Not Because, But Because

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My Musings – Lest we think that being more righteous than most, or that our “righteous” acts will outweigh the rest, and will be sufficient to gain us entry to Heaven, this verse assures us that these will not save us. It is not because of our righteousness, it is in spite of our unrighteousness.  If not for God’s mercy, there would be no salvation for anyone.  Furthermore, mercy is not an obligation (as if we earned it), it is wholly unmerited, and undeserving.

My Advice – Seek His mercy, because you cannot achieve salvation any other way.

The Same In His Eyes

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My Musings – Last Friday, I was provided the opportunity of having a photo op with, and getting to shake the hands of, the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush (he’s the one on the left).  It was quite an honor for a small town “boy” (the one on the right), who in the grand scheme of things is fairly insignificant, to stand next to the man who at one time was arguably the most powerful man in the world.  I got to hear him interviewed for about an hour, and I have to say (whether you agreed with his politics or not), that he is a most gracious and humble man.  Very funny too (on purpose).

All that said, his days of power are over.  He is still to be honored as an ex-President, but he is no longer the mover of the wheels of history that he once was.  Of course we all know that there are the “hands” of One behind scenes that is the “unmoved mover.” He causes kings (presidents) and kingdoms (republics) to rise and fall.  Who at times removes His hands and permits things to occur in this fallen world that we do not always understand.  At other times, He stretches forth His hands to prevent things that go beyond His permissive will.  And at still other times He moves to cause things to happen that are simply amazing  (like His amazing grace).

In the end, when facing the Almighty, Presidents (current and ex) and kings, have no special privileges that small town “boys” do not have.  The significant persons of history are no more (or less) important than the insignificant.  For in the “grand scheme of things” we are all quite insignificant in comparison to Him.  Yet, He considered us significant enough to allow His Son to die on the cross to bear the penalty for all of our sins, significant and insignificant.

I’ve said it before in my blogs that there is no sin so small that Jesus did not have to die for it, and no sin too great that He could not die for it.  A corollary of this is: there is no person so insignificant that He would not dare to die for, and no person so significant that He did not need to die for.

Still, as insignificant as both George and I are, I was still glad I got to meet Him.  I will remember it for a long time, although I am pretty sure George has already forgotten.

My Advice – Some day, with my own eyes, I will behold the King of kings and Lord of lords.  My meeting this past week, which seems so huge now, will seem so trivial then.  Wouldn’t you like to behold Him too?  You will.  In fact every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, that Jesus is Lord.  Some in adoration and relief.  Others in fear and grief.  Which will it be for you?  It doesn’t have to be in fear and grief.

Cause and Effect

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My Musings – Verses eight and nine are very well known.  Memorized by many.  It is these two verses that many say are at odds with James’ admonition that faith without works are dead.  Funny how we sometimes see and hear what we want to and gloss over the rest.  Verse ten makes Paul’s thoughts complete.  You see, Paul and James are not at odds.  James goes on to say that his faith is demonstrated by deeds.  Paul is essentially saying the same thing.  We are saved by faith (not by works), but a faith that does not cause us to do “good deeds” is a questionable faith in deed.  Said another way:  Salvation is not the result of good works, but our salvation should result in good works.  Faith is the cause, good deeds are the effect.

My Advice – Be a good workmanship, just make sure it stems from your salvation and is not an attempt to obtain salvation.

A Powerful Weakness

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My Musings – When we are covered by 1) God’s grace, through 2) His Son, we are plugged in to an awesome power base, 3) the Holy Spirit.  But sometimes, (many times) we get in the way of that power by relying on our own strengths, which in reality are weaknesses.  Once we acknowledge that, God’s power is perfected in our weaknesses.

Now for the understatement: “My grace is sufficient” (enough to meet the needs of a situation, adequate).  Enough and adequate, hardly seem impressive.  But the point is, no matter how small or how big the “situation,” God’s power will always be enough.  God’s power is all we will ever need.

My Advice – Admit your own insufficiencies (weaknesses), let go and let God.

Unambiguous Love

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My Musing – In English, the word love can be a bit ambiguous.  I love chocolate. I love my mate.  I love my child.  Same word, different types/degrees of love.  In this text, Paul chose one of the four Greek words that are all translated love in English.  He used the word agape, which is a selfless, self-giving and unmerited love that God shows to humankind in sending his son as a suffering redeemer. (Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 14). San Francisco: Harper & Row.).

Selfless – “God demonstrates His own love for us.” Demonstrate means to show or express (a feeling or quality) by one’s actions.  He was under no obligation to do so other than His character and being demanded it.

Self-giving – “Christ died for us.”  It doesn’t get more self-giving than that.  It doesn’t get more demonstrative than that.

Unmerited – “While we were still sinners.”  Rebellious offenders (sinners) of what God demands (sinlessness) merit nothing but judgment.  Yet God offers forgiveness.  It was not if you do this (clean up your act) for me, then I will do this (offer forgiveness and salvation) for you.  That would not be a demonstration of love, it would be a demonstration of justice.  Through the sacrificial death of His Son, God found a way to simultaneously demonstrate both His “agape” love and His righteous justice in one act of grace.  “You see, at just the right time [while we were still sinners?], when we were still powerless [unable to do anything to change our sinfulness], Christ died for the ungodly [deserving eternal separation from God].” (Romans 5:6, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Show our appreciation by accepting this free gift.

 

Grace In The Endzone

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My Musings – Perhaps the most universally known Bible verse (at least by football fans) of all time.

He loved – before we loved Him.  No guarantee we ever would.  Him knowing that many never would.

He gave – at the greatest cost imaginable.  While we were still sinners.  No fine print.  No purchase required.

Whoever – no one is disqualified.  Not just the elite.  No exclusions apply.  That means you and me.

Believes – that’s all there is to it. Pure grace.  Maybe it’s because the offer is so unbelievable that so many will not believe, will not accept.  Maybe it’s because we think that free is actually too costly – we don’t have to pay anything for it. But we must be willing to give some things up (our sinful lifestyle).  Yes, that is part of believing, but look what we get in the exchange.

Eternal life – That’s forever.  Heaven.  With God. Pure bliss.

My Advice – Believe.  “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” (Jim Elliot)

 

Why Do We Think The Unthinkable?

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My Musings – If God is a just god, . . . [fill in the blanks]?  There was a time when this sentence did not start with the word if.  It was readily accepted that God is just.  Times have changed, but God has not.  Actually, the sentence should begin with the word since.  Since God is a just God, . . . [fill in the blanks]?

Since God is a just God, He has (Jesus on the cross) and will (the Last Judgment) deal with sin and injustice that has occurred in the world.

For those who have accepted Christ’s atoning death, sin and injustice has already been dealt with, and He will (in the life to come) make up for all the suffering that they have had to endure.

For those who do not accept Christ’s atoning death, sin and injustice will be dealt with at the Last Judgment, and the suffering that they have endured in this life will pale in comparison.

Lest one should dare to say that God is unjust, it need not end that way.  Each and every one of us has the opportunity to avoid such a fate, only because God provided a remedy that is open to all.  He was not obligated to do so,  after all, we were the ones that chose to go our own way in the first place.  But He chose to.

But if one still wants to begin the sentence with if, the blanks should be filled in like this:  If God is a just God, why would He ever offer us grace?  Because justice and mercy intersected at the cross.

My Advice – Think about it.  Once we do think about it, it is indeed “unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.”  God did not do wrong, He became “wrong” in our place in the person of HIs Son Jesus Christ on the cross.  God did not pervert justice, He perfected justice.