“Law” or Grace

“Law” or Grace​

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Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law?  

(John 7:19a)

 

Who goes to confession before receiving the Eucharist? Everyone who is a Catholic, that’s whom! If we’ve sinned since our last confession we have to hope for the Last Rites when we cash it in. If not, we face the pains of purgatory … or something worse.

If someone wants to read “catholic dot com” about purgatory, feel free. When I read it, my mind presents too many exceptions from Scripture. If I let God’s holy Bible go to seed, there I will file under the questionable heading of, “Other teachings.”

When I speak of grace, we can’t buy or earn it – unless you somehow “know better.” Scriptural grace is God’s free gift.  Ephesians chapter two doesn’t allow us any exceptions: if we exist in Christ we have God’s access to His work in our lives. Verse 10 says, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Do you keep all of God’s law? Or do you have God’s perfect Grace?

THE RIGHT QUESTION

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On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”  (Mark 4:35)

And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  (36)

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  (37)

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  (38)

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  (39)

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  (40)

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  (41)

The storm arouse suddenly, causing waves to crash into the crashing. How could the Teacher sleep at a time like this?

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” the boatman screamed against the wind.

The Teacher arose, raising his voice against the sea, “Peace! Be still!”

The sea fell into a dead calm while the boat ceased its rocking. The Teachers challenged them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Should the disciples have let the boat sink? What would the Teacher have said then?

The issue with the disciples wasn’t what they asked, but how they asked it. They asked if Jesus “cared.” This was the same “caring” that caused Him to healing the sick, give sight to the blind, and raise dead. Is that the same “caring” that made him plan to quiet the storm? Of course it was. Jesus cares for any big thing, or little thing, that threatens to swamp believers.

Just ask the right question.

Walk In One Spirit

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We have one divine spirit, the Spirit of God’s exclusive love(agapaō). All other types of “love” can be captured by our mortal enemy.

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE(agapaō) YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (Galatians 5:14)

That’s it! It’s the key to God’s plan, for here and for eternity.

It’s that simple? Simple because God spoke the universe into existence. Simple because He gave us His Word. Simple because the Fruit of God’s Spirit is simple.

If you want your life filled with God, you need to bear God’s Spiritual Fruit. If you don’t want God in your life, take your chances with cruel fate.

God’s Simple Fruit

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18)

God’s domain rises infinitely higher than any given law. If you want wordly law, enjoy its bad fruit.

The Fruit of God’s Spirit is just one fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

It’s singular, ie the fruit. It’s not one kind of fruit called love, another called peace, a third called patience, etc. Singular fruit may have many characters, like sweetness, tartness, tenderness, scrumptiousness(getting a bit carried away). Also like fruit, it might be dry, grainy, tough, or other unflavorful characteristics.

This essay would become impossibly long if I covered the whole list. Instead, I will try to do a good attempt at each time I deal with it.

To be continued …

The Jealous and Forgiving God

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Today’s combinations of Bible readings presence God’s plan of salvation. God is indeed a jealous God. That means he holds our self-destructive wanderings jealously(demanding exclusive devotion; intolerant of rivalry). Though God’s nature is intolerant, he allows forgiveness for our transgressions through our repenting(to change our course of life).

Both of these concepts can take a negative bent, but that is a perversion of thought. God is jealous, but not envious, because He holds all things in His hands.

Our natural view of life tries to make God responsible for anything that doesn’t seem to work out right. We assumes we know all of God’s knowledge, which makes us the most stupid of all mortals.

Constant Grumblings

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Have you ever heard the sound of constant grumbling? The guys in the picture sound a lot like that. Sometimes it becomes the sound of white background noise, indistinguishable from the infrequent speaking with real meaning.

I’ve heard that sort of meaningless noise where I worked in manufacturing plants. If you’re in that kind of place, use extreme caution because it might become your own noise.

Here’s an example: Moses said, “This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.” (Exodus 16:8)

New Testament declares a similar message: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3) Note the words: do not notice. Continue reading: “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4) Fully believe this last passage of Jesus’: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:5-6)

And what’s this about, “holy to dogs” and “throw your pearls before swine?” Know well that criticizing others will “tear you to pieces.” Everyone who hears your arguments are fully able to function as your critics. Do not lecture anyone! “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no;’ anything beyond these is of evil.” (Matthew 5:37) And not to worry, this last bit is out of this context but very applicable as well.

To be a good witness, do your best to quit the grumbling. Otherwise, God will be very ticked.

Farn Near Jilt Me

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A few months ago I was nearly down for the eternal count. Though the medics called a code on me, I’m back on my feet, though I’d rather be calling eternity my permanent home. Guess He’d not done with me for now. If anyone wants my gore details, just make a comment. Even though my spelling and my vocabulary took a serious beating, I hope these efforts might entertain someone.

Today’s “Thoughtful Mind” came to me from Oscar Wilde: “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”  Wilde was versed in Scripture, as his quote suggested, (Gal 5:22-23) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” This spiritual fruit is not a qualifier for salvation, but instead the good fruit of God’s Holy Spirit. God doesn’t judge our sayings, but the qualities we bear.

I pray God values our grace and mercy at least as much as he values our fruit.

Rainy Day Blues

My roomie’s little kids were slumped on the couch watching cartoons, fighting and whining. Was the blustery, gray day outside just a coincidence?

Through my window I saw a slate gray sky, but I also saw the trees waving at the sky, almost as if they were dancing with joy. Maybe they knew something that the kids didn’t.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem the last time, crowds of admirers threw their cloaks and palm fronds down in front of His donkey, waving and welcoming him as if He were about to free them from their harsh, Roman occupiers. Here’s part of the story:

And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: ” ‘BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:36-40 NKJV)

Yet, mere days later those same admirers demanded that He be crucified.

Life is seldom as it appears; high above that depressing, gray overcast, mountains of blinding white cumulus clouds reached toward heaven. Sheets of rain fell to water the earth and complete the natural water cycle our Savior created to keep our planet beautiful and fruitful. The tragedy of His sacrifice redeemed us from slavery to the evil one, and His resurrection guaranteed us new, eternal life.

Despite the appearance of alleged evidence to the contrary, we have Jesus’ faithful promises to give us hope for a beautiful eternity with Him:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:2-4 NKJV)

As we face the blues of uncertain, and just plain lousy, circumstances, we must look past them to our Savior, the ultimate promise keeper.

Headlock

If you watch wrestling or action movies, you are familiar with the headlock, a choke hold by which one contestant wraps his arms or legs around the opponent’s neck, intending to partially or completely cut off circulation to the brain. The goal is to cause the opponent to loose or nearly loose consciousness. Usually, the poor trapped wrestler will end the hold by slapping the canvass before he or she passes out or dies.

Not being a wrestling fan, that’s the closest I can come to summarizing that choke hold. I do know that soldiers employ choke holds in hand-to-hand combat, even though there’s no canvass for the enemy to slap, to end the contest and save his or her life.

You don’t have to watch wrestling matches or action movies to witness headlocks. Whether or not you recognize his moves, our mortal enemy practices a headlock on his victims, a maneuver with which I am sadly familiar. Our enemy’s headlock allows him to lock us in a vicious cycle of alternately wanting to believe God’s promises, and doubting them because they don’t seem to make sense, or maybe because they seem too good to be true.

My mind, along with every other faculty of my person, as well as the rest of creation, was subjugated to the enemy’s purposes when we failed our Creator through disobedience. According to popular Christianity, once we are saved from sin’s curse through believing in Jesus and accepting His gospel (good news) of salvation through His shed blood, our heavenly destiny is sealed and that’s that. Many, maybe a majority of us, respond to God’s saving grace by planting our bums on a padded pew while the enemy locks our brains with complacency.

According to God’s Word, our salvation by grace through faith is just the opening volley of a spiritual war that will last throughout our mortal lives. By allowing the enemy to through a headlock on us, we fail to prepare ourselves for the rest of the strategies that the enemy has planned for us. We’ll be satisfied with weak, substandard spiritual lives that are more likely to immunize nonbelievers to conviction of sin rather preparing them to receive the gospel.

Romans 12 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, which rules out laziness or complacency and mandates spiritual, mental and emotional diligence for the rest of our lives.

When soldiers are in harms way, leaders tell them to keep their heads on a swivel so as not to fall into the enemy’s traps. So break out of that demonic headlock to be ready for anything the enemy has planned for you. How do you know when you’ve succeeded? Don’t worry; the enemy will let you know with a fresh barrage of demonic attacks. But if you’ve truly succeed in breaking free, you’ll be ready.

My Mistake

While reading Our Daily Bread today, I did a double-take over the author’s prayer at the end. I read it as, “Lord God, we are the source of all that we have.” While that reflects the attitudes of many people, I knew it was wrong. So I read it more carefully the second time.

It actually read, “Lord God, You are the source of all that we have.”

Why did my first reading wave that red flag of error so frantically? Because I’m familiar enough with God’s Word to know a lie when I see it. Now, I’m certainly not a Bible scholar, but I don’t have to be in order to discern error. The Psalmist provided the needed counsel:

Psalms 119:9-11 NKJV How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. (10) With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! (11) Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.

I praise God for the infinite wisdom He provided in His Word!

The Deeper Side of Christmas

This morning no gifts beckoned me from under my Christmas tree. For one thing, the Christmas tree belongs to my room mate, and any gifts there belong to his two little kids. And the other reason no gifts awaited me is I’ve sort of outgrown the commercial side of, “the Holidays.”

I received my greatest Christmas gift ever forty-odd years ago when I accepted God’s gift to me, “For God so loved [you and me] (so much) that He gave His only Son after His own kind (the physical embodiment of His eternal Word), that anyone who believes (accepts and places his confidence) in Him should not perish (see perdition or destruction), but have (possess permanently) [Jesus’] eternal life.” There’s a mouthful that you can take to God’s heavenly bank.

Those who believe this promise, and many others we find in God’s revealed Word, will feel a level of joy like none other. But those for whom Christmas has morphed into, “the Holidays,” get to enjoy a warm family time … after a month of chasing the perfect presents around the shopping malls and big box stores … and worry about paying for all the excess over the other eleven months. Amazing how heavy those little pieces of plastic can get, isn’t it?

Now that the rush is over, maybe you can flop into your favorite chair and contemplate what Christmas means to God. Think of what it would feel like to give your own child as ransom for the captives who hate you, for the ungrateful multitudes who have killed your messengers, despoiled your home and reviled your name. Most of them would reject your beloved child and suffer the consequences, but you would receive and embrace those few who love and embrace him and the freedom he bought for them.

May the deeper meaning of Christmas bless you now and forever.