Jesus is even better than a permanent ‘bail bondsman’!

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Meditating on the HISTORICAL fact that Jesus has lived out the judicial sentence I deserve for my past, present and future crimes against the Holy God.  I have been declared ‘debt-free’.   And Jesus now accompanies me as my SURETY.

Jesus paid my debt

What is a ‘surety’?  “A surety is an individual who undertakes an obligation to pay a sum of money or perform some duty or promise for another in the event that person fails to act.”

Because Jesus is my permanent ‘surety’, I don’t have to rely on my own righteousness. (not that it would ever be ‘good enough’) That means that I can repent EACH time I succumb to those deceptive shortcuts to happiness, aka ‘sin’.

Thank you, Father, that with Jesus grafted permanently in me because of the new birth, I can begin –  again –  to follow You with a pure heart and willing mind.

This is what God calls sincere, upright and blameless. What an amazing deal for us, that He delights in and is pleased with all these PURE-intentioned starts, SINFUL falls, HONEST repentances and HUMBLE willingnesses to pick right back up to follow Him.

Romans 8:3-4  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

If we’re not living by faith, how are we actually going through life?


Now it is evident that no one shall be justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith. – Galatians 3:11

I’ve heard that truth for years but it still puzzles me. It seems to run off the tongue of Christians like butter spilling off of hot pancakes.  Just what does God mean, day to day, by living by the law v. living by faith?

Walk by faith

Here are my specific questions:

  • Who are the righteous?
  • What makes them righteous?
  • Am I righteous? If not, how do I become righteous?
  • What does ‘to live’ mean?
  • What does the preposition ‘by’ mean and look like?
  • What is included in faith?
  • Where do we get that faith?
  • Faith in what, in whom?
  • How much faith do we need to ‘live’?

I’m not going to take time in this reflection to walk through, step by step, what ‘righteousness’ as defined by God encompasses.  I want to focus, instead, on what a life lived ‘by faith’ looks like, practically.

So ask someone else or search for yourself how the following facts are actually true. But in a nutshell Galatians 3:11 can be paraphrased like this:

When God declares that a man, woman, boy or girl is legally ‘justified or righteous’ that person is immediately enabled to live moment by moment – ‘ek pistis’ (by faith).  Of course something possible to do doesn’t mean we won’t be needing instruction and lots of practice.

The first step in grasping the concept of this new ability is to understand what that preposition ek/by actually means: The list below is copied word for word from the Blue Letter Link here

By can mean:

  • Out of/from – a place of divine power
  • Proceeding from
  • From abiding with God
  • From the roots of
  • Utterly from
  • Alive after having been dead
  • In a supernatural sense
  • From the divine (new) nature
  • Fueled by the new nature and disposition derived from one’s (new) origin
  • As having one’s prototype in God and being wrought in the soul by His power
  • Out of the material of_________(what ever follows the Greek word ‘ek )
  • From the power on which any one depends, by which he is prompted and governed, whose character he reflects
  • From the supply out of which a thing is taken
  • Of the whole which anything is a part

If you were to draw a Venn Diagram, a circle that represents the entire life of a man declared righteous by God, that circle (his new life henceforth) would be placed inside the larger circle called Biblical Faith in God.

Venn Diagram

Our follow-up question should be: Where do we get that faith? Do we have to gin it up ourselves?

Thankfully, no! This faith is a gift from God, entirely. It’s alien to us before we are brought to new life spiritually. Biblical faith is given only to those God graciously chose before He created the heavens and the earth.

And once He has implanted that divine, supernatural faith in us, it is ours forever.

So, how now shall we live? Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey wrote a book with this title  Link here

But if we take the plain text of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatian church, we are to live from what I picture as the King’s Royal Cupboard of Faith.

As newly adopted sons and daughters of the King, we are given a set of keys to this cupboard that will never run out of spiritual grace for all our needs.


Are you scared? Go to the cupboard and help yourself to God’s strength that is meant specifically for us to use – Psalm 37:39

  • “But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble.”

Are you hard pressed to return kindness for your officemate’s meanness to you? Go to the cupboard and fetch divine might to respond with undeserved grace – Matthew 6:11-12

  • “Our Father….give us this day our daily bread (sustenance so that we can then)….as we forgive others”

Are you beset by worry? Go to the cupboard, by prayer, and fill up on God’s strength to hand over each specific circumstance that is weighing you down? – Psalm 112:7

  • They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.

Are you struggling feeling enslaved to an ingrained habit of overeating/ sarcastic putdowns/ complaining/ impulse purchases using Amazon’s one click shopping/ addiction to social media / speeding / procrastination…….: Go to the King’s cupboard of faith and draw on strength to exercise self-control – Galatians 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 is what it means, I think, for the declared righteous (the born-again Biblical Christians) to live by faith.

The alternative is to live the ‘old way’, guided by self-centered feelings/desires/habits/patterns.  And we all know the genius of THAT!

Charlie Brown

When falling flat on your face leads to life


But she’s a GOOD person!

Have you ever heard someone push back against suffering that has befallen a friend?  The sentiment seems to be that such trouble should not have befallen a person like HIM or HER!

But what defines good?  How good do you have to be?

That’s easy – the Bible is pretty clear about what God considers ‘good’.

The truth about us is NOT so good…..

Whether it’s the 10 commandments that Moses carried down Mount Sinai….

Moses and 10 C

  • Or Jesus’ long list of requirements He taught listeners on the hill
  • Or His ‘Cliff Note’ version of two, (Love God…Love neighbor) we can’t BE good enough.  We can’t DO the “Law”!




And that is exactly what we are supposed to learn!  Only when we come face to face with the humbling fact that we stink at being ‘good’ as defined by God (Be perfect!), can we find freedom.

In short – we have to hear the ‘bad news’ of our guaranteed failure at being law-abiding citizens before we are ready to welcome the ‘good news’.

F - failing grade






People often choose just what they want to pursue to define themselves as good.  Many people invest energy, resources and their enthusiasm in a pet project.  They might be motivated by a vision they catch from their interpretation of the prophet Micah’s message:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?   

Micah 6-8




But it’s relatively EASY to pick the category and measure ourselves by how well we stack up.  But God doesn’t let us pick just what WE want in order to please Him and then to brag.

If you take a few minutes and THINK about Micah’s 3 activities, you can gain some insight.  These are the described  AND prescribed acts, thoughts and feelings an individual follower of God is to show – always.  Let’s imagine a checkbox by each so we can see how well we perform, moment by moment:

_____We  are called to DO what is JUST in every encounter with people, not just the ones we choose.  The Hebrew word mishpat refers to the right or correct legal decision in  a dispute.  So if we individually DO justice, then we give people the benefit of the doubt if we are not sure, following the legal standard of ‘innocent’ until a preponderance of evidence shows otherwise.  Often I do what will maximize MY time and convenience, not is what is RIGHT or in someone else’s best interests at a cost to ME.

_____ God commands us to LOVE  chesed, that steadfast mercy, kindness and love associated with God. What we talk about often reveals what we love.  By THAT proof, I love ME, my husband, my kids, new tech stuff, and time to read.

_____Finally, we are enjoined to WALK…..HUMBLY…WITH God.  That means going at HIS pace, in HIS direction that He alone knows, being DEPENDENT on Him.  But isn’t it MY life? And isn’t the pursuit of happiness one of our country’s bedrock principles?  It’s un-American to be dependent…..




How have you done, so far, this day?  God requires a perfect score EVERY moment of EVERY day in EVERY domain of our lives.  It’s only when we grasp the enormity of what God requires to let us into His heaven, that we come face to face with the stinking reality of how impossible it is to meet His standard.  And in case one thinks he can earn a perfect score, Jesus throws a wrench into our calculations with this ‘silly’ image from Luke 18:26, Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25  and of how hard it is to get into Heaven:

Eye of the needle





The illustration is meant to convey the fact that we can’t measure up adequately to please God.  Only when we really GET this truth are we desperate enough to drink in the good news……… of someone else’s record extended to those disgusted enough, tired enough of their own efforts to meet the standard!

Good News

Next time we’ll talk about how the knowledge of Jesus’ life and death changes everything.

God’s been busy in my life


God at work




  • God – 1

  • Spiritual Forces of Discouragement – 0


There was a school contract for next year in my box on Thursday.

No other doors for jobs have opened up.

This is a no-brainer.  God directs us by shutting doors and opening doors.

Whoever boasted with confidence:  “You can do ANYTHING you set your mind to….” should get a grip on reality.  Nothing thwarts God’s plans.  And if He doesn’t want you doing XYZ, then you won’t do XYZ.

  •   I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure – Isaiah 46: 9-10


So THANK YOU ALL for your faithful prayers this school year as I have been battered multiple times by discouraging setbacks. I do believe my cousin Terry who has affirmed all along that God must have plans for me to shine light on Him at this school.


You can also pray as I prepare to give the commencement address at my old school in Yorktown, Va next week.  I was invited in February for this Saturday, 17 May at 3 pm.  During Spring Break and then over Easter, I leisurely finished up my talk.  I forwarded it to my husband who is a good editor and his comment was, “This feels more like law rather than grace!”


Law v. Grace




So now, closer to the wire, I started over to write THE TALK, version 2.0, this time HAVING to TRUST GOD and not my resources. Darn!  (Just kidding)

This is one of those times I suspect God has been enjoying a good chuckle at my expense – He has me right where He wants (relying on Him)!

Actually, I’m grateful to God for a grace-dependent husband who tells the truth in love.  I do think this talk will be better.  It’s blessed me already.



When you pray this coming week, ask God:

  • that the message He has will accomplish His plans and purposes
  • that the ‘tech’ works (slides and sound)
  • that my delivery not be a distraction to anyone
  • that we all may see God as able and willing to handle the big and the little events of our lives
  • for our safety on the road (8 hours there and 8 hours back)
  • for good care for our cats while we are gone





What about grace?

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For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8, 9

Have you noticed that ‘grace’ is a hot topic these days?  Everyone is talking about it.  I’m so glad.  Grace is life-giving in a way that the non-grace is not.  How do we recognize non-grace?  Non-grace has 2 versions: either your Works, that is to say what you do yourself to earn favor, or the Law, an evaluation of what you are doing wrong.  What this means is this:  if it’s not about grace, then it’s about your being good or your being bad.  Grace bypasses that distinction in a way that seems almost too good to be true.

What’s wrong with Law?  Law IS helpful, because it shows us that we can’t measure up (but we already know that, right?).  Law shows us HOW to love.  But Law lies.  It leads us to think that we can ‘do love’ correctly…… if we are just instructed well enough in the law.  Law SEEMS legitimate, but Law lets us down.  Under Law, we labor because we know we are losers.  The dirty little secret is that we can never succeed.  Law is endless performance and never measuring up.  It is life-sucking.

Grace, on the other hand, is God’s way.  It produces gratitude.  It gives us the POWER to love.  We are free.  We are safe to acknowledge that we can’t ‘do love’ on our own.  Fortunately we are not expected to.  Grace is a gift from God.  It is life-affirming.  It is gratuitous, extravagant.  It almost makes us feel guilty, because it seems too good to be true.  It is nothing short of freedom, pure oxygen for us humans.

I’m going to recommend a book. (My school year ended two weeks ago and I am enjoying a richer and fuller reading schedule.  Each morning I ‘allow’ myself the pleasure of reading until 10 a.m. or so).  Steve Lawson has written the first 2 of a five-volume opus about grace.  I’ve been reading volume one – his Foundations of Grace.   Every page is life-giving. By spotlighting the doctrines of grace, starting with the Pentateuch, he feeds the thirsty soul.  The act of calling pagan Abram out of Ur is one such example.  There was nothing to commend Abram to God.  His election is totally God’s doing.   Moses is another example to be found early in scripture.  God chose and favored him, causing Pharaoh’s daughter to rescue him.  Even Adam & Eve irresistibly answered God’s call and were saved.  As Lawson illumines the many Old and New Testament examples of radical depravity, sovereign calling, specific and limited atonement (i.e. Jesus’ death on the cross) for the elect, irresistible grace and the security of those called, my love for God is growing.  I can’t get enough of grace!!!

I mentioned that Grace seems to be the doctrine du jour (not to slight it – it is certainly THE biblical underpinning of Christianity).  Tullian Tchividjian (Billy Graham’s grandson) preaches nothing but grace.  And he is well-qualified.  He was a modern day prodigal before being regenerated by God at the age of 18.  Then he erred on the legalism slide before burning out. Now he preaches grace.  As a dad of 2 teenage boys and a precocious pre-teen girl, he has lots of lab time to practice grace at home and report back to his congregation whether ‘this grace thing’ really works.

Yes, grace is counter-intuitive.  We are all much more comfortable with works and law and having to earn our gold star.  That is predictable….and SAFE!!!  But as CS Lewis brings out in The Last Battle, Jesus is not necessarily “safe”, but he is good.

As a final point, I would like to mention Dan Franklin of ‘GroupThinkRescue’.  Dan, a pastor who is married to Karina, Randy Alcorn’s daughter, podcasted a helpful illustration of how to look for grace in the Bible.  He worked through the David & Goliath story, first acknowledging the traditional interpretation and then sharing the grace grid.  Who hasn’t heard a sermon emphasizing the fact that we all have giants in our lives and that with God’s help we can face and conquer them?  Grace tells a different story.  Grace shows up when the Hebrews, stewing in paralysis, have no hope of any rescue.  They are helpless in the face of the overwhelming specter of Goliath.  David (the type) prefigures Jesus (the anti-type) when he saves the Hebrews.  So the story of David and Goliath is not about what WE should do.  Instead it’s a story about what God has DONE.  And that is the whole gospel message of grace.

Revel in this good news.  We don’t have to DO anything.  God already DID it.  Jesus announces on the cross that IT IS FINISHED.   May God help us daily, hourly to soak up that message of hope.

PS:  Buy the Steve Lawson books!

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