Boundaries

Pacific Highway“There are boundaries that exist for our good.” These words are incredibly difficult for me to speak in my flesh, that is, when rising up from my humanity. I dislike the concept of boundaries. I recognize their inherent worth in principle, but, at times, the desires of man’s nature make those boundaries seem intrusive and even impossible.

Yet, if we comprehend the metanarrative of God’s purposeful design then we must acknowledge the value of boundaries. To reject boundaries or to resist their purpose is to subject ourselves to incalculable suffering. Early one morning, I scanned through the channels of the television and came upon a movie about transgressed boundaries. The full story line is inconsequential except for its value in illustrating my point. It was a story of forbidden love and how the draw of the heart brought two people together, even momentarily. Doing so damaged a marriage commitment. In fact, the commitment to marriage had been modified to become “open” so that the heart could wander and fulfill its passions. The storyline presented the case that casting off boundaries, while ultimately causing heartache, freed the heart to experience great and blissful happiness and fulfillment, even if it were only temporary. I was reminded of the gracious and loving gift of boundaries.

Some see God as “old fashioned” because He instructs people to avoid certain things. From the declaration to not eat from the “certain” tree in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), to the counsel of the writer of Proverbs about the foolishness of lustful naivety (Proverbs 7) and its magnetic draw toward adultery and death (Proverbs 5), Scripture gives us boundaries to guard us and guide us toward unspeakable joy. These boundaries, when tested by the heart, seem oppressive; however, when comprehended by the faithful Christian, are instruments that promote ultimate peace, pleasure, and satisfaction.

“Rules were made to be broken,” as the saying goes, is a recipe for disaster. Time will not allow me to unpack stories of those who have wept before me over adulterous relationships that began as unchecked flirtatiousness. There are not enough hours to detail the immense suffering that resulted from stealing from a trusted friend or family member. We cannot even begin to examine the costs of addiction that began as one pill or one beer to relax. In nearly every case, the grief-stricken person can detail the moment that the heart approached the biblical boundary for the final skirmish and transgressed it.

Truly, boundaries seem archaic at times and the draw of human nature (or you may call the heart) seems overwhelmingly strong; however, can we ever claim that this is unusual to us? Is this not the struggle in Genesis 4 in the heart of Cain? Is this not the allure that seized David’s heart when looking upon Bathsheba? IS this not the battle raging in Peter’s heart as he warmed himself over a stove in Caiaphas’ courtyard (Matthew 27:69ff)?

Dear friends, God always designed us to battle the pull of the heart toward rebellion…not because His ego was massive but because God desired to save us from the consequences of the morning after, and the one after that, and the one after that.

The storyline of the movie positioned the experience of forbidden love as something positive. The “adversary” convinced Cain that his happiness would follow the destruction of his brother Abel. The naïve young man of Proverbs 7 fell headlong into destruction, convinced that the beautiful woman would be his “ticket” to ultimate pleasure. Truthfully, the “enemy” has always packaged rebellion as the means to happiness but the consequences outlive the momentary pleasure. God’s boundaries promote joy over suffering, pleasure over pain, and holiness over dishonor. They are His gracious and loving gift.

Advertisements

Pants ARE Required

Open Bible 1Rarely do we find anyone wrestling with an outside appearance. On the outside, most of us look pretty good. Pastors and preachers stand to preach and minister on any given Lord’s day. We shave and shower. We comb our hair. We dress the part. We carry a Bible (even the one on our iPad or iPhone). We have the language down. Based on all outside appearances, we are fully qualified and prepared to stand before the Lord and His people…

But what about the part you cannot see? What about that which is hidden just past the layers of the external? 

In Exodus 28, God gave explicit instructions on how the garments of the priests were to be constructed, how they were to be worn, and that they were for GLORY and for BEAUTY (Ex 28:40). Most people “get” the robes and the stones, the breastplate and the ephod…even the crown. But notice what God describes that is not readily seen:

42 You shall make for them ylinen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They shall reach from the hips to the thighs; 43 and they shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they go into the tent of meeting or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, lest they zbear guilt and die. aThis shall be a statute forever for him and for his offspring after him.

God designated that the priest was to wear pants…”breeches” in the NASB actually. Underwear in our modern vernacular. This was the part of the priest’s attire that was not visible to others but would be known to God.

God is just as concerned with our private lives as He is our public. He wants our hearts to be prepared as certainly as He wants our sermons. He demands holiness and glory even in the most discreet and hidden places in our lives if we are to approach Him.

This is weighty to consider. To know that God examines every aspect of our lives and holds us to account for the private as well as the visible…should give us pause.

This truth is not only for pastors, but for everyone who ministers before the Lord. A true understanding of the Scriptures means that this includes everyone in some respect.

Perhaps power is missing because we put on the external facade of holiness and service but we chose to ignore the need to cover our shamefulness but putting on “breeches.”

“God is not mocked,” the Apostle Paul reminds us; “whatever a man sows, so shall he reap.” (Galatians 6:7). We cannot hide our unholiness from God and to flaunt it, by refusing to cover our guilt and shame with the forgiveness of Christ (through repentance and faith), is to invite the harvest of condemnation and to reject the presence, power, and peace of God in our lives.

Today…don’t forget to put on pants. They are required to please God.

#P5: As seriously as God…

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“Thus Zimri destroyed all the household of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke against Baasha through Jehu the prophet, for all the sins of Baasha and the sins of Elah his son, which they sinned and which they made Israel sin, provoking the Lord God of Israel to anger with their idols.” 1 Kings 16:12-13, NASB.

These chapter in this book may be some of the bloodiest in all of Scripture. The detail widespread judgment and destruction in summary form giving both cause and effect for the judgment.

In Israel, the northern kingdom, the kings were particularly wicked (as juxtaposed against Asa king of Judah in the South). They not only embraced idolatry but promoted it among God’s people through implication and edict. They named the “Lord God of Israel” as their own but worshipped as the inhabitants of the land that God had given them.

In the verses above, God wiped out a king and all his family because of their sin. Their sin! I know it sounds incredible…since many of us embrace a picture of “hippie Jesus” who eats granola, preaches peace, and lets people choose their own course without consequence; however, the Scripture portrays God far more accurately.

God hates sin and judges sinners. Not just everyone elses sins…and not just the “big” sins…but our sins and every sin. He hates sin. He has no tolerance for it and the only way a righteous and holy God can deal with sin is to destroy it utterly.

A couple of quick reflections:

  • God is the author of this destruction of Baasha and his household because of his unrepentant idolatry and wickedness before the Lord. God is a righteous judge.
  • Baasha knew judgment was coming because He knew the instructions of God, the Law of God and the prophesy of God…yet he refused to repent.
  • God executed justice swiftly but not immediately. Time lapsed from the prophesy to the judgment, but once judgment started, it was overwhelming.
  • God is still the Lord God of Israel even though their king sinned and the people sinned and idolatry was rampant.

The parallels are incredible in my mind. God loves us, is patient with us, desires our repentance…but is also righteous and holy and a swift executor of judgment against our sin. We should and even MUST view ourselves, our culture, and our sin as “seriously as God.” Only then can we experience the redemptive mercy fo God. If not, we will experience only His judgment…for He is a righteous judge.

#P5: Establishing Righteousness requires the Removal of Evil

Pastor's Five, P5 logo“…Thus the kingdom was established in the hands of Solomon.” 1 Kings 2:46, NASB.

Now one of the things that I appreciate about the Old Testament Scriptures is (as my professor taught me) that they present the “stories- warts and all.” There are a number of difficult things about the Old Testament that shock our conscience. In short, the OT has some bloody scenes in it. We struggle to reconcile these things MOSTLY because we look at them through our own cultural lens. This makes discerning meaning more difficult. Because of this, sometimes we will attempt to make a historical account into an allegory or “spiritualize” an event that is simply historical. Frankly, this is unnecessary and is destructive to the practice of studying God’s Word.

The first chapters of this book reflect a struggle for power. With David’s death on the horizon, there was a power-vacuum looming and two factions sought to fill it. Adonijah did politics and popular appeal. He fed the people, was good-looking, and touched the bases with all of the key influencers. He exalted himself to the place of king so that he would be the people’s presumptive choice. Then there was Solomon whom David chose to replace himself (but only after a little manipulation by Nathan and Bathsheba). Following David’s death, Solomon was faced with a choice…learn to tolerate the competing faction, or destroy them. He chose the latter and it was the right choice.

That is the historical account. Certainly we should not try to apply the actions of Solomon in our own lives (since killing your opposition is generally frowned upon). However, we can apply the principle. When we are seeking a new start as holy people, there can be no compromise with evil. Imagine making brownies. You mix the batter with all of the good ingredients but add a few pellets of mouse droppings. Just a few. In the mix of all that is made, it is statistically improbable that 99% of the bites of the brownies could contain the droppings…but who is going to tolerate even those odds? Not me! Not you! If we were making brownies we would expect 100% or nothing. Period.

In our lives which are far more important than dessert, we have a tendency to lower that standard. We will present our bodies a living sacrifice to the Lord…yet we tolerate sin/evil as part of that sacrifice. Like offering God a potentially tainted brownie. How could we do that? We would never eat those ourselves! How could we offer such a tainted sacrifice to God.

The recipe for holiness requires that we completely remove evil if we are to be holy. All of it. Give the enemy no quarter and allow no sin to persist. This alone is the recipe for holiness. In obeying this instruction, we find that we will be firmly established as God’s chosen people.

Shalom, CA