Generous Justice

I have been considering the implications of social justice and what should be the Christian response. On the one hand you have many organisations who are doing amazing work but without the mandate of God’s love. On the other side of the coin you have Churches who share the love of God, but are unwiling to dig deep to find solutions about social justice issues that effect our society. I do realise this is a sweeping statement but I want to get to the heart of God’s character and what he requires from the Church.

I have been very moved by a book I am currently reading by Timothy Keller called ‘Generous Justice.’ Keller is an inspiring pastor in Manhattan New York and an extremely good speaker and writer. I strongly recommend this book to any Christian who has a heart for social justice. Keller says this, “When people see the beauty of God’s grace, it leads them powerfully towards justice.” He is stating that when we truly receive God’s love and understand the amazing gift of forgiveness, we should be looking at our neighbour with completely different eyes.

God’s character is for justice but must be achieved with his love. Micah 6:8 “And what dies the Lord require of you; to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.” The Hebrew word for mercy means unconditional grace and compassion.  With God social justice has a whole new dynamic for the Chrsitian. It becomes part of their being and heart. It is also a mandate from God.

In the bible we see that God has a special relationship with what is known as the ‘Quartet of the Vulnerable’ when justice is mentioned. They are the widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor. God’s agenda towards this quartet is for the Church to show love, generosity and to stand up for social justice. Any neglect shown to the vulnerable is not just a lack of mercy or charity but a violation of God’s justice.

As God’s people when we get involved in helping the vulnerable we want to achieve  Social Transformation (Justice) and Spiritual Transformation (God’s love). We not only want to give practical help but at the same time share with people the most important three words that they will ever hear God Loves You.

When I am helping families with debt issues, it soon becomes apparent that debt is only the tip of the iceberg in relation to the problems they face. People and communities are desperate for spiritual healing.

Healing from Hopelessness

Healing from Mistrust

Healing from Isolation

Healing from Fear

Healing from worthlessness

Healing from condemnation

Healing from being unloved

Every single one of us has the capacity to heal someone today. The question is are we prepared to show the mercy that God asks of us?

The justice of a society or indeed the Church according to the bible is evaluated by how it treats the vulnerable. Isaiah 1 and 58 makes this point, when God states that worship is false and worthless when we don’t focus our lives on the vulnerable.

Proverbs 14:31 “If we dishonour the poor we insult God, and when we are generous to the poor we honour God.” This scripture follows the same heart as the text in Matthew 25, when Jesus says that when we serve the least, we are in fact serving and honouring Jesus himself.

I would like to sum up by referring to what I call the three R’s of God’s standard for biblical justice

Right Relationships: Getting right with God leads us to have passion for His people

Radical Generosity: Receiving God’s love leads to a sacrificial generosity of resources, time and love

Rescuing the Vulnerable: Real engagement with the vulnerable and the poor leads to Generous Justice

God’s mandate is for the Church to help the vulnerable fight injustice. In doing so he demands us to act with love, mercy and compassion.

  

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What is your new name?

When life get’s difficult or for that matter when life seems to be going perfectly, it can be so easy to leave God on the sidelines of our life. However it’s not that easy, because God is with us even when we are oblivious to his presence. As I have been reading about the life of Jacob in Genesis, God has taught me a few home truths about the importance of  spiritual persistence.

Now Jacob was not the most trustworthy character in the Old Testament. He was a liar and manipulator as he stole his brother Esau’s birthright (Genesis 25:33) and his blessings from his father Isaac (Genesis 27:27-40). 

We may give up on God, but God does not give up on us

We read in Genesis 28:10-19 that Jacob dreams of a ladder climbing all the way to heaven and the Lord is standing at the top declaring that he will give Jacob and his descendants the land he promised. When Jacob woke up he said in Genesis 28:16 “Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it.”  Like Jacob we too can be totally unaware of God’s presence. However God is desperate to touch us, like he  touched Jacob, in that quite moment when we allow God to have room to enter our hearts. This spiritual experience changed Jacob for life. He acted immediately and in Genesis 28:18 it reads, Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it.” 

When God enters our hearts he deserves our thanksgiving and a changed life  

From that moment Jacob realised he needed God.

Do we realise and live in a way that shows we need God?

Do we make room for God to allow him to truly touch our hearts?

Do we live a life of thanksgiving to God?

This dependence on God must show up in all aspects of our life. We can be encouraged by Jacob again. In Genesis 32 we read that he has to meet his brother Esau for the first time in 20 years. The last time they met Esau promised revenge and wanted to kill Jacob after he stole his birthright and blessing. However we read in Genesis 32:9 “Then Jacob prayed.” Three simple words with powerful consequences.

The simple act of prayer brings about powerful and Godly consequences 

In difficult circumstances we too can be frantic with fear. However like Jacob we can change the situation and our character by pausing, collecting our thoughts, know that God is by our sides and simply pray to our Saviour and Maker.

When we understand that God will never leave us or forsake us and we are touched by his love, there is something in us that will never let go of God. In Genesis 32:22-32 we read that Jacob wrestles with God. Jacob does not want to let go of God and Genesis 32:26  we read, “Then the man said, let go for it’s daybreak.”  Jacob becomes persistent with his relationship with God. He never wants to let go from the God that is guiding him, loving him and blessing him.

God encourages us to be persistent in all areas of our life

Strong character develops when you depend on God through tough conditions

Then in Genesis 32:28 God says, “Your name will no longer be Jacob but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” 

God often gave many characters of the bible new names, such as Abraham, Sarah and Peter. New names were symbols of how God changed their lives.

The beautiful truth is that you too have a new identity in Christ. A new creation that is loved by a God who wants you to know that he is with you every step of the way .

What name has God given to you?

 

 

Outrageous Obedience

The big question that I have been pondering today after reading about Noah is this. What does it mean to have favour with God and be blameless? This is how God viewed Noah in Genesis 6:8 “But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.”  By this time God was really fed up with the heart and sin of the human race and wanted to wipe them totally off the face of the earth, except Noah. What did he have that no one else had? Genesis 6:9 says “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked faithfully with God.”

How do we need to live our lives to find favour with God?

What does it mean to live a blameless life?

How do we walk faithfully with God?

It all comes down to Outrageous Obedience. To find favour, live a blameless life and walk faithfully with God, the one thing Noah had to do was be obedient to God.

Genesis 6:22 “Noah did EVERYTHING just as God commanded.”

Genesis 7:5 “And Noah did ALL that the Lord commanded him.”

The point is that there are no half measures with God. It’s all or nothing. We can’t sit on the fence, dip our toes in the water when we feel like it. Lukewarmness is not an option with God. Noah did EVERYTHING and ALL that the Lord commanded him. 

Now I don’t know about you but if I showed half of the obedience that Noah did, wouldn’t that be something. This is where the bible transforms individual hearts and communities. Without the challenges that people like Noah show us, we would remain stuck in our old lives. The fullness of Christ comes from this Outrageous Obedience.

Once Noah followed God’s commands, by building the Ark and helping his family, did he then receive outward blessings from God. Genesis 9:1 “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, (Interestingly not the ladies, but I won’t go there) saying, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”

Blessings and favour follow Obedience

We too need to show this outrageous obedience to God, over every other facet of our life. What do you need to do in your life to get hold of this obedience?

The following is five reasons why we need to live a life of Outrageous Obedience

  • Outrageous Obedience means we are carrying out God’s will
  • Outrageous Obedience destroys Sin
  • Outrageous Obedience leads to a closer relationship with God
  • Outrageous Obedience shows our true love to God and his people
  • Outrageous Obedience shows we care for the world
 I thank God that he shows us, through ordinary people like Noah, that we too can do extraordinary things in his name.
Remember God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, so allow him to guide your life by being Outrageously Obedient.

Worthy of Self Worth

As we enter this New Year there is one absolute truth from the bible that all God’s children must take to their heart.  That is the knowledge that all of us are made in the likeness and image of God. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves.”  Just a little side note to observe; this verse relates to the plural our image.  This could be a reference to the trinity of God, Son and the Holy Spirit. We read in Genesis 1:2 “The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”  The image we reflect is that of God our creator of heaven and earth, Jesus the saviour of souls and the Holy Spirit that lives within each one of us so we can reflect this image to the world.

There is no special status attached to this truth. There are no deeds good enough that help us with this image. It isn’t about the select few specially chosen to reflect this image. God quite simply says, “Let us make people in our image.” Are you grasping this magnificent truth? God is talking about you and me. Made in the image of the Trinity.

Never allow man to make you feel inferior, or less of a person than you really are. God says otherwise and wants the very best for your life. This is why it is so important for God, to let us know that we are so worthy in his sight.  The one major thing that holds Christians back from moving forward into the fullness of Christ, is one of self worth issues. People that I have met through my work with Christians Against Poverty are hindered by their pasts, by damaging remarks from so called friends and circumstances which they find themselves in, which society calls failure. Thank goodness that God sees us so very differently. Knowing that we are made in God’s image and therefore sharing many of his characteristics provides a solid basis for self worth.

Human worth therefore is not based on possessions, achievements and physical attraction, but based on Being made in God’s image. 

Remember that everyone one of us is Worthy of Self Worth

Let me give you three very good reasons for knowing you are worthy

  • Helps you to absolutely adore and love your God
  • Know your God with a loving personal relationship
  • To make a valuable contribution to those around you
My hope and prayer for 2012 is for God’s people to truly understand and to take to their hearts the truth of God’s word in the Book of Genesis. Nothing really matters unless we really believe what God is saying to us. I want to finish by a quote my wife read on a facebook status from her friend in Perth, Australia.
“Don’t dwell on those who let you down
Cherish those who hold you up”

 

God holds you up, made you in his image and wants you to know you are worthy of self worth.