“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.

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.

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.

Accountability

The financial industry, and the government agencies that oversee it, pass stringent regulations to prevent profiteering. That is completely understandable, as our fallen human nature is rife with greed and avarice; many people will do anything for a buck, or a million of ’em

Profiteering, though, isn’t exclusive to the financial industry, or even the government bureaucracy. Religion has more than its share of greed and avarice, if not for material gain, then certainly for a reward in the afterlife. These days we hear of Muslim “holy warriors” blowing themselves up to take the infidels with them, all to gain the martyr’s status with its reward of seventy-two virgins—or so the story goes. Yet, there is are examples of religious opportunism far closer to home.

Christendom offers many examples of religious opportunism, from multimillion dollar televangelists to the small church’s big donor who expects to run the whole little show. I call them big cogs in little gears; they don’t mesh, and are proud of it.

Regardless the arena or the scale, fallen humanity loves to opt out of accountability. We fancy ourselves as our own authority—even as we give lip-service to our devotion to God.

A less obvious, though far more common, religious opportunism is taking Apostle Paul’s inspired words out of their Scriptural context. When the apostle wrote of our liberty in Jesus, he did not mean to suggest that we could get away with taking God’s grace for granted, as many so easily do.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NKJV
(12) For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
(13) But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “PUT AWAY FROM YOURSELVES THE EVIL PERSON.”

Those who use Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10 to justify an opulent lifestyle are just as guilty of misusing Scripture as Muslim martyrs, and their judgment is just as sure. Some of us have the gift of earning wealth, but forget about Jesus’ words regarding treasure in heaven.

Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV
(19) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
(20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
(21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What we begin as a, “rainy-day fund,” takes on a life of its own, ruling us with a dictator’s iron gauntlet or hob-nail boot. You’re right, I didn’t mention spiritual or moral responsibility, but your treasure’s location speaks to those as well.

Atheists balk at accepting God’s existence either because some “Christian” demonstrated unchristian behavior toward them, or because if they did they would have to be accountable to Him. Why can’t God’s church see that principle just as clearly?

No Limit

If this title were to suggest to you a rap by Usher you likely wouldn’t be reading this blog post … so fergetaboutit. Not that rap-fans can’t be Christ-followers, but, just sayin’ …

There’s another use for, “No Limit,” and that’s from—drum roll please—the Bible!

My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness And Your salvation all the day, For I do not know their limits. (Psalms 71:15 NKJV)

One rock-solid fact of life is you can’t overstate God, His righteousness, or the wonder of His salvation. Nobody ever had praise down like King David, yet even he ran out of adjectives with which to glorify God.

Not that God needs our praises to feed His ego, but as His creation, our purpose, our destiny, is to lift up holy hands in praise to Him, to magnify His perfection, His holiness, His love. In short, everything about Him is worthy of our praise. If only we knew the half of His glory we would spend eternity declaring it.

So tear down that Pentecostal or Calvinistic box you’ve built around our eternal, infinite God! There’s no limit to His praiseworthyness.

It’s Inevitable

King David got it right:

O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come. (Psalms 65:2 NKJV)

Expressed as a prayer to the One who hears prayer, King David named a universal truth, a spiritual law: All of humanity will one day stand before Jesus, the righteous Judge. We’ll have the opportunity to wave our good karma, to state all our religious works, to schmooze the all-knowing One, but He will ask only one question: What did you do with Me? That, of course, will be a rhetorical question, as He already knows the answer.

Will you rely on your good works?
But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NKJV)

Will you depend on your position as a pillar of the church?
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26-27 NKJV)

Will you stand before the righteous Judge and refuse to admit He even exists?
The fool has said in his heart,”There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good. (Psalms 53:1 NKJV)

I realize this won’t convince anyone, but it might just cause someone to pause and reconsider their dogmatic self-righteousness. All God asks of anyone is their openness. He’ll take it from there.

See With Your Heart

If you’ve watched Disney children’s programming, you know they are all about feelings and following your heart. The heart is code for emotions.

Now, I’m an emotional guy; I cry at the drop of a hanky. What fired this topical electrode was an ad that I saw on Netflix—it’s not just Disney—about their animated feature, The Little Prince. Here’s the blurb: “He taught her about imagination, loneliness and love. She’ll always remember to see with her heart.”

See with What? Heart is an especially flexible word, as it’s what we call that muscular blood-pump in everyone’s chest. The idea of its being a visual organ is absurd, unless it has x-ray vision. Then we’d have to call it, Super Heart. Romantics speak of their heart flying out of their chest, but I doubt it would stop a bullet.

The Bible’s first use of heart is Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

That doesn’t sound like a reliable way to see. Obviously, the seat of our emotions can have a darkside. Unless, that is, we sincerely pray with King David: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. (Psalms 19:14 NKJV)

Only by depending on God’s answer to that prayer, and comparing your feelings with the principles of God’s Word, can we reliably see with our heart.

Father, I pray for the wisdom to know when to trust my emotions, and at all times to balance what I feel with Your Word.