Monday, August 18, 2014

Grace and the Law - Part IV


     As we continue our study of grace and the law, remember the purpose of the law:
1.   Revelation of Sin
2.   Preparation for the Savior
Was the law to blame for man’s sin?
     In Romans 7:7, Paul explains:  “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! I would not have known what sin was except through the law.” The law reveals sin…it does not cause someone to sin.
     Outside the garden Adam, Eve and their offspring (the human race) would be forced to live with the curse of sin. Even that was grace as God extended physical life. But He disciplined their disobedience. They were His. They belonged to Him. Therefore, He disciplined them—much like we do our own children. When our children misbehave, break the rules, do something dangerous, we discipline them for their own safety; to teach them right from wrong and what is good from what is not good and what can harm them versus what becomes a blessing. We do not discipline the children of others because they do not belong to us.
     I remember a story our young pastor told when we were members of a church north of Dallas. His dad demanded obedience. Steve had learned his lessons well over the years and knew that when his father told him to do something, he would be wise to obey. One day they were preparing to cross the street. Steve was, like most children, rushing ahead and ready to cross before his father and brother. Just as he stepped off the curb, He heard his father yell, “Steve, STOP!” Without even taking the time to think about whether or not he would obey, he stopped. Just as he did, a huge truck sped by barely missing him. One more step and he would have been lying in the street! He stopped because he knew what the consequences would be if he disobeyed. But his father’s obedience training was not mean-spirited or hateful. It was meant to teach his sons that there can be dire consequences to disobedience. 
     In the same way, we can consider God’s law as obedience training.  It is for our protection and given because of God’s favor or grace towards us.
     So when Eve, beguiled by the serpent, ate of the forbidden fruit then shared it with Adam, God’s grace interrupted the law and rather than immediate, death became a future event. He granted them time.
 
     Rather than unmold Adam and Eve and begin again, in an act of grace, He chose to put them out of the Garden. Adam blamed God for Eve's disobedience, but God continued to supply their needs and multiply their family through childbirth. In Adam’s refusal to accept responsibility for his sin in the Garden, he provided God with one more opportunity to display His grace!

      Although God displayed His grace to Adam and Eve, he also placed a curse on the ground and on child bearing. God’s law, his instructions had been violated and the penalty had to be paid. However, justice was mitigated by grace.

     But God would use the law to infiltrate the understanding of the Israelites and reveal the impossibility of keeping the law for it required an “all in” approach. If you broke one law, you were guilty of all. The law revealed the darkness of sin.
     Remember—the law was given to God’s people…the Israelites! And the first five books of the Old Testament, the books of the law, were inspired by God and written down by Moses to introduce to some and re-introduce to others this God Jehovah Yahweh I AM!
     God’s heart is a place of grace. Like He did for Adam and Eve, God continues to shower love and mercy rather than wrath on His disobedient children.

© Joyce Powell

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Rescued by Grace


"Because he loves me," says the LORD
“I will rescue him…”
                       Psalm 91:14 NIV

“Because he holds fast to me in love,
I will deliver him; I will protect him,
because he knows my name.”
                       Psalm 91:14  ESV 

     Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God displays His grace—His unmerited favor and undeserved mercy. We see it in Daniel, Jonah, Esther, Ruth… Over and over those who love Him—who know His Name—are rescued by God’s grace.

     In Job 19:25-26 we read Job’s affirmation of his confidence in God’s grace. “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (NIV)

     In the midst of life’s complete devastation Job knows that he knows that he knows that there is a Redeemer whose grace will rescue him. I love that! God has all authority. He is all powerful. He is the keeper of all knowledge, and yet he continues to extend His grace to fallen man; to me!

     As a child living on the shores of Lake Erie, it was not unusual to find my mother, brother and me playing in the water along the lake’s edge. One day I caught my leg in an inner tube and found myself bobbing up and down in the water—head first. Each time my face reappeared from under the sea of green I would yell “Help!” After the third scream, my mother and brother turned to find me hopelessly stuck, and they came to my rescue. I belonged to them; they recognized my voice and the sound of trouble.

     Just like Daniel and Jonah and Job and many others throughout the Word of God, our Heavenly Father continues to rescue His children. He brings us into security and safety. Once we belong to Him, He will never fail to recognize our voice.

     There is no way to repay the Lord. I cannot give enough, do enough or be enough. I did not earn His grace. I do not merit His favor. I do not deserve His care. But one day, God reached down His Holy Hand and through His Son Jesus Christ the Anointed One, Messiah—He rescued me!

     You may have experienced God’s rescue. If you have not, He is waiting—arms outstretched—calling your name. All you have to do is run into His arms and accept the free gift of salvation offered through His Son Jesus and you too can be rescued by grace. A great songwriter, Kyla Rowland, put it well when she wrote:

He rescues me when my ship is tossed at sea
He rescues me when my mountain’s too high to see
And when my valley is hot and dry, and I can’t find a place to hide
Jesus comes and He rescues me
 
 
© Joyce Powell
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Grace and the Law - Part III

     God’s grace was revealed in the act of creation. “In the beginning, God created…” (Gen. 1:1) Since God is the creator of all things, He has the right and authority to expect that His creation revere and respect his established laws and instructions.
 
     God planted a beautiful garden sanctuary in which He placed Adam and Eve. He walked in the garden with them. He spoke with them. His grace overflowed as He provided for every need. However, He gave them one restriction, one instruction or rule—one law—one DO NOT.
 
     Genesis 2:16 “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when (not if) you eat of it you will surely die.”’ The law and the consequence.
  
     Adam, not Eve, received the first law directly from God.  What does Genesis 2:16 say again? “And the LORD God commanded the man…” What did God say the consequence for disobedience would be—you will surely die. Genesis 3 recounts the now familiar story. The serpent tempted Eve. Adam was with her, but did not stop her from eating. Then when she offered Adam a bite of that beautiful shiny red crunchy delicious sweet apple, he ate; the deed was done. Through one act of disobedience sin entered the world. One law, one rule, one do not given by God…ignored as they succumbed to the temptation of the serpent.
 
     What was the revelation gained? What knowledge did they now have that they did not have before. What wisdom came with that costly bite…Genesis 3:7—“they realized they were naked…” They traded the perfection of the garden and intimacy with God for the immediate knowledge that they were naked.  
 
 
     That doesn’t even make sense to you and me, does it? But let me ask you, how many times in your life has God cautioned or warned or instructed you to DO NOT and yet you did it anyhow? Think back over your lifespan, remember after receiving Christ as Savior and Lord the times the Holy Spirit nudged you and said stop, wait, don’t…danger-danger-danger…and you chose to ignore. Remember the consequences. Looking back it doesn’t make sense that you would ignore God, but at the time….
 
      Adam and Eve gained the knowledge to determine between good and evil. Like us, they paid the consequences of disobedience to God. 
        
     In Genesis 3:22 we read, And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  Grace in action!
 
So Adam and Eve were put outside the garden, and Genesis 3:21-24 recounts the story:
1.   God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve and clothed them (blood sacrifice) Grace.
2.  He spoke with the holy US (verse 22) about not allowing them to eat from the tree of life      Grace.
3.  He banished him from the garden to work the ground from which he had been taken—consequences of breaking the law, the one DO NOT – still Grace…they did not instantly die…God did not unmold them….
4.  He placed on the East side of the Garden of Eden; cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the Tree of Life.
 
     Although they would never be allowed to return to the Garden of Eden, God put them out on the east side of the garden—not pushing them away from God but toward the East—toward God (Matthew 24:27)
 
     When the Tabernacle was built, the only gate in faced east and the Tribe of Judah from which Christ would be a descendent camped outside the eastern gate.  Nothing God does is random or coincidental. When we break His law there are consequences, however, Grace abounds even then.

     Next time, we will continue our look at grace and the law.

 
©Joyce Powell

Friday, August 8, 2014

Grace and the Law - Part II


     God’s grace was revealed in the act of creation. “In the beginning, God created…” (Gen. 1:1) Since God is the creator of all things, He has the right and authority to expect that His creation revere and respect his established laws and instructions.

     God planted a beautiful garden sanctuary in which He placed Adam and Eve. He walked in the garden with them. He spoke with them. His grace overflowed as He provided for every need. However, He gave them one restriction, one instruction or rule—one law—one DO NOT.

     Genesis 2:16 “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when (not if-mine) you eat of it you will surely die.”’ The law and the consequence.

     Adam, not Eve, received the first law directly from God.  What does Genesis 2:16 say again? “And the LORD God commanded the man…” What did God say the consequence for disobedience would be—you will surely die. Genesis 3 recounts the now familiar story. The serpent tempted Eve. Adam was with her, but did not stop her from eating. Then when she offered Adam a bite of that beautiful shiny red crunchy delicious sweet apple, he ate. And the deed was done. Through one act of disobedience sin entered the world. One law, one rule, one do not given by God…ignored as they succumbed to the temptation of the serpent.

     What was the revelation gained? What knowledge did they now have that they did not have before. What wisdom came with that costly bite…Genesis 3:7—“they realized they were naked…” They traded the perfection of the garden and intimacy with God for the immediate knowledge that they were naked—an over simplification, but you get my point.

     That doesn’t even make sense to you and me, does it? But let me ask you, how many times in your life has God cautioned or warned or instructed you to DO NOT and yet you did it anyhow? Think back over your lifespan, remember after receiving Christ as Savior and Lord the times  the Holy Spirit nudged you and said stop, wait, don’t…danger danger danger…and you chose to ignore. Remember the consequences. Looking back it doesn’t make sense that you would ignore God, but at the time….

     In Genesis 3:22 we read, And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  Grace in action!

    So Adam and Eve were put outside the garden, and Genesis 3:21-24 recounts the story.

1.   God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve and clothed them. (blood sacrifice) Grace.

2.  He spoke with the Holy US (verse 22) about not allowing them to eat from the tree of life. Grace.

3.  He banished him from the garden to work the ground from which he had been taken—consequences of breaking the law, the one DO NOT – still grace…they did not instantly die…God did not unmold them….

4.  He placed (on the East side) of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

     Although they would never be allowed to return to the Garden of Eden, God put them out on the EAST side of the garden—not pushing them away from God but toward the East ---toward God. (Matthew 24:27) When the Tabernacle was built, the only gate in faced east and the Tribe of Judah from which Christ would be a descendent camped outside the eastern gate…Nothing God does is random or coincidental….

     So, remembering the purpose of the law,

1.   Revelation of Sin

2.   Preparation for the Savior

     was the law to blame for man’s sin?

     In Romans 7:7, Paul explains:  “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! I would not have known what sin was except through the law.” The law reveals sin…it does not cause someone to sin.

     Just as the speedometer in your car reveals you are speeding at 55 MPH when the limit is 45 MPH, the law reveals sin. In our next discussion, we will continue looking at our sin and God’s grace revealed in the law.

 

©Joyce Powell

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Heart: A Place of Grace - Grace and the Law Part I


But he (God) said unto me, "My grace
is sufficient for you, for my power is
made perfect in weakness."
                 II Corinthians 12:9a  

 
     Isidore of Seville (Archbishop of Seville who died in 636 A.D.—Sainted by the Catholic church was considered by many historians to be the last scholar of the ancient world.  I found his statement on teaching and grace to be right in line with Scripture when he said, Teaching unsupported by grace may enter our ears, but it never reaches the heart. When God's grace does touch our innermost minds to bring understanding, then his word, which is received by the ear, can sink deep into the heart.”


     When we think about the grace of God, there are a few questions to ponder:
 
1.   Is grace found in the Old Testament Scriptures?  
2.   Did grace arrive only with the birth of Messiah, Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One?
3.  What is the essential purpose of the law given in the Old Testament?
 
     Think about questions one and two as we take a look at question three.
     I would maintain that it is impossible to separate the law from grace. The two are inextricable. The law was given by God for two purposes: The revelation of sin and the preparation for the Savior.
 
     Scripture tells us that God’s redemption plan was forged—it took shape—before the creation of the world:
 
     In Ephesians 1:4 Paul tells us, “For he (God) chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Salvation depends totally on God. We don’t deserve it, we cannot influence God’s plan, it is a gift given before the earth was created.
 
     In I Peter 1:20 we learn that “He (Christ) was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” God’s plan was not in light of an oops…because man was disobedient. God’s plan for redemption was not plan B—it was not a last straw or an afterthought.
 
     The sacrificial atoning death on the cross of God’s Only Son was Plan A, from the beginning, But before we get to the cross…we need to understand the law. And we will do that by taking an Old Testament overview crash course.
 
     Grace is God’s undeserved favor. Grace is what we desire when we have blown it, made a mistake, broken a promise or ignored a warning. But the times we most need grace, are often the times when the thou shall not brigade steps forth reminding us of our faults and failures in keeping the law. And often, we ourselves are guilty of accusing other law breakers rather than displaying a bountiful portion of grace.
 
      What is the Law? The Law, simply put, is a mixture of authorities, rules and regulations that convey standards of living with consequences for any breaking of said law. Aristotle called it reason free from passion; more about justice than mercy and, by its very nature, restrictive and binding. Grace, favor, kindness, freedom and blessing is not often associated with the law.
 
     Since our thoughts will revolve around God’s law and God’s grace, we will be searching the Scriptures for tools that will help us understand how the law of God relates to the grace of God—thereby helping to firmly establish our hearts as a place of grace. While many may see the Bible’s Old Testament as devoid of grace, we can surely find God’s stamp of grace across the pages of human history from Genesis through Revelation.
 
     In the next few posts we will focus on God’s law and its relationship to God’s grace. I pray you will stick with me as together we delve into the Word of God.
 

© Joyce Powell

Friday, August 1, 2014

Creator God

 
 
 
 
 
 
Do not be deceived.
In the beginning
GOD created!
 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

God is our Refuge

My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
                           Psalm 62:7-8 NIV
 
     Life oozes craziness. What should be called evil is applauded by society as good. People who speak God’s truth are labeled bigots and haters. Those who falsely believe God does not exist try to wipe out any public reminder of our Risen Lord. Some days we desire to hide from the outside world; to take refuge from evil.
 
     Often our efforts for God appear thwarted by those working to discredit Christians. Once you make a public profession of faith in Christ, many expect you to be perfect. When you are not, others label you hypocrite, and you might feel the word flashing across your forehead like the scarlet letter around the neck of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorn’s classic tale of sin, repentance and a struggle for dignity.
 
     Fortunately, we have a refuge. His name is Jehovah. He is I AM—a shelter we can run to, a rock we can stand on and a refuge in the time of small irritations and great difficulty.
 
     My salvation depends on God. My honor depends on God. My steadfast hope depends on God. Just as He cares for the lilies of the field and the beasts of the wild, He cares for you and me.
 
     So the next time the nightly news makes you want to duck and run or your act of godliness is proclaimed bigoted and hateful and you need a shelter from life’s storm, REMEMBER our God—Creator of heaven and earth—our Salvation—our Mighty Rock, and run to Him.
 
     Surely our God, who cares for the wild animals roaming free on our mountain tops and the microscopic plants dotting the hillsides, cares for His children. God is our refuge. Trust Him. Run to Him.

 

© Joyce Powell