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Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? - Matthew 7:9 ESV

There was a day when if you wanted to relate to the Lord God, your only choice was the law written in stone, but that was not God’s original intent. God was looking for relationship—friendship.

In Exodus, God hands His chosen people His Word—laws written in stone. The people send word to Him (because they would not—could not—address Him directly) that they would obey everything He told them to do.

All the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. - Exodus 19:8 ESV

But from the beginning, it was not so.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" - Genesis 3:8-9 ESV

I infer from this it was the norm for YHWH (in the form of a man, that would be Jesus—see Philippians 2:7-8,) Adam, and Eve to walk together in the cool of the day and commune—like friends.

But by the time we get to Israel and their exodus from Egypt, man is too awed by this miracle working God of wonders to think in terms of friendship. They can only imagine a Master/slave relationship with this God of plagues and miracles.

Master/slave works okay, but it’s not God’s best. His idea was a walk in the garden. Jesus demonstrates this as He often heads to a garden or other quiet place to be this His Father. Solomon wrote about it in the Song of Songs. (4:16-5:1)

God’s original plan is not the law of stone, an external law imposed upon us. He desires an internal relationship with His people. Bread, eaten by His beloved children, becoming part of us. The Word of God made flesh—the Bread of Life, broken for us, and eaten as a simple demonstration that God has come into us, He longs to be part of us, one with us.

The law God wants for us is not an external, hard, cold lump of stone. His holy law of love has to become part of us—written on our hearts—energized by His Spirit. A law that is so ingrained in us that our greatest desire is to walk in that simple law of love.

"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. - Ezekiel 36:26-27 NASB

Do you see it?

Lord, today, I ask you for bread, and for a heart of flesh where you can write Your law—Your love—with Your finger, Your love for me and for those I touch today.

Thanks for stopping by today.

See you again soon,

Ben

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And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14 ESV

None of us have reached the full measure of Christ as yet, agreed?

That said - Jesus was FULL of Grace and Truth.

That leaves us in one of two conditions.

Either we operate out of a graceless truth, or a truthless grace.

OK - that’s probably extreme - perhaps you’re not graceless, simply grace-challenged. Maybe you ace grace, but go easy on truth.

Much is said today about having a balanced life. But the Word does not say Jesus walked in a balance of grace and truth. It doesn’t even say he operated out of a tension between grace and truth.

He was FULL of grace and truth.

He is the greatest expression of God’s grace in history, yet His own confession was “I am the Truth.”

My simple prayer today is:

Lord, teach me to walk full of grace and truth. Fill me with Your grace. Overwhelm me with Your truth.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Keep the light on.

Ben

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GOD

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things came into being through Him,
and apart from Him nothing came into being
that has come into being.

LIFE

In Him was life,
and the life was the Light of men.
The Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not comprehend it.
There was the true Light
which, coming into the world,
enlightens every man.

UNKNOWN

He was in the world,
and the world was made through Him,
and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own,
and those who were His own
did not receive Him.

BORN OF GOD

But as many as received Him,
to them He gave the right
to become children of God,
even to those who believe in His name,
who were born,
not of blood
nor of the will of the flesh
nor of the will of man,
but of God.

GLORY, GRACE, AND TRUTH

And the Word became flesh,
and dwelt among us,
and we saw His glory,
glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of

grace 

and

truth.

For of His fullness we have all received,
and grace upon grace.

For the Law was given through Moses;
grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

GOD REVEALED

No one has seen God at any time;
the only begotten God
who is in the bosom of the Father,
He has explained Him.

John 1:1-5, 9-14, 16-18 NASB


Happy Incarnation Day and Merry Christmas!

See you again soon

Ben

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Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? John 7:19

Jesus is in the temple at one of the feasts and He’s teaching. His teaching amazes them. They wonder among themselves how He comes by such knowledge and authority without having an education. He has no degree. He did not train under one of their rabbis, and yet the words He speaks impact them. His words reach deep within.

The Jews then were astonished, saying, "How has this man become learned, having never been educated?" John 7:15

As it turns out, they are looking for a reason to ignore His teaching, and silence the whisper in their souls. The whispering voice of the Holy Spirit calls to them with conviction. He draws them to turn from their current trajectory and aim their lives at the Lord God.

Though they are visiting the temple expressly to keep the law (How cool is it that God law was full of feasts and festivals - but that’s a topic for another day) Jesus accuses them of ignoring the law.

Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? - John 7:19

The problem with these who seek to dispose of Jesus, the problem with many who follow after religion, is their keeping of the law is not out of love for the lawgiver. Their motives instead are self-focused.

Did you know you can simultaneously keep the law and distance yourself from God?

How so?

Do you keep the law to earn favor with God?

Do you keep the law to be seen by men - to earn favor with men?

Do you keep the law to increase business - to gain profit?

So Ben, what am I to do?

First, let’s acknowledge that keeping the law doesn’t please God. The law is a feeble relationship builder precisely because you can keep the law without it ever impacting your heart. [Tweet this]

Jesus gives us a clue.

"He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. - John 7:18

Of course, He is referring to Himself when He speaks of “the One” here, but the point still holds. When we seek to glorify the Father in all that we do—there is no unrighteousness found in us.

It’s funny because God is not impressed with their keeping of the law, but when our walk brings glory to Him, it is counted as righteousness toward us. Amazing.

Jesus said

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5:16

The light shining here is not your good works, though I’ve often heard it explained that way. But if you read the verse, the light is shining on the works, and somehow this light on our works brings glory to God.

So what is that light? (I know you're dying to know.)

Let’s get back to John 7:18. It’s that heart that seeks to glorify the Father.

Paul said it this way.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, - Colossians 3:23

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. - 1 Corinthians 10:31

Ben NelsonWell - there's some good stuff to ponder today.

Keep the light on,

Ben

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What makes the law so attractive?

We’ve been choosing law over grace from the very beginning. Adam and Eve chose the knowledge of good and evil over life. (Genesis 3) Israel chose being given instructions over a relationship with God. (Exodus 20:19)

Even after God demonstrated the inability of the law to save us (Romans 8:3) we go back to choosing the law.

We have tasted and seen the amazing blessings of grace—forgiveness of sins, new nature, life in the light.

We have been given a new heart, been washed clean of the guilt and stain of our sins. Even our old nature has been sent packing, and we have received the very Spirit of the Living God dwelling in us.

And still we choose law.

How, you ask?

In so many ways.

We do to earn the favor of God.

We give to receive a blessing.

We hold the law up to demand our rights as citizens of this new kingdom.

I’ve done it a thousand times. I’ve demanded that God keep His promise based on my performance.

I’ve spent money I didn’t have because God owed me a blessing based on my giving.

I’ve demanded that He heal because He already paid the price.

I believe the problem is not that God is slack concerning His promises, but that I’m living in a law based paradigm. I slip back into law too easily. I begin to demand to receive what I’m owed, not realizing it’s already been given. I lose sight of God the giver and see Him the One withholding the things I am owed. I must plead my case with Him as my opponent rather than my Advocate.

My mistake may be that I’m using a law based reasoning for healing, or prosperity, or promotion, instead of establishing grace as the foundation of my life.

What earns me healing? Do I, by my tithing, pry open the windows of heaven?

Or are these things simply gifts from the Most High, given freely?

Are all the gifts of God like salvation? There is nothing I did to deserve salvation. In fact, I came to the Lord doubly dead—dead by my sin nature—deserving of death by my own sins and transgressions. There’s not much a dead man can do to save himself.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. - Romans 5:8-10 NASB (Emphasis mine

I didn’t stand before God and demand absolution from my old nature. I, with confession on my lips bowed my head and asked His forgiveness and accepted His great grace toward me.

And you know what He did? He sprinkled me with clean water—washed me clean from my old nature and my sinful deeds. He forgave each and every sin I had ever committed. He took the stoney heart out of my soul—the heart that could not keep His law and kept me from obeying His command to love Him and love my neighbor. Then He replaced that old stone heart of mine with a new heart—one that love’s Him—one that has the capacity to keep His Word. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Then, best of all, He came and took up residence in that new heart.

We’re not adversaries any longer. I was the enemy of God, but today, I’m His dwelling place, and He’s mine. He is my Home. I am His home. I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. (Song of Songs 6:3)

I don’t have to argue my case in order to get what I think should be mine. I don’t have to drag Him into court and show the judge my marriage license and say, He owes me healing, He owes me prosperity, He owes me a good life.

God Forbid!

Our access to all God has for us comes through intimacy not litigation. [Tweet this]

My beloved Father blessed me with all spiritual blessings the day I surrendered my life to Him. (Ephesians 1:3)

My dear Abba God seated me in Christ in heavenly places years and decades ago when I laid down the weapons of my warfare against Him. (Ephesians 2:6)

The Lover of my soul gave to me all things that pertain to life and godliness through the increasing revelation of who He is, day by day as we dwell together. (2 Peter 1:3)

This great God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has made me a partaker of His own divine nature through His great and precious promises. (2 Peter 1:4)

I’m going to start pressing into His grace, and giving Him space to multiply that grace into my situations and circumstances. I’m done demanding from God, and contending with Him. He is more than enough for me.

Thanks for listening as I slog through some thoughts chasing around in my heart.

Ben NelsonSee you again soon.

In Jesus,

Ben

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Kingdom of HeavenMonday I asked if you could feel God's dissatisfaction.

Today, I’m compelled to press this further.

When we sulk about, meditating on our unworthiness, it is a disgrace to His wonderful grace.

This idea that the Father is not satisfied with us actually tramples under foot the blood of Christ, treating it as though it had no power to pay our debt nor give us His righteousness. I’ll say it again. It’s a disgrace to grace. It’s a lie from hell. It has held the Church back far too long.

Our enemy painted this image we have in our head of a God who is angry with His children. He mocks the words of Jesus, the promises of God, and the teaching of the apostles. He employs the same tactics he plied in the garden.

Hath God said?

It is finished! - John 19:30 NASB

Hath God said?

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. - Ezekiel 36:25-27 NASB

Hath God said?

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. - 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

Hath God said?

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. - 2 Corinthians 5:19 NASB

Hath God said?

and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. - Revelation 1:5-6 NKJV

What rises up in me is a resounding,

Thus saith the Lord!

Deal with it satan.

And deal with it saint - you are pleasing in His eyes. [Tweet This] It’s not of your doing, The blood of Christ has made you so. He, the Lord God Almighty, will never again be dissatisfied with you. You are His beloved child.

Hallelujah!

[I need to say that again]

Hallelujah!

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgSee you again soon.

Ben

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prepared for the gospel

The laws of Moses and the revelation of the prophets have prepared you for the arrival of the kingdom realm announced by John. And now when this wonderful news of the kingdom realm of God is preached, people’s hearts burn with extreme passion to press in and receive it. - Luke 16:16 TPT

Here’s another verse that came out of the box for me when I read it in this new translation (The Passion Translation.)

The context is Jesus parrying with the pharisees. It’s fitted snuggly between His teaching on the Lord’s requiring sole proprietorship of you life, and a rebuke for those who use divorce laws to commit adultery.

You may be more familiar with it in the NASB or something like it:

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. - Luke 16:16 NASB

What I love about this new take is the idea of the Old Testament being preparation for the Gospel of Grace. The law and the revelation of the prophets was supposed to be getting us ready to receive grace.

The Law demonstrates to us how incapable we are of living up to God’s standard of righteousness on our own. As Paul says,

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, - Romans 8:3 NASB

The law could not save us, but it could prepare us. We were like steak in a marinade. Stewing in the law was supposed to tenderize us for the grace that God had in store.

The prophets demonstrate both the law’s frustration with man and his inability to keep it, and God heart toward His people. Over and over in the prophets we read the Father’s heart to be our God, and for us to be His people. His desire to be a Father to us is stated over and over.

They shall be My people, and I will be their God; - Jeremiah 32:38 NASB

Those attentive to God’s Fatherly intentions were ready to receive with gladness the teachings of this Messiah who came to save. They were ready for baptism, ready for repentance, ready for regeneration.

But this was not universal. There were many who used the law to their advantage, instead of allowing it to tenderize them, to break off their pride and draw out the sweet juices of repentance. These refused the kind offer from the Lord to enter into relationship. They were content with their relationship to the law. They would wield the law, thinking it held no threat for themselves.

But they were so wrong.

As the Lord began to preach the Gospel, many set up fortifications against the incoming tide of grace. This grace would ruin the law leash by which they kept others under control. It would give the hearts of the people back to their Father and release them from the tyranny of these pretenders.

I’m so glad for this Gospel of grace. I’m so thankful for the freedom it offers. Freedom from the tyranny of the law. Freedom to truly connect with our Father. Freedom to be His children and live in relationship with Him.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

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…and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. - Galatians 1:14 NASB

Have you ever notice how serious Paul is about living in the New Covenant.

Often we live in a hybrid system of law + grace.

We look at our roots in Judaism as a compatible companion to Christianity, a sort of ‘stepping stone’ religion.

This phrase ‘ancestral traditions’ strikes me. It demonstrates just how serious Paul is distancing himself from Judaism. The keeping of the law is what Paul calls ancestral traditions. It’s a phrase we might use for some tribal religions of “uncivilized” people groups.

He did not call it the law or the old covenant, or Hebrew tradition, or the faith or our fathers. He spoke of it as if he was called out of some heathen superstition.

Sadly we model much of our lives after the Old Covenant, in fact many Christians can’t even see the difference.

I can remember making the argument myself about Jesus. Saying He was full of grace and truth, and truth is law – so our covenant is one of grace and law. But Jesus did not model grace and law, he modeled grace and – well – grace.

When he spoke of the law, or gave rules, they were impossible laws and unkeepable rules.

I recently heard a speaker (Bill Vanderbush) talking about where Jesus says:

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. - Luke 14:26

Forever I have explained this as it being a matter of degrees – love them so much less than you love God that it feels a little like hate.

But does Jesus really expect us to be a movement marked by hate? (When I read my facebook feed I see that we easily lean that way.)

Didn’t He say…

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, - Luke 6:27

?

The commands Jesus gave were to demonstrate that the keeping of the law was impossible.

An unkeepable law can only drive us to grace and call us to His great mercy.

Lord, save us from our love for the Old and fear of the New Covenant.

nora and papa at the table, benThanks for stopping by

See you again soon

Ben

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But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace... - Galatians 1:15 NASB

It is easy to believe that our past disqualifies us for service before the Lord.

We know the apostle Paul’s history – murderer and enemy of Christians – Terrorist.

And yet his history goes back further.

Paul says he was set apart from his mother’s womb.

God has works that He prepared for Paul, and the fact that he was killing Christians in front of their family members did not disqualify him from taking up his cross and following Jesus.

Grace is so powerful that it strips away all the filth – all of our hellish history, and takes us back to Gods original plan.

I don’t care what your past looks like.

  • Murderer – you're not disqualified.
  • Drunkard – you're not disqualified.
  • Terrorist – you're not disqualified.
  • Divorcee - you're not disqualified.
  • Homosexual - you're not disqualified.
  • Drug addict - you're not disqualified.
  • Alcoholic - you're not disqualified.
  • Child molester - you're not disqualified.
  • Grew up in the church and never did anything with your faith - you're not disqualified.

Today is your day. Stop letting your past keep you from giving what’s left of your life to the Lord. It’s not too late to do great things for God.

Grace is so powerful it can transform the worst of us, and give us the life God made us to live.

Paul – after growing to a mature adult mired in religion and terrorizing the Christians of the early church – was transformed by grace.

He healed the sick, raised the dead, founded and pastured churches, made disciples – oh, and wrote letters that changed the world.

What is the rest of your story?

Ben NelsonBen

 

 

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photo credit: bartek.langer via photopin cc

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. - John 1:17 NASB

God gave the law to Moses as the opening gambit of a plan to reconcile man to Himself, but it was never the whole plan.

Paul tells us the law was weak because man’s flesh was weak.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, - Romans 8:3 NASB

As I read this verse in John this morning I was struck by the word “realized.” Verse 14 tells us that Jesus was the Word and He was “full of grace and truth.”

Wasn’t the law the word too?

It was only a part of the word!

The word “realized” in the NASB which is more often translated “came” – “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” – has a much stronger meaning. It’s not that grace and truth just arrived, or showed up.

It might be better to say grace and truth culminated in Jesus Christ.

The law made the way for grace by showing us how far we were from the Father.

The law is a fragment of truth, but left us with an incomplete understanding of God.

If we only look at the law, we will never see the true nature of God in all His fullness.

Only by looking at Jesus can we see and comprehend God. God is full of grace and truth – the law is not.

Jesus came to fulfill the law – not to keep it – but to complete its representation of God.

The law is like an abstract line drawing of God, where you can get a sense of His character, but Jesus is a photograph – no – a high-definition holographic – no – He is God in the Flesh. He is the fulfillment of grace and truth.

Jesus is grace and truth ACCOMPLISHED. [Tweet This]

BN Writers Page 150Thanks for stopping by.

Come back any time.

Ben

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