A Heavy Heart

www.bible.com/1713/pro.21.2.csb

How is it we associate weight with our heart? Where does this come from? It might come actually from the ancient Egyptians who proposed that a man’s heart would be weighed against a feather in the afterlife. If a man’s heart was heavy, he would be consumed by a crocodile. If it was lighter than a feather, then he would be welcomed to the joys of the afterlife.

Some scholars propose that this is the idea behind Solomon’s statement here in Proverbs. Perhaps Solomon was borrowing from ”pop culture” much as we do when describing death, like ”buy the farm” or ”six feet under” or something else to cushion the reality that is death. His use of ”weigh the heart” could be a sidelong reference to the Judgment which all men must face after death, as in, ”it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that, the Judgment.”

However, if we take that route, Solomon is referring to something we can do nothing about until it’s too late. Perhaps he is offering a warning. We think our ways are right and good, until they’re not. We need to remember that we are accountable for our actions. There is a higher authority to whom we must answer to.

Other translations interpret rather than translate, saying that the Lord ”examines” the heart, or ”ponders” it. This makes the statement more immediate rather than final. It makes the Lord’s activity more present. He is now examining and we can learn from this examination. There is the chance to repent here from wrong-headed thinking. So that when we challenge our thinking with God’s examination, we have the chance to change.

I believe this is how Solomon is intending this statement. Interpreting this passage for us rather than simply translating it robs us of the cultural thought process of his time. Tell me what the Hebrew says instead of telling me what it means. Let the commentators tell me what it means, not the translation. I doubt Solomon believed in a soul-eating crocodile or a set of scales weighing hearts against feathers. But he employs the picture to remind us of God’s authority over us. We are not our own. We all must answer to our Creator.

Heavenly Father, remind me today of Your authority over my life. I need those reminders because I am naturally rebellious in my thinking. I hate for anyone to tell me what to do. But help me to be humble of heart before You and others. Remind me that I am often wrong and need correction. Help me to see your truth in everything I do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Unstable Leadership

The king gives stability to the land by justice, But a man who takes bribes overthrows it.
I noticed as I was looking up today’s “verse of the day” from Youversion that the Christian Standard Bible has an unusual rendering for this passage. Instead of bribes as you see the NASB has here, which seemed a clearer translation, the CSB has “contributions” with quotes. I thought that was an odd choice since that sounded more idiomatic than translation. But then again, I’m not a professional translator, and I don’t know about such things.
What is more clear here is how money affects good governance. Have you ever allowed money to dictate an ethical decision for you? For example, you might continue to work at a job that you don’t like and causes you undue stress and hardship because it pays well. Or you might send your kids to public school instead of private school because private school costs too much. Or you might vote for one politician over another because you were promised free healthcare. As it happens, we allow money to dictate choices to us that we might make differently if money were no object. We do it so often that I doubt we give it another thought anymore.
As you might guess, this becomes problematic when the one making the decisions is in leadership, whether in the home, the church, or the nation. Leaders who allow themselves to be bought become slaves to whoever has the money to buy their favor. Pauk wrote in 1 Cor 7:21 the strongest stance he takes against slavery, “Were you called while a slave? It should not be a concern to you. But if you can become free, by all means take the opportunity.” Also, he writes in Romans 13:8, “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another …” Paul opposes the idea that a Christian should be entangled or constrained by economic slavery, including debts. While we may not be indebted to our stressful job or politicians with fake promises, we are indebted to mortgages, car loans, student loans, and credit cards. We are slaves to a bank, and we must keep that job, or make political decisions that allow us to keep more of our money, because we owe. We make these questionable decisions because of debt. We want to be out of it as soon as possible, but we also like the things money can buy, and we accumulate more debt. Paul schools us by saying we need to pay off our debts, and if an opportunity presents itself, to get out of slavery, to which I would include debt slavery.
Several years ago, I was pastoring a church in Illinois as was doing pretty well at it. My wife was starting out as a midwife and having some success at it. But then an opportunity presented itself, requiring us to move to another state, that would enable her to pay off her student loans by moving to a rural area. So with some thought and prayer, we pulled up stakes where we were doing just fine, and moved our household to pay off debt. It was a drastic choice, but I feel a necessary one. Today those student loans are paid off. We have found this new home to be even better than the last one in some ways. But in paying those student loans off, we now have a mortgage, since we moved out of a parsonage. On the bright side, we will have a home when we retire.
But something I want you to take away from this today is this: what role does money play in the decisions you make? Are you making decision based on your Christian values and beliefs, or in how much it costs? Are you allowing economic slavery to dictate to you your decisions, and does this compromise your faith and witness? Does your giving to God reflect your economic slavery or your trust in His ability to provide?
With this thought to keep you up tonight, I leave you with a “God bless” and may you live your life circumspect as you travel today.

Finally

www.bible.com/1713/php.4.8.csb

Forrest Gump’s pet line for finishing his thoughts was “that’s all I’ve got to say about that.” When the Apostle Paul was teaching the close of his letter, he was thinking along similar lines.

This verse functions as a catch-all for whatever else he could not stuff into his brief thoughts here. Essentially, “I don’t have room to give you an exhaustive list of ‘thou shalt not’s’, so here is a succinct list of of qualities that any unnamed future activities should qualify for.” Perhaps spoke of more than he could possibly know.

When you consider that the world today has been transformed by technology and science, and that 90% of the earth’s surface can be reached in less than a week, and sometimes a few days, these guidelines are something that a 2000-yr old book would have trouble predicting. Despite this gap in time, the Bible speaks just as true and as fresh S the day it was written. Any reasonable person can view this list and know what these words mean and what they intend. Anything that lacks moral excellence, or is not praiseworthy is to be avoided. Can you think of anything that might fit this distinction? If you can, then you know enough. It doesn’t take much intellectual effort here. What follows is the will to put aside the morally questionable and embrace the pure and the holy.

You might have to tape this verse to your mirror or your fridge or even your desk. Wherever you are making important decisions, or even minor ones, this verse is a helpful guide for when the Bible doesn’t specifically say so. If you’re still not sure, ask a trusted Christian friend. But don’t let this verse be far from your thoughts in the gray areas.

God bless you on this Monday!

Submit to Freedom

www.bible.com/1713/1pe.2.16.csb

No one is ever truly free. The only free Being is God because He is subject to no one. All of us however are subject to something. In this life, we are slaves to our needs for air, water, and food, however long we think we could hold our breath or go without. If you live in a society in which currency is a necessity, you are never far from obligations if work or bills. If you live in a family, there are surrendered obligations of raising children or meeting your spouse’s needs. Additionally, if you have older family members, you are never far from obligations to meet their needs.

So tell me where I am free? I am free to think, choose and believe. I am free to choose what beliefs govern my life, and how I choose to meet those obligations. I am free to determine the frame of my life, which motivates me to choose certain actions over others. I am free to choose my values. And in the context of this text, I am free to choose God’s values of the world’s values. But to whichever system I choose, I am subject to it and it’s consequences.

Praise God His consequences are joy and peace! His consequences are belonging and hope. With Him there no fear, no anxiety or worry. I am free from the bondage of sin and sorrow and have entered into His glorious presence! If I must be in chains, then let those chains be forged from His sacrifice for me; His love for me never ends. I would give my life for such a One who loves me as God does. Wouldn’t you? Happy is he for whom it is said, ”Well done my good and faithful servant! Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!”

No Law Against Such Things

www.bible.com/72/gal.5.22-23.hcsb

“There ought to be a law against that!” I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that statement. Oftentimes, the speaker is frustrated with a life circumstance, or situation out of his control. Insurance didn’t approve a treatment on a technicality. Trooper stopped you but not the other fifty people that whizzed by. Politicians are making money hand over fist while you scrape by paycheck to paycheck.

I think we have plenty of laws, ridiculous laws, inane laws, but plenty of them. We’ve become a society dependent on law to solve our problems. And we thus determine morality by whether or not it is “against the law.” If it’s not “illegal” then it must be morally permitted, right? This is the trap of abortion and homosexuality. Those used to be against the law. Now they are not. Slavery used to be legal, now it isn’t. Which is right and which is wrong? How do we know?

The text in question today is the fruit of the spirit, the natural produce of a saved heart. A person who is indwelled by the Holy Spirit has these qualities in common: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, etc. the text specifically says that it is the “fruit” not the “fruits” as if to say that the singular fruit of the life possessed of God is a multi-faceted fruit which reflects all of these qualities. You don’t have one or two, but all of them at once.

For a person to display such fruit, the text says there is no law against it. No law has yet been written that violates love, joy, peace, patience, etc. and you know if such a law were to be written, it would be wrong. But let me be clear in this. I don’t get to define these words to suit myself. Culture doesn’t get to define them either. We cannot define these words away from their biblical context and meaning and make them what we want to hear. I cannot define love as anything by the kind of love shown in the scriptures, i.e., the sacrificial love exemplified in Jesus Christ. I cannot say that this love is illustrated by a same-sex relationship, or an adult-child romance. That would be taking “love” out of context and violate the very principles of love taught in Scripture. And so that same with the others.

We hold our laws to a higher standard. We do not bow to the whims of men who think sins are fashionable and so make them legal. We worship and honor a Holy God who has said what is right. “He has told you O man what it good” Micah 6:8

Study, pray, learn. Worship. Make today count. God bless you today.

Gone too far?

bible.com/72/mat.5.6.hcsb

Yes. You read that right. I couldn’t believe it either. Wherever you stand on the social justice movement, I hope you won’t go so far as to change the scripture to justify it.

Now I’m usually a live and let live kind of person. Yes. I see unrighteousness and injustice around me. I’m not blind. I see criminals walk the streets. I see people who are here illegal walking free. To me that is not just. But of course, that isn’t what justice means anymore.

Let me define what I believe Social Justice to be today. It means that what is mine is yours and what is yours is yours, especially if you are poorer, or care more about people than I do. Social Justice ignores ethnic and economic boundaries. Social Justice doesn’t care if have a deed or a receipt. It allows for theft and redistribution of wealth in the name of compassion. It calls good evil and evil good. Social Justice May have had a good and noble beginning, but like every other good cause, it has been hijacked by the left. So when you change even one word of scripture, it has profound implications.

In the older translations, the word used for justice in this text is righteousness. With this word, the verse speaks of seeking personal righteousness, trying to do better in one’s own life. Every Christian should seek to improve, to grow as a disciple. Many Scriptures support this.

But with this new word, now Christians are called to hunger for justice. 2000 years ago those concepts may have been synonyms. But now? For a Christian to seek justice today isn’t about personal holiness, but about seeking to make sure everything is “fair” as far as he sees it. God is just, and the very example of justice we are told to follow. God does not deal with us justly however. For those who follow Him, He gives grace, forgiveness of sin, and we are not judged according to our sins. So what exactly are Christians to do here? What kind of justice? God’s Justice as we see Him practice? Or the fashionable social justice we see practiced around us?

Believe what you want. But don’t mistranslate the scripture to support your argument.

Sorry for the rant. God bless you all.

Source Code

I had the opportunity to watch “I Can Only Imagine” last night, the biographical movie about Bart Millard’s journey to stardom in the band MercyMe. If you are familiar with his story, you know he grew up in a abusive home and left as soon as he could, only to discover he couldn’t be “authentic” until he resolved his issues with his father. In the meantime, his father had turned to Christ and became a different person. Their reconciliation becomes the impetus for Bart’s own transformation. His father’s death prompts him to write the eponymous song. The shining point of the movie is Bart’s moment in Nashville, having sung his song, seeing his father clapping for him. In an interview, Bart explained that he believed he sang to two people that night, both his father, and His Lord. It moment worthy of the Kleenex.

That moment also got me to thinking about father-son issues, in which this movie traded heavily. Even if our parents, mothers or fathers, treat us horribly, even if we hate every fiber of their being, every breath of their body, there is still a part of us that cares. There is still a part that longs for reconciliation, even if it’s no longer possible. That’s why this moment is so powerful in the movie, because it resonates. Everyone has a father, and everyone desires approval from that father. We all want our fathers to be proud of us because it is built into us to care what our father’s think of us.

We can’t explain it, because it isn’t part of the intellect. In fact, it defies the intellect. It is part of what I liken to “source code”, or more exactly, that code that a computer has burned in to its motherboard that tells it how to read a hard disk, before it ever loads the first bit of the operating system and everything its ever learned. It’s the BIOS of the human psyche. It is built into us as human beings to have a relationship with our parents. When that relationship isn’t “right” it leads to a host of other problems, “daddy issues”, psychological syndromes and traumas later on. As described in the movie, Bart couldn’t have a close relationship with his girlfriend until he resolved his relationship with his father. How many people labor today in horrible marriages, live-in situations even same-sex relationships because that one aspect of their being was wrong?

We are all built with this source code, called a conscience. The Bible recognizes this:

They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
(Rom 2:15)

Written on our hearts, our BIOS if you will, is the law of human beings. As sentient, rational beings, we are built with a set a laws of interaction (not unlike Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics) that direct the “rightness” and “wrongness” of our actions. Our conscience (C.S. Lewis’ moral law argument) is universal. Every human being has one, and they are all coded with a set of unwritten laws of human interaction. One of those laws is that relationship between parents and children. And when we willingly violate those laws, that’s when we run into problems,from simple (in the form of fractured relationships) to complex (in the form of mental illness). I believe that a person who consistently violates his own moral code, deterred by his “conflicting thoughts” in his conscience, is well on the road to insanity. He is trying to reconcile a world of his own creation with the real world as written in his source code. A logical being (which we are, to a fault) cannot hold two diametrically opposed points of view simultaneously, and still have a hold on reality.

So how do we address this innate moral code so that we can correct ourselves for error? Can we correct ourselves?  Let me re-introduce you to the most succinct explanation of our innate moral code ever written, complete with correctives for repair. You may know it as the Ten Commandments.

  1. “You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  3. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
  5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
  6. “You shall not murder.
  7. “You shall not commit adultery.
  8. “You shall not steal.
  9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
    (Exo 20:3-17)

I will come back to this issue of parents and children, but to do so, I need to look at the Ten, the underlying principles that each describe, and how they affect us when they are broken. These commandments are so well written, that if you know how to read them, you can discover both the underlying moral code that we were built with, and the correction for applying that moral code to life. The manner in which God sends these ten is I believe one of the most dramatic in history (He wrote them down with His own finger so we wouldn’t miss how important they are). He doesn’t do anything like this until Daniel 5 (where he writes again, saying, “you have been measured and found wanting”). These ten, though immediately applicable to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, describe the innate moral code of all human beings, which is why they affect people every time they are posted. This is why many want them taken down.

For the next several posts, I will be taking and looking at each commandment individually, and its parallels in Deuteronomy 6, with other passages in tow. I can’t wait to dive into these things with you. Thank you for reading and I hope this is an encouragement to you.