I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food, which have not benefited those who observe them.
Words of Grace For Today
Regulations about food. Abstinence from tobacco, or from alcohol, or from dancing, or from Jazz, or from [fill in the piety thing to forego].
These are all ways to try to gain God’s approval.
Foregoing these or anything else, or obligatorily keeping some ritual or habit, are all futile efforts. Nothing we do or do not do can gain us God’s favour. Our place in God’s creation is far lower than that we have such capacity.
More significantly it is superfluous. God already has given us God’s favour. Still we get carried away by all kinds of strange (and yet devilishly familiar) false teachings about our place in God’s creation, as if we were as powerful as God, or more so, even able to be godlets ourselves.
It is the truth that many regulated behaviours have been scientifically good for us at the time and therefore healthy for us to observe. Not all are beneficial. Dancing is actually an activity that if one continues to practice into one’s old age it can help keep one’s mind clear, and one’s body able longer than if one had not. Still many call for avoiding dancing, because it leads to sex, which leads to children. The greater truth is that sex leads to children, which leads to dancing joyously. Whether sex is healthy depends not on dancing, but on one’s choice of partner and how one relates to him/her; which dancing has little to do with.
To remind us how we were and are so sinful and evil that God chose to flood out all life except a sample of each kind along with Noah and his family, and how gracious God is in re-establishing a covenant (an unusual unilateral covenant) with us, beginning with a promise not to flood all life away again.
So that we not forget, which we do so easily as we try to re-invent our relationship with God and creation … So that we do not forget God places a rainbow in the sky.
Light intersects the moisture of rain in the sky, and the prism effect of the moisture paints a bow of all colours across the sky. God continually works to show us how gracious God is.
Instead of abstaining or partaking or striving to achieve God’s favour, God invites us to immerse ourselves in God’s Grace which fills us and overflows all around us.
Grace! Grace is God’s free gift of liking us, of loving us unconditionally (despite the truth that we deserve condemnation), of forgiving us and giving us new chances. Second chances are far too few for God’s attitude towards us. God gives us new chances at life each minute, in each decision.
Bask in Grace. It’s like dancing only wondrously better for strengthening one’s heart, soul and mind at all ages.
You are wearied with your many consultations; let those who study the heavens stand up and save you, those who gaze at the stars and at each new moon predict what shall befall you. See, they are like stubble, the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. No coal for warming oneself is this, no fire to sit before!
Through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us.
Words of Grace For Today
The cool of fall has arrived, so that sitting in front of a fire is not merely an evening pleasure for campers, but a necessity for keeping oneself warm.
The fire that God sends the condemned to is no such fire. It is like a raging wildfire that consumes everything in its path. Our human efforts to know the future, in order that we can have the advantage over others are legendary … and futile. Our efforts to destroy others in order to get ahead are also legendary. Destruction we succeed at quite well. Getting ahead is a real failure as well, not that we have not often thought we’ve won and made great headway forward. It is that we make headway toward the Devil and our own condemnation, not that we make headway toward God’s will and design for us, namely that we live sacrificial lives in order that others may live abundantly.
The challenges that the Devil places in our paths seem without end. They obscure our vision of God’s will, our ability to thrive as we give life to others, and our discerning the value of truth in the face of lies that seem to flourish better than Canadian thistle or leafy spurge.
Into a world filled with these challenges we awake each day. God knows this well, for God is with us, Jesus’ name is Emmanuel (God with us). God created us with a spirit to discern Good from Evil, and God knows we so often choose Evil, for others and for ourselves.
So God makes promises for us to know and trust. Land flowing with milk and honey. Descendents greater than the stars in the skies. A Saviour for all people of every age that we can live freed from our bondage to sin, so that we can imitate the Christ in our daily lives, forgiving others their sins.
God guarantees these promises by the greatest authority of all, God’s own.
In this we can live, trusting our very lives to God’s promises and God’s living Word.
The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever.
For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Words of Grace For Today
Of what is life?
Food and drink?
Peace, quietness and trust, righteousness and joy?
The basic requirements for minimum and full human life are:
clean air to breath
clean water to drink
nourishing food to eat
adequate clothing to wear
adequate shelter to protect one from the elements
meaningful labour so that one contributes and receives sufficient reward for one’s labour
love: most significantly that one is loved unconditionally, and that one can love others unconditionally.
Food and Drink are requirements, as we all know. One can last 3 or so days without water, and up to a few weeks without food. Not well, and not many times over. One should have water and food multiple times each day to stay healthy.
Yet we can too easily get our priorities all wrong.
We can loose balance, perspective, focus, and gratitude. There are many ways to say this, and it happens to us in as many ways. When we live with food and drink as the focus of our lives, to the detriment of labour and love, then we live off balance, out of kilter, or, as it’s said in so many ways, ‘messed up.’
It is exceedingly difficult to achieve peace, quietness and trust, righteousness or joy. Truthfully one cannot achieve them at all. We receive them as gifts from God.
It is hard to imagine that we would over focus, live out of kilter, living for peace, quietness and trust, righteousness and/or joy. Yet this also is possible. We humans have great ingenuity when it comes to ‘messing up’ life.
These gifts from God are not for us to achieve. Rather they are for us to share, and in sharing God fills us to overflowing with them.
While Covid-19 restrictions, and even the lifting of restrictions and a return to more ‘normal’ can tax us, at times beyond our limits, the stress of these times do not change who we are. The stress just makes very clear to ourselves and to others what kind of people we really are.
We are children of God and wretched sinners, simultaneously. We need to be loved, unconditionally. And to love unconditionally. Yet we ‘mess it all up’ terribly.
Thank God, we are forgiven, and given re-newed life each day, each hour, as the Holy Spirit works in and through us, despite our wretchedness.
It is beginning to feel much like fall as I write this. Cool air blows, tree tops sway, leaves rustle and fly, rain spits and drips. Everything inside is set to retain warmth and let in what light there is. In this day whatever it is like where you are may God’s blessings be obvious and not forgotten by our living off balance.
May we be caught tipped by the weight of blessing raining down on us, refreshing us, giving us the most precious things to experience and share.
shining on us day and night by sun, moon, and Holy Spirit
2 Chronicles 32:24-25
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. He prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not respond according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and upon Judah and Jerusalem.
Then one of the lepers, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. The leper was a Samaritan.
Words of Grace For Today
False pride and arrogance or humility and gratitude, two apparently mutually exclusive manners of responding to all God has done for us.
In 2 Chronicles the writer interprets the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem as God’s response to Hezekiah’s proud and hard heart. In Luke the writer interprets Jesus’ healing the lepers as done in response simply to the lepers asking.
That one returns to thank Jesus, against Jesus’ directions that they fulfill the Jewish Law and show themselves to the priests (to be recorded as cured and therefore free to return to their families and position in Jewish society.) The one who returns gains nothing by visiting the priests. He is an outsider and gains no ‘return’. Leper or not, he is not accepted into Jewish society. He returns then to Jesus, acknowledging that Jesus has more authority than any priests.
Luke’s message is that those who are burdened with their own religious authorities and practices may well fulfill their obligations to them, Jesus still comes and heals those people. People with no locally recognized religious authorities and practices to fulfill (the Samaritan perhaps had some, just not recognized by the Jews), are free to recognize Jesus’ greater authority and to respond with appropriate gratitude.
Who are we?
We wish we were like the Samaritan, free to recognize Jesus’ authority and power with thanks and gratitude.
If we are honest, we are like the other 9 Jewish lepers, bound to duty to other authorities, and easily able to miss the wonders Jesus provides and therefore easily able to miss out on thanking Jesus and living with wondrous gratitude. That gratitude is a more powerful force in life than ‘falling in love’, about which much is written, spoken and known – how it transforms life for the better (or worse.) Gratitude transforms life always for the better, and it does not wear off after a short few months.
If we are honest, we are also often like Hezekiah, proud and hard hearted, completely capable of pleading to God for help when life catches us in disaster or deadly illness or total loss. But when it comes to giving God thanks for all God has given us, our breath and very lives … Well then we are back to fulfilling our ‘obligations’ to other authorities and demands (like careers, money, status, reputation among those driven by greed and avarice, and false images of ourselves as above or without God).
Luther described all of these as happening simultaneously in our lives as responses to the same events. To which he prayed as we well can: God save us!
And save us, Luther knew as we can know, Jesus already has.
We can choose to live lives transformed by thanks and gratitude. Bit by bit each day.
Where else are we going to turn for the living water? the bread of life? the Words of eternal life? the hope that does not disappoint? the promises that fill us so that we have more than enough to share with all who need life?
Christ reconciles us to God, no sacrifice required!
We have a blemish free record, no matter how many ‘gloves’ we’ve lost.
You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities. I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
You who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him.
Words of Grace For Today
The sacrifices made to God have changed through the centuries and generations. Once we offered birds, animals, and before that other people, even children. We knew that, having done something wrong, having sinned, we owed God payment for our sins.
When we know we have sinned our minds recognize how estranged we’ve made ourselves from God. Knowing what we’ve done we become hostile to God as well.
We ‘dig our own grave’. Yet God does not leave us there.
No sacrifice by us is sufficient to pay for what we have done, and continue to do, and will do. God knew this, knows this. God sent Jesus, his Son, to sacrifice himself, the one last sacrifice needed to set things right between us and God, between all humans and God.
Nothing is needed on our part.
Now since God sets us right with God, holy and blameless … well the possibilities are astronomical, and wondrous.
Jesus calls us and the Holy Spirit equips us to be the voice, hands, and feet of Christ on earth, extending unconditional love to others, providing justice based on truth combined with mercy and wisdom, and blessing all people with more than just the basics of life. As the Holy Spirit equips us we can offer others abundant life. That may require sacrifice on our part, yet all we have is given to us, so it is not really ours to give up, it is ours to share with everyone.
Makes for a wondrous life for us, and for all people.
Now if I have found favour in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favour in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.
2 Thessalonians 2:14
For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Words of Grace For Today
It is easy to have silly hopes … and it is foolish to live one’s life built on those silly hopes.
One can, for example, hope that (contrary to all experience past and reasonable expectation for the future) that one will have a [fill in your desired, unreachable thing, like a ‘private lake’]. It is all silliness, hoping to possess things. It is foolish then to build one’s life so that one can finally buy a boat, and then store it away for the day that you can make it’s maiden voyage on your ‘private lake.’
To have hope that inspires the best of life into one and drives one to live the best and that draws from one better than one can imagine … to have that kind of hope one cannot foolishly build one’s life based on silly hopes. One needs to understand profoundly what is before one in the present, what is behind us in the past, and what lies ahead for us in the future.
Moses, wise as he was, is not always written about as if he were so wise. He asks of God, who has just told him that God favours Moses, that Moses will be able to live knowing God’s ways (in Hebrew this knowing is also to be intricately wound up in, to be active in the doing of God’s ways). And to what end does Moses make this request? To find God’s favour.
Yet, God’s favour is already pronounced by God! Moses is making a circular request.
This is us, all too often. God saves, loves us, favours us, and tells us so. We respond by asking that if God loves us and favours us we may know how to earn God’s love and favour!
We all too often want not to be in God’s debt, but we want to know ourselves, and be seen by others, to have earned all that God has gifted us! So Moses is written about as if Moses did not accept God’s favour, but wanted to earn it. Indeed, Moses wanted others to see without a doubt that God favoured Moses. It was required for his and his people’s survival.
There is so much more going on than a silly wish, to earn God’s favour. We can learn if we see.
The second passage also contains something to see. Paul writes to the Thessalonians that his proclamation of Jesus the Christ to them is to bring them Jesus Christ’ Glory.
Christ’s Glory is not something that many people would seek: it involves betrayal by one’s friend, a false conviction, a torturous cross, and death. Only then does it come to anything like what we might expect as Glory.
But Glory, God’s kind of Glory it is. It is that God brings us to life abundant through our being betrayed, being falsely convicted and our bearing our own crosses, which indeed kill us. Then we can start to understand the sacrifice for others lives that Jesus accepted, that Jesus calls us to accept.
On this cross, on this glory, we can hope that God will show us how to live the abundant life … not so that we can earn God’s favour. Rather we ask that God will show us how to live the abundant life that does not require things at all. Rather we ask that God will show us how to live the abundant life as our response to trusting that God saves us, loves us (unconditionally), and favours us.
Knowing this love, trusting this love, we are able to answer Christ’ call to sacrifice our selves, even our lives, so that others may have life, and have it abundantly.
That’s Glory. That’s Grace. That is us as Jesus’ humble followers.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’
Words of Grace For Today
If we are honest with ourselves and each other, we know our participation in original sin.
It is the opposite of what we wish well for ourselves and others, that we would consider the goodness of life, and what we understand God intends for us.
We know that we deserve all judgments of God made against us, and all punishments and consequences we may encounter.
So it is of the greatest consequence that we know God promises to deal with us NOT according to what we deserve, not according to our iniquities. How wonderful it is that we understand, on the contrary, that we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as all people will be saved by grace.
Now that our salvation is secured, what can we do about all those iniquities that keep piling up? Can we stop increasing them? Unfortunately not, but we ought try with grace and gratitude with all our mind, body and strength.
We can offer grace to all other living people. We can breathe and love and hope.
Life is messy, and we can live with confidence and courage in the face of all kinds of evil knowing God has already dealt with it all. So onward, with what this day has to offer; countering all evil and sin as we can, and bringing God’s grace to bear on all that we can.
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’
2 Corinthians 4:8
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
Words of Grace For Today
In the midst of Covid 19 challenges, easing restrictions, and great losses already it is not hard to feel the pinch of everything else in life that goes wrong or is done against one just that much more intensely.
Rates of infection climb in the US. Riots and violent confrontation with police continue. Lies continue to have devastating effects on scapegoats. Children get hurt, invisibly and visibly, by parents who disregard them as humans. Despots use anything, Covid 19 as well, for cover for their unjust efforts to maintain control and carry out their destructive plans in countries around the world and even in churches in the local community. Business people make plans to ‘contribute’, which is hardly contributing but will net them an unfair profit.
Even amidst all this, God has equipped Jesus’ followers with wisdom to see not only the truth behind the attempts to deceive and destroy. God gives us the wisdom to see the Holy Spirit at work all around us. Real efforts in many long term care facilities net joy and contentment as unusual plans and policies allow families to reunite for visits. From declining resources families find ways to ‘visit’ with each other across thousands of miles and just across town. Neighbours pay attention and chip in to ensure everyone has enough food, supplies, and regular conversation. Churches, stuck in the mud of privilege and wealth for decades, actually start to care for the homeless in their own communities. Parents develop summer opportunities for children to encounter nature in ways not possible before, now that the ‘regular’ summer activities are not possible.
God has even given us plenty of rainwater, and a cool July … until now!
(Well the last is from my perspective where anything over 25⁰ creates real hardships. Not that I’ll melt like chocolate. I just run out of steam, and the mosquito bites seem to be tiny neutron bombs irradiating the life right out of me.)
You can spring your snowmobile from this point to the lake,
until God brings Spring
and then it’s a disaster to spring here.
I am God, and also henceforth I am He; there is no one who can deliver from my hand; I work and who can hinder it?
2 Corinthians 5:10
For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
Words of Grace For Today
How simple it seems: life here and now is a proving ground of who and whose we are. After death or maybe before, God judges us on the basis of what we have done, whether good or evil. No one can deliver themselves or others from God’s hand. God’s work (also of judging us) cannot be hindered by anyone … not even the Devil himself!
It all sounds pretty simple, and devilishly difficult. Proving oneself is an ever failing project. We go from one compromise of good to the next compromise of our souls, just to make it through any 60 minutes of any day. All of what we think, say or do is catalogued permanently without error or omission under our name in God’s never ending knowing and memory.
Who could face God thus? For every single last one of us will fail that judgment. We cannot make it through one hour, yet alone a day, or a year, or a lifetime.
There is a vain hope, held by so many people, that though they have done terribly all through their life, they have somehow managed to say or do something really good, and they hope that good thing or two or even a series of things can somehow outweigh the terrible, unending bad things they have done. The scales are not so weighted in our favour. God is just, basing all judgments on truth and whole truth only. Everyone of us fail, and fail miserably as the scale rapidly hits bottom on the evil side overwhelmed by the weight of our sins.
Given this inevitable negative judgment, some people give up hope, and either more fully participate in evil to get ahead, at least in this short life on earth, or they despair and fail to give a day’s thanks for everything they have, hiding from life as much as they can, with consuming, praying, doing small ‘good deeds’, or – and this applies to the most people, nearly everyone somehow at sometime – they compare themselves to others and delude themselves into thinking that the judgment scale of God is somehow marked on a curve of averages and not absolutes.
Out of this delusion arises the nowadays all too common assertion that truth is never absolute, but it is all relative. We just see things differently.
Well … we do see things differently. God does not. And created in God’s likeness we too can see God’s absolutes more than we care to admit, even to ourselves.
Plato’s Ideals are not a mere figment of one’s imagination. They are real, as real as the water we drink and food we eat to stay alive.
The only way our judgment day[s] – it is likely we face God’s judgment each day and just do not know it – before God goes anything other than real ugly for us, is that God anticipated how we would be, and provided a loving, self-sacrificial manner in which we could understand both God’s firm judgment based on the truth of who we are and what we’ve done, and God’s endless mercy and love, which gives us re-newed life as many times a day it is possible.
It seems that God gives re-newed life more times a day than we are capable of imagining, for we still breathe … and pray in thanks … and share what God entrusts to us. The renewal of life is that Jesus’ record, unblemished and pure, is swapped in for our terrible sinful records, and God judges us as unblemished and pure, pure of heart and able to see God once again in the ordinarily mundane things of life. Those things become sacred. All things become sacred. All people become sacred, for God uses it all, us all, to make good happen, such good that we are wholly incapable of doing on our own. The Holy Spirit infuses renewed life into us, and pulls miraculously good thoughts, words, and deeds out of us.
We actually follow Jesus.
We don’t just practice some random and useless piety, like not smoking in beer country (but beer is great at church potlucks), not drinking in tobacco country (but smoking is great after the services), or as in Minnesota, smoking, drinking and dancing are all to be avoided; but us medical missionary kids knew it was all bunk. We didn’t smoke because it was unhealthy and stunk. We didn’t drink because it messed with our brains and our brains were fine, thank you. We did dance, and occasionally it led to sex, which was just part of life, because children are wonderful gifts from God, so is sex, and so is dancing – we just did not advertise it in front of other ‘pious’ weak-faithed Christians. We did not take sex or children lightly. They were great gifts from God, not to be messed with lightly, but to be celebrated greatly. Again, we did not go out to have sex with a great number of people because we knew that sex was powerful and if you messed about with it, it messed about with your brain, and our brains were fine, thank you.
Somehow growing up in all that lutheranism of minnesota (it is the state religion, or was, after all) many had not faced the challenges of world views that did not include God, and not as a small matter, but aggressively, determinedly denied God because that faith threatened their old, old religion of worshipping ‘things’ that medicine men and women could (supposedly) control. Our faith offered something beyond piety, or setting ‘old’ ways aside. Our parents as medical missionaries came with science and medicine (products of Christianity’s care for the world and the vulnerable and sick – Jesus was after all a healer), both of which set things in order in this world and offered, as Jesus had, healing.
Instead of latching on to some senseless piety that overshadowed faith, we knew out of necessity the essentials of faith, and it certainly was not some useless piety, or false faith. Our faith had to be genuine and authentic, fully dependent on the Spirit working through us, or we’d have been eaten alive by those who stood against this faith.
Back home, our faith had to be genuine and authentic, fully dependent on the Spirit working through us, or we’d have been eaten alive by those who stood against this faith, those that held some false piety as being the core of faith, as if we could behave our way into God’s favour!
No one can hinder God’s work, not God’s work in us or this wonder-filled world.
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe,
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Words of Grace For Today
Bribes are the way of the world.
Some are blatant, demanded, extracted. Others are offered, subtly, as perks for understood unnamed favours.
The Church is not exempt from this. The Courts are not exempt from this. No part of life seems to be exempt from this bartering of favours for favours. Ideals are set aside too easily as palms are greased and the recipients on both sides enjoy a bit more of life than they otherwise would have. As if life were a zero-sum game, where one needed to get what is there before someone else beat you to it.
Since the Church is not exempt, even the faithful, confessing a faith that is otherwise founded on the cross, behave as if salvation is one more thing to acquire for oneself, as if it were insurance for after death.
It is challenging not to fall in line, as permits to build are denied for no apparent reason, or provided to others even with faulty plans; as jobs come to others (not even qualified) who enjoy high standards of living, and others (more than fully qualified and capable) are left to seek labour outside their field of training; as invitations, social recognition, and being included are offered to the most asocial people, and others dedicated to the well being of all people are ignored, socially derided, and ghosted by nearly all.
God, though, is not a taker of bribes. Salvation is given to all as a free gift. Claiming to be able to earn it can revoke the gift from one’s life. There is no effort, or favour, that one can offer God that would be sufficient to bend God to do other than what is God’s will. Attempts to do so are sufficient to see God’s will exclude one from life.
God is not one among many gods. God is the One and only God, the God above all other gods we may try to create. God is powerful, and loving, gracious and generous with all people. We are to fear and love God …. This is the beginning of our response.
The Promise is made often in many ways. Those who do not trying to bribe or cheat or step on others to get ahead, in a word, those who remain pure, they will see God. Perhaps as Moses did, face to face, turning Moses ashen white from the encounter that few if any others have ever survived. More likely the pure of heart will see God in the everyday. For without a heart that is bent-in-on-itself, bribing, cheating, and trying in every way to ensure it’s survival before anything else – without this bent-in-on-itself, one’s heart remains open to see the wonders, the awesome wonders that God works each day for others … and for oneself.
Wonders of wonders, to see God each day many times over.
That generous gift from God cannot be matched by anything we might try to acquire for ourselves.
Our salvation assured (a gift from God) and seeing God each day, we pray: Give us today our daily bread. Then we work, sweat, and plan to ensure we and others have the basic requirements for life: clean air, clean water, nourishing food, adequate clothing, sufficient shelter, meaningful labour, and opportunity to love and be loved.
One day at a time, life is full of wonders, and God is awesome!