Finding the Balance

‘We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.’ [1 Timothy 1:8 NIV]

Image by Kostya Kisleyko

Image by Kostya Kisleyko

This verse stood out to me when I was reading my Bible last week. It reminded me of what we say about many things in life when used properly. For example a nail gun. When used properly this tool is very helpful, but if not, it can be downright dangerous.

So then, the law, if not used properly can be dangerous too? Or at the least detrimental? It made me think and reflect on different Scriptures.

The law, when adhered to stringently, can be binding. We can become so inflexible on rules and regulations that we lose sight of grace. We become unbending and judgmental to those around us.

On the other hand, if we become too liberal, taking advantage of the grace offered us through Christ’s death on the cross, we disrespect all that He has done for us. As it says in Hebrews 10, ‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.’

Therefore, it seems we must find a balance — use the law properly. The law must be written on our heart as a high standard we aspire to, though with the knowledge that if we fail from time to time, we are covered by the grace wrought on the cross. Neither living in condemnation nor without any self-control or discipline. The law, when used properly serves to protect us and help us be the best we can be.

Where are you today? On the legalistic, judgmental side, or too liberal with your morality, or have you found the right balance?

Published in: on 24th June, 2013 at 10:52 am  Comments (4)  
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Lavish Grace

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” [Ephesians 1:7-10 NIV]

Photo by Charles Thompson

Photo by Charles Thompson

I love the thought that God lavishes His grace on us. It sounds so generous and extravagant, and wouldn’t you know it, when I looked up the meaning of lavish, that is exactly what it said – ‘bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon.’

Lavish can also have the connotation of haphazardness, to me anyway. To lavish sounds spontaneous and an expression of largess. But God is in no way haphazard or careless in how He tosses His grace around. He uses all His wisdom and understanding – it is purposeful. He specifically poured out abundant grace on you and I, in order to bring us into life with Christ.

His grace is a wonderful, extravagant, designed and purposeful gift. And the gift is sealed by the Holy Spirit in our lives — proof of His grace and approval — proof that we belong to Him.

How cool is that! Could I possibly love Him anymore?

Published in: on 10th June, 2013 at 10:51 am  Comments (2)  
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Flawed Forgiveness?

Yet he was merciful;he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return. [Psalm 78:38-39 NIV]

Forgiveness - all within my handsThe first time I read through the Old Testament as a teenager, I became quite frustrated both at the Israelites and at God. At the Israelites because they couldn’t keep their promise to worship only God, turning away from Him over and over again, and at God for continuously forgiving them.

I remember saying out loud one day — ‘Why didn’t God just wipe them out?!’ They didn’t deserve another chance. It was too much.

But then my mum, in all her wisdom, said something which hit home. ‘Aren’t you glad He doesn’t wipe you out?’

Her words shut my mouth. For I knew it. If the Israelites didn’t deserve another chance, another round of forgiveness, then neither did I. If God had given up on His people in the desert, or even through their years in the new land, then surely He would have given up on me. There would have been no sacrifice for our sin — He never would have sent Jesus to the cross.

And so I stand humbled, always grateful for my God’s long-suffering, for His patience and forgiveness that goes beyond the endurance any man could withstand. His forgiveness is not flawed. His forgiveness is perfect and I bow my knee in worship.

What about you? Have you ever thought God’s forgiveness was flawed?

Published in: on 6th May, 2013 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Always Grace

Imagine for a moment, you are Jonah. You have disobeyed God, doing the opposite of what He’s told you, and you have guilt swirling in your gut. The ship you are on is being tossed around by a furious storm and you know it’s your fault — if you weren’t there all these people would not be in danger. So, when the crew ask what can be done to save the boat, with a twist of fear creeping down your back, you tell them to throw you overboard.

As you look over the rails into the churning foam, you know this is the end. Mouth dry, body trembling. God have mercy. The men hurl you overboard with prayers of mercy of their own for killing a man. You sink into the waves, darkness engulfing you. You struggle to stay afloat, but the stormy waves crash over you once again, filling your mouth with brine.

Just when you think you’ve taken your last breath, something strange happens. A huge shadow appears out of the waters and envelopes you. Darkness is all around, but you can breathe. The smell is rank, but you are alive — in the belly of a whale.

Of course, we know that three days later, the whale regurgitated him on the shore and he lived another day to obey the Lord. But God’s grace is always there, even when we think we’ve stepped over the line one too many times.

“The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit…I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” [Jonah 2:5-9 NIV]

Published in: on 2nd July, 2012 at 10:32 am  Comments (4)  
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Avoiding Extremes

“Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself?
 Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool—why die before your time?
 It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.
 Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” [Ecclesiastes 7:16-18 NIV]

I find this verse very interesting. We have seen that God requires us to be holy as He is holy (see Leviticus 19:2), yet this verse seems to tell us not to try too hard. In the New Testament we are exhorted to aim for perfection. Jesus set the standard high when He said that keeping anger in our hearts was akin to murder, among other things. But, this verse tells us to avoid extremes. So then, is this a contradiction?

I don’t think so. Rather it is a reminder for us to not get caught under condemnation, to remember the grace of our Lord Jesus. Yes, we must do our best to be righteous and holy, but not to the point that it destroys us with fear of hellfire and brimstone.

It is a warning against legalism, a habit that humankind seem so easily to fall into. ‘If I don’t do this, the Lord will not accept me.’ Or, ‘this is happening to me because I failed.’ This kind of thinking binds us into slavery to works and will just wear us out with our trying.

We need to live in the freedom that grace provides. When we do fail, know that God loves us still. When we make mistakes, He is not waiting to punish us, but to show us a new way forward, to learn and grow from it.

Do you ever find yourself trying too hard, putting pressure on yourself to perform for His acceptance?

Published in: on 26th June, 2012 at 10:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Beautiful Grace

In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” [Ephesians 2:7-8 NIV]

Last week I talked about sin and only mentioned grace at the end. This week I want to focus on grace. What is grace exactly? Someone suggested to my hubby and I the other day, that God cannot bless or heal if you are walking in sin. But that is precisely where grace steps in.

Grace does not condone sin or turn a blind eye to it. Grace does not ignore justice either. Grace loves and blesses in spite of our failings. It shifts the punishment onto the giver of grace.

We only need to look at life as a parent to get a small picture of how this works. Your child is behaving in disobedience and as a result hurts themselves. Or, against your advice, they make a bad financial decision and end up in difficulty. Do they deserve it? Possibly – that is justice – the consequences of their actions. Are we disappointed by their behaviour? Of course, it is only natural. But, do we withhold comfort and aid? Do we refuse to kiss their wounds? No. We take them in our arms, give them first aid and comfort or help them out with money, and gently teach them the error of their ways. That is grace. In spite of their lack of wisdom or bad decisions, we love and assist them.

And God’s grace is far more encompassing than that. Jesus took the punishment for all of our sins, fulfilling the justice required. And God teaches us, through our mistakes, how to walk a better life. He picks us up, dusts us off, and encourages us to try again to live according to His purposes.

How have you seen God’s grace at work in your own life? Thank Him for it today.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” [1 Peter 5:10 NIV]

Published in: on 2nd August, 2011 at 6:16 am  Comments (2)  
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Imperfectly Perfect

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” [Romans 3:23-24 NIV]

Sin is such a pervasive thing. And it’s so small. Sin is simply missing the mark, falling short. God is perfect and holy and righteous and anything that falls short of that is sin basically. We sin just by being imperfect, let alone committing any offense such as lying etc.

It is impossible for us to reach such a standard. We fail even in our own eyes every day, not living up to our own expectations, let alone meeting the expectations of a holy God. Just as Paul says – “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” [Rom 7:19 NIV] Imagine the burden carried by the Jews of the Old Testament who had to sacrifice animals for their sin daily. Impossible!

That’s why Jesus death and God’s grace are so amazing. We can stop stressing and striving to be perfect. God’s grace has covered it all. We still do our best, but know with great peace, that He forgives the rest in His grace. He sees us as the perfect beings we wish we were, through Christ. No guilt, no shame, just rest and grace. Love it!

Published in: on 26th July, 2011 at 6:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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