I made the earth, and created humankind upon it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.
He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
Words of Grace For Today
The world is a wonderful place for us to live life, from the beginning to the end.
That’s what God does when God creates:
God creates the earth … and it is good and we can make enough evil to ruin it completely, or we can enjoy life fully.
God creates us … and creates us good, and free to love, so we are also capable to make enough evil to ruin everything completely, or we can enjoy life fully.
God creates the heavens and their host … and God creates everything good and we can make enough evil to ruin the universe completely, so completely, for ourselves and all future generations, or we can enjoy life fully.
Because we can be so evil, when Jesus comes, when the Holy Spirit comes (even though we are God’s own people) in our sin we reject Jesus’ way, we reject the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that makes us holy, that makes us saints. Instead of living well, we live … lost.
And lost we are lonely, and lonely we are desperate, and desperate we do so many unthinkable things to others, and at the same time to ourselves.
Thankfully that is not the end of the story.
Jesus comes as a vulnerable infant born in a barn, which starts a life that continues to a death and a resurrection … by which God creates a story of God’s unconditional love for us all, and God’s response to relentless hard hearts that make enough evil to ruin the universe completely, so completely, for ourselves and all future generations. In response to our Evil God forgives us and gives us renewed life, capable of loving again …
Even if we seem lost to ourselves, or even to others.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
2 Corinthians 13:11
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Words of Grace For Today
What would be your last words to your best friend?
To your child?
To your spouse?
To your spouse who gaslit you and lied to send you to jail?
To the contentious congregation that never could stop fighting among themselves?
To the saints who gave you faith, nurtured it in you, and inspired you to sacrifice everything to do the good and right things in every situation that you could, even for your mentally ill, abusive, and pedophile spouse?
Paul wrote to that contentious congregation in Corinth his last words, pointing them once again to Christ: Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
What else could he write after so many years of writing and hoping that they would realize the treasure they were for each other, gifts to each other from God?
Life of faith in Jesus the Christ is often referred to as a life seeking the Lord. This only somewhat apt description recognizes that we never can grasp hold of and possess the Lord, or even be guaranteed that we have ‘arrived’ at knowing that we are God’s alone. Since we continue to sin all our lives, having embraced our faith, or rejected the gifts of God, we cannot point to a perfected way of living. We always continue on, ‘seeking the Lord.’ This is only partial correct in that it puts the onus of ‘finding the Lord’ on us. In truth our journey is a gift from God. Our effort at ‘seeking’ has little to do with the outcome of our journey. Hubris ruled as we are we like to claim that our own efforts determine our faith journey and all of our lives. It is simply not so.
All we are that is good, is a gift from God, including our faith.
Knowing and trusting this we can indeed rejoice in the journey that God gives to us, no matter how obstacle ridden, or unfruitful, or hopeless it may seem to us along the way.
This we can do because God acts for us, first. Then we get to respond with all our hearts of faith that God has given to us. This is God’s way in God’s creation for God’s people.
No Matter the Weeds Or Ice In Our Way, Christ’s Light Guides Us.
No Matter What Our Enemies Do
Or Take From Us,
No Matter the Wilderness They Abandon Us To
God Walks With Us
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’
1 Peter 1:8-9
Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Words of Grace For Today
So many things challenge us each day, sometime making our day’s progress the usual grind, sometimes throwing up road blocks that could put us in reverse to find a way around them, and sometimes they stop us in our tracks, dead halt.
Whether it’s our enemies trying to undo us, or someone using us as a stepping stone to get ahead, or questions about our own worth brought on by lies about us or our own real limitations or others’ unreal expectations, or it is our health that fails us … no matter what it is that challenges us we all experience them every day.
The only way to live life abundantly is to be able to know that the Lord is our portion and only in God we can hope.
When we fear and love God, when we believe and trust God’s promises to carry us, when we know that glorious joy from knowing God walks with us … then we can know as well that God is at work in us, having given us faith and sent us out to share all God’s gifts with all God’s people.
God is at work in us showing us that our portion is the Lord, and that we can trust and hope in God alone.
Do not let the downtrodden be put to shame; let the poor and needy praise your name.
Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
Words of Grace For Today
The way the world works, the downtrodden, poor, and needy are left out to ‘flap in the wind.’
God works through the downtrodden, poor, and needy as Jesus’ story makes so clear:
John the Baptist and Jesus are each born of mothers who are of no account, Jesus’ mother even more so than John the Baptist’s/ Elizabeth is married to a priest. Mary is not even married and she is engaged to a poor carpenter, from a nothing place called Nazareth.
Those who fear and love God know how to celebrate God’s work through the downtrodden, poor, and needy: we celebrate for God raises up the lowly, and brings down those who consider themselves to be on high. The wealthy are brought to poverty. Rulers are brought down to be peasants. Powerful are brought down to powerless. Oppressors are turned on and oppressed. This is justice, God’s way.
The miracle is not this justice.
The miracle is that without making the downtrodden, poor, and needy new occupiers of the wealthy, ruling, and powerful who ignore those on the outside of their privilege and comfort, God takes the outsiders (the downtrodden, poor, and needy) and blesses them with the blessings so amazing and over-abundant that those wealthy, powerful, rulers, and oppressors have no hope of living as fully, as blessed, as well.
God brings us on the outside to be God’s insiders, who carry blessings enough to share with all people. That is the miracle; to be feared by those who try to gain it themselves, and to be celebrated by those to whom God gives God’s favour and Promise.
Even More Than Those Visible in the Countless Clouds.
The One That Counts Is Each One of Us.
The Lord utters his voice at the head of his army; how vast is his host! Numberless are those who obey his command. Truly the day of the Lord is great; terrible indeed—who can endure it? Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.
Be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.
Words of Grace For Today
A clean blanket of soft snow gently covers the scars of days past, as the sun forgets to rise, or so one might think if one did not believe …
How can one not believe since
God utters his voice at the head of his army; how vast is his host! Numberless are those who obey his command!
We have many a time already returned to God with our whole heart, perhaps with fasting and often with weeping and mourning at our sins, and awestruck by God’s Gracious love that renews full and abundant life in even our worst enemies who have many times tried to bring our death forward to one of these todays.
Who are we not to claim the hope that Christ has provided for us through our baptisms and the gifts of the Holy Spirit,
so that already overfilled with life only by Grace (not by our own merit or effort) we again this Advent (remembering that our waiting is also an every day attitude for us) wait for Jesus’ coming again as we would wait for our master to return from the wedding banquet, so that we may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.
This we do out of complete gratitude and awe for God has also covered us with the clean blanket of Jesus’ soft forgiveness as it gently covers the scars of days past, even if the sun forgets to rise.
How else could we approach each day if not with such a deep faith as we receive and the Spirit nurtures in us?
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.’
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.
Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Does not the One who planted the ear hear? Does not the One who formed the eye see?
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.
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.
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.