What kind of peace do you want?

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Terms of Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

I heard an account of the Pope’s Christmas Message given at mass in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.  Of course the French news report I was listening to left off the biblical context and just relayed the Pope’s hopes for world peace.

In searching on line for the actual text, I do see that the leader of Catholics did preface his political remarks with a brief account of how God became incarnate and how we must open the door of our heart to Him by faith. Then he tied those thoughts to wishes for earthly peace in different hot spots around the world.

In thinking about peace, I started to parse in my mind the various versions of peace.  A close family member of mine is representative of many in her honest wishes for world peace. She sincerely hopes that 2013 will be different. By peace she is referring to the absence of armed conflict, both the official kind between people groups and the unsanctioned version, that is ‘plain ole one-on-one unthinkable evil’.

There is also family peace, which is the absence of coldness and hard feelings that characterize unforgiveness.  Since we are all sinners, there is constant need and opportunity to forgive.  The family and work environment offer us lots of places to hurt one another.

However, the peace we most need to seek and hold on to, is peace with God.  Here is where I wish the Pope had led his listeners.  Conflict between people is serious and the cause of much evil and suffering.  But we can’t always do something about the other guy.  We CAN do something about our state of rebellion with God, though.  Explaining our guilty plight and sharing life-giving hope for real change would have been the best Christmas message the Pope could have given.

Simply put –

  • When we are born, we are enemies of God and to be exact, sons and daughters of Satan.  (sounds harsh, but it’s what the Bible teaches:   Eph 2:3b – by nature, objects of wrath/ Ps 51:5 – Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me/ John 8:44 – For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.)

 

  • As an enemy of God, there is no peace that we humans can bring about.  We can’t sign a peace treaty with God because our real guilt and crimes against Him are in the way and loom insurmountable.

 

  • Jesus’ crucifixion pictures for us what God thinks of these crimes. What Jesus suffered is God’s verdict against sin.

 

  • We are helpless and without hope unless He does something.

 

  • He showed mercy by counting & reckoning to us Jesus’ payment for our sin, by counting & reckoning to us Jesus’ righteous acts day by day for 33 years

 

  • Our only response to this way of Peace?  To be grateful recipients of un-imaginable grace. Who would have invented such a twist to the story?  That’s why it’s called scandalous!

 

I wish the Pope had talked about this kind of peace. Truces will come and go.  War and more evil will happen because the heart is desperately wicked.  Human nature doesn’t change because of this bent toward evil.  Technological progress and education can’t affect our in-bred rebellion.

Where’s the hope?  It’s in this – only when someone is born ‘from above’ does a person receive a new DNA.  Christ in me, the ONE & ONLY sure foundation for peace.

As the unnamed author of the letter to the Hebrews puts it, “Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…..Today is the day of salvation!”

To my brothers and sisters in Christ – May you and I enter 2013 in full assurance of our status as “permanently at peace with the God of the Universe”.  And may we now, as His purchased forever-family-members, work each day as His appointed Ambassadors/Stewards/Soldiers going about sharing the terms of the peace treaty:

“Lay down your arms, you rebels and submit to the Kindest King you can ever imagine.”

What adventure!  What purpose!  What a new life!

 

The Logic of Massive Wrath or Massive Rescue

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There is a fallacy in logic called Bifurcation, – the Either/ Or Argument.  It goes like this:  “Mom says that I must choose an in-state school if I want her to pay for college.  I guess that means I have to go to either Thomas Nelson Community College or the University of Virginia.  I don’t want to go to a rinky-dink school and I probably won’t get into UVa.  I’m doomed!

This high school senior has purposefully and unnecessarily limited her choice to between 2 options unacceptable to her.   People indulge in this form of fallacious reasoning usually to make someone look bad.   In this case, she wants to paint her mom as being unfair.

But in the case of eternal life, there TRULY are only two options.  And they are as different from one another as night and day, war and peace, life and death.

Today in church, our pastor preached from Hebrews 10: 19-39.  We’ve been making our way through the book of Hebrews.  I have always viewed this New Testament book as the most difficult in the entire Bible.  But it is slowly but surely becoming my favorite.  Although the author is unknown, I think Paul deserves the honor – or at least someone who shares his excellent writing and thinking skills.  As in Ephesians 1 or Romans 8, each phrase leads to the next in tight logical fashion that makes it a pleasure to follow.

Here is what I took away from today’s sermon that filled me with awe:

  • Every sin we commit (by not loving God with our whole heart, mind, strength and soul) requires the death of someone.  In the OT, God provided His people, the Jews, a system whereby animals died in the place of sinful people.  Pete, our pastor, made the point that before Christ’s death on the cross people were NOT saved because they obeyed the law.  They were saved because they believed God when He said that He would expiate or cover their sin with the blood of an acceptable animal, a live spotless creature slaughtered in their place!!!  To the degree they believed God, they were saved.
  •  When Christ died on the cross, there was no longer any need for animal sacrifices to reconcile people to God.  Christ IS the once and for all sacrifice sufficient for all those who trust Him.
  • Jews today have a SERIOUS problem – what to do with their guilt!  The celebration/ceremony of Yom Kippur does nothing to take away their sin.  No blood is shed.  And even if temple sacrifice were still practiced & animals were slaughtered to ransom each person, the shed blood wouldn’t count since Jesus has come and made obsolete the previous method.  God declares through Paul in Romans 10:4 that Christ is the end (completion/fulfillment) of the (sacrificial) law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.  (my emphases in parentheses)
  • My overwhelming thought as we moved from Pete’s sermon into Communion was this:  There are only 2 realities in life that matter.  And they loom more massively and breathtakingly than I ever realized:

On one side hovers                                                           On the other side shines forth

Everlasting Destruction              vs                          The most creative BLOW- 

& Judgment                                                                          -your- MIND Rescue Operation

For everyone on earth                                                  Sufficient for Repentant Rebels

 

There is no other option, no 3rd way.  This description of reality does NOT commit the fallacy of bifurcation or false dilemma.

When we diminish our sin and guilt as in this hypothetical but fairly typical rationalization,

(sure I have ugly thoughts about people from time to time, and sure I have blown my cool and taken out my frustration on the kids or other drivers and sure I have taken office pens and hidden taxable income, and maybe I even had an affair behind my spouse’s back, or still indulge in occasional unhealthy coping mechanisms…….BUT I’m no worse than the average person)

we minimize what God means when He calls us to be holy and perfect as He is. Moreover, it follows, then, that we diminish the merits of Christ’s sacrifice and perfectly-lived life available to be applied to OUR account.

In conclusion – we have a big problem.  And we can’t help ourselves.  As much as we resist being helpless and NOT in control, we live in God’s world.  Jesus is the only savior, the only rescuer.  That’s not fair, you say?  Fair is that we all get what we deserve.  And no one deserves heaven.  But mercifully God has made a way. Something is true whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not.  Wake up and THINK!!!  Make a rational, logical decision based on the evidence.

Final thoughts worth praying on –

Acts 4:12 – Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

I am so grateful to God for providing us Jesus…..

Rev 1:5… who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,

 

Entitled to what?

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Entitlements are a hot potato in today’s political climate.  You want someone’s vote?  Promise that you will fight to increase what is their ‘due’.  But what sounds like a benefit is actually poisonous and harmful to one’s wellbeing.

The feeling of entitlement sets us up for:

  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • Resentment
  • Anxiety
  • Fear

You can recognize the seed of entitlement within when you start to say, “I deserve…..”

Truthfully, there is only one thing we deserve:  DEATH!!!

God says, “The wages of sin are death.” (Romans 6:23)

Starting back in Eden’s paradise, sin required the death of someone.  When Adam & Eve turned from trusting in God, animals died:

Satan:  “You DESERVE unlimited access to all the trees in Eden. Is it fair that God should withhold from you that tree over there – the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’?”

Adam & Eve:  “Hmm…no that ISN’T fair.  We deserve……”

**

Closer to our day, consider these common scenarios. Think of the feelings they might engender:

  • I deserved that promotion, not Joe!
  • When I get on the scale and I’ve deprived myself for a week, I should weigh……
  • My husband should know that I need adult conversation after 12 hours at home dealing with toddlers!
  • Who does that idiot driver think he is, cutting me off like that! He should know how to drive before he gets behind the wheel!
  • My time is valuable- Walmart should hire more clerks!
  • No one ever notices the work I do.  I try to make a difference here at the office.  But I never get any credit.  They don’t appreciate me at all!
  • After my long commute and the hours I put in at the office, I need some chill time to myself.  The kids ought to know better and leave me in peace.
  • He knows my hot buttons.  He shouldn’t have said that!
  • I deserve the A, not him!  I did my research the correct way, wrote a rough draft first before my final copy.  All Sam did was pull it out of the air during an all-nighter.  Why can’t our prof see that!!!

My friend and I are reading a book that is changing how I see my life.  It’s called  Calm My Anxious Heart – A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment

The author’s premise is that when we COMPLAIN or COMPARE or WONDER how the past might have been different or FANTASIZE about the future or DWELL on tomorrow – We are destroying our contentment.

I am actually beginning to catch my internal complaints.  I have come to realize that my normal sinful bent to be impatient is a form of complaining.  When someone is taking up MORE of my time than I want to give, I am actually saying, “This should not be happening!”

Not only does contentment evaporate like rain on a hot Tampa afternoon, I am actually lying.  Who says that THIS should NOT be happening?  Who says that I SHOULD have designer-life?   After all, I deserve death.

Let’s get honest, though.

The above examples are actually not the ones that try my soul.  It is my fears that pose a greater challenge.

  • When I start to fear the death of a loved one in a car accident…….
  • When I start to fear not being able to find another job teaching French…..
  • When I start to fear a family member never being saved by Christ…..

I think what I am really saying to God is this:

I have a vision of the future that I think is best.  I’m afraid that it is not going to work out the way I want because I know that I am not in control.  I actually NEED you, God, to make it like I want!

A more precise translation would be:  I should be guaranteed the exact unfolding of my vision of the future as it concerns me.

**

The antidote to my misplaced, misinformed sense of entitlement? – Repentance and trust in Jesus

This is why the Gospel has to be my life, every breath of the day.  Exhale-repent/ inhale-trust.  This is the only way to walk in Christ, to live by means of Christ, by means of His light, by means of His love.  When I detour off HIS path toward MY entitlements, the raucous WARNING-WARNING-WARNING of fear, anger, resentment, bitterness, impatience alerts me.

Once again, it’s back to:    Breathe out my sin – breathe in His Grace – feel His joy and presence.

What is the core teaching of Jesus?

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A good friend of mine recently handed me an invitation to think through and identify the core belief or doctrine of Christianity.  In pointing me to a recent article in the Huffington Post (see link at the end) I read an apologist for the Episcopal Church attempt to downplay declining membership rolls by pointing to parallel exits from both the Southern Baptist and Catholic churches.

Before I share what the Huffington Post author thinks is the number one teaching of Jesus, I want to explore why I think she is correct in mentioning shrinking church membership.

There comes a point when all of us get tired of being implored to do more.  We get that at both work AND home.  All of us probably can name ways in which we could do more ‘good stuff’.  So when the church preaches the same message as a predominate theme from the pulpit, we reach a point where we ask ourselves, “Why am I choosing to subject myself to this To-Do List week after week?  Where is the good news? ”

The Baptist version of some legalistic churches often comes across this way by asking:

  • How long are your quiet times?
  • Have you joined an accountability group?
  • Which missions’ trips are you going on this year?

The Catholic version sounds like this:

  • How can you be pro-life and support capital punishment?
  • You need to march for anti-capitalistic, environmentally sound policies.
  • Since you can’t know for sure if you are good enough to warrant entry into heaven, DO this or GIVE X amount of money as penance.
  • You better not miss mass and confession; how else will you know if you are ‘good’?

And liberal Protestantism preaches:

  • Feed the poor, reach out to your neighbors, whoever they are.
  • Fight for judgment-free acceptance of all values.
  • Celebrate the many ways to God.

Hear me carefully.  I am NOT saying that Bible study, small group participation, feeding the poor, mindful use of earth’s resources and kindly serving others here and abroad are unworthy activities.  There is a place for these practices.But what is missing and what leaves people weak, thirsty and discouraged is the lack of Good News preached.

What is Christianity’s main teaching or core value?

That Jesus Christ saves sinners

This proposition presupposes that someone needs saving?

The Bible, throughout its 66 books, teaches that life’s ultimate problem looming over every human being is GUILT (and I’m not talking about guilty feelings, although they are sometimes present but actually judicial guilt.)  If you or I were to die right now and face our Creator and Sustainer, Almighty God, He would rightly judge, “Guilty – you deserve Hell.”   We are born sinful (Psalm 51:5), thanks to our first parents Adam and Eve.

And no amount of the Baptist version of good works, or the Catholic version of good works or the liberal protestant version of good works will SAVE US.

We are up a very dangerous creek with no way out.  And God has our attention.  Now we are ready to hear the GOOD NEWS:

– that Jesus came to save sinners by dying in our place, thus satisfying the eternal sentence against us, thereby saving us from HELL

– that Jesus lived the perfect life, thus giving us the gift of un-earned righteousness, thereby gaining entry for us into HEAVEN

What were Jesus’ first words when he burst onto the scene in Galilee?

  • Love everyone and feed the poor!

Nope, Mark records God the Son’s striking command:  The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; Repent and believe in the gospel.  (Mark 1:15)

Later on, in verse 38 of the same opening chapter, Jesus confirms his mission. Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, in order that I may preach there also, for this is what I came out for.

Whether conservative or liberal, all of us church-attenders need to hear what God has already done for us, through Jesus.  The more we learn how much God loves us and what motivated Him to die for us,

Jesus…. as author and perfecter of our faith…. for the JOY set before him endured the cross and scorned its shame and … sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2)

the more we can drop our drivenness.  It’s from that place of not being good enough that come many of our ‘good works’.  “I must be a good-enough Christian if I do…….”

I promised that I would let you in on what the defender of the declining Episcopal Church declares is the core value in Christianity:

Introspective liberal churchgoers returned to the core of the Christian vision: Jesus’ command to “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” As a result, a sort of neo-liberal Christianity has quietly taken root across the old Protestant denominations–a form of faith that cares for one’s neighbor, the common good, and fosters equality, but is, at the same time, a transformative personal faith that is warm, experiential, generous, and thoughtful. This new expression of Christianity maintains the historic liberal passion for serving others but embraces Jesus’ injunction that a vibrant love for God is the basis for a meaningful life. These Christians link spirituality with social justice as a path of peace and biblical faith.

Where do I think good works fit in?  Aren’t we supposed to have a consistent quiet time, go on missions’ trips, and confess our sins one to the other?  Aren’t we supposed to practice neighbor love, feed the poor, discern and proclaim Biblical truth?  Of course, but ‘good works’ come  AFTER  the primary call of REPENT and BELIEVE what Jesus teaches.

Those who are saved are saved in order to do certain work.  And these activities are not ones that we choose in a vacuum; they have been predestined/planned out by God from before the creation of the universe. (Ephesians 2:10)

God’s order of events prevents boasting on our part.  How can He be ‘rich in mercy’ and ‘give us grace’ if we earn our way into heaven? And if we think we can earn enough brownie points so God will HAVE to let us in, we can easily wear out with fatigue and just quit. Any church, not just liberal protestant ones will lose members over time if their pastors do not feed their flocks with rich gospel-saturated food.

Today in church, one of the readings was from Ephesians 4.  The primary role of pastors and church teachers, those whose calling is true spiritual formation is described.  This job description of those who are to feed us regularly is worth reading:

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Sufficient and correct content, delivered in love, builds unity and equips the body of believers to do the work God calls them to do.  I am ONLY motivated to do, when I am amazed at what God has first done for me.  Skip that part, the blow-my-mind-He-did-THAT for ME????, and false manipulative guilt will only motivate me so far.

I will leave you with a prayer that really stokes my love for Jesus.  It’s written by pastor and author JD Greear, from his book Gospel: (page 44)

“In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes you love me less.

Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.

As you have been to me, so I will be to others.

As I pray, I’ll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”

For the original essay in the Huffington Post, go to:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diana-butler-bass/can-christianity-be-saved_1_b_1674807.html

 

Not thinking about myself – what a relief

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I was listening to Tullian this morning.  His sermons are balm for my battered soul. Do you know that critical über-nanny who has perfected the knack for getting one to feel bad? Her thinks she lives in me – her name is ‘old slave-driver SELF’. I forget to keep kicking her out, now that the Holy Spirit lives in me.  Apparently the HS is such a gentleman that He waits for ME to act as a proper hostess should and show the ‘no-longer-welcome previous resident’ the door.

Anyway, Pastor Tchividjian loves to talk about Grace and I love to hear podcast sermons about Grace.  I can’t get enough of this topic.  I feel like a perpetually starving man whenever I am fed Gospel Grace.  I think it’s because I have lived so long in the Land of Law: “ Do this! Do that!” to be an okay Christian.

But what I heard this morning set me free…..for a spell.  Tullian was talking about how fruit is produced.  You don’t exhort a small apple tree seedling, “Grow some apples!”  Instead you water and fertilized the roots.  Likewise (per Tullian’s analogy), we shouldn’t command…..manipulate…… guilt……or browbeat ourselves OR other Christians into producing fruit (good works of joy, love, service…..).

Instead we should feed the roots of faith with the truth of the Gospel – the account and details of what Jesus has already done.

Tullian said that the more we examine ourselves to see if we are growing, we actually DON’T grow.  Christian growth happens when we take our eyes OFF of us and put them on Him!

All of a sudden I FELT the lightness of relief.  I actually HATE thinking about myself.  I get SICK of thinking about myself.  I spiral down DEPRESSED thinking about myself.

Then it occurred to me:  Maria – you don’t HAVE to think about yourself.  In fact it’s biblical NOT to.  Paul says we are to think about things that are “TNR PLA EP” (I actually say out loud – ‘tenor play, extended play’ to remind myself to think of topics that are True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent and Praise-worthy)

Recalling those attributes of topics worthy of meditation, I immediately responded, “Well, I’m certainly not Pure – only Jesus is – that’s a no-brainer!”

Then I realized, “then I don’t even QUALIFY to be on the hot topics list– whew!”

The last category of items to ponder is praise-worthy.  That fits well with the book I am slowly savoring, “one thousand gifts” by Ann Voskamp (read the book!)   Filtering my thoughts to allow only what is praise-worthy eliminates criticism and complaining and sets my eyes to look for beauty, blessings and miracles.

And what about problems, people and events about which I’m concerned and obviously have no control?  Paul has that covered.  We’re to cast them in our Father’s lap, thankful and confident that He can take care of all of them. We delegate them to God and look for His guidance and direction for action steps we are to take today.  If we are unsure, we talk to Him as we make the wisest choice for the moment, confident that He IS directing us to take the proper actions necessary for right now.

It’s far simpler than I make it out to be.  Here are some Gospel facts I want to swim in:

  • Keeping my eyes on Jesus, the blessed controller of all things
  • Christ in me, the hope of Glory
  • Forgetting all that is past….since there is now no condemnation
  • Walking and following the author and perfector of my faith
  • Setting my mind on things above where Christ is
  • Washed clean, no more robes of SELF, in my new birthday suit, clothed comfortably with HIS robes of righteousness, held in place with the belt of truth. (any lingering layers of self-righteousness just make the belt TIGHT)
  • Boasting only in Christ
  • Overflowing with thanks for having been chosen from before the creation of time
  • Qualified before time to be an inheritor of the eternal, imperishable treasure

What do you find praise-worthy?

 

 

Grace v Works – your choice

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Mike and I are down in Tampa with Graham, Shay, Chloe and her new baby sister Vera who was born last month.  Chloe and I were at the playground yesterday.  In between playing ‘Princess’ I was reading about a local doctor , 51 years young,  who has just been diagnosed with ALS.  He’s the kind of ‘good’ man who has given tirelessly of himself to pre-med students, medical students, fellow doctors and the community.  The tone of the article had a kind of Rabbi ‘Kushneresque’ feel.  Kushner is the one who wrote a book, attempting to answer the perennial question, “When bad things happen to good people.”   It seems ‘unfair’ of God that after serving others for years, this local Tampa man faces a painful death.  Don’t he ‘deserve’ better?

Our natural reaction, our sense of entitlement is prevalent among Christians and non-Christians alike.  We all can think of missionaries, pastors and other unselfish people who have suffered tremendously and/or died an untimely death. The world recoils.  But Christians should understand, after all, ‘they crucified Jesus’! Why should we expect any different?

I’ve been studying the Jerry Bridges book on grace (Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love).   What I am beginning to glimpse is that not only do we not deserve anything good, but when we think we are doing good and earning blessing points, we haven’t a clue.

Take the parable of the workers hired at different hours.  I totally understand the indignation of the ones who worked all day in the sun.  I would have reasoned like them and felt disappointed not to be paid more.  Even though my hope for at least ‘time and a half’ would have been based on wishes and not logic, I would have convinced myself that I ‘deserved’ more.

Jerry Bridges nails his point, though, when he illustrates this principle of faulty ‘I-deserve’ thinking with a story of a college course.  As a good student who did her work I pridefully enjoyed earning ‘A’s and teachers’ praise.  Unfortunately at an early age I was hooked on this performance drug.  So I ‘get it’ when the A students self-righteously protest the professor’s generosity at awarding the slackers the same A that THEY earned. Like the boss in Jesus’ parable, doesn’t the professor have the right to be generous?

Thankfully, I’m beginning to glimpse a different way to think about this.  My son Graham talks about ‘God- Math’.  That is now shorthand for me, reminding me how differently God thinks about things (Duh!!!  He even tells us that His ways are not our ways – Is 55:8).

Paraphrasing Jerry Bridges, he explains that the sins of the elect, those for whom Jesus died, required nothing short of ETERNAL DEATH as a penalty.  And Jesus’ work during those 3 hours on the cross, actually accomplished that.  Now contrast what I think I, Maria, might do in a lifetime to ‘earn’ God’s favor with those 3 hours of Jesus.  The notion not only staggers and sobers me, it is actually ridiculous.  Thankfully!

I don’t want to try to earn anything more. God’s ocean of grace is mine already since I am in Christ.  And I have access to that Grace right now, not just later in Heaven.  And the most that I will use on a daily basis is equivalent to what a small bird might drink in through her beak as she nears the mighty Columbia River.  This river discharges water at the rate of 265,000 cubic feet per second.  I’m not a math person, but that sounds like a lot. I asked Mike how to think through this number.  He walked me through the computation.  The flow of water when it empties into the Pacific Ocean is the equivalent of almost 2 million gallons per second.

Do you think that you or I could ever use up this grace? Could we out-ask what is available as beloved children of our Father?  Could all the birds in the world dry up the mighty Columbia River?  Not even imaginable.

So rest, cease striving and drink deeply and pray that God give us a grateful heart.  The aroma of entitlement not only stinks, but will always leave us dissatisfied.

Limitless good news

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Le Hic”, (the thing) about the Gospel is that there are SO many things about the Gospel.  Who can ever be bored, when there are treasures to be discovered?  I sometimes thank God that He is both bigger & better and truer & more real than anything I can imagine.  I don’t have to fear running out of new knowledge about God.  I don’t have to fear that one day I’ll hear of proof that Christianity isn’t true after all.

Here are some recent thoughts, new to me, about God and what He has done for us:

  • Justice has been meted out in my cosmic criminal case, so I face no more penal judgment. Payment for my sins is truly behind me, a fait accompli. There is no double jeopardy in God’s kingdom.
  • I’ve already been punished when Jesus was punished
  • I’ve already died. I was crucified with Jesus at the cross.
  • Therefore, with nothing to fear, my relationship with the Father has been restored.
  • If the worse thing to fear is death, and since I’ve already died, there is nothing more to fear.   Do I lack anything?  Remember Paul’s logic.  If God the Father has given me the ultimate (Jesus), won’t He just as readily and easily provide for my lesser needs?
  • What about people’s approval?  If God is for me, what do I care what others think?  I don’t need anyone’s praise.   I’ve been declared cherished and worth dying for, so much so as to be united to Christ. (Who would want to share His nature with worms?)
  •  Not needing to please man, my time and energy is now freed from the tyranny of always having to convince others how great and unique I am.
  • If I have peace with God forever, I can graciously endure temporary hardship, drawing on the strength of the One with whom I’m united.

During this final week leading to Christmas 2011, let us savor our Savior. Let us treasure the innumerable benefits that are ours in Christ.  And let us not hesitate to explain the riches available to all those who turn to Him. The next time someone asks, “Are you ready for Christmas?” why not flip the question around to? :

Yes, thanks for asking.  What about you?  What thrills you about the birth of Christ?”

Maybe the different response might give them pause long enough to hear some good news.

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