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What 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, please…if you have ANY genuine questions, comments, concerns, thoughts, that you would like to share or express, please contact me! Thank you!
Purim 2019: Evening Wednesday March 20 to evening Thursday March 21!
Purim is a happy, fun-filled holiday that rejoices over the irresistible grace of God and His providential care. Purim also has a prophetic dimension that both has been fulfilled, and is yet to be fulfilled.
Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish community from near destruction at the hands of a power-crazed Persian high ranking official named Haman. As recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther, Haman nearly secured the King’s permission to wipe out the Jewish community, and he “cast lots” (kind of like the modern day flipping a coin) to choose which day to do it, only to be foiled at the last moment by Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai. (Interesting too that Proverbs 16:33 says “The lot is cast in the lap, but all his judgment is from the Lord.”) Well, anyway…
Wild that in this book, Esther, there is not one reference nor inference at all to God. This is the key to understanding the whole Purim saga. Lurking behind the dramatic scene is a miracle that will eventually be revealed in the end…
At the last moment of gloom and doom, the whole situation is turned completely around to have the totally opposite result. The wicked Haman who plotted to exterminate the Jews ended up being hanged himself instead! Was it just by chance that Esther became queen? Was it simply a fluke that Mordechai was in the right place at the right time to overhear the plot to kill King Achashverosh?
If you believe in God, you will see the hand of God and credit the hand of God; seeing the unseen. And if you don’t believe in God, you will say, oh, simply coincidence.
As this holiday celebration is about seeing the unseen, let us delve into that.
What did our ancestors do to merit this Divine Intervention? Did they do anything? Were they actually deserving of intervention, of salvation? Think about it carefully, reflect on what Scripture says, all of Scripture.
Based on the entirety of Scripture it is a firm NO, the people did NOTHING to deserve God’s intervention and saving grace.
Saving grace. It was an act of mercy, of love, from God bestowed upon His people. HIS GRACE.
Let’s delve deeper.
God places His people in the right place at the right time for His purposes. Esther 4:13-14 “And Mordecai ordered to reply to Esther, do not imagine to yourself that you will escape in the king’s house from among all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and rescue will arise for the Jews from elsewhere, and you and your father’s household will perish; and who knows whether at a time like this you will attain the kingdom?”
God is always in control. Sometimes He begins moving us into these places well before the time comes to perform the particular task He has in mind. Our responsibility is to be open to His leading and ready to go!
The primary observance of Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther. The book of Esther is commonly known as the Megillah, which means scroll. It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle gragers (noisemakers) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to “blot out the name of Haman.” Fascinating. A great study for those interested would be to research the abundance of scriptures where God gives His people the authority to “blot out” the name of the enemy. We are told in Scripture that we are given the power and authority to tread down the wicked, tread on serpents (which represent the enemy), to resist the devil and he will flee…
The Purim holiday is immediately preceded by a one day fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther’s three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king. It is one day before Purim unless that day is Friday or Saturday and then it is moved to the preceding Thursday. Why did Esther fast for 3 days? Why 3? Why not 2, or 1, or 5?
Another Purim custom is for people to dress up and disguise themselves, another allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments. The Tanakh (Old Testament) is rich in veiled references to the Messiah, the who, what, where, when, why, and how of His first and second comings. Hidden, disguised.
Tradition proclaims this a time to drink alcohol and some may even proclaim it a time to get drunk. In the Rava (one of the Talmudian Rabbis) this advice is given “A person has to get drunk on Purim until he cannot distinguish between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.”. Well, what does God say about that? When you read the celebration of Purim in the Tanakh, nowhere does it say to get drunk. The Scriptural celebration of the holiday in the Tanakh talks of feasting and joy, happiness, rejoicing. One does not need to overdose on alcohol to do that and God is quite clear on that.
Esther 9:22 “as the days when the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month that was reversed for them from grief to joy and from mourning to a festive day-to make them days of feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” God warns us that it is not wise to get drunk on alcohol (Proverbs 20:1, Hosea 4:11, Isaiah 5:12, 22, Proverbs 23:20). And God does not contradict Himself (Malachi 3:6, Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 40:8). Where does Scripture say that joy comes from? That is another great scripture digging study for anyone interested. I’ll point you in the direction of Nehemiah 8:10 to start…
A common (and oh so delicious) treat associated with Purim is hamentaschen. These triangular fruit-filled cookies represent Haman’s three-cornered hat. Some say it represents his ears as his head was lowered in shame. As the fruit is somewhat hidden within the three cornered crust, it is also an allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments; God using a person for “such a time as this”.
Another fascinating interpretation for this delicious pastry is that the three corners are symbolic of the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hmm, then we can also say that it could be a reference to a triune nature of the one triune pastry (one God with each corner of the triangle; Father, Son, Holy Spirit).
As we celebrate with joy at Purim, we again recognize God’s amazing love. The Jewish people did nothing to merit or earn God’s miraculous rescue at Purim. God saved us because He loves His people and is faithful to His covenantal promises (even when we are faithless).
The rejoicing at Purim reminds us of the faithfulness of God and the triumph of righteous victim over evil oppressor. Yet there are those today who see the meaning of Purim in terms of our good deeds overpowering the Hamans of this world. However a realistic view of our world shows us that despite our many good and noble efforts to work within social and political frameworks, there are too many Hamans for the Esthers and the Mordecais to handle.
What if the innocent willingly took the place of the guilty? Would the weight of such a sacrifice be enough to swing the world back to an upright position, a position where people could face God and ask forgiveness? Instead of an evil Haman hanging from the gallows, what if an innocent one, made this sacrifice? Hmm.
Would that one’s name be blotted out, forever cursed? Or would such a name become the name that brings life and salvation, a name that is above all other names, a name before which someday all will (in the words of the Aleinu, a Jewish prayer found in the siddur, the classical Jewish prayer book) “bend the knee and bow down.”
This Purim, as we reflect on the celebrations and traditions, we might also want to consider the claims of Jesus whose very name means “Salvation.” He offers life and peace to all, regardless of ethnic or racial background, all, who trust in his name. He puts out the call. And all who receive will have their own names written the book of life, where they can never be blotted out. Fascinating points to ponder! Chag Purim Sameach!
We 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 2:1-2 “Now 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 145:9 “The 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.