What is it within us that cries out when justice is not done?  While we live in a world that believes that no one is truly wrong or that no one should ever be truly judged, deep down we desire justice to be done. We can easily recognize when injustice is playing out before our very eyes.

We all know this.  At times we deny it in the face of a judgmental crowd that is eager to judge our insensitive and unreasonable judgment.  However, as much as there is an inexplicable desire in all of us to love, there is equally a desire to see justice done when something or someone is left unloved.  The Gospel of Jesus promises many things, but with the grace of God also comes the judgment of God that is not only justifiable but necessary in the world that lacks justice even by our imperfect and fallen standards.  We need God’s justice.  The Gospel of Jesus promises that justice will ultimately be seen and done.

There will be a time upon Christ’s return when all will have to answer for the life they lived and for the lives they took.  There will be a time when excuses will no longer be worth anything, and fruit of the spirit will mean everything.  As a result of sin we have all contributed to the injustice in the world.  What’s important is not how much.  The point is that we have all inescapably contributed.  For this reason, the only acceptable decision is to face a perfect God, admit and take ownership of our injustice, ask for forgiveness and then, with the spirit of Jesus Christ, heal the world and put right what was once wrong.  With Jesus we can see justice now, and those still suffering have the eternal hope that justice will be done. There will be a time when they will live under the reign of the King of Kings who will administer the only perfect justice this world has and will ever know.

Tuesday Devotional: Amos 5

 

Amos 5:18 bible

18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.

 

Judgment is swift and final.  In court, the gavel falls, in one fell swoop the verdict is announced and the sentencing established.  No more arguments.  No more pleas.  No more discussion.  Final.

This is not an easy teaching and only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we understand the justification for judgment and eternal sentencing.  We often cannot fathom a judgment so unfair and cruel.  However, that tells us not that God’s judgment is unfair and cruel but that we also cannot fathom God’s holiness and our sinfulness.  If I only eat sweets from birth, I will never understand how sweet “sweet” actually is until someone introduces me to salt for the first time.  The judgment of God will come, but many even at that time will not believe and will not turn from their sin to submit themselves to a holy and good Abba father.  All will be judged and many will fall on the side of the guilty.  The world has never seen a judgment like the one that awaits it.  Our minds cannot imagine it and it is by the grace of God that it has only been revealed to us in small doses, for the reality of what will transpire would be too much for us to bear.  It is also by the grace of God that we look around us today and see that the day of God’s judgment has not yet fallen on this world.

It is tempting to view Christianity through the same lens of escapism that often accompanies other religions, philosophies or worldviews.  Christianity does not consist of waiting patiently and righteously until the last day.  The Christian abiding in Jesus Christ will live every day consumed by two thoughts.  Am I loving God with all my heart, soul and mind?  Am I loving my neighbor as myself?  In other words, am I doing everything I can to love God and make my election and calling sure?  Am I doing everything I can to proclaim to the world through my words and deeds that Jesus is the only way through the impending cauldron of judgment?

It will truly be a glorious sight to see Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven.  However, His return ushers in the time of death, grief, suffering and sorrow that even Heaven was perfectly silent for 30 minutes at the opening of the seventh seal.  We have been given the charge to save the lost, heal the sick, free captives and preach good news to the brokenhearted through our devotion to Jesus Christ.  God does not desire that any should perish; neither should we.  The non-believers in our midst are our brothers and sisters in creation.  They are loved dearly by our Father and we are to show them the way of Jesus, saving them from eternal damnation.  There will be a day of no more second chances.  This will be a dreadful day.  As children of God we should never wish this day upon anyone nor refuse to save as many as we possibly can from it.  Justice for the wicked will be just and God’s creation will be made new.  However, we must understand that His justice is often more far-reaching than we imagine.  His judgment will fall upon every person and “good” will not be good enough.  There is only Jesus on that day.

 

 

Tithing: Just Giving

coins

The root of our discontentment toward tithing is our selfish obsession with money that we view as our own. If we view what we have as something that belongs to us, that we guard, tithing becomes increasingly difficult as a result of this possessiveness. However, according to God, the truth is that what we see as “ours” is not ours at all.

Uprooting this possessiveness and ownership is like a game of connect the dots. For example, if I view my car as mine, and thus for no one else to drive, I must ask myself “how I was able to purchase the car?” A job. How did I get the job? Hard work and studying. How did I obtain the skills to work for the job that ultimately paid for the car? And so on and so forth…

The fact is the money we hoard does not belong to us. It has been given to us by God, for us to use in this world for his glory. In the same way that we are suspicious about someone asking for our money unless they can prove to us that in some way our money will eventually return to us with investment capital, God has simply invested in us with the intention to provide us opportunities to reinvest what he has given, to produce capital for the Kingdom of God. As Jesus illustrated in Matthew 25, what we have in this world is given to us simply to reinvest for the corporate good of the Church, not for our own personal and private profit.

Matthew 25:14-30 

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 Tithing is based on a foundation of love and trust and without love and trust we are left anxiously insecure. Our insecurity with tithing illuminates our insecurity with our relationship to God.

Tithing is established in Genesis 14, when Abram meets Melchizedek:

Genesis 14:17-24

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodomcame out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
   Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
   who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”

But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

Aside from the mysterious nature of this King of Salem, the impulse for Abram to give the King a tenth of what he worked for in the previous battle is even more surprising. To the reader this is akin to working overtime, and then handing a tenth of the hefty paycheck to a random stranger on the street. It defies financial logic. Unless, that is, Abram viewed what he had as not his own. Abram knew that the victory on the battlefield was not his own but was God’s. Thus, everything that came as a result of that battle was God’s also. In the end, to Abram, keeping everything to himself would have been as shocking to him as it is for us to see him parting with the tenth to Melchizedek. To Abram, giving to the King-Priest was entirely justified, whereas to keep everything for himself would have been the definition of injustice.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Romans 1

Read Romans 1:18-32bible

“Punishment” is often attributed to God long before “love” or “grace.”  The wrath of God is far more interesting a headline than his humble sacrifice and endless love for those who have not loved him.  For many, the creator God is an authority figure to his inferior creation, small beneath his heavy hand.  In this vertical perception of holy hierarchy, there is far too much room for rules and consequences and far less room for love and grace.  While God has established his law and standards and there are indeed consequences to breaking them, the punishment of God is often misunderstood.  As most of us experience punishment, an act of disobedience is swiftly followed by an act of punishment intended to end the disobedience.  This is reactionary punishment.  While this approach to punishment is effective, the punishment of God is typically far more lesson driven.  God’s desire is not limited to putting an end to our misbehavior, but shows us how our misbehavior has terrifying effects on not only our own lives but others as well.  When punishment is associated merely with our own actions, isolated to us as individuals, we learn obedience and punishment in a system of self-preservation and self-service.  Godly wrath and punishment is far broader and more terrifying.  God’s punishment intends to show us that with freedom to seek the satisfaction of our human desires, we are capable of far more destruction than one single act.

Will a child learn and understand the consequences of stealing the car keys and driving the family car more if stopped before leaving the driveway, or if allowed to drive around the city for a single hour?  The first is a warning of things that could have been.  The second is an experience of consequences.  The second leaves no room for hypotheticals or what ifs.  It locates the disobedience directly within the consequences.  Therefore, the punishment of God in terms of letting us carry out our desires without correction is far more terrifying than a direct rebuke by the Lord Almighty before a false step is taken.  However, in this way we are better able to understand the purpose of his law when we face our own destructive tendencies.  Only by experiencing the dangers of our own nature can we not only accept but desire his laws, decrees and protection from ourselves.  Save us from ourselves, Lord God Almighty!