We See Salvation More Clearly When We Confess Our Sins,
Like Smoke Makes Light Obvious.
‘Righteousness is on your side, OLord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us… all …, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you.
By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
Words of Grace For Today
It is good to confess one’s own sins.
It can be helpful to confess your people’s sins, in which you are part of that guilty community.
It is most helpful to confess that we are saved by faith through grace – and that our faith and the saving us is not our doing, but a gift (which is Grace) from God.
Most things in life that we receive are earned through work, some of it extremely hard work. The work can be ours or someone else’s.
The car in your drive, or the bicycle against the post: someone worked hard to have them.
The house you wake up in, or the ram-shackled shelter the wind rattles you out of in the morning, which keeps you somewhat dry and warm through the nights: someone worked hard for them.
The nutritious and balanced fresh food you put on your table from which you can choose a selection to enjoy, or the past-the-best-buy-date canned food from the food bank that may fill your belly and only get you a little sick: someone work hard for them.
The clothes in your closet from which you have your pick of styles, functions, and colours, all freshly cleaned, or the same old sweaty and stained jeans and dirty T-Shirt that you slept in last night: someone worked hard for them.
Salvation cannot be worked for, though. When we try, the results would be comical, except it is tragic how much harm we usually do others and ourselves in the effort. It’s like trying all day to find your glasses … which sit perched on your nose.
God’s Grace provides us salvation without effort or cost to us, but at great cost to Jesus.
After we confess, trusting we are forgiven, we can only extend that Grace to others, at whatever cost is required of us, in order that they can live life, and live it abundantly.
May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.
Words of Grace For Today
God gives strength to the people of God’s Kingdom and blesses them with peace.
Peace is much more than the absence of conflict, and can enfold conflict as well. That seems contradictory, since we’ve ascribed the world’s application of peace (the absence of conflict) to God’s promises.
Caught in a war zone, literally or figuratively, one yearns for the end of conflict. Truth is the first casualty of war, then MIA are the children and the vulnerable. When the conflict starts to eat at one’s being, one’s conscience and heart, then one yearns for an end of the hostilities. Any other option, other than capitulation, would be welcomed by most reasonable people.
God’s promises are not about the absence of hostilities, though God surely is not much taken by our fighting. God’s promises are about peace. The kind of peace that surpasses all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds.
When we live with that kind of peace, then we approach the conflict that leads to open hostilities and killings differently, with hope. We approach the conflict that tears families apart differently, with empathy. We approach the conflict that tears communities apart differently, with compassion. We see that God never promised anyone the lack of challenges in life, one constant challenge being conflict. Conflict is an essential part of life. When there is more than one person involved, there will be conflict, or someone is being dishonest. Conflict, handled properly, motivates one to hope, empathy, and compassion for the other, and if one can operate with collaboration then one works for the other’s best interest, trusting they are working for yours.
The quick example is the poverty captive couple who each sacrifice their best in order to give to the other what the other would most treasure. She sells her beautiful long hair to buy him a chain to match his gold heirloom pocket watch. He pawns his grandfathers’, fathers’, and now his golden pocket watch to get her the jade hair combs she has adored in the shop window.
What is instructive from this example is that each cares for the other by giving what the other would most want. More importantly, though each ends up with combs without hair, and a chain without a watch, they end up with what is most valuable and cannot be taken from them: their love for and devotion to each other. With that they will face all challenges together, and even if they lose everything else, they will have each other.
That kind of love is why God created us!
God’s promises promise us that kind of love from God, which gives us an enduring peace which nothing can take from us. We know we are right with God, not dependent on what we do, but as a gift given to us, through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, so that, marked with that cross, we can face whatever life brings to us.
That is real peace.
That is the kind of peace that does not require an education to receive from God. That is the kind of peace that ordinary and not so ordinary people can all receive from God. Even well educated people can receive it from God.
So no matter your circumstance: may God’s peace be with you.
Bearing God’s Peace is kind of like wearing a mask because of Covid 19. It does not benefit you directly, but helps protect others from you – which indirectly protects everyone, including you.
Wear a mask because Covid 19 exists, bear the Peace of God because the Devil is always active in and around us all. They protect others from what you could infect them with that would destroy their lives.
One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
2 Corinthians 4:15
Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
Words of Grace For Today
We all sin.
That is a given.
God works to save us from our sin. There is no greater work of God than to save one person from sin.
These mighty acts God repeats innumerable times each day for each person. And each person that acknowledges this, who confesses those sins that are already forgiven, receives an overwhelming flood of gratitude.
There, into the cesspool of Hell, with it’s never ending fires, the stink, and the selfishness astounding even the most seasoned resident, each of us would quickly and permanently slide, if it were not for the Grace bought and paid for by Jesus on the Cross for all of us. See that terrible car crash where a truck T-boned the car mere feet in front of you. You live. They die. If one is not caught by survivor’s guilt, or perhaps even so, one celebrates life. Floods of gratitude and appreciation for all that life is, flow over one until one feels drowned back to life by life’s goodness. One makes calls and mends fences long broken. One re-organizes one’s priorities. One gives genuine thanks for life.
When one realizes the hell Jesus saves one from, a hell one clearly deserves, then one is more thankful than ever before in life.
Sin, Grace, Gratitude, for more and more people. For Christ forgives us and gives us new life so that we can share Jesus’ old, old story with more and more people.
You have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling-place.
2 Corinthians 3:12
Since … we have such a hope, we act with great boldness.
Words of Grace For Today
Today a crowd of tents overflowed from the Web campsite and filled the Birches campsite with an accompanying number of vehicles so many there is not enough room to park them all, and at least 5 large dogs. Awake, there is hardly room for the correct Covid 19 physical spacing, and sleeping the tents are close enough that one is already within a few metres of at least a few people in other tents, not to mention others sharing the tent you are in.
As the clerk at the drug store said (as sick people come for medicines), she’d had it and she’s done, completely done with this Covid 19 thing.
Wishful thinking until it kills you or someone you love, or compromises your organs for the rest of your life. A personal declaration that your done certainly does not cover it all.
You become one of the most dangerous people on earth today.
Thankfully we have made the Lord our refuge. We dwell in the Most High, and we dwell in a place isolated from everyone, including that dangerous drugstore clerk, every other dangerous carrier of Covid 19, and the fools who walk right up to me at Canadian Tire while I’m quickly finding the one thing I’m there for, having waited a good ten minutes for the two fools to move away from me down the isle 25 feet. While I’m determining which of the five different spools of plastic string I need, they return, walk right up to me and stand over me, breathing heavily and grunting impatiently for me to be done, and then as I stand up they walk within a foot behind me, push my cart out of the way and say I should get out of the way. Later the same two guys nearly run me over as I back up one foot to change course since the isle ahead is blocked by an elderly man on his cell phone. This time I politely ask the two if they could keep their 2 metre distance. They huff that I backed up into them, as I stepped back a half step at most to turn my cart to the left down an isle.
There are hundreds and thousands of other shoppers I have no close encounters with when I’m shopping.
Brash stupid boldness, like declaring Covid 19 is over because you say it must be, or walking over people with no respect for physical distancing, is not the kind of boldness that Christ gives us, through the hope the Holy Spirit creates in us.
The boldness Christ’s hope gives us is to
– do the right thing when everyone else is not,
– say the right words to a bully, when everyone else is cowering and capitulating,
– risk everything we are in order to save children at risk of horrendous abuse by their parent,
– not work to protect oneself, but to protect others who are vulnerable,
– and many other inspired risky actions,
since we know we need not protect ourselves or make our own security.
Christ has done that already.
All that we are and have, is for Christ, so putting everything on the line to do the right thing is exactly why we live and have anything to work with.
Martin Luther was right, too. We are bold in all we do, unafraid that we will inevitably sin. That knowledge does not deter us from risking everything to do the right thing. We trust that we have been, are, and will always be forgiven by Jesus the Christ. This is not some reckless abandon to do idiotic things to no good end or imaginable benefit. This means that we do not allow the Devil, or the inevitability of our sinning, stop us from trusting that God will guide us to do the right thing, and to know it is right.
We sinners, of course, so often try to justify our own sins. Doch with the Holy Spirit’s help we resist that as well, easily confessing, and re-adjusting our path, our plans, our hopes and our dreams to reflect Christ’s self sacrificing way for everyone we encounter: we sacrifice ourselves, not others.
For those who cannot comprehend the true risk of a virus, compared to the true risk of life and limb in order to save others, compared to the true risk of losing one’s own soul, we must pray and bless them: Lord bless these utter fools and keep them and their deadly virus far, far from us, all of us, humans.
I will again do amazing things with this people, shocking and amazing. The wisdom of their wise shall perish, and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden.
On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!
Words of Grace For Today
A few nights ago a man came telling me that the surveyors would becoming, that he had made an offer on this land. (This is crown land, never will it be for sale.) He said that this land had been in his family many years ago. It was coming back into his family. The fences would go up, he would bring his truck in and plow the road. (The road is impassible and would need numerous culverts, lots and lots of clay roadbed compacted into place and layers of gravel over that to make is something that could be plowed.) He was going to develop the shoreline. (Twenty metres in from the edge of the lake is always Crown land and it cannot be developed without a special permit, which are few and far between.) He said he was going to divide up the land into 5 acre plots for various members of his family. (It would take millions of square miles of land divided into five acre plots to accommodate his whole family, the family of all Canadians.)
Jesus comes doing amazing things that shock people. They ask where he came from? Where did he get this wisdom that he teaches?
The surveyors cannot find the borders of the Kingdom of God. They cannot determine how to divide it up into little plots for each family. They do not have the instruments to determine how big anything is according to God’s measure.
Any wisdom we put together is no more than this man’s puffed up claims to be able to buy crown land for his own, when it is used already by so many for random camping. Watch carefully, and we may see God at work.
Who in your life makes false claims, haughty claims of ownership of things that cannot be owned? Are you the one? Does God’s wisdom show you up to be foolish in God’s Kingdom?
Only God’s Grace can show us a path forward wherein we can imitate Jesus’ way of the cross, bringing Grace to all people. Only by God’s Grace can we avoid making foolish claims of how we are buying up God’s Kingdom for ourselves.
Only by God’s Grace, today we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us forward into an abundant life. Thanks be to God.
Love the Lord, all you his saints. The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
As [Jesus was] leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet …. Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’
Words of Grace For Today
Last evening a big greyish pickup truck, a deep-throated, noisey Dodge Ram, with flood lights on a roll bar, two burly men riding in the bed, and a beefy grill guard on the front came prowling the dirt lanes, round and round as if looking for someone and not finding their target. An intentional threat to someone, either as a threatening show of force, or an actual hit. Apparently I am not the only one with an ex who is not above breaking or bending the law to end someone’s life.
How can one respond with Grace?
It is easy of course to respond not with grace but with a wish to physically end the threat of violence with greater violence. Pre-emptive revenge. So goes the world. Today one sees the crumbling of the social contract we live inside of, and the breaks in the thin veneer of civilization that we take for granted. Covid 19 stresses us, stresses the social contract, and the social contract starts to crumble.
How is one to respond with Grace and Honour?
The others certainly are beyond that. They act with blatant disregard for truth, rightness, goodness, and preservation of the social contract which serves them as well.
Jesus lived in the social contract of the Roman Empire, which contract was imposed and maintained by force in many foreign lands which were then included in the Roman Empire.
Jesus lives in this contract, giving to Caesar what was due Caesar. Jesus teaches not revolution, but bending down to notice those left on the wayside by the progression of the empire. Jesus hears a nobody, a blind beggar, sitting on side of the road calling to him to have mercy. Everyone else tells the man to be quiet, that Jesus has no time for him. Jesus stops, though, and calls Bart to him, and shows him the greatest mercy possible: he forgives him his sins. And oh, Jesus also gives him sight. Bart can see for the first time.
Jesus does this for all of us. If only we dare see. God’s love, poured without end or restraint over us, is impossible to ignore. Once blind and wretched sinners, we see and can respond. Like Bart we can follow Jesus and love God with all our hearts, minds and strength. We can imitate Jesus, and bend down to see, heal and forgive all those the world has left in the dust.
We can entrust those threatening vulnerable people to God’s care, which may be Grace and new life, or God may give the haughty their due.
Either way, we are Christ’s. We stand by the vulnerable to protect them, even if it means it costs us our lives.
Covid 19’s huge stress on each of us and on the social contract does not make us into violent, vicious animals that we were not before. The stresses of life do not make us different. They show to others more clearly who we have been all along. Let us pray that we have learned how to be who Jesus makes us to be: following his Way of Grace and the Cross.
As far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.
Law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
Words of Grace For Today
Look at the news of this world. People play stupid games, lying to the media, trying to turn what was not into something that supposedly was. Or they try to turn what was into something that was not. This ‘spin’, or clearly named, these blatant lies, have an immense destructive effect on us all. At the core of it all, truth is sacrificed over and over again to gain someone’s unfair advantage. Those lies always come back to bite their authors and adherents.
It is too easy to condemn those who play those games. How can they get away with the lies? What is wrong with people that they do this?
Closer to home, there are people who make such bald-faced lies, for their own advantage, sacrificing even their faith communities, in order to gain some empty advantage. How can people think they get away with these lies? How can others who participate in the lies justify what they do? Do they think that God does not see what they do? Do they think they are somehow exempt from their own judgment day before Jesus?
At home, we each live lies, little lies, sometimes big lies, with each other. We say it is to get along. We say it is necessary to keep the peace. We rationalize, justify, and hold ourselves to be correct, even when we know we are guilty as guilty can be.
I, of course, do no such thing. I am better than all that. And you either laugh at that false, self-righteous, self-justifying statement, knowing you wish it were so for yourself, or you quickly jump to judge me for lying about my lying. Layers upon layers pile up of us judging others in order to justify ourselves. There is no end, and like the Romans, under threat from others’ evil deeds we turn to more evil deeds ourselves, we ‘hire assassins’ to eliminate our enemies, until our ‘assassins are hired’ to eliminate us, and then those who ‘hired the assassins’ are eliminated, until only ‘the assassins’ are left to run everything, and when the ‘Goths attack’ there is no one to adequately defend our ‘Rome’, and we and it fall, and fall hard we do, into the dust of history that barely remembers our names or reality, either the truth of who we were or the lies we created to make ourselves into something we never were.
How can God save us from this vicious cycle of deception, scheming, lies and self-destruction?
God removes our sins from us, ‘as far as the east is from the west’. Since we understand that east and west meet on the other side of the planet, today’s image is: as far as one end of the universe is from the other (no ‘worm holes’ or time-space folds or faster than light travel allowed.)
The clarity of how bad we all are, clear and fair judgment on us all, and condemnation of us all is brought by the Law. The Law arrives and appears to increase our sins, though it only makes clear how corrupt we all are even before the Law. The weight of our sins in clear view overwhelms reality and drags us all down into the pit of hell.
Except or DOCH
God is not done with us. God brings the Law to make us all aware how hopeless we all are. Then God sent Jesus to give us his story, of love and grace, which even death cannot defeat. Jesus replaces our sins with his perfect record, again and again as we continue to sin. God does this without demand. God only tells us the old, old story of Jesus and his love. With that story God sets us free from the burden of our sins.
The more the Law clarifies and makes obvious our sins, Grace abounds even more, to set us free.
We are not absolutely free. We are free from our sins. We then can choose (again and again as Grace answers our sins again and again with forgiveness) to whom we will be slaves: to our own sinful will, owned by the Evil One, the Devil, OR we can choose to respond to Grace, by being slaves to Jesus’ will for us.
God created us to be able to choose, to choose to be slaves to Jesus, and therein to sacrifice everything we could or would claim as our own rights. We sacrifice, as Jesus did, in order that others will know God’s Grace is for them! God created us, precisely so that we could do this with every opportunity life provides to us.
Without sin burdening us, with the Holy Spirit guiding and enabling us, with Jesus’ example before us, and with God’s love overwhelming us, we can miraculously (by God’s power) actually choose and follow through with thoughts, words and deeds that allow God’s Grace to flow through us to others.
And sin has no bite in us anymore.
Such is Grace.
Until the next moment we must choose, and we choose to pretend, that of course it is not so with me, I am free from sin. And by that lie we enslave ourselves to sin once again, and God starts all over with us … and again God starts all over with us … and again God starts all over with us. God never abandons us, not even as Covid 19 increase the stress and challenges and our sins increase moment by moment. God never abandons us and God’s Grace overwhelms us.
I will look with favour upon you and make you fruitful and multiply you; and I will maintain my covenant with you.
In [Jesus] we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.
Words of Grace For Today
Once we have practised, that we are saved by Grace alone (not by our own efforts) then we are ready to understand what our own efforts are: they are responses to God’s Grace, and always should strive to extend that same Grace to others, even our enemies.
It is odd then to read Joel writing: I will maintain my covenant with you. God makes a covenant with us. It is unlike other covenants (contracts). It is one sided: God promises to do for us, God does for us, God does not demand anything from us in return. God does not look from the covenant to us to respond. God’s promises give us life and a model for how God created us to live in creation. That’s God’s part. There is nothing like us maintaining our part of the covenant. That is a return to the false pride that drives us to try to be godlets, as if we could.
That does not mean we have nothing. We have everything by Grace through faith in God. That includes a boldness and confidence.
We can boldly step up to extend Grace to others.
In the face of enemies that deride and seek to destroy us, we have confidence that self-sacrificial love is God’s way and therefore our way to sure victory: love will win and evil will lose, hate will dissolve, riches, power, and reputations gained wrongly will evaporate, and those who have lived out God’s Grace for others will already have their reward in that they have an abundant life. Extending God’s Grace to others is the sufficient requirement for an abundant life and defines what an abundant life is. Love as Grace is everything.
Through faith in Jesus we have a boldness and confidence that comes from the Holy Spirit guiding us each day to seek out, enjoy, and share God’s blessings.
Give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
2 Corinthians 1:20
For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God.
Words of Grace For Today
Understanding to learn God’s commandments is a child’s first step in following Jesus. Next the difficult part comes in following the commandments. The ten commandments are a beginning to what following Jesus’ commandments (to love God, self, others and even ones’ enemies) are all about.
Love is a life long challenge that is worth every bit of energy and time we put into it.
We are only able to follow through because God promises to love us, accept us, forgive us, and set us on a path to follow the Holy Spirit guiding us to do God’s will.
God’s promises are always Yes to life according to God’s will.
Trusting God we can put an amen ready on our lips for every occasion.
Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord.
1 Corinthians 8:3
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.
Words of Grace For Today
What is it that we do, in order to try to hide in secret places from God?
We try to be little ‘godlets’, masters of our lives and of others. Sometimes it even looks like we succeed. The delusion required to make it look like we succeed is fascinatingly stupid.
God is with us always, not tagging along, but we are in God’s omnipresence wherever we go. God sees our foolish pretending to be masters of most anything. Ah, how painful that must be for God.
We all sin. Most often it seems people try to pretend that their sin is something else, or that someone else did their sin and that they did not do it, or that they really did not do that evil thing, but something else that only appears to look like sin. The cover up is worse than the sin.
We ALL sin. The only way forward to goodness is not to pretend at all. Certainly we cannot move forward to health if we pretend that we know enough to talk, manipulate or manoeuvre our way out of the sin we’ve done.
The only way forward towards an abundant life is to already trust that God will forgive us, freely, without cost to us. To trust that the price for our sins (every last one of them) is already paid for by Jesus’ death. To trust that the loss of God’s own life is recouped in the resurrection. With that trust (that only the Holy Spirit can give to us – but which we certainly can refuse) then we can face God, deserving condemnation and knowing that we will be forgiven. Not just that our past sin is wiped away. We also have our future life renewed, so that hope is real. So that our expectations can be for a good future for us, for our loved ones, for God’s people around us, and for the strangers among us on this planet earth – so that we can expect (and thereby help bring to be) good things to happen.
It is no less than being told our lives are over … and then we hear that miraculously we are healthy and will live. Or it is to know that everything good we have worked for and been and become will be taken from us (not possessions, but our selves). We anticipate with horror living as mere shells, having the innermost things that make up who we are ripped out of us and shredded away to dust and water. Then we discover that, though our expectations were accurate, by some inexplicable change in history and current events, we are left intact, whole and looking forward to living a full life for years to come.
How different it is for people like the church council who have breached their own constitution and legal process to falsify a vote to hire a man who is not qualified to be a pastor. What kind of guts and prideful foolishness does that take? What kind of innermost self are those people made up of that they brashly contravene their own constitution, and work to deceive and lie and cover up what they are doing? To be them must be terrible!
For to be them is as terrible as it is to be any and every other kind of sinner who cannot find forgiveness in the ‘godlets’ they have perversely begun to worship.
Catching Covid 19, whether one barely has symptoms, one suffers symptoms and recovers (either with chronic issues afterwards or not), or whether one succumbs into death (and still have the promise of life eternal) is not as bad as losing one’s self, that spirit that God has breathed into us at our baptisms, which gives us life. That is a horror that never stops no matter what one stuffs into one’s life.
With profound gratitude, even as we are caught in the snare of the Evil One, we trust that we will find our way forward to goodness and health, but only through God’s unending Grace, forgiveness and the gift of renewed life.