Ephesians 2:3-5 NIV All of us also lived among them [our transgressions and sins] at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
I’m fascinated with the uniqueness of the Greek language to distinguish subtleties of words and meanings. In this scripture there is one word [hamartia] translated “sin” and another [paraptoma] the NIV translates as “transgressions.” What makes it interesting is not the way we might differentiate between those two words but how the Greeks did. These are my edited notes from William Barlclay’s study of Ephesians.
•Hamartia (Greek #266) is a shooting word that means to miss the target completely.
•Paraptoma (Greek #3900)…means taking the wrong road when we knew enough to take the right one.
Sin is a loaded word even for those of us who believe we are sinners saved by grace. The Greek definitions don’t impact the reality of the scripture but they do influence my courage to recognize and confess the truth of it.
What if I read this Scripture as:
I have also lived with missing the target completely and choosing the wrong road at one time, gratifying the cravings of flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like so many, I was by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for me, God, who is rich in mercy, made me alive with Christ when he saw the road I’d chosen was going nowhere—it is by grace I have been saved.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
This is one of the loveliest of all Scriptures. The Lord clearly states his plans are “to give you hope and a future.” Those plans are in place to preserve and restore his relationship with his creation.
Our bottom line is only a mustard seed away from believing what God has declared to be true. Remember the story about the mustard seed? The smallest of all “seeds” of faith in him is all it takes. “Call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” That’s the plan!
Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
We try many things in our attempt to “delight in the Lord” only to discover we still can’t find that bottom line because we’ve made it more about what we do than the desires of our heart. Our problem is we think we’re strong enough to figure out what the desires of our heart are instead of admitting we haven’t a clue. We take God at his word that our hearts are his domain without remembering he sees the reality of those desires. It’s a scary fact we have to face that God may allow us the desires he sees there.
C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory said this: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward … promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us…”
The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives us a simple bottom line. Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
This is about the Simplicity of Grace. Grace is not an exemption for our flaws. Grace is God’s bottom line. It’s purpose is to change us through combining the desires of our heart and our actions with what he knows to be true about us. Grace is the place your heart finally learns the “desire” to “take delight in the Lord.” Grace is the Simplicity of what it means to “glorify God” and sincerely “enjoy him forever.”
Justice: to support fair treatment and due reward.
This simple word pair, Justice and jurors was selected at the end of January to be my topic for this post. It’s coincided with the heartbreaking reality of the latest mass shooting of innocent young people and teachers this week in Parkland, Florida. I know I can trust God’s ultimate Justice [with a capital J] but I’m struggling to understand man’s priority of justice right now that allows assault weapons even to exist. To own an assault weapon is NOT a right. The right to own any gun is NOT more important than a life…EVER! There are no circumstances when those statements are not true, even with the assurance of personal rights to own a gun.
Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Each of us now find ourself in the position of having been designated one of the jurors: one of a group of persons sworn to deliver a verdict in a case submitted to them. Is owning a gun specifically designed to automate the killing of people more important than life?
What this widow was showing us is persistence and prayer are what we’ve been given to arm ourselves against judges that seem to fear the loss of guns more than the loss of life. “For some time he [the judge] refused. But finally he said to himself, Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”… And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says…”
Contact your Congressmen [click this link to find yours], share this post, speak to your friends and family whether or not they are gun owners. All the necessary evidence is already in. We know everything we need to know. Innocent people are dead! It’s time for a verdict of NO ASSAULT WEAPONS. Let’s persist with what we’ve been given to fight back with: prayer, the phone and the post office.
Posted in Luke, Practice, Sunday
Tagged And the Lord Said..., Fight Back, Innocent Lives, It’s Time, Jurors, Listen, Persist, Pray, Share, Sworn to Deliver a Verdict
I don’t know what I had in mind at the end of January when I wrote my list of word combinations to explore. I’ve spent hours thinking and reading many resources only to find myself back at the very beginning of time in Genesis when disobeying Authority first resulted in injury. That seems appropriate to remember on this first day of Lent.
Authority: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
Genesis 2:16-17 But the Lord God gave the man this warning: “You may eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the Tree of Conscience—for its fruit will open your eyes to make you aware of right and wrong, good and bad. If you eat its fruit, you will be doomed to die.” TLB
injury: hurt, damage, or loss sustained
Genesis 3:16 Then God said to the woman, “You shall bear children in intense pain and suffering; yet even so, you shall welcome your husband’s affections, and he shall be your master.”
17 And to Adam, God said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate the fruit when I told you not to, I have placed a curse upon the soil. All your life you will struggle to extract a living from it. 18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, and you shall eat its grasses. 19 All your life you will sweat to master it, until your dying day. Then you will return to the ground from which you came. For you were made from the ground, and to the ground you will return.” TLB
God’s Response: Genesis 3:21 and the Lord God clothed Adam and his wife with garments made from skins of animals. TLB
The ultimate Authority faced with the disobedience of his creation and the required consequences, chose to respond by providing garments to temporarily protect their lives because they would be separated from him. His response was their heritage and ours…UNTIL… Galatians 3:25-27.
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor [the Law]. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
Genesis 1 Cliff Notes – God spoke and…
1. Light was purposely separated from dark.
2. Sky was purposely separated from water
3. Water was purposely separated from land
4. Vegetation and fruit grew with the purpose of producing seed.
5. Stars and Planets purposely lit the skies
6. Life purposely appeared in water and on earth
7. We purposely became his reflection
That’s power! My cliff notes make it clear God did not waste HIS words. When he spoke it was both purposeful and creative! We are God’s reflection and we are the singular part of his creation that has been given the given the ability to speak. Our words are a gift from him. Words have power…and purpose. Author Gary Chapman wrote this; “There are two ways to speak the truth: as bullets or as seeds. Use the truth as a bullet, and you will kill relationships. Plant the truth as a seed, and it will take root and grow, influencing the person in whose heart it was planted.” [p164 of Love as a Way of Life].
“…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34b.
It’s very easy to shoot your mouth off and believe it just accidentally slipped out isn’t it? I’m absolutely certain I’m not the only one who’s had to repent of that. Here’s what I’ve come to believe; that’s not an accident at all, It’s God not wasting OUR words or our heart! His Word still has the Power of his purpose to change an empty heart into an abundant one filled with the missing pieces needed to be his reflection. That’s something to talk about!
Jeremiah 18:1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. 5b…“Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand…
I took a pottery class once. It’s not as easy as it may look to take an unwieldy lump of clay and make something out of it. This Scripture is a perfect analogy of life experienced with God as he reshapes us. If he can’t open your eyes through his Word he’ll get the message to you some other way. God sometimes uses funny ways I call his humor to point out the difference between what appears to be and what actually is in the life of those he loves. We can react to them in shame [which is not God’s choice] OR choose to see them as humorous interventions of a potter at work.
I have some carpentry and remodeling skills and had offered to help a friend with a few projects. I arrived early, made a pot of coffee and work was underway when I received a phone call from another friend standing on my own doorstep, reminding me Bible Study was meeting at my house that morning…and where was I? I think that’s kind of a funny situation to find yourself in.
I put the pot of coffee on the floor of our new car to race home. You see where this is going, right? I turned the corner, over went the coffee pot and thru my brain went an unspoken word of profanity. I pulled off the road shaken more by that word than the coffee spill. Sitting there by the side of the road in the mess of my own making and stunned at my own unbidden response, God taught me one of the most important lessons of my life. You don’t get over your desperate need for him and he can use the “funniest” circumstances to remind you to be thankful he loves you enough to remind you of that.
Ah, humility…it comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes a heart is moved by circumstances to act in secret on behalf of God to meet a need. Even in that secret act God’s humor seems to aim at what appears to be and what actually is in my life. We’d been privileged to be a part of meeting such a need. It was a heartfelt act…right up to the point the recipient gave a testimony about what a blessing it had been AND named the responsible person. It’s a heart-cleansing lesson in the humor of humility that reshapes you when the name given is someone else’s!
Humor is one of the tools the Potter uses to point out the difference between what appears to be and than reshapes it into what is in our life. It’s one way he gently accomplishes humility in us because “the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” 🙏😇
Psalms 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. [NIV]
This Psalm may not be as familiar today as it was in past generations but it’s clearly a lovely word-picture that describes Sanctuary: a place of comfort, refuge and safety. Sanctuary is no longer an external place to search for. Our life in Christ has become that place of Sanctuary within us. That sacred internal place of comfort, refuge and safety the Psalmist describes in his prayer can become our reality too, with practice.
That’s a fact but there’s another reality. We need the practice of Sanctuary to cure us of sanctimony so when we pray “I lack nothing” it doesn’t sound like I have it and you don’t. Sanctimony is defined as pretended, affected, or hypocritical religious devotion. I found this quote on vocabulary.com “Sanctimonious is a twist on the words sanctity and sacred, which mean holy or religious. A sanctimonious person might think he’s holy, but their attitude comes across more like “holier-than-thou.” I suspect all of you have been there with me at some point. Remember that line from the Lord’s Prayer? “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” I think we could substitute sanctimony for trespasses there. Here’s where the danger of sanctimony is written.
Matthew 7:1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.[NIV]
God has saved us to that beautiful place of refreshment where the reality is when we pray “I lack nothing” it’s because everything sacred is available to us. It’s a place of safety and refuge where Sanctuary guides us “along the right paths for his name’s sake” and even can save us from the judgment our sanctimonious selves deserve.
Posted in Matthew, Practice, Psalms, Sunday
Tagged Comfort, Internal Place, Life in Christ, Refuge, Sacred, Safety, Sanctuary, Within You