Living, Sinning, Following: All By Grace

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Even When the Stones of Life Seem so Large

God’s Light in All It’s Beauty and Truth

Accompanies Us

Through Every Dark Wilderness

And Every Tempting Minute of Living

In the ‘Promised Land’

Exodus 32:31-32

Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.’

Hebrews 3:12-13

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Words of Grace For Today

Moses was more than disappointed in the people. He’d been up the mountain, talking with God, receiving the ten commandments. They had waited, grown impatient and decided to take things into their own hands. Progress. They gather all their gold, give it to Aaron and insist he make them an idol of a god that they can worship, just like the ‘good old days.’

This is quite a step away from God, the God who brought them out of harsh racist slavery (the thanks they receive for their forebearer Joseph’s saving the Egyptians all from drought and widespread death) into the hardships of freedom – in the wilderness – as they learn to live faithful and trusting God so that they are prepared to enter the Promised Land.

This step proves that this generation is not ready to enter the Promised Land and will not. Still God forgives them and goes with them, in the ark of the covenant, as they wander the wilderness, raising another generation who will be prepared to follow God into the Promised Land. Well that generation is as much an unprepared, unfaithful generation as the last, as are all the successive.

Fast forward to after Jesus’ birth, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection and the leaders of the early church and honest ones in every generation up to today (and all people into the future) know that the temptations to take things into our own hands is overwhelming. People have constantly turned away from God to worship idols of their own making from their own treasures (whatever it is their hearts treasure that is not God’s steadfast love).

The writer of Hebrews does as well as most leaders: he admonishes all the people to exhort each other so that they will not ‘take things into their own hands’ and turn from God. This admonition is futile. Worse it sets the people up to play judge against each other, thus taking God’s Grace and turning it into everything but Grace.

This is God’s Word: fear and love God with all you heart, mind, and strength, yourself, your neighbour and especially your neighbour.

This is God’s Promise: God will forgive us our ‘taking things into our own hands’.

We need not fear God’s judgment. On every day that ends with ‘y’ (including each today) we get to bask in God’s favour, God’s Grace, and in God’s steadfast love. We get to forgive each other and offer each other the gifts of the ‘Promised Land’ that God has showered down on us.

Living a Lie? OR Living God’s Truth!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

By Faith

And Only By Faith

We Know God Created

The Heavens and …

The Earth and …

All That Is In It!

That Includes Us All.

Jeremiah 10:12

It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.

Hebrews 11:3

By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

Words of Grace For Today

In the Beginning was the Word.

God’s Word.

God created with Word.

Words are powerful, and

when words belong to God they are the ultimate power.

So many people through all time have wanted proof that God exists and that God created.

God created us so that we can imagine other realities than God … and though they are fiction we are fully capable of losing track of reality and living as if our fictions are actually real. So much so that we have

fake news,

fake science,

science deniers,

antivaxxers,

conspiracy theories,

governments that do conspire to lie and thus control populations,

international corporations that conspire to ‘own’ our private information, lie about everything, and thus control populations and governments,

women and men who gaslight others, especially the ones who love them,

pastors and bishops and religious leaders of all kinds who use religious words to control people and gain an advantage for themselves and their families and their kind (of wacky followers of faked religious words),

judges and lawyers for whom dark is light, light is dark, good is evil, evil is good, and their chaos allows them to continue to issue fake facts, fake decisions, and fake convictions to control hurt, destroy and destory people using the force of the state, which destabilizes society with this barbaric use of force, inviting chaos to overrun society,

and

Covidiots (who with their stupidity are ready to kill so many people and even themselves!)

and people who are ready to act illegally for no good reason other than that they can, like cops, bullies, and … well so many people thinking they must get more for themselves to be secure.

All of this fiction lived as reality seems to work …

until it doesn’t and

God’s Word,

God’s Creation,

and

God’s Steadfast Love

start to mess with their supposed ‘advantage’, ‘privilege’, ‘comfort’, ‘status’, ‘power’.

By faith alone, we trust God’s Word …

to have created all that is,

to forgive all that is sinful,

to offer renewed life to all sinners,

to accompany us no matter where or how we journey in life,

and

to promise that all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.

And we are able to live grateful for everything, beginning with our very breath each minute.

By faith

given to us

without us earning it or creating it.

By faith

responding

to be God’s Word

for others.

Holy Ground! Come No Closer!

Monday, December 6, 2021

This Could Be

The Hermit’s Holy Ground,

If One is Faithful

And Ears to Hear and Eyes to See.

Exodus 3:5

Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’

Hebrews 12:28

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe.

Words of Grace For Today

It was 2 am, and every sensible person was asleep or working the graveyard shift. Not Porgy. An alcoholic for decades with more than enough DUI’s to prove it, was drinking with his friends and when they all left at midnight he kept up by himself on the way home. At home he grabbed the left over beer and shifted from his pickup truck to his jeep. He set out to ‘run the muck around’ on crown land, except it was a foot and a half deep with snow. The better the challenge and the more fun.

He had toured all through the regular routes and left the run out to the hermit’s place for last. At 2 am his headlights off he winds onto the high road, now no longer on crown land for a ways, and follows the tracks that wind around an old basement filled with garbage and 20 year old trees, past the blocked off road above the illegal campsite sitting just 10 feet from the water of the lake, a road that can still be walked and from which the best views of sunset and fishers are enjoyed and captured by the hermit photographer. As he rounds the old deserted and abandoned camper and add-a-shack for a wood stove he guns the engine to ensure he wakes up the sleeping hermit and 50 yards later drives right through a wire that the hermit setup to slow down quads stealing wood from him. Up in the hermit’s wood yard Porgy’s jeep suddenly dies. It just stops. There Porgy sits, tries to turn the key to start the jeep but everything is black, dead, quiet.

The hermitage is holy ground. (Porgy has forgotten everything about ‘removing his sandals’ or giving God God’s due. God reminds Porgy by disabling his old jeep.)

Porgy has heard the ground is holy and not given it much credence. Now, completely dark, shut down silent, Porgy reconsiders. A light flashes down out of the sky. Porgy jumps out of his skin and prays earnestly for the first time since the last time he was drunk, “God save me!”

God has found a way to ‘speak’ to Porgy, even in his drunken haze.

It’s actually a military helicopter on an exercise, testing electronic surveillance, that God has put to use. Knowing all about Porgy’s DUI’s and alcoholism, the helicopter crew has been following his truck and then jeep for the last half hour, and having heard that the hermitage is holy ground they decide to play a bit with Porgy. They’ve remotely, temporarily shut off the jeep when they’ve known it would be safe. It was a good test of their equipment, logged and certified as effective at 500 metres.

As if in response to Porgy’s desperate prayer, the jeep lights up again. He starts it, and drives out as quietly as he can. Within days everyone hears a version of the story, Porgy’s version, how he went to visit the hermit in the evening and how God shut down his jeep as soon as he got on to the hermitage. He told everyone it must be holy ground.

Within days the military few know a different story, and they hear the story from Porgy. Only a faithful few realize that they played a part in it all, but God was at work. They realize that the hermitage really is holy ground. Humans (from his ex, the girls, the lay-pastor and bishop, the wealthiest people in town, the cops, lawyers, and more than 2 dozen judges) have sought to destroy a good, kind, and honest man, and they have only created a holy martyr, a hermit more safe from Covid than anyone of them, more blessed every day than any of them. Their practice surveillance of the area has long since established the hermit’s hard work to survive, his ingenuity, and his kindness to anyone who treads on that holy ground … and his efforts to save anyone from intruding in unholy ways on the holy ground. Their investigations of records they ‘practice’ accessing for ‘national security’ have given them enough of the completely unjustifiable effort of many different people to financially ruin him, to drive him deep into debt and poverty, and to even kill him … and the hermit’s blessed response of forgiveness to his mentally ill ex and the children and the binding of everyone else’s sins – putting their deeds over to God for judgment and offering them forgiveness if they would only but confess.

No one is holding their breath for that, since all the guilty people think no one will ever know who has done what or how.

But God knows, and a few intelligence people know, and a few honest people who listen carefully, and a whole lot of guilty people know.

That morning at 2 am, the hermit did wake up to the jeep’s engine noise, look out the window, and saw the jeep, and the light. He heard the near by helicopter and then saw Porgy start the jeep and drive away. When daylight came he went out and repaired the wire. All along, as for so many other things, the hermit gave God thanks, knowing that since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, we can give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe.

Teach Us Your Way

Sunday, December 5, 2021

We See It All, Right?

Yet What Is Most Important Among

Everything We See?

Sand, Water, Ice, Trees, Grass, Sun, Clouds?

Or That God Created It All?

Psalm 86:11

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name.

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’

Words of Grace For Today

No matter who we are, what history we have, how many sins we have piled up, and no matter how many times God has forgiven us and the Holy Spirit has inspired us to live as God’s saints spreading God’s unconditional and steadfast love to all people …

No matter what challenges we face in our past and in our present and in our future …

No matter anything, God’s Grace pours over us in abundance …

and we still know we need Jesus’ way, truth and life more and more for our hearts are divided between serving Christ and serving our own selfish needs, and so are our decisions each minute.

Decisions.

We make decisions every day, every minute.

We make decisions by engaging in various steps:

1. we asses what the situation is

2. we consider what choices we have

3. we discern what choice best serves our self interest

4. we make the decision by acting on it.

Recent modern thought is that step three is the most important. Thus the common assumption behind modern society brings us to serve our own, greedy, selfish interests, thinking that is the most important thing to do.

Philosophers and thinking people of all generations have long since realized that step one is actually the most important.

Who we are and what we think, how we view the world, is the most important step. Therein we determine what the ‘problem’ is, and that determines everything about what choices we come up with, choose and act on.

When we know that first and foremost when facing decisions our only hope to do something good for us and for other people is to consider everything from the perspetive that God gives us: that God created, we all are free to love (and therefore sin, that is to turn from who God created us to be), that God forgives us our sin and calls us back to ‘see the world’ (and our ‘problems’) as God’s gift to us including our own lives, and then …

then we have some hope of choosing what is in our best self interest, which is always then in the best interest of all people.

It all depends on us knowing God’s creation as God created it to be, and us in that creation as God saves us and inspires us to be: God’s saints.

So we pray: Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name! knowing that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life.

Let Us Shine!

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Our Way Following Christ

Is To the Light

Always Connected to God’s Truth

Isaiah 45:17

You, Israel, are saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity.

Matthew 13:43

The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Words of Grace For Today

Since God has done such great things for us,

Since God has saved us with a salvation without end and promised that we shall never be put to shame or be confounded,

Since we have ears to hear, and we hear God promises that we, the righteous (made so only by Grace), will shine like the sun in God’s Kingdom.

Therefore, no matter the challenges that we face in this real and messy world, we shine with the light of Christ for all to see.

And the truth shines through all efforts to hide, pervert, and deceive in the all too common methods of ‘getting ahead’ which are really paths straight out of healthy life into the abyss of the Devil’s ways.

For once one lies and relies on it, all grounding in reality is up for grabs and it will slip away from one slowly and quickly until one has no bearings for what is real. Then the nightmares begin.

For us, who shine with the Light of Christ, our bearings to reality are sure and forever reliable, for our guide is God and God’s Grace.

Hardened Hearts or Steadfast Love?

Friday, December 3, 2021

When God Calms the Storms of Life

Are We Grateful

or

Still Demanding More?

Exodus 9:34

When Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned once more and hardened his heart, he and his officials.

Romans 2:4

Do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Words of Grace For Today

When we are in trouble we run to God for help. We make all sorts of promises to God of what we will do, how we will not sin, if God will only help us.

God does help us, but God is not fooled.

Oh, so often, once God has delivered us, we forget everything we promised, and worse we forget all God has done for us.

Pharaoh is hardly the only one who sins again and again, hardening his heart against God’s tender compassion.

God does not want it that way for us, or for anyone. God is gracious and merciful, full of kindness and forbearance and patience, and steadfast in love for us, all so that we, when we are yet again dreadfully hard-hearted sinners, we may know that we can trust God. We can be so humble as to confess our sins and repent, returning to the Lord our God, with hearts filled with grace, kindness, forbearance, patience, and steadfast love for ourselves and all the other hard-hearted, repeat sinners.

Hard hearts

OR

Loving and grateful hearts?

God makes clear what God’s will is.

What is our choice today?

Advent Darkness, Advent Light

Thursday, December 2, 2021

What Little Truth There Is

What Little Hope There Is

What Little Life There Is

Christ’s Light

Has Come,

Is Come, and

Will Come Again

Isaiah 51:4

Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples.

1 John 2:8

Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.

Words of Grace For Today

The daylight grows shorter each day, at this latitude markedly, as we are only 20 days from the winter solstice. When clouds and precipitation block the light during the few hours the sun is above the horizon the drear and darkness grows on us, as if the end of time were approaching though we trust that is not so. In these times the winter darkness teaches us well what we may or may not know so well from our own experience: that injustice of the nation is prevalent, here and now for so many people, and the injustice of the world order (or chaos as it really is) tears so many people from life, and even more from living a life respected as a full human being.

Then we read the promise that God will bring words of truth to bear on our world, that Christ’s Light shines already bright for all people. We read these words of promise and hope with eager hearts, though hardly more so than the billions who suffer the chaos of injustice worked for the privilege, comfort, and power of the few.

When people recognize the Light of Christ, the world chaos can but fail as Christ’s way replaces human greed.

For this day we wait, for freedom from darkness, for freedom from blatant injustice, for freedom from all evil, and for freedom to serve Christ fully, without reserve, with our whole hearts, minds and strength. For this day we wait. On that day we will celebrate the coming of Christ as we have not ever yet.

This is the advent of awareness: that Christ has come, is come, and will come again, to bring into the light all that is done now as if in darkness, all that is done to throw others as captives into darkness, all that is done to supposedly ‘set things right’ when the actions are more unjust than those they pretend to correct.

This our advent. Advent as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s coming, again.

Go! And Follow! … Simple?

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

No Matter What Mess We Make

God Walks With Us

And Jesus Calls to Us to Follow

Simple.

Exodus 33:15

Moses said to the Lord, ‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here.’

John 10:4

When the shepherd has brought out all his own sheep, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Words of Grace For Today

God sends Moses and the people from Mount Sinai up into the land flowing with milk and honey. God sends Moses and the people and will not go with them, for if God does, the people are a stiff-necked people and God’s presence will consume them.

That does not bode well for the people. From here on they will have to proceed without God’s presence, which has accompanied them since they gathered to leave to cross the Red Sea and come all those years through the wilderness. This is a tremendous change, a change not for the better.

Moses understands, having spent time on the mount with God, collecting the commandments on rock tablets, has wisdom about what the people will loose if God does not continue to accompany them.

God promises to walk with us always, no matter what. So why does God want to send the people on their way … and not go with them? Are the people really so far gone, so stiff-necked that even God cannot fix it, or go with them?

The rest of the story, which is indeed worth knowing, is that Moses convinces God to go with the people, and God does. God is good for God’s promises.

The shepherd, Jesus, continues to fulfill God’s promise to us. More than that Jesus gathers his people from among all the people, and, because we know Jesus’ voice we follow Jesus.

Where we go, Jesus goes with us. More than that we know how to follow Jesus where Jesus leads us. There is nothing more blessed for us.

Let Your Face Shine

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

We Are the Ones

Who Shine

With Christ’s Light

As Snow Sparkles Between the Shadows

Psalm 31:16

Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

Luke 12:25

Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

Words of Grace For Today

On the coin of money is inscribed ‘In God We Trust.’

This is one of the more blatant and dreadful ironies of our lives: the world seeks coin to enable the collection of resources (through payment with the coin) and to ensure the bidding of the holder is done by others (through payment with the coin).

Those of us who cannot or do not have enough coin, worry about our futures: can we keep at bay the despair of hunger, the life-ending extremes of the environment, the decay of life without good medical care, or the loss of sanity as we are isolated (as an easy target for our enemies and separated from the social fabric of life.)

This worry motivates us to work, and to work hard, to ensure some kind of safety in our future, some kind of food supply in our days to come, some kind of health care so that what ails us can be discovered, diagnosed and treated, some healthy connection with other humans who do not wish us harm. Our worry itself does nothing. It adds not even a minute to the span of our lives. What we do to work through our worry may or may not succeed in providing life and life abundant for us.

Life in all its great goodness that God created us to enjoy does not require any of this that we can work for, though. Life abundant requires only one thing and that is God’s steadfast love.

God’s steadfast love moves us from worrying.

God’s steadfast love moves us from worrying about ourselves.

God’s steadfast love moves us from worrying about ourselves to working to be God’s love for others.

God’s steadfast love moves us from worrying about ourselves and on to knowing that we are marked with the cross of Christ, which does not just mark us like coins with the greatest irony of all times. The mark on us changes us from the root of our being to the last days we live in God’s good creation: we become God-made saints.

When our enemies or our shortcomings or the lack of things we require to stay alive threaten our future we can pray: Let your face shine upon your servants; save us in your steadfast love.

Like the sun rising for a new day, sparkling, dazzling in a field of snow, God renews Christ’s light in us, and we shine, and we sparkle, and we transform the world from misery to happiness, from despair to joy, from hunger to nourished … from lost to found.

Blessings, Joy, then Obedience

Monday, November 29, 2021

Because God Blesses Us to Know Beauty

no matter the tangles of life the intrude on our days

Therefore We are Able to Be God’s Blessings for Others

Deuteronomy 28:1-6

If you will only obey the Lord your God, by diligently observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth; all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the Lord your God:

Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.

Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock.

Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading-bowl.

Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

Matthew 12:50

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

Words of Grace For Today

Both passages say clearly enough that it is all up to us: if we do the right things, if we obey all God’s commandments, if we do God’s will, then

then we will be blessed in all ways,

then we will be Jesus’ brother, sister or mother.

That certainly is how the world works and how religious authorities have parsed God’s blessings in their attempts to control their followers.

God is not so parsed, not correctly anyway.

God’s blessings are not so parsed, not correctly anyway.

Jesus’ brothers and sisters and mother are not so determined, not correctly anyway.

But this is the way of the world, and it is our self-centred, familiar, assuring and futile way of working God’s will in our world.

Trouble is, it’s not us that works God’s will and this is God’s world.

God’s way, clearly demonstrated in the story of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection, is that God blesses us, and we either can surrender to that, or work our way out of the blessings by going our own way. Even then God pursues us, relentlessly, promising to forgive us, give us re-newed lives, and send us out again to be God’s blessings for others.

God’s blessings are not tied to how powerful, wealthy, or famous we are. God’s blessings are contained in the God given ability to be able to love, and love completely and unconditionally. For is love, starting with fear and love for God, and then love for ourselves, our neighbours and our enemies … in love we find life, life’s meaning and purpose and a joy that cannot be marred by circumstances, no matter how bad they may be.

The joy that God gives us is familiar to most people. It is like living life being in love. Some know it as a teenager’s 1st love, or as a young adult knowing this is the one person to marry, or as holding your new born infant, or as guiding children as they grow up, or as playing with grandchildren, or as growing old together and sharing memories as you deal with new challenges.

Most all of us experience that being in love, and loving others, gives us a profound joy.

Being in love with God, fearing and loving God, gives us an even more profound joy. All our times of being in love come to an end. Some endings leave us lost, as if the pathways and walls of life itself have crumbled out from under us.

Being in love and fearing God is markedly different because that love never comes to an end since it is determined not by our capacity to love, but by God’s promises to love us always. God loves us always, no matter the twists and turns we take in life. Trusting that God loves us gives a pervasive joy, a foundational joy.

Today we pray, may we live fearing and loving God as God loves us. May we be God’s love for all other people, so that we do not forget how precious God’s love is.