Hand of Salvation

Psalm 109: 26 – 27

Help me, O Lord my God; save me according to Your lovingkindness. And let them know that this is Your hand; You, Lord, have done it.

There are two aspects of these verses which sing to me. The first is that our Father saves according to His kindness. The second is that our salvation shall be recognized as the grace which comes from the hand of the Lord God, Yahweh, our Father and deliverer.

The first part is such a relief. God extends His saving grace to us not because we deserve it or have earned it but rather because He is love and kindness. What an important concept this is for us individually as well as theologically. We are relieved of the pressure of earning His many graces. We are expected to turn to Him in our need without regard of our righteousness or lack thereof. Hallelujah! Theologically, doesn’t this make the job of every minister on the planet easier? We do not have to teach you how to earn God’s favor nor continually harangue parishioners to works which will grant them God’s graciousness. I hope that God’s many kindnesses towards us stimulates kindness in us but nothing we can do will help us to earn His kind intentions. No matter how rotten any of us have been in the last week, month or ten years, He still loves us and is willing to help us in all things. Salvation and forgiveness are constantly in His hand.

Some see the glorious touch of the Lord’s grace and still deny His presence, yet our prayer is that His salvation shall be so loud, so glorious and so obvious that no one will be able to deny that it was the hand of the Lord. Father, send your angels with your Word to bring salvation to the earth. Save us, Lord, from our daily perils. Meet our needs by your richness in Christ and shower us with your never-ending mercies. Cause the world and worldly to see you face and your grace. You cause the son and the sun to shine upon the saved and the unsaved; your rain waters us all. Let each person receive of your bounty and be filled. Father, you are the Righteous One. Let us revel in your presence and the beauty of your face. We seek you Lord and beseech you on behalf of all people. Let not our sin fall upon us but rather your mercy. We offer you praise and thanksgiving for caring about us and caring for us. Be praised dear Lord. Amen.

The Crimson Lens

Romans 5:9

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

In 2015 I wrote a devotion titled “The Crimson Veil.” The substance of that article is about the effect the blood has on our relationship with the Father. When He looks at us, He looks through a crimson veil, that veil being the blood of Christ. God sees Jesus’ righteousness and worth when He looks at us because He looks through the veil of sacrificial blood. Speaking for myself, that is a powerful image and certainly helps me understand who I am in Christ. And, it is a relief because which of us wishes to stand in our own right?

I had another thought about the crimson veil, though. You have heard that we all perceive the world according to our own filters or through the lens of our world, hence the rose-colored lens. It dawned on me that if I saw the world through a crimson colored lens it would most certainly color my perspective. What if I was able to see other people through God’s crimson-colored lens? I think that would change my world, and that would be a good thing.

Imagine if we all looked at the world through crimson-colored glasses. Think of some of the challenges of 2020 and then put on Dad’s glasses and look at them anew. Does it change our thoughts, our prayers? What does the world look like when it is covered in Jesus’ blood? Oh my!

This one observation shows why God cannot be the judgmental, vengeful God some people make Him out to be. He sees Jesus’ blood everywhere He looks. Imagine if Christians saw every other person through the crimson lens. What if, when we looked at someone who might not even have a redeeming character, we, none the less, saw them splattered with that precious blood? How would that change things? Well, it is something to pray for. I think I would be much more gracious and accepting. Wouldn’t anger recede? What about a sense of betrayal? Think about someone who really gets under your skin and imagine Jesus’ blood covering them. Isn’t it harder to feel the anger and frustration that you might normally experience? Maybe we should all take a deep yoga breath, slowly and fully exhale, and picture our adversaries covered in the sacred blood. I believe this could change the world and in a hurry.

Lovingkindness

Exodus 34: 6 – 7

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.”

I wrote yesterday of my changing attitudes and if I failed to communicate this, I want to make clear that the only reason there is even a drop of compassion in my body is because our Father is full of loving compassion. He has given me the ability to feel His love and compassion for His children.

Do you love this passage? I hope it is rich and meaningful to you. Pick a word, any word and just let it speak to you and show you Father’s nature. I am a little stuck on the word “lovingkindness.” Other translations just say “love” and that is all that is necessary but it is almost like the translators of the NASB and earlier versions just couldn’t wrap enough sentiment around the word love so they had to reach into the richer meaning of the original language. It is not enough to be loving because it has to express the manifestation of love. God’s love does something. It is not a feeling; it is an action. It shows itself in His kindness, His graciousness, and His patience. He is abounding with love and compassion such that it is overflowing from Him. It is Him. He is love and compassion. He is not a wrathful God but instead a Father of infinite patience who is slow to anger. He is kind and forgiving at all times and each day He has a new supply of tender mercy for each of us.

We may overlook the word gracious but perhaps it is the word which will most bless your heart today. God’s grace means that He is thoughtful, affectionate, kind, caring and courteous. He purposes not to hurt or even embarrass you. He is gentle. A gracious person attempts not to hurt your feelings. They are tender and that is God.

He is the loving embrace you need today. He is accepting and understanding. You don’t have to pretend with Him because He accepts you just as you are. He loves you and wants to wrap His arms around you today and keep you safe. He cares infinitely about what you are thinking and feeling. His love for you knows no bounds which is what abounding communicates. Every morning His love for you is renewed so that there is a never-ending supply. He is a deep well of understanding.

Your God is love and loves you. He is pouring out His heart to you today so that you can rest in His compassionate embrace. You don’t need to bring anything to the meeting. Just let Him soothe you. He is non-judgmental so you can take whatever you think and whatever you feel and cast it at His feet. Every day, He only wants to protect and love you. Whatever you need today is in Him. Praise the Lord for His love is all encompassing and poured out onto the children of earth.

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.

Anger to Compassion

Psalm 56: 7

They don’t deserve to get away with this! Look at their wickedness, their injustice, Lord. In your fierce anger cast them down to defeat.

This verse stands alone well enough but take in consideration the previous two days’ verses because all three of these have been from Psalm 56. David said that people attacked him, plotted against him and twisted his words against him, hounded him, slandered him and sought his life. He had it pretty rough and surely, he was angry and wanted vengeance. He wanted God to punish them for what they did to him. I’ve been angry like that before too and I’ll wager you’ve been in a similar situation at some time in your life. Sometimes you just want God to pay them for what they’ve done, you want them to get what they deserve. Oh, but God has introduced us to a new way of life. It is a life full of God’s compassion and forgiveness.

David wanted God to make those people suffer for all the wrongs they did to him. We know David knew God personally so he would have known God is compassionate and eager to forgive. David’s songs reflect his own experience with God’s unending mercy. Why, then, would David pray for an angry out lash from God?

There is some basis for David’s prayer. In Chronicles God warned, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm,” (1 Chronicles 16: 22). David probably meets the requirements of each of those offices, and he was the king designate, anointed by Samuel. David respected the office of king, prophet and those anointed by God. He wouldn’t harm Saul even though many would have thought him justified simply because Saul was the king who was appointed by God. David did want God to strike his enemies though. However, God doesn’t have to send a lightning bolt from heaven to strike those who touch his anointed. God’s warning was given as a protection measure just as you warned your children not to touch the hot burner on the stove. God’s anointing carries protection with it so that when someone harms the anointed, there is a backlash against the offender. God doesn’t have to unleash His anger. The anointing is potent enough.

David was angry and wanted God to strike those who harmed him, but he probably also knew that their own acts would betray them. Seeds of aggression always bite the aggressor. Always! Sometimes it appears they have gotten away with it, but it isn’t true. Those offensive acts, like a snake, turn and bite the hand of the wielder. That is why we should pray for these people. As much as we don’t want to, as surely as they don’t deserve it, they need God’s grace and mercy more than anyone. If they have harmed you, plotted against you or twisted your words, they have an axe of doom hanging over them, an axe of their own making, no doubt but a sharp, severing blade none the less. They have sown the seeds of their own demise. Pray for God’s great compassion to wrest them from their deserved harvest. Let your heart feel compassion for them because they are truly wretched, pitiful creatures. Pray that God’s forgiveness and mercy will save them.

God’s heart is not for punishment but for rather for saving grace. He doesn’t want to vent His anger. He wants to redeem. You are His beloved and anointed. Use your standing to save those who have brought the curse on their own head. They don’t deserve kindness and forgiveness but then, neither did we.

Peter and Judas

Mark 14: 10

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them.

Have you ever wondered about the disciples’ reaction to Judas’ betrayal? Jesus was amazingly nonchalant about it but then, he knew it had to be. I wonder about the Sons of Thunder though. I cannot imagine them taking it well. What about Peter? He was not one to keep his feelings hidden. Remember that he drew his sword when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. His intention was clear. He meant to fight for Jesus’ freedom. What do you suppose Peter said about Judas?

As I was reading recently that idea captured me. We can be snared by our own judgments of others. Truly, it is hard to live without judging people but that is exactly what Jesus told us to do (Luke 6: 7). Refraining from judging others is how we avoid being judged ourselves, but it must have been very hard for the other eleven disciples to contain their criticism of Judas. I imagine harsh words were spoken.

Jesus said to Peter, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me,” (Luke 22: 4). When that rooster crowed, Peter was grieved down to his bones. He, like Judas, failed Jesus. He must have felt like a traitor himself. Maybe he had been very critical of Judas. We probably wouldn’t be surprised. At the moment of his own betrayal of Jesus, did he cringe at the words he spoke about Judas? Did he regret his words? Did he, for a moment, see into Judas’ delusion?

Look at it the other way. Maybe Peter kept his criticism of Judas to himself. Then, in the moment of his failure, I can imagine that he would have been very happy that he kept his condemnation of Judas to himself.

The grace we extend others is the grace we get to draw upon when we fall flat on our faces, which, we all do. We don’t want to fail Jesus any more than Peter wanted to but in the hour of his trial, he just couldn’t help himself. His fear got the better of him as it could any of us. We don’t condemn Peter because we know we might have failed too. Judas’ is a tragic character who realized the great error in his thinking and his actions. He betrayed the Son of God and that realization destroyed him.

None of us will ever so graphically betray Jesus but we have our own ways of letting him down. When I think of Peter possibly criticizing Judas and then having his denial of Jesus recorded for all the world to read over and over again, it makes me shudder. I know I am no better. I am glad no one is putting the account of my discipleship in the Bible for everyone else to read, but I have to ask myself, “Am I any better a steward of God’s grace than Peter was? How many times have I failed Jesus dramatically?” Sometimes it is really hard to extend grace to people. Let’s be honest, there are some real jerks out there and some of them even call themselves Christians. The question becomes, am I treating them like Jesus treats people or am I judge, jury and executioner?

I hope walking in Peter’s shoes for a few moments will help you think through this difficult subject. I do not mean that you should cease to check people’s fruit. I am not saying you should pretend they are not acting in ways that Jesus does not sanction. I am just saying that we should pray for them A LOT and keep our judgments to ourselves. You don’t have to hang out with them, you definitely do not sanction their bad behaviors. That would be bad. We don’t have to be in denial about their bad acts, but we don’t have to make a sport of them either. Just don’t gossip about them. Don’t criticize them. Keep your mouth from sinning. Don’t put yourself in the position of condemning them because as you judge, you too will be judged. Let them answer for their sins, but keep your mouth from judgment so that you will not be in their shoes later.

Keep Your Rock

John 8: 3 – 11

And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no on condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.”

The moral of this story may be “Take care at whom you throw rocks.” This woman (and presumably her partner) was caught in sin. They violated one of the Ten Commandments. Borrowing a bit from David Letterman, I like to call the Commandments God’s Top Ten List. So, there was no gray area here. They had broken the letter and the spirit of the law. But Jesus’ coming ushered in a new way of thinking about sin and grace.

Take care when you begin to throw rocks at others. Be careful about judging them for you may find all too quickly that Jesus is taking you to task over your judgment. He gave us one commandment and that is to love. I doubt you can stand in judgment and love at the same time. Besides which, none of us has been called to sit on the throne of judgment. That is God’s job alone. So even if someone is in such an obvious sin as adultery, mind your attitude. Pray for them (not about them). Ask God to save them and rescue them. Ask for his grace and mercy to cover them at the same time. Before you cast the first stone remember the times that God’s mercy has covered you because you weren’t perfect either. Pray people into grace rather than condemning them to hell or you may find yourself in the same shoes as these Pharisees; standing in opposition to Jesus.

And finally, if you are the one in sin, there is great grace and mercy for you but take note. Jesus’ last comment to the woman was to “sin no more.” He didn’t just turn a blind eye towards her behavior. Don’t use God’s grace and mercy as an excuse to keep on in sin. Don’t kid yourself. Get yourself right and thank God for his everlasting mercy.