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Evening Prayer: January 16th

Almighty God, hour by hour you have sustained me through this day. Your love has enabled me to stand strong and live with confidence. Now watch over me in my sleep, that tomorrow I may rise to do your will. Through Jesus, the Christ I pray. Amen.

Daily Scripture Passage: Psalm 40

Psalm 40 (ESV)

My Help and My Deliverer

40 I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes
    the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
    but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
    you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
    in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

I have told the glad news of deliverance
    in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.

11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    O Lord, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    do not delay, O my God!

Thoughts to Ponder from Psalm 146:8-9 Part IV

Psalm 146:8-9 (ESV)

    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
    he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

“…the Lord loves the righteous” 

The world of Christianity has been turned on its head. I know this is a bold statement, but in this day and age, this is a very true statement. We have come to a point where we have thrown everything out the window and redefined what it means to be “Christian.” It seems that in today’s world, you need not believe anything of the eternal Mystery or of the orthodox, traditional faith. In fact, one need not even believe any longer that Jesus is the only way to salvation (and yes, I have heard this stated by clergy). 

There seems to be only one unforgivable sin: if one does not love. Now, we must be clear on a few things before we move on to the heart of the passage we are examining today. There has been an assumption made that if one disagrees with a particular lifestyle, philosophy, etc, then that person does not love. We have equated love with agreement, and that could not be further from the truth. There are many things in this world in which I disagree, but that by no means suggests that I do not love people I find myself in disagreement with. That rhetoric is overplayed, to be certain. 

Going even deeper, I know there is a cultural/theological mindset that assumes the statement that God loves everyone just the way they are, therefore, people should do the same. Understand this is a partial truth (and we know what partial truths really are). Why is this a partial truth? Yes, God loves his creation deeply. God’s love for us is so strong that he was willing to come to earth in the form of a human being and die to show how much he loves us. However, God is very different than human beings.  We equate our ideology regarding love and righteousness with God’s. Put differently, we believe that God thinks and acts just like we do. And that simply is not all true. If we are truly in Christ, as WE grow closer into God’s likeness, then our ways look more like God’s ways. It is never the other way around. God’s love is very much for all people, but God does not love our sin. 

Where we have erred is in the thought that we believe that God has suspended his moral code with Jesus. Jesus has ushered in an age of grace and because of grace, anything goes. Yes, Jesus has ushered in an age of grace, but that does not mean that anything goes. As we read Scriptures, God makes it clear what his definition of righteousness is and that he expects that people will be transformed and be made new. In other words, there should be a radical change in how a person who has accepted Christ and been baptized into his name, acts. We should look so radically different that world notices the difference in us. Part of that means, we are supposed to have a desire, and desire is the key here, to want to stop our sinful behaviors. God does not and cannot love nor accept sin because it is radically against his pure, holy, righteous character. 

Coming fully around, this little statement in Psalm 146 should lead us to come conclusions. First, what does it mean to be “righteous”? Righteous is defined as a person who is morally right or justifiable. Better stated, virtuous. It means following moral and religious laws. Think about this for a moment. God has specified what a moral life looks like. We are to love him with all that we are and our neighbor as ourselves. We are to serve, not be served. We are to obey the Ten Commandments (no those are not obsolete). We are to care for the widow, the orphan and the “stranger” in our midst because these are the vulnerable in any culture. We are to stay sexually pure in every sense of the term, living in God’s design for human sexuality. We are to live fully committed lives to God. We are to strive to be like Jesus who never went against God’s ways and lived a life without sin. We are to forgive often. We can no more claim to be a Christian and remain in blatant sin than we can stand in the garage and become a car. Unrighteousness and righteousness cannot coexist. Light and dark cannot co-exist. 

So yes, the statement that God loves humanity is an absolutely correct statement, but God also gives us the choice to love him in return and that is done in how we live in accordance with his moral and ethical code as defined in Scriptures. That does not mean we will always get things right. Look at King David. His sins were absolutely heinous. However, he fully repented of his sin and the Scriptures constantly refer to David as a man after God’s own heart. 

God loves the righteous. What does this mean? The righteous will find God’s salvation. That is as clear as you can get. That is how God loves the righteous. He gives them eternal life. He walks with them in relationship all the days of their lives in this world and the next. 

The choice to be counted as one of the righteous is always ours. We cannot twist Scripture to allow for our sin and continue to think that God will honor this. He won’t. In the end, the righteous will inherit the Kingdom of God. God will still love the unrighteous, even when they are in hell. But the choice of eternal destiny will always be ours.