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Aletheia - (ἀλήθεια - "Truth")

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When Obedience Becomes a Burden

 

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Malachi 1 is a painful account of God’s indictment against Israel’s priests who had been offering blind, crippled, and diseased animals to Him in the temple. 

We know that the sacrificial system was established graciously by God for His people as a means of atonement.  In a beautiful move toward a restored, whole relationship, God takes the initiative.  He makes forgiveness of sins possible.  Peace with God can be a reality.

So how do the priests respond?  “What a burden.”  Can you believe it?  God’s grace is everywhere!  This is good news for His people!  They can know Him and enjoy a relationship with Him!  All He wants is their best.  The strongest, healthiest male animals were to be offered to Him as sacrifices.  Instead, they are giving the worst and complaining that the whole thing is getting a little old – it has become burdensome.

1 John 5:3 reminds us that our love for God is expressed by obedience to His commands which are “not burdensome.”  We obey because we love Him, not because we feel guilty.  When we begin to feel that obedience is a burden, it is an indicator that our understanding of God’s grace is skewed.  This is a big deal for several reasons, but let me mention two from Malachi.

  • Treating an obedient relationship with God like a burden hurts His heart.  You can sense the pain in His voice in Malachi 1:10 when He tells the priests not to bother with sacrifices anymore – just shut the temple doors and don’t light any fires on the altar.  He is displeased and uninterested in their offerings because they aren’t being given from a pure heart or in accordance with His standards.

  • Treating an obedient relationship with God like a burden is a poor testimony to a watching world.  One of the reasons God is angry with the priests is seen in verses 11 and 14 – “My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun…I am a great king…and my name is to be feared among the nations.”  The world is looking on as God’s people offer Him less than the best.  Their sacrifices aren’t communicating the message that Israel’s God is a great King who is worthy of their very best.

What a privilege we have to be in a relationship with God as recipients of His grace.  What a delight it is to live lives of faithful obedience in gratitude for the abundant mercy He has extended to us.  And as we demonstrate our love for Him by joyful obedience, He is honored and His name is proclaimed as great to a watching world.

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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Changing My Focus

 

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I love reading the Psalms for several reasons, one being how easy it is to relate to the emotions of the writers.  A quick glance through the book reveals people experiencing the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and a range of life situations in between.

As I read through Psalm 13 this morning, King David’s anguish was unmistakable.  The first five sentences are a series of agonizing questions directed to the Lord.  I don’t know the details of his circumstances, but based on David’s words, it seems like he’s in a challenging, painful season of life.

Wisely, David pours out his heart to the Lord and expresses his concern.  But he doesn’t stop there.  As he lifts his eyes from his circumstances to his Savior, his perspective changes.  The tone in the last two verses is strikingly distinct from the previous four – “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.”

Today I’m reminding myself to take my burdens to the Lord – He has extended an invitation for us to cast our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7) and to come to Him for the soul-rest we so desperately need (Matthew 11:28).  But as I come to Him, I don’t want to drop my burdens and run.  I want to shift my focus from my problems to the Lord, and like David come to the conclusion that, no matter where I find myself, the Lord has been good to me.

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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Lessons from a Criminal

 

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This morning I was reading Luke 23, and the part that stood out to me most was the exchange between Jesus and the criminals being crucified next to Him.

After one of the criminals mocked Jesus, the other responded with a profound observation (one I hadn’t noticed before).  He recognizes that his punishment is deserved, but that Jesus has done nothing wrong.  From the least likely candidate comes the astonishing admission of his own guilt in contrast with Christ’s guiltlessness.  With a simple statement it becomes apparent that this man understands both who he is and who Jesus is.

His last recorded words are addressed to Jesus – words that amaze me.  “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  He doesn’t ask for anything.  He doesn’t assume that there is a place for Him in Jesus’ kingdom.  With humility he makes his final request – remember me.

Jesus’ tender response to this man’s apparent faith is striking.  Rather than granting his request, Jesus offers something better.  “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.”

This man deserves death and knows it, recognizes Jesus as blameless, and doesn’t think he has a shot at heaven.  His honest self-evaluation leads him to an accurate conclusion to which Jesus responds with unbelievable grace.

I never expected to be inspired by a criminal this morning, but his response to Jesus is, quite honestly, far more appropriate than my usual response.  May we have eyes to see our sin clearly enough to eliminate any sense of entitlement and may we, like the man on the cross, be captivated by the sinlessness of our Savior.

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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What Makes Us Different?

 

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Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

God’s people are marked by certain things that distinguish us from the world.  Because of our relationship to Jesus, we are called to live a particular way, engaging in some activities and abstaining from others.  As we walk with Him, He produces characteristics in us which evidence His work in our lives.  

One of the qualities displayed by those walking in the light is the ability to forgive.  

The perfect example is the forgiveness God has extended to us in Jesus.  Thinking about it for only a few seconds, four words quickly come to mind – I don’t deserve it!  

Relationships are an investment and require hard work.  Sometimes our friends, family members, and roommates aren’t the easiest to love.  They hurt us in big and small ways, intentionally and unintentionally.  

But as we fix our eyes on Jesus, our focus is no longer on the person who has offended us, but on the One who has forgiven us.  When we look to Him, even when the other person doesn’t deserve our forgiveness, we realize that He deserves our obedience.  And that perspective radically distinguishes us from the world.   

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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Choosing to Praise Him

 

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Hillsong’s popular “Desert Song” is one of my favorite songs. As I was listening to it the other day, the line “I will bring praise” got stuck in my head and has been racing through my mind ever since.

A profound truth is communicated in those four words, a truth illustrated countless times throughout the pages of Scripture.  Let me give two examples:  

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21).

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior (Habakkuk 3:17-18).  

Do you see the theme?  These verses demonstrate the principle that praising God is a choice.  They also communicate that God is worthy of our worship regardless of our circumstances.   

While circumstances should be acknowledged, they should not be allowed to control us.  I don’t believe it’s necessary to praise God for every situation, but I do believe we are to praise Him in every situation, believing that He is constantly working Christ-likeness into those who love Him (Philippians 4:6; Romans 8:28-29).  

Even though we don’t see the full picture, we can take comfort in the reality that we serve a God who does everything well (Mark 7:37).  

The choice is yours.  In the midst of your circumstances, will you praise Him today?

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us the day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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A Debt I Could Not Pay

 

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I don’t like borrowing money from people.  There’s something about owing money to someone that makes me feel like I’m in bondage.  If for some reason I do owe someone money, I try to pay it back as quickly as possible. 

Having said that, “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant” from Matthew 18:21-35 has been on my mind recently. 

In response to Peter’s question about how many times he should forgive a person who sins against him, Jesus tells a story about a man who had a huge debt cancelled.  His compassionate master realized his servant would never be able to pay back ten thousand talents (equivalent to millions of dollars), so he just dropped the debt and let his servant go.

I emphasized the debt was millions of dollars for a reason.  Sometimes I breeze over the “ten thousand talents” part because I don’t really get it.  But it’s only when I understand the enormity of his debt that I can understand Jesus’ point.

This man leaves with the debt of a lifetime behind him, and finds one of his servants who owed him one hundred denarii (get this – a few dollars).  Refusing to give him time to pay it back, the man threw his servant in prison over a small debt.

The man’s actions are outrageous in light of the forgiveness he’s just experienced.  In fact, it’s almost hard to believe.  My guess is that Jesus intentionally made the difference in size of the debts laughable.  No one would actually do that, right?

As I mentioned above, Jesus’ point cannot be fully grasped until we realize the extent of the first debt – it would have been impossible to repay.  I, too, know the burden of debt, and like the man in the story, I had no chance to pay it back.  But Jesus, the compassionate Master that He is, has forgiven me all my sins by cancelling the record of debt that stood against me with its legal demands.  He set it aside by nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).

By the grace of God alone, I have been freed from the bondage of a debt I could never pay.  But until I realize the size of my debt, I will never fully appreciate the extent of His forgiveness. 

Only when we come to terms with how much we have been forgiven are we able to respond appropriately to Jesus (Luke 7:47) and to those who offend us.

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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When Secondary Things Become Primary

 

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“If we make secondary things primary, they cease to be secondary and become idolatrous.  They have their place.  But they are not first, and they are not guaranteed.  Life is precarious, and even if it is long by human standards, it is short.” –John Piper, This Momentary Marriage

This quote has been on my mind since I read it for the first time about a month ago.  Although Piper was speaking of marriage specifically, I see how this concept plays out in my life as a whole.

I am often guilty of desiring, pursuing, and delighting in good things rather than the best thing.  I long to be more Christ-like; I want to be a better friend; I strive to improve as a wife.  Doesn’t all that sound pretty awesome?

I didn’t notice anything wrong with my thinking until I realized that Christianity isn’t a self-help program.  It’s not primarily about becoming better.  Christianity is primarily about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Because of what He has accomplished on my behalf, I have access to God and stand before Him blameless.

When I fix my gaze on Jesus and what He has done, He becomes the supreme treasure of my life.  He is exalted to His rightful spot on the throne of my heart, and everything else falls into its proper place somewhere beneath Him.  As a result, I am free to enjoy the blessings He’s given me and the work He’s doing in my life appropriately – as byproducts of my relationship with Him, rather than as ultimate things which rival Jesus for my attention and affection. 

Jesus is not a side-note in my quest for godliness.  He is the goal – the ultimate One – and as I desire, pursue, and delight in Him, amazingly enough He works godliness into my life in His way, in His time, for His glory.

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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The Knowledge of the Holy

 

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It’s no secret that college students are required to do lots of reading.  One of the great things about CIU is that we are often required to read books that are spiritually enriching.

Take The Knowledge of the Holy for example.  A.W. Tozer’s little book about the attributes of God is a classic for a reason.  Combining depth and readability in a way not many accomplish, Tozer has made a contribution to the Christian community that endures well beyond his time.

The Knowledge of the Holy, my all-time favorite book, also happens to be required reading for Theology 1.  If you haven’t taken the class, Tozer’s book is worth reading in advance.  If you have taken the class, I still recommend reading it at least once a year.  I read it often and am always challenged, encouraged, and awestruck.   

Want a preview?  Here are a few quotes to reflect on today:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

“Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the weightiest word in any language is its word for God.”

“The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.”

“Give us minds to admire that perfection of moral wisdom which found a way to preserve the integrity of heaven and yet receive us there.”

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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Got Balance?

 

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We all respond to busyness and the stress that comes from a full schedule differently. Some cave under pressure while others come alive as more is added to their plates. Honestly, at different times I can identify with both types of people.

Having said that, at every busy (or even semi-busy) point in life, I struggle with one thing: balance. There is school, school activities, church, work, family, friends, and more. Within each of those categories there are things like homework, quality time, deadlines, small groups, and appointments. As my level of busyness increases, the balance is often thrown off and sleep, exercise, and alone time fall by the wayside.

Something I’ve been learning recently is that if I can’t live a self-controlled life when I’m not busy, then when things start to pile up I have no reason to believe I’ll be able to pull off any semblance of balance. On the other hand, developing healthy habits – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally…you name it – when life is moving at a slower pace will provide for much more stability when your schedule is full.

As we finish out the summer, let’s build healthy behavior into our lifestyles so that when the pressures of a new semester are upon us we have something positive to fall back on. And if that doesn’t work, a midnight Taco Bell run helps just about anything…just kidding.

Written by Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry.

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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God Grows Things

 

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One of the classes required for all CIU students is Progress of Redemption.  Dr. Layman teaches the course, and in it he goes through the Bible twice – once looking at what God is saying and the second time to study what God is doing.  

Two principles from that class have stuck with me since taking it online over a year ago.  

God grows things is the first, and second, God is not in a hurry.  

These principles are illustrated countless times throughout Scripture.  God’s timetable is not ours – He is working from and for eternity; His purposes are eternal.  And He grows things.  Dr. Layman uses the growth of a tree to describe this process.  A seed is planted, but an oak tree doesn’t appear overnight…or even in a week, month, or year.  

This, says Dr. Layman, is comparable to our sanctification. It is a process, and processes take time.  With this concept in mind, it is easy to look through the Bible and find examples of men and women who are processing developmentally in their relationships with the Lord.  Many of these Bible characters are our heroes.  

It relieves me to be reminded of these principles and there is an incredible sense of freedom that comes with the realization that God grows things and He’s not in a hurry. 

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

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