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?

Life Is Always God’s Miracle for Us

Monday, January 18, 2021

Creative We Can Be Manipulating Existence

Existence and Life We Cannot Create

Only God Creates Existence and Life

Nehemiah 9:6

And Ezra said: ‘You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you.’

Romans 11:36

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.

Words of Grace For Today

There is much that we can create:

Paintings, sculptures, pottery, photography.

Dance, theatre, film.

Novels, short stories, poetry.

Our spirit flows from us as we create, and as others take in our creation they certainly can be inspired. The spirit flows.

As parents we are privileged and responsible and accountable for nurturing, guiding and inspiring our children to become healthy adults. Teachers, coaches, and pastors/rabbi/priests are privileged to assist and participate in nurturing children. Yet we do not inspire life into children, we merely help God’s given spirit grow.

We cannot, no matter how hard we try, inspire, on our own, our creations to breathe. God alone can bring what is not alive, to breathe and come to life, to dream and envision the possibilities of joy and hope.

God, on the other hand, creates in such great quantity and quality that we can only be awestruck. So much in the universe does not breathe, does not carry and share spirit. God also creates things that live, that breathe, that smile and dream.

God gives that to each of us!

We can only respond by being awestruck. We can only appropriately respond by worshipping God, our creator. All the goodness we enjoy comes from God. As we remember that we are God’s creatures owing God everything, life is as God created us to live it: life is life abundant.

As we share with others what God has given us, so that everyone enjoys life abundantly, we enjoy more and more what God intended for us to experience: grace and love.

Another great thing about creation is that that God’s creation is held together by grace and love.

That makes for a wonder filled day … each day!

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.

In Epiphany, What Do We Do?

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Light,

The Colour,

Or

The Cold, Snowy Woods?

Which do we see as we progress through life today?

Malachi 1:6

A son honours his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honour due to me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due to me? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. You say, ‘How have we despised your name?’

Matthew 21:28-31

What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’

Words of Grace For Today

Everyday there are so many things and people that demand our attention and demand our subservience. The governmental orders that restrict our freedoms in order to protect us all from the deadly and maiming Covid 19 are high on the list of those we are constantly aware of.

Where does God fit on our list? How would we know? How would others know? Does it really matter where or if God is on our list of those we give our attention to and whom we give subservience to?

Malachi thought it does, as did Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, all the prophets and prophetesses, the woman who provided for Jesus and his disciples, and surely Jesus does!

Matthew points out how we humans too often recognize that we must give attention and obedience to God, but we can’t really be bothered when the rubber hits the road; we’ve got other things that keep us busy.

Wayne said he would honour God. But then in his honourable profession the temptations of greed and avarice, the pressures to perform the impossible, and the corruption of absolute power overwhelmed him. He had promised to honour God, but he honoured no one but his own reputation. Sitting in a position of power he destroyed people, and dealt with honest honourable people as cruelly as he could. He identified their greatest vulnerabilities and exploited them until they had no resistance or hope left. He loved watching people crumble behind him as he moved on to the next victim.

God cried, for his son, Wayne, who had started life with such great brilliance and promise, such extraordinary gifts and opportunities, such hope and kindness, had given up on himself, on the goodness of life, and on God.

Tina grew up with church all around, and saw the hypocrisy of her parent’s faith, the pastors’ greed and blatant sinfulness, and the church leaders corruption and dishonesty. She stood at her confirmation, as she thought she must for appearances and to avoid the guaranteed battles with her parents if she did not. She stood and professed her faith, but under her breath she cursed the whole process and her hypocrisy. Afterwords she stood by herself in the woods behind the church and cursed the church, it’s people and it’s God. She vowed she would never, ever do more than the absolute minimum to make people accept her and leave her alone. Later as an adult she would avoid the church at all costs! This she promised herself, and God if there was one.

With a budding career after scholarships and fellowships and the best education available in the world, Tina had it all. She was even considering getting married. She’d found a kind man, an honest man, a man of integrity who stood up for what was right and worked to bring justice to those to whom it was denied.

Then in a blink of an eye, he was dead, killed by an addict in a frenzied high on meth looking for money for more drugs. The addict had been a normal mother of two who needed knee surgery. Prescribed opiates for her pain even before the surgery, which was postponed twice, she became hooked. Her doctor did nothing except cut her off. She turned to prescription drugs on the street, and when she ran through all her family’s money losing them along the way, she turned to cheaper street opiates.

Tina tried to make sense of it all. It was impossible. Nothing made sense. Not her own life. Not the sad story of the addict’s life and her children without a mother. Not her fiance’s death. One day she found herself walking in a wood, praying that God would help her. She remembered that promise she’d made herself in the woods after her confirmation. Still she prayed. When she walked out of the woods, she went looking how she could make a good difference in the world. She found, trained, and volunteered at a safe injection site for addicts. She listened to the addicts who wanted to talk. Many came to trust her. She wasn’t fooled by their lies, or taken in. She listened. She learned what resources were available. If they asked for help, she was ready to guide them, sometimes even walking with them to the place where help was offered, where they could be given a safe apartment, where people would help them get stability, and help dealing with their addiction. She attended lots of AA and NA meetings, sitting in the back with an addict who’d asked her to come to support them.

Who are you today? Like Wayne or Tina? Full of words and short on action? Or full of action humbling submitting to God’s Word to love God, neighbour and self with all our heart, mind and strength, even our enemies?

Whoever each of us are this day, pray that none of us are like the priests who are so far lost we can say: ‘How have we despised God’s name?’

Let us honour God with our prayers, praise, and humble work to bring justice to all people, grace to all people, and hope to all people … starting with ourselves.

Facing Covid – Seeking, Abiding – Being Found

Thursday, January 7, 2021

A Rose

In Winter

God Gives Every Reason

To be Filled with Gratitude

Our Wishes Become God’s Wishes For Us

Psalm 119:94

I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.

John 15:7

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Words of Grace For Today

Ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you!

At first glance it looks like we get carte blanch requests; our every wish will be fulfilled!

That result flows from an equation that starts from life only as we might presume to know it, that everything about us is chosen and determined by ourselves or others working against us. In this setting God (supposedly) promises that our every wish can bring us fulfillment and life abundant.

That is not the start of the equation for God’s promise that all our wishes will be fulfilled.

The promise flows from blessed life as God created us to be alive: the ‘equation starts’ with a life of seeking to understand God’s Word, God’s precepts.

The ‘equation starts’ start with us abiding in Jesus, God’s Word of life.

That of course sounds like we need to earn our way into God’s favour and blessings.

Yet, we know very well that we cannot earn God’s favour and blessings, God promises us them first, as free gift.

Given God’s favour and blessings, we then can choose to respond with gratitude, and that is us abiding in God’s Word.

Full of gratitude, abiding in God’s Word, our wishes are not the same as when life is lived as if we or others determined everything about our lives.

Instead our wishes flow in line with God’s good will for us …

and then of course, all our wishes, being God’s wishes for us, will be done for us!

Wonders abound in so many ways.

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.