Saturday, May 30, 2009

Devotion - Unchanging

(We are taking a break from our walk through the book of Romans. I am using Romans to end the school year off with my students so I do not want to get ahead of them. Consider today a stray thought or a slight detour.)

It is a beautiful, wonderful Saturday morning. What makes it so beautiful? That would depend on what you consider to be important. I am enjoying the quiet and the missing stress of time constraints this morning. Those are two things that make this morning as valuable as gold. I have my one cup of coffee, my laptop and a quiet moment to reflect.

Normally my home is bustling with the noise of activity; four young children all doing different things and often in competition with each other. Sometimes the moments are filled with laughter and other times with tears. If I were to ask my children what is beautiful to them they would probably tell me the freedom to chose to do what they want to do. They have a different perspective because of the different values they have from mine.

This can be said of most people concerning most things; we have different perspectives because of our differing values. Some consider time to be a precious commodity. Others would place the higher value on friendship. Still others would consider the pursuit of knowledge to be of great importance. Yet, others would prize family to be most important of all. Unfortunately this individualized perspective is sometimes applied to everything, like to what is right and wrong.

There are some things in life that, no matter your perspective, remain the same for everyone. If you have not seen the video RED BALLOON take two minutes and watch it now. We will wait for you.

There are certain unmovable, unchangeable truths that have been established by the Father. One of these is the difference between right and wrong. In reading through Romans we have looked at the fact that the Father gave the law so that we could see just how wrong we are. It revealed the truth to us that God is holy and perfect and we are not. The Ten Commandments clearly define the difference between wrong and right. Our perspective does not change this fact. Call the balloon by whatever colour you want, the truth remains that certain actions are wrong and others are right and it is the same truth applied to all of us.

The Father knew that when he brought in the law it was impossible for anyone to follow. In order to overcome this problem a temporary solution had to be established so the law of sacrifices had to be put in place. The Father did not like this but had to tolerate its existence because of the law. After his great sin king David sang:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. (Psalm 51:16)

The law was not given so a law of sacrifices could be established but instead to provoke in us exactly what it provoked in king David:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

The Father wanted us, needed us to understand just how much we were in the wrong. You can't help an alcoholic unless he first accepts that he is an alcoholic. You can't help an abusive husband unless he sees himself as abusive. You can't help a thief unless he first sees himself as one and then accepts that what he is doing is wrong. We know it is wrong. The Father established it is wrong but unless that person is willing to see it we cannot help him. Unless a person recognizes that they are separate from the Father by their actions and thoughts there is not much that can be done by the Father to bring them back to him. The law was given to provoke brokenness so that the Father could heal us and restore us to him.

We use an expression, to "harden" our heart. It means that we are no longer sensitive to the right and wrong that the Father established. The believers are warned in the book of Hebrews:

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:12-13)

A heart becomes hardened when it consistantly refuses to recognize that certain actions and thoughts are wrong. It becomes hard when it does not see the importance of the heart condition David sang about, "a broken and contrite" heart. The fact is it is impossible for us to live up to the law and it is the reason that Jesus had to come and be willing to be the once for all sacrifice that would cover all of us for all the wrongs we have done. But that sacrifice cannot be applied until we recognize that we need it. As long as we stand in our own understanding we will be able to justify our actions and we will call the balloon by whatever colour we want to call it. We will pose that same question Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" We may even pose the question that is asked by the thousands of voices of today, "Whose truth?" Truth is not subjective. It was established long before the first building blocks of creation were called into being. It was knit into every fabric of creation and is the reason so many laws of so many societies are similar from the beginning of time.

Ethics, the establishment of what is right and wrong according to society, will be in constant change. What was not acceptable 10 years ago is acceptable now. I could list a long list of values that have changed over the years but I think we can all recognize that things have changed. Ethics change but morality, the defining of what is right and wrong by the Father, will never change. It is our measuring rod, the standard by which everything is compared. You can see it as our moral anchor, unchanging and keeping us fastened in place, different from our changing society. The question is, what has the greatest impact in our life; the ethics of our society or the morality that shapes our faith community?

The only way we can continue in our faith is if we journey through life with a broken and contrite heart. It is when we continue to recognize the higher authority of God's law, our inability in this law and our need for forgiveness so that we will be able to remain fresh and alive in Jesus. We can read this precious thought in Lamentations 3:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. vv. 22-23

It is not the number of times we fail the Father that matters. He knows us. He knows how weak we are and how much help we need. Our failings do not concern him. It is our stubbornnes to refuse to recognize our failings that concern him. His compassion for us is renewed with each new day. He is faithful to forgive us when we come to him with a heart that recognizes we have wronged him. He takes delight in this attitude as we seek his forgiveness. What matters is not our failing but our heart condition, our attitude and our seeking. The Father cannot do anything with a hardened heart but with a broken one he can do everything.

What good is worship if the heart is hard? It is only words that go no further than our lips. True worship is found in brokenness, when we realize just how much we need Jesus.

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