Posts Tagged ‘Grace’

h1

“PHYSIOGNOMY OF MY CHILDREN” – Feb 24

February 24, 2015

“The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day nor the moon by night.”  Psalm 121:5-6

I hCLF - Olmstead Parksave been reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.  I came upon a line that caused me to pause:

There are no trivial facts in humanity, nor little leaves in vegetation.  It is the physiognomy of the years that the physiognomy of the century is composed.  (Victor Hugo, Les Miserables page 77)

Physiognomy is a wonderful word that I had to look up; it means the general form or appearance; facial expression, especially when regarded as indicative of character or ethnic. There is a great truth in this quote.  The general character of a century is composed of the character of the years.  It is the small things of life that compose the great; there are no small leaves in vegetation. I pray that my children will grow to be individuals of character.  I want them to walk all their days in the Spirit and know deeply the love of God.  I want the physiognomy of their childhood years to compose the physiognomy of their adult life. Childhood forms much of our adult life.  Just like a giant shade tree on a hot summer day, we hope to shade our children from the hurt and regret of a rebellious world.  My wife and I endeavor to spread  a canopy of love over our children.  A canopy composed of thousands of leaves.

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/461564763

The grand teachable moments are the parent’s white whales.  We long for those moments when we can speak of great truths and profound lessons.  These giant leaves do happen, but I believe they are much more rare than we want to admit.  The more abundant and therefore the greatest composition of a parent’s canopy of love are the small leaves. The small leaves demonstrating the reality of the transforming work of the Spirit in a child of God:

How we speak to our spouse; The control of our anger; The kindness we show to strangers; Daily love of scripture; Devotion to prayer; Generosity to the ungenerous; Speaking truth even when it costs; Obedience to speed limits even when late; All those words of encouragement spoken in love.

445Each of these acts flourishes like thousands of small leaves shading the childhood of our children while they are under our care.  There are no little leaves in the life of a Christian.  Every fruit of the Spirit harvested from my life and the life of my wife contributes to the canopy over our lives together in Christ.  That canopy shades our children’s hearts from being hardened by a parching world.  It is a great work of the Spirit. Doubtless, there are grand leaves of teachable moments in our canopy but they certainly are outnumbered by all the little evidences of a man and woman in love with their Savior. I know that the salvation of my children is not within my hands. Yet, I have faith that nothing is too hard for God; even the conversion of my children.  We live and pray expectantly.  The Lord our keeper shades the life of my wife and I.  We have faith that His shade upon our lives will create the perfect environment for Him to draw our children to Himself. There are no little acts in the life of a Christian.  There are always little eyes watching.

It is the trivial acts of daily life that composes the physiognomy of my life.

It is the physiognomy of an individual life that the physiognomy of a family is composed.

It is the physiognomy of a family that the physiognomy of a church is composed.

It is the physiognomy of the church that the physiognomy of a generation is composed.

There are no trivial acts in a Christian’s life, nor little leaves of the Spirit’s fruit.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you from my children.  Father, I pray that you will draw them to yourself.  Open their eyes to the magnificence of who you are.  Give them ears to hear the call of their Shepherd.  Create in them a clean heart that comes only from being a new creation in Christ, your Son and the redeemer of their souls.  Help me be the parent that they need.  Help me to show them what it means to walk in the Spirit.  Let the shade of your grace keep me; may that same grace flow through my life to shade them as they grow in you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

h1

MALADY OF THE EXPERT – May 16

May 16, 2014

“Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.” John 8:49

Hello my name is Expert
We live in a land of experts.

If we have a disease, we go to the hospital’s experts.
If we want knowledge, we go to the University’s experts.
If our car maintenance light glows, we go to the car dealership’s experts.

Tax issues – specialist in accounting.
Court issues – specialist in law.
Building issues – specialist in engineering.

We expect our specialists to have answers. We pay them for answers. Often, specialists are cast aside until we find the one who agrees with what we want to do. Even if we can get the answer we want, a bad response is often better than the uncertainty of  “I don’t know.”

We want to know.

This expectation of answers has probably always been at the bedrock of religion. We want answers for our questions of the physical world and we want answers to our questions of the spiritual world.  I recognize the expert’s attitude exerted against Jesus by the Pharisees in chapters 7 and 8 of the Gospel of John. That similar attitude seems to echo through the theological debates of our time. They provided reason and rationale as to why Jesus was not the Christ.

The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” (John 7:20)

But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from. (John 7: 27)

…But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” (John 7:41)

They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” (John 7:52)

So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” (John 8:13)

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48)

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be? (John 8:52-53)

Yet, these proclamations of experts proved to be false and misguided. Their expertise in the Law failed them because it was not based on complete understanding. They were applying flawed, sinful understanding to a manifestation that was without precedent. They rejected the Christ because He did not fit the model in which they were so convinced He would appear. Jesus did not come as they expected, therefore, he could not have been the Christ. Their expertise did not adequately provide the understanding to inform them of the events that were transpiring around them.

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. (John 8:43)

I read the Pharisees’ objections to Christ and can uncomfortably relate to their self-assured theological knowledge. They were the experts of theology for their day and based on their knowledge they had answers. It just happened to be horribly wrong answers based on a lack of understanding.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism
Infant Baptism vs. Adult Baptism
Charismatic Gifting vs Cessationism
Sunday Worship vs. Saturday Worship
King James Only vs. ESV Only vs. NASB Only
Traditional Service vs. Contemporary Service vs. SOMA Service
Premillennialism vs Postmillennialism vs Amillennialism

How much of the rhetoric from these debates is honoring to our Father?

I have studied these issues and I have my opinions. However, I also know that those who do not share my opinions can advocate their position from scripture. I don’t know of a better illustration of this fact than the debate moderated by John Piper between Jim Hamilton, Doug Wilson, and Sam Storms. (An Evening of Eschatology – Piper, Hamilton, Wilson, Storms)

Three capable theologians, who love and follow Jesus, came to three different conclusions based on their understanding of scripture. The fact is that two or maybe all three are wrong. Someone has made a wrong decision based on flawed understanding. Yet, churches have split over these issues in ways that I view as dishonoring our Father. It is the malady of the experts.

Since we are all subjected to the same malady, the only cure is grace.

crossChrist was perfectly clear in His teaching to the Pharisees about who He is.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you before Abraham was, “I am”. (John 8:58)

The further away we get from that central teaching – Jesus Christ and him crucified – the more grace we need to show our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As we mature in our faith, we should delve into the “secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (1 Cor. 2:6) However, we must resist the arrogance of the experts.

We must show grace in our theological assertions for our more immature brothers and sisters so that their faith “might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:5)

We must show humility in our debates, understanding our inherently flawed understanding of the mysteries of God.

Imagine how glorifying God’s church would be, if our debates were dominated by experts of humble grace rather than experts of flawed understanding.

PRAYER: Father, you know that I am inclined toward the attitude of the expert.  Forgive me for caring more about winning a theological argument than showing grace to a fellow heir in Christ.  Forgive me of the dishonor that has been wrought when love was not my foremost objective.  Lord, make me into an expert of humble grace.  Give me wisdom in delving into your wonderful mysteries.  Remind me of my continuing lack of understanding to keep me humble.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

A man should never be ashamed to admit he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.
~ Alexander Pope

Enhanced by Zemanta
h1

QUOTE (F.W. Boreham) – March 3

March 3, 2014

Boreham“The simplest and most effective way of assessing the value of a thing that has become commonplace is to imagine ourselves suddenly deprived of it. Who can visualize the world without the Lord’s Prayer – a world without any sense of Fatherly love, of Divine kingship, of daily providence or pardoning grace?”

~ F.W. Boreham

In honor of Frank William Boreham, Australian pastor, preacher and essayist, who was born on this day in 1871.

 Resources:
Today in Christian History – March 3
FW Boreham Quotes
F.W. Boreham – Greatest Christian Essayist Ever

Enhanced by Zemanta
h1

QUOTE (Gladys Staines) – Jan 23

January 23, 2014

staines“I feel sad that I do not get to see my sons growing up. Christ has been my companion, but at times I miss the support of my husband. God gives me great support, and the prayers of people has been
a source of great consolation…It is Jesus who is the source of every consolation and support. God gives us the strength to be able to carry our cross and to live in
His will. Our life and our work here on earth has to go on according to His holy will.”

“I forgive the other, because I have first received forgiveness from Jesus Christ – I have encountered the presence of Jesus in my life and this is the spirit I share. When we forgive, there is no bitterness and we live our lives and continue the task entrusted to us – with His grace and peace… All Christians who have known the intervention of Jesus in their lives will have this gift to forgive and to be the witnesses of His peace and presence. Support them with your solidarity and prayers.”

~ Gladys Staines

In honor of Graham Staines and his sons, Australian missionaries to India, who were martyred on this date in 1999.

Resources:
Today in Christian History – January 23
Widow of Graham Staines: “Do not give up hope, pray for India”

Enhanced by Zemanta
h1

“PRAISE IN THANKSGIVING” – Nov 28

November 28, 2013

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:28

Mr. T in DC / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

The countdown has begun.  In a few hours, my family and I will be seated around a large table surround by my extended family.  We will have before us an enormous amount of food.  Enough food will be splayed on that table for three families to have enough left-overs for days to come.

Our tradition of thanksgiving is to begin the dinner with each member giving a word of thanks.  This time of designated thanksgiving can be poignant, humorous, sappy, heart-warming, and awkward.  Although this time is forced upon us by my mother, it allows a brief moment of sharing all that has been received into our family over the long year.

Emotions of gratitude are best conveyed by those who have received a gift of great value, unearned.  Our gratitude tends to be somewhat muted when our hand is perceived to have had a role.

Gratitude comes from receiving.
Gratitude flows from taking that which is freely offered.

The gratitude expressed at my thanksgiving table will be tainted in some respect because very little of what we have received is perceived as freely given.  We are compensated in our jobs.  Healthy relationships are a mixture of give-and-take.  The delight of children comes through the woes of parenting.

I know in my mind that all things are a gift from God and that true gratitude should be expressed for that even which our hands have contributed.  However, there are times when my heart does not feel what my mind tells it.  Gratitude is an emotion that must be felt; the greater the gratitude the deeper the emotion.  True gratitude should be more than mere words around a thanksgiving table.

To remind myself what true gratitude feels like, I recall the greatest of gift that I have received, unearned.

I am grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  (Hebrews 12:28)

I am thankful for receiving the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  (Romans 8:15)

I am appreciative for receiving Christ, to believe in His name, and to be given the right to become a child of God, born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, but of God. (John 1:12)

I have been unborn again in Christ, unearned.

My gratitude for being saved cannot be expressed in mere words.  I can only express this deep gratitude that I feel in acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.  That is what true gratitude feels like.  Gratitude for all that we have to be thankful for is best expressed in praise to the God who saves the lost and perishing.

May that feeling flow throughout this day of thanksgiving into all the blessings we have received by the work of God’s hand.

PRAYER: O Lord, thank you.  Thank you for all the blessings You have shown me.  Thank you for all the unearned favor that you have lavished upon me.  Thank you for saving me.  I praise you of Lord.  I revere you, O Lord!  I am in awe of you my Lord and God.  Your grace still amazes me.  Your love is still a mystery to me.  May my tears of deep gratitude glorify your name. (Your Grace Still Amazes Me)  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

h1

GETTING OFF WITH A WARNING – Jan. 29

January 29, 2013

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Romans 3:23-24

There is one redeeming fact about snow – skiing.  Yesterday, my family and I got to do that glorious activity for the first time this year.  It was an absolute blast.  However, our day almost got off to a rough start.

The mountain is about two hours from our home so we have to get going early on a ski day.  Alarms rang out through our home and everyone surprisingly started moving without much door banging.  We pretty quickly had our gear stored in the van, electronic devices were all powered up, an adequate supply of CD’s were gathered, coffee mugs topped off, Costco muffins in hand and we were jettisoning ourselves out of the driveway on our way to a winter playground.

There are several small towns along the way that annoyingly increase our travel time.  Upon exiting the city-limits of the second town, we saw what no traveler wants to see in their rear-view mirror; flashing lights.  My initial thought was that I just needed to get over to let this brave responder speed onto whatever emergency was calling.  My indignation raised when the lights slowed and the car pulled in behind me; “You have GOT to be kidding me,” were the words I chose to express my displeasure.

Police car emergency lighting fixtures switche...

Police car emergency lighting fixtures switched on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The police officer greeted me with a blinding light to my face and notified me of my wrong doing.  I had done the grievous offense of actually rolling through an intersection under the yellow-light of a traffic signal.  The officer acknowledged that I was doing the speed limit. He acknowledged that the light was yellow when I entered the intersection and turned red only when I was fully in the middle of the intersection.  However, he felt that I should have tried to stop.

I was trying to summons all of my poker-face will-power to maintain an expression of innocence all the while I was thinking,

“Come ON; this is ridiculous – THAT is not even illegal.”

I dutifully gave the officer my license, registration, and proof of insurance.  He sauntered back to his police cruiser to determine if I was a “wanted man.”  A few minutes of lost travel time later, the officer came back to my window with the words that I was hoping to hear, “Mr. Blom, I am going to let you go with a warning.”  He talked on after that opening sentence about the hazards of yellow-lights, blah, blah, blah.  I had already determined that the reason he didn’t give me a citation was because he couldn’t – “Let me go; Really”.  He was going to see me again in court if he had given me a ticket so “letting me go” was good for all of us.

The police officer had shown me grace by letting me go with a warning but I definitely was not very appreciative.  I grounded away at my Costco muffin and slurped my coffee as I contemplated the arrogance of that officer for the next 30 miles.   As far as I was concerned, his grace saved me from nothing more than having to come back to this little town to plead my case in front of the county judge.  I was sure that I would win because “I had done nothing wrong.”

At about mile 31, I realized that my attitude was pretty bad.  I realized that I was acting in a very similar way as many people do toward God’s grace.  They don’t feel like they need it.  After all, “they have done nothing wrong.”  We Christians talk a lot about sin and the resulting judgment.  We quote the Bible verses about how if you hate someone, then you have committed murder; if you lust, then you have committed adultery.

Many people think or actually say, “Come ON; this is ridiculous – THAT is not even illegal.”

This is why the gospel is so offensive to many.  They don’t believe that they have done anything that is deserving of a punishment; particularly a punishment like hell.

These folks will typically admit that they may not be perfect but that they are mostly good.  They are not criminals; they haven’t hurt anyone; they love their families; they are responsible; they have done more good things than really bad things.  They are in the intersection of life on a “yellow” at the absolute worse and that is not illegal – they don’t need grace.  Grace is just a manipulative device of arrogant religious people who want to feel better than everyone else.

There are many people who are offended by the arrogance of Christ’s grace for something that they don’t think they really need.  Grace is of no value when you don’t think that you have done anything wrong.  It’s a “yellow” after all. The only ones who need that kind of grace are the ones who have lived life in the “red.”

There is an attempt by some to make the gospel more palatable by emphasizing that being born-again will make your life better.  It is an attempt to make the gospel less offensive by removing the issue of repentance.  A person will never have to face the issue of their sin and condemnation if they are presented with a faith that will make their life better.  The problem is that faith based on a better life devalues grace and can be easily tossed aside if it doesn’t work.  No one will appreciate the grace shown by our Savior if they don’t believe that they really need it.

True faith has to start with repentance.  Perseverance is grounded in the understanding that we need to be shown grace.  Jesus did not come to make this life better. He did not give us a parachute to make our flight through life more comfortable.  He gave us a parachute because this life is going to crash and burn and we need to be saved.  Repentance is an acknowledgment that I actually do need a Savior. It is a demonstration of the belief that our judgment is not ridiculous and that the way we have been living is against God’s law and is worthy of eternal punishment.

I discovered something disturbing after a quick Google search upon my return from our ski trip.  It actually is illegal to enter an intersection on a “yellow.”  According to the legal code that I read, “A driver facing a steady yellow arrow signal… is thereby warned that the related right of way is being terminated. Unless entering the intersection to make a movement permitted by another signal, a driver facing a steady yellow arrow signal shall stop at a clearly marked stop line…”   Hmmm, that was unexpected.  I have been running yellow-lights for a long time.  I didn’t realize that was illegal.  However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been a chronic violator of the law.

That police officer had shown me grace. 

I feel a little foolish after all the ranting I did.  I feel like I should go back to that little town and give him a real apology; give him a real expression of my gratitude.  He had not been arrogant.  He had actually been giving me a warning and showing kindness to me and my family.

I am very thankful I had not openly rejected his grace, even though I didn’t really value it at the time.  If I had rejected his grace, I would have stood before a judge, plead my case, and lost.  I believe that will be the case for everyone, believers and unbelievers. I believe there will be so much of what we thought was safely “yellow” that will be revealed to us as still worthy of condemnation; that we are violators of God’s law even though we don’t realize it.  I think that we all will be amazed at the extent of grace that Christ has made available to us.  The issue that we all face is that we can’t grudgingly  accept God’s grace but not really value it.  If that police officer knew my heart, I am pretty sure I would have gotten a citation.  I deserved it after all.

God knows our hearts.  We can’t accept Christ as a safety net.  We either accept him as our Savior for our sins that we acknowledge are worthy of punishment or we don’t.

The grace that we have been shown is truly amazing.  It is amazing whether we appreciate it or not.  However, that grace must be received based on the purpose that it was provided – to save us.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for your grace.  Thank you for having me pulled over yesterday to get the opportunity to contemplate your grace more.  Father, please forgive me for not appreciating the gift that you have given me like I should.  Your grace is truly amazing.  I cannot even comprehend what you have fully done for me.  Lord, continue your work of opening the eyes of this unbelieving world to their desperate need of a savior.  Father, continue to draw the lost to you; use me Lord to speak the truth of your grace and mercy to those who you are calling.    Amen

%d bloggers like this: