Our Heavenly Father

Daily Readings – Leviticus 21-22, Psalm 36, Romans 10

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 36:5-7

These brief verses beautifully summarize the many dimensions of our amazing God.

It is easy from time to time to fall into a very narrow view of God. I catch myself frequently thinking about God primarily through the lens of his love and faithfulness. I have seen repeatedly through my life the truth in what David writes; God’s love truly does reach to the heavens and his faithfulness to the skies. And yet I don’t spend as much time contemplating God’s righteousness and justice.

There are many other Christians that have a tendency to do the opposite. They obsess over God’s righteousness and his justice but forget that they also serve a loving and faithful God!

The truth is, conveniently forgetting either of these fundamental truths about God paints a very one-dimensional picture. We serve a God who is endlessly loving and abundant in his faithfulness, but also, whose righteousness is like the highest mountains and whose justice is like the great deep!

For me personally, I love to meditate upon God’s endless love and faithfulness. I try to walk through life with that as my focus. I think this is how God would want it. I believe he would want us to constantly remember his amazing love.

However, at times it is extremely healthy to recognize that God is just and any ramifications we face for choices we make in our lives are fully deserved. If God chooses to give me a free pass from time to time and I escape any serious repercussions for decisions I make that are out of line with his will in my life, I should be extremely thankful. The problem comes when we come to expect that things will always work out fine when we make repeated bad decisions.

I know that I have fallen into that trap previously in my life where I ask God, “Why would you allow this stress, pain, frustration in my life to happen?”

…conveniently forgetting individual decisions, series of decisions, or lifelong habits, that directly lead to these negative outcomes.

Remembering that God is our perfect heavenly Father always helps me to wrap my mind around the two sides of God. As a Father myself I love my kids like crazy. If I thought they would learn lessons without me having to dole out negative consequences, I would lean towards barely ever punishing anything. (Just ask my wife!) Infinite love and grace is more fun!

Being an amazing parent takes a huge amount of love, but also requires a fair amount of discipline. This can be so challenging! None of us here on earth are perfect parents. God is. He is our perfect heavenly Father that knows exactly what we need.

It can be maddening when my kids are in the middle of doing the exact same wrong thing that we have talked about over and over again. Why don’t they just listen?! Then I think about my own life…I can only imagine God’s reaction in Heaven!

I can’t imagine how mad I would be at my kids all day long if I knew every single thought and saw every single action! I am not sure I would be able to muster “love that reaches to the heavens”!

The truth is that we deserve far more justice and far less love, and yet God does the opposite. He loves us so much that he took on human form and sacrificed himself on our behalf. He forgives us and wants us to simply turn back to him. Sometimes that requires consequences in my life that I might not understand or appreciate in the moment.

There is so much beauty in God’s justice and righteousness, as well as his love and faithfulness.

I know that I personally need him for both!

Thought to ponder

Which side of God do I have a tendency to disregard? How can I get to know and appreciate that aspect of God more fully?

Whitewashed tombs

Daily Readings: Exodus 15-16, Psalm 24, Matthew 23

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.  And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!”

-Matthew 23:23-26, 29-32

Jesus did not mince words when it came to rebuking the religious establishment of the day. He came out swinging.

It really hit me today when he challenged how they thought that they would have approached the past. “And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets…”

It is so easy to look back in time and think, “I would have never acted that way!” That is certainly how I feel about the Pharisees we read about today.

What would Jesus say to the church today? If he was speaking to the American Evangelical Church, what would his message be?

I believe that many churches are doing an incredible job of fighting for justice, mercy, and faithfulness, the way Jesus described in this passage. However, there are so many instances where, I believe, Jesus would compare the American Church to whitewashed tombs. More worried about external appearance than mission.

This is also a powerful thought for each of us individually to spend time considering. It is never fun to be confronted with areas in our lives where we are more concerned with how we appear on the outside than what is happening inside, and yet we all have them. Part of being human is constantly fighting the urge to simply wash the outside of the cup.

My prayer today is that God would show me those areas of my life. My prayer is that Jesus would convict me in the truth of my motives in different areas and expose any that are not in line with his will. I want to walk more and more closely with Christ every single day, even if that means he occasionally needs to say to me, “Woe to you, Aaron, you hypocrite!”

When these moments do come, it is important to choose joy over shame. I am so thankful that the God of the universe cares enough about me to show me my blind spots! I want to grow and get better! I want a stronger relationship with him! Therefore I am thankful for his occasional loving rebuke.

Thought to ponder

Where are areas of my life where I am like the Pharisees?

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