Tag Archive | grace

The Most Powerful God, 1 Samuel 5:1-6

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Buddy depends upon me to take are of him. It would be foolish for him to run off and take his chances on moving into a stranger’s home. The stranger doesn’t love him and hasn’t sacrificed for him over the years like I, who love him dearly, has.

One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament (Tanak) is from the time period before kings ruled over ancient Israel, when the nation was ruled by a series of judges appointed by God. When Samuel the prophet was a youth, the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant of the Lord and brought this holy seat of God Almighty into the house of their god, Dagon. Dagon was considered the “Lord of Many Cities” according to Wikipedia, or a god over many gods. Some archeologists believe it was a fish-god, or Merman, or, most likely, an agricultural god of grain.

By capturing the ark, the Philistines thought that their god, Dagon, had defeated the god of the Hebrews. But they  quickly discovered that they were very wrong.

“When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him…Now the hand of the Lord was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and their territories. When the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, ‘The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severe on us and on Dagon our god.'”–1 Samuel 5:1-6

The Philistines thought they had defeated the God of Israel because they had defeated His people. But God had permitted it, one reason being, because the sons of the head priest, Eli, had taken the ark into battle and they had disgraced themselves with ungodly conduct as God’s representatives. God Almighty demonstrated which god had the real power.

This actually wasn’t my original point in writing this blog, but there are some who think that because Christians fail, morally or intellectually or in some other personal habit, that means that God Himself is flawed or not real. Nonbelievers judge God Almighty by the behavior of imperfect persons. No, it means that a mighty God has chosen to love and appoint as His ambassadors people who are totally incapable of meeting or living up to His holy standards 24/7. Just because God’s people are defeated doesn’t mean that God is any less totally holy or omnipotent. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

What amazes me is that God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, who created the universe and exists outside of time, space and His creation, would even bother with us. Yet, He extends His grace and mercy to every person every day. He sustains life on the planet and allows people the freedom to choose Him or not to. Every breath is a gift from Him. And everything we use in our daily lives originates from this planet that we did not create, but He created and allows us to rule over and utilize its resources.

I could go on but you get the point.

The failure of God’s people doesn’t mean God has failed; it means that God chooses to call Christians His children and extend His love to people who are totally unworthy of it, people totally incapable of being as holy, good and kind as He is.

God bless you. Dawn and Buddy

***

Jesus provided a way for unholy people to approach a holy God. He is the “merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17) who intercedes for us with the Father. Because God cannot tolerate evil and must punish it, yet loves us, Jesus took on human form and accepted humankind’s punishment for our sin. All we have to do is admit we’re sinners who require Christ’s sin sacrifice to pay for our sinfulness and ask Him to govern our lives. When we give our lives to God, the Holy Spirit enters into us, which makes us “born again”. We become new creations by the presence of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17) and our trespasses are no longer counted against us (2 Corinthians 5:19). God is so holy that we can never meet his standard of perfection to be granted eternal life. (Matthew 5:47). It’s totally impossible. We cannot work for our salvation or earn the right to enter God’s presence.

If you haven’t, please invite Him into your life.

And if you do know Christ, please remember that you are also imperfect before you’re tempted to judge someone harshly. I also have to remind myself to be kind because I also fall short of God’s standards every day and need His grace too.

 

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God’s Bath, James 4:6

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Got a surprise tonight. I didn’t plan on spending part of my Saturday evening giving my dog a bath, but it was pointed out to me by a family member that he had a “poopie butt”. That can happen when you aren’t properly maintaining your dog’s coat and let the fur on the back end get too long near the anus.

At time God has to give me a little “bath” too. In His eyes, I am cleansed of my sins because of my faith in Jesus, which was His gift of righteousness to me, unearned (Ephesians 2:4-9) but sometimes I get my feet dirty.

“Jesus said to (Peter), ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean,'”–John 13:10

At times I’ll get a little haughty and think, “I’m doing OK this week in the sin department,” and then God points His finger at me and says, “Well, what about this?”

And I’ll respond, “Augh! Oh no! You’re right, Lord. I shouldn’t be thinking or doing that or having that attitude. Please help me to change.”

God doesn’t toss me into the bathtub to punish me, but to show me where I need to improve to better glorify Him, and serve Him and others.

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”–James 4:6

It was pride that caused Satan to fall and become the leader of all wickedness, and pride that caused the Pharisees and chief priests and the elders of the Jewish people to hand Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified:

“For (Pilate) knew that that because of envy they had handed Him over.”–Matthew 27:18

When we become born-again and enter into God’s family as one of His beloved children, we are GIVEN the righteousness of Christ so that we can fellowship with a holy God. A parable of the Christian life that preachers often use to illustrate our changed condition from unbeliever to believer is the caterpillar which weaves a cocoon and emerges, after radical change, into a beautiful butterfly. But as Pastor Bob George points out, we sometimes don’t fly like we should. Sometimes we stay down on the ground and wiggle through the mud like we’re still fuzzy worms.

I add: Then when we try to fly it’s difficult to soar upward and enjoy the freedom of flight when we have mud coating our wings. We have to shake that mud off so that we can fly well. God doesn’t knock the mud off our wings to make us feel bad or to depress us; He wants us to fly in the freedom He’s given us from the bondage of sin and from the consequences that bad or wicked attitudes can bring into our lives.

It feels great to fly free. Thank you, Lord, when you correct me.

And Lord, thank you I can fly in the joy of faith in the sunshine of Your love although there’s still a lot of mud speckling my wings.

Thanks for your time. I realize you have myriads of choices on how to spend it. I appreciate you chose to spend a little with me.

***

End note: If you are not born-again, you may feel free but you’re actually walking in bondage to the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live even if he dies,” (John 11:25). Please consider saying this prayer: “Father, I admit that I have offended you and cannot live up to Your righteous standards. I accept that Jesus died on the Cross to take the punishment I deserve for my sin. Please forgive me and enter into my heart and give me eternal life in Christ. Be my Lord and teach me to walk in your ways.” If you’ve said this prayer, God promises to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”–Luke 11:13  God bless you and guide you to a Biblically-based church fellowship.

 

Being Perfect: Matthew 5:49

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To me my little Silky terrier, Buddy, is perfect because I love him. Is he really perfect? No. But when I look at him, I’m not thinking about the times he’s been a bad boy: I’m thinking about how fun he is and loyal and quirky. I’m not focusing on his bad traits (which are very few, of course).

Many Christians love Jesus with all their hearts but don’t really understand their salvation, so oftentimes they’ll preach the bad news to unbelievers. Yet, the Gospel is called “the Good News”. What makes it good, and not bad, news?

During the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus’ most famous sermon, He tells how to be a good person. It’s very convicting because no one can live up to it 24/7, no matter how hard a person tries and how sincerely. Yet Jesus proclaims during the sermon:

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”–Matthew 5:49

Perfect? God expects me to be perfect?

Often, in sincerity, Christians will proclaim that you must do good deeds and live up to God’s Laws to be pleasing to Him. Some even claim you can lose your salvation if you aren’t good enough. But Jesus said that God’s standard was “perfection”. James also proclaimed:

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”–James 2:10

What James is saying: if you try to please God by attempting to live up to His standards, yet fail just once, you’re guilty. The law of good works condemns you to Hell.

So anyone who tells you that you can be good enough to be pleasing to God, just doesn’t have it quite right. Because it’s impossible to be perfect. God is so incomprehensibly far holier than we could ever imagine or hope to be in this lifetime.

But here’s the GOOD NEWS: “By grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast.”–Apostle Paul, Ephesians 2:8-9

God declares you righteous by faith, not by your good deeds (works): not by being good enough or staying good enough. The truth is: You can NEVER be good enough in this lifetime.

It’s a GIFT: You don’t work to earn it. It’s an act of mercy by a loving, yet holy, God to bring you into a love relationship with Him.

The GOOD NEWS is that you’re saved by faith in Jesus Christ. What is that exactly? By believing that Jesus was God in the flesh, died on the Cross to take the penalty of God’s wrath for your sin, and that He was resurrected from the grave.

“My righteous one shall live by faith.”–Hebrews 10:38.

“And without faith it’s impossible to place Him…”–Hebrews 11:6

And, because it’s still impossible to be perfect after your salvation, you maintain your walk by faith (Galatians 3:1-3). You’re declared “not guilty” by the Great Judge because Jesus nailed your sin to His Cross (Colossians 2:14). If you come to faith in Jesus, on Judgment Day, you will “stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy.”–Jude 24

When you believe in Jesus and become born-again (receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit), God looks down on you like I look at Buddy: with eyes of love and not condemnation.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus.”–Romans 8:1

“And their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.”–Hebrews 10:17

More later on the counterbalance: Actions have consequences.

Greatest Faith: Luke 23:39-43

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It’s hard to believe that Buddy was abused for nearly three years before I adopted him from Silky Terrier Rescue. He was so afraid of me that he yanked and pulled at his leash, trying to get back to his foster mother (who is a responsible Silky Terrier breeder). I wondered what I had gotten myself into, he was so adamant about not going home with me. Then he kept running away the next week or so. Fortunately, I had a kitty collar on him with a bell, so I was able to locate him by the ringing when I couldn’t find him. I was so afraid he’d get hit by a car. (Fortunately, at that time we lived in a closed neighborhood which lessened the odds of getting hit, but didn’t eliminate it.)

Then, one day, it was like a lightbulb flipped on in his head, as if he was thinking, “Why am I running away? They love me. They give me good food and treats, bathe me, comb me, kiss and hug on me, and take me for rides and walks.” And he stopped trying to run off. Now, he greets me at the door with joyous adoration.

One of the people I admire the most in the Bible is one of the thieves on the cross next to Jesus. Of all the people in the New Testament, I believe he had the greatest faith.

If you don’t know the story, two thieves were crucified on either side of Jesus. On Jesus’ cross, Pilate had a placard nailed above His read which read, “King Of the Jews” to mock Jesus’ claim to be a King, only Jesus claimed to have a spiritual, not earthly kingdom.

“One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him (Jesus), saying ‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!’

But the other answered, and rebuking him, said, ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’

And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’

And He (Jesus) said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.'”–Luke 23:39-43

Though the thief had no opportunity to do any good deeds nor be baptized, he recognized his sinfulness and God’s great mercy. He acknowledged he was a sinner deserving death for his evil deeds, repented of his sin by rebuking the other man for mocking God, and asked Christ to save him. This is why I so greatly admire this man. He was one of the few at the time who really got who Jesus was, the Christ–the sacrificial Lamb of God–who died to cover our sins.

The repentant thief is a great example of salvation. The perfect man, Christ, had to die to take our penalty for God’s wrath against our sin. God is just and must punish evil, and only the perfect God Man was holy enough to take that punishment so we don’t have to.

The thief understood that it was all about repenting and faith, not about working for God’s favor, but receiving God’s approval and gift of righteousness by His mercy alone.

“For by grace you have been saved thorough faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 2:8-9

And this very kind and loving God, though in great torment, reached out to acknowledge the thief was forgiven and encouraged him to look forward to Paradise.

There were two thieves, however. The other continued in his disbelief. Which is really sad, because God’s grace would’ve covered him too–if he’d only believed in the Son of God.

Loved Just Because: Ephesians 2:8-9

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Buddy is a rescue from Silky Terrier rescue. I greatly loved my prior Silky terrier Buster and so looked for another Silky. I met his foster mom at a dog fair and purchased this cloth hutch (photo), treats, and a fitted coat for him (special material for wet, warm or cool conditions).

When I first met Buddy, he was sitting in his cage on a cart with other Silkys in their cages. I had no attachment to him; he was just a stranger to me. But I said to Buddy, “I don’t have any feelings for you now, but I will learn to love you.”

And then all he did was fight me like a bucking bronco all the way to the car, yanking at his leash in sheer terror of going home with me. He wanted to stay with his foster mom (a Silky breeder with a real heart for the spunky terriers) because she rescued him from an abusive situation. I was horrified.

Eventually he stopped running away from my home. (More later on that.)

But the point is, I didn’t rescue Buddy because I’d heard he was such a great dog. And Buddy didn’t earn his rescue by the foster mom. I rescued Buddy because I wanted the companionship of a Silky terrier and Buddy was the first dog I’d seen on the rescue site up for adoption in Washington State for more than a year I’d been searching for one.

Buddy didn’t do anything to earn his rescue from a bad situation. Some women just decided to love him.

Same with God. He doesn’t save us from our sin and self-destructive behavior because we’re so wonderful. Jesus died to pay for our sin because God wants to fellowship with us. God hates sin and must punish it, but He loves us and came up with a plan to punish our sin on Jesus instead and come into relationship with us. All we have to do is acknowledge we’ve sinned against Him (aren’t perfect), need His forgiveness, acknowledge Christ paid our sin debt, and ask Him to come into our lives. (He does this by giving us the Holy Spirit to indwell us and guide us.)

We don’t earn His forgiveness. We can never be good enough to earn His forgiveness.

It’s freely given to us by just asking Him for it.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT of God; not as result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 2:8-9

“God, Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus…”–2 Timothy 1:8 (Both quotes as NASB.)

If you don’t believe, ask Him to help you. He will because He loves you and wants to be in a loving relationship with you. Faith is a gift He gives you.

Buddy didn’t ask me to save him. But he’s my best pal now. By his overjoyed greeting when I return home, I’m sure Buddy would agree that he’s very glad that I chose him.

You’ll be glad too. I sure am.