Efforts and Grace

I was reminded of several interrelated things today. First, I was sad that an irresistible swarm of cabbage leave worms attacked and consumed every leaf of  Kale and Turnip greens in my garden. I have bees, so I could not fight them with insecticide and organic methods were useless against such a horde. Then I considered a volunteer watermelon plant that came up all on its own and produced three giant watermelons in just a couple weeks. At this time my granddaughters were catching grasshoppers in the yard and containing them in overturned cups on the drive. When I told them their mother was on her way to pick them up, they ran out to the driveway to move their precious menagerie of grasshoppers. Finally, out of the blue I remembered a tax case I worked on about twenty years ago. It involved a gain that resulted from a massive liquidation, distribution and reorganization of a multinational consolidated group. The gain was overlooked due to complex basis computations and rarely applicable sections of tax law. The representative attorney maintained that he did not understand the issue, though it was fully explained in a report with a description of the issue, facts, law, argument and conclusion. Of course, it is not necessary to agree with a tax position, as the facts, law or argument can each be disputed. What made this event memorable was that he prevailed with no other position than “he did not understand the issue.”

Then, I realized all these observances and recollections had a theme – we attribute concern for the fruit of our labors – but that which we receive by grace is often ignored or welcomed with less gratitude. Perhaps its why we spend so much effort trying to be happy or content in this world, even though we recognize that this world is not our home and our true longing and destination is with the Lord in Heaven. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-6)

Lord, show us where and how best to expend our efforts and to be led by your Spirit. We thank you that all things work for our good as we love you and are called according to your purpose. Forgive us for not recognizing all the grace you give us each day. Help us to put more faith and hope in your grace than our efforts.

Human Wisdom

If I could offer you nothing but human wisdom I would be deceiving you that I was something other than a weak flawed human just like you.  However, if I knew the perfect God-Man who was the door to life evermore and the only healer, restorer and savior; I could tell you all He has done for me and I could go to Him with you.  Together we could go to him with our sorrows, hurts and needs.  I could assure you that He would accept us and respond to our requests for help.

I stand here with you.  I will not pretend that I am better or wiser than you because I have received grace and mercy that is yours as freely as it was to me.  I will not ask you to first clean yourself up, for if you could it would mean nothing to the Mercy King.  I will not set any burden or barrier before you, but I will help you bear those you have with his strength along the path to Him.  I must be careful, for that which crushed you can crush me as well.  Still, I am filled with hope and joy as the Peace King knows how to remove burdens, shame guilt and clean the filthy soul.  If you see any good in me, you see the touch and gift of the Redeemer King.  He is still at work in me and there remains much for Him to do, but I’m not the person I was once.

A hard lesson for me was to accept everything He offers, following wherever He leads.  First, He offered me righteousness without cost, granting me complete forgiveness.  Such unmerited favor was foreign to my understanding; the world had taught me that I must pay my own way and nothing was free.  I had a great burden of debt, yet was still hungry, thirsty, in great need, and had no resources.  It seemed that others were doing just fine, they were happy and whole, but I was miserable and broken.  That’s part of the deception the world promotes, such as, the rich and beautiful people have all they want or need, but you are poor, ugly and worthless.  It’s a lie from the enemy.

It’s easy to believe a lie in our brokenness; it’s why there are so many false religions and false leaders.  We are prone to exalt men and women to a place they should never be.  When this happened to the followers of Yeshua, they refused, tearing their clothes and humbling themselves to declare the truth – God alone is good.  Still there are those, some true believers, who accept the praises of men and promote and build their own palaces of influence.  I will not judge any person who acknowledges Yeshua as Lord, since a servant of another will stand or fall by the one they serve.

Mankind was created to be in relationship with Father God directly just as we enter the Kingdom and each have the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Believers serve a personal God through Yeshua Messiah.  We are to love God and our fellow man.  If the enemy can disrupt, distance, degrade or otherwise destroy that relationship, it will serve his purposes.  When Yeshua prophesied about His death, Peter responded in human wisdom.

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  ” ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’ ” (Matthew 16: 22-23).

Most outright frauds who infiltrate the church will be exposed for who they truly are.  “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth.  They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.  But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.” (2 Tim. 3: 8-9).  As with all things, it is God who rules and works to accomplish His good and perfect will.  Let us not fail to look to Him for true wisdom, for He will not withhold it

Pursue Holiness

15195-ephesians-2-10“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14.  “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” I Corinthians 6:9.  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.

Salvation and good works go hand in hand. Once we are saved by grace through belief in Christ’s death on the cross for our sins, we will Continue reading

You Are Doing This Wrong

tailgatingMost of us are well acquainted with our deficiencies. Simply telling someone they should be patient, or kind or whatever is not apt to do anything but increase guilt and frustration.  Recently, I was driving my truck with a load that was hanging beyond the tailgate by about three feet.  The load was really well secured by straps and ropes, as well as having a flag to alert other drivers.  As I turned at a light I noticed a car behind me very close.  I slowed down so it could pass me, but I was merging… Continue reading

Brokenhearted Sinner

burdenDietrich Bonhoeffer is known for his opposition to Hitler ending in his martyrdom and also for great works he published including “Costs of Discipleship”.   However, before these events, right after he obtained his doctorate and became eligible for the ministry, he accepted a position in Barcelona Spain for one year.  There he had opportunity to work with persons who were poor and downtrodden.  These included persons whose businesses had failed, vagabonds, victims of poverty and crime, and even bona fide criminals, many who were truly desperate individuals.  This contrasted with his privileged upbringing back in Germany.

Through such experiences, Bonhoeffer awoke to the plight of the poor and outcast, which soon became an important theme in his life and theology.  He wrote in a letter to a friend:

“Every day I am getting to know people, at any rate their circumstances, and sometimes one is able to see through their stories into themselves – and at the same time one thing continues to impress me:  here I meet people as they are, far from the masquerade of “the Christian world”; people with passions, criminal types, small people with small aims, small wages and small sins – all in all they are people  who feel homeless in both senses, and who begin to thaw when one speaks to them with kindness – real people; I can only say that I have gained the impression that it is just these people who are much more under grace than under wrath, and that it is the Christian world which is more under wrath than grace.”

Although we all responsible for our sins and the problems it brings into our lives, Psalm 34:18 says that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  I believe people like the ones Bonhoeffer encountered that are broken by their sin are much closer to being reached by the Gospel (closer to grace) than many in the Church who are self-satisfied with themselves and may not even understand their need of a Savior.