Grace in a Stolen Miracle- Scriptures from MESSAGE VERSION

Most all of us have heard the saying, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes.’ I personally don’t believe there are atheists anywhere. God has implanted in every soul just enough light or awareness to know that somewhere, somehow God or even ‘a god’ exists. Paul writes in Romans 1:19-21: “But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is!” By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So no one has a good excuse.

What happened was this: people knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, and refused to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. The reality of God is present to everyone everywhere but people, though they know God, choose not to honor God. Some people even worship or honor themselves, which is sort of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. And since the world we live in is one large foxhole you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t look for help outside of themselves.

From the Scriptures we learn there is something of God’s life in every part of creation. “Everything was created through him (the logos – universal divine reason); nothing—not one thing!—came into being without him.” John 1:3

In Acts 17 Paul is speaking to the philosophers in Athens. They wanted to believe in something and he explained to them that the ‘something’ was actually a ‘someone’. 22-23 “So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know whom you’re dealing with.”

Somewhere there is a source of justice or people wouldn’t say, ‘it’s just not fair’. Some even ask how a ‘good God’ could allow evil? These are all questions pointing to a ‘higher power’.

1-2 “God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.” Psalm 19

“God has not left himself without some witness to his being, and his goodness.” Acts 14:17

Even astrologers searched the skies for the Messiah and thus found him before the religious leaders did. Expressions such as ‘knocking on wood’, ‘the man upstairs’, ‘oh my God’, ‘thank God’ or even ‘thank goodness’, are all tied to a sense of someone outside of ourselves.

And so I would like to suggest that the lady who touches Jesus’ garment in Luke 8 actually ‘steals’ a miracle provided to her by God’s grace. Perhaps ‘steal’ is a bit too strong; we might say that she clandestinely finds a way to God through her touch.

A friend of mine says that every person on earth has some point of contact with God in his or her life. For the woman in Luke 8 the hem of Jesus garment was that point of contact, getting just close enough to the ever-present grace of God. Here’s her story from vs. 43-45: “In the crowd that day there was a woman who for twelve years had been afflicted with hemorrhages. She had spent every penny she had on doctors but not one had been able to help her. She slipped in from behind and touched the edge of Jesus’ robe. At that very moment her hemorrhaging stopped. Jesus said, ‘Who touched me?’ When no one stepped forward, Peter said, ‘But Master, we’ve got crowds of people on our hands. Dozens have touched you.’”

God causes his sunshine and rain to fall upon the evil and good folk alike. Jesus referred to God’s care for everyone in the Sermon on the Mount. In William P. Young’s book, The Shack, Papa (God) says to the protagonist Mac, ‘God is particularly fond of you, you and everyone.’

For the woman in our story in Luke 8 the hem of Jesus’ garment was just enough. She made the effort to receive that which had been waiting for her, as orchestrated by God the Maestro. In Matthew 9:21 the words are recorded that she really wanted to touch this healer, this Messiah, and she wanted to do it discreetly, for her problem was probably a chronic menstrual bleeding which would have made her too unclean to touch Christ, the holy man. A point of contact. A miracle stolen. Or the grace of God just hanging there for the taking.

As a pastor there were many times I was asked to perform a marriage, a funeral or a baptism by people who were looking secretly for some good luck, a good start, some comfort, all being points of contact to touch the sky as it were. I suspect for many the motive was to get closer to God; and for many it was a matter of doing ‘the right thing’. But either way these were all points of contact. Sometimes a hospital visit for a non-believing patient, a telephone call, a prayer are points of contact. Who knows how the point of contact will bring life? Because life is what God is about and God is everywhere at every moment.

“Am I not a God near at hand”—God’s Decree—
“and not a God far off?
Can anyone hide out in a corner
where I can’t see him?”
God’s Decree.
“Am I not present everywhere,
whether seen or unseen?”
God’s Decree. Jeremiah 23:23-24

 

Now here’s the thing. Christians are the body of Christ, clothed with Christ at all levels of maturity but the grace belongs to our strong loving God. We may not even have faith enough but even that’s enough for it was the faithfulness of Jesus that impacted the lady. But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.” Galatians 3: 25-27 

That’s what people touch, the unseen faithfulness of Christ at work in us. Sometimes we know it and sometimes not but God knows and loves so well.

And now, the rest of the story. This beautiful thief is ‘caught’. Not by the disciples. They are still learning the extent of the master’s grace. They are bewildered by Jesus’ question, ‘Who touched me?’ because everyone was jostling the disciples and Jesus, pressing in against the Messiah. But in the melee there was a secret desirous touch of an unclean woman. She wanted to remain anonymous but the miracle was so evident in her body and her life that she confesses to why she touched Jesus.

Now I think Jesus is thrilled that this ostracized woman would dare come close enough, risking her reputation, but her story is meant for every soul that thinks itself unworthy of God’s grace.

Sometimes I wonder if Christians might sense the pressing in of a neighbor or loved one or a social outcast who wouldn’t darken the doorway of a church. A word, a touch, a whispered prayer may just activate the power and grace that is all around us.

WHERE DOES IT HURT?

Recently I listened to a podcast from Renovaré, a great ministry/organization focused on Spiritual Formation. The podcast was a conversation with author Philip Yancey led by Nathan Foster.

Yancey has written a new book titled Fearfully and Wonderfully: ‘The marvel of bearing God’s image’. In the book he draws an analogy between pain in the human body and pain in the Body of Christ, the church community. His writing comes after working many years with Dr. Paul Brand, the late surgeon who specialised in treating leprosy in India. Leprosy is an infectious disease within the skin and peripheral nerves leading to a disastrous consequence for those, who because of this illness, cannot feel pain.

Pain is important because it’s real and it signals that something is wrong with the body. It can be physical or emotional and can include such discomforting feelings as anger, sadness, depression and much more.

Pain causes us to pay attention to our bodies. And for the Body of Christ, as the analogy goes, pain is a sign that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

These days there seem to be a lot of division and hurt in the church over such issues as exclusivity and inclusivity, liberal and conservative, sexuality and doctrine. Rules, standards, grace and love are in conflict and people on all sides are hurting. I know this personally.

So let me continue the analogy by saying the church needs to know the pain is real and then go to the Great Physician who can diagnose the pain and help each of us to care for those in pain. Jesus told his disciples that the signal of a healthy community is loving one another. He prayed for us to be one even as he and the Father are one.

We are all in some fashion broken, sick, or lost but within the community, the Body, we can recognize and address those circumstances that underlie the pain. We need to stop being against each other and instead be with and for one another. Let’s listen to each other out of love. Let’s be attentive to the pain we often hide beneath a veneer of doctrinal faithfulness, social activism and success (just to name a few methods of denial).

Read the way the Apostle Paul puts it in 1Corinthians 12. ‘If one part of the body suffers then every part suffers with it.’

Maybe the question isn’t ‘What do you believe?’ but rather the one we often ask our children, “Where does it hurt?”

THE GRACE TO KEEP GOING

Philippians 2:12-13 ‘What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.’ (MSG)

The only reason or way we can live faithfully is because of God’s grace at work in us. That’s what Paul is writing in this passage. We are saved by grace and enlivened daily by grace. It’s all grace.

Even at a time when Paul was hindered by some infirmity God kept reminding Paul that God’s grace was all Paul needed to keep going. (See 2Cor. 12) Then I saw this quote on an Internet chat.

‘Happiness keeps you sweet

Trials keep you strong

Sorrows keep you human

Failures keep you humble

God keeps you going.’  (K. Lawrence)

Grace is the energy and motivation of God that keeps us moving in an eternal direction. Paul describes this motivation. ‘ And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.’ (2Corinthians 9:8) Peter tells the church to keep growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Peter 3:8)

John Newton penned this phrase in his hymn, ‘Amazing Grace’:

‘T’was grace that brought me safe thus far

And grace will lead me home.’

So never fear about your own frailties and even failures because the Lord will keep us going even as he did Peter when he was about to deny Christ.

“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start.” (Luke 22: 31-32 MSG)

How great to know that at every moment our God is with and within us working in us, completing his will in our lives. And that’s all grace.

So for this day receive the benediction from the letter of Jude (found just before the book of Revelation):

 And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes. (Jude 1:24,25 MSG VERSION)

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES

I’ve worked for several farmers during my growing up years on Eastern Long Island, moving irrigation pipes in the mud, picking cucumbers and strawberries. I stood on potato combines for hours sorting the good spuds from the bad. The worse job I had was hoeing the weeds around brussels sprouts. I was overjoyed at the end of the day when the boss’ truck pulled up to pick up us laborers.

My younger brother sometimes worked with me and we would often compare our pay. Believe me. If I found that my brother made more than me I would have been furious.

One day I began work at 6 a.m. Hard work it was. At 4:30 that afternoon the boss comes to me and says, ‘Hey, think your brother could work from 5 to 6 this afternoon. ‘Sure’, I replied and thought to myself, why the heck you want him at five? We’re done by six. Anyway, my brother comes and works till the boss’s truck shows up and he calls us over for our wages. I get $12. Yeah, farm work, when I was a kid didn’t pay all that much, but it was a job. And my brother comes over to the boss’ truck and, say what? He also gets $12!!

I’m stunned. So are some of the others and quite rightly. But there it was. I saw it with my own eyes. A ten dollar bill and two ones in my brother’s hand. My shock turned to a righteous indignation or self-righteous indignation.

The boss notices my red face and says, ‘George, you have a problem?’ Ah, but he knew and before I responded the boss said, ‘George, it’s my money and I am a gracious guy. Don’t worry. It all works out.’

I was going to report him but I got paid off the books. So my brother and I walked away. He was smiling and I was perplexed. Grace can do that.

 

For the Biblical parable of this story read Matthew 20:1-16.

 

 

GRACE IN A NUTSHELL (A LARGE NUTSHELL)

I am a hunter, of sorts. I like to find things that I want or need. Google search and Amazon are my favorite sites. I have also searched for people, mostly girls- in my youth. I would pretty much go to any length to secure a date with someone I was attracted to. I’d sit in classrooms writing notes to pass to the object of my affection. I’d find ways to meet up in the hallways. I’d join the same clubs or music groups just to be near them. Hey, who really understands young love? Then I met Gigi, my wife of almost 48 years now. As I like to say, ‘I chased her till she caught me.’

Back to the GRACE.

Grace, simply put, is God’s pursuit of you and me out of God’s love for the creation and us.

The FIRST instance of grace in the Bible takes place after our ancestors ate the ‘forbidden fruit’. Genesis 3:8,9 (NIV)

        Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

That’s a great image. God taking a walk on the earth to find humanity that somehow thought they could hide from God. And God, who knows everything, actually calls out to his hidden rebels as though he wants them to know he’s searching for them. They had shared a beautiful intimate relationship from which they broke and their God is not giving up on them. God wants their hearts to know that God’s heart is still in love with them. And God takes the initiative to find them. (That’s grace.)

God will find them and rescue them and keep them in relationship with God come hell or high water, through countless rebellions and acts of idolatry until God completes the plan of salvation through Jesus.

One might say that grace actually happened long ago in eternity because we read that Christ actually was slain, sacrificed, from before the foundation of the world. (See Rev. 13:8 and 1Peter 1:18-20).

There’s a magnificent purpose statement of Jesus in Luke 19:10 in which he states that the Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost.

God’s action to find, save, reconcile and redeem all creation is the meaning of grace. There’s that ‘nutshell’. In 2 Corinthians 5 we read that God was in Christ reconciling the world to God.

God is the great lover of our souls. The Bible affirms that ‘God is love’, not anger, judgment, or enmity. Evil is God’s only enemy and God will go to any lengths to save us. And when the objects of God’s affection get lost, run away or hide, God will pursue them through all eternity and welcome them back home, as marvelously illustrated by the parable of the Prodigal Son. (See Luke 15.)

So no matter what difficulty you might be having with faith and obedience there is no need to hide from God. God’s love will embrace you. God will love us always. God’s love is eternal. As Paul writes in Romans 8, there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love in Christ.

And… God’s love will change us. That’s grace.

By the way- Gigi’s love has changed me. I haven’t always liked the process but I can tell you that it’s all good.

GRACE-THE NEW DEFAULT

Whenever I turn on my T.V. the screen displays ‘CNN’. That’s the default channel (much to the dismay of certain folks).

Grace is like that. It’s the first thing on which we want to set our minds in our everyday lives. Think of it. Grace is God’s love at work, in action. It’s God being active and moving in our lives at every moment. The purpose of that grace is to keep us connected and reconciled to God and enabled to love as God loves.

Sometimes and perhaps too often the first thing on our minds’ screen is worry about something going on in our lives like how to pay bills or get along with someone or how our children are faring, and even our own health. That default screen might be anger about someone or something that has caused our blood pressure to rise. The first thing we think about in a crisis or upon waking up isn’t always God’s grace.

But the more we get to know God and what God thinks of us and has done for us we will discover the GRACE will come into focus on that default screen of our mind. Oh, sure, sometimes we have to do that ‘reboot thing’ to get the default working. And being smart and faithful we can do it.

I love the word ‘grace’. Among all the words that might describe God, grace is my favorite. It’s the unrelenting pursuit of God for the good of God’s creation. God is eternally at work to restore all things and all people.

“Love” just doesn’t cut it. It’s too much about sentimentality and feelings whereas grace means self-giving, sacrifice, and relationship.

Love may be the essence of God but grace is that essence at work in us.

So take a moment. Turn on the screen of your mind and watch ‘grace’ displayed.

I like to start the day with the free app, PRAY AS YOU GO. Give it a try. God bless.

MIXING POLITICS AND RELIGION

Even in my Bible study group people say don’t mix politics with religion. Well, Jeff Sessions has gone and done it. And it’s gonna bite him and this administration. When you mess with God and God’s little children by quoting scripture as some kind of proof text for your behavior you are on a slippery slope south, and I don’t mean Virginia. What we sow we reap.

We, as a country of Christian values and morals, have now set a ‘made up law’ above Christ’s commands to love, and God’s command to take care of the poor strangers and immigrants among us. And the current regime cannot get out of this by blaming another political party. And to further aggravate God I read that the leader is using this FAMILY SEPARATION as a bargaining chip to get his way on things like THE WALL.

In my less than theological language I say this all sucks. I cannot keep silent living in a country that has such a terrible track record and history against people like native Americans, Africans, and immigrants who trying to find a way to life which is what we all want.

“Hey, he’s the head of a country, and I mean, he’s the strong head, don’t let anyone think anything different,” Trump told Fox News “He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.” The  leader of this nation has made it clear in humor and seriousness that he prefers the totalitarian way of rule over democracy. I believe him. Christians must stand up and say NO.

Jeff Sessions, Sarah Sanders and the whole administration can quote Romans 13 all they want but may they never forget that we as God’s people do not bow to the IDOL OF LAW. We stand against any laws that go against the will of God as the book of Daniel illustrations, as the early Apostle’s practiced against Rome, and as people throughout history have done perhaps best understood in the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD.

At the Southern Baptist Convention Jeff Session invoked God in his defense of making life more miserable for immigrants than that life already is. But the President elect of that body of religious people made something else clear:

“Greear in particular had urged the denomination to step back from politics, including this passage in his speech to the meeting on Monday, prior to his election:

“We believe that Jesus is the lord of the whole earth. He is the king of kings and he is the lord of lords. We believe that he, not any version of Caesar, is the Messiah. He is the Christ, the son of the living God, that salvation is found in him, not in the Republican platform or the Democratic platform, and that salvation did not come riding in on the wings of Air Force One. It came cradled in a manger.””

While I do not equate the actions of this present government with those of Nazi German  I do find the following quote most interesting:

  • Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord. (Mein Kampf)- Adolf Hitler.

Yes, we have all heard about safety, about laws and how we are a nation of laws. Maybe we need to read more about grace and love and caring for the ‘least’.

This government, if it has the will, can find a way to alleviate this situation, govern rightly and justly and if we are going to side with God then we had better make sure we understand who God is and whom Jesus died for.

Let our leader make the same effort for our neighbors to have peace as he is making with the worst totalitarian leader on the planet. (My opinion).

 

Exodus 12:49 and Leviticus 24:22 – “There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.”

Exodus 22:21 – Moses gives God’s law:  “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

I urge you all to find a way to donate to groups/organizations who are helping with the refugee crisis because in truth you cannot have politics without religion.

Please let’s find a way for these little ones to be with their parents.

 

 

SPIRITUAL DOLDRUMS

It’s been a hard couple of days for me as has been the last month or so. I’m the spiritual doldrums. In nautical terms that the place near the equator where the winds are really too calm to fill the sails of a ship. For me it’s where I am not ‘feeling’ the wind of God’s Spirit. Cranky, tired, prayer-less, and sometimes just want to quit the whole faith thing.

Then I feel guilty as though I am not pleasing God by faith and actions. I want to crawl up with a good book, not necessarily the Bible, and just hide. Maybe you have known that feeling. Oh, I have a few good friends who are supportive, even loving me unconditionally but sometimes it’s not enough.

So I think, ‘what’s God’s take on me at the moment?’ That’s where Grace comes in. And by grace in these circumstances I don’t mean that I win the lottery or that things change a whole lot for me. Grace is something different.

Grace is God’s love for me when I was spiritually dead, lost, and out of touch with God. Jesus didn’t wait for me to ‘get it together’ before he went to the cross. I read in the Bible that Christ is even at this moment praying for me before God. (Romans 8) “Father,” I can just hear him, “here goes Gaffga again.” Then God’s loving action kicks in to remind me I am loved even when I am lost.

It’s like Mackenzie in THE SHACK saying to Jesus, “I feel so lost” and Jesus answers, “Don’t worry. I’m not lost.”

So today I am trusting Jesus to be the pioneer of faith. Yeah, I am way back in the procession following him but he won’t let me go. As people say, ‘it’s not my faith that saves me. It’s the faithfulness of Jesus.’ I remember that and I am held in hopefulness.

Listen, you don’t have to be an ‘on top of the world’ person to be a believer. Lots of people who follow Christ are depressed and even despondent at times. Like Job they don’t necessarily blame God but they don’t like life either. It’s good then when a friend comes along side to just ‘be’ there. Sometimes the silence is good. It’s in that silence that God can speak. Sometimes we just wait for a gentle wind to inflate our sails. That’s where we trust the faithfulness and love of Christ for us. It’s not a happy go lucky trust but rather a calm inner sense that God is ‘for us’. That God will work things to the good.

I was reading Charles Spurgeon the other day. Let me quote him here:

“May I therefore urge upon any who have no good thing about them- who fear that they have not even a good feeling, or anything whatever that can recommend them to God- that they will firmly believe that our gracious God is able and willing to take them without anything good to recommend them and to forgive them spontaneously, not because they are good, but because HE is good.”

So today I trust in the goodness of God. My trust is small but the faithfulness and love of God are great.

But that’s all I can write today. “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” That’s grace.

BUT WHAT ABOUT REPENTANCE AND FAITH?

So a good friend remarked to me some time ago, ‘If Christian Universalism is TRUE then what about repentance and faith?’ At first it sounded to me like, ‘doesn’t something have to be required to get in on this good deal of salvation?’ But it was a good question and one that is often asked of Christ centered Universalists.

But here’s the thing. Christ came to invade this earth and bring God’s Kingdom. Christ in his covert manner of incarnation came to take over what had become enemy territory. (I think C.S. Lewis uses that analogy.) And Christ’s presence, his teachings, life, death and resurrection were to reconcile creation to God by taking away the sins of the world. In 1John 2:2 we read that Christ is the atoning sacrifice for not only the believers’ sins but for the sins of the whole world. But that sounds too easy to think that the whole world is forgiven. Well, that’s what it sounds like in that passage above. But again, ‘what about the bad dudes who keep on doing bad and don’t ask for forgiveness or the people who worship other gods?’

Christ inaugurated a Kingdom. And Paul infers in Acts 17 that all are, in a fashion, ‘children’ in this Kingdom. The thing is that some people know it and others don’t or won’t. But God’s Kingdom affects everyone. God’s grace impacts the whole creation. God is involved in the lives of everyone in some way, some good way. But some folks don’t see it or won’t see it.

I love the meeting in Athens, Greece recorded in Acts 17 where Paul talks with non-believing (in the Judeo- Christian God) philosophers who have questioned his ‘new’ thinking. And he says at one point, “In God we (meaning all people) live and move and have our being” (vs. 28).

The MSG version has ‘we can’t get away from God.’ I like that. God is involved in every life since no life, none whatsoever, has come upon this earth except through Christ.

Now take for example when Paul writes in Romans 8, ‘we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…’ vs. 28. If you are a believer and know God’s love then you KNOW this truth and you find comfort and hope in this world that is foreign to other people. But if you are not a believer then what? God is working bad things into your life? Do you say to someone when bad stuff happens, ‘that’s the way it goes for unbelievers?’ Of course not. If we trust Christ we get to SEE what others don’t see. But it’s the same God who is working in God’s creation to bring everything and ultimately everyone to a place of a new heaven and new earth. And just as God has changed your heart (if you are a believer reading this) God is going to change all hearts in some way. We trust God to grace all lives either now or even post-mortem.

 

I had this thought this morning. It’s not new but worth repeating or re-emphasizing. Would the God who tells us to love OUR enemies -And here we need to read those verses from Jesus in Matthew 5:43-45a. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

-would our God then go on to eternally torment HIS own enemies? I don’t think so. I am not positive but the big picture of God’s loving-kindness displayed through the cross of Christ causes me to consider that God loves His enemies too. And God’s love will conquer all evil.

So to get back to the unrepentant, unbelieving and even ‘bad’ ‘wicked’ people. Unfortunately they have not experienced the grace that others have. And the task of the believer in Christ is to share that good news to let others know they are included. They belong. They are loved. They are going to be with God. They are with God. That’s the good news. The word ‘Euangelion’ means good news and was used when a runner would come back to Rome to announce that an enemy had been defeated. Whether someone believed it or not, his or her life was impacted by this victory.

Blessed are the eyes that see all that now. I hope and pray that if you are reading this and have never trusted Christ for making this life so real and eternal, that you would say ‘yes’ to him even at this moment. Then you can know for sure what this good news is about.

Back to Acts 17 for a moment. Paul went on to say that God is commanding people everywhere to repent, meaning that God wants everyone to think differently about this earthly life. It’s not meaningless. It is full of the presence of God. God is everywhere at every moment gracing our lives, and moving this world closer and closer to God’s self. (Even if it doesn’t always look like it.)

God bless you and yours. That blessing is real.

george

 

 

 

A TASTE OF CHRISTIAN UNIVERSALISM

Romans 10:9

“..if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” ESV

Many Christians use the above verse as a text for evidential proof that a person is saved and going to heaven when he or she dies.

I DON’T THINK SO.

The text is an affirmation for newer Christians, especially Gentiles, who were divided by grace and law to know that their confession was a confirmation of God’s sovereign grace for the entire world. It was not a ‘bar code’ to be scanned by God for entrance into the Kingdom.

And while the statement is itself true, it does not MAKE one a Christian. It was written by Paul as a challenge to the Jews and Gentiles who depended on the Law for salvation. And in the context of Gentile Christianity Paul is simply declaring that Christ is the END of the Law (10:4) and that anyone who puts their trust in Christ alone can know with certainty that they are reconciled to God.

Salvation is simply trusting to Christ to do for us in his faithfulness to God what we could never do for ourselves. Then we can assuredly know where we stand with God and find much peace and new ways to live with God. But remember, God is blessing the whole creation and pouring out God’s Spirit on all flesh as stated in Acts 2.

This includes all who HAVE YET TO BELIEVE. And it includes the Israelites who to this point have held out from such trust in their stubbornness. (Vs. 21)

Paul will go on in chapter 11 to write that mysterious sentence about all Israel being saved. (11:26-27)

And then there is that wonderful phrase of hopefulness for the whole creation.

“God has bound all people over to disobedience that God may have mercy on them all. (11:32)

The word ‘all’ contained at the beginning is the same ‘all’ at the end of the sentence. Something akin to ‘in Adam all died and in Christ all shall be made alive.’ (See 1Cor. 15:22) From the MSG version we read, “everybody dies in Adam and everybody comes alive in Christ.”

Everyone receives God’s mercy. Blessed are those who know it right now.

Therein lies a taste of Christian Universalism.