God’s Unequal Equation – Grace for All

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Wonders of God’s Grace

As Gift to Us All

Jeremiah 30:11

For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you; I will make an end of all the nations among which I scattered you, but of you I will not make an end. I will chastise you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.

1 Peter 5:6

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.

Words of Grace For Today

The world works under simple rules: do well, do good, and get rewarded. Do badly, do evil, and get punished. At least those are the rules that people talk as if applied, and that supposedly ‘good’ people abide by (or appear to abide by.)

The dark reality is that the simple rules do apply, just a different version: Do badly enough, do great evil, and get rewarded. Do real well, do great good, and get punished by those who do not want to be know as those rewarded for doing evil.

So preachers come to the pulpit, with little experience, or much experience, and they preach a foul message: that in the church we good people must pull ourselves up, pull ourselves together, and gather together in our efforts with each other to change the way the world works, so that the simple rules, the first version, the version taught to small children, is the way the world works.

The words may vary a bit: it may be that the reward is that justice is done for all people including the guilty who we must stop and punish. Or it may be that the homeless will have homes and the hungry will have food because we do the work to make it so.

Always the message is: get up and get it right. Get on with doing good. Our reward will be in heaven, or some such thing. But those who do terrible things will be punished and put to an end.

Ha! The evil that is in such a message is immense.

It corrupts God’s message in Jesus Christ down to the same formula as humans always play with: Do and be rewarded or punished. Now get on with all that you are able to do (good or bad.)

Only by Grace are we good enough for God, otherwise every single one of us fall short of God’s measure of what good enough is.

God’s simple rules are completely different. First God comes, rescues and saves us. God marks us as God’s own children. Because God saves us, not just once but our whole lives long, therefore we are able to hear the story, understand the story, accept the story, and share the story of Jesus and his unconditional love for us.

Therefore we are able to go out into the world that seems to work on a ‘do’ and ‘get results’ equation. In this wonderful world we are able to live out a different equation, the one that describes Jesus’ story.

That equation is ‘God does for us’ and therefore ‘we get to do for others.’

That’s amazing Grace.

That’s wondrous Love.

That’s a basis for undeniable Hope.

Because God does for us, we can face anything that comes our way. Even that which appears to be ‘discipline’ from God for our sins.

God promises, through everything, not to abandon us, not to destroy us.

In God’s own time we will be transformed, with gratitude, to those who can reflect God’s Grace to all around us.

There is no need or possibility of us good people pulling ourselves up, pulling ourselves together, or gathering together in our efforts with each other to change the way the world works. That may happen from our efforts, but only if God works in us. Our goal can be to transform the world. But only in that more and more people know Jesus’ story as the story of God’s unconditional love – done first for us by God when we do not and cannot deserve it, so that we can share that with all others.

That’s an equation that has God’s wonders as a wildcard variable, that makes everything possible … for God, and by God for us.

Hearts Enlivened by the Spirit! … OR?

Friday, January 22, 2021

Deep-Chill Coming

In our hearts as well?

Hosea 3:5

Afterwards the Israelites shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; they shall come in awe to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

Philippians 2:13

For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Words of Grace For Today

Afterwards.

After, in the prophetic image of Hosea given to him by God, … after God ‘plays the lover of an adulteress.’ For Israel has wandered yet again from God’s love to the adulteress love of other ‘gods’ and other values and other everything. Israel is trying to play being godlets, or at least as if they could choose their ‘god’. So Hosea, as God commands him, takes a harlot as his ‘wife’, to demonstrate to the people how they have taken ‘gods’ and loves that are not God, that are not Love!

Afterwards.

Thankfully God does not abandon Israel, nor us (for such wandering is commonly repeated even in these days). God has an afterwards for us. Afterwards is always a time of return to God, seeking God, and being in awe of God, so that we once again know God’s goodness in and among us!

This is the time that God’s gifts of the Spirit enable us to choose, to will and to work for God’s good pleasure … that all people have life, and life abundant!

Which time is this day for you?

Playing with other ‘loves’ and trying to hide from the love of God?

OR

Seeking, walking with God (since God walks with you already), standing in awe of God’s work in and among us, and enjoying God’s goodness for all people?

The deep-freeze will arrive this day, staying minus 20⁰C ish day and night, going to minus 27⁰C at least one night, maybe even minus 30⁰C. A touch of cleansing cold.

Will our hearts become or stay so cold?

Or will we choose to will and work for God’s good pleasure?

As for me and my household (oops, no household, just me) we/I will choose to …

hope that the Spirit will overcome sin in us/me and bring God’s will to be among us, also.

The Gift of Breath and Body

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Wonders of Creation

Wonders of Human Life

Wonders Created by God

as Gift for All!

Genesis 2:7

Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

3 John 1:2

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.

Words of Grace For Today

Whether we speak of ourselves made up of body and soul, or we see ourselves as one unified whole of various characteristics interconnected and interdependent, we know …

that historically people have spoken of humans as made up of bodies (flesh, blood, muscles, bones, organs) and souls (spirit, Geist, reason and emotion, sentience) … and …

that historically people have spoken of humans one interconnected, interdependent whole, connected not only to ourselves, but to all other humans and creatures and all of creation, not only in this time, but throughout all time.

In the creation story from Genesis 2 God animates the dust that forms a human with God’s breath (Spirit!) so that the dust lives.

We ought remain humble; we are but dust. We can be so wrongly arrogant; we are God’s Spirit. We ought be so humble; all that we are dust and Spirit are gifts from God, and we exist only because of God, continue only according to God’s Grace, and are promised eternal life only because God so chooses to love us. We can do nothing to earn any of this.

We are not little gods because God breathes Spirit into us. We are mere creatures capable of bearing God’s Spirit to others, capable of bearing God’s Spirit to all creation – not that we do, more often than not we choose to turn against God, God’s creatures and creation, playing as if we were little gods.

It is known that when our spirits, our souls, are in good health, the health of our bodies improves, we recover from illness quicker. When we connect with nature we reduce our stress and our physical and mental health improves. We, body and soul, are connected to God’s creation, interacting at least, though God teaches us we are interconnected.

In the face of Covid 19, and all the challenges to our physical health, even age itself, we pray for ourselves and all people, that as God heals our souls, God may heal our bodies as well. We pray that we may recognize that not only are we in this pandemic together and so dependent on others to observe restrictions to stem the transmission of Covid 19, we are guests on this earth and so dependent on each other to treat all humans as the precious gifts they are and all of creation as the wondrous gift it is, for us all.

Life of Spirit, OR …

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Sun Sets …

Is it the end!

Or is it a wondrous beginning?

Isaiah 61:1-2

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.

Matthew 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Words of Grace For Today

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me …

This is the best of all possibilities for us, that the Spirit of the Lord God be upon us.

This is not something for us, ourselves. This is for …

… the oppressed, the broken-hearted, the captives, the prisoners, and those who mourn.

Actually that is a partial list that stands in for those who need us, those who desperately need someone to give them aide, freedom, and/or hope. God sends us to bring God’s blessings to those whom God loves and wishes that, despite all that would rob life from them, they would have life and have it abundantly.

God sends us.

God sends us and blesses us to be able to comfort those who mourn, to proclaim good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners. That this is the day of the Lord.

Wonders and wonders.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon us … the Lord has anointed us

Nothing can be more marvellous for us.

The sun rises, the sun sets.

We can see creation falling apart all around us: the effects of sin and evil, corruption and deceit, and angst and despair.

OR

We can see the wonders of God acting all around us, bringing hope, comfort, liberty, release, and God’s time in all we encounter.

Which do you wish to live by?

Covid 19 Sucks the Life Out of Us – Joy not at all!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Even the trees do not stop the sun,

Neither the consequences of sin and evil

deprive us of God’s Blessings and Joy

Nehemiah 8:10

Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’

2 Corinthians 6:4-10

As servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger;
by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute.
We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Words of Grace For Today

This day is holy to our Lord, as is each day, even the most challenging day.

God gives us strength in knowing joy.

We could understand this to be paltry foolishness, trying to make joy out of the most terrible things of life.

Reading Paul’s account gives us clearer insight and understanding. Paul suffered as much as anyone, pursued, persecuted, arrested and jailed. In the midst of all that Paul meets his great difficulties that put his life in jeopardy with nothing short of a wondrous string of God-given goodness.

We expect everything terrible to be the part and parcel of Paul’s life. Yet from all this Paul asserts he is much alive, rejoicing, rich and having all that he could expect from life.

There it is again and always: God’s blessings flow so that in spite of all our difficulties, Covid 19’s included … so that despite the most egregious difficulties we know a more fundamental, poignant joy. That is part of our our abundant life; that we know God-given joy, gratitude, and hope, no matter what.

Covid 19 has all sorts of effects on our bodies and minds, many that make sense if we stop and think about it, and many are profoundly disabling. Covid 19 does not stop God, even if it kills or maims us.

Goodness comes in many ways to us all, always as a gift from God.

Joy finds us, if we humbly get out of our own way and but notice all God’s blessings flowing over us.

Who Do We Follow? One who’s blind or God become human?

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Word

Is Everywhere

Even after the sun sets!

Genesis 3:6

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.

Luke 6:39

He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?”

Words of Grace For Today

Who do we follow?

Can we follow others …

into the ways of the Devil?

on the way of Jesus?

So much is made, to great detriment, of ‘the woman’ seeing the forbidden tree was good for food, eating first, then offering her husband the same.

Truth is, as every honest person knows, men and women alike are as easily and as likely to see forbidden fruit as something they desire, must have, and for which they do great evil things to acquire.

Every day, each of us, needs a Word, whether from our memories or renewed, currently spoken to us, … a Word that creates faith in us such that we can resist temptation to pursue life for ourselves (to the great detriment of many others).

That Word does not come from anyone, anywhere, at any time, other than from God. And God’s Word must be spoken, written or communicated (through events, dance, music or something similar) by other humans. It is a paradox: only God’s Word can save us; only another human can provide that Word for us.

Thank God, God’s Kingdom is at hand, and God’s Word is given freely for anyone who is inspired by the Spirit to provide it to others.

In this time of pandemic, now in it’s tenth month of restrictions for us, we need this Word … to inspire us not to listen to the words of discouragement, of resignation, and especially of lies … as if ignoring the danger with reckless behaviour can save any of us.

Yet covidiots spring up everywhere, sometimes even in us.

The Word…

Only the Word that gives us breath and life, joy and meaning, love and hope can save us from the Devil’s temptations if not to participate in covidiot behaviours, then to ridicule and complain about those who do.

Thankfully we are not led by blind men or blind women. We are led by Jesus, who has vision to see God as we are unable.

We can approach each day with confidence that God feeds us all we require for abundant life … there is no need to go searching for fruit from the forbidden tree, or even the forbidden tree. Thankfully God provides those who can provide God’s Word to us, and even use us to provide God’s Word to others. Covid 19 has given us even greater opportunities to shared God’s Word.

Be of good courage. There’s much good to be done each day.

Help! Help! Help! Finding our way in Covid times.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Path of Our Life,

When God Carries Us,

We Have So Much to be Thankful for

Psalm 119:37

Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.

Colossians 2:6-7

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Words of Grace For Today

Eldon worked hard, sought to save as many people as possible wasted money. Yet his life went off in all sorts of directions as he sought to find purpose, meaning, or some fulfillment in life. He chased things that some would call extras or luxuries, just to have something fill up his life. He avoid alcohol and drugs, yet his addiction to things of comfort, pleasure and status had him deep in it’s grasp.

Knowing little, but that his addiction was killing him, he sought any help he could. He even prayed, Lord save me from my addiction. Show me the way to life as you created us to live it. Show me what you have created me to be and do with this life, this life that is so empty.

Jane grew up in the church, was confirmed, participated in the youth group activities and studies. Bright as anyone she knew she went off the university, on to grad school, with full scholarships. She applied to study history for a Ph.D. at Yale and was given a fellowship. While she had always applied herself to study beyond each course, the course work being rather easy for her, she found the Ph.D. studies all encompassing and demanding, so that for the first time in her life she was afraid of failing. She worked long hours each day, through every weekend. Three years into the work she was grinding away at her thesis when it all came tumbling down on her.

She tried to study and could barely see letters on the page. She tried to remember what she’d just read and made notes about, and it would not come to her. She tried to sleep and she could barely sleep.

She went to the doctor, who did a full work up but everything tested fine. The doctor did confirm that Jane was unable to focus on anything. It was as if she’d become an idiot overnight, and it stuck. It was so frustrating. She went to a therapist, who was kind and knowledgeable, but there was no help to give Jane. Finally she took a two week trip back home. Walking her old home town high school paths, nothing seemed to bring her to be able to read and remember.

She went to see her pastor, who listened thoughtfully to everything Jane told her. Her pastor said she had no idea what was happening to Jane. She advised simple things, stop to breath, say morning prayers, sing her favourite hymns, go to confession, come and partake in the Eucharist.

Jane then confided in her pastor that she had stopped going to church when the work load for her doctorate because so demanding.

Her pastor pointed her to a verse from Colossians:

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Her pastor pointed out that no matter what else was going on with her, Jane still had so much to be thankful for. She suggested keeping a daily journal of everything that she had and could be thankful for.

Jane started a Gratitude Journal, making entries each morning. Weeks later after returning to the university and her teaching duties (part of her fellowship) Jane realized she was less stressed about her studies, and she could sit and read and remember.

She dove back into her thesis work.

It was decades later when Jane crossed paths with Eldon, who was still praying for relief from his addiction as life meant nothing if he had not acquired something new that day.

Eldon could see how Jane was kind, thoughtful, and assured of herself, even as she took on some of the toughest challenges at the university where she was a full professor, shortly to take over as head of the history department. He asked how she managed to appear so … so … maybe it was that she looked so content.

She said she always found ten things to be thankful for each morning to enter into her Gratitude Journal. After that no matter what happened, she reminded herself all day long, that God was good to her. The rest was relatively easy, even if it was nearly impossible.

Today, remaining alert and consistently doing what is required to minimize the spread of Covid 19 after nearly a full year of it, may seem almost impossible. It need not, if we remember to always be thankful for all we receive from God.

12th Day of …

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Christmas Tree?

Pointing to the Light

and the Wonders All Around

Psalm 23:6

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Words of Grace For Today

On this the last day of Christmas for this season, the Christmas Tree comes to mind again, as many prepare to (or already have) remove(d) it from the home. The decorations, reminders perhaps of friends who have given them as gifts in years past, are packed away, the star or angel on top brought down, and the lights carefully removed and coiled up for storage. Again: what is the meaning of all this in relation to what Christmas really is about?

Again from Wikipedia: The Christmas tree is considered by some as Christianisation of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs, and an adaptation of pagan tree worship; according to eighth-century biographer Æddi Stephanus, Saint Boniface (634–709), who was a missionary in Germany, took an axe to an oak tree dedicated to Thor and pointed out a fir tree, which he stated was a more fitting object of reverence because it pointed to heaven and it had a triangular shape, which he said was symbolic of the Trinity.

While the challenges, losses, and joys of the coming days, weeks, months and years await us, we know (if we’ve been awake and alert at all) that we will many times need to be pointed back to Christ as the source of life for us, abundant life. When we remember from whom our very breath comes, and from whom all blessings flow over us, then we can live filled with gratitude. Filled with gratitude we can amend our lives to serve Christ more: we can ensure all people receive the requirements for life, abundant life.

Whatever and however we’ve kept Christmas this year, carrying on past traditions, adapting old traditions, creating new traditions: few if any of our traditions contain in themselves the essence of Christmas. It is in knowing how our traditions express, inform and strengthen our faith that we encounter the Christ, again and again, anew.

For that we may well adopt a tradition, if not this year, then next, where we gather together and, pointing to each item and pointing out each event of our traditions, we provide a short comment on that tradition’s history passed on to us, and how we have adopted it for ourselves to reflect the Light of the World.

Therein we can also proclaim again: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord our whole lives long.

6th Day of …

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

These are God’s Decorations Free for Many to See

Christmas Decorations

Can have Meaning

Enough

To Move Us To See God’s Mysteries Anew

Isaiah 65:17

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.

Matthew 6:10

Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Words of Grace For Today

Christmas Traditions, like decorations vary and have various meanings. On the 6th Day of Christmas, do we still have our decorations out?

From Wikipedia on Christmas Traditions:

The practice of putting up special decorations at Christmas has a long history. In the 15th century, it was recorded that in London it was the custom at Christmas for every house and all the parish churches to be “decked with holm, ivy, bays, and whatsoever the season of the year afforded to be green“. The heart-shaped leaves of ivy were said to symbolize the coming to earth of Jesus, while holly was seen as protection against pagans and witches, its thorns and red berries held to represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus at the crucifixion and the blood he shed. …

The traditional colors of Christmas decorations are red, green, and gold. Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus, which was shed in his crucifixion, while green symbolizes eternal life, and in particular the evergreen tree, which does not lose its leaves in the winter, and gold is the first color associated with Christmas, as one of the three gifts of the Magi, symbolizing royalty.

We may celebrate Christmas in various ways. Many traditions develop with meanings either originally as they are adopted or adapted. Others happen by happenstance or juxtaposition and later acquire meaning written into them quite fittingly or sometimes rather obtusely. However, it is interesting what we know and think about our traditions.

Do we see the red of Christmas, and remember the blood of Jesus at his crucifixion as he was sacrificed in order that we can receive new life? Do we see the green of our Christmas Tree and remember the eternal life that Jesus bought with his blood? Do we see the gold of our decorations and remember the gifts of the Magi, honouring the infant Jesus?

Does the ivy, the holly, the green, the red, the gold move our hearts to encounter the mystery of God become human as an infant, who grows to be the Saviour of us all?

Sometimes simple things are just simple things. Sometimes they point us to the mystery of the universe, God breaking into our mundane lives with wonders and deeds so marvellous.

These are our traditions around Christmas that are not interrupted by our maintaining the restrictions of Covid 19.

God’s great wonders and deeds are still ours to remember in many and various ways … and to be moved and inspired by … to be all God created and redeems us to be.

Facing God, On Christmas, Covid and All

Friday, December 25, 2020

Come

Follow

Where God Will Lead Us

Where God Will Carry Us When We Can Go No Further

Psalm 144:15

Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall; happy are the people whose God is the Lord.

Luke 2:10-11

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

Blessed Christmas

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.