Getting Too Close to Grace

“You see, we can talk about grace, sing about grace, preach about grace, just so long as we do not get too close to it. Election is too close. When we give in to election, we finally give up on ourselves in the matter of salvation.The doctrine takes grace to its logical conclusion: if God saves me without my works, then He must choose me apart from them, too.” – from Putting Amazing Back Into Grace Michael Horton

The doctrine of election isn’t easy to understand. But, really, no more difficult than the Trinity. Believing in the Trinity doesn’t change the way we look at ourselves as much as election does. Election makes us face the fact that salvation is all of God, all of grace. It forces us to give up on that little thread of good works that we cling to. Good works are not a stepping stone to heaven, but rather a gift we are given that we are not to keep.

I still struggle with understanding sometimes, but I don’t doubt the truth of election. The last line in Horton’s quote above makes so much sense. He chose me and He saved me – in spite of me!

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering- Col.3:12

Law and Decisions

“It is easy to make a law; it is more difficult to make wise decisions.” – from Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton

The song above, “A New Law” by Derek Webb really packs a punch if you listen carefully. Derek seems to have gone off the track in recent years, but he may be finding his way back. Either way, this is a good song.

...I don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me...

...Don't teach me about moderation and liberty
I prefer a shot of grape juice...

Don't teach me about loving my enemies...

Sometimes it’s just easier to give up asking questions. Sometimes we have to because there are things we aren’t intended to know yet. But, asking the questions is okay, even when it’s hard.

I don’t have to avoid the wine as I was taught as a youth; i just need to use moderation. And loving my enemies? I’m ever learning better ways to do that.

A

Christ’s Coming in Glory

Lake Guntersville

“What can we prove about Christ’s coming in glory? Nothing. It is far beyond the language of limited proof. Indeed, our entire faith rests on a joyous acceptance of the factually impossible. When we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating that amazing time when the Word that shouted all galaxies into being, limited all power, and for love of us came to us in the powerless body of a human baby. My faith is based on this incredible act of love, and if my faith is real it will be expressed in how I live my life, but it is outside the realm of laboratory or scientific proof.” – from The Rock That is Higher by Madeleine L’Engle

Sometimes we, I, get caught up in trying to figure everything out. Trying to prove things. I forget what my faith is all about when I get caught up in the way the world thinks.

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29

There are some things I may never understand. But, there are many that I do and many that I should. There are enough things made clear in scripture that I can wait to understand the other things.

Texts from the past #4: retirement

pic via New York Post

March 7, 2018

“Did you know that Levitical priests were required to stop their service at age 50? In other words, retire.”

We talked about going home for at least two years. About retirement. The sadness of Chuck never getting to enjoy his retirement, his grandchildren, just knocks me over sometimes.

 “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting.  And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.”  Numbers 8: 24-26

Thinking about this topic, I did a little googling and found this –

“As a society it makes sense that certain jobs that require extreme physical skills such as fireman might have age restrictions.  The way in which the Biblical concept differs from that of our society is that as long as the person is mentally and physically capable of contributing to society in any form whatsoever, they should do so. Certainly, one might have to move from one function to another, but sitting at home waiting for one’s pension check and focusing only on pleasing oneself tends to hurt the individual as well as the society.” – Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

So, I guess I’m officially “retired” now myself as a teacher in the state of Florida. I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me in the coming years, but I pray that He will use me somewhere, somehow.

Lessons from a southpaw

There seems to be a day for everything. In August alone there is a day to celebrate ice cream, watermelon, root beer floats and S’mores (we celebrated that one a few days early). There is also a day for baseball, relaxation, black cats and eating outside. So, today is Left-Handers Day.

My husband was a left-hander as am I. Growing up I was no athlete, so I never mastered much except for riding a bike. I could do other things like skating, swimming, tennis and bowling, but was just average. When we had to play baseball (or probably it was softball) in PE in high school, if I ever caught a ball, I would pull off my glove and throw it. I was using a glove for right-handers. I didn’t know much and the coaches obviously didn’t notice. After we married, my left-handed pitcher of a husband taught me how to to it all properly.

southpaw

My beloved southpaw taught me so many other important lessons.

He taught me to stop holding grudges. It was a lesson he had to learn, also, and he helped me by example and encouragement.

He taught me the importance of being in God’s Word. I am learning this even more now after his death as I find notebooks full of scripture passages and notes. There are also index cards filled with verses and catechisms. I knew he spent hours reading and studying, but now I have some of the fruits of his labors to help me. 117583984_624356968284379_3935415109455524714_n

He taught me to live for the eternal. Over the years most of our moves revolved around the Gospel. We moved to go to school at Clearwater Christian College in our first year of marriage. We went from Jacksonville to Orange Park to be nearer our church. We moved to Georgia when Chuck was called to pastor a church. We moved to Winter Haven to be a part of the church there. We often lived hand to mouth, but we never went hungry, we never lacked clothing or shelter. I worried when I should have trusted, I put my eyes on the earthly when I should have been leaning on Christ. He taught me to trust the One who provides.

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  –  Matthew 6:25-34

I am thankful for the lessons – the gifts that keep on giving. 

Happy Left-Handers Day.

Job

job-and-his-friends-chromolithograph-from-a-home-bible-1870-heinz-tschanz-hofmann

Job And His Friends, Chromolithograph – From A Home Bible, 1870

 

Reading about Job a few days ago was kinda timely. Providential.

“Adversity so quickly exposes fault lines in human nature…without Christ, we are merely victims, but in Him we become victors. ” 

Prayers of the Bible by Gordon J. Keddie

When Job was hit with calamity upon calamity, he didn’t respond with “Why me?” I don’t usually respond with “Why me?” either, but I do respond with “Woe is me”. I do respond with worry instead of trust.

The best verse I read was what Job said to his wife:  “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” – Job 2:10

 

 

 

 

We are not your God

cc3

“I asked the sea and the deeps, and the living, creeping things,
and they answered, ’We are not your God, seek above us.’….
I asked the sun, moon, stars, ‘Nor are we the God whom you seek.’
And I replied…’You have told me of my God, that you are not He; tell me something of Him.’ and they cried with a loud voice, ‘He made us.’” – Confessions of St. Augustine

 

This week I was confronted with such diverse thoughts concerning God’s creation.  At school yesterday, I showed a PBS video called “The Whale Detective”  that made me once again marvel at the way God, in His infinite wisdom, created animals with such variety and with marvelous features.

Psalm 93:4 – The Lord on high is mightier Than the noise of many waters, Than the mighty waves of the sea.

 

Later, in another class, I talked to a girl about an article she had to read about Greta Thunberg. It was very hard not to give her my full opinion. I don’t want to sound like I have my head in the sand, but I know whatever climate change is actually going on is ordained by God. I don’t plan to be wasteful or foolish, but I just don’t understand how sane people can vote this screaming, obvious emotionally impaired young girl as Person of the Year. 

Thoughts?

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I have been purging papers from my old trunk and elsewhere the past few weeks. I can’t believe all the stuff I’d saved. I took pictures of some things and sent them to people who I thought would appreciate then or get a laugh out of of them. I sent my friend (junior high, HS, college, still) pictures of sorority articles, the napkins from her wedding, newspaper clippings, thank you notes, shower invitations. My kids got pictures of pictures they drew in first grade and poems they wrote in high school. And I’m not finished yet.

In the process I reconnected, via facebook, with my sorority big sister and a former student who is now about 30.

One humorous item I uncovered was written by Elizabeth, a fourth grade student from my earliest years of teaching. She had evidently heard something in church. (Some punctuation and capitalization added)

 

Once there was a man named Jonah. He woke up and a voice came out of his window. It was God. God wanted Jonah to build an ark. It was going to rain 40 days and 40 nights. They were going to build an ark but Jonah hided from God and everywhere Jonah went God was there. He was sending men to build the ark.

“The rain is going to come in five minutes,” said the men.

Everybody was coming to the ark. People were coming and people were packing their stuff. The rain was coming. The rain finally came. There were floods. The floods were like an ocean. God made waves and a big fish came out of the ocean and swallowed Jonah. 

March Wisdom

me-is-it-weird-that-i-talk-to-myself-me-28938067

astrologymemes.com

“The temptation for anyone who is much occupied with the hope of some great change and betterment in the near future is to be restless and unable to settle down to his work, and to yield to distaste of the humdrum duties of every day.”  – Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910)

I need to preach this to the choir of myself. Everyday. I need to remind myself that even though I have a desire for the future, I am living in the here and now. I have everyday work to do and I need to do it well.

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” – Philippians 2:14-16

 

 

Maclaren on Micah 6:8

 

 

At the end of last year I discovered Alexander Maclaren, a Scottish minister who pastored in England.  He lived from 1826-1910 but what he had to say is still so relevant today. His practical yet insightful way of putting things reminds me of a pastor friend of mine in St. Augustine, Eric Watkins. I think if they had been contemporaries they would have been great friends.

 

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

“Micah…wages war against that misconception of sacrifice, but does not thereby protest against its use. One has heard people say,  ‘We are plain men; we do not understand your theological subtleties; we do not quite see what you mean by “Repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. To do justly and to love mercy , and to walk humbly with my God, that is my religion, and I leave all the rest to you.’ “

I am afraid that I am guilty, if not of voicing this, of thinking along these lines. I often want to hide behind the simple when the complex is too hard for me.

‘To do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God’ is possible only through repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘To do justly’, that is elementary morality in two words. There must be mercy as well as the justice.”

The minimum according to Maclaren:

  • “…give everybody what he has a right to, including mercy to which he has a right,
  • to have a lowly estimate of myself
  • to live continually grasping the hand of God
  • to be conscious of His overshadowing wing at all times
  • conformity to His will at every step of the road…”

“To think of God’s requirements, and of my own failure, is the sure way to paralyze all activity…” . This is often the take-away after Sunday morning sermons where I’m told what I should be doing and left feeling there is no way I am living up to the standards given.

“The gift of God is Jesus Christ and that gift meets all our failures.” 

“His last word to us is not ‘Thou shalt do’ but ‘I will give’  We have not to begin with effort; we have to begin with faith.”

All words in quotations are Maclaren’s.