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Grace

grace-chaiwayWhat is grace? The basic definition of grace is favor, the free and undeserved help, one way, as the person receiving the grace did absolutely nothing to deserve it or warrant it. Unmerited (undeserved) favor.

We can and do give grace to other people. However, grace in it’s purest expression, the deepest meaning of it, is a gift from God to individuals. It is generous, free and undeserved. There is a depth to it that is unimaginable because it is so huge, so deep, so vast.

There is common grace which each and every person receives. And whether a person wants to believe it, or not, it is from God.  Whether a person believes something or not does not change it from being factual truth.

Nothing exists simply because it exists. There is something holding it together. God. Common grace is called common grace because its benefits are experienced by, and intended for, all of humanity, without distinction between one person and another.

There is God’s sustaining care for His creation called providential care in creation (meaning advantageous, favorable.) We have rain, sun, crops grow, we breathe, we wake up and our planet still exists.

There is a restraint of sin, or providential restraint of sin. While some individual people do absolutely horrendous things, people as a whole group are not as bad and horrific as we could be. There is something restraining us, a conscience, some sort of moral code. Problems arise when people are designing their own moral codes, but again, there is something restraining many to most individuals that they can behave in a semi civilized way and do not totally and completely run wild.

There are providential blessings to mankind.  Advancements in medicine, technology, basically anything that people have done that improve the lives of other people are outcomes of God’s common grace.  His creation, the brains He gave people, the ability to reason and experiment and study and learn and design, all our from God and His common grace. med are seen as initiated by common grace.

And then there is a special grace which is different. Saving grace. That is the grace from God by which God draws people to salvation. What is salvation? Well, there is an eternal existence for our souls. There are two possible destinations. Although it may feel like death is the end when someone we know dies, it is not. Not for that person. We do not all go to heaven, and hell is not a place to be joking about. Both are real. In 2003 a research group discovered 64% of Americans expect to go to heaven when they die, but less than 1% think they might go to hell. Once again, truth is truth, reality is reality, whether or not an individual decides to believe it. For more in depth information, the big picture, please visit this page.

Understanding the reality of an eternal existence is important because it shows how infinitely dependent we are on God for everything. The Biblical language for hell is symbolic. Souls without bodies cannot have a literal fire burning them. However, fire and darkness in hell are vivid descriptions of what happens when we lose the presence of God. Remember, physically alive here on earth, whether we believe it or not, whether we accept God or not, there is that common grace from God sustaining us and our life.  Darkness in hell refers to the isolation, and fire to the disintegration of being separated from God. Away from the favor and face of God, we literally, horrifically, and endlessly fall apart. It is almost unimaginable it is that horrific.

To be away from God is the worst thing that can happen to us. Why? We were originally created to walk in God’s immediate presence. God is everywhere and upholds everything, only in Him do we all speak and move and exist at all. So in that sense, it is impossible to be away from God. Even hell could not exist without God upholding it, and having a purpose for it being there. The Bible says sin excludes us from God’s face, His presence. All of our life; the joy, love, strength, purpose, meaning, ability, everything is found in God’s presence, His favor.

Separation from God and His blessings forever, hell, is the reality to which all the symbols in the Bible that describe hell point to. We are not destroyed out of existence but we are ruined and destroyed, completely incapable of all the things a human soul is for. No more reasoning, feeling, choosing, giving or receiving love or joy simply because the human soul was built for enjoying the true God, and all human life flows from that. It is a common grace that in this world, every person, even those who have turned away from God are kept capable of reasoning, feeling, love, joy. Hell is the place where we lose God’s supportive presence all together, and no matter what a person is experiencing here on earth, it is not the hell of eternity.

As you ponder this, please, please, pleaseif you have ANY genuine questions, comments, concerns, thoughts, that you would like to share or express, please contact me! Thank you!

Enemies?

Enemies? Chaiway.orgWe all have that one person or sometimes more, who rub us the wrong way. Some may have situations with another where by the other person’s behavior, it truly looks like that person is what we could call an enemy. Whether knowingly or not, they are causing trouble, issues, dissension, spreading rumors, lying…the list goes on. Regardless of the situation, there is pain and anguish, anger, hurt, possibly damaged lives.

While it would be wonderful to think that those who claim to live for God, who have embraced Jesus for who He is and claim to be followers of Him, would not be that enemy, sadly, there are those among that group who do behave in troublesome and divisive ways, even prejudicial or hateful. I’d like to put a little perspective on it all if I may. For starters, while it may feel very much like the person is an enemy, and it is admittedly extremely difficult to see past the person and the trouble they are causing, the person, people, are not the problem. Let us dig a bit.

Job 2:1-2Now the day came about that the angels of God came to stand beside the Lord, and the Adversary too came among them to stand beside the Lord. Now the Lord said to the Adversary, “Where are you coming from?” And the Adversary replied to the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth and from walking in it.””

Okay, right from the Tanakh, the Old Testament, there is God, there are the angels of God, and there is the adversary, the opponent of God. 

In the New Testament it goes on to say “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Again there is the description that there is an adversary of God. The battle is not with another person, it is spiritual. We are physical, we are emotional, and we are spiritual. All of us. Regardless of beliefs. In the spiritual, we are either under the influence of God, or we are under the influence of the enemy, God’s adversary, Satan, also known as the evil one or the wicked one.

And as you continue reading Job 2, you see God giving the adversary permission to test Job. Job was faithful to God and yet Job was tested in that faith and trust in God. As Job says further down in that chapter “Shall we also accept the good from God, and not accept the evil?”

Yes, that is a hard one. Matthew 5:45 “For He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.Psalm 145:9The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are on all His works.” God pours out His common grace to all.

Since God is not dependent on anything outside Himself, He did not create the universe because He needed to, nor can we demand He preserve it. Grace refers to anything God does for us that we do not deserve. So He preserves the righteous and the unrighteous, in the ways He needs to, out of His grace, His love.

A helpful post to review at this point would be The Sovereignty of God. It is very difficult to grasp how a good God can allow hard times, pain, misfortune, suffering. However there is so much more to it than what we see.

Now, about the person or people or situations that are causing trouble, let us be clear on something, not everyone who says they are a follower of Jesus, a Christian, truly is.  Matthew 7 is a detailed analysis of that as is Galatians 5. The fruit of the Spirit (God’s Spirit) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now, there is not one person (other than Jesus) who is perfect in all of these areas. However, there is a lapse, and there is a constant pattern and they are not one and the same. 

Although it is often human nature to want to strike back, “The best defense is a good offense” is an expression that has been applied to many situations including games and military combat. The way to wage warfare in this realm, spiritual warfare, is in prayer. You can simply talk it all out to God and even better, go into scripture to address the emotions you are feeling and the things that are happening. Google is a wonderful resource in helping you pull up scriptures and biblehub.com is a fantastic resource to help you analyze those scriptures. And pray. Pray, and pray some more. There may be actions you do need to take. However, first to God in prayer, and surrounding any actions you may need to take, keep on praying. 

Jesus on the cross in the utmost of His agony said ““Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)  Even if you believe that the person or people involved know what they are doing, they do not truly know in the deepest meaning of that word.

Praying for you, praying for me, and praying for those who right now at this very moment are under the influence of the evil one. May this be the day of their repentance (turning from their sin towards God and His way) and of their salvation. As always, please feel free to comment below or contact to discuss further.
Love,
Diane