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Archive for Grace

Feb
14

Making Peace with our Past: 1

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Each stage of Joseph’s life has been plagued by its own unique set of challenges. While it appears difficult to understand, the most challenging stage of his life was his exaltation as governor of the land of Egypt. Joseph had been prepared by God for this challenge. His preparation included time in the pit, time in slavery, and time in prison. During these days Joseph learned to deal with injustice, temptation, rejection, and being forgotten by a friend.

One of the key factors in Joseph’s progress from the pit to the palace was his character. He was faithful in the little things, doing them in the quiet out of the way places. Because of his faithfulness in the little things, God made him ruler over many things.

After he was elevated to his new position, Joseph went to work during those seven years of abundance.
In our minds Joseph represents the classic “rags to riches story.” But before we can close the book on the story, it becomes clear that God has unfinished business. God has plans to put Joseph and his family back together. Joseph is at a dissonant note, but God is going to bring resolution. God’s plan was to use this family to create a new nation: Israel.

Genesis chapter 42 tells how God deals with our conscience regarding guilt. We may put time and distance between our present and our past, but it is never healed until God deals with it. 25 years have passed since Joseph was thrown in the pit. It’s time for resolution and closure.

What does guilt look like? How does it affect us? Tomorrow I’ll post five ways that unresolved guilt impacts our lives.

Categories : Genesis, Grace, Guilt, Joseph, Peace
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Nov
23

Breaking Jars

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Sandwiched between stories of malice and betrayal we find the account of Mary of Bethany who was noted in the Gospel of Mark by her extravagant gift to Jesus Christ. The first 9 verses of chapter 14 describe the episode this way:   1 It was now two days before the Passover celebration and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law were still looking for an opportunity to capture Jesus secretly and put him to death. 2 “But not during the Passover,” they agreed, “or there will be a riot.” 3 Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had leprosy. During supper, a woman came in with a beautiful jar of expensive perfume. She broke the seal and poured the perfume over his head. 4 Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why was this expensive perfume wasted?” they asked. 5 “She could have sold it for a small fortune and given the money to the poor!” And they scolded her harshly. 6 But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why berate her for doing such a good thing to me? 7 You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But I will not be here with you much longer. 8 She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. 9 I assure you, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be talked about in her memory.”

Here are five observations from the story about sacrificial giving that I have found to be helpful.
1.  Sacrificial giving is our response to the grace of God that we have received (14:1-3).
When someone makes a sacrificial gift, our first question is “how much?”
Nard came from the root of a Hymilean plant that was imported from India. Only the wealthy possessed it. The story states that it was valued at the equivalent of a year’s income.
But the question the Bible makes much of is “why?” What motivated her extravagance? No one prompted her to do it. Jesus himself didn’t request it. It was 100% self initiated because of her thankful spirit for what Jesus had done for her and her family.
2. Sacrificial giving is without measure (14:3b).
In Bible times the customary practice of anointing was measured. Just a few drops. Or, as the old commercial used to say, “a little dab will do ya.” But Mary broke the jar and emptied its contents on Jesus. Her gesture was limitless and boundless. When you break a jar, there’s no turning back.
3. When you make sacrificial commitments to Christ you can expect critics (14:4-5).
When you start breaking jars containing expensive stuff, someone is going to become critical and even judgmental. Do you find it interesting that it was the disciples who were the most outspoken against this act? Instead of celebrating her deed, they called it a “waste.”
4.  Jesus calls our sacrificial gifts “beautiful” (14:6-7).
What the disciples called waste, Jesus called beautiful (NIV). Don’t worry about what the crowd says about your sacrifices. Jesus is pleased and calls your sacrifices beautiful things!
5. Your beautiful sacrifices will make a difference in ways you may not expect or realize (14:8-9).
Jesus told Mary that her act would prepare his body for burial. Furthermore, he said her gift would be memorialized throughout human history. I can’t imagine that Mary could forsee the fact that after 2,000 years she would be studied and discussed. With that in mind, consider these questions:
* What will be your lasting legacy in the Kingdom of God?
* How will you be remembered?
* What will people say about your contributions after you’re gone from this life?
There are many who aspire to change the world and make it a more beautiful place. But that doesn’t happen without risk and sacrifice. It doesn’t come clinging to comfort zones and measure our commitments. It happens when you start breaking jars.
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Aug
11

Seizing Opportunities (part 3)

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There’s a guy at the end of the street I’ve noticed recently. He wears a black trenchcoat, a black hat and sunglasses. Standing there at the corner, he holds a sign that reads, “The end is near.” I think that’s the perspective that some people may share regarding the gospel…that it’s nothing more than a message designed to induce blame and shame.

But the gospel isn’t really the gospel until grace is introduced. Grace is the resolution to the dissonant that sin creates in our lives. And while some are unbalanced on guilt, in fairness I think some are unbalanced on grace. But we cannot treat guilt and grace as either/or propositions. The message of the gospel is both/and.

Having dealt with glory and guilt, Peter then moves to the climax of his message: God’s grace. The Bible states, “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:19-21, NLT).

In those three verses, Peter informed his audience of three things that grace would bring to them. First, grace provides forgiveness of sin that eliminates the guilt of the past. Writers point out that in the first century ink contained no acid content. The ink would dry on top of the parchment, but would not become imbedded in the fibers like our permanent ink does today. Ink in the first century was not unlike our modern dry erase markers where if you make a mistake, you just wipe it away. That’s a good word picture of forgiveness…the slate is wiped clean.
Grace also provides refreshment for today. That word is lost on our younger generation today, but those who are my age and older know what refreshments are. Refreshments are served at the end of a meeting or in the middle of a difficult task and offer rest and renewal. Grace recognizes that even though we have been “wiped clean,” life here on earth is still filled with difficult challenges. Grace provides refreshment so that we can continue our Christian journey through life.
Finally, grace promises a future deliverance from the cares and troubles of this world. When Christ returns, he will make all things new. The brokenness we experience in our lives and our creation which has resulted from the fall will be eliminated. We will be delivered and all things will be restored.
Past, present, and future. God’s grace deals with our yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Jesus is glorious, we are guilty, but God’s grace is sufficient to meet every need of our lives. That’s the good news of the gospel.
Jul
07

The Freedom

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A couple of years ago I read David McCullough’s fine work 1776. McCullough chronicled the story of the American Colonies’ quest for freedom under the leadership of General George Washington. Beginning with January 1, 1776, he diaries the events of our nation’s revolution through December 31, 1776. At the close of the book, Washington is faced with the challenge of keeping his continental army intact. Many who had joined the cause were longing to return home to their families and their farms. The price of freedom was greater than they initially thought, and to some degree, must have wondered if the old life under the tyranny of England was really worth the effort.

The Galatian Christians had some similar challenges. They had been set free by Christ to a new life of freedom in grace. Yet there was a certain appeal to the old life under the law. The law was simpler, cleaner and neater. Paul helped to set the record straight in Galatians 5:1: “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up (literally, take up the yoke) again in slavery to the law.”

The slavery to the law Paul refers to is the bondage that comes when one is determined to live life in an economy of earning God’s favor rather than living in the economy of God’s grace. The specific issue he addressed was the issue of circumcision, but I suspect we have our own issues here in the 21st century. There is something seductive about trying to earn God’s favor. We’re masters of the “art of the deal,” and we endeavor to earn blessings and favor through our behaviors and bargaining. It’s wrong headed thinking.

Paul gives three reasons why earning leads to bondage. First, “Christ will be of no benefit to you” (5:2). In other words, earning favor renders the work of Christ on the cross null and void. The second thing Paul mentions is that earning obligates us to “obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses” (5:3). If one is determined to earn God’s favor, he or she cannot pick and choose which commands to keep. Earners are committed to keep every single rule. Third, if one chooses an economy of earning, they “have fallen away from God’s grace” (5:4). Earning is completely counterproductive to what Christ has purposed for our lives. God extends his grace to us through his son Jesus Christ, and we respond to that grace through faith. That’s how we have received eternal life, and that’s how we live in eternal life. We live it the same way we received it. Yet like the Galatians, we tend to be quick to run back to the law even after we’ve tasted grace.

Earning is binding because we are not free to live the way God has created us to live. In Galatians 5:6, Paul writes, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” That’s the main thing. But we are not free to live that principle if we are consumed with our own attempts to earn. Earning is about me and my efforts, self-righteousness and goodness. But grace is about God. And, in Paul’s thinking, it’s about you, too.

Categories : Earning, Galatians, Grace
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