This idea came up Sunday morning in our adult class: the challenge for Christians is to find the perfect balance between grace and judgment in our lives and in our behavior toward others.
When it comes to the choice between grace and judgment, we’re broken. We swing to the grace side grateful for the recognition of God at work in ourselves and others and then the next moment we’re slammed into that “other” less desirable side – judging ourselves sometimes, but mostly others, harshly. We long to find that balance. We long to be like Jesus, triumphant in both his grace and his judgment but instead we get caught in that pendulum of frustration at our own brokenness. That led me to ponder what it takes to be like Jesus and what “triumphant” really looks like. I don’t have a Scripture text today but…
This is what triumphant looks like
Jesus was triumphant over death on a cross! He is the only way we’ll ever begin to understand the perfect balance between grace and judgement. Our responses will look different seeing them through THAT triumphant Jesus; the one who became a gift hidden in brokenness for us.
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God
Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
This journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is so romanticized [make something seem better or more appealing than it really is]. In my mind it’s a serenely beautiful story of a faithful man and a very pregnant woman traveling at an inconvenient time. I see the image in my mind of them traveling alone on that road to Bethlehem carried along by the promises given by angels that the coming “holy Child shall be called the Son of God” That image is further supported by many movies and books…but…
Then I started pondering the bottom line of what makes their story real…and beautiful too. Did they realize the birth was that close? What was the trail like? How far could they go in a day? Where did they sleep? How did they cook? What did they eat? How did they manage the required ritual cleansing? What about sanitation? Weren’t there many other people and animals on the same trail?
I don’t know any of those answers but here’s what I do know…Mary and Joseph were real people, in real circumstances with real choices. Each chose to believe their own promise received from an angel despite the impossible circumstances. They chose to obey the law of their heritage and go to the city of David to do what was required of them despite the timing. They chose to be obedient even when they others would say they had no choice in the matter. .
Their lives were filled with legitimate opportunities and reasons to say “no” to circumstances beyond their control but instead they chose to say “yes” to God. God bless choosing “yes.”
Posted in Christmas Eve, Luke, Sunday, The Big Event
Tagged Beautiful, But..., Choices, Circumstance, Journey, Obedient, Real, Yes
Psalms 91:2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
I chose the theme of repentance as my focus for Lent. It’s a good topic, right? What I didn’t comprehend was just how serious God was about “his” choice to make “my” choice very personal this year. I could rightly describe some of my many years as a believer as “forgettably faithful” but not this one.
It’s so much easier to talk about repentance than to be confronted with the need for it. It’s exhausting and frankly painful. The “fowler’s snare” is the choice to accept this lie…’You blew it. You had the chance to get it right and you failed yourself and the Lord.’ That’s guilt…and that’s not how God chooses to change us.
OR…you can make this different choice; to be thankful that though your faith has taken a big blow in the light of reality, God has loved you enough to remind you of your need for him. “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; [HIS] faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” That’s where repentance happens.
Psalm 119:89-96 ל Lamedh – ox, goad, correction, learning
89 Your word, Lord, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.
91 Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.
94 Save me, for I am yours;
I have sought out your precepts.
95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
but I will ponder your statutes.
96 To all perfection I see a limit,
but your commands are boundless.
There are two important choices in the life of this special man, the Psalmist. The first one is his deliberate choice to believe the faithfulness of God endures no matter what his circumstances are.
Lamedh is his second deliberate choice; perspective. He chooses to accept the reality that correction and learning happen in the circumstances of his life. That’s how he knows firsthand…perfection doesn’t come easy.
It’s all about living life with the perspective of that second choice while depending on the lasting reality of the first one. It doesn’t just happen, it has to be deliberate.
We’re on the last leg of our road trip and three long days of driving have left me unprepared for today’s post so I decided to go back to the very beginning of my digital journaling, October 10, 2012. This beginning was a challenge from the pastor to spend 40 days with God to see what he might do for each of us personally and for the church. It’s proved to be a lasting blessing.
5:32 am. Day 1 for the body & the BODY!
How odd it feels to get up and not flick on the tv to watch my recorded home improvement shows while I knit. This is a clue that I’ve chosen rightly I guess; 30 minutes to explore what God has in mind. High time.
“How great you are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.” 2 Samuel 7:22 Biblegateway VOD
My search begins: in Christ.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I love gifts, giving and getting. My heart is so full right now of creative giving as Christmas approaches. Dredging up the old illustrations of the Christmas Story for the card for the children at church; the wooden trees for the pastor’s girls and the Prayer Shawl ministry. You know how much these things mean to me. They’re really gifts from you that happen to pass through my hands. Thanks for that.
When I do those Spiritual gift tests I feel like I come up so short. I’m not a helper, I’m not an evangelist, I’m not a teacher but I have this one thing that you can use… creativity. It’s really my only voice and its taken so long for me to find a way to use it for you. The new thing is not the creativity itself but the people connection that has come with it [the prayer shawl ministry]. Having a way to take the words out of my heart and put them in someone else’s life is so perfect. It’s the exercise my Spiritual body has needed.
Psalm 46:10 NIV
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
We just started out on a nearly 4500 mile road trip and five stops to visit relatives and celebrate a grandson’s high school graduation. It’s busy and there’s a lot of driving and my normal routine has given way to new time tables, new renewals of valued relationships and new adventures, even on Sunday.
This verse is a perfect reminder that routines and daily sameness aren’t the necessary components to this definition of Being Still; it’s in our “knowing” that God is to be exalted. Stillness may only be one moment from a disrupted day that counts as exalting. This has been my moment.
Off for an exciting morning at the Estes Park Wool Market.
Hebrews 3:12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
There’s a warning here about letting your heart be turned away from the living God. It becomes a matter of faith when we recognize our imperfection and our first thought is to cover it up. That’s how “a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” can happen.
Imperfect People aren’t a problem for God. He’s got a good handle on how to deal with them. What does deeply concern him is the ease with which we can make that wrong choice when confronted with our imperfection when the whole purpose of faith is to keep us connected and close to him.
That is a dismal reality that sometimes happens but there’s also hope “Today,” “so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” I saved this quote from Richard Dahlstrom’s writing. http://stepbystepjourney.com/?p=1605 “All of us know our inadequacies pretty well – what we need is to be told how much we’re loved, where we’re gifted, where we can shine.”
“We have come to share in Christ” because that is how God has chosen to deal with our imperfection. We can choose to accept his anger and be left out or we can enter into our connection to him and be changed by choosing repentance. Repentance is often humiliating and painful, as pieces of that hardened heart are broken off for all to see.
What if humility and hurt are really the two halves of Grace? What if God chooses to show us “how much we’re loved, where we’re gifted, where we can shine” through the humility and pain of repentance? I know for sure that’s the kind of Grace that moves my heart from the pages of a great book to a life of faith connected to the “living” God.