This week is based on Romans 3:21-31. Let’s start by reading through that.
“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with Him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fail short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding His blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held…
This week is based on Romans 3:21-31. Let’s start by reading through that.
“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with Him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fail short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding His blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for He was looking ahead including them in what He would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He makes sinners right in His sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So, we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. After all, is God the God of the Jew only? Isn’t He also the God of the Gentiles? Of course, He is. There is only one God, and He makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.”
This year is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. 500 years ago Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis on the doors of the church he served as a priest. Martin Luther’s ideas have the ring of we’ve heard this all before. He broke with the Catholic church by introducing the idea that we are not saved by what we do, we are saved by faith in Christ.
As a child I learned to love words through the Parker tradition of playing Scrabble. I remember watching my great-grandmother, grandmother, and father play games using words with obscure meanings. I used to read the dictionary for fun, looking for words I didn’t know. The game was learning how to use letters that make simple words and change them to obscure words, worth more points.
I have some obscure sounding Latin words today for you that sound old, but in concept they are still challenging us today.
Sola scriptura: Scripture alone is the highest authority. The current challenge with this is the attack on the Bible. It is seen as a piece of literature, a collection of fictional stories.
Sola gratia: We are saved by the grace of God alone. Our challenge today is that we believe that we make it on our hard work in the world. We want to save ourselves and impress God with how great we are. Nothing we can do saves us. God’s grace is a free gift.
Solo Christo: Christ alone is our Lord and Savior. This is not something we would argue with. The problem is who is our Lord, who do we worship. Is it our things, our jobs, fame, money? Our actions, what we do with our time, show who is Lord of our lives.
Soli Deo Gloria: We live for the glory of God alone. Do we only live for God when in church? Do we have different morality at work and in church? Important questions still.
Sola fide: We are justified through faith alone in Jesus Christ. We are saved by believing in Jesus. His sacrifice covers our sinful rags.
What you will not see is Sola iuris: that we are saved by our observance of the law. Nothing we do will save us. My questions are do we treat others with that same standard? Do we hold others to a higher standard? Do we compare ourselves to others to show that we are better than they are?
“God, can you see? Look I’m better then they are. At least I’m better then the drug dealer. I’m not a child abuser. I’m a great worker. I’m never there for my family, but for my boss I’m the man.”
What we do in practice is more important than the words we say. It shows what we hold as true in our hearts.
By ourselves we cannot keep the law perfectly. God loves us so much that He accepted Christ’s righteousness on our behalf. The wages of sin are death. We have been judged and found guilty. Christ paid our penalty and died on the cross. By following Christ, we are saved, we are seen as righteous. The question we often ask is what must I do to be saved? To answer that I would like to go back to part of our scripture but from the Message Bible. “Jesus was setting things right for us. We proved we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives that God wills for us. God did this for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with Himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where He always wanted us to be. And He did it by means of Jesus Christ. God doesn’t respond to what we do; we respond to what God does.”
This week I got to see the ultrasound of my first grandchild. Yes, I’m going to be that grandparent. Here take a look at all the photos. My son says that the baby looks like a potato, but it is his potato. My heart is full of love and excitement for his or her future. I know that this child will not be perfect, but I see this unborn child as glorious. God sees us the same way when we have faith in Jesus. Our flaws, our mistakes, our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus.
I would like to say that I understand this, but I don’t. I will be working on understanding this for all eternity. I love what Isaiah said about this.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
I may not understand why God has saved me. I may not understand how God has saved me. I only know that he saves me.
Perhaps the words of Canadian singer Matt Maher can answer this question for me:
“I was a drifter, I had nowhere to go
I was hanging by threads of dust and bone
Every angel I knew was singing son come home
But the melody was hard to sing along
Oh God, You’re my deliverer
The One, the One who carries us
Oh God, You’re my deliverer
I was on trial for everything I did
And there’s no way I could make a stand and win
When you realize the verdict is already in
You let go of the brokenness within
Well there’s only One who can ever stand and win
Oh God, You’re my deliverer
The One, the One who carries us
Oh God, You’re my deliverer
The One, the One who carries us
And now I’m like a child at night
Who never has to think of why
We’re free to love and live and die
And there’s no need to justify
The sinner that’s inside of me
Has lost control of me
My God, from the flood and from the fire
You brought me out, I am alive
With a faith, just like a child I’m not afraid,
I’m running wild
For everything that will be done
I am Yours and you are my
I was hanging by threads of dust and bone.”
You see God gives us what we need, what is fair. We have this mistaken belief of what is fair. To us being fair means treating everyone the same. I believe that to be fair means we give everyone what they need to succeed. Sometimes that means holding fast to the that line in the sand, to the consequence earned so that the lesson can be learned. Sometimes it means to show grace and forgiveness, undeserved, unearned. God treats us more than fairly. He treats us as each of us need. That is different for all. Like in the vineyard some come to garden early to work. Some come at lunch. Some come just before the work day is done. The wages for all are the same, eternal life in Jesus. Let’s start treating each other with more grace.
Let me finish by telling you about “Jimmy”. Jimmy is a boy in grade one. He has to live with his grandmother because his mother can’t or won’t take care of him. He has had promise after promise broken. His mom promises to come and get him at school, and grandma shows us up, yet again, to take him to her home instead. He is angry and hurt. He came to music class an angry, disrespectful child who was not going to get along with anyone. I played the copycat game. In that game you listen and watch what the teacher plays. Let’s try it. I had prayed earlier that I would be given a chance to be a difference to a child in need, even if just for a moment. I changed the game a little that day. After I had clapped the rhythm twice I chose a different teacher. I chose Jimmy. The look on his face was surprise and shock. He pointed to himself and said, “You want me?” When I said, “Yes, you.” His face broke into a happy joyful grin. He proudly got to be the teacher for 2 turns, then he chose someone to be teacher. At this point his grandmother came for him, early. His mother wasn’t coming again. He had a moment of being the one chosen. He hadn’t earned it, others were much better behaved, but he needed to be the one chosen.
That is my simple illustration of grace. We are guilty. We deserve to die. God says, “My son, I chose you. My daughter, I see you covered by the blood of Christ. My son, you are glorious in my sight. My daughter, I save you.” Grace, unmerited, undeserved. A generous gift paid for with the exorbitant, precious blood of Jesus. The guilty go free. God see us as glorious because we are covered by the blood of our Savior. We are saved by our faith in Jesus. Simple, yet so unfathomable that we will spend eternity learning what that means. The Guilty Go Free.
I know that I have already touched on this concept in my recent posts, but I promise this is different. I had a pastor I didn’t know well reach out to me, offering to help as much as he could. That is humbling. It also let me know that God is still taking an interest, still in love with me. That pastor gave me a homework assignment, to write letters of forgiveness for those who have hurt me. He also suggested that I might need to consider needing to forgive God. I thought about what he said and realized that I do need to do that. What I am discovering is that I am in the awkward position of needing to forgive God.
As I am going through this thinking I woke this morning to the news that a mass shooting happened in Las Vegas. There was also a terrorist attack in Edmonton Alberta. I wonder why a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent allows this seemingly senseless violence to exist. I also look at my own circumstances and wonder. I realized that I might not be the only one who needs to forgive God.
I am not working for the first time in 24+ years. I am recovering from a fibromyalgia flare up. I am getting better. I don’t know every reason why this has happened. I do know that the stress of what I have been through has exaperated my illness. Stress is my kryptonite. Learning to deal with this stress is important so that I can live with fibromyalgia. This is not something I can be cured of, but I can live with this. I am determined to live this life I have to the best of my abilities.
My first reaction to needing to forgive God was that would be hubris. Who am I to have these feelings towards God. It seems to me that would constitute sin, breaking the relationship I have with God. Then I realized that I have feelings that are negative about God. I need to forgive to set myself free from these negative emotions. I also realize that God already knows I have those feelings. He is big enough to let me have my feelings. This does not in anyway interfere with His love for me.
Now before I am lambasted for heretical feelings allow me to explain. I do not think that God has done anything wrong. I believe that He has my best at heart. I do not believe that he acts to harm people. I do also believe that God is working for my best. In a way I don’t completely understand He allows some hard circumstances to come our way for us to grow. Most of these are consequences for our actions. Like a good father He let’s us face the consequences of our decisions so that we can learn and grow into better versions of ourselves.
So I am forgiving God. I forgive You for allowing the events to develop the way they did. I forgive You for bringing me to a place where I was brought low. I forgive you for allowing me to suffer the arrows of gossip and slander. I forgive You for my being alone during this time.
As I was thinking this through I came to a eureka moment. All of the events that have combined to my current health situation is having a great consequence. I have realized that I am a good person. I am a wonderful unique individual that owns my place in this world. I would never have come to this understanding if I wasn’t going through what I am going through.
I never considered myself to be good enough. I am not the best looking. I am not the most talented musician. I am not the best teacher. I am not the best husband, father, son, brother, cousin, nephew, grandson. I am incredibly mediocre, amazingly average. I have come to an acceptance of who I am.
I don’t fit the typical mold. I’m an emotional driven man. Society refers to people like me as sissies, pansies, faggots. I’m married, happily so. I am a father of 2 strong grown boys. Men are typically not supposed to be emotional. Emotions are seen as weak, as unreliable. From a religious perspective emotions lead us into sin, so emotions should be denied, hidden, or suppressed. If my church were involved in science fiction we would be Vulcans. So in school, when I was young, I learned to hide who I am. In my job I learned to suppress my emotions.
Now I don’t care what other people think of me. I’ve lived my life trying to adapt to the expectations of others for far too long. I feel free. God loves me, passionately. God created me and called me good. I am taking time to figure out who I am and what I want to do in my life. I understand what Christ means when He says take up My yoke and it will be easy. God wants us to be the best versions of ourselves. He sees us, who we truly are, and wants us to be free.
Then Jesus said, “Come unto Me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give You rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Why do I need to forgive God. I need to forgive God so that I can give legitimacy to my feelings, my emotions. When you forgive someone, that forgiveness has very little to do with that person. The reason you forgive is to set yourself free. Often the person that has hurt us doesn’t even know. Often the reason we were hurt is because of the way that we are dealing with what is happening to us. It is possible for people to treat us well, to do the right things, but we interpret those actions as hurt. When we forgive we let that pain go. It often takes time to do this. We need to purposely analyze our feelings, recognize our pain, and forgive to let it go.
I do not think God has done something wrong. I believe He cares for me. I can be thankful for the loving care, even though I am still feeling hurt, am still in pain over this. I hope and pray that I will be stronger, more mature, and happier when this is over. I am at peace with what is going on in my life. I am at peace with who I am.
I promise that I will not in this blog write out my forgiveness letters to the people who I need to forgive. I don’t believe it will do any good to inform anyone how I feel their actions or words hurt me. This process is for me, so that I can be free. There may come a time when I will talk with people and have a conversation with them, but not now. Forgiveness is not easy but going through the process is leaving me feeling lighter.
O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for Your help.
Make allowances for each others faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
If I have offended you in some way, either by what I have said or what I’ve done, I ask you to forgive me so that you can be free. I am working hard to forgive others, including God, so that I can be free. I am cautiously excited to see where this healing journey takes me. I know now that I will not be the same. Hello my name is Rob. I am a child of King. I am free, free to be me. This is the gift I am receiving because of forgiveness.
So I’ve been flirting with a feeling recently. It comes and it goes. Peace. That left me thinking what is peace and why do I feel an almost obsessive desire to experience more peace in my life? On Friday I woke up and I felt peace. It took me awhile to identify what it was.
Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all he has done. Then experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
While I was almost feeling overwhelmed by this emotion I wondered. How can I experience this peace while being engulfed by this chaos that we call life? Hurricanes destroy the land. Untried, incapable leaders hurl insults electronically trying to prove who is the biggest rooster by the volume of the crow. Citizens drive cars over those they disagree with because they will not stop to listen. How? How can I experience God’s peace?
Music speaks thoughts, ideas, emotions that I cannot adequately express. I love the hymns of my childhood. They speak truth to me. I had to listen to “It Is Well With My Soul.” The words of this song were written by a minister who was grieving the loss of his wife and daughters by a ship going down at sea. He immediately left his ministry and travelled by ship so that he could bury his family. Upon arriving at the spot that the ship went down he was informed by the ship’s captain that this was the spot. He went back to his cabin and penned the words to this song. Inspired by the words I penned this poem.
Inspired by Horatios G. Spaffford
“When Peace Like a River
Attends my way
When sorrow like sea billows roll”
The words of the hymn flood over my soul
When I take the time to reflect on the but, the why
I wonder how can I feel God’s peace more in my life
How can I experience that rest
Where all is well with my soul
There are moments, times, spaces
Fleeting but true
Where I feel peace
In the midst of the rolling turmoil
The chaos that categorizes life
The tension in a world
Where sense is replaced cents
Your right to protest is determined by how comfortable others feel
Kneel, stand, make a cake, don’t make the cake
Our lives are lived in full view of everyone
Not being seen by anyone
Known but alone, together but forever apart
Anxiety overflows the bucket
A waterfall of depression breaking the cup I have to hold it
“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul”
A love so passionately expressed
Taking my consequence and giving me
Life, acceptance, truth, joy, adoration
God’s love takes the pain
The self doubt
Out of wreckage
Scorched earth blooms again
Who I am
Reaching out to the Son
This is peace
My cousin sent me a gift recently showing me love. She sent me a book which is helping me work through the change I’m going through in my life. The book is by Marc Alan Schleske. I’ve grown up believing that my emotions needed to be hid. I’m an emotionally driven man so that was tantamount to saying I needed my real self to be hidden. Marc shares that God not only blessed us with emotions but He is an emotional God. Our emotions are not sin but are in fact God given, and yes God blessed. This message is speaking truth to me. It feels like the blinders have been removed and I can see a truth that before was hidden from me. I invite you to follow this link and read this book: The Wisdom of Your Heart: Discovering the God-given Purpose of Your Emotions
My pastor spoke this weekend about how much God loves you. He shared John 14:1-3.
Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
Jesus says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus knows the anxiety fueled world we all live in. He doesn’t want you to be troubled. He wants us to trust Him, to trust His Father because He is coming again to take us home. I heard those words and a piece of the puzzle clicked into place.
I can have peace in my life. Why? God loves me. God created all of me, emotions included, and calls it good. God died for me so that the penalty, the consequence of my sin, is paid. God is coming to take me home.
Why can I have peace? God’s love provides that place of safety, that eye of calm in the storm. Right now I am needing to work hard at this. It doesn’t take much to throw me back into the deep end where I flounder around. I am working to remember peace is possible when I choose to live with the knowledge of God’s love for me.
I am ending with a link to one of my favourite versions of the song, “It Is Well With My Soul” as sung by Chris Rice. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you can find your place of peace.