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.

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.

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.

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.

Waiting for Comfort

Sunday, November 28, 2021

God Uses Every Means

to Get Us to Listen and Prepare Us

(even Morse code)

for the Coming Days

Of Celebrating Christ’s Birth

Psalm 119:76

Let your steadfast love become my comfort according to your promise to your servant.

Luke 2:25

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.

Words of Grace For Today

Waiting.

Waiting for an event that is so much more than just another everyday occurrence.

Waiting for an event that is so much more than the greatest thing in one’s life.

Waiting for …

Waiting for God to break into the life of humans, and make a statement so clear about God’s love that it will shake all the foundations that humans build on, for everything that humans build.

Waiting for God to reveal how God relates to us, in our broken, sinful, destructive lives, which we seem incapable of setting right.

We wait.

We wait again this Advent.

We wait again this Advent for the celebration of our Saviour’s birth.

We wait.

Yet there is no way that we can wait idly for this celebration, just ticking off the days, eating the chocolates out of the advent calendar, and hoping that this celebration will bring life to us again, renewed life, and God’s favour … after all that we do as humans to one another.

We wait for our enemies to be converted to reasonable, truth abiding, honourable humans once again, if they ever were such people.

We wait … and the Holy Spirit works in us, helping us to see …

Helping us to see beyond the portents of this time, as storms increase in magnitude month by month, as temperatures rise so that glaciers recede at record rates, and so that ice caps melt and ocean levels rise covering islands and seashore cities, as wildfires burn away forests protecting mountainsides and rivers, as earthquakes increase, as droughts grip whole agricultural areas leaving farmers with no crops to sell and people without food to eat, and as rainstorms pour water in record amounts on dry and vulnerable areas flooding homes, roads, and whole cities, and whole mountainsides give way to mudslides that block off roadways halting transport of goods in its tracks, leaving retailers shelves thin, and Christmas wishes changed from a special gift to a wish that our lives and the lives of our loved ones will be preserved.

Helping us to hear beyond the news of these disasters and the ever- mutating and more dangerous variants of Covid spreading to our areas.

Helping us to trust …

Helping us to trust God’s promise that God’s steadfast love will be our comfort …

a comfort like no other.

Thus comforted we are able to reach out to save many people, people we know, people we do not know and people who are our enemies …

saving people from disaster with needed, real-time help,

saving people from the wiles of the Great Deceiver with needed, real-time love and hope.

Helping others to trust God’s promise that God’s steadfast love will be their comfort …

a comfort like no other.

What We Think We Need OR What We Need?

Friday, November 26, 2021

We do not need great clarity to tell they are ducks.

Nor do we need great clarity to know

what is Evil,

Nor to remember God Promises forgiveness.

Psalm 94:9

Does not the One who planted the ear hear? Does not the One who formed the eye see?

Matthew 6:8

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Words of Grace For Today

It is all too easy to point to other people who behave in disingenuous ways, perverted ways, dishonest ways, criminal ways, and even full out evil ways.

Yes, in our pursuit to find our own way in life, we always find others who are examples for us to follow, and many more others who are examples of who we do not want to be like, examples of what we do not want to ever do.

As we pursuit our way in life, (in order to make more gains for ourselves) the temptation becomes greater and greater to do things that are less and less noble, genuine, honest, legal, and even somewhat good. Whether we admit it or not, we all fall into the trap of thinking that ‘just this one, little bad thing’ will be enough to help us make it. And then there is another, and another, until if we were able to be honest any more, we’d realize that we have become exactly what we promised ourselves we would never become.

That is the human failing, that we sin, no matter who we are, or how good we think we really are. It is the case for the alcoholic on the street, the drug dealer peddling slow death to so many, the police officer creating evidence against innocent people, the pastor who lies along with the police, the wealthiest community leaders and funders of the local churches who indulge their sexual desires with so many people by arranging for them some kind of financial benefit even so much as a place to live and a job or a few thousand each month during a monthly ‘afternoon tea’, the business woman who is as corrupt and perverted as the Russian occupiers and STASI of her youth, the judges who turn a blind eye to the corruption and perverted lies that corrupt lawyers and police offer the court and then convict innocent people (who will not toe the line of complying with power people’s wishes to keep in the dark their perverted ways), and the bishops who listen to gain information and then use that information to support whoever can deliver them enough power to remain bishop with influence in as many congregations and with as many people of money and power as possible.

The question is not whether anyone, ourselves included, have done things that God looks darkly on, sins that hurt others and separate us from God’s will for us.

The question is what we do next?

Do we admit our sin, confessing all that we’ve done, and seeking forgiveness from those we’ve hurt? 12 Step groups include this in their path they repeat over and over again in order to be honest with themselves about their addictions and how the addictions keep them from living by killing them slowly.

Or do we continue in our perverse ways of power, wealth, privilege, luxury, and greed – all at other people’s expense, even at the expense of their lives?

Do we admit, with abject humility, that God sees and hears everything that we do, say, and even think? Do we grab on to God’s promise of Grace, of forgiveness if we confess our sins?

Or do we continue to pound the life out of others with all means available to us, to extract the last bit of advantage we can from them before they die? Or do we continue in our blindness and deafness to deny that we have sinned at all, surrendering our souls to the Devil, and our lives to evil at each step?

The declarations of those who follow evil at every step about other people, false declarations made in order to deflect accountability and responsibility and exposure and honesty from catching up with their evil ways and their hearts caught by and dedicated to evil … These false declarations may appear to ruin others, innocent others, but they do not. These false declarations say nothing about their victims and instead light up for all to see, the perverted, dishonest, destructive acts of the declarers. Their false declarations about other illuminate for all to see exactly what they desperately try to conceal: their own sin and evil hearts and minds and deeds.

Those, like myself, about whom these false declarations are made, can live in peace, knowing that God sees all, God hears all, and God judges all people by the reality of their hearts, minds and deeds. Our enemies do not destroy us. They destroy themselves, for a lie once spoken, and lie relied upon, remains always to be a lie, and the lies turn back on their creators to consume them.

Thanks be to God, who provides all we need, even before we ask, so that we can live in peace, blessed peace provided for all us God-made saints.

Idols OR Love

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Idols cannot create this beauty,

Only God’s Pure Love

Creates this kind of Pure Love.

Deuteronomy 29:17

You have seen their detestable things, the filthy idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, that were among them.

1 Thessalonians 3:12

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.

Words of Grace For Today

There are so many idols. These used to be made of wood and stone, sliver and gold. They are also made of things that build perverse hopes, perverse power, perverse wealth, perverse status, perverse lies, and … all kinds of perverse things.

There are so many kinds of love, so many ways that it holds us, supports us, gives us life … makes things as God created them to be in so many ways.

In each moment we get to choose to worship our idols, our perverse idols that rob us and others of life.

OR

In each moment we get to choose to receive and give love that is able to create life for us and for others.

This choice is not something we can choose by ourselves. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us and inspire us, and help us to choose what is good and right.

In this moment how will we choose?

In this moment how will you choose?