Forgiveness

Ephesians 1: 7        NIV

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

Yesterday we observed a bit of what God’s grace does for us. Today’s verse adds another dimension. The grace of God provides for our redemption, restoration and the forgiveness of sins.

Sometimes I am awed at the amazing end play God pulled off to restore humanity. It is an amazing story and the devil played right into God’s hands. Then again, he was predictable, and God took advantage of the situation to install Jesus as the unblemished lamb who became king. This miracle of planning and execution brought humanity into an enviable position and now we walk as heirs to a mighty empire.

This thing about forgiveness is interesting though. I have met people who cannot receive forgiveness. It is truly sad that they would let the blood of Jesus, which was spilled for them, have no effect in their lives. The converse is true too. There are some who take the blood and forgiveness for granted. Most of us understand the blood of forgiveness which God’s grace and love caused to be shed and we are grateful. However, I wonder if the more we understand the forgiving power that was in that blood the more we are likely to take it for granted. Sometimes the biggest sinners are the most grateful because they feel their salvation and redemption as if it is close at hand. Others, perhaps, are not as keenly aware of the heat of hell that was burning for them.

The plan of God to restore us was intricate. However, receiving forgiveness, now, on this side of the cross, is actually easy. “Father, please forgive me.” In fact, we actually already have forgiveness. Our sins have already been forgiven. We don’t have to show up at the temple and offer the blood of animals to cover over our sin. It has been done in Jesus. Now, I know you already know this but here is my question, does this simplicity ever make it less frightening for us to sin? We know we have forgiveness so do we ever get complacent? Do we think we can sin now and pray later, and everything will be alright? Do we use our forgiveness as an excuse to be lazy about sin? What is the harm in a little sin behavior right now when we know we can ask for forgiveness later?

I like to think none of us does this consciously, but I do wonder if the benevolence and magnitude of God’s grace ever makes us a little sloppy. Some people have actually used the grace message to develop a doctrine around loose behavior. It’s crazy and I am not talking about those people. They are just being stupid, and they know better. I am more interested in us, regular, everyday Christians. Have we become desensitized to the point that we are no longer concerned about offending God? It is just a question I have been pondering and thought you might ponder with me. I would love to hear your thoughts. Click on the link below and share. Thanks.

Grace

Colossians 1: 11          NLT

We also pray that you will be strengthened with his glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father.

If I could say this better than Paul did, I would. However, he so wonderfully hit upon exactly what we all need. This struck me as something he could have written yesterday as he was thinking about the Corona Virus crisis and all its attendant problems from supply shortages to economic fluctuations and the rest. I suppose, each generation has its challenges, and we are all in need of the same grace, comfort and divine strength as the previous generation.

Has there ever been a season when your patience was stretched further than it has been in the last two years? Endurance?! You bet we are in need of endurance. We certainly need strengthening. I’ve seen so many who are run down to the last ounce of their endurance, but God picks them up and off they go again. We have all been tried in what seems every possible way these last two years which is why we need a prayer like this, and I do pray this prayer over you all today.

There is a word which encompasses all the blessings Paul prays for. It is grace. Grace is hard to define but you sure know it when you see it. One definition for it is courteous goodwill. I like that. It shows the poise and kindness of a Father who could deal out punishment but chooses not to. Goodwill represents the Fathers consistent best intention for you. I think of courteous as well mannered, elegant and classy. It is that kind of goodwill his grace shows us. He empowers and sustains us with the gentleness of a Victorian gentleman. His words are kind and gentle, a balm for a troubled spirit. His grace isn’t demanding but it is uncompromising. Father’s grace picks us up when we stumble. It treats the wound and restores us. Grace is a beautiful thing.

One might also be intrigued that Paul would preach joy and thanksgiving considering he wrote this letter from prison. He had a personal revelation of God’s grace coming on the scene to meet needs. Paul experienced God’s power strengthening him, giving him the patience and endurance he needed. We, too, are in need of the sustaining power of grace. May it overwhelm your problems and refill your tank today.

Humility and Grace

Proverb 3: 34            The Voice

God treats the arrogant as they treat others, mocking the mockers, scorning the scornful, but He pours out His grace on the humble.

Yesterday’s proverb spoke about the arrogant person, that they stir up strife and that failure follows in their wake. Today we find this explanation. God abhors the arrogant. Wow! That is a bit frightening. He, Yahweh, scorns the scorners and mocks the mockers. Therefore, being scornful, arrogant or mocking others sets us up in opposition to God, a very frightening position to be in. If you look at the footnotes for this verse in the NLV Bible, you find the Greek version of this verse. It reads, “The Lord opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Grace is the unmerited favor of God. So, this verse reveals that God gives favor to the humble. Grace is that intangible blessing that follows you around making life click into place a bit better. God’s favor affects other people so that they see you and treat you as a VIP. Humility gives us what arrogance cannot. We can posture and act big trying to get people to treat us as important, but it is actually humility which yields that kind of favor. The minute we begin thinking or behaving as if we deserve it or that we really are special, it dissolves. A person can be humble at church and see the favor of God blessing them but act arrogantly at work and find that the grace just isn’t there.

Humility is not being a doormat for others. Sometimes we think it is. Humility is best understood in the scope of worthiness. In ourselves we were not worthy of God’s love or Jesus’ sacrifice, but Jesus has made us absolutely worthy, in him. We can be humble in our greatness because we know that it has nothing to do with our strength, skills or intelligence. Any gifts we have are from God. When we set our eyes upon Him and this truth, we can stand very tall in the fullness of God’s greatness understanding that we are here because Father decreed it and Jesus bought it. If your Father gives you a position, one you didn’t earn, you still get the position but perhaps you wouldn’t be so arrogant knowing that it is only by His grace that you stand in royal shoes.

God wants to shower His favor upon everyone. Truly, He wants everyone to be treated as someone special. We, however, either opt in or opt out of His plan. Interestingly, thinking we deserve it or that we are more special than others opts us out. Knowing that we are deserving as long as we stand in Jesus’ victory keeps us rooted. This is the great dichotomy which confuses so many. We are the unworthy worthy ones. We earned nothing, deserved nothing but as long as we are in Jesus – standing and abiding in him, we are kings. You have to know that you are deserving but humble because you know your worthiness is only in Jesus.

Arrogance is for the fool. The favor of God and man is for those who humbly receive all that God has for them.

Weakness to Grace

Proverb 25: 21 – 22

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

What do you think of this passage? Is this counsel about heaping guilt and shame on your enemy or is it about showing kindness because that is God’s way? I have always thought it was the latter and that the heaped coals are simply a by-product. Seeing what we now learn in the New Testament, seems to confirm this idea.

God saved vengeance for himself (Romans 12:19) and Jesus said to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5: 44). Today’s verse, then, is right in line with New Testament theology. Most of you know God calls us to be charitable towards those who persecute us, so that is not the revelation of the day. It is a good reminder, though, because none of us wants to pray for the person who is a thorn in our flesh. This is where the rubber meets the road, as they say. This is grown up Christianity.

Paul had the same problem. You see, he had a thorn in his flesh as well (2 Corinthians 12: 7). He asked God to remove the painful impediment, but God taught him that the solution to life’s challenges is God’s grace. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 9 TLV). So, I am not trying to tell you, today, to do what you already know God has told you. I am trying to help you find the means to do the impossible because if you are like me, and many others, praying for your nemesis is a hard thing to do, especially when they continue to be a thorn in your flesh. God knows what He is asking of us and knows it is impossible in our strength, so He has blanketed us with His grace so that we may do all things. The theme, then, of this Word of the Day is more about God’s grace as He supports you than about feeding your enemy. I think it is timely too because I know many of you are more challenged during the holidays than any other time.

Here is my prayer for you: Father, cloth these, your beloved, in tapestries of grace and mercy. Comfort them and embrace their hearts with your love. Help us all, Father, to do as you direct us. Pour out your grace upon us and manifest your power through our surrender. Cause your strength and will to shine through our weakness so that your glory fills the visible spectrum. Help those who hinder us. Show them your grace and give us favor in your sight and in the eyes of all people.

Wisdom Monday

Proverb 9: 10 – 11             TPT

The starting point for acquiring wisdom is to be consumed with awe as you worship Yahweh. To receive the revelation of the Holy One, you must come to the one who has living understanding. Wisdom will extend your life, making every year more fruitful than the one before.

Happy Monday. Wisdom is speaking again today. The beginning of the proverb tells us she has spread her table and put out the welcome mat for us. Those who desire to live a good life, will turn their feet to her house.

We have seen previously that the beginning of wisdom is having reverence and love for God and His ways. Truly, that alone is an expression of wisdom. Further, all wisdom, revelation and insight are in the Lord our God. He is the brilliance in good ideas. He is the anointed touch. Therefore, to receive revelation and wisdom one must connect with the source. That is why wisdom begins with following Yahweh.

The second verse is what I wish to highlight. I cannot understand why some people don’t engage in a relationship with God. Others profess to believing in Christ but don’t seem to have much of a relationship with him nor pursue the relationship. I think they will see how Great and Wonderful our God is and how much He blesses everyday life and that alone will cause them to seek Him, but it just does not work that way.

I am so grateful for the truth of this proverb. Not only does wisdom extend our lives but also the life lived with the Lord enriches our very existence. It is a life of health in the face of adversity. It is wellbeing in life, friends, finances, and so much more. When I see all the little touches of God’s benevolent grace, I am overwhelmed. It is God and His beauty that causes great things to happen.

If there is any goodness in me, any kindness, wisdom, proficiency, energy or skill, it is because of Christ within me. I am humbled because I know that I can do nothing without Him. I know that it is the blessing which follows me around that causes good things to happen. Can I just say, the Lord blesses my life and I do what I do hoping that I can spread a bit of His beauty and grace to others? I wish every person would relentlessly pursue God because His touch adds wisdom, grace, beauty and life to every step. Glory to our most holy and loving Father.

Proverb 9:

https://classic.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=proverb+9&version=TPT

Grace & Judgment

John 3: 17

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him.

Many of us know John 3: 16, but Jesus went further with his declaration of purpose. This idea goes along with the pronouncement that grace and truth are realized in Jesus. Judgment is an anchor around our necks, one which Jesus is here to free us of. Being judged is no fun but being the one with a judgmental spirit is just painful.

Grace means you are free to move from laws to principles. You are free to accept people  even when someone sets a foot awry. The law is very strict and it is judgmental. Law tends to be black and white. It is not gracious and kind. It takes people to add that gentility and forgiveness. Forgiveness and grace flow from the Father. Acceptance and understanding are beyond law concepts. That is not to say that we should pay no heed to the laws of the land or God’s laws. It is to say that grace is the ability to see beyond the law to the greater principle of serving one another in love. Grace does not mean lawlessness. It represents a higher degree of behavioral deportment. The law did not require Jesus to heal anyone. In fact, the law forbade him healing on the Sabbath. Grace, truth, mercy and the love of God required Jesus to show compassion.

Judgement was, and is, easy. The Pharisees did not need to lift a finger to condemn the sick or criticize Jesus.  The law required nothing of them.  Strict adherence to the letter of law would have left the sick in pain and torment.  It also condemned Jesus. The Pharisees were so stuck in their judgments that they could neither receive nor administer grace. Law and judgment are evil twins. If we, as a body of believers, lean towards law, then we will also find ourselves quick to judge. When we, on the other hand, are full of the grace of the Lord, we find it easier to minister forgiveness and understanding.

Tomorrow – part 3 of Moses’ Law and Jesus’ grace.

Law & Grace

John 1: 17

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

Jesus told the Pharisees that they would be judged by the law they served. He was trying to show them a paradigm of grace. Jesus not only represents a changed paradigm but also, he ushered in salvation by grace. The Apostle John opens his book making this distinction about Christ. He understood that Jesus caused a shift in the way we were to think and to live. As I pondered this verse I began to question, what does this shift mean us? How does the church of grace and truth differ from a church of law. We don’t deny the law Moses brought down from the mountain, do we? So, what does Jesus’ ministry do to alter our spiritual and ecclesiastical experience. Ultimately the question would seem to be, “What does a life, and a church, of grace and truth look like?” The follow up question is, how are we doing with that?

I am a lawyer by training. I like my rules. They tell us where to step and where not to step. However, we have all experienced times where the rules frustrate other purposes. This points out an important concept. The laws are made according to guiding principles. When the rules, or law, run afoul of the principles we have a problem. That is what Jesus encountered. The Pharisees criticized him for breaking the rules, but he was fulfilling God’s guiding principles. When is the appropriate time to heal? Jesus’ coming was a fulfillment of the law. He actually ushered us back to a time before the law, when we were supposed to be led by the Spirit rather than by codified rules.

Tomorrow, I will carry this a bit further as we all attempt to picture what a church of grace and truth is.