The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Words of Grace For Today
There are enough challenges to everyday,
even ordinary everyday days.
Through in upheaval like a pandemic, or injustice focused at oneself, or … [fill in the extraordinary upheaval that meets every life] the challenges can seem to be a bit overwhelming.
Then it is good to know that God’s Angels ‘encamp’ around we who fear and love God.
Then it is good to know that when we ask, God provides (what we need, not necessarily what we ask for). When we search, God guides us to find (what we need, not necessarily what we thought we sought). When we knock, God opens (the door that God knows we need to have opened, not necessarily the door we were banging away on).
To fear and love God.
To fear and love God is the beginning of everything good.
To fear and love God is the beginning of every good day, every good hour, every good minute.
To fear and love God is the beginning of every good relationship, project, or yearning.
Help us, we pray, to fear and love God before all else, (more than all the things that threaten to and do upend our lives.)
Help us, we pray, to trust God’s Angels are with us, (no matter what threatens to and does upend our lives.)
By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might.
1 John 2:2
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Words of Grace For Today
God is the mightiest further beyond the existence of the universe. God established the mountains. God established the whole universe and beyond, also time itself. So great is God.
We on the other hand in comparison can only pretend at greatness.
It is terrible what we require. We require forgiveness, all of us require forgiveness.
God is great enough to speak a word and make it so. We on the other hand need more. We expect grace and forgiveness to cost us something, and for that God does so much more than speak. God sends God’s only son, Jesus, to live as one of us, to demonstrate God’s love, grace and forgiveness, by dying to demonstrate that God forgives us, demonstrating that Jesus pays (atones) for our sins.
The story is simple. The implications for us are wide and deep: we cannot pretend that God created the universe only for us, that we and not others can receive God’s Grace and atonement. Jesus’ death is God’s demonstration that God has paid for all our sins, for all the sins, of the world.
With a word God created the universe and all that is in it, including us, all of us. With a life God demonstrates for us sorry lot that God provides all that we need, including the demonstration for us that all our sins are forgiven.
All the other things that we need God provides as well. Life in God’s world is not a zero sum game where we have to take from others in order to have enough. In fact, God showers us with more than enough so that we can share it with others. In our sharing the goodness of life, the goodness of life is multiplied for all people, and for us. It is God’s way that the abundance of life comes to all people. It comes in such a quality as to ‘infect’ the whole world with it’s goodness exactly then as we share God’s goodness with others.
Covid 19 spreads, with new variants it spreads even faster, through droplets of virus in the air that spread and linger like the aroma from a meal cooking in the kitchen can be appreciated upstairs and downstairs, and for hours after the stove is turned off.
God’s Grace spreads even faster, through our sharing with each other the goodness that we find in life.
So while the restrictions are in place, call someone new each day, and share some goodness with them. For God’s sake, and for everyone’s sake, including your own sake.
… – – – … Cold Hard Reality … – – – … Our Own Sin … – – – … The Start of God’s Work for Us …. ..
Friday, February 12, 2021
The Sun Rises And Spreads Cold Cold Cold Light
God using the sun to draw smoke shadows on curves of snow
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride.
Words of Grace For Today
We become accustomed to life, unjustly lived, civilization’s thin veneer holding back barbarism, barely while so many wealthy, privileged, and powerful people utilize outrageous barbarism to hold on to what they value, i.e. their positions, corrupt as they are.
We become accustomed to life and are widely disturbed, our individual and collective mental health plummets, because a pandemic disrupts our customary living …
and we are left to face what truly lies beneath, behind, and beyond our ‘civilized’ habits. It is not pretty. It scares us. It drives us mad.
This is a small piece of the cost of living as if we could rise above fear of God. This is a small piece of the cost of pretending that we need not resist evil at every turn, lest we be dragged into the sea of it’s chaos, into it’s power to uncreate creation, dissolve all time, and possess life itself even as it all crumbles into non-existence.
Being wise in one’s own eyes is like the fool Trump, declaring himself to be so intelligent, even as he spouts idiocies that are easily proven to be false. Remember when he recommended that people drink bleach to eradicate Covid 19 from their systems. Bleach of course is a caustic poison easily eradicating life from anyone who drinks it!
Our own, your own, idiocies may not be so obvious to us, to you, though they probably are to others!
Daily we immerse ourselves in the old, old story of Jesus and his love; which starts with our past and continuing sins confessed and graciously forgiven by God.
We immerse ourselves in this story, not forgetting the beginning (our wretched inevitable sin) so that we do not forget how much we need to be saved from our sins, how much God does to save us, and how terrible our deserved damnation would be if God were not so undeservedly gracious with us. We do not forget our ongoing inevitable sins so that we do not rise to false pride.
Instead we readily accept the reality and confess our sins, knowing in that confession we also accept God’s forgiveness, which forgiveness enables us to also be God-made saints, simultaneously as we remain sinners. God has God’s way with us, and we love it!
We know our own works are pitiful. Our neighbours may look to be so as well. On our own nothing we do amounts to anything (valued by God’s criteria and measure). Aided, guided, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, God accomplishes great things through us. God saves others by giving them abundant life through our work.
Our pride in our work, and in our neighbours’ work, amounts only to pride in what God does through us. Though we last no longer than smoke we remain courageously, creatively humble as God uses us to paint Grace on this world. Meeting the new demands of Covid 19 pandemic and it’s dangers and restrictions is a mere trifle, measured by God’s criteria. It is another opportunity to see, receive, and share God’s unending blessings.
When we have so much and still cannot share generously and freely,
We drive in circles,
leaving tracks all over others,
bearing witness to our craziness, the emptiness of our lives,
and our inability to live abundantly.
1 Chronicles 29:9
Then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the Lord; King David also rejoiced greatly.
2 Corinthians 9:7
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Words of Grace For Today
Why do we give?
Why do you give?
We do not give in order to earn God’s favour. That is a futile way to earn God’s favour and a destructive way to live.
We give because 1) others are in need of what we can share, and 2) because giving cheerfully, not reluctantly or under compulsion, reflects and determines who we are and who we become.
We give because God has not left us poor!
The Sheldons were a large family in severe financial distress after a series of misfortunes. The help they received was not adequate, yet they managed their meagre income with ingenuity – and without complaint.
A new social worker in poverty-stricken Appalachia was assigned the Sheldon family and shared this story about her first visit with them.
One fall day I visited the Sheldons in their ramshackle rented house where they lived at the edge of the woods. Despite a painful physical handicap, Mr. Sheldon had shot and butchered a bear that strayed into their yard once too often. The meat had been processed into all the big canning jars they could find or swap for. There would be meat in their diet even during the worst of the winter when their fuel costs were high.
Mr Sheldon offered a jar of bear meat to me. I hesitated to accept it, but the giver met my unspoken resistance firmly. “Now you just have to take this. We want you to have it. We don’t have much, that’s a fact; but we ain’t poor!”
I couldn’t resist asking, “What’s the difference?”
His answer proved unforgettable. “When you can give something away, even when you don’t have much, then you ain’t poor.When you don’t feel easy giving something away even if you got more’n you need, then you’re poor, whether you know it or not.”
Florence Ferrier Gospel Notes 2001, Brian Stoffregen, reworked KAS and TL 2004 &2020
Just because one is wealthy, powerful or famous does not mean one does not need, for one’s own well being, to give and give generously. Even King David joined the people in giving and in rejoicing!
As for people that are so flush with luxury and comfort that they have forgotten that others are in need, and who are so poor the hoard their untold wealth, only God can deal with them. We cannot nor do we need to deal with them. That’s one more blessing for which we can be grateful to God!
So That We Can See, Believe, Understand and Live Wisely
And those who err in spirit will come to understanding, and those who grumble will accept instruction.
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.
Words of Grace For Today
Once we accept and start to live in response to 1) our accepting we deserve only perdition, 2) God’s Grace having saved us from perdition, and 3) God’s Grace saving us daily, then there is much to understand, there is always instruction to take to heart, and there is always wisdom to seek so that how we live will reflect God’s Grace for us and for all people.
On our own we can do little, and it is easy to grumble about how life treats us poorly. It is all too easy to act like fools, not fools for Christ, just fools that mess up life royally.
The solution for us is simple: ask God, for God is generous and ungrudging as God pours Grace over us, and after Grace, understanding, gratitude, instruction and wisdom.
Ask and God will give us all that God knows we need to live life abundantly.
The wisdom of our lives lived abundantly starts with the fear and love of God, ourselves, our neighbours and our enemies … and sharing the abundance of Grace, love, and life with those we know, especially those we know are in need.
Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
Words of Grace For Today
In the dead-cold of winter (so mild before this week, but no longer at all mild at -36⁰C) a bit of fire is a welcome thing. Vented, directed, contained with plenty of snow at shovel length to put out anything that approaches too much fire, the heat of fire meets the bleeping cold air and provides a livable space.
Most people in homes enjoy the balance of fire against cold as a product of natural gas ignited in a furnace with the heat distributed to the rest of the home by electricity (either an air fan or a water pump.)
There are cautionary tales to be told or rather seen: the house that one day is an example of a grand house on a hill in the woods, and the next a scarred roof line behind an untouched facade, which on closer viewing displays the chimney standing on it’s own with the building around it on the side and back of what used to be a house, missing and what is visible is jagged and charred. A chimney fire it seems consumed a home, hopefully without loss of life. The 5th wheel RV appears setup along side the remains of the house for the remainder of the winter, spring and summer, with the dogs running outside as they usually had.
One sees on the news videos of thick smoke and vehicles making their collective and slow exit out of Fort McMurray as wildfires wipe out huge areas of the city.
One sees the photos of a railroad accident fire that has burst and melted rail cars and rails themselves.
It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others. Not every life can be a success, just like not every vessel can be seaworthy. But there’s no shame in being one spectacular shipwreck.
God’s Word is like all that, taking what is evil in the world, what is evil and sinful in us, and burning it up like chaff ….
Ah, what a fire that will be!
God’s Word always is a two edged sword, cutting away evil, also from us, among us, and from within each of us!
The Word of God cleanses with fire, and what a fire it is already in us!
The Word of God cuts away and burns away our sin and evil, and cleanses us, pure and righteous! By Grace we live through the cleansing fire.
God provides more than an RV replacement for a home. God provides us a home in the New Jerusalem, the City of God, the New Creation.
For some of us so connected to nature in our existence God provides that we need not move into a city; God provides a home in the wilds of nature’s wonders and beauty.
God’s cleansing fire that Jesus brings is destructive, powerful and wonderfully just. We pray it will be kindled soon among us. We pray the hammer of God will break apart Evil from within us and from among us, so that all will have homes, all will have food, all will have a good life, an abundant life!
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
Words of Grace For Today
If God made a mistake, creating us to live on this earth, all of us so capable of evil that is so horrific we can barely imagine it’s destructive power, then the solution and our salvation would be for us to be able to leave all this behind. Many stories have been written and and genocidal attempts made, instead of removing us, to remove the evil from earth. It cannot go well for anyone, because sin and the agents of evil are each of us. It is not some identifiable or vague ‘them’. It is all of us who are the agents of sin and evil.
Many stories have been written and ill-fated attempts made to remove us from the bounds of sin on earth, from these flesh encased lives we have to live. None are good or successful. All need a huge dose of delusion.
Delusion runs rampant today, from Trump, Trump supporters, to similar flavours of government that ignore science, and instead implement restrictions for their own political ends instead of as protection for the people. Under the cover of Covid 19 great evil is perpetrated against millions of people the world over.
Did God make a mistake creating these people who use a pandemic as cover for evil, or for that matter for creating all of us, the perpetrators and victims alike?
Doch, God made no mistake creating us to live in these flesh encased lives here on this earth with all these other creatures. All humans, capable of evil, are also capable of great good. For this good God created us.
What we cannot do on our own is take on Evil and win. In fact the easiest route for the Devil to own us is when we try to concoct our lives as good on our own. That opens a freeway into our hearts, minds and strength for the Devil to work his/her wiles, wiles of deception and delusion, and even covering the tracks of evil in our core existence, so that we can fool ourselves about how the Devil possesses us!
In this marvellous life we are each given, God alone is our keeper, our safeguard against evil. God does not remove us from the wonders of creation and our awesome yet limited manner by which we participate in creation: See. Hear. Smell. Taste. Touch. Organize. Assemble what can seem as chaos into good order, good understanding. Marvel. Sing for Joy. Give God Thanks!
Still we will be overrun by evil. It is powerful, so much more powerful than we, ourselves.
Do you think you are so good that you are beyond the reach of evil tapping you at your core to perpetrate evil? Ha, for fools are exactly in this way played out by the Devil to commit the worst evil of all, passive aggressive, smiling to our faces and stabbing us in the back, pretending and parading around as if they were so good, yet at the same time plotting and scheming people’s destruction … completely owned (unawares) by the Devil.
Our only defence is God’s mercy, the story of Jesus’ sacrifice to rescue us and redeem us, the gifts of the Holy Spirit to renew us and guide us to …
… to humble admiration of God’s love for us
… to humble gratitude for God’s mercy
… to humble kindness toward all people, especially our ‘enemies’
… to humble dedication to work for justice for all people, justice based on truth and God’s mercy
… to humble joy no matter what we face, because we know God alone is our keeper and this world is where God intends us to live, and to live abundantly, helping others live abundantly as well.
Or dirty creosote drippings from a dirty chimney burning junk wood?
You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us; none can compare with you. Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted.
2 Peter 1:19
So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Words of Grace For Today
We may think we can proclaim the great deeds of God, wondrous deeds and thoughts towards us. We can, sort of, proclaim God’s great deeds, though we rarely get the story to reflect the awesome Grace God begins, continues and ends with when God thinks of us.
God ensures the story of God’s Love and Mercy are told in every generation, and at least partially understood by every generation. The stories of God in every age shine like lamps in our dark places, bringing us hope, which is the fuel for life.
On this third day of Christmas, the 1st Sunday of Christmas, we traditionally have services of readings and carols. It provides a bit of recovery time for pastors and gives us time to sing Christmas carols and hymns that we did not on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
What though is Christmas for us, in truth?
A German tradition was discovered by a niece: a pickle is hung and hidden on the Christmas tree. Then the children come in and hunt for the pickle. The first one to find it receives a gift of special treats, chocolates or sweets.
The question by one of the uncles was whether the pickle was a real pickle, for then the smell of the pickle would easily give it away. But no, the pickle in question (now a daze) was a plastic pickle, which then a nephew produced for all to see. A fine plastic pickle with a string through one end to make hanging on the tree convenient.
The tree, is of course, environmentally ‘friendly’, a plastic and reusable tree with tinsel and lights already in place.
The ‘old time’ German tree was a tree out of the woods, a fresh pine or spruce tree. The lights were candles burning with real fire – so no old dried out trees would do. The decorations were of many kinds, none plastic, some wood, some metal, some ceramic (maybe), but more were natural like pine cones dipped in flour-water to look frosty, home-made jellied fruit and sweets, some soaked in rum and/or brandy. The pickle was real as well, and the prize was almost certainly home made sweets. The tree wafted the smell of it’s sap. The decorations filled the house with smells of sweet and delicious and special treats. The pickle’s smell was well concealed by the aroma of Christmas.
But what does this all have to do with Christ? With Christmas?
Nothing, other than it is how families for generations kept traditions about how they gathered and spent time, special time, with each other, playing games, inviting children into simple games of hide and seek, and all partaking of the ‘special’ time, eats, and drinks.
These ‘Christmas’ traditions are not bad or wrong. They simply are not about Christ.
So it is with most of what today we call Christmas, and which so many people during the restrictions of Covid 19 bemoan not being able to partake in.
On this 3rd day of the 12 days of Christmas, what have we done to celebrate God’s wondrous deeds and thoughts towards us? What have we done to keep the lamp shining in every dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in hearts? What have we done to tell with out thoughts, words and deeds the old, old story of Jesus and his Love … for all people?
Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall; happy are the people whose God is the Lord.
The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Words of Grace For Today
Today is the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth, fully God, fully human.
Whether we know it or not, we are the ones whom God has made to be happy, not for any other reason other than that God has chosen us and blessed us.
Today we can be blessed to be blessings, blessings for all other people.
Let us celebrate, however possible, given the restrictions needed to help many of us survive this pandemic, without remorse or regret that things are not normal, for normal is not needed for us to celebrate God’s surprising blessings.