Tag Archives: Grace

Believe and Trust

Lent
March 7, 2019

Scripture Reading: Romans 10:8b-13

But what does it say?
‘The word is near you,
   on your lips and in your heart’
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
–Romans 10:8-10

I do not know why I get distracted by the word believe. Perhaps I have heard too many times people expressing beliefs about God that are foreign to me. It is as if our stating that we believe something makes it so.  I have heard people state that our diplomatic policy is based on believing and verifying.  I know I am arguing semantics, but I think it is important that we understand what Paul is saying in the scripture above that to truly relate to God we are not waiting for a final survey that proves us right or wrong but are accepting an absolute.

The Greek word pisteuó translated as believe here is the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul”; thus it stands α. absolutely to trust in Jesus or in God as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something

I participated in a ropes course several years ago where participants were asked to cross their arms over their chests and fall straight-legged back into the arms of fellow participants who were serving as catchers. I did believe the catchers would do their job, but it took absolute trust to fall.

We live in a world where trust is sparse and even when we believe something, we are often skeptical. If ever there was a time for us to turn our eyes upon a Savior we can trust with all our minds, hearts, and souls it is now.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace**

Prayer: O Lord we cry to you as the father asking for his son to be healed did when he said: ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark :24) as we try to follow you in a world full of principalities and powers pulling us in every direction away from you. Amen.

*https://biblehub.com/greek/4100.htm
**First verse of Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus by Lauren Daigle see at https://www.google.com/search?q=turn+your+eyes+upon+jesus+lyrics&oq=turn+you&aqs=chrome.0.0j69i57j0l4.1140995j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Grace is an Equalizing Gift

Lent
March 19, 2019

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:1-9

Seek the Lord while he may be found,
   call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
   and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
   and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts. –Isaiah 55:6-9

Will there come a time when the Lord cannot be found or when God is not near? If we accept the definition of sin as separation from God and that God will not move away from us, then this scripture suggests that we must think we can move beyond God’s reach. Such a way of thinking is human. God, however, does not think like that. It really is rather arrogant for us to even consider that we are beyond God’s reach. Indeed, it takes a lot of courage to turn away from such an ingrained mindset. God is the one who can enable such a transformation.

God was not joking when he stressed that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. In trying to understand this whole white supremacist ideology, I can only conclude that some people do not love themselves well, if they primarily define their worth as it relates to being better than some other(s) whomever he or she or they might be. I have observed among friends and acquaintances that the worse legacy a parent can rest on a child is that the child is innately better than others. Why? Because the child can never live up to that standard and thus often becomes a bully to prove their supreme worth or develops a severe inferiority complex.

We are each called to pursue wholeness and to claim the full potential with which we were each created. As Paul says all have gifts differing*. While we are each unique and special, we are all equally blessed with the grace of God that completes us. Being made in the image of God is a gift; grace, too, is a gift and together they become the great equalizer that enables us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We all need to make sure we open and accept God’s gifts.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we pull away from you and seek definitions of our worth from the world. Help us accept your gift of grace. Amen.

*See Romans 12:6

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Gentleness

Advent
December 15, 2018

Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

There is an assumption in the phrase let your gentleness be known to everyone in this scripture that all possess some amount of gentleness. Someone posted a picture of one of my adult grand-nephews recently on Facebook. He is a good-sized guy, was a football lineman in high school, and now has a full beard. The picture is of him asleep lying back in a recliner with a tiny kitten also asleep on his shoulder her head resting on his beard. The picture is the epidemy of a gentle giant and assures anyone around that nobody is going to mess with that kitten. One of the images of God is the gentle Savior who is present with all the Lord’s children and other creatures too.

The Greek word translated gentle in the above scripture is epieikḗs* and it means justice beyond ordinary justice. It represents true equity that appropriately fulfills the spirit not just the letter of the law. Sounds like a good helping of justice served with a touch of God’s grace. Isn’t that what God wants, what we want for everyone as we gently serve as God’s hands and feet active in the world today?

Gentle Savior, lead me on
Let Your Spirit light the way
Gentle Savior, lead me on
Hold me close and keep me safe
Lead me on, gentle Savior**

Prayer: O God, Lead us into greater gentleness. Amen.

*https://biblehub.com/greek/1933.htm
**Chorus of Gentle Savior lyrics by David Phelps / Kyle Matthews / Greg Bieck © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group. See at https://www.google.com/search?q=gentle+savior&oq=gentle+savi&aqs=chrome.0.0j69i57j0l4.13560j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Fully Being Me

Living in the Spirit
November 9, 2018

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28

But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. –Hebrews 9:26b-28

I test as being highly intuitive and as a thinker rather than a feeler, which is an odd combination apparently. I can carry on lengthy discussions about theology or other things but when it comes down to the heart of any matter intellectual findings do not play as large a part of my faith as intuition. Thus, I do not invest much thought or time regarding life after death, heaven or hell. I somehow know intuitively that I will spend eternity with God in whatever form that will take and that is all that matters.

That said, I just as instinctively believe in some form of judgement based on being accountable to God for what I do with my life considering God’s purpose for my creation. I tend to think it is better to weigh and measure my progress routinely and incrementally while I can make course corrections when needed rather than to blunder through life unaware of my progress. Self-examination against God’s plump line as Amos describes it* is essential as we strive for what Paul calls perfection** and I like to consider as wholeness.

Hebrews as quoted above describes that experience as not dealing with sin but to fill in any gaps in our work on earth as we await the full fruition of God’s vision for all his children. The word translated as “save” means to properly, bring up to the goal (end point), i.e. carrying something through its sequence to reach its needed consummation***. It is the ultimate gift of grace.

Prayer: Lord, help me see and understand clearly as you hold me accountable for fully being me. Amen.

*See Amos 7:8
** See for example Romans 12:2, Phil. 3:12-21
***https://biblehub.com/greek/399.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Accepting Grace

Living in the Spirit
June 22, 2018

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
   and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way:

 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.
–2 Corinthians 6:1-4a, 11-13

Grace in both the Greek and Hebrew refers to God freely extending Godself reaching (inclining) to people because God is disposed to bless (be near) them*.

We celebrate the gift of God’s grace, but have we ever explored why it was given? If we accept the grace of God, what does it mean to do so in vain: empty, void, hence, worthless (“null”), amounting to zero (of no value or profit) **?

My pastor’s preschool-aged son made him a paper tie for Father’s Day which he proudly wore over his regular tie and called the congregation’s attention to it. It was cute but that did not really matter. What mattered was the recognition by a child of his father’s love, which was going to be their unconditionally, but which is far richer for both the father and the son when it is reciprocated. When we shun God’s desire to be near us, we render God’s gift of grace as worthless.

We live in a time of great dis-ease never knowing what the next news report will bring. Our society seems to be spiraling out of control and leaders nor followers seem able to remove themselves from the force of the spiral. This force is not of God. Paul assures us that there are no real obstacles. Now is the acceptable time for us to recognize the nearness of God and grab hold of God’s grace not turn our backs on it. We may be in for a rough ride, but our driver is unconditionally dependable.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we get caught up in the madness of our world and forget that you are near and with your love intact, we can face anything. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/5485.htm
**http://biblehub.com/greek/2756.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Grace

Eastertide
April 3, 2018

Scripture Reading: Acts 4:32-35

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

What do we think about when considering the word “grace”? When I was a child I would most likely have answered grace is the prayer said before meals. A ballerina is graceful, meaning she dances in perfectly timed and placed motions. Theologically speaking grace is a gift freely given with no strings attached as in God’s grace saves us. The word translated “grace” in the above scripture refers to a gift freely given but with an interesting nuance.

/xáris (“grace”) answers directly to the Hebrew (OT) term 2580 /Kaná (“grace, extension-toward”). Both refer to God freely extending Himself (His favor, grace), reaching (inclining) to people because He is disposed to bless (be near) them*.

 Considering this word “grace” led me to wonder if I live my life in such a way that God would be disposed to be near me. Indeed, there are times I do not even like to be near myself. How can I, predispose myself to God, myself, and others?

Grace before meals suggests that each time we eat we recognize the food before us is the bounty of God’s gift to us of the earth which reminds us we are responsible for the care of the earth. Using all our skills and talents in proper times and places reflects our response to the interdependence of all people on that same earth. Every part of God’s creation has a purpose.

Those considerations bring us to the fundamental question are we living together with one another in such a way that God is disposed to be near us collectively. I fear we bring God to tears by our interactions or lack of interactions more than we draw him to us. We seem to search for things about which we disagree and rarely work toward finding the common threads that weave us together.

Individually being in right relationship with God is the first step toward being gracious. Intentionally working to love one another of necessity implies that we know one another. Taking the time to get to know the diverse people around us is a starting pointing toward learning to love them. Jesus mingled with everyone, sometimes much to the displeasure of the religious leaders of the day. He understood their lives and what formed them to become the people they were. He was thus disposed to be near them. Are we?

Prayer: Thank you for your every present grace. Help us to become people of grace working together within the framework of your divine grace. Amen.

*Strong’s Concordance see at http://biblehub.com/greek/5485.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Small Things

Lent
March 9, 2018

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For w.e are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. –Ephesians 2:4-10

For some reason, I feel an obligation to write something about this scripture, but to be truthful you can just stop reading here and read it repeatedly inhaling it into every corner of your soul. God’s love is a gift we cannot earn, and we were created to do good works.

A friend lived in Austria for a few months on a learning fellowship several years ago. He became acquainted with a young man whose purpose on earth was to keep the telephone booths clean, which he did religiously. My friend could not understand how anyone could waste their lives doing such trivial work. I read in the paper recently that our telephones are one the biggest transmitters of the flu virus. I thought of that young man and wondered if he even ever thought that he was saving lives doing his mundane job.

Most of the good works we do may seem trivial, but they are important. Treating all people with dignity and respect can mean so much. They send the message that a person is a person of worth, holding a door, picking up a dropped item, offering one’s seat on a transit vehicle. If doing the small things well is ingrained into our souls, we are well prepared to do the greater things when necessary.

…whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward. Matthew 10:42

Prayer: Lord, groom our actions to do the small works well so that we will succeed when called to do even greater things. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

What to do about sin?

Lent
March 8, 2018

 Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
                                                                                                                                    Ephesians 2:1-5

What is sin?  A fault, an evil deed, missing the mark, and being estranged from God are some of the possible definitions.  The scripture above seems to imply that sins separate us from living life fully and acceptable within the framework of God’s love. What holds us back from being ourselves?

We hear a lot about background checks these days. I had one when I worked at a church because it operated a child care facility and everyone who had even incidental contact with the children were checked for police records. Our national security requirements apparently require discloser of anything that might result in a person being blackmailed.  Such safety precautions are necessary, and I support there use. They, however, serve as an example of our relationship with God. Christ came to free us from all that holds us back from living in the fullness of God’s love frees us as we live in and through Christ.

I have noted a trend in the USA, at least, that what we identify as “bad” sins are usually only done by others and often small populations that do not include the ones doing the identifying. Voices loudly condemn homosexuality, but we hold in esteem people who lust for power or are greedy. We want to emulate them. According to Gallup Polls about 3.8%* of the population identify as LGBT while in my experience we all suffer from a touch of greed. We identify scapegoats to justify our own estrangement from God. We seem to believe that if we can identify someone we deem to be worst than ourselves it somehow justifies our behaviors.

All people, all of God’s children are invited to be alive together in Christ. (Emphasis added). We are not called to examine each other regarding what is separating us from that reality. We are to examine ourselves and support one another in our journeys toward wholeness.

Prayer: Lord, help me first take the log out of my own eye so that l can see clearly to take the speck out of my neighbor’s eye when and if they need and want my help. ** Amen

*http://news.gallup.com/poll/183383/americans-greatly-overestimate-percent-gay-lesbian.aspx
**Derived from Matthew 7:5

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Equipped

Advent
November 30, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Being whole in Christ is being fully equipped for whatever God is calling us to do. I visited my nephew’s farm recently where his wife and I wandered through the wooded area behind their home while she took pictures. The ground, beautifully carpeted with autumn leaves, lay in thick flat appearing piles. She cautioned me to be careful as the presence of the leaves masked the uneven ground beneath. I told her my physical therapist advised me to practice walking on uneven ground, which I could not do before my recent knee replacement surgery. My metal knee provides far more support than the replaced knee. Although it is still wise to be careful, I am now equipped to deal with uneven ground. God’s grace provides the equipment we need to deal with whatever issues we meet in our journey of faith.

“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”
by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for equipping all your children to be whole as we are wholly yours. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Love

Lent
April 12, 2017

Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:1-4

So, if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

I wish that I could wave a magic wand over the earth and in one swipe make everyone whole, including myself. How many of the problems in our world today can be traced back to a gap in someone’s self-worth? How many wars happen because of the need for some to prove they are better in some way than others?

The source of wholeness has come. There is no magic wand; there was a cross. There is a man, we call him Jesus, who came to show us the way to wholeness and then took the additional, extraordinary step to fill the gaps in our relationship with God by giving his very life for us. Some call it atonement, making us at one with God. Some identify it as salvation. Some know it as the gift of grace. He called it love.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your unconditional love. Thank you Lord for enabling me to love others. Amen.

*First verse of What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul Author unknown. See at http://www.hymnary.org/text/what_wondrous_love_is_this_o_my_soul_o_m

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.