Aloha Friday Message – November 23, 2012 – Duty and Discernment

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Read it online here, please.

Beloved, before we start I want you to know this was a tough one for me to write. It challenged a lot of my own thinking. The outcome is that I know I need to reevaluate how I respond to Christ’s Law of Love. As I edited this, I came across this passage in 1 Corinthians 1:10 – Brothers, I urge you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, not to have factions among yourselves but all to be in agreement in what you profess; so that you are perfectly united in your beliefs and judgments. As you read through this, the example used is the topic I am called upon to write about. I hope you will follow me patiently to the end of it.

 

 MICAH 3:8-18 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse– the whole nation of you– because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty. 13 “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ 14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.'” 16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. 17 “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

 

There is a reason for this scripture being given to us this week. There is a need to make a connection between the message on October 14th and the message from last week. The message in October, “How To Measure UP,” looked at the benefits and consequences of taking care of the “Third T” in Time, Talent, and Treasure. The message last week looked at 3-D Discernment – Direct, Deliberative, Descriptive. What is the connection between these two messages?

The connection is Duty and Discernment. Throughout scripture, and therefore throughout history, God is abundantly clear about our duty. Several times in the past few months we have looked at Matthew 22:24-24. Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the Law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” For the first part of that we have the Ten Commandments, all the liturgical, ceremonial, and social Laws in the Old Testament, and Tradition such as the Torah and the Mishnah, Talmud, and Gemara. For the second part, we have Scripture, Tradition, and the teaching of the Church for centuries. There are ways things are to be done, obligations that have to be met, rules and Laws which must be obeyed. We can decide to not obey them, for that is what Free Will is all about, but when we make that decision, when we accept a compromise of Divine Law, there are natural consequences – things that happen when we manipulate the Law for our own purposes.

Compromise is not a biblical word, it is not a Biblical concept, and it is not an acceptable approach to living with God in his universe. The word compromise is pretty difficult to find in the Bible. In all the versions I have, I could only find it in one – the New Jerusalem Bible, and then in only 1 verse: 2 Corinthians 6:16(-18): The temple of God cannot compromise with false gods, and that is what we are — the temple of the living God. We have God’s word for it: I shall fix my home among them and live among them; I will be their God and they will be my people.  17 Get away from them, purify yourselves, says the Lord. Do not touch anything unclean, and then I shall welcome you. 18 I shall be father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the almighty Lord. Other translations read like this example from the King James: 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,  18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

So one way of approaching it is to say, “We cannot compromise with false gods” and the restatement is “Where is there agreement (sameness) with idols.” Either way, the point is “We are the temple of God and in that temple there can be no idols.” Right at the head of the Ten Commandments, correct? One God, only God, no other god is the way we are to understand it. From those rules and commands we have in both the Old and New Testaments, in Scriptural Tradition, and in apostolic teaching and congruency for centuries. So how can we actually believe it’s OK to compromise God’s Laws by diluting them with human precepts? Well, Jesus had a few things to say about that, and he usually addressed his remarks to a group he called, “You Pharisees, hypocrites!” He consistently pointed out that compromising about the Law was not the same as keeping the Law.

No one can “keep the whole Law” for the Law brings condemnation, and Salvation is only from God. Nonetheless, even through Salvation, we are not excused from the Law. The Law is fulfilled in Christ, by Christ, and through Christ. But in Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus says, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” To be quite direct about it, the passage says that Jesus alone fulfills The Whole Law – all the moral obligations and all the ritualistic obligations – and that none of the Law would be abolished until it – God’s plan of redemption and salvation – was fulfilled. I restate that as all of the Law is still there. And it is not difficult to infer that the consequences of compromising the Law are still there as well.

Go back to the top. You can see where I’m headed. Is my “Fair Share” to God 2% of my income? Are my sacrificial offerings limited to buying Girl Scout cookies, and dropping two bucks in the offering plate for the Building and Maintenance fund at my church? Many church leaders have told us over the course of many years – many decades even – that “The Lord loves a cheerful giver, so give whatever makes you cheerful.” “Well, I’m happy with two percent.” And that is OK because that is my decision to make. Here’s the deal, though. I am opting out on the fullest blessing by fulfilling only 20% of the Law. I don’t think I will go to Hell for that – and least there doesn’t seem to be any Biblical support for it – but I also am shortchanging God and therefore shortchanging myself.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” There are hundreds of thousands on our own East Coast who are suffering greatly weeks after hurricane Sandy. There are multiple appeals daily. If I made a sacrificial offering by sending ten bucks to a relief agency like maybe the Red Cross, I have helped take care of your neighbor. But, if I say, “I’m not going to send them any money. It never gets to the people who really need it, and once those agencies get your name, they never stop bugging you for more money.” And that is OK because that is my decision to make. Here’s the deal, though. I am opting out on the fullest blessing I could receive by taking every opportunity to be generous provided to me by God. He is the one asking me to be generous, not the Red Cross. Oh, that’s what their commercials say, alright, but actually it’s God saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Beloved, I told you – as have many others – there is a whopping BIG Chastisement coming. Your neighbors – the ones across the street as well as the ones “halfway around the world” are going to be suffering. I, you, we will be suffering too. We can do something about it. We can begin by putting an end to cheating God because when we cheat God we not only cheat ourselves, but you also cheat our neighbor.

So, to wrap it up: We can choose not to keep the letter of the Law, but we are not encouraged to compromise the spirit of the Law. Keep the Law. “Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time. (Deuteronomy 4:40, Ephesians 6:1) Do not cheat God. Do not cheat our neighbors. Do not cheat ourselves. Discern the most direct path to fulfilling the commands to Love God and Love Neighbor. That is not accomplished through compromise. It is accomplished only through consistent, conscious, conscientious attention to the letter and the spirit of the Law.

Going back to 1 Corinthians 1:10, there is no room for compromise when it comes to fully serving God and neighbor. God alone made the Law, God alone created the universe. God alone inhabits all of his creation, God alone binds us to the Natural and Supernatural laws that govern our existence. We do have a right to choose, and God directs us to choose to perform our duty with discernment. What God has decreed binds us on Earth as well as in Heaven when we pray, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Whenever I choose to compromise the commandments in Matthew 22:24-24, I am robbing God not only of what is rightfully his because he expects it of me but also because I resist accepting all of the blessings in the promises he attaches to those two magnificent commands. In doing so, I become part of the events that precipitate the loving correction God sends to us now. As I persist in those choices that do not meet those commands, those portions of The Law, I am convicted by my actions, not by my words. I pray that I will learn to fully access both duty and promise with the same single-minded completeness Paul spoke of and Jesus demonstrated. I see and understand that I need to test God’s goodness through obedience, not his judgment through disobedience.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

Share-A-Prayer

Our list of daily intercessions continues to grow. I ask you to take part in it three ways. First, make time in your life to intercede for others. Secondly, join me in reciting the Moon Beam Network Prayer daily. Third, take stock of your compromises, the things you love more than God, the things that replace his primacy in your thoughts, words, and deeds. Use that 3-D Discernment to discover more and more ways you can love God and neighbor with increasing single-mindedness. As Paul said in Romans 12:1-2 – Romans 12:1-2 I urge you, then, brothers [ and sisters], remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God; that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people. 2 Do not model your behavior on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and mature.

Thank you for your patience. May God continue to richly bless you with hope, grace, and peace that you may abound in Love.

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

One Response to Aloha Friday Message – November 23, 2012 – Duty and Discernment

  1. Very heavy message this week. The scrutinies are upon uS!! It is not an easy one to NOT
    think about!! papa eddy

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