Faith is also a grace

Thoughts about grace…

God’s essence and character are love.

Love is expressed to the object of love.

Grace (gift, favor) is an expression of God’s love.

You can’t truly separate out just one aspect of God’s character from all the others.

Consider a red delicious apple – color, shape, aroma, texture, juiciness, flavor, peeling, seeds. It takes all those to make that particular type of apple.

When God extends his word, which contains his creative life, to me – an act of his grace – all his character is wrapped up in that word. (Does he believe his own word? Does he have faith in his own word?)

God’s own faith comes too.

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV)

 

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I have all sufficiency

Abundance“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (II Corinthians 9:8 NKJV)

That is my confession.

  • God – the creator and sustainer of me and everything else that exists
  • is able – He has the power, present-tense (and He’s not just able, He is willing)
  • to make all grace – not just a little but all favor, every sort of gift you can imagine
  • abound – extend his favor to the very fullest of full, way more than needed
  • toward me – toward my self, mind, body, soul and spirit, whatever concerns me
  • that I – in order that, with the purpose, direction, goal, aim, end result
  • always – every moment of every day and night, 24/7, 365
  • having – actually possessing here and now, not someday in heaven but NOW
  • all sufficiency – enough for any and every thing I may encounter
  • in all things – spiritual and material circumstances, situations, events, happenings
  • I may have – possess, own myself, not just see it, but have it
  • an abundance – more than needed, more than enough
  • for every – each and every, singly, individually or corporately
  • good – as defined by God, beneficial, blessing to me and others
  • work – effort, labor, action, behavior, assignment, job

So how do I get from He is able, to He is willing, to He is doing it?

By faith. God’s own faith that he himself gives me free of charge, and now since he dwells in me, that he gives me from the inside out.

By believing him. By taking him at his word, that he loves me, he inhabits me, he wants me to work WITH him and not just for him, he wants us to be one in purpose, mind, wishes, and behavior.

It’s up to me after all is said and done. I can choose to accept his faith, I can decide to believe him or not  believe him. He leaves that decision up to me.

I’ve decided. Today I accept it. Today I believe what he said, and today I choose to live it.

Justice? I just don’t get it…

The Equalizer

“Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer!”

Leverage

“The rich and powerful take what they want. We steal it back for you.”

The Shadow

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

Superman

“The never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.”

Underdog

“Never fear, Underdog is here!”

Even Underdog! Then there’s the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Green Hornet, Red Rider, Zorro… not to mention my all-time favorite, the A-Team.

What do all these have in common? The demand for justice. Fairness. “What’s fair is fair.” Because people know what is right, what is fair, what is equitable.

From the very beginning, they knew that some things were wrong. Like killing, stealing, lying, destroying.

How did they know? They were created to know, and they were given to know. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)

Along the way (beginning in the Garden), God’s definitions of right and wrong were questioned, then perverted by some. And people still cry out for justice, as they have from the beginning. God himself said that Abel’s blood cried out from the ground (Genesis 4:10). The perversion of justice demanded a penalty – death. (Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:23)

The oldest of civilizations devised codes of laws and systems of justice, attempting to get back to the beginning, to the Garden, perhaps.

Back in the 1980’s when Tim and I first got involved in politics, an irate woman shouted at us in a meeting, “You can’t legislate morality!” She was angry at our stances on various issues. Especially our pro-life stances. (We were actively, vocally opposed to removing the pro-life plank from the state and national Republican Party platforms.)

“Sure you can,” I answered, when I could get a word in. “That’s what legislation does.The question is, whose morality are you going to legislate?” I may not have persuaded her that day, but I hope she thought more about my question. Whose morality? Whose justice?

In the scriptures, the words justice and righteousness come from the same root word. Justice is a principle and a system of right and wrong as defined by the Creator. Righteousness is a state of being right in God’s eyes, in his opinion.

God gets to define “right,” and he gets to decide who is right. (When the word is translated justice, another word – judgment – is often found in that verse, meaning the decision and legal declaration of justice.)

Is justice always doing the right thing, never doing the wrong thing? But I couldn’t live up to that standard, no matter how hard I tried. So then, what is justice, to God? What is righteousness?

“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3) Hebrews 11 lists the “Heroes of Faith,” men and women who believed what God said to them and thus were considered righteous by God.

Now, I believe, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (II Cor. 5:21). Jesus took the penalty of sin, instead of me.

Consider:

  • Having their conscience seared as with a hot iron – I Timothy 4:2
  • Having their senses exercised to discern good and evil – Hebrews 5:14
  • Let justice roll – Amos 5:24
  • There is none good but God – Matthew 19:17
  • There is none righteous – Romans 3:10
  • Vengeance is mine, I will repay, said the Lord – Romans 12:19.

And he did. Jesus got the penalty in my place, satisfied God’s requirements of justice, and I get his grace instead.

“I’m not capricious”

FatherAndLittleGirlCroppedI was thinking about grace last night when the Lord interrupted my thoughts to say, “I’m not capricious.” So, I looked up the definition: “Given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.”

“Synonyms include fickle, inconstant, changeable, variable, mercurial, volatile, unpredictable, temperamental; whimsical, fanciful, flighty, quirky, faddish.” Good to know!

Hebrews 4:16 tells us,

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (KJV)

“Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].” (AMP)

“So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” (MSG)

It doesn’t say come shyly, fearfully, or hesitantly to the throne of grace. In the original Greek, the words “that we may” come from a word meaning “in order to.” That doesn’t mean maybe or perhaps.

It doesn’t mean that we might possibly obtain mercy, or that we should search for, beg for or bribe God for mercy and grace.

It also doesn’t add if God is there, He’s not too busy, or off some place doing something else. It doesn’t add if God is in a good mood or if He’s not angry at you, not measuring up your sins against you, or not demanding some sort of IOU.

Father God is not playing hard to get. Grace is his favorable attitude towards you, his pride and joy, his most treasured child. Mercy is the proof! After all, it was bought and paid for by the blood of his son, our savior, Jesus.

(By the way – God’s throne is wherever God is / you are… living room, back yard, office, beach…)

Grace, one definition

ApplePieGod’s grace isn’t always “good” like gooey apple pie, moist pound cake or luscious love songs. Sometimes it’s power tools. Weed killer. Paper towels. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, for whatever he wants to do through you – that’s grace.

Here’s a related post from last year… https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/the-anointing/

Grace = gift; free of charge.

Do you need help?

Hebrews 4:16 tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

That last phrase can be translated “… and find a free gift to help in time of need.”

Grace here is the Greek word “charis.” It’s the same root word as in “charisma,” translated gifts, such as gifts of the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians. It means God’s favor, his gift to us, free of charge in Christ.

It’s not some spooky, super-spiritual state of being satisfied with sickness, disease, calamity or chaos. It’s practical help, whenever help is needed.

When Hurricane Hugo hit Florence in 1989, Tim was in McLeod Hospital being treated for an infection in his hand. He had been transferred from Roper Hospital in Charleston which was in the direct path of the storm.

I sat by Tim’s bed all that ear-splitting stormy night, rain blowing right through the porous hospital walls onto my chair. I was wrapped like a cocoon in several blankets, trying to keep as dry as possible.

Tim was in very serious condition. A double pancreas/kidney transplant patient, he was in danger of losing the transplants from side effects of antibiotics being used to treat the infection. His condition worsened during the night, and by morning the doctors had decided Tim should be flown to the University of Minnesota Transplant Center for treatment.

But there were no flights out of Florence! Airports were closed at the major connecting cities, Atlanta and Charlotte. Nothing was flying out of Charleston or Columbia. Plus, Tim was on IV’s. He needed an air ambulance, a very fast jet plane. We needed help!

It took nothing short of a miracle to get that plane to Florence, from its headquarters in Florida, but that’s what God provided. Grace. Practical help. With phone calls from several friends, we found an air ambulance with medical pilot and co-pilot that could fly to Florence. Tim was able to be transported on a stretcher with his IV running and we made it to Minnesota in just a couple of hours.

While the plane was en route to Florence, I had a very short time to go home, pack a suitcase and get to the airport for our flight. Due to widespread damage there was a total power outage in Florence and a police blockade of all traffic except for emergencies, meaning I had to get special permission to go home.

Someone drove me, I don’t remember who. It took a lot longer than usual, dodging downed trees and power lines and having to detour several times along the way.

Then, when we finally got to the house, I couldn’t get in. Two huge pine trees had fallen across the yard, one in front and one in back, completely blocking both doors. I needed more help, to say the least.

I wasn’t strong enough by myself to shove tree limbs aside and make a big enough gap to edge through, but with my driver’s help I squeezed in the door. Returning to the car a few minutes later with my hastily packed bag, I wondered what we were going to do about those trees when we came home from Minnesota.

Grace came to our rescue so many times during those days. Tim’s hand was successfully treated, the transplants were saved, and from his hospital room we watched television coverage of the hurricane’s path that the power-less folks back home couldn’t watch.

I worried a bit about those downed pine trees. How would we get Tim’s wheelchair into the house? What would we do about cleaning up the mess?

When finally we returned home many days later, to our amazement we found the yard completely clear. You’d never know those trees had fallen in front or back! There were no limbs, no pine needles, no pine cones, no sawdust even! Every trace of debris had been removed.

Grace had come in the form of friends unknown to me, people recruited by my Uncle Charlie Powers to come with power saws, rakes, trucks, everything needed to handle this problem. Free of charge.

That’s what grace is. Favor. Gifts. Free of charge, in Christ Jesus, by way of friends with power saws if necessary.

Thorns, grace, power tools

In II Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul asked God to remove a “thorn in the flesh” three times. He called it a “messenger of Satan,” given to him because of the revelations he’d received. Given to him by whom? For what?

Messenger = angelos, translated angel in all but three places in the New Testament, and those are all in the gospels quoting an Old Testament verse that applied to John the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus.

Every other place angelos refers to an angel. Like Gabriel. Like the angel that delivered Peter from prison. Like the angels in the book of Revelation.

In the Old Testament thorns in the flesh were always pagan people that vexed God’s people. See Numbers 33:55 and Judges 2:3. Never does that word describe anything other than a person or personality. Angel of Satan. Demon-possessed person or demon itself.

Why does an evil personality harass a believer? In John 10:10 Jesus tells us. To steal, kill and destroy. This satanic angel came to steal Paul’s attention, sidetrack his ministry or undermine his influence with the community. Preventing his ego from being inflated, yes, but interfering with his confidence in Christ too.

Read Acts 16:16-19 about the woman at Philippi who had a spirit of divination. Following Paul around, she said the right things but she had a wrong spirit. Paul tolerated it for some days, then finally cast it out.

So, did the “thorn,” the evil personality succeed? No, he didn’t. Paul performed many signs, wonders and miracles – KJV says mighty deeds (dunamis). (See verse 12.)

Notice God’s response to Paul, a simple statement: My grace is sufficient for you. He didn’t say no, he said you already have the tools you need to get rid of that thing.

Grace = charis, gift, favor, gratuity; something Paul already had. Spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit’s tool kit. God’s power tools. Were they enough for the job? Certainly. More than sufficient for Paul to complete his mission.

Jesus had told him, My strength is made perfect in weakness. Paul said he would rather glory in his own weakness, then, so the power (dunamis) of Christ could rest on him. And it did indeed. His testimony in Chapter 11 is proof of that, all by itself.

Here’s the point: If a man could perform signs, wonders and miracles in his own strength, then he could get the glory for them.

But if he could perform signs, wonders and miracles despite his weakness, then God would get the glory for them. It’s not complicated.