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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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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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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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As we consider the Sabbath and the Red letters, we come to today’s groundbreaking idea. Jesus seemed to thrive on turning the religion of the day on its head, and He sure did with this statement.

Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."- Mark 2:27

With this statement, Jesus is changing the framework through which we see all law (well all of God’s law anyway.)

Have you ever wondered how David could write that poem with 176 stanzas about his love affair with the law of God.

David understood something about the law of the Lord. I have an old Bible that has this verse on the title page:

Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. - Psalms 119:18

This is often my prayer as I open the word.

And when I read it, or pray it, I can’t help but see the word pair – “behold Wonderful” – so that my prayer runs more like this.

Lord, as I open Your word today, help me see Jesus, the Wonderful One.

The law, as we saw a couple days ago, and specifically the Sabbath was a gift from God to His people. The Sabbath is not intended as a curse or burden.

One indicator that you don’t understand God’s law, particularly under the new covenant, is when it becomes burdensome. Believe me, this happens to all of us. We look at what God is calling us into, some new level of discipleship or commitment, and we think “God, why are you putting me through this?”

When we do as the old song suggests, trust and obey, when we walk by faith and not by sight, He will lead us into more joy, more passion, more victory (perhaps more persecution, more trouble, more fiery furnaces) and ultimately more of His presence.

How often do we wield the law like a battle-axe to break others? That is what the Pharisee’s were trying to do with Jesus and the disciples. They were always finding fault. But the law of the Lord is meant to be a mirror. Consider this:

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. - James 1:23-25

As I read this, I wonder if we are getting close to an answer for the question I posed on Monday. What is the Sabbath commissioned to do in the life of a believer?

The Sabbath was made for you! It’s a gift. It is intended for your good. As you embrace it you will find that you “will be blessed in what he [you] does [do].”

Oh, while we are on the subject of the benefits of the law, and in particular the Sabbath, I have to throw in one of my favorites here.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

The law, and in particular, the Sabbath is a gift. It was made for you.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by. I will be back on this, so come back again.

For now, for today, press in!

Ben

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Let’s try again, to make some simple Old Testament observations around the Sabbath day.

The first actual mention of the word rendered “Sabbath” is in Exodus, when the children of Israel were in the wilderness and God was feeding them with manna.

Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. - Exodus 16:25

On the Sabbath – there was no new manna and the manna from the day before stayed fresh. God was careful to create a culture in which it was necessary to stop the normal day to day tasks and give the day to different things.

Yesterday, we talked about God sanctifying the Sabbath, and today we see that it was, in deed, set apart from other days, because you had to have a different routine. If you had not gathered two days worth of manna on the 6th day, you would be hungry on the Sabbath.

See, the LORD has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." - Exodus 16:29

A little further down the page we read that the Sabbath was given to them. The Sabbath was a gift. I suppose there have been those through the years who have looked askance at this particular gift, but it is none the less, a gift.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. - Exodus 20:8-11

There were plenty of things that God gave to the people before He gave the law, but not all of them got into the top 10 list. The keeping of the Sabbath is the fourth commandment.

God made it holy, and Israel was commanded to keep it holy.

In his retelling of the law in Deuteronomy 5 Moses adds this bit about Egypt

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. - Deuteronomy 5:15

Here we get the sense that the Lord is saying, remember the days when you were slaves, and had to work seven days a week for your masters. Now you have been rescued from those evil masters, and as an remembrance and thanks for the one who brought you out of slavery, stop your work for one day every week.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. - Exodus 31:12-13

Next we see that the Sabbath is not only intended to be kept holy or separate from all other days, but the observance of the Sabbath was intended to be a sign between God and Israel which set it apart from all other nations.

I live in Bergen County, New Jersey, in fact the next town over is the famous Paramus, New Jersey. It is famous for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the invention of the shopping mall. I believe the Garden State Plaza was the first shopping mall in the world. But more notable is the fact that though it may well have more major shopping malls than any other town in the country, it also has the most strict blue laws in the nation.

This from Wikipedia:

Bergen County in New Jersey is notable for their blue laws banning the sale of clothing, shoes, furniture, home supplies and appliances on Sundays kept through county-wide referendum. Paramus, New Jersey has its own blue laws even more strict than the county itself, banning any type of worldly employment on Sundays except necessity items such as food and gasoline. Wikipedia: Blue Laws

So then Paramus, New Jersey is set apart from all other shopping destinations on Sunday’s. By the way, it is wonderful to drive on the State Highways in Bergen County on Sundays. Hurray for blue laws!

For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings. - Leviticus 23:3

On the Sabbath there was supposed to be a convocation or meeting, assembly, or the word can even mean reading – such as a public reading of the Word of God.

Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before the LORD continually; it is an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel. - Leviticus 24:8

God’s intention is for this sanctified day to be remembered as long as time is kept.

There is a very serious story in Numbers about a man caught breaking the Sabbath:

Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. ... So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. ... "It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, - Numbers 15:32, 36, 39

As we get to the prophets, and as Israel slides further and further away from Father, we have some strong words to consider:

Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. - Isaiah 1:13

God is nauseated by the celebration of Sabbath when it was polluted, and not kept holy.

If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, And honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word, - Isaiah 58:13

Rather than a holy convocation, it became a day to do their own pleasure, or to continue to work and pad there pockets. [Tweet This] They did not stop and honor the God who gave them the power to be free, the power to get wealth. They simply went about their business, and tipped their hats to God on the Sabbath day, and it made God sick.

Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. - Ezekiel 22:26

I do pray Lord, that I would be found doing your pleasure, everyday, Sabbath included.

Ben NelsonI must ask you to come back tomorrow. Remember, we live in a New Covenant, and I promise there is some good news coming, but for today, this is enough.

See you tomorrow

Ben

You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. (Matt 5:21-22 NASB)

During this wonderful passage we call the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes the Law that has been taught to the Jewish people for centuries and begins to explain it a completely new way.

Don’t get me wrong, the scholars of Israel had long been commenting on the holy scriptures, and teachers had been passing on these writings from generation to generation.

As I understand it, and again I am no scholar, much of this writing was putting the laws into keepable methods. (or nearly keepable anyway) They would take every area of life and tell you exactly what you could and could not do.

There were laws about how to handle your money, and your crops, and your kids, your wife, your livestock, your mothers-in-law. (Nothing was intended by the order of that last sentence – honest) There were laws and rules and procedures for everything. A Jewish life was a well-oiled machine.

But Jesus, rather than explaining to the people how they could manage their lives in such a way as not to offend God, took these laws and showed them how in every day life they were offending God even in their keeping of the laws that they supposed He imposed on them.

Later in His ministry He would go into detail about how the best keepers of the law of their day, the Pharisees, offended God by their way of keeping and enforcing the law.

Jesus just finished saying we could not get rid of the laws, now He is going to explain the heart behind them in such a way as to make them un-keepable!

The point? The law is both imperishable and impossible and YOU need a Savior!

Jesus is that Savior, who lived a life that pleased God, died a death that appeased God, and now offers you that life for your's, so you can please God too. [Tweet This]

Will you bow your knee to this Jesus and allow Him to be your Master, King, Boss and God? Do it today!

How? (you might ask) No magic words, no hocus pocus. Simply own (admit) your inability to live a life pleasing to God. Confess everything in your life that He brings to mind that may have offended God, and surrender the CEO position in your life to Him. If you do this with all your heart, He will begin to show you how to change those things you confessed (this is called repentance) and He will guide you into a new life. A full and free life.

If you did that today, let me know! You can direct message me @MrBnd or you can post a comment below.

Thanks for reading today.

Ben

photo credit: OZinOH via photo pin cc

photo credit: AMagill via photo pin cc

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