What Does the Lord Require?

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8 (NKJV)

Proverbs 29:18 says that where there is no vision, the people perish.  Recently I’ve sought the Lord regarding my personal vision and mission statement.  I’ve asked myself the questions “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” “What motivates how I live my life every day?”   Yes, I love the Lord and want to serve Him, and He says in His word we should do everything to glorify Him (1 Corinthians 10:31).   Nevertheless, I’ve realized I needed a clear vision and verse to keep me focused and provide a reminder of what it means to truly walk with the Lord daily.

So why Micah 6:8?   First of all, it has the question right in it I’ve been asking God:  “What does the Lord require of you?”  That’s an important question.  At the end of my life, when I leave this earth and stand before my God, I will be held accountable.    Did I do what He asked of me?   Did I walk the path He placed before me? It’s a sobering thought.

So what does the Lord require of me?

The Lord requires me to do three things:  look in, look out, and look up.

To do what the Lord requires–to do justly–I must first look in.  To be just is to be honorable, fair, and righteous as well as factual and well founded.   So how can I do this daily? First of all, I must recognize I cannot do it on my own.  I will never be truly righteous on my own.   No one can be.  Paul reminds us in Romans 3:9-11 “None is righteous, no not one.”   The only true righteous one is God.  That is why He sent His Son Jesus into the world to pay the price for my sins.   Since I have been justified by faith in Jesus, I have been made righteous before God (see the book of Romans).  Isaiah 61:10 states it beautifully:  “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”   I am made righteous through faith in Jesus.  Nevertheless, while it is one thing to know my position–my righteousness in Christ–it is another to walk it out.  To walk it out I must daily look in and ask God to search me and to know me, to show me those aspects of my character He needs to heal. Like David, I must daily ask God to “search me…and know my heart.  Try me and know my anxieties.  See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23)  Once I look inside and clean the inside, the outside will follow, for the fruit comes from the heart (Matthew 15:11). The tree must be healthy for the fruit to be healthy.

Yet even though I may know my position and look inside daily to see what God would require of me, I am not perfect and make mistakes.  Therefore, the other aspect of just living is the recognition of injustice and sin–and the willingness to confess these to the Lord.  For if I confess my sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive me and “cleanse” me from “all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)  I also must be intentional in this walk.  I must walk circumspectly, not as a fool, but as the wise (Ephesians 5:15).  I must be sure to “put off” the old me–the unjust, sinful me–and put on the “new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).   This new self is one of a renewed mind and renewed mission.  Rather than aiming to please myself and man (two things which lead to unjust behavior and attitudes), I must please God–God alone—the only wise one (Romans 16:27).

In addition to looking in, to daily seeking God’s righteousness in my life, I also must look outward.   God is the God of justice AND mercy.  Psalm 103:8 proclaims, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.”   God loves truth, yet He is also compassionate.  He is just but also forgives. If I am to love mercy as in Micah 6, then I am to show it like God shows it. To whom do I show it?  Everyone.    Part of what I am accountable for in this life is my relationship with people.   He commands the following in John 13:34-35: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Mercy is an aspect of love. Mercy recognizes we are all sinners, and we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).   Jesus spoke to his disciples a couple times reminding them those who need a physician are those who are sick, not those who are well, and that He desires “…mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:12-13). Jesus didn’t call the righteous but rather the sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13) Who am I to judge a brother or sister? There is only one judge—and that is God. James addresses this a few times in his letter. In chapter 2 he remarks “mercy triumphs over judgment” (13). In chapter 4 he says the following: “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”(4:11-12)

So, yes, the Lord requires I daily look in and ask the Holy Spirit to judge MY motives and MY heart, but He does not call me to judge others. What He does require of me as I daily look out is to daily show mercy on His children. God will judge our choices when He returns. Until then, I must daily walk in love. I must love my neighbor as myself.

Finally, and most importantly, the Lord requires “I walk humbly with my God.” He requires I daily look up to Him. To possess humility is not a demeaning characteristic; it doesn’t put me down.  Rather, it raises God up.   It doesn’t deny abilities and talents and giftings; it places the recognition for them in the proper place.   God alone deserves the glory, the honor, and the praise.    Who am I as the created one to place myself in a higher position than the One who spoke me into being?  To walk humbly with my God is to walk on my knees daily in honor of Him.  It is to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It is taking my eyes off the affairs of this world and placing my eyes on Him.   I am a soldier in His army; my mission is to please the One who enlisted me–to please God (2 Timothy 2:4).

God exemplifies humility through Jesus. Paul speaks of humility in his letter to the Philippians: “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:1-11). To walk humbly with my God is to daily place myself at the foot of the cross and proclaim, “Not my will but yours be done.”

What I also love about this passage in Philippians is it not only gives an example of humility, but also it ties together all three aspects of Micah 6:8. Paul encourages us to be “like-minded” in our display of affection and mercy (look out) while not neglecting “our own interests” (look in). And this all ties in to living our lives in humility like Jesus (look up).

So what is my personal mission statement? What does the Lord require of me? The Lord is calling me to a three-fold mission. I am to look in by searching my heart through His eyes and confessing those aspects of my character which do not align with His character.   I am to look out through the eyes of mercy on those around me. I am to be in relationship with His children, seeking to show His love in my words, thoughts, and actions. And I am to continually look up to the author and finisher of my faith. I am to daily take up my cross and follow Him with full assurance that He who promised is faithful.

 

 

 

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Relinquishing Control

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”  and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” — 1 Corinthians 3:18-20

I must confess.  I like to be in control.   I like to control what happens to me, in me, and around me.  I even like to try to control what happens to, in, and around my family and friends.  Unfortunately, as you are probably well aware, I cannot control what happens to me or what happens around me; I can’t even control what happens in me either!   Even Paul in his letter to the Romans discusses this when he writes, For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate….For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:15-20).

Yet even though my human nature wants to be in control, my spirit knows who is ultimately in control:  God.  God is in control.  As the children’s song goes, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”  Nothing I am facing in this world right now is a surprise to God.  It had to pass through His fingers before coming to me.   I admit this may be a hard pill to swallow in times of distress, of pain, of sickness, of death.   Yet even though my heart may hurt at times because my finite mind cannot understand God’s omniscience,  God is God, I am His child, and I must trust in His faithfulness.   Romans 8:28 says  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  This doesn’t promise a life of no pain.  It just promises that God is working through everything–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Jesus told His disciples this important principle of letting go of ourselves and our control: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)  Sure. I’d love to know for certain what my life will entail tomorrow, next week, and even next year.  I’d love to be able to control the paths my children take in life.  I’d love to control the choices of everyone within my sphere of influence (and even those not in my sphere!).  Yet my wisdom–my control–is foolishness to God.  True control of my life will only come when I relinquish it to the Creator of my life.

So I commit this day to let go of the steering wheel.  Even more, I’m going to get out of the driver’s seat and give God the keys!  God is God.  I am His child.  I will be strong and courageous.  I will not fear nor will I be dismayed, for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go (Joshua 1:9).

God’s Steadfast Love

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!…Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes….You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. – Psalm 118: 1, 6-9, 28-29

Steadfast – resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering – loyal. What a most wonderful way to describe the love of our God. Resolute – admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering. God’s love toward His children is purposeful.   God didn’t just happen to love us.   He purposed—He chose to love us. He created us in love and determined to always love us.   Unwavering—think about waves of the sea—they are up and down, they cause boats to capsize, they can crush and drown a person. But the Lord’s love does not waver like a wave of the sea. No, His love is unwavering.   Even though our sin ensnared us and broke the fellowship we enjoyed with Him, God’s steadfast love endured. And it endures forever! What shall separate us from the Love of God? As Paul says in Romans….NOTHING!  “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

God’s steadfast love endures forever. It was with us at creation. It was with us when we sinned. It was with us when we stumbled. It was with us at the cross. It was with us at salvation. It is with us now. It will be with us forever.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast loves endures forever!”

Taking the Leap

Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”…And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. — Jonah 1:11-12, 17

Sometimes it takes throwing ourselves into the sea to allow God to rescue us.   We need to jump off the ship of sin and selfishness that we’ve been traveling on–the ship of slavery to sin–and leap into the ocean of God’s redeeming grace.   There are times in our lives when we realize we, like Jonah, have boarded a ship going in the opposite direction than the one to which God has called us.    Whether it is fear or shame or anger or doubt, we choose to run, to run away from the One who has called us.  Yet He who calls, provides.  Hebrews 10:23 encourages us to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”  God is faithful.  Even when we are not, God is faithful.  Therefore, once we recognize our sin, we must turn our backs to the sin that has been so easily ensnaring us (Hebrews 12:1) and run to God, not away from Him.

So what does God promise to those who take the leap?  To those who recognize their sinfulness and choose to turn away from sin and death?  He sends the fish and calms the sea.  Yes, as we peer over the side of our ship, the ocean may look rough at first, but we must hold fast to our confession that He who promised is faithful.   Now being in the belly of a fish may not be a pleasant experience, for no discipline seems joyful at the present, but painful.  Yet we know that it will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11).  God wants us whole.  God wants fellowship with us.   And just as a father disciplines his son, so God must chasten those He loves.   We must trust that God disciplines us “for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10)

So I encourage you this day to take the leap.   Have you been taking a nap in the center of the ship while the storm rages around you?  Have you been running from God’s plan for your life?  Wake up!  The storm is raging, the ship you are on will sink, but God is calling out to you.  He wants to save you. Turn from your sin, run to Him, and take a leap into those ocean waters.  He will send the fish.  He will calm the sea.  He will set you free.

To Have A Heart Like His

I love God.  I love His Word.  I am a writer and an encourager.   So it seems only fitting that I create a blog designated to writing about God’s Word in hopes of encouraging others to seek Him in all they do–to encourage others to have a heart like His.  My prayer is for those who read these postings to come away knowing God is near, God is real, and God is faithful.  He was present at the foundation of the world.  He is present now.  He will be present for eternity.  God is, was, and forever will be.  He is not some far off creator who designed us and left us to fend for ourselves.  He is our Father–our faithful Father.   He created us, loves us, and wants to have fellowship with us.

As I embark on this new journey–the journey of sharing with others what God has shared with me–I envision myself standing on the ledge overlooking deep waters.   The distance seems great and I’m not sure what awaits me once I jump in, but I do know in my heart that taking the leap and plunging into those waters is worth it.