Plead your case

Today’s culture has made the blame game popular. Everyone loves to be the victim and point out villains. We all want to have our voices heard, the chance to plead our case.

Listen to what the Lord is saying: “Stand up and state your case against me. Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints.”

Micah 6:1 (NLT)

Hey, that’s awesome! God is inviting us to state our case. If you have a complaint against God, now is the time to let it be known! Go ahead, let’s hear it.

“And now, O mountains, listen to the Lord’s complaint!”

Micah 6:2a (NLT)

Uh oh.

Here’s the deal, we all want to plead our case, but no one is interested in being pleaded against. It’s not fun. No one wants their faults or secrets pointed out. We don’t want to be blamed for anything whether we’re innocent or guilty.

Many are keen to paint God as a tyrant. The bully on the playground. The great villain of the ages. These people tend to be the ones hollering to have their case heard, but are the first to run and hide when someone calls them out on their own behavior. Here’s the lesson: don’t try to call God out unless you want to be called out yourself.

So how do we avoid having all of our dirty laundry aired with all of creation as a witness?

No, O people, the Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what he required: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NLT)

You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You can either walk humbly with God and avoid a very public trial, or you can do whatever you want and face God as judge. It’s not difficult. God has not given us impossible instructions.

Moral duties are commanded because they are good for man. In keeping God’s commandments there is a great reward, as well as after keeping them. God has not only made it known, but made it plain. The good which God requires of us is, not the paying a price for the pardon of sin and acceptance with God, but to love himself; and what is there unreasonable, or hard in this?

Matthew Henry

Avoiding the punishment for sin is simple. We must love God and accept His love in return. That’s it. If you’d rather take your changes and plead your case, be my guest. But you can’t say that you haven’t been warned.

On his deathbed, Matthew Henry made this statement: “A life spent in the service of God and communion with Him is the most pleasant life that anyone can live in this world.” Wouldn’t you rather walk with God than fight against Him?

Daily Bible reading: Micah 6-7, Revelation 12

Don’t shoot the messenger

We all have people in our lives that we’d rather not have in our lives. An annoying coworker. A nosy neighbour. That weird uncle that only shows up at holidays. We avoid these people at all costs and even begrudge them when something good happens in their lives. We hold on to our dislike—hate even—like a security blanket. So long as that person keeps doing the things we dislike, we can grip our sense of superiority over them.

Jonah experienced a similar feeling when God brought him to a certain city in a rather roundabout way. Jonah finally made it to the city of Nineveh by way of fish. It probably wasn’t the most popular mode of transportation in his day, but it did the trick. Jonah was finally where God told him to be—surrounded by people he didn’t like. Not only did he have to be there, he had to share a certain message.

On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”

Jonah 3:4 (NLT)

Still believing himself to be above the people in the city, Jonah shared his message with a great sense of satisfaction and then found a prime spot to watch the promised destruction. Yet that destruction would never come. Because, in spite of his hatred for the people of Nineveh, they had received and embraced his message.

The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they decided to go without food and wear sackcloth to show their sorrow.

Jonah 3:5 (NLT)

I doubt this was the response Jonah was expecting. In a city he hated, Jonah was forced to watch as his reluctant message was acted upon. Repentance ran rampant.

What all the saints make a matter of joy and praise, Jonah makes the subject of reflection upon God; as if showing mercy were an imperfection of the Divine nature, which is the greatest glory of it.

Matthew Henry

The account of Jonah is not merely a story of delayed obedience. It is a story of attitude, of mercy, of grace. And it is an account that show us that, even if our attitudes do not reflect our message, God can still work in the hearts of even the greatest sinners. But, unlike Jonah, when our message is received, our hearts should rejoice along with those who have received the gift of grace.

It is the neighbour we like the least that needs the most love. Hesitation on our part to share the Gospel is like shooting the messenger before he even has a chance to tell his story. We do ourselves and our neighbour a disservice by holding on to our hatred and dislike. We want to show our superiority while God wants to show His grace.

Immediate obedience to God’s instruction is far easier on our egos than waiting until the last possible moment.  Let us share in the glory of God’s grace rather than hoarding our own personal comfort.

Daily Bible reading: Jonah 1-4, Revelation 9

Now is the time

When someone asks me to do something I’d already planned on doing, immediately I want to say no. It has turned from being an optional thing into a thing that must be done. And, now that it must be done, I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not the greatest attitude to have. Especially when it comes to spiritual things.

I said, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of my love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.

Hosea 10:12 (NLT)

These statements from the Lord were not given as options. You might want to plant the good seeds of righteousness. Maybe think about plowing up the hard ground of your hearts. No, these are statements of things that must be done if we want to reap the rewards that are also described.

Chances are that you’ve planted something before. Maybe in school. Perhaps a garden in your yard. A flower pot on your patio. The soil is as important as the seed. This is why Jesus told a whole story about the soil. In the parable of the sower, Jesus took the time to describe the different types of soil in detail, but never gave any indications as to what the seed may have been or looked like.

As he scattered it across the field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them.

Matthew 13:4 (NLT)

We can assume that the footpath was hard, packed, well-trod soil—if you can even call it soil anymore. When soil is hard and packed, a seed cannot even get far enough into the ground to sprout roots. All that potential becomes nothing more than bird food. God tells us that we must plow up that hard ground. Now is the time to do it.

Unlike planting, soil preparation can happen at any time. A farmer can start preparing a field for planting a year or more in advance. If the plot of land is particularly hard and stony, it will take time to make it useful for planting. So long as the ground is accessible, it can be prepared.

Our hearts are the same as the unprepared field. We don’t need to wait for a certain season to start. We just need to prepare ourselves to receive the seed. God will take care of the rest. But if we never take the time to prepare ourselves, we can never expect to reap a harvest. Any seed that may be scattered will be snatched away.

Let’s stop waiting and procrastinating. Get the job done while it is still a choice, not a duty. Now is the time to seek the Lord.

Daily Bible reading: Hosea 9-11, Revelation 2

Eternally entwined

Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so that we will be confident when we stand before the Lord.

1 John 3:18-19 (NLT)

While our spoken words are living things, they are cheap when compared to our actions. We all know that actions speak far louder than words.

But it should be noted that it is a record of actual deeds of self-sacrifice done out of unfeigned love which constitutes this sign of indwelling divine life, and not simply the feeling of adoration toward the infinite, which so easily passes for ‘love of God’.

International Bible Commentary

Our belief and confession thereof is what sets us on the path of righteousness, but that’s just the beginning of our walk of faith. It’s what puts us in the race. Now, a runner can stand at the starting line and tell everyone that he’s the winner, but until he gets into the proper stance and prepares himself, he’s nothing but a man standing on the starting line. He’s not a runner until he runs.

In the same way, we are not Christians until we act like Christ. Loving God is the start. It is our love for God that should lead us toward loving others. And it is in showing our love for others that we also show our love for God. The two are eternally entwined and cannot be separated. John calls us liars if we say we love God and do not love others.

It is in displaying our love for our brothers and sisters that we build the confidence to approach God because it is our actions toward others that prove our love for God and our faith in Him.

Dear friends, if our conscience is clear, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive whatever we request because we obey him and do the things that please him.

1 John 3:21-22 (NLT)

Because of our love for each other, we can go to God expecting a response. Jesus said that, when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too (Mark 11:25). It would seem that love and answered prayer are a package deal. So let’s stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 3-4, 1 John 3

That is the way to know

I believe that there’s more wisdom in Disney movies than we give credit for. In the 2007 movie, Enchanted, the displaced Giselle breaks out into song and dance with That’s How You Know—a song all about how you can tell if a man truly loves a woman. In the end (and after a lot of lyrics), the gist of the number is that he’ll find a way to show the girl.

You’ve got to show her you need her
Don’t treat her like a mind reader
Each day do something to lead her
To believe you love her

Imagine that. The way to make sure that someone knows that you love them and that you belong to them is to do things for them—to show them.

And how can we be sure that we belong to him? By obeying his commandments. If someone says, “I belong to God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and does not live in the truth. But those who obey God’s word really do love him. That is the way to know whether or not we live in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did.

1 John 2:3-6 (NLT)

As Christians, we should never have to go around telling people who and what we are. Our actions, our obedience to the Word of God, should give us away. While God knows your every thought, He shouldn’t have to read your mind to assure Himself that you belong to Him. Your words and actions should tell the world.

What words? What actions?

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the beginning. This commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.

1 John 2:7 (NLT)

There is no excuse a believer can make for living a life outside of love. For if God—who is love—lives within us, there is no room for hate. And if we hate while claiming to love, we are liars because both darkness and light cannot exist in the same space.

You either love or you don’t. You either belong to God or you don’t. There is no place in between. No grey area. You’re one or the other and that is the way to know whether or not we live in him.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 1-2, 1 John 2

Intensely

Jesus gave us two commands: love God and love each other. Loving God comes pretty easy. When we realise and accept all that He has done for us, it’s a no-brainer. How can we not love the One who saved us from our own sin and set us on a path to eternal life? It’s the latter command that tends to give us more trouble.

Loving each other can be difficult. Many in the church often pray that God would give them a love for unbelievers, but I think love for our fellow believers is even harder. We give grace to the sinner when they sin. After all, that’s what they’re supposed to do. It’s when Christians—who are supposed to be better—mess up that we have a tendency to withhold the love Christ told us to give.

Now you can have sincere love for each other as brothers and sisters because you were cleansed from you sins when you accepted the truth of the Good News. So see to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts.

1 Peter 1:22 (NLT)

How would you describe your love for the person who sits in your seat on Sunday morning? What would you have to say about your feelings to that elderly woman who sits behind you with the overbearing perfume that matches her voice as she warbles out the wrong words to your favourite song? What about the friend that let you down? Or the trusted leader who betrayed you? Our love for each other is apparent when things go exactly as we think they should. But where is that same love when things go awry?

What comes to mind when you read that we are to love each other intensely?

INTENSELY: To an extreme degree; vehemently; attentively; earnestly.

Peter made a point to tell the members of the church to love each other. I’m sure he had the same struggles that we all do in that it’s hard to love those whom we believe should be held to a different set of standards. Paul spoke to those situations.

Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)

When we put our expectations of each other before our love, we will always be let down. But when we can love each other with the same intensity that God loves us, we make room for mistakes. That kind of love makes room for fault. Love first. Love intensely. You’ll be surprised at what no longer matters.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 32-33, 1 Peter 1

The same

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)

No matter what translation you read, this verse is pretty much exactly the same in every one. The Amplified adds Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same. The word same means just that. The same. Never changing. Unaltered. Never different. That is our Savior.

Think about that for a moment. The message that Jesus taught while he walked the earth is still valid today. Just because the world has changed and humanity has changed, doesn’t mean the Gospel changes.

So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your spiritual strength comes from God’s special favor…

Hebrews 13:9b (NLT)

Too often, we try to complicate the message of Jesus. It can get watered down or it can be altered to seem more appealing. But the true message of Jesus can get lost in all the things we try to do to it. If Jesus never, ever changes,why do we try to change his word? If Jesus appealed to the masses two thousand years ago what makes us think that he won’t appeal the crowds now?

We have not been called to make the message of the Gospel appealing. We’ve been called simply to share it.

And now, may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to him.

Hebrews 13:20 (NLT)

God is most please with us when we do His will His way, and He has already given us all we need to accomplish it. We don’t need to try to make up new stories or rules or ways of doing things. Jesus already set the standard and, since he never changes, why would we try to change his message?

Jesus ministered to anyone and everyone with grace and love. We should do the same.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 17-19, Hebrews 13