Thursday, May 28, 2015

tobyMac: Beyond Me

The chorus of this song is daring and challenging:

"You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can't handle on my own (it's way beyond me)
You take me to the place where I know I need You
Oh take me to Your place
Take me to Your great unknown."

God's grace is bigger than we are.

Promise in the law

“When I think of your ordinances from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.” Psalm 119:52

God’s law is a promise to us. God asks us to obey His law because He knows that this is the way that we will prosper and have a blessed life. For example, when my four-year-old daughter played in the front yard, the rule was to stay away from the road. The promise was that if she stayed away from the road, she could enjoy playing. If she went onto the road, I would remove her from the road and she would lose her chance to play outside.  In the bigger picture, the picture that I could see but she could not, if she would have been hit by a car,  her body could have been damaged or destroyed and she would never be able to play again. God's laws can also have immediate rewards for us as well as long range rewards that we may never see in this lifetime.  God is omnipotent, and He does know what is best for us.

The Psalmist reminds us that there is promise and grace in the law. God promises us that if we seek to do what is right in His eyes, He will pour peace and grace into our lives.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Temptation and grace

“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NRSV)

Chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians is about tests or temptations. Actually, much of the entire book of 1 Corinthians is about temptations. Temptations are different from trials and sufferings because when we face temptations, we have some control over our behavior. Temptations take our focus away from God. Trials and sufferings occur when we suffer consequences for actions or events beyond our control. For example, addiction to caffeine is a temptation, and terminal illness involves suffering.

God has never promised that we will not face temptations. Giving in to temptations can become a habit that can be difficult resist. An acquaintance of mine loves jewelry, and for years, she collected many beautiful pieces. However, when she had to make a choice between buying new tires for her car and a piece of jewelry, she chose the jewelry over the tires. She eventually found herself with a flat tire on a deserted road, no money to tow the car, and a beautiful ring on her finger. She decided to quit giving in to her temptation to buy jewelry, but each time she looked at any jewelry, she longed for it. After a long struggle, and many unsuccessful attempts to give up this fascination, she finally quit wearing jewelry and sold or gave away all of her pieces.

This seems like a harsh action to take for a rather innocuous habit, but the woman claims that she cannot look at jewelry without longing for it. She said that looking at jewelry takes her eyes away from God. This is the biggest danger that any temptation poses for us. It takes our eyes away from God.

Paul reminds us that God is faithful. The way to endure temptation is to take our eyes off of the temptation and look to Christ. God’s grace provides the path to lead us out of temptation’s way.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The favor of love

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal... And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:1, 13 (NRSV)

Love is a gift, and it is the greatest of all gifts. 1 Corinthians talks about several spiritual gifts that are bestowed upon some Christians,including the gifts of speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. However, the gift of love is the one spiritual gift that God bestows upon everyone.

If we went to a party where everyone was given a bag of nuts as a party favor, we would probably enjoy the gift, but we would not feel particularly special because everyone received the same gift. If we went to the party, and the host gave everyone a brand new car along with enough money for a lifetime supply of fuel, insurance premiums, and taxes, we would all feel very special, even though we all received the same favor.

The gift of healing, the gift of prophecy, or the gift of tongues are wonderful gifts from God, but the gift of love is the gift that cost God the most. God paid the price of love on the cross so everyone could have this gift. The analogy of the party favor is very appropriate because favor is exactly what grace means. We often treat the gift of love like a bag of nuts party favor when it is, in actuality, a priceless gift that makes everyone special.