“But For The Grace Of God”

“But For The Grace Of God”

Did you know there are five single-chapter books in the Bible? I found this out, I’m slightly ashamed to say, when, in response to a challenge to read a book of the Bible, I sought out the shortest one. (I have always looked for the easiest way. To be fair, though, I  resolved to read all five to complete the test.)

If you are curious, allow me to save you the time it would take to look them up. They are: Obidiah, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude.

So, this morning, as I contemplated how to get my time in the Word, I decided to have a look at one of these books, and chose Jude. Some translations will have “headers” to different sections of verse, and Jude started out ominously, “The Warnings of History to the Ungodly.”

As I read, a cliche came to me and I dug a little further into it. “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” is commonly attributed to John Bradford, a preacher in sixteenth-century England. The supposed occasion for the saying was the sight of convicted criminals going to their execution. The inference I take is that the fate of the wrong-doers was something Bradford had been unconditionally pardoned from; which is to say he believed himself to be deserving of the same punishment, or worse. (If there could be anything worse. If you believe, I think you’d agree there are several things worse than a swift death.)

(As a side note, the ‘history’ Jude lists are: the post-Exodus destruction by God of some of His people, the angels who followed Lucifer in being thrown down from heaven, and the fates of Sodom and Gomorrah.)

What research showed, however, is a complete reversal in the saying’s meaning in modern times. Nowadays, we might intone the phrase whenever we see someone who’s experiencing some bad luck or misfortune. The change is as if it were not villains the speaker is observing, just some poor innocents in the wrong place at the wrong time. I assure you, God’s Amazing Grace is not some lottery prize only for those with some winning combination of circumstances. It is a free gift offered to every living person, simply waiting to be received, enjoyed, and employed.

Do you see? The new interpretation is one of victimhood. “I’ve done nothing to deserve this,” we claim now. Certainly, we are guaranteed storms in this life, and we are unlikely to understand why ‘this’ is happening to us. But “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” “Human” and “perfect” are two words that can not be set together, except when referring to Jesus Christ. Instead, what grace allows is our continuation of this human journey. It is progress, not perfection, we seek. And what we often need is convincing to carry on.

One source indicated Bradford was paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 15:8-10, in which Paul is explaining why he is the least of the apostles because he persecuted the church in his past, and: 

:10 God’s kindness made me what I am, and that kindness was not wasted… I worked hard… [but] it was not I who did it, but God’s kindness was with me.

Jude also states this concept of a divine reprieve, and the opportunity for us to change which it makes possible. We are invited to redouble our efforts to accept His assistance and the sacrifice which provides the ultimate for us, and to:

:20-21 …use your most holy faith to grow. Pray with the Holy Spirit’s help. Remain in God’s love as you look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life. (GW translation)

I really like the sense of urgency the AMP version gives to this:

…waiting anxiously and looking forward to the mercy of our Lord…

“Anxious for mercy.” The Grace of God. It’s not about my fortunes or rich circumstances, but about a constant acknowledgement of my real blessing in receiving the ultimate in undeserved favor. The greatest gift. So, maybe it is like winning the lottery, after all.

By the way, as for John Bradford, he was burned at the stake in 1555.

…A Rag Of Excuse

…A Rag Of Excuse

This is a post about what I know – what I now know. It is thoroughly based on my personal experience and a journey to awareness, which I began by taking the undeniable evidence of my own life (my experience), mixing it well with knowledge sifted from much time spent in study, and adding just a dash of conjecture. That last bit is the spice of confirming testimonies I have heard from and seen in my brothers and sisters in knowing. All of which is a delicious way of saying, “Let me tell you what I have come to believe with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

All of it can be tasted in Romans, Chapter 20, various translations. It is worth the take out.

First, I am sure that God The Creator exists, exactly today as He was at the beginning of time. Creation itself testifies to this.

Verse :20

img_1140From the Creation of the world,
God’s invisible qualities,
His eternal power and divine nature,
Have been clearly observed
In what He made.
(God’s Word)

…plainly discernable through things which He has made and
which are commonly seen and known…
(Phillips)

The basic reality of God is plain enough.
Open your eyes and there it is!
By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God created,
People have always been able to see
What their eyes as such can’t see:
Eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of His divine being.
(Message)

 

Second, in addition to God’s handiwork continuing to be clearly observable in front of my opened eyes, He has also given me an innate sense of Himself.

Let’s consider the way a few other translations put it in Verses :19-:20:

img_3295…evident within them [in their inner consciousness] (AMP)

What is know about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. (CEB)

The truth is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. (TLB)

So, I have the evidence of 1) what I see and 2) what I inherently know.

The third fact is revealed through some of the synonyms of “discernable” (perceptible, detectable), which imply the need to do a little digging and thinking. While something as short as sitting still to gaze upon an entire sunset or sunrise can be enough, it took a lot more time and effort for me to learn God – I was one who had to “take a long and thoughtful look.” It’s funny, for I had always prided myself as being someone who embraced the easy way, but you can read how that turned out in Learning the hard way about the easy way… (6/17/2016).

3) What I can learn by dedicating my time to study; to building a relationship with God The Creator and Jesus my Savior.

In my years prior to meeting Christ in person, Me, Myself, and I were the focus of everything I did. How did that come to be? I think what happened to me was that a) I took the physical world for granted – I didn’t see it or what it really meant, b) I ignored what my heart said and listened instead to “logic” (which oddly enough convinced me that there was no meaning or reason to anything), and c) I therefore dedicated my time to more enjoyable pursuits than homework. I do know that my typical approach to complex subjects like religion and politics was to form an opinion, frame it and place it on the wall of my subconscious as part of the decor – which I then never considered updating.

joyVerse :24

[Though] they knew all the time that there is a God, yet they refused to acknowledge Him as such, or to thank Him for what He is or does. (Phillips)

For this reason, God allowed their lusts to control them. As a result, they dishonor their bodies… (GW)

Verse :28

And because they thought it worthless to acknowledge God, God allowed their own immoral minds to control them. So they do these indecent things. (GW)

…they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. (MSG)

The two obvious points in these verses are that a) I thought it worthless or refused to acknowledge or thank God, so b) God then allowed me to make my own choices. Think, “How’s that working out for you?” But the deeper meaning is, in fact, the whole question of meaning.

img_2907-editedIf there was no God, then all was random and meaningless (or there could be only the meaning that I myself gave life.) The only problem was that I was broken, distorted, and perverted by the way I had been treated by others, and I therefore held myself as trivial, worthless, and saw no reason not to give in to whatever temptations I felt, to the lusts of the flesh, eyes, and selfishness of life. I dishonored and abused my own body. I drank and partied to excess. I wasted and killed my precious time. I ignored the negative effects on my health, wealth, and well-being. And, while I did this at first by choice, I eventually found myself stuck in a rut, unable to break out, except, I thought, in desperation, by putting an end to myself.

Thus leaving these [people] without A Rag Of Excuse.
(Phillips)

forgiveness
That precise moment – my rock bottom – was when Jesus revealed Himself to me. As my literal Savior, He took my place, freeing me, and abbreviating my sole (or soul) motivation for living from,”Why me?” – as if the world revolved around me and my struggles – to simply, “Why?”

Verses :2-:5

(God has already promised this Good News through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. This Good News is about His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in His human nature He was a descendant of David. In His spiritual, holy nature, He was declared the Son of God. This was shown in a powerful way when He came back to life.

Through Him we have received God’s kindness and the privilege of being apostles who bring people of every nation to the obedience that is associated with faith.

Faith is belief in God, The Creator, and His purpose to salvage everything and everyone. From knowing this, I became able to understand my own worth – to Him and to myself – and thereby, I could recognize the worth of each, of every other person.

Maybe some people find holding faith as easy as looking at that sunset. I not only had to learn how to see it, and how to recognize the truth that was placed in my heart, but how to be changed behaviorally, to focus my attention and energy on my awareness of God through the daily time I spend with Him. Consider this an open invitation.

The Unofficial New Year’s Day

Holidays are a problem for me, and none more so than the multiple-week year-ending festivities. And none more so than this past year’s 2016-2017 turnover.

You see, all my life I have been stuck in the mode of looking forward to the next batch of “time off for good behavior”. It is definitely what has caused me so much trouble throughout my life. I waited anxiously for “beer o’clock” and the end of the work day. I lived for the party weekend. I wanted to be on permanent holiday. But this past year, the first of my blogging life, it finally dawned on me what good, hard, blissful work was.

Why on earth and heaven would I want time-off from that? By mid-December, 2016, I was firmly established in a productive routine. Blogging, sharing testimony and worship, one-on-one encouragement, putting time in each week on projects around the house, completing daily chores. And then massive disruption hit with college break (my daughter was home) and the consumerism that Christmas has become. I didn’t handle it well.

(If you doubt, just look at my posting frequency from mid-December through today.)

And so, here I am on January 18, trying to get back into my blessed day-to-day, day-by-day. I’ve been thinking about this first post of the year. January 1 is a holiday. It might be the official New Year’s Day, but which day is the one where we really “get back to work”?

So, let me approach this as a re-committing; a re-dedicating day, simply because I have to re-start somewhere.

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life.
It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’…
And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us – an unbelievable inheritance!
Romans 8:15-17 MSG

I hope you’ll join me! This year is full of great promise, as I pick up from where I left off in Sharing God’s Story.

The Lord gives me strength and makes me sing [is my strength and my song];
He has saved me [is my salvation].
He is my God and I will praise him,
He is the God of my ancestors [fathers]
and I will honor [exalt] him.
Genesis 15:2 EXB