Cleansing Waters

Genesis 6: 17

I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.

Was the flood an act of grace? Does that sound like a ridiculous question? I received a comment mixed in with the prayer requests this week. The author was perplexed at how God could “kill” so many people especially since murder is a sin. It set me to thinking and hence the question I first posed.

How would you analyze this problem? Well, I began by knowing that God is love. If you believe the story of the great flood is true, then do you also believe 1 John 4: 8, “God is love”? I do believe God is love, that His very essence is this thing called love. I also believe that He can do nothing apart from His essential self, love. How, then, can this loving Father have been responsible for the great flood?

I believe it was an act of grace and as you study the Bible, I think you will see more of this. The earth was in bad shape. In fact, it was on the brink of catastrophic destruction. When Satan rebelled and was cast from heaven a host of angels went with him. Later, these spiritual beasts decided that human women were beautiful and so visited earth and fornicated with human women. The result was a race of people who were violent and evil. They killed off many of God’s people and rained havoc in the earth. They would have destroyed everything God created, including humanity, had God not intervened. Only by destroying life on earth could He save it. Therefore, it was because God loved human beings that He sent the flood.

What do you think? Can you see how grace, love and mercy forced God to act in a dramatic fashion? Had He not acted, none of us would be here today as the entire human race would have been wiped out.

When you try to figure out God and the events in the Bible, look for love. The love signature will always reveal the truth of these events.

The “One” Sin

Romans 5: 20      TPT

So then, the law was introduced into God’s plan to bring the reality of human sinfulness out of hiding. And yet, wherever sin increased, there was more than enough of God’s grace to triumph all the more!

I hear comments, and I know you do too, about how the world, and even our own cities, are falling into greater and greater sin. Some speculate that God is not as active because sin has become greater, or more prevalent. One day when I heard someone speaking in these terms it made me wonder what sin we are engaged in these days that is causing the breakdown of societies. There really is nothing new under the sun. You can read the Bible and see that. The Israelites created idols while God was leading them to the Promised Land. How much more blatant a sin can there be? What is it that is going on today that is any different than in previous times? What is the sin which is destroying us?

As I pondered this question, I sought the one with all the answers, and do you know what, He answered me. He showed me two points: first, the one great sin which is our problem and second, that conventional sin isn’t really the issue. Where sin has increased, God’s grace has increased more. No matter how great a sin problem we have, if we understand today’s scripture then we know that God’s grace expands to even greater volumes. So, there is a sin problem, but then again there isn’t because God’s grace is greater than any sin committed by man.

So, what is the problem? The way the Lord said this to me was, “There really is only one sin, one great sin and though this is not what people refer to when they speak of the increase in sin, it actually is the root problem from which all other sin is derived.” Does this surprise you? Are you anxious to know what the “One” sin is? I was. The problem we have, the one which is destroying the fabric of society is the sin of attrition. Spiritual Attrition is the slow wearing down of our Christian faith, but it is more than that. The core issue is that fewer and fewer of us seek God. The Lord showed me that the real problem is separation from Him. He has grace for the sin, but He does not have a remedy for people who choose not to partner with Him.

The great sin of the world is separation from God! And you can quote me. If you think about it, that is the same problem God constantly addressed in the Old Testament. The people kept turning away from Him. Once they took their eyes off Him, then they fell into all sorts of sins, even to serving foreign Gods. When Israel sought God, they flourished. When they fell away from Him, they suffered lack and hardship. Their sin grew too but sin isn’t the problem. When a people serve God, when they spend time in His presence, they have no desire for the “sins” that we often sculpt into lists. Unbelief and abstinence from prayer and seeking are the problems that undermine society. God can deal with sin when people believe in Him but when the nation turns its face from God, there is no one to pray, no one to intercede. Who heals the land of a nation that does not believe in nor seek God?

Even as Christians, we are forced into some important questions, questions that I had to face in this conversation with God. In what ways or in what areas am I separated from God? Is there a part of my life which I keep separate from Him? Do I go to work everyday without Him or even thoughts of Him? Where is He on Monday? Tuesday? Am I seeking Him in all aspects of my life or have I divorced Him from part of my life? We probably all have little spaces in our lives where we have yet to intertwine with the Lord Jesus. If we have little separations, little areas where a vacuum exists, then who shall lead the uninitiated.

We don’t have a sin problem.  Jesus and Father took care of the sin problem.  Here, world, is the real problem. We have separated ourselves from God and not only is this the one truly big sin, but it is also hell. To the degree we do not involve Yahweh in our lives, we are living in sin and experiencing hell. God would give you encouragement though, because now that we know what the actual problem is, we can individually and collectively take measures to correct it. Ya wanna talk about hell? Or pontificate about sin? They both exist right outside our front door. The good news is that we also have the power to free the world from both. Seek the Lord, your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul – then teach others to do the same. This is how we save the earth!

Rest in Grace

Matthew 8: 5 – 7

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

Here is the latter revelation, which I mentioned in yesterday’s Word of the Day. Epiphany number two is that there is rest in grace. In fact, I would say, that the ultimate expression of God’s grace is rest. How, you might ask, do we get rest from the word grace? Well, let’s see.

I won’t bore you by going over every word in the dictionaries. Instead, let’s think of it this way. Grace is a gift bestowed upon us by the Lord. One of its keep components is that it is unearned. Interestingly, though, another aspect of the words we translate into “grace” is thankful. Is a picture beginning to form? We also talk about God giving us the grace to accomplish a task. This usage is very much like empowerment. His grace empowers us to do that which God has called us to do. Therefore, it is not in our might, or even in our skill or intelligence that we perform. It is by God’s grace that we can do anything for apart from Him, even Jesus said he could do nothing.

So, we “enter” into His grace being thankful that though we did not have to earn it, He has bestowed His favor upon us so that we will be empowered, through His grace, to do all that needs doing. We do not act in our might but rather in His. We can relax and breathe because He is the power. He is the ability, we but the hands of His labor.

What then is our labor? Well, that is to enter into this rest. Do you remember the verse from Wednesday – Ephesians 2: 8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” The way we obtain salvation is the same way we receive His grace. It is by faith. We are to enter into His gates and how ridiculous would it be for us to enter into His abode and then run around all stressed out trying and striving to accomplish anything? That is ludicrous, really. Our task is to relax and listen to the Father. Then we apply faith to what He tells us and, voila, the work is done. I am not saying to lie on the couch and eat bon bons. I am saying that the work is getting to inner part of your and building a fortress of faith and trust. Our labor is in renewing our minds and intertwining ourselves with the Father so that when He speaks, we can respond in faith rather than in works or self-righteousness.

Lastly, the reason I chose today’s verse is because I have been amused and even astounded by how Jesus would change the course of his day at the drop of a word. If ever there was a person who could have used the “busy” excuse for not resting or not redirecting his steps, it was Jesus. However, as I have said before, “busy” is a four letter word. Jesus was never so busy that he could not do as the father directed. He didn’t get stressed out. He didn’t overcompensate, nor did he complain. He stayed in the Father’s perfect peace. I am sure Jesus had a different plan when he arrived at Capernaum but when need presented itself, Jesus responded. He changed his plan and was ready to head to this person’s house. Grace intervened, though, that is the supernatural empowerment to do the Father’s bidding. The centurion recognized Jesus’ authority and told him that he was not worthy for Jesus to come to his house but rather, just speak the word and it would be done. And Jesus spoke. The centurion’s need was met and Jesus barely broke stride. He stayed in peace and God provided everything. Amazing! Jesus didn’t have to work hard, he worked in the Spirit.

One other comment about Jesus and busyness contrasted to resting in God. Jesus often went away to the mountains or the wilderness to meditate and pray. He took his disciples out of the work they were doing and called them into rest. There might be something to all this. Just sayin’.

Grace Extended

Proverb 3: 34

Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted.

While the simplest, and perhaps most functional, description of the word grace is “unmerited favor” it is far from a full understanding. If you run a search on the word grace and read all of the verses in which it appears, you will see that for yourself.

That which began my look into the word grace was actually an observation about judgment. I wrote in my journal, “there can be no grace where there is judgment.” That was my epiphany at that moment. It began me thinking about this “grace” we hear about. Two outstanding revelations have shown themselves as I have studied this word. The latter will be the subject of tomorrow’s Word of the Day. Today, the meaning of the word “grace” which has me mesmerized is, “acceptance.”

Lying on my writing desk right now is my Strong’s, my Bible, a Vine’s and Nelson’s Bible Dictionary. They are threatening to collapse my desk under their combined weight. The weightiest of all, though, is their exhaustive description of grace. I will refer back to them in a moment but there is another book here in front of me. It is a by Dr. Jim Richards and Chaim Bentorah and features ten words explained in the original languages. In the chapter on the word grace, Bentorah wrote, “There is one other definition of Chen and even Charis other than grace, it is acceptance.” Chen is the Hebrew word for grace and Charis, the Greek. Bentorah identifies one of the other synonyms in English as “acceptance.” That is a stunning, but then again, intuitive disclosure.

As I searched Chen and Charis in this mountain of resource material beside me, I saw that the scholars agree with that assessment. God’s grace includes acceptance. That rings true intuitively because how meaningful is “unmerited (unearned) favor” without acceptance. God called out to each of us inviting us into His family. He accepted us, as we were, and poured the righteousness of Jesus’ blood over us so that we could enter into His peace and dwell in His tent.

This chain of thought leads right back to judgment. It is logically impossible for either us or God to extend grace and acceptance while criticizing and condemning. We must choose. Either God is grace and mercy, or He is judgment and condemnation. Which is it? As applied to me, I choose to accept God’s grace. That isn’t a difficult intellectual question, theologically. The challenge is when I, or we, extend our theology towards others. Then we must either retract our judgmental approach towards others or evaluate if we really believe in a God of grace. Here is where the modern church often comes off the rails. We are challenged to keep the symmetry between ourselves and those “heathen” out there. We forget, sometimes, that we were once they. This is exactly why you hear theology of a God of love coming out of one side of the church’s mouth and a God of wrath coming from the other. We become very schizophrenic in our theology.

Let me make this simple. Our God is not only a God of love, He actually is love. He can do not thing which is inconsistent with love. That is why He is grace, mercy, kindness, forgiveness and acceptance. That is why He put His son on a cross for us. He knew our shortfalls. He knew our ridiculousness. None the less, love compelled Him to take all that judgment you hear about and heap it onto Jesus’ back. Only then could He express Himself towards us. He had to remove the judgment problem so that He could show His acceptance and shower us with favor.

In order, then, to heal the church from its emotional schism, we must extend the same acceptance to others, all others. This is the way, because Jesus is the grace of God. “We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are,” (Acts 15: 11). By grace we have been led to the throne of God. By grace we help others find their way too. Therefore, we will refrain from judgment and extend our hands in acceptance. In this way, we will show, and share, the grace of God.

Grace 2

Ephesians 2: 8

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Grace, the mere sound of the word is comforting. A very commonly accepted shorthand definition for grace is: unmerited favor. We have been saved by the gift of God through nothing we have done. Our only part is faith in the blood of Jesus. It was grace, the unmerited, unearned gift of God which saved our souls from hell. That is what God’s grace towards us does.

Grace, however, isn’t limited to this one application nor is dispensed solely by God. “Dispenser of grace, pour out your grace upon me, for myself but also for others.” That’s how it works. God gives us His grace so that we can spread it to others, especially those who don’t know Him. We can get grace to them when He can’t because we are the ones they come in contact with. There is a caveat, though. Grace is unmerited favor. In other words, we are tasked to give it to people who don’t deserve it. They are not worthy, have not earned it. None the less, God has apportioned grace for them.

Salvation is a gift from God, granted by God’s grace. Our gift to God is when we spread His grace, unmerited favor, to others. Be grace-full today. Find a way to show God’s favor to someone else.

Grace

John 1: 16

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.

Grace – it is a word we little understand. Of divine grace Wikipedia writes, “Divine grace is a theological term present in many religions. It has been defined as the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation; and as an individual virtue or excellence of divine origin.” The dictionary reads, “simple elegance or refinement of movement, courteous goodwill.” What is clear from these sources is that the word grace is used in several ways.

I find myself particularly drawn to the definition of graceful movements. One would normally distinguish that definition from our use, but I find something remarkably attractive about it. Simple elegance in movement might be transposed into simple elegance in word and deed. Perhaps the refinement in movement becomes refined speech and action.

Increasingly I am learning that grace is not what we have thought and in fact, my newest revelation on grace is that God’s grace is for me but the grace he deposits within me, He deposits in me for others. I am more the bank than the beneficiary. Today’s verse shines light on this thought. He has accepted us and forgiven us, time upon time. It is because of His grace that we do not have to carry the burden of our mistakes and sins. For every wound we have inflicted upon ourselves through wrong thoughts, actions and words, He has slathered us with grace upon grace. We have received, and continue to receive, His fullness through and by His grace.

His grace strengthens us so that we endure the challenges gracefully. His grace softens our rough edges so that we may convey His “courteous goodwill” to others. Our movements become elegant when we move in His grace. Our words take on the flowing refinement of His love. One can easily picture the graceful movements of a ballet dancer. They can make the same movement as someone else, but the elegance of their movement becomes art and it blesses the soul. So, too, are our words, actions and thought when we baptize them in grace.

Perhaps you can ponder the word grace today and find richness and nuance that may have eluded you previously. Be blessed.

No More Stumbling

Romans 14: 13

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.

Paul has an interesting message for us today. He was dealing with a problem of people judging each other. The Christian church had both Jews and Gentiles and their customs and beliefs were very different. Even their diets were different. Paul opened up the chapter by writing, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgement on his opinion.” (V. 1). Interesting!

We have not been called to judge others, but we are very prone to it. We don’t like being judged either and we don’t usually make friends with those who judge us. So, why do we think people are going to want to become part of our Christian group when we begin with judgment? And here is a worse problem, will we have to account for those who did not receive salvation because we ran them off? That is a frightening thought.

We are told not to put an obstacle or stumbling block in another’s way. The implication is that we are barring people from reaching their place in Jesus and Paul said our judgments are largely responsible. We need to stop being the reasons people don’t want to meet Jesus. We must stop creating obstacles to salvation. Our ideas of people’s worthiness or what they should be are not furthering the Kingdom. We just haven’t been equipped with the knowledge or wisdom necessary to make those determinations. And why do we want to shoulder such a huge burden anyway?

Earlier in this same book Paul wrote, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8: 1). He was trying to introduce people to Christ and have each one accept and honor the other. He had quite a task on his hands as the early church sought to integrate people with very different lifestyles, cultures and values. Then again, it’s not so different from what we are dealing with today.

There is not a person on this earth that God doesn’t love. They (we) are all His kids and thus, all brothers. Even the ones who do not call Him Father are still His and He loves them despite any and all flaws. He sees His beautiful child, not a flawed person. People are fleeing from the Kingdom because of obstacles we have erected. Let us make a concerted effort to break down the walls of obstruction. And by the way, most of those walls are in our own minds. Let us no longer create separation and hurdles which are causing people to stumble. Instead, let us create an inviting, loving space where all people can enter and come to know God for the first time or to get to know Him better. He is love, let’s prove it.