Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.’
2 Corinthians 10:18
For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.
Words of Grace For Today
Many strive to achieve for themselves great position of authority and power. For example one needs only look at all the bishops our church has had who seriously wanted to become bishops. They were disastrous for the church, each in their own special corrupt way.
The best bishops were those who did not want the work, nor the honour, nor the heartache of presiding over a church in decline.
The church remains in decline.
What does that say to us other than God has plans that are not those of the church which wants to grow … according to our measure of growth.
There is no shortage of people trying way too hard to make their plans into God’s plans for the church. All are dangerous and destructive.
What we need is leaders like Gideon, who though offered control and rule, chose instead that the people would be ruled by God.
To be ruled by God is something, not anything like being ruled by a code of what someone has determined is ‘for sure’ God’s will (though it looks like a terrible subset of faith, reduced so that that it is worthless.)
To be ruled by God is something, not anything like being ruled by a person who supposedly can speak God’s will. We’ve had no end of despots, also in the church.
To be ruled by God is something that will lead us in places we cannot anticipate, into adventures we cannot imagine, and to share life with people we had never known before as God’s people. It’s a wild ride.
Hang on tight
to the Holy Spirit’s fire and breath.
That’s all God gives us most of the time, everything else we see as solid is an illusion we create for our own sense of (false) security.
They asked, and he brought quails, and gave them food from heaven in abundance. He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Words of Grace For Today
Blessings and gifts that give life.
The basic necessities of life: air, water, food, clothing, shelter, meaningful labour, and love. God provides all of these, like manna on the wilderness ground in the morning, quail in the camp at night, water gushing from the rock, forgiveness promised even before we know we need it, and breath … breath to take when we need
to remember as well Abraham, Sarah, Naiomi, Leah, Rachael, Isaac, Esau, and Joseph, Paul, Peter, Augustine, Bonhoeffer, Niemöller, Romero, among so many
who have modelled life abundant in faith.
It was hot this day as I write this. Nearly the hottest of the summer so far. 35⁰C when 25⁰C is already hotter than normal.
Still in the midst of all kinds of heat, God’s promise is true: God blesses us with all the we need in Christ Jesus.
As the cool of evening settles, the fresh air promises a good night, and a refreshing rain tomorrow.
My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.
1 Corinthians 14:26
What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
Words of Grace For Today
Standing on level ground: building up the gathering of followers.
Out hiking in the mountains, more so as the years accumulate on one’s frame, one needs to take breaks from the steady walking forward, upward in order to catch one’s breath, to regroup one’s commitment and to let one’s body catch up on the energy output so slight for each step, yet so great for hours and hours of steps forward and upward.
A cool drink of water, or juice, and a handful of trailmix or cheese or pemmican helps the body and the spirit rejuvenate.
While one rests it is the first obvious thing, one seeks out a level spot, perhaps with a log or rock on which one may sit to rest. Experience will teach one that sitting is best kept brief, and that standing or walking easily about, catching any great view available, is the best way to rejuvenate one’s spirit for the arduous labour of one step times thousands per hour.
So also it is best to find one’s place in the congregation standing on level ground, orienting oneself to the view, toward God in our midst, and toward the people gathered, and toward all the people who are not present but are out there. So oriented one can assess the circumstances and discern God’s work, and with all that one brings to the congregation one can ensure it will build up the congregation, each person and all of us together.
What does not build up has no place in the congregation.
Paul had an earful of what the people in the congregation at Corinth were capable of, which did not build up, but rather divided the congregation.
Paul did not give up on the congregation, nor anyone person in it. He writes with clarity about the divisions and actions of the congregation that tear the congregation apart, that tear it down. And he points to ways the congregation can work to build each other up, to provide for each person, and not to continue hubris practices that divide and destroy the congregation.
For generations now those words, and unfortunately those circumstances, resonate as people stand against each other, against faith with integrity, and for their own limited vision of what the church is. We still pray: God save us from division. God grant us unity.
and then we whisper: my kind of unity, thank you God.
We really need to take a break, on level ground, give God thanks, and celebrate what the Holy Spirit has made of each person.
Together we can pray: God save us from temptation and deliver us from Evil.
For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.
Words of Grace For Today
God knows everyone’s works and thoughts. No one slips under the radar of all knowing God. Everyone, no matter their nation or tongue, will come to know God’s glory, power, and God’s knowledge of their everything.
God’s full knowledge of Jesus’ followers also applies to everyone, no matter Jew or Greek (or in today’s word – white or coloured, rich or poor, powerful and connected or isolated and expendable). God knows everything about everyone, and Jesus’ followers come in all types, no bias.
All that can be terrible news for those who are guilty. … Well that is everyone.
That can be terrible news; that is the 2nd side to the sharp sword of the Gospel, the sword that cuts us free from our sins; and it cuts to the heart of the matter to show up our desperate need to God’s Grace.
Thankfully God is gracious with everyone, and generous with grace for everyone who calls on the Lord. Jesus answers everyone who calls.
Sometimes the answer is that Jesus will be with us as we continue to suffer what we want to be free of, the lies about us, the weight on our shoulders.
Other times the answer that Jesus gives us saves us from the evil that threatens our very lives.
No matter the answer Jesus gives us, whether we continue through the suffering or are freed, life abundant is nevertheless ours. We can Breathe.
We can give thanks.
Jesus is generous.
We can share the blessedness Christ’ gives us with all people (no matter the person or nation) and we can share generously.
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.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
Words of Grace For Today
All through life we learn how to respond to challenges. We learn to tie shoes. Maybe not, since more and more shoes are just Velcro. We learn to make allowances for others while we play, then as we study (if we learn to study), then as we raise a family (if we have children), as we mature with a spouse (you get the idea: if we mature -:), as we work, and as we age, retire and kick the bucket (stubbing our toe as we most always do).
All this supposedly gives us common sense, which seems less and less common. All this supposedly gives us knowledge, which seems less and less based on reality for many. All this supposedly gives us opportunity to fill our lives with goods, which we throw away for newer, maybe better goods as if our own worth were dependent on our goods.
God, in many and various ways, keeps trying to communicate to us, hard headed and stiff-necked that we are, to show us all of this is inside-out, up-side-down, or of no consequence when it comes to being part of God’s good creation, and the goodness we are to be (in thought, word, and deed) for others and our own souls.
How great it is that God keeps communicating with us, generation after generation, day after day. Only God who is holy could bear us rascal sinners with such loving patience and grace.
It is not complicated. It is so simple that this way of being (sacrificially loving, forgiving and renewing others) can easily come from infants and young children.
We get to unlearn the world’s lessons, and practice the foolish truths that a child’s perspective on the Goodness of Creation can teach us.
Thanks be to God.
Covid 19 places huge challenges before us. The blessing in these challenges is that we have to re-orient our lives and have therein opportunity to practice again that foolishness of Christ, which brings life to all people.
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.
Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
2 Corinthians 4:9
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
Words of Grace For Today
The challenges of this life, Covid-19 being a relatively small one, can kick the breath right out of us. Sometimes, like Daniel thrown into the hungry lions’ den, we get a small reprieve before our enemies’ tools/animals of destruction tear us apart and consume us limb, by limb.
Fewer times than we notice other miracles during our short lives on this marvellously created planet, sometimes we survive the tools/animals hungry for our pieces, together which make up our lives. At those times, like Daniel, it is good to have friends in high places with real power, like kings and queens.
When it comes to the challenges of life beyond this life, in the battle between the Devil and God, we have no chance at all to even be effective on the playing field, the stage or the battle arena. The Devil always gets his devouring ways with us – unless the Holy Spirit steps in and defends us.
At that time it is good to be baptized, because in spite of all the doubt the Devil and his minions can create in us, we have a sure sign that God steps in for us, we bear the Cross of Jesus on our foreheads, emblazoned their never to be erased.
That cross does not fend off discomfort, doubts, physical hardships, or assaults of enemies. It does guarantee us that God never walks away from us. We can even turn on God, trying to create our own way forward, and God is still there, carrying us, caring for us, nurturing us back to full health.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
This is a two-fold promise: first that we will not be crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, or destroyed.
Second it is Paul’s full disclosure that following Christ, our enemies will afflict, perplex, persecute, and strike us down.
It’s good to have a cross on one’s forehead to remember, rely on, and especially to have a saviour in the highest places, as well as in the lowest places and everywhere in between.
Trust God. Everything else is a passing illusion. Trust God, no matter that you will not get out of this life alive; but you will live eternally, starting the day you were baptized.