“Since The World Began” ( Luke 1: 70, KJV ) by Carley Evans


“68Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people,

69And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David;

70As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began.”

God has been speaking to mankind “since the world began.” Initially God spoke to us face to face with no need for messenger or mediator. Then the serpent deceived the woman and the woman talked the man into going along — a sad picture of the fallen-from-grace. God cast them out and barred the way back. At the same time — even before that time — God formulates His plan. He will “raise up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David” and He will “speak [to us] by the mouth of His holy prophets, which had been since the world began.”

Never did God give up on us. Even as He closed the gates to Eden, He planned to open them. Even as He turned His face from us, He planned a means to His desired end to have us see Him face to face once again. He planned His visit to earth in the form of a human infant, at which time He would fully engage Himself in being human so that He might save His people from our sins.

“Obsolete, Aging, Disappearing” ( Hebrews 8: 13, NIV ) by Carley Evans


God has a problem, early on, with the first covenant He makes with His people. He finds fault with them, and seeks another way of making His people right with Him. There is no denying there is something wrong with the old covenant, says the writer of Hebrews. (see Hebrews 8:7-8, NIV)

The key here is that God finds fault with His people, and He requires some way to resolve this separation of Himself from the people He has chosen. He cannot abide sin, but His law is not achieving the end He desires. He’s resorted to punishment, to discipline, to promises; but these do not lead His people to love Him consistently enough to turn from their evil ways. As a matter of fact, God knows His people are essentially incapable of turning to Him.

Therefore God looks forward to His new covenant in which He puts His law in the minds of His people. This law is inside; no longer an outside force. Rather this law is written on the hearts of God’s people. God declares:

“No longer does a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10-12)

Yet, someone may argue that Jesus states emphatically that not a letter of the law is set aside. Since Jesus Himself fulfills every requirement of God’s law, no contradiction exists. The law is external for us; but for God’s Son, the law is always internal. Hence Jesus meets all God’s expectations for the people of God. Jesus gives us His own righteousness like a robe we wear on the outside while the Holy Spirit transforms us on the inside. Kind of like dressing for the cold while the glow of warmth rises inside.

“Evil Comes From Inside” ( Mark 7: 23, NIV ) by Carley Evans


What makes a person ‘unclean?’ Jesus declares it is not what enters a person that makes him ‘unclean.’ Rather, says Jesus,

“What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ ” (Mark 7:20-23)

“Nothing,” declares Jesus, “outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him.” (Mark 7:15)

Nothing? Does Jesus really mean this?

His original objection is directed at the Pharisees who scold Him and His disciples for eating with unwashed hands, but later He speaks to the crowd, telling them to listen to Him and understand that “nothing outside” of them can make them evil. Evil doesn’t come from outside of you, says Jesus. Evil comes from within, from what is in your heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:10)

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one! Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)

“Every mouth is silenced and the whole world is held accountable to God.” (Romans 3:19)

Evil comes from within. Nothing outside a person makes him unclean.

“Back to Egypt” ( Matthew 2: 13, NIV ) by Carley Evans


Only the Lord knows — and perhaps some biblical scholars — if there is symbolism in Mary and Joseph escaping Herod by going back to Egypt. But the oddity of this event struck me this morning. God, through an angel, commands Joseph to take Mary and the child, Jesus into Egypt because Herod is searching for them in order to kill the child. In Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus, he murders all the boys who are two years and under “in Bethlehem and its vicinity.” (Matthew 2:16) God’s people are not safe even in their own land under their own government, a government desirous of power and money.

Jesus escapes an early death by fleeing with his parents back into the land that enslaved His people for years and years. Joseph remains in Egypt until Herod dies at which time the angel of the Lord calls him back to Israel but warns him not to return to Judea but to live in the district of Galilee in a town called Nazareth.

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My Son.” (Hosea 11:1)

 

“Open Wide Your Hearts” ( 2 Corinthians 6: 13, NIV ) by Carley Evans


One of the most difficult aspects of human relationships is maintaining an open heart to the other person. Perhaps the person on the first occasion you open your heart stabs it or pricks it, either to break it or to cause it to bleed. You’re bruised or even battered by this attack. How do you keep your heart open to that person?

Look at Paul for a moment. He writes to the church at Corinth,

“We speak freely to you, Corinthians, and open wide our hearts to you. We do not withhold our affection from you, but you withhold yours from us. As a fair exchange — I speak as to my children — open wide your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13, NIV)

I find it bewildering that brothers and sisters in Christ close off their hearts to one another in direct violation to the command to love one another. I find it horrifying that brothers and sisters in Christ proclaim to hate or dislike one another because ‘he doesn’t believe in…” or “she practices this…” or whatever excuse comes to mind.

Paul says to the Corinthians:

“Make room for us in your hearts. We wrong no one, we corrupt no one, we exploit no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” (2 Corinthians 7:2-4)

Paul, with great kindness, tells the Corinthians of his pride in — his encouragement from — his joy because of –, and his special love for — them. Now, though he hurt them in his earlier letter, he tells them to open their hearts again to him, as his heart remains open to them.

Father God, help us to truly forgive ourselves and others so that our hearts may remain fully open to the other. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

“The Unfolding Of The Word” ( Psalm 119: 130, NIV ) by Carley Evans


Reading — or being in — the Word of God is not an intellectual undertaking. David sings,

“The unfolding [the gradual revelation or disclosure] of Your Words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple [unlearned, unsophisticated].”

Even the simple person, the person without a large knowledge base, is able to understand the Word of God as it is gradually disclosed or revealed. How does this revelation occur?

Here is the big question? Does this disclosure of the Word occur only through the Holy Spirit or also through the Church? My friend and fellow blogger, M.T. Sweat posed this question not long ago in his post “Sufficient or Not?”. The answer defines major differences in Christian approaches to both the Church and to the Word of God.

Many of David’s verses in his song honoring the Word of God clearly favor Scripture Alone.

“Deal with Your servant according to Your Love and teach me Your decrees. I am Your servant; give me discernment that I may understand Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:124-125)

“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I put my hope in Your Word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promises.” (Psalm 119:147-148)

“Yet You are near, O Lord, and all Your commands are true.” (Psalm 119:151)

“Great peace have they who love Your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” (Psalm 119:165)

“I stray like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I do not forget Your commands.” (Psalm 119:176)

“You are my refuge and my shield; I put my hope in Your Word.” (Psalm 119:114)

“Walk As Jesus Walks” ( 1 John 2: 6, NIV ) by Carley Evans


These words — “whoever claims to live in [God] must walk as Jesus does” — are extraordinarily convicting. I hear people speak of walking as Jesus does, claiming to be without sin and I just sit and wonder. What sort of person believes they are without sin? Who can look in a mirror and genuinely say to the reflection: “Yes, I always walk as Jesus walks.”?

I hear non-Christians speak of the need for Christians to stop worrying about others’ sins and focus on living like Jesus intends us to live. Inside, I hear a soft ‘amen’ to the non-Christian comment, and to the Christian who claims to be sinless, I hear in my head a big ‘you’ve got to be kidding.’

So, what is the author of 1 John saying?

He writes that our aim is perfection. We seek to be perfect because our Heavenly Father is perfect. We strive after holiness the way a runner strives to reach the finish line. Paul speaks of winning the race, but I think finishing the race is the win he means. The author of 1 John is delineating the goal in greater detail. Our goal is to love one another perfectly because Jesus loves us perfectly. If we claim to love Jesus, how can we then hate our brother, for whom Jesus died? The author is not saying that we never fail, or that we reach that total perfection here on this earth. Rather he says:

“My dear children, I write this so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)

 

“Apart From Christ” ( John 15: 5, NIV ) by Carley Evans


Jesus tells His eleven disciples that He is the Vine while they are only branches.

“If a man remains [abides, stays, continues, dwells, lives] in Me and I in him, he bears [brings forth] much fruit; apart from [without] Me you can do nothing.”

Without life-giving sap from the vine itself, a branch dries up, dies. Eventually the dead branch falls to the ground, is gathered and burned.

Jesus tells His eleven disciples to ask for whatever they wish, and it is given to them. (John 15:7) The caveat, of course, is that because they function as branches to His Vine, what they wish falls in line with what He wishes as what He wishes falls in line with what God the Father wishes.

Jesus teaches His disciples to pray,

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

“To Justify Himself” ( Luke 10: 29, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


How many times have I fallen into this self-made trap? Many. But, Lord, is it wrong to save for retirement? But, Lord, that beggar will use that money to buy liquor. But, Lord, I need that, too. But, Lord, I can’t go overseas; I’m not good enough for that. But, Lord, someone else will stop. But, Lord…

An expert in the law asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him what he thinks he needs to do based on what he knows of the law. The man correctly answers by saying he is to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind; and he is to love his neighbor as himself. Jesus says, “You’ve answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28)

But the expert in the law wants to justify himself, so he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Seeking to make himself right with God, he makes a lame excuse — I don’t know who my neighbor is, God.

Jesus tells the tale of the good Samaritan, the only one of three men who stops to help a traveler — a stranger — who is injured and helpless on the side of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. The Samaritan goes out of his way to help this man who has been robbed and stripped and beaten.

Jesus wants to know who is the neighbor in this story. The expert in the law answers correctly again. The neighbor is the Samaritan who stops to help the stranger.

Be a good neighbor, says Jesus. Be a good neighbor to strangers and friends alike.

“Give, and it is given to you; a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over — is poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it is measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)

“Signs and Wisdom and Foolishness” ( 1 Corinthians 1: 22, HSCB ) by Carley Evans


Whether looking for signs — healings, slayings in the spirit, earthquakes, tsunamis, alien visitations, or whether looking for wisdom — scientific proofs, rational explanations, logical sequences, intellectual understandings, you do not see the fullness of God in either.

Rather, God chooses to reveal His fullness in what is “a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:23) God reveals Himself in “Christ crucified.”

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)