Grace Debrief 2/10/19

Good walls don't happen by accident.

Discipline in the home can't be as effective when we don't approach it with great thought, great compassion, great grace. Just like God with us.

A grace-based home is not one in which the kids can do whatever they want. In fact, just the opposite is true: grace means that as parents we structure and manage our family life to reflect the desires of our holy heavenly Father. Scriptures like Hebrews 12 teach us that God disciplines us BECAUSE OF HIS LOVE, NOT IN SPITE OF HIS LOVE.

I like what Josh McDowell said once: Rules without relationship=rebellion. Tim Keller adds another parenting maxim that is just as true: Relationship without rules=resentment.

In the book, Grace-Based Discipline, Karis Kimmel Murray (Tim Kimmel's daughter) explains two ways of discipline: reactive discipline and responsive discipline. It sounds like not much of a difference, but if can be profound. When I'm out and about, I often see parents that are reactive - acting out as much as their kids with drama, emotion, panic, and shame. Responsive parents take the time to discipline with patience, mindfulness, intention, and grace.

"But you don't know my kid!" (In earlier times in my life, I probably would have agreed. Not anymore). The thing is - it's not about what kind of kid you have. It's how you apply graceful discipline to the kids God gave you.

Here's one of the biggest lessons I've learned about discipline over the years. I wish so much that I had learned this one forty years ago, but I'll pass it on to you. 95% of discipline in your family is not the discipline itself (spanking, time-outs, natural and logical consequences, etc. etc. etc.) Most of those things are what we think of when we talk about discipline. But actually, the most effective discipline you can apply in your family is to create an environment of grace and acceptance and unconditional love. The rest is just working out the details.

How can we accomplish this? Only by the grace of God.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 2/3/19

Yesterday we enjoyed KINSHIP! Great worship! (So thankful Grace Band was back to lead!) Sharing one another's burdens in prayer. Learning more about another "front-line" Jesus-follower: Amanda Carmien. Thinking about forgiveness. Sharing Communion. And actively fellow-shipping with each other over some pulled pork!

 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 1/27/19

As parents, we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that our job - our most important task - is to say NO! After all, the world we live in seems so full of wickedness, and our kids are exposed to such strong temptation, and we know that Satan would just love for us to fail, so we exert all of our efforts into creating, maintaining, and enforcing rules that basically boil down to "No. You can't do that. Or that. Or especially THAT!"

It's interesting to ponder God's role as a Father in this regard. He loves us beyond anything we could ever accomplish with our own children. But he is not a big rule enforcer. Instead, he creates for us, his children, a realm of grace and truth where we can learn to trust him. And as we do, we grow into holiness.

You have to say NO to your kids. You have to have some rules, and those rules need to be reinforced. But that's not your most important job as a parent. Your most important job is to have kids who learn to trust you, to learn love, and to follow Christ. We don't get there through rules; we get there through grace. We get there by creating an environment of YES!

Start with these simple exercises:

  • When you absolutely have to say "NO," find a way to say "YES" at the same time.

  • When you say "NO," ask yourself why. Many times we say no because saying yes would be inconvenient. Or we say no because saying yes seems too indulgent, or somehow like we're "spoiling" our child. Or we say no because our parents said no a lot to us, and we think that's just good parenting. (It's not). So ask yourself why. Why do you say no, more than you say yes?

  • If you're brave (and your kids are old enough to answer), ask them this question: "When you come and ask me for something, do you usually think I'm going to say 'yes,' or 'no?' "

  • See how many times in one day you can say YES! to your kids. Or your spouse. Or your coworker. Or your boss. Or your mom and dad.

In your own family, and your own circles of influence, create an environment of grace. An environment of YES!

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 1/20/19

In his three years of ministry as a man, Jesus gave abundant evidence that, in a culture where children were less-than important, he considered them valuable as people - real people.

Just the number of times Jesus chose to heal children says a lot. And several times, Jesus used kids to show what real disciples should be like. (It seems there were always kids hanging around Jesus!)

And, much to the chagrin of his closest followers, Jesus welcomed children into the mix. In fact, he pulled them close, held them in his arms, and prayed for them.

Jesus considered children to be very important. And if he valued kids, we should, too. 

Our culture is hypocritical when it comes to valuing children. We say we consider them important, but our actions and words sometimes betray the reality. Abortion, child abuse, an overwhelmed foster-care system, and other indicators suggest that kids aren't really all that important to us. When our school teachers aren't paid enough, and aren't even provided the basics for educating our children, that speaks more to our treatment of children than our words.

Among God's people, there should always be the clear evidence that we value kids. Especially in our homes.

How do we show that we value our children? Here are ten ways. There are more, but even if we practiced these ten things we'd be moving dramatically forward: 

  • You are not designed to be the enemy. Be the advocate.

  • Consider them as the marvelous creations of God that they are.

  • Spend time on your children generously.

  • SHUT UP AND LISTEN! Stop lecturing so much. Don't end the conversation; extend the conversation. 

  • Validate their feelings. You can do this without budging on what they need to do.

  • NEVER TALK NEGATIVELY ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN TO OTHERS IN FRONT OF THEM!

  • Extend common courtesy and good manners to your children.

  • Honor their abilities and ongoing maturity. Let them do for themselves and take responsibility.

  • Respect their choices. (Note: We'll talk later about WHEN and HOW to provide choices).

  • Be consistent, over and over and over again.

At our house, we've always put our kids' pictures on our refrigerator. Maybe you do the same, along with artwork, good report cards, and love notes. There's something about a fridge and those pictures that shows we value our kids.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 1/13/19

Whatever we think about God will have a great deal to do with how we parent our kids and how we deal with children in general.

God often refers to himself as our Father, and we are even encouraged to call him Daddy. We are called his children, and his actions toward us are those of a parent. It's no surprise, then, that we would look at this arrangement with God as an example of how we should parent our kids. We should mimic God.

But how? We can't be God! So how can we be expected to parent like he does?

God is love, so the answer to the question must have to do with loving our children. To parent like God means to love our kids. Do you love your kids?

Stupid question. Ask any parent - even the ones who don't do a good job of it - ask them if they love their kids. OF COURSE THEY DO. Every parent would answer YES to the question: Do you love your kids?

But the real issue is not whether we love them or not; it's how we do it.

There are lots of models out there for loving your kids and being good parents. Most of us don't really pick one model, but we learn by the seat of our pants as we go along. We try different things, we pray, we pick up tips and advice, we read a book, we listen to sermons, we put together a patchwork of good ideas and bad ideas and make up our own ideas about how we should raise our children.

But what if we did it God's way? What if our parenting mirrored God's parenting? What if we loved like God loves?

We love our kids. God loves us. But in both of those relationships, there needs to be a delivery system to translate that love into lives. An infant who is ready for solid food can't be told, "There's the fridge - just grab what you want, whenever you need it. And don't forget to shut the fridge door."  No. There needs to be a delivery system. 

The delivery system that translates the love of God into our lives is called GRACE. The delivery system that can put our love for our children to work in their lives is - GRACE.

Want to get practical? Here are three ways you can build secure grace into your kids - INTO ANY KIDS - starting right away:

* Accept them just as they are, as distinct persons.
* Connect them into an honoring and loving family.
* Give them consistent, abundant affection without conditions.

GRACE IS THE TRANSFER MECHANISM FOR GOD'S LOVE TO US.
GRACE IS THE TRANSFER MECHANISM FOR OUR LOVE TO OUR KIDS.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
SACRIFICE.

Next week, we'll take a look at Jesus' life and ministry and discover the value he placed on children. And then we'll decide what to do about it.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 1/6/19

Well, this is not how I wanted to start the year. I sit here typing while worship at Grace goes on without me. I can't remember the last time I "called in sick," but believe me, you didn't want me blubbering and coughing and sneezing and hacking all over the place.

My biggest loss was not being able to hear Shirley, Sheila, and Leon tell their stories of God's grace! Thank you for telling your stories! I've heard it through the grapevine that it was a great day at Grace.

Listen: I am so excited about the series starting next week. Linda and I have been parents for a long time. But you know something? WE'RE STILL LEARNING HOW TO DO IT! 

Whether you have kids who are young, or have kids who are not young anymore; whether you're a grandparent or a great-grandparent or an aunt or uncle; whether you work with kids or teach kids or like kids or just have a kid who lives across the street - THIS SERIES IS FOR YOU! Freedom to Fly - Grace-Based Parenting will help you.

It really comes down to this: if you're a child of God, and he is your heavenly Father, you will learn about his grace and about how grace can be applied to the way we interact with other people - especially children, and most especially our own kids.

And here's an EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS! My wife, Linda, will be teaching Conscious Discipline Plus as a part of this series. Conscious Discipline is training that helps parents and child-care providers navigate the world of child discipline. Linda has been trained and has been teaching these principles for several years as part of her profession. The "plus" part is that Linda will weave Biblical content in with the stuff she teaches. This training will be provided over three Sundays, starting on January 27. The training will be held at Grace in the Atrium, from 1:30 - 3:30 each week. Please plan on getting in on this incredible opportunity.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 12/16/18

Guilt is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving all year 'round!

We may feel that guilt because of things we've done, regrets we have, plans we've ruined, and circumstances that will never be the same because of our sin. We could also feel guilt for things that we don't truly own - external guilt that comes from other people or the media or our own insecurities. Holidays and celebrations tend to bring those feelings to the surface.

The source of that guilt doesn't really matter. It still feels the same.

What do we do with guilt?

Jesus was born as the Savior. He came into the world to rescue us from the ravages of sin, guilt, and shame. Guilt - whether perceived or very real - is redeemed by the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Sunday, we stuck our Christmas guilt into a gift bag and gave it to Jesus. I personally stapled those two bags up and threw them in the trash. (I have witnesses!). Whatever was on those slips of paper is forgiven, in the name of Jesus.

And now this is Christmas.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 12/9/18

One of the ways we can get tangled during the Christmas season is by wrapping ourselves into knots of expectations.

Expectations are like Christmas light strings. You try every year to get them to work, and get them in order, but they come back the next year more tangled up than ever. You can never seem to get to the end of them and have them all work at the same time. Every year you get tangled. Tangled up with expectations. 

How do we deal with those expectations? Here are ways some people suggest we handle them:

  • Kill them off. Just stop having any. But that doesn't work.

  • Ignore them. This sounds like a good strategy, but life won't let you ignore expectations. The people around you probably won't let you either.

  • Change them. This is a good plan. When we alter our expectations, we can wrestle them into reality. That's the goal, right? Our expectations will be manageable when they match up with reality. The problem is this: expectations are built on the future, and we can't know or guarantee that future. We can guess, and we can hope, but we can't build our expectations on a future that has not yet happened.

Here are two passages from the Bible for you to look up. The first one is Isaiah 61:1-3. It's a prophecy given hundreds of years before Jesus. It's a promise that God, through the first-person speaker, would bring about sweeping and positive change to the Jewish people. 

Now, look up the second scripture - Luke 4:16-19. Jesus here stands up in the middle of the synagogue - in his home town - and uses the Isaiah verses ABOUT HIMSELF. It's a profound moment.

Especially for those listening, and who would learn about it later. Those people - the Jews at Jesus' time - had expectations. BIG expectations. Expectations about God, and his restoration of their status as his special people. Expectations about the Messiah and what he would do to redeem Israel. And when Jesus stands up at church and claims that he is what Isaiah was writing about, he becomes the very realistic, very dependable location for all the expectations of those people. 

They didn't need to ignore, or kill off, or even change their expectations. They just had to RELOCATE THEM. They needed to put their expectations in Jesus.

There is no safer place for your expectations. Instead of fighting with them, trying to change them or tame them or kill them off, do this: relocate your expectations. Put them in Jesus. 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 12/2/18

Another productive Kinship Sunday! We enjoyed some solid worship, talked about the importance of prayer for ONE ANOTHER and how prayer and Spiderman are related. (You had to be there!) We spent some time doing just that - prayer for one another (shooting those spidey-webs all over the place!). We celebrated Communion, thanking God that, because of Jesus, we can come boldly into his presence. Afterward, we shared a common meal of great chili (Thanks, LT!). A very good day.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 11/25/18

If you're on the trail, you're on a mission.

Before he returned to heaven, Jesus met with his followers after his resurrection. They were still in the throws and upheaval of all that had happened; some of them still couldn't believe what was going on. But even though they were still working it out, Jesus gave them their marching orders: proclaim the good news.

Here's Mark's version: "Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.' " (Mark 16:14-15).

There's an interesting thing going on with that word, "go." It's not strictly a command, but more an urging inside a statement of truth. My rough paraphrase would be "Go on with you, then, and as you go . . ."

Because Jesus assumes the whole "going" thing. He knows they'll go. And he knows that they will ask him for directions. And eventually - maybe not right away - they will head on out. But the "go" part isn't the command.

The command is in the proclamation. Jesus is saying, "Look. It's time for this party to end. You'll be heading out soon. As you go, let the amazement and the thrill and the excitement and the seriousness of all you have experienced pour out of you along the way."

That's what happened to the shepherds after they visited Baby Jesus in Bethlehem. They were so excited about what they had experienced that they could not contain the good news. That's what happens whenever people wake up and realize who Jesus is and what he's all about. Because Good News (the GOSPEL) is meant to be shared. 

This journey we're on - this hike along this trail of faith - is not a scenic walk. Sure, it's lovely sometimes. But it can also be scary and treacherous. You may know exactly where you're headed and what you're doing, or you may be scratching your head about the whole thing. But know this: AS YOU GO, YOU HAVE A MISSION. TELL THE NEWS. TELL THE GOOD NEWS. SPREAD IT AROUND LIKE PEANUT BUTTER. SHARE IT LIKE A GOOD FACEBOOK MEME. SHOUT IT OUT LIKE YOU'RE CHEERING FOR THE LIONS. NO - BETTER - SHOUT IT OUT LIKE YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN, YOU'RE A CHILD OF GOD, YOU'RE HEADED FOR HEAVEN AND LIVING A LIFE FOREVER STARTING NOW.

Go on with you, now. And as you go . . .

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 11/18/18

In the latest election, literally ALL of the candidates for any office in Michigan guaranteed that they would fix the roads!

The problem with Michigan's roads, and the problem with our own life-trails, is that having perfect roads is just not in the plans. It's not going to happen - at least not this side of heaven.

Over and over and over again, Jesus, Paul, and other New Testament figures teach us just the opposite about this life: they tell us that we can expect hardships; we can count on roads that are bumpy and scary.

Which begs the question: Why doesn't God make all our roads smooth and lovely and easy? It's because he has a plan for rough roads - a plan to use those roads to make us who he wants us to be.

Is your road rough? God wants to use that. Trust him and let him show you what he has in mind.

Because if the trail belongs to Him, and if the destination is determined by Him, and if you're on the road because of Him, and if He lives inside of you along the way, then there is nothing on this road that catches Him by surprise, and nothing on this road is wasted.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 11/11/18

This is a trail you cannot hike alone.

Over my years as a pastor, I've seen some try. They decide that they can handle walking with Jesus without close friends who travel the same path. The isolation that's created by going it alone often ends up twisting and bending their walking ability, and they become frustrated with the journey, give up on faith, or end up with very independent and very wrong ideas about following Jesus.

You need a buddy - someone to help you when you fall, encourage you when it gets tough, and challenge you along the way.

That's what Paul is getting at in Galatians 6:1-3. He understands that falling down is a very real concern. But he also knows that having someone with you on the road means that you don't have to face off with the hazards of the travel alone.

Because "alone" is not a good place to be.

Who is your traveling companion? Who do you have close to you who will pick you up and restore you gently back on the trail? Ask God to give you that person, and be prepared to BE that person for someone else.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 11/4/18

We had a great Kinship service yesterday! Worship with music, good time of sharing, and an interview with another Grace hero - Karra Landon! We observed Communion and shared a faith-family meal. If you've not joined us on Kinship Sunday, plan on it on December 2.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 10/28/18

When you're on a trail, you need stability. 

When I carried a heavy backpack on our family camping adventures, it needed to be balanced so that one side of the pack was not heavier than the other. Otherwise, my stability was compromised and I could twist an ankle or fall down.

We all want trails that are smooth and crisis-free. And we sometimes get the idea that that kind of trail is what God has for us - that he promises us a smooth and easy trail. But that's not accurate.

In fact, just the opposite is true. Jesus GUARANTEES that the trail will be challenging. That means that if you're expecting to find stability from the trail, you're going to be frustrated and angry.

Rough trails are the norm, not "happy trails." So that's why stability - what the Bible calls "steadfastness" - is critical. And the Bible talks about stability quite a bit.

In Sunday's message, we took a look at several parts of the Bible that speak about the issue. I'll let you listen to the message here if you'd like to know about each point: Listen Here.

But here's a brief summary:

1. We can find our stability in him. God is our ROCK.

2. We can undermine our stability. Our choice to trust him brings stability.

3. Stability comes by hearing and doing what Jesus asks. His yoke (backpack) is easy, and his burden (the contents of the backpack) is light.

4. Wisdom is freely available. Here's your guarantee: God promises that if we ask for wisdom, he will give it to us. But we have to ask in faith, with no "Plan B" in our back pocket just in case we don't like what God's wisdom really is.

5. Stability ultimately comes from God, who will give us what we need to complete the hike.

So, how's the hike? Hitting some rough spots? If not, are you prepared for when they come (because they will). Trust him for your stability.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 10/21/18

It's wonderful to have Google Maps on my phone! I can punch in where I'm at and where I want to go and that Google Gal offers me help to get to where I'm going!

That's great for physical location help. What about spiritual help? What about the choices and decisions we make every day? How do I know I'm headed the right direction? Where can I get help to navigate this trail as I go? And where is the destination?

Where this trail leads is important. If this trail leads to heaven, that's great, but we've still got decisions to make in the here and now. If that trail leads to success and wealth and power and prestige (IT DOESN'T!), then bumps in the road seem to be unnecessarily painful.

According to Ephesians 4, Paul says our goal is to grow up "to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." With that as the goal, our choices and decisions can be made with more clarity.

Is God willing to help? OF COURSE! Any good father wants to help guide his children to the goal. So, how does God do that? And where do we turn for help in mapping out our trail?

First, the Bible. "Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us." The Bible helps us as we move through life in the same way a map can direct our paths. We need to be reading and meditating on the Bible. But the Bible isn't the best way.

Also, prayer. Prayer is vital in accessing God's assistance in trail navigating. Think of prayer as your GPS, helping you to know where you are on the path and which way to go. We should "pray without ceasing," and God is always willing to help. But prayer isn't the best way to know where we're going and how to get there.

The Bible and prayer should never be neglected as ways to help determine the will of God for us. When we face a crossroads, we should seek out the Lord's direction in scripture and in prayer. But they're not the best way.

When Jesus' disciples were gathered with him in the Upper Room on that fateful night before his arrest, he knew he needed to give them something that would help them when neither scripture nor prayer would suffice. So he promised each of them their own trail guide - a real person who would be with them all the time.

Read the words of Jesus on that night from John 14:6-7: "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."

WOW! Isn't that amazing! Jesus gives his disciples (and you and me) a "helper." That word can also be translated "comforter" or "guide." This isn't just a back-seat navigator for the journey. This is a trail guide that is INSIDE OF YOU! If you're on the trail - a follower of Jesus Christ - then you have this trail guide installed inside of your very being!

When Jesus left his disciples days later, he promised that he would "never leave or forsake" them. How? Through the power and indwelling of his own Trail Guide - the Holy Spirit of God.

And that's the best way to follow on down this trail with confidence.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 10/14/18

When you're on the trail, the pack can get heavy. What can you lose?

This hike is hard enough sometimes without extra weight. As you go, you need to travel light. The Bible has some suggestions for what you could ditch: (Be sure and look up these parts of the Bible to read what I'm talking about)

  1. Ditch the sin. (Hebrews 12:1) Sin in our lives can entangle us and keep us from forward progress.

  2. Ditch the worry. (I Peter 5:6-7) Worry can seize us up like a muscle cramp and it can immobilize our walk.

  3. Ditch the drama. (Ephesians 4:31) Drama distracts us and makes us believe that interpersonal conflict is the business we're in. It's not.

  4. Ditch the burden. (Psalm 55:22) If the first three don't cover the weight and excess baggage that keeps us from moving along, this one will. What other things in your life keep you from pursuing Christ? Pain? Abuse? Fear? Discouragement? 

All of these things need to be put away from us. All of these problems can be turned over to our Lord who is working in us. All of this can be overwhelming, too. If your load is heavy, there's a reason. And it's at least partly because it's hard to get rid of these things. Jesus wants your load lighter, and he will help.

In fact, the good news of the gospel of Jesus is that HE WILL CARRY YOU! It's true that ditching all these things will help, but in the end, God carries us. His grace and mercy, extended to those he has called, will pick up your load and he will handle it. (Isaiah 46:3-4)

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 10/7/18

What a good Kinship service! The Grace Band facilitated our worship in song. We shared some important prayer needs and tracked His answers. We heard from Mariah Wallace about her calling and how Jesus makes a difference in her work. Communion and fellowship followed and we got to know people better. Thanks, everyone!

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 9/30/18

Drawing near to God is the goal of Hebrews. This is why God prompted the author to write this letter to the Jews in Jerusalem. But before he finalizes the communique, he needs to point out one necessary truth: drawing near to God means living a life of faith.

The author has drawn a beautiful picture of Jesus as our sacrificial lamb, our great high priest, as the one who has shed his blood to redeem us from sin. 

That picture, however, is not one that should be hung on a wall, or dangled from the rear-view mirror, or put on our fridge. The picture demands something more than saying, "Jesus was a great man," or "Jesus is someone we should revere," or even, "Jesus was the Son of God and he died and rose again."  

Of course, all these things are true. But the picture of Jesus demands more. None of the beliefs above, in and of themselves, draw us close to God.

One thing is needed: Faith.

Hebrews 11 is the critical chapter in the book, because without it, it's still just a nice picture of Jesus. Hebrews 11 lets us know that faith - trusting in and moving forward on the truth - is how "drawing near" gets done from our side of the issue. Hebrews has shown us the extremes that God has done to to allow us to draw near. Now it's up to us. All is ready. There's no reason to fear. God is waiting and ready to welcome you. Jesus is at his right hand, praying for you. Now it's time to draw near.

How? By faith. 

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 9/23/18

I had a crush on Mrs. Hopper, my second grade teacher. She was beautiful and kind and smart. But she never knew of my interest. Because, well, I was in second grade and she was an adult and I was afraid to let her know that I was taken with her. That was an insurmountable dilemma.

Because we're humans, created to be in an intimate relationship with God, we are naturally attracted to him and, deep down, we want to know him and be close to him. But, because we're humans, with a large ugly sin problem, we are naturally ashamed and know down deep that we cannot get close to him because we are disqualified to draw near.

Both of these things are true, which puts us in an insurmountable dilemma - what can we do to draw near?

Hebrews uses that phrase several times. It is a major theme in the book. God desires that we draw near, and we know that's what we really want. But - sin.

Which is why Jesus came. According to Hebrews 10, it's OK to draw near because . . .

  • We have confidence because his own blood opened the door. God welcomes us! We do not need to hang out on the outside looking in, thinking that we don't belong.

  • We have a great high priest. He represents us before the Father and has paved the way for us to have intimacy with God.

  • We have been cleaned up completely. Because of Jesus' sacrifice, our sin - ALL OF IT: PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE - our sin does not disqualify us from being in the presence of Almighty God. 

And that is why we can draw near. And now it's up to us. God doesn't force us to draw near. Drawing near is a choice - an act of the will.

What will you do?

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 9/16/18

The Jews who are reading this letter - the letter to the Hebrews - are struggling with the implications of the Jesus Way. For many reasons, the pressure to bail on Christianity was great. They were not sure they could completely trust this new arrangement. 

But they're not unlike all of us. Because we all assume that God operates one way - 

  • A merit system - like getting good grades in school. The higher the grade, the better our eternal situation will be.

  • Badges and stickers and trophies - like Girl Scouts or Awana. The more badges we gather the more likely it is that God can love us.

  • Karma - as long as the good we do outweighs the bad we do we will be able to claim heaven and feel good about God's favor toward us. 

But then Jesus shows up and everything changes.

Here's what Hebrews 9:11-14 says about Jesus:

But now Christ has come as the high priest of the good things to come. He passed through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, and he entered once for all into the most holy place not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood, and so he himself secured eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Here's an amazing statement: "the blood of Christ" will "purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God."  Didn't see that coming! You would expect that sin would be the primary issue. But no! Dead works is the problem. Because doing good deeds will never be sufficient to persuade God to open the doors. Because good works don't remove bad behavior. Ever.

Why do we need our consciences purified from dead works?  Because we have to stop living within that system of rewards and punishments!

Jesus offers a new way of handling things - a better arrangement - a NEW COVENANT. 

What makes this new covenant better?

  • It is internal, not external. It's not law that's on the outside; it's God living on the inside. 

  • It is based on relationship, not performance. It's who you know (Jesus), not what you do.

  • It means an end of the hierarchy. There's no group of people who have an inside track. We all come to God with an All-Access Pass because of Jesus. 

  • It’s all because mercy reigns and sin is forgotten. God does not deny our bad stuff - how could he? But he forgets!

That's why this new way - the Jesus Way - is so very good. Time to make a choice. Want to live on under the old ways? Or do you want to trust Jesus with your life and base your future in a relationship with him?

Beth WiseComment