Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Funny Recollection

Since I can't think of anything current to blog about...I don't know why, suddenly I'm just coming up dry...I want to tell a funny recollection from back when I guess I could say things were for the moment more interesting.
Last August (nearly a year back) when we were dropping Katie off at her college in California, we met up with another family we know from our previous church, and had dinner with them at the Keg and Platter there. (Now, that previous church was then already our previous church as of May or June of that year.) We talked about a great many things, and were having a great time. But we as a family were not sure whether they as a family knew that we had left their church. It isn't an enormous church, just a few hundred there, but there are two services, and besides, this family had close family friends who were all excited about their daughter's engagement and I think it had them all distracted. We didn't know of any tactful way to broach the subject, and so we just didn't bring it up. What do you do, change the subject from all the various distractions at the college and say, "By the way, did you know that we left the church many months ago?" We didn't want them choking on their steak, after all. It really was fairly amusing, considering that we tend to be at church every Sunday--more faithfully than most of the pastors we've ever known--because we hardly travel, at all. Yes, now you wonder why I have so little to blog about? Yes. That may be it.
And there was another funny thing. Somehow Tim talked us into allowing him to order a mocha-flavored dessert. Let me note to you now, sugar and caffeine in a 9-year-old boy is not a good idea. I know that now. He ate the dessert without much attention and fanfare, but that was not the end of it. Something got him giggling, and he laughed, and laughed, and wasn't stopping. Now don't dismiss that, it wasn't that he didn't want to stop. We kept dropping our conversation, remarking on Tim's giggling, starting up again, and then stopping again. Finally we realized he was doing something akin to hyperventilating, and he just couldn't stop. He was in pain. We didn't have a paper bag for him to breathe into, so we gave him a paper napkin to put over his face, holding it there and breathing through it. It worked. He stopped his giggling and for the rest of the night, he was sufficiently sober and sane. I don't think he slept well that night, though.
Well, months later...Katie was talking down at college to a group of students there, and the subject of our church change came up. For the moment she forgot that one of the students was a member of that family, and would definitely find it significant. So word got back to his family, and there it was, at least September or October, and finally this unintentional secret was out. Ha! Yes, I thought it was pretty amusing, at least once I concluded that they really hadn't known all that time.
The mother came to me later and told me that she had taken it personally that I hadn't told her. I told her how we were stymied as to how to bring it up, and she understood. I told her that if I'd known, I would have gone to her first thing and told her, and she would have gone, "Why are you telling me about it?" And she agreed that that, too, would have been the case. Sometimes you just can't satisfy a person, no matter how you do it.

A Bit of Boredom

I have to say, I'm bored. (When Tim says that, I suggest various household tasks he can do.) And I don't care that there is work to be done, I have books to read, I have the internet at my fingertips...I have any number of things to do. I'm restless. My own blogs bore me. I've run out of things to say. I write a blog and don't publish it because it's...boring. I don't want to grow old and boring. I want to live life to my personal fullest, and I'm not sure what that is. Aaagh.
Thing is, I should be at least content. I have every reason to be content. Not only content, I should rejoice in the life I live, in peace and harmony and in the light of God's love. That is enough! So this restlessness in me can't be all that good, if it causes me just to complain. How do I use it for good?
If I use it to improve my way of doing things, if I use it to bring me to be creative and do things with more excellence, to reach out to more people especially with God's salvation or even a little encouragement, then maybe my boredom will have wrought good changes. If it causes me to spend more money, and not further God's Kingdom work, to pamper my own outlook and wants rather than the needs of others, then it is for evil and I must just get over it and get on with my own life that I should be living in joy and for the glory of God.
So it may be another boring blog entry, but that's where I am for the moment.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Perplexing Camps of Politics

We Americans like to think of ourselves as independent thinkers. Each of us has been culturally impacted with the importance of expressing our individuality, or whatever stamp we imagine ourselves to bear, in a way unlike others around us. This is in contrast, I've heard, with the Chinese, who instead pride themselves on how alike they are, how they find power in sameness, in oneness. And yet, I'm not sure how individual we Americans have all learned to be. The teenage years are probably the time of life when one would expect self-expression to be at an all-time high, and yet...don't you see a lot of teens that can be more or less categorized into groups based on appearance? (I know, this is a shallow approach, only skin-deep, and may seem judgmental. I'm only developing a point so far, so bear with me.) Teens (and the rest of us) don't generally want to appear too different, too unique, too without precedent. There is a line most don't dare to cross, and most know exactly where that line is, whether for themselves or those around them. To an extent this effort is conscious, and to an extent it is an unconscious response to the culture. If teens want to be different from anyone, it is likely that they want to be different from their parents--whether to say, perhaps, that they've found the modern look that has eluded their parents, or to say that they are individual and unique, apart from parental influence, or to lash out against their parents' values, teens tend to be the same as others in their age group, or just a few years older, who they admire.
So yes, Americans are individualistic--to a point. To a point, though, we have a herd mentality and like to find similar folk who believe and dress and live in the same way that we do. I've been pondering this in terms of our political parties. There are two strong parties, and a few insignificant parties that don't stand a chance in the elections. The Republicans and the Democrats monopolize the scene, and we voters willingly group ourselves in one camp or the other. As a Christian I've ended up in the Republican camp though I've always said that I vote not Republican per se, but pro-life. That has been the determining factor for me, and if a candidate doesn't state a stance on that issue or says he's pro-choice, he generally doesn't get my vote, even if it means I don't vote at all.
The odd thing is that these two parties tend to swing to one side or the other on various issues. The Republicans tend to have the pro-life candidates, but not all of their candidates are pro-life. The Democrasts tend to have pro-choice candidates, almost without exception. The alignment of issues within the parties doesn't speak to me as being consistent, though. I would think that logically, compassion would rule in the camp that is pro-life, and expediency would rule in the camp that is pro-choice. It seems instead that the opposite is true, and I have a hard time trying to fathom the reasoning behind it.
It would seem that Christians would be not only pro-life, but environmentalist, seeing that God's creation is something over which we are to be good stewards. We should also be concerned about moral and humane issues at home and around the globe. We should be the least concerned about the economy, because as believers we know that God provides for His own, that if we are about His work, He will provide for us (2 Corinthians 9:10-11 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.). It strikes me that the unbeliever would be the logical one to be concerned most about the economy, about roads, about big business. You would think that the unbeliever would care less about the environment if it takes more effort to do so and is inconveniencing. I truly don't understand this alignment of issues! I wish we had more candidates, more parties if necessary, and could choose someone who would reflect the things that God's word says that we should concern ourselves with.
So whereas I used to find politics a fairly cut-and-dried arena of life, this year I find it confusing, perplexing, disheartening. I can't in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate, because I find their hearts to be murderous and bent on expediency in the worst regard; yet how do I vote? What is the right alignment of issues? Why do we so blindly follow these two camps? Why are their stances so strong and yet confusing? This in America, where individualism and independence supposedly reign supreme. It's a scrawny supreme, in my book, where politics is concerned.

Let Your Keyring Remind You, You're Not in Heaven Yet

I don't remember how we got started, but the other day Tim and I were discussing what things would look like if sin suddenly stopped in the world--everywhere. It isn't that useful a discussion, but imagining that does give a glimpse as to how steeped we are in a world of sin and we hardly even think about it. It's the environment and condition into which we were born, and we're accustomed to it. It's a fairly interesting thought exercise for an idle moment.
We wouldn't need locks. No one would be trying to break in. We wouldn't have to carry key rings. Our cars could start with an on-off switch instead of a key. Our news broadcasts, newspapers, magazines, radio discussions would change--there would be mostly good news. Sheriffs, police, security guards, lawyers and judges would be pretty much out of work, and as time went on, so would prison employees. So would locksmiths! We wouldn't have identity theft any more. Our internet would be clean everywhere, and there would be no more spam. People would be peeling foul bumper stickers and emblems off their vehicles. The clothing people wore would change. Marriages would be mending. There would be huge attendance at all the churches, and Bibles would be selling like hotcakes and would be seen everywhere. There would be huge, happy family reunions for all the families that had been splintered apart. Television and movie offerings would change. There would be only clean music on the radio, and people would tend to listen to worship music--worshiping God, not themselves. People would be burning or recycling foul books and magazines, and destroying lousy cds. There would be less poverty and starvation because people would share of their abundance.
Hospitals and doctors' offices would be emptier because people would take better care of themselves and each other, and there wouldn't be abuse injuries. Social services employees would be reuniting kids with their parents, or there would be more people adopting them. We wouldn't have to guard country borders to keep drugs from coming across them. Some types of guns would become outmoded. Wars would stop. We wouldn't need military defense. Tattoos and piercings would decrease. There would be no road rage, and less accidents, so car repair places would have less business. Women and children could walk alone anywhere without fear of attack. The trashier parts of town would get cleaned up.
Families would spend more time together and not immerse themselves in extraneous work and entertainment that shuts each other out. Parents would never even be tempted to yell at their children or each other. Old people's houses would get fixed up by neighbors and friends. Telephone calls, e-mail, and snail mail would increase as people increased communication with each other. We wouldn't have cause to wonder what another was thinking, because they wouldn't be thinking ill of us or trying to manipulate us. Planned Parenthood would go out of business. People would only have wholesome relationships. There wouldn't be ads on tv for immunizations against STDs.
Lawmakers' focus would change. They would be in more agreement, less subject to lobbyists who would skew their perception of right and wrong; their laws wouldn't be to outwardly control people's misbehavior. There would be less need for outward laws. Our freedoms would increase because there would be less laws.
These are very external evaluations. I can't even fully account for the sins that would be cleaned up that just reside in the very hearts of men, those that reside in my own heart--how different we would be from the inside out! If we only knew, I think we would know to writhe and recoil at our present condition.
I stop and take a breath. My thinking pops like a bubble because it is so opposite the real world and will never be like this dream in this life. But it's okay. God knew when He put us here that we would be dealing with this. He had the plan of sending His Son as Savior of the world to rescue us from this sinful mess we're in. Jesus even came from a place that was sinless, where God dwells, to live here among the godless mob, to show us a microcosm of what goodness and power and cleanliness and health looked like, what grace and forgiveness are, what kindness is...what love is. In those few years of earthly ministry, He turned our upside-down thinking right-side-up, as much as we would learn it; He didn't leave us alone but gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us through this mess in the meantime. And so we long for heaven, that place that is sinless, where God is, where love reigns, where we won't need locks on the doors. Let your key ring remind you--you're not in heaven yet; you eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! Amen!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When Can Unity be a Priority?

I've been pondering what the Church would look like with unity added. I've been thinking this because I know that it was one of the primary subjects of Jesus' prayer in John 17:20: I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me; it is again emphasized throughout Ephesians 4:1-16, that we as Christians be unified. And yet, our churches throughout our American culture, and maybe worldwide, are so vastly divided I can't even imagine what they would look like if they functioned as if under one banner, one they all would doubtless claim to do. Unity doesn't even seem to be a realistic priority in the Church as a whole, and it confounds me.
Imagining the global Church as unified is almost as unimaginable as heaven, and this to our shame. It should be imaginable; it should indeed be a reality; it should be something on which we are experts! It should be basic to our faith, assumed rather than dismissed. It should...but it's not. I'm realizing just how vastly divided our factions of faith are. We believe different things; we distrust each other's belief systems; we contradict each other; we shoot each other down and alienate one another. This is so contrary to God's wishes; aside from the strife itself, it sends a message to unbelievers that we are no better than they are.
So what would the Church look like if we were unified? (I'm not saying I know, alas!) Would we have one big mega-church per city? Would we still have our various congregations, but have all the congregations working and fellowshipping together? Would there be twice as many Christians because the unbelievers wouldn't see this message of strife and confusion, but would be drawn to this vast loving entity that so clearly imitates Jesus Christ? Would we all believe the same thing? Would there even be any cults? (If there were, I think they'd be more recognizable as such, because the true Church would make such a strong statement of what Christlikeness would be. Cults would be less attractive because people wouldn't be disenchanted with strifes, divisions, hypocrisy, and other forms of sin that prevail in the Christian faith.) I honestly don't know one answer to these questions from having seen it.
The closest thing that I've seen to a unified Church is the fellowship of the country churches in the very rural area where we've been attending over the last year. They go out of their way to link arms in various opportunities for fellowship among them, and I haven't seen among them the competitiveness and mutual suspicion that otherwise tend to be so prevalent. The pastors from various churches meet together every month; one church has VBS every summer, ours has a New Year's Eve party, another has a Grand Prix that they open to the kids in the community, we've come together to hand out pamphlets that list the offerings of the various churches to new residents in the area, and our pastor has mentored a member of his congregation to become a pastor in one of the other churches. To an extent, it's a tiny picture of what the Church should be all over the world. And in 18 years of being a Christian, I've never seen such cooperation among churches until this last year.
What is it that causes this lack of unity that prevails even after 2000 years? I can see that some of it might be the natural human tendency to want to be superior, to feel that we can look down on someone else and say our church is better, that we have a better grasp, to imagine that God approves of us more, that the others have fallen for a sub-standard and lack for some vital element of faith, as well as an insecurity regarding the size of our church in comparison to others. It might also be that we don't all read the Bible as much as we should, or with humility and desire to interpret it according to God's view and not our own, so we won't come up with endless variations on what it says, causing disagreement among us. It may also be that we don't pray enough--any of us--for unity in the Church. Maybe all of us are some of the problem, in that we're not enough of the solution.
In my own Christian faith, I have experienced a subtle adjustment to the culture of each church we have attended, and when I look back I am struck by just how much differently I have believed in times past, even since accepting the fact that Jesus was my Lord and Savior. These days I am examining various elements of my beliefs and trying to ascertain which are consistent with biblical truth rather than just the biases and assumptions that I have been taught through the years. It's similar to the examination I did when I came to Christ and had to disassemble, evaluate and discard many facets of what I'd thought before. I think that I assumed that the more unfamiliar the ideas were that I encountered as a new Christian, held by the Christians I was meeting, the more they must be Christian rather than secular. As I go along, though, I find that many concepts that I assumed were Christian are more just a human than biblical concept, even though oftentimes people who hold their individual views attempt to justify them with various Scriptures. Perhaps I have been too lackadaisical in examining these beliefs along the way, checking them more clearly against the Scriptures, even though that is a practice that I try to keep with some diligence. Scriptures are so easy to twist to one's own liking even without the conscious intent to deceive; all the more reason to beware and test everything. Psalm 146:3 says, Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation; this is also reiterated in Ephesians 4:14: As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, even Christ... I don't think these verses only warn that we beware of men who are trying to deceive, but they take into account that no mere human has a monopoly on truth or on wrong ideas. We need to examine every idea presented to us, no matter how trustworthy its human source may seem, against the Scriptures.
The prevailing "various winds of doctrine" are the cause and the result of a disunified Church. The differences between believers are sometimes subtle and tricky. Sometimes they are vast even within one congregation. If we could together stop focusing on the differences, start focusing on what God's word says, and let everything be done in love, building up the Church rather than puffing up selves within it, I think the Church would grow, God would be pleased, fellowship would increase even between congregations because it would be so much more attractive, iron would have more chance to sharpen iron (and therefore we would be more consistent in our beliefs)...and let me tell you, I'd sure be a lot less confused!
So what can I do to change it? I can pray that unity would increase; I can discourage others from belittling other churches and other believers; I can come up with ideas for fellowship between churches; I can reach out to other believers in spite of differences; I can avoid thinking on differences and isolate my thinking to the things that unite, and see what we can do to love one another more. God's first most important commandments were to love Him with all our heart soul mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. I don't remember much emphasis in the Bible about how we are to check out the differences between us and camp on them.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sorry if you read my last post...

Well, I thought it was funny. If you read the last post and took offense, I'm sorry. It was tongue-in-cheek. I got input that it could be taken as an offense, so it's been removed. I meant no harm! If you read this and wonder at the missing blog, you'll just have to wonder.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Joy of Jamming to the Tijuana Brass

Somehow my oldies favorites have been on my mind lately. I haven't been much into listening to secular music for a long time, but there are some classics that I really enjoy. When Katie was young, we used to watch a couple of boys from time to time who were her age. It wasn't that they were so compatible with her as friends, but we moms always got along and helped each other out. (In fact, Katie went to their house at 3 a.m. the night that I went into labor with Tim.)
Katie would get after them as a mother-the-second to get them to wash their grubby hands--and I have to agree they were indeed grubby at any given time--and about other issues often relating to cleanliness. So the tension would build, and the attitudes would be morose or cranky, and I had an ace up my sleeve. The boys loved Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and I would put that on the record player (yes, we still had one). Pretty soon the boys would be dancing around the room and the mood would again be light and sweet as whipped cream.
Today I am making jam with a day pretty much to myself, and I thought I'd look up Tijuana Brass on YouTube. There are indeed some wonderful videos--I'd never seen them, only heard them on records--and so today I am full of happy discoveries that I want to share. If only they would play sequentially without my going back to the computer, so I could make my jam to the beat without stop! Whatever, it's fun.
I have to share them with you, though. You are my mystery friends, and it's just too good to hold back. (Yesterday I was looking up Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and various other oldie favorites that I adore...sometime I'll share those with you as well.) At least I've found out how you put YouTube on in the midst of a regular blog post. I like it much better than how I was doing it before. You copy the address under where it says "Embed"...and paste it on your blog (if it doesn't paste well, go to a word-processing program, paste, copy, and then go to the blog and paste again)...and voila! It's there!

Here's their Whipped Cream video. I guess Charlie Chaplain composed Whipped Cream, and he's very much portrayed in this, as you will see:

Here's a video of "The Lonely Bull." They're playing in a bull-fighting stadium, and it must be filmed by helicopter for the first portion. Great video.

Here's "Spanish Flea." How can you not be in a good mood listening to these songs?

And, "Casino Royale." I didn't even know it was a movie. (Not only a movie, a James Bond movie at that. Ha!)

And how could I leave out Tijuana Taxi? You'll love this video. At least, I think you'll love it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Raspberries and Houseguests put the Extra in Extraordinary

It's a busy week. I suppose they all are! God wants us to be busy, not bored, I'm convinced! Katie has her friend Erica from California here, and they and her friend Haley are busy trying to fill the time as full as possible without it popping. They've had orange chicken at Haley's for lunch and hung around making an O Canada rap video together; they had carne asada at our house for dinner, hung around Haley's house again overnight, and then come back to ours; yesterday we all went raspberry picking--and picked a ton or so. Then they made some jam for Haley to take home. Alas, Erica probably can't take it home on the plane without it bursting. (Today, of course, I will Lord willing be making oodles of jam for ourselves and hopefully for gift giving.) I gave everyone a spoonful of the remaining jam after the jars were filled; I guess I was the only one who loves jam as much as I do. In fact, Erica was skeptical still about the jam, its texture, because actually, she had never tasted jam (she's probably the only one remaining in the U.S. who had never had jam, ever ever). After they made jam, and had carne asada leftovers, they went (as if that wasn't enough activity for a day) to a midnight showing of a Batman movie that Katie balked at but the others talked her into--and came in at 3 a.m. all hating the movie, and slept a good while into the day.
This morning (or was it early afternoon? I don't remember), I made them some pancakes and they put jam on them. I think we've made our case for jam, because Erica liked them with jam on them, didn't use the syrup I also put out. I feel like I did some jam evangelism. If spoon-feeding the gospel were only so easy! And now they are pondering the rest of their day; they've all taken some turns on the computer facebooking with friends and whatnot. I think they'll be out for the afternoon, while I make jam. I'm glad that they are as independent as they are, able to entertain themselves some of the time, because my hospitality is only any good in fits and starts, and then I have to attend to boring stuff like Costco runs and grocery shopping and jam making.
So it's a very ordinary post, on a rather ordinary but also extraordinary day at our house, without a particular point to it. I hope your day is as pleasant as ours, even if it is as ordinary. And may you be blessed with a taste of fresh raspberry jam, as well.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sing a Little Song of Worship...

Perhaps you've noticed that many secular songs have lyrics that are undeniably worshipful of their object. A few of these lyrics came to mind this morning, and could be applied toward our life in Christ as well:

"Rescue me and take me in Your arms..."
(sung by Aretha Franklin, Rescue Me)

"All of me, why not take all of me;
Can't You see I'm no good without You..."
(sung by Louis Armstrong, All of Me)

"Bend me, shape me any way You want me, long as You love me, it's alright..."
(sung by The American Breed)

"Hopelessly devoted to You."
(sung by Olivia Newton John, Hopelessly Devoted to You)

"Where You lead I will follow, anywhere that You tell me to..."
(sung by Carole King, Where You Lead I Will Follow)

"When no one else can understand me,
When everything I do is wrong,
You give me hope and consolation;
You give me strength to carry on...

"I'll guess I'll never know the reason why
You love me like you do;
That's the wonder,
The wonder of You."
(sung by Elvis Presley, The Wonder of You)

I realize with my choice of songs, I kind of date myself as not exactly being 20 any more...but still, I suppose you get the idea. Next time you get a secular song in your head, see whether it's one with a bit of worship in it...chances are, it is. We all worship something, or someone, or even some idea, even if we don't exactly see it as such. Funny how the words for worshiping mere humanity can be so easily transferable to a more worthy Recipient.
Here is another song that has worship in it, but the words aren't exactly transferable to worshiping God. I love this song anyway; I have to guard against my god being my stomach; I hope you enjoy it too!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Light Shines Still...

I was pleasantly amazed to see the wonders that God is working in the families in our church, as various people related the positive changes between them and their loved ones this morning. One woman who was separated from her husband for years has now reported that they have moved into a house together again, and her daughters are very happy to see it. One reported how during his visit with his brother, he had seen glimmers of hope, that there wasn't the slamming of all things to do with faith, that he even acknowledged that he hadn't closed it out entirely and asked various questions about a church near his home. One had a visit from his sister who hadn't visited for a long time, and who was far friendlier than usual. One had a brother who had moved to the Czech Republic about 20 years ago, who was here to visit for the last few weeks and seemed more open and soft-hearted than in times past. One woman had a friend she was in physical training with, who was relating her views of her Greek Orthodox faith, and to whom for the present, she who normally has plenty to respond with had nothing to say...and the pastor had related how when we are called upon to speak, that the Spirit gives us the she was assured in that that the timing for her to speak was not yet; and the pastor said that the Spirit also gives us a time to listen.
This plethora of good news is not the norm; especially such extreme good news! A couple who was separated, whose separation looked bleak at the outset, the wife of whom was going to serve her husband with papers but an illness prevented her. How phenomenal is that? How often does that happen? She never pursued serving papers further, and she is so glad. She calls their house a happy home now. What reason to rejoice!
The man's brother who has been asking about the church near his home, well, the glimmers feel like an answer to prayer. I have somehow been drawn to pray for this one more than others, so I feel an ownership or participation, a particular blessing, in this good news and it spurs me on to pray further--in praise, now, as well as pleading!
The one whose brother had gone to Czech Republic and returned for a visit gives me hope that someday I might see my brother who lives in Kingston, Ontario and who I haven't seen since about 19 years ago, just after I clobbered him with the gospel when I first became a Christian. Or maybe one of my other brothers or sisters who have shown no interest in the faith. The one who has a friend in the Greek Orthodox faith and is pondering the faith, well, she gives me hope that one day I may be able to converse about faith with a Mormon neighbor, or a Hindu neighbor, or a Sikh wasn't just the hope of existing situations, but the parallel situations in my life that so far might seem unworkable may become more workable than I can yet imagine.
These reasons for praise are encouragements for further prayer for the praises of the morning as well as for the hopes that they give me in my own life, that all these people would turn to Christ, that the tentative relationships might become established, that God would be glorified in them. God is good, and His light shines in the darkness. We can see that just because the dark has not understood it, that light is not pointless. Hallelujah!

Friday, July 11, 2008

I Will Say it Again, Rejoice!

Well, to my amazement, almost right on the heels of my post called "We are Free Indeed!" I heard a sermon that I downloaded from that sermon seemed almost custom-made to contradict what I had written. And I still disagree with that speaker (even if he is Scottish--alas!)! All the more strongly, perhaps, now that I have heard him.
My post, in case you don't want to go two posts back and read it, was to the effect that we should be able to rejoice in Christ and that He equips us to avoid sin; still, that if we fall into sin, He has paid the penalty and we should rejoice in that. Of all people, I feel that Christians should be characterized by joy. The sermon I heard was far to the other end; the speaker emphasized how he felt that if we don't go sorrowing over our sin (which I agree we should, until we confess it and be thankful to Him for His loving forgiveness) that he would doubt that we even share the faith. He even quoted from Romans 7, where Paul says, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" And the speaker ended the quote there. What I would have waited for, if I hadn't heard the previous buildup of his message, would have been the next verse: "Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Yes! And Paul continues, "So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." And if you read on, you see that the message he states isn't a message of sorrow, but of joy, speaking of how by Him we cry, "Abba, Father." Tell me if I'm missing something here! I think that we have a message of joy, a message of forgiveness, of freedom, of love, of adoption, the very things that unbelievers lack. Why would we not rejoice?! We should rejoice! And not just rejoice; we have every reason to exult, as Paul emphasized three times in Romans 5. So let's not go sorrowing. Let us go to the throne of grace, and then rejoice! Rejoice! Hallelujah, Amen!
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Come See the Dirt that Isn't There!

Housekeeping is a funny thing. It's not like the work of a painter, where when he's done, someone says, "Look at the work he did!" No. The housekeeper's work doesn't show; the only work that shows for a housekeeper is the work she doesn't do. I was trying to double up some of my work so that the place is ready when Katie's friend Erica comes from California. It really does need some extra attention; maybe I stop short on normal days of giving it the attention it should get, but I do work through the day for the most part, or am needed for other things such as driving places, and I tend to only sit when I'm homeschooling with Tim, exhausted and need a rest, or have work that needs sitting, such as sewing. (Or blogging. Never mind; I do that when I need a rest!) It's why I wouldn't mind living in a smaller house. Maybe I could get it all done someday and say I have nothing more to do but sit!
So I do some dishes, and then the laundry, and sweep the front porch, and clean up some weeds, and clean some carpeting, and vacuum, and wash windows...but unless I told someone, no one would know that I had even done them. That's a little disconcerting when you're exhausted at the end of the day and the house still has work yet to do (which can easily happen when there's a young male in the house, and double for every friend he has with him). Still, if my focus is right, I can't complain. If I'm working for the approval of men, I will need affirmation from...Gary. From Katie. From Tim. If I'm working to please God, then I know He is watching the whole time and knows my heart and my work. The only drawback there is that my work is not perfect, and that sometimes I don't do it with the right attitude and maybe I don't do it even as well as I can. Then I know that He sees that, too, and there's nothing I can do to hide it. Knowing He's watching in perfect love, though, helps everything to be a rewarding task more so than if any mere human were watching me.
All the more I'm thankful that He knows my frame; He knows I am but dust. And He was gracious to save me anyway. Oh, do you know just how thankful I am to know it! Okay, I think I'm rested up enough now to go and do some more. You won't see it when you come to visit. It will be the dirt that isn't under the table, the smudges that aren't on the windows, the shoes that aren't scattered in the hallway, the dishes that aren't piled up in the sink. (Well, sometimes they are.) But today's will be gone, when you come to visit. I can't promise about tomorrow! And if you don't notice the old dirt that's gone, but do notice the new dustbunnies and all that have just arrived, then that's fine. It's not really all about you, anyway, is it. You might think so, because here I am telling you all about it! That's a conundrum that has me going in circles and I can't explain it. I just thought it was worth sharing, and that's all I can say. Ha!

We are Free Indeed!

Today I was pondering who in the Bible I would most like to be, if I were able. First I thought of Anna, who lived in the temple and beheld Jesus. (And that, I think, is the one I'd want to be.) But then, for a moment, I thought, "No. I'd want to be Jesus, because He was without sin." But then, I thought, "But then He who knew no sin became sin for us..." and I didn't think that would be so desirable! (Except that He was worthy to be victorious over our sin.) That brought another thought that I knew, and yet saw in a new light to my own amazement: I always thought of Jesus as unique in being sinless, and yet because He took the penalty for all the sins of those who trust in Him, we are seen by God as sinless even though we are frail and in the flesh. So Jesus is sinless, and we too qualify as sinless! What a phenomenal gift! But it also directed me toward another thought, in regard to a memory of mine. We are free from the penalty of our sin, and so...
I thought of back when I was part of a church ministry. We'd have monthly leaders' meetings, and discuss how things had gone for us. One of the leaders started off with his report at one of these meetings with how he just had been overcome by his sin over the last while and so he was burdened with it, troubled by it. The rest followed suit; to my amazement anyone who had anything that they would report continued in that same vein. I am not bragging, I was worried that I might be missing something about self-examination, in that I being the last to speak admitted that I didn't feel that same trouble and burden. I never did really conclude how sure I was about my position until today. Was I neglectful in self-examination? Was I not recognizing myself as the sinner I no doubt am?
Today, though, it hit me why we don't need to carry this guilt, and why I didn't feel the burden. We are free from the burden of our sins, thanks to the promises of Scripture in 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we are burdened by our sins, we are to take it to Jesus, who calls out to us, in Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For
My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

For that matter, if we are troubled by a temptation to sin, there is also 1 Corinthians 10:13, which Navigators ministry calls the "Assurance of Victory," and I can remember it because a woman I knew had put it to song: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man, and God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." When a temptation hits you in the face, you are not sinning unless you entertain that temptation and submit to it. The best thing to do is pray to God for help. He promises to give wisdom to all who ask: James 1:5-6: "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind." When we pray, if we pray within God's will, then of course He will answer us, and isn't it in His will that we obey Him? So He will help us, and teach us, and give us other courses of action, and protection, and deliverance. Then we will end up wiser and stronger for having resisted with God's help. And free! Boy, of all people, we believers are free! Indeed!
So we have victory. We have the ability to avoid sin, and therefore have victory, but even if we fail in that, Jesus Christ has bought us the victory by taking the penalty Himself and shedding His own blood that we might be unburdened by our sin, and seen as sinless in the eyes of God, and therefore acceptable into heaven. Hallelujah! Is He not wonderful? But of course, we knew that!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

There is a Gold Standard!

At various times in history, many countries backed their money with gold, with an established gold standard. Various political and economic pressures have caused them all to change from this to fiat money, which gives the government more flexibility regarding the value of their currency. The "gold standard" has become a term for a perfection of sorts, the unchangeable measure against which everything else falls short and is subject to change. Is there a gold standard in our world? No mere human is a perfect standard; we all have our faults, we all sin, we all are unreliable. Nothing on earth is perfect, but there is a Standard in the heavens that we can rely upon in all regards--we have a God in the heavens, a perfect God who sent His Son to earth to live as a picture of who God is, an example and standard for us to imitate; Jesus is that picture, that example, that standard.
I remember before I came to Christ, sometimes the picture of my life was like a pool of jello. I couldn't get a foothold! There was nothing to rely on, nothing that didn't disappoint. But then I came to know Jesus Christ, and He has been in all ways reliable; my Gold Standard of reliability.

You want a standard of truth? Jesus is truth. (John 14:6; 1 John 5:20; Revelation 3:7, 19:11).
You want a standard of faithfulness? Jesus is faithful! (Hebrews 13:5-6; Isaiah 49:14; Rev. 1:5, 3:14, 19:11).
You want a standard of strength? Jesus is almighty (Rev. 1:8; Mt. 28:18) and the power of God (1 Cor. 1:24).
You want someone who has the ultimate authority? Jesus is the King Eternal (1 Tim. 1:17) and Lord of all (2 Pet. 2:20, Acts 10:36).
You want someone who can be relied upon for defense? He is our Advocate (1 John 2:1).
You want someone who can help you when you are in trouble? He is our Deliverer (Romans 11:26).
You want someone who covers it all, who has no gaps? He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8; 22:13), the Beginning and the End (Rev. 22:13); the First and the Last (Rev. 1:17; 2:8).
You want someone who can cleanse you of all sin, make you able to face God the Father? Jesus is our atoning Sacrifice (1 John 2:2).
You want someone who can feed you with that which lasts, so you no longer need to search for meaning? Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48, 50, 51, 58).
You want someone who can give you a reliable place to stand, on which to build your life? Jesus is our Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6) and our firm foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11).
You want someone who will guide you the right way and watch over you? Jesus is our Good and Great Shepherd (John 10:11,14; Hebrews 13:20).
You want someone who has walked on earth and endured the troubles of man, and yet is God? Jesus is Immanuel, which means God with Us (Mt 1:23); He is also the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).
You want someone who is holy, without sin, a perfect example? Jesus is holy (Acts 3:14, Revelation 3:7).
You want someone who is life, the author of life? Jesus is our life (John 14:6; Acts 3:15; Col. 3:4; 1 John 1:2; 5:20).
You want someone who can make peace between you and God? Jesus is our one Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
You want someone who can bring you to have eternal life in heaven? Jesus is the Eternal Life (1 John 1:2, 5:20).
You want someone who can give you hope that lasts? Jesus is our hope (Colossians 1:27; 1 Timothy 1:11).
You want someone who can give you peace unlike anything you've ever known? Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
You want someone who would give His life for you, so that you might live? Jesus is the Lamb of God who died to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 13:8).
You want someone who can illuminate the dark world you're in? Jesus is the Light of the World (John 1:9, 8:12).
You want someone who can give you good and useful and perfect wisdom? Jesus is the Wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24).
You want someone who can lead the way to the Father? Jesus is the Way (John 14:6).
You want someone who can give you salvation? Jesus is the Source of Eternal Salvation for all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9); therefore we call Him Savior (Eph. 5:23; Titus 1:4; 3:6; 2 Pet. 2:20).
You want someone who is the last word about it all? Jesus is the Amen. (Rev. 3:14).

Don't forget, He's tested, and those who know Him will testify to it. Jesus is the Gold Standard. You can trust Him entirely. People will fail you (even Christians, even those people who seem reliable)--but Jesus never fails. Hallelujah! Amen!

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Graduation Ceremony

Yesterday we went to a graduation ceremony for a couple of boys, Dean from our church and Tanner from a neighboring church (and these two churches work so much together in friendship that many times the idea of blending them has been suggested). So people from both churches crammed into one, and after much fellowship the events started. The boys are incredibly musical, and they played their guitars for a good while at the beginning. Tanner is the son of the pastor of the other church, and so his father spoke at length. Then the Tanner spoke at length. Then Dean's father spoke a good deal too. Interspersed among these were songs the boys had composed at different times in their lives--good songs, too, and they sang them for us, playing their instruments. One switched to a French horn for one song. They each probably play a great number of instruments; they are very gifted in that regard.
There was a series of photos, too, and since the boys' lives were so intertwined in friendship, they combined the two boys' photos into one slide show. It was amazing all the common points of interest that the boys have: Their musical talent; they were both homeschooled; they hunt together, play paintball or airsoft together (I don't know enough to know which); they love animals, including horses they have owned; they come from fairly big families; they've both been raised out in a country setting. They are as close as brothers, it would seem, understanding so much about each other and relating so well.
The best, most meaningful thing they share is their faith, and it was brought out passionately in the speeches, in the songs that they wrote and played, in every aspect of the graduation ceremony. They weren't done after the slide show, either. Then Dean spoke, and then our Pastor Ken. We all sang a couple of songs, the boys received their diplomas, pictures were taken and the ceremony was finished. Of course, I don't give enough details regarding their speeches to fully illustrate, and that (especially having two pastors at hand) would take a good deal of sharing; but they were all wonderfully done, articulate and masterful. It was a beautiful ceremony.
I couldn't help but look back at our own graduation ceremony that we had for Katie a couple of years ago. I am not articulate on my feet. I wouldn't exactly say that Gary is either. In fact, since I don't remember us having seen another homeschool graduation of this type especially like the one last night, we didn't even think to put together any speeches, and we spoke off-the-cuff. I'd often regretted, after having 12 years to prepare in a way, not having done preparation for that aspect of the graduation; God could have been shown off in so many things that He brought us through during those years, for so many ways He provided for us, for all that He taught us, that in spite of many things against us, thanks to His provision we succeeded in homeschooling all through it. In spite of our lack of preparation in making any such speeches or taking that opportunity to glorify Him as well as we should have done, God is gracious. Katie is finished with high school however we accomplished it, and she has been working successfully through her college time, getting good grades, making many meaningful relationships, growing and learning in faith and in other regards, and having a memorable, enjoyable time for the most part.
It was an enriching, beautiful time last night, even though it brought me to cringe again at my own inadequacy. Even in that regard, though, it again gives me reason to also rejoice at God's grace (2 Cor. 12:9-10) that when I have come up wanting, has continually set my feet upon a rock because of His power, and not mine. Every mention of their faith was something I could relate to and rejoice in for themselves and at the same time for ourselves. I think that is the beauty of fellowship and the family of believers. When we rejoice, we all have so much reason to rejoice together; any lack on our own part, unless it is our own lack of faith, shows God off for who He is, altogether loving and gracious, and able to provide for our inadequacy and make all things work together for good for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). I am very thankful for these boys in so many ways, being so well equipped for life in so many regards, and for their friendship together, for their close family relationships, for their careful upbringing and education, but most of all for their strong faith that will help them through everything in their lives.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

All in a Day's Work, it's a Good Feeling

Today's been a really good day. For one thing, I woke up to the birds all singing, all glad because they lived through the great terror of July 4 one more time! And because I'd done a bunch of cooking yesterday for our huge church celebration, I had a huge cleanup to do today (it would have been impossible to do the cooking and the cleaning and go to the party our church had and all the rest of the stuff we did) I got that done and got set to do a little cooking again. Well, before I could cook, we took Katie to Red Robin to work and then went to Costco to buy flooring for our closet--the first of many floor projects. (It was on sale, and we want to make sure we can do it well before we buy enough for much of our main floor.) Then to Freddies for groceries, where Gary also bought a bike on sale; he's the last one to get one, and now we'll go biking more often (that is the theory). And then home to cook.
So I got my cooking projects done. Gary mowed the lawn and then he and Tim went off to a baseball game. (I would have gone if they insisted, but when I said I'd stay home so I could go get Katie if she called, they didn't argue! They know I would be near clueless about the game anyway.) It's a men's night out, a mom's night in, and we all are happy--well, I hope Katie is!
Then I set to sewing. Now I have a whole new skirt that I made all this afternoon, and I am so happy with how it turned out. It's not perfect, but it's much fun! I think that in getting older, having more time is the compensation for having less energy or more aches and pains...I'm having more fun with projects than I ever used to, taking them on because I want to instead of because so many are facing me and I must do them. Well, I must do some of them, but it's not so bad.
And then tomorrow we get to go to church, and our Pastor Ken and his wife Kit are back from sabbatical! We did very well for the months that they were gone, but it will be so nice for all of us to have church as usual again. (At least, nice for all of us; not sure how Pastor feels about it!) Life is good. God is great! But then, we knew that.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

101 Questions to Ask...

I occasionally run into a book sort of serendipitously that I think has good material for anyone. This one book I found the title to somewhere online (I don't remember where) and wrote it down and put the note in Katie's room so she could choose to check it out, or not to. She checked it out, because it is intriguing, and potentially useful. She didn't check it out because of any imminent need, but because it's better to look at it now before she needs it than to forget to do so until it's not so relevant or at least timely. The title, now that I've explained that, is 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged, by H. Norman Wright.
Katie kept making comments to me about the various questions as she read the book, and then eventually just handed me the book itself so I could see the quality of content. It does have some thought-provoking questions! Here I am married 25 years and could benefit in terms of marriage or in terms of personal growth and self-examination from pondering how I would answer them, such as, "What are five habits you're glad you have, and five you wish you didn't?" "What has been your source of information about marriage? Parents, friends, classes, books? What would you do to learn more about marriage after you're married?" "If you could ask Jesus to change an area of your life, which area would it be, and how would you like it changed? How long has this been a concern?" "What are the areas of your life you must control and those areas in your life you would like to control?" "In a relationship, what part of giving of yourself do you struggle with?" I could list so many of these questions. I could ponder so many! I could write about so many--I could learn from so many--and work on so many! Why is it I have to get so old before I find so much to learn about! And why did I go through so much of my life not wanting to admit that I had so much to learn?
The author has also written "Before You Say 'I Do'"--and, the back of the book says, more than 70 books on communication, marriage, and family. Pretty neat. I think I'll be looking up his name in the library.
Today I received a response to this blog entry which directed me to a set of seven videos featuring David Gudgel, Senior Pastor of Bethany Bible Church in Phoenix, AZ. He gave pertinent information for those in various levels of the relationship mode, between dating and getting married--and his advice would be useful whether a person is in the Christian faith or not. His son Brent, who responded to my blog entry, wrote a book called, Before You Get Engaged. If the book is like the videos, and you were interested enough to read this blog entry, you may be interested in the videos and the book. Click here to get to the videos.

We Have the God of the Impossible!

Well, the secret's out, if it ever was a secret. I was at the church painting in the fellowship hall and Pastor came in, the first time I saw him at church since they went on their (shall I say the usual adjectives, very much deserved, needed, overdue...) sabbatical. He is re-entering the workaday world of the pastor of a tiny church. I was hoping to get a whole ton of painting done, and a few other projects, before they returned. We only got a limited amount--the sanctuary, the fellowship hall, the nursery, a Sunday school room; priming part of the downstairs hallway. There are still lots of rooms to do, besides the outside! My life demands continue and that's that. And Pastor, in his usual quiet way, told me of what had been going on in the last week or so, and sounded just the slightest bit reluctant to come back. Can't say as I blame him!
So my secret was all the painting, but I'm not sure that it was a secret because I don't know whether he came into the church much in the time in between, when I wasn't there. There's still much to be done! While working I also discovered many more little projects yet to do besides those that had been obvious. (Sigh.) But I also discovered that there are other people who want to do these things too, and between them and myself, we will make some progress, Lord willing. We could work for years and there still might be things to do, but we're off to a good start!
There's a huge debate, an unworkable one (except that we can hope, and hopefully assume, that God is on our side, which makes all unworkable things workable) regarding whether the church is worthwhile to put much effort and money into before we build a new facility. The problems are complex. Lack of adequate money for a new building yet; lack of ready access to the new property; structural problems in our current building...and a number of other things. When a person hears them all, it can be overwhelming. Except. When we were reading Ephesians, back when our pastor was preaching on that in the old days before he left on sabbatical, one of his points of emphasis was, "But God..." which is the beginning of Ephesians 2:4 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us..." Which Tim found great joy in emphasizing as we'd read it. I'd have to stop in our reading, and he would imitate Pastor, "But God..." and he and I would chuckle and continue our reading.
Whenever you find an impossible problem, an unworkable puzzle, a discouraging difficulty where you feel claustrophobic because of closed doors and windows, and nothing opening up to let the air in, that kind of situation is God's specialty. You may have troubles, "but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us..." ...God can break through the walls, the roof, the chimney, the fortress of our impossible problems! He has been called the God of the Impossible. That is an apt phrase, a name that really catches the character of how God works in the life of the desperate.
So I look upon our little church full of projects as a church of possibilities. The building may be impossible, but it's owned by a God who can whisper a word and make those impossibilities into dust that the wind drives away. Maybe He wants to see what we will do with it, before He gives us anything bigger. That sounds consistent with His word, in the Parable of the Talents: "'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" Look to the possibilities. Do what we can. Don't be discouraged, because we have the God who is able. We have the God of the Impossible.
Mark 10:27 "Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.'" I know this verse is taken out of context. It has to do with the salvation of men. Buildings are less rebellious stuff than the hearts of men, so if He finds all things possible starting with the hearts of men, our church is no big puzzle to Him either. Hallelujah! God is good, but we knew that! Amen, brother!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

God's Grace

This morning I was thinking about grace in the kingdom of God. All of us believers are given it, but I think that the definition can be elusive, and it becomes a word we hear bandied around but we might not understand or have a very good handle on being able to identify. For years, I've heard the rather flippant definition, "Grace is God's riches at Christ's expense." Of course, that does give a clue, but I don't think it defines it; I don't think it gives a believer (at least a new one) a clear understanding of the grace that he has in Christ. Well, maybe it does, and maybe I just was slower than most--but in case I'm right about that, I want to explore the meaning of the word. If I were to define it, I would say something like this: Grace is the power and kindness God bestows on us as faulty humanity to live in Him and according to His will--not because we deserve it, not because we have done anything to earn it, but because God has chosen to exhibit it in our lives. It is His kindness, in that He accepts us with all our sins and flaws and inadequacies even though He cannot look upon sin with favor; in kindness in that He sent His Son to die to atone for those sins; in kindness in that He boosts us toward perfection so that we might be made fit for heaven. It is His power, because He enables us, who would be unable apart from Him, to do things according to His will, to do those things that He has set out for us from before the foundation of the world. His power in that we are capable of having the attitude of Christ Jesus--I know we are capable, because He commands it in His word, and because sometimes I feel it, when all human fleshly sense would, apart from Christ, reject that attitude.
--And even now, as a postscript, even just after I posted this blog entry, I thought--God's grace doesn't just benefit the believer, but the unbeliever too. God's grace falls on the just and the unjust (Mt 5:45). His grace enables each of us to take our next breath--a breath we don't deserve, because from birth we've been born into sin and rebellious against our loving Creator. God is gracious to the unbeliever, not in view of eternity until he comes to faith in Christ, but in allowing him to keep living and breathing and sinning, with the possibility that he will turn to Christ somewhere along that sequence of events. God shows His wonders to all humanity--the heavens declare the glories of God; the skies proclaim the works of His hands (Ps 19:1). He is proving who He is, to anyone who will turn to Him. He promises that whoever seeks Him will find Him, when he seeks Him with all his heart (Jer 29:13). That is grace to the unbeliever.
If other Christians are anything like me, especially new Christians, they might wonder how grace looks when it is acting in the life of a believer. It does such a multitude of things, perhaps that is why at first we don't exactly get a solid, concise definition or picture of it. It is anything we are incapable of apart from God that He enables to happen in us through His Spirit: being kind when we are offended, being giving when we are impoverished, being joyful when we are afflicted, being forgiving to the cruel, being loving to the unloveable. It is being able to confess our sins to God so He can help us work through to learn obedience when obedience is beyond our human strength. Grace is also those things that have nothing specifically to do with what we do and feel and deserve. It is being forgiven of our sins. It is having open communication with God. It is knowing that we stand to gain eternity and will not lose it. It is the ability to understand the Scriptures in a way we couldn't before we knew Him. It is showing God's power and love off through fallen but saved humanity to a blind society of fallen humanity who are in desperate need to understand the goodness and kindness of God.
The funny thing about grace is that it shows in the believer while the believer is in obedience to God, in reliance on Him, and working through the power of His Holy Spirit. The minute we work in our own strength, our outworking becomes no more powerful than that of the unbeliever; it's like exercising without oxygen; it's like trying to run a flashlight without a battery. The connection is lost and the brilliance is lost. We are nothing without Him even once we're saved. Grace is any result of our connection to God. Yet, grace is also His kindness to keep us and protect us even while we are trying to work independently from Him. He protects us from Satan's power to overtake and possess us; He protects us from losing our salvation. He might not protect us from the logical consequences of our sin, but eternity will not be lost in the process.
And that is what I was thinking about grace today. I think it's right, but if you see error in it, I welcome your comments. I hope it helps and doesn't hinder. May God be gracious to you today, and may you see His grace in action in your life.