Tag Archives: Grace

I love categories!!! How to think during suffering.

17 Feb

Categories are useful because they let us SEE how something relates to something else.  When I struggle to understand a new idea or concept, if I can SEE what something is NOT, then I find it easier to grasp the new notion when it is described as ‘something NOT X.’  I need that kind of distinction.

For example, a language teacher might try to get me to understand a verb tense like the ‘imperfect’.  She might say, “The imperfect tense is employed to communicate a repeated, ongoing action in the past or to describe the big picture (canvas-like background).”

My question as a newbie to this way of considering verbs would be:  “As opposed to what OTHER kinds of tenses?  What else is in the group called VERBS?”  She would perhaps answer, “Another category would be ‘one-time’ past actions, not the ongoing, repeating actions that happened.”

Let me apply this tool of categories to Biblical thinking.  (I KNOW you know that God calls us to THINK and use our minds.  Recall Paul’s advice to Timothy – Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Tim 2:7)

This morning, I was following Paul’s advice below when he exhorts us NOT to worry.  His wisdom goes like this: After we hand over our problems to Jesus with thanksgiving,  we’re NOT to think about the problems, but about………

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Ephesians 4:8

So which true thought did I take up?  The one above; I started pondering categories of what rests over us.

Consider this distinction from John 3:36:  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever does not obey the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

In this distinction, there are only two groups:

  • those covered by a future of God’s wrath (‘remains’ on him)
  • those who do not have God’s wrath abiding over them but a future of eternal life

That should make us grateful and motivated to share Good News!

Then I thought of other things that could ‘remain on us’.  Here’s the category distinction I REALLY felt drawn to –  2 Cor 12:9. This is the occasion when Paul reports his divinely-inspired insight right after he has prayed earnestly to God to remove his painful ‘thorn’.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

What are the 2 categories here?  The clue is in the verb ‘to boast’.  That word confused me in the context of the above verse until I did some digging on Blueletterbible.org . To boast can also mean ‘to be glad about‘.

Now THAT I get.  ‘Thinking’ further I saw why one can be GLAD about weakness. It’s because of the exceeding greatness of having Christ’s power resting or abiding over them.  So perhaps those who COMPLAIN about their weaknesses don’t stay under Christ’s power.  Just maybe by complaining, they deprive themselves of the grace that could be theirs.

It’s human nature NOT to want or to be glad about sufferings and illnesses and limited ability.  I thank God that we have Paul’s example of prayer, that is of asking God THREE times to heal him.  Jesus does indeed command us to pray.   God, in his wisdom, will either heal us (or fix the situation) or he won’t.  What is our response to God’s answer? Here is the category divide:  accept God’s wisdom and gratefully acknowledge the power of Christ resting on us to LIVE with the suffering.  OR…..complain and not see, call upon, or even DESIRE that power.

Mike and I are in a situation right now where we are weak and helpless.  We don’t know what to do ‘tomorrow’ because there is no light yet for tomorrow.  But this we DO know: that God promises us his sufficient power through Christ when we gratefully look up and accept where we are today.  I am SO thankful for this truth and yes, I AM glad for this problem, this weakness, this suffering SINCE Christ’s power tents over me.

The logic of receiving God’s power

25 Apr

Do you feel weak as a believer?  I know I do, every day.  I throw myself on God each and every morning as well as throughout my school day?  Why?  It’s how I tame/master/subdue those negative feelings, my fears that pop up while driving to school.  It’s knowing that I have to ‘do it again’, teach one more day. Even after 26 years, I feel inadequate, like there won’t be enough time to complete planning and grading and teaching AND engage the students so they both acquire AND enjoy French!  It’s THAT pressure that I don’t like and that I fear.

So when I read about God’s power this week, my ears perked up.

Listening to a John Piper classic sermon of the day got me to thinking about how we actually RECEIVE supernatural strength to fight those fears.

Piper explained that Paul’s epistle greetings and even his closures contained power phrases like ‘grace and peace be to you’.  Here’s an example:

2 Tim 4:22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

My mind started backtracking by wondering:

  • Okay, how do I actually GET this grace?  And what specifically IS it, this grace?

I think the Holy Spirit led me logically to see the simple but effective way to receive God’s power.  Hear me out.

If you are a Christian, you’ve heard and read it many times over that:

…..faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

So…IF faith comes from hearing or reading God’s Word (and faith means BELIEVING, TRUSTING, RELYING ON, RESTING IN, COUNTING ON), then God’s word is a source of supernatural effectual power that tramples our natural unbelief and causes us to take as true what the Word says.

....AND if Paul is writing what Christians accept as God’s intended words, then God means to transmit the gift (what grace is) of actual power to hearers/readers through the words themselves.  How is that?  by hearing with faith, hearing words that we believe, trust, will rely on, rest in and count on.

Grace covers LOTS of types of gift.  What supernatural gift might one need?  I can think of several:

  • strength
  • patience
  • wisdom
  • clarity
  • understanding
  • peace
  • joy
  • new desires to exercise kindness and compassion toward others
  • control over one’s ‘natural’ expression of feelings
  • releasing of grudges and leaving revenge to God

So here’s the string of logical propositional truths that my mind locked onto:

  • If believing God’s Word to be true comes by hearing with understanding…

…and

  • If God, in His Word, promises spirit and power-filled divine gifts (grace) to His children

Then

  • Grace comes to us from hearing God’s Word.

What’s the implication?

Nothing, that is NO THING, should hinder us from filling up on this grace from the Bible, each and every day.

 

 

Gospel logic

18 May

God is able to make all grace abound to you that always having all sufficiency in all things, you may have an abundance for every good work. 2 Cor 9:8

I sometimes struggle with feeling as though I have SUFFICIENT time to do what I want to do – read during a period of the day when I am most alert.

So anytime I hear mention of the concepts of ENOUGH or SATISFACTION, which both can be described as contentment with the current supply, my ears perk up.

The other day, I was thinking about how  I might logically frame my feeling of sufficiency. Here is an initial attempt:

Premise 1: If I have all sufficiency in money, time and health, I am content

Premise 2: God has said that He is able to provide me with complete sufficiency

Conclusion: I should be content because I have access to my sufficiency by asking Him regularly for what I need

If the above reasoning is true, then why might I still struggle with a sense of lack or not enough?

Immediately the Holy Spirit reminded me of the PURPOSE for which God promises to provide me sufficiency.  Not primarily (so it might seem) simply to please myself, but instead to do the work that HE has planned for me to undertake.  In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we are raised from the walking dead to being alive in Christ to undertake and carry out the works that God has planned for us.

For we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10

(an aside, the Greek word for workmanship is poiema which some have rendered as ‘poetry’)

Okay – so when God gives us grace that translates into sufficiency, He says that it is not for our good pleasure (my reading), but to do the work that He has pre-ordained for us.

Hmm…is that disappointing?  Well, ça dépend! (that depends, as the French say).

Jesus said: My food/meat is to do the will of God who sent me and to accomplish His work – John 4:34  And food is the Greek word broma which means:

  • aliment which refreshes, delights or truly satisfies the mind

It seems that God is VERY efficient.  He has so created work both to accomplish His purposes AND to refresh me. I can be assured that looking to God the Father for what will ultimately satisfy me involves letting HIM assign and organize the work I am to do.

Left to please myself, I might think what I crave for restoration are the time and energy to READ.  But I am beginning to see that maybe I am not wise enough as the created being to know what is best for me.

I’m slowly learning to depend on my Maker to know what kind of high-grade octane nurtures, protects and optimizes my spiritual engine.

high octane

Logical gal – new insight into Bible verse via French translation and a hypothetical syllogisme

1 Jul

Grace was given to you, regarding Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him. Phil 1:29

Caught off guard, I reread this morning’s devotional in the French (from a French Bible meditation-a-day calendar by La Bonne Semence – Website is here).  Why had I never seen that before?

Paul was explaining that faith to believe Jesus is a gift just like the power to endure suffering is a gift.

Two gifts; same grace; 2 different purposes:

  1. Power to believe Jesus is God
  2. Power to go through suffering

Grace

Doing a little digging, I discovered why I had never before ‘seen’ the connection to grace, to a gift from God.  Many of the English translations say something like the ESV – For to you it has been granted…...

My mind had just skipped over those words and lingered on my discomfort with the linkage between believing and suffering. I confess an unhealthy FEAR of future suffering.  So I have both pondered and shuddered at the latter portion of that statement.

Applying some clear thinking it was fairly easy to draw out some principles from this now illumined verse:

  • Both true belief and the power to endure suffering are possible only with God
  • By definition grace is a gift
  • God grants grace as a gift to Christians
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot see or rely on the Biblical Jesus
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot make it through suffering the way God has intended it

These inferences immediately eased my unholy fears.  Here’s how I applied them to all the ‘what-ifs’ that swirl around in my head more times than I’d like to admit.

When I imagine a scenario, like a fatal car accident affecting a family member, I realize my lack of control. And there is nowhere to go with the fear. So it hovers. Blocks sleep at night and robs me of peace during the day.

Fear - stories

What I now see, thanks to God using this French translation (and the Greek supports it!), is that the imagined fears all take place outside of any grace that God provides.  The suffering I’m picturing is set against the backdrop of ME and my capabilities.  Of course, when I look at me, I am discouraged.   But Christians aren’t meant to live relying on their puny resources. Christians, once God re-births them, get a spiritual DNA.  (think: new supernatural power)

  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.        2 Cor 5:17

As my cousin Terry counsels, ‘Don’t step out of your circle of Grace.’  She’s talking about ‘daily bread’.  God gives us what we need AS we need it. That’s what He promises.  He doesn’t provide the ‘feeling’ of grace in the present for a potential future situation.

Bottom line, logically-speaking?   It’s STUPID to meditate on possible suffering.

So what will I do when another IRRATIONAL fear pops unbidden into my mind?  Remind myself of truth, that God has promised future grace when I need it.  For now, I will live in the present moment, relying on these facts that:

  • just as it takes a gift or grace to receive faith and believe
  • so, too, it takes a gift or grace to receive power and suffer in the manner He has planned

Here’s the if-then version of that truth:

  • Premise 1 – If God has given me faith to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, then God will give me power and grace for suffering as it comes.
  • Premise 2 – God HAS given me faith, right now, to believe and rely on Him
  • Conclusion – Therefore, He will most assuredly give me grace and power for suffering when it occurs.

Question: Where have clear thinking and logic helped you mine truth from the Bible?

Logical Gal and Smoke and Mirrors

14 May

confusing words

 

I was listening to a civil discussion between two  Christian pastors on opposite ends of the Evangelical camp.  Here was what was puzzling:

Both men used the following terms:

  • Biblical
  • Authoritative
  • Christ-centered

Yet…there was a mile-wide divide between their positions. Wouldn’t you think that Christians, or any group for that matter , would employ terms to refer to the same concepts?  Well, you cannot assume that.  If the terms (words) are the same, but point to concepts that are completely different, that is called the Fallacy of Equivocation.

It’s like one person using the word ‘pitcher’ to indicate a beverage container and another person thinking of the player who lobs a baseball.

Pitcher - baseball Pitcher of lemonade

**

Another area of discussion that offers plenty of room for confusion is in the arena of denominational doctrine:

When certain Christians assert that one is saved by grace, other groups will agree.  Only by shining light on the shadowy areas, can you see that the method of being saved is different for each.  The one group will mean grace alone and the other group will intend grace as the initial factor leading to one’s ability to choose God or accomplish necessary works to be worthy of salvation.

 

grace alone

Logical Joes and Janes are committed to clarity of terms and asking clarifying questions with gentleness and respect.