Contribution or Sacrifice?

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Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. ”  (Romans  12:1, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Not all contributions (time, talent, treasure) are a sacrifice, although many who contribute might like to think so.  On the other hand, most who make sacrifices, usually are not thinking about what they are giving up, but rather to whom or for what they are sacrificing.

In view of God’s mercy – Mercy is not getting the punishment that is deserved.  Considering what punishment is being avoided, is it worth a contribution to the Kingdom or a sacrifice for the Kingdom?

Living sacrifices – God, through His Son, made one sacrifice for all of our sins, past present and future.  Why should we not want to live out our days sacrificially living for Him?

Spiritual Act of Worship – It’s not that we are trying to pay Him back.  We could never come close.  It is a way of saying thanks, that goes beyond mere gratitude.  It is reverence and adoration.  But more than a state of mind.  It is a call to action.

My Advice –  A couple verses prior to the one cited above (that’s what the therefore is there for), Paul writes “who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”  (Romans  11:35, NIV 1984).  We are not looking for rewards, although there will be some.  But God doesn’t want us to pay Him back either.  He wants us to pay it forward.  “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:40, NIV 1984).

Sensational Grace

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Then Abraham approached him [the LORD] and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”  (Genesis 18:23, NIV 1984).

Then he [Abraham] said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He [the LORD} answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”  (Ge 18:32, NIV 1984).

The two men [angels] said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”  (Genesis 19:12–13, NIV 1984).

With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.  (Genesis 19:15–16, NIV 1984).

“Look, here is a town [Zoar] near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me [Lot] flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.” He said to him, “Very well, I [the angel] will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.”  (Genesis 19:19–22, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is mostly remembered for the fierce judgment of God because “their sin [was] so grievous.”  I don’t intend to debate the nature of their wickedness, but rather the underlying message of God’s mercy and grace that is often overlooked.  Perhaps because that message is not quite as “sensational” and makes for a less interesting tale.  In reality, it is both quite sensational (causing great public excitement) and interesting (arousing curiosity or catching the attention).

It starts with Abraham “negotiating” with the LORD.  “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”  (Genesis 18:23, NIV 1984).  Beginning with “fifty righteous,” Abraham “wears” the LORD down to agree not to destroy the cities “for the sake of ten.”  The story is not about Abraham’s astute bargaining skills, but rather lavishness of God’s grace and mercy.  God always has His remnant, and the lengths He will go “for the sake of the [elect]” is staggering.

In the end, there were only four.  God did destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, a righteous judgment. Yet He did not “sweep away the [four] righteous with the wicked.”  An undeserving expression of His abundant grace.  For did they really measure up to His standard of righteousness?

His grace did not end there. When they hesitated, in the face of imminent destruction no less, “the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.” Even sparing another city (Zoar) marked for destruction (“I will not overthrow the town you speak of“).

God’s grace and mercy was extended despite the captivation of Lot to the wickedness that surrounded him.  For example:

• He got close to the wickedness (“pitched his tents near Sodom” — Genesis 13:12).

• He moved into the midst of wickedness (“Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city” — Genesis 19:1).

• He hesitated leaving the circle of wickedness (“When [Lot] hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city” — Genesis 19:16).

• He desired to stay near the wickedness (“here is a town [Zoar] near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it” — Genesis 19:19).

My Advice – Let’s not cheapen God’s grace and mercy by getting close to, moving in to, hanging on to or staying near to worldliness.  God is long-suffering, but His “Spirit will not contend with man forever.” (Genesis 6:3, NIV 1984).

 

If Only There Were Someone

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“He [God] is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.  If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.”  (Job 9:32–35, NIV 1984).

My Musings – These words of Job’s could not have been more prophetic.

  • If only there were someone to arbitrate between us – Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding [arbitrating] for us.” (Romans 8:33–34, NIV 1984).
  • Someone to remove God’s rod from meThen the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff [rod] and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. (Matthew 27:27–31, NIV 1984).
  • Then I would speak up without fear of Him – “For we do not have a high priest [arbitrator] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15–16, NIV 1984).

An arbitrator is someone to stands in between (intercedes) two parties to settle a dispute.  Who better to do so than Jesus, who knows the mind of the Father, while also being able to sympathize with us? “To lay his hand upon us both“?  In the end, the only way to settle the dispute was to take the penalty upon Himself, allowing us to receive mercy and find grace.

My Advice – Jesus is the only legitimate arbitrator between sinful man and a righteous God.  Accept the settlement.

 

Look to the Son

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You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39–40, NIV 1984).

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (John 6:40, NIV 1984).

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37, NIV 1984).

My Musings – How is it that people can diligently study the Scriptures and not see that they testify about Jesus?  Of course, when this was written they only had to the Old Testament to study.  But they had the Old Testament prophecies playing out before their very eyes (in “living color”).  Now, we have the New Testament that they did not have.  Yet today, far too many believe that the Scriptures testify about the law, or about grace plus the law.  They refuse to believe, or find it too hard to believe, that “everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  They refuse to believe there is a period at the end of the sentence. As a result, they “refuse to come to [Him] to have life.

My Advice – Whoever “comes to [Jesus He] will never drive away.”  If you believe about Jesus (who He was, what He said and what He did), then why not believe in Jesus? He “will never drive away.”

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Not A One

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Read this several years ago, and never forgot it.

Little Chad was a shy, quiet young man. One day he came home and told his mother that he’d like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. She thought, “I wish he wouldn’t do that!” because she had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other. But Chad was never included. Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons. For three weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 valentines.

Valentine’s Day dawned, and Chad was beside himself with excitement. He carefully stacked them up, put them in a bag, and bolted out the door. His mother decided to bake him his favorite cookies and serve them nice and warm with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew he would be disappointed and maybe that would ease the pain a little. It hurt her to think that he wouldn’t get many valentines – maybe none at all.

That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table. When she heard the children outside, she looked out the window. Sure enough, there they came, laughing and having the best time. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear. He walked a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty, she noticed, and when the door opened she choked back the tears.

“Mommy has some cookies and milk for you,” she said.  But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face aglow, and all he could say was: “Not a one. Not a one.”  Her heart sank.  And then he added, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one!”  (by: Dale Galloway, Source Unknown).

We have a Savior like that. Despised and rejected by men, but he forgot not one.

It Depends

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It [salvation] does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Roman 9:16, NIV 1986).

My Musings – A widely held belief is that salvation does depend upon our desires and efforts.  If we live what is on balance a “good” life, things will work out in the end.  But none of the following were saved that way.

  • Adam & Eve – God’s original creation made in His image, but they could not be saved by their own desire or effort. It took God’s mercy. Genesis 1:26.
  • Noah – The last righteous man, but he could not be saved by his own desire or effort. It took God’s Mercy. Genesis 6:9.
  • Job – A man that God boasted about, but he could not be saved by his own desire or effort. It took God’s mercy. Job 1:8.
  • Abraham – A man of great faith, but he could not be saved by his own desire or effort. It took God’s mercy. Galatians 3:9.
  • Moses – He spoke to God face-to-face, but he could not be saved by his own desire or effort. It took God’s mercy. Deuteronomy 34:10.
  • David – God called him “a man after My own heart,” but he could not be saved by his own desire or effort. It took God’s mercy. Acts 13:22.
  • Mary – The mother of Jesus, highly favored by God, but she could not be saved by her own desire or effort. It took God’s mercy. Luke 1:28.
  • John The Baptist – None greater born of woman, but he could not be saved by his own desire or effort. It took God’s mercy. Matthew 11:11.
  • Peter – The man on whom Jesus built His Church and who was given the keys of heaven, but he could not be saved by his own desire or effort. It took God’s mercy. Matthew 16:18, 19.
  • Paul – He fought the good fight and he kept the faith, but he could not be saved by his own desire or effort. It took God’s mercy. 2 Timothy 4:7.

My Advice – Even at our best, are we any better than these? No, we cannot be saved by our own desire or effort. It takes God’s mercy. Psalm 14:3.   Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. God’s mercy comes only through Him. John 14:6.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk

Lavished On Us

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In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7–8, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “The riches of God.”  Riches. Plentiful amount. Abundantly supplied.  How plentiful and abundant do you suppose it could be coming from the Creator of all there is? How about His only begotten Son? “God’s grace.” Grace. The free and unmerited favor of God. “The riches of God’s grace” are free to all who would receive them, even though it is not merited.  Could never possibly be merited. “He lavished on us.”  Lavished. Bestowed in generous or extravagant quantities. Exceeding what is reasonable or appropriate.  It is neither reasonable or appropriate that we should receive God’s favor, apart from His mercy and grace.  “With all wisdom and understanding.”  God understood what the cost of His grace would be.  It doesn’t seem all that wise to give so great a cost to those so unworthy.  But He was wise enough to understand it was the only possible way to lovingly satisfy His own Holy and Righteous character.

My Advice – Be thankful that you either have it or that it is within your grasp.