Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Luke 3:25-38 — Oh here we go again, you might say to yourself, when you read this passage. Another biblical genealogy. The Old Testament frequently gives us these genealogies. But, this time it’s in the New Testament. Why does Luke wait til three and half chapters into his book to give us this genealogy and why does he give it to us at all?

You know, as I do these daily devotionals as we walk through entire books of the Bible, before I write what’s on my heart, I typically do a little research just to make sure that what’s on my heart is true to the meaning of the passage that I am writing about. Usually, there is a wealth of research out there online to rely upon. However, today, I find very little on this passage. It is a genealogy after all. Even the most avid readers of the Bible will admit to skipping over genealogies in the Bible. Long lines of who begat who with names that are difficult to pronounce. We often either skip through the begatting and move on to the next passage that to us has some meat to it. However, this is the Word of God, and if you are walking through entire books of the Bible, like we do here, then you have to deal with the tough passages. That’s where we are today. This is the Word of God and we must deal with it. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is God-breath and is useful for instruction. So, there is a point to these genealogies in the Bible and we must figure out what this genealogy in Luke 3 is teaching us.

First, it is interesting that the genealogy here is traced down through Jesus’ earthly mother, Mary. In a society that had a very low view of the legal status of women, it is almost radical that Luke would trace Jesus’ genealogy through his mother. Luke is admitting that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. Tracing his lineage through Joseph would be one of adoption rather than biology. However, the genealogy is biological through Mary. She physically gave birth to Jesus. As you see throughout Luke, he gives numerous mentions of women. As he researched his gospel, he found that Jesus himself elevated the stature of women and they played prominent roles in his ministry. Luke, as a physician, saw women as equals with men. To him, there was nothing in particular about men that gave them greater stature in the world. Thus, it is not surprising that Luke had the revolutionary idea of listing this genealogy as traced through Jesus’ mother rather than the normal way of tracing genealogies through fathers. To those who think that the Bible puts down women, just continue reading the gospel of Luke. Here, you will find that in Jesus’ ministry, women were important. They found more freedom and worth in the Jesus movement than in society in general. So, let no one tell you that Christianity oppresses women. They have played central roles in the faith from the beginning.

The second thing that is interesting here in this genealogy is the difference and similarities between it and the genealogy of Matthew 1. Matthew was writing for a mainly Jewish audience and his intent and purpose was to show the Jews that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. His genealogy’s purpose was to show Jesus’ Jewishness. He wanted to prove that Jesus was of royal descent and was fulfillment of the promises made to David. He need go no further then with his genealogy than back to David. Here, with Luke, you can see the difference. Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy to David and then goes on all the way back to Adam. Why did he do this? Luke wrote to a mainly non-Jewish Greek audience. The point in the genealogy is that Jesus was for everyone not just the Jews. He traced Jesus back to the first man — the one from whom all people were physically fathered. In this subtlety, Luke is allowing his readers to identify with Jesus not as someone from that highly religious and quirky people called the Jews but as everyman Jesus, everyday Jesus. Jesus is all inclusive. No one is excluded from His grace. The only requirement is that you have a pulse and believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for your sins. Grace knows no race. Grace knows no national origin. Grace knows no gender. Grace knows no ethnicity. Grace is available to all through Jesus Christ. It does not matter who you are or where you’re from, Jesus has enough grace for you. That’s what this genealogy does. It confirms the message that Jesus is for every man, woman, and child. He is not the exclusive realm of a certain few.

The final thing that this passage tells us is that Jesus was real. He had family roots here on earth. Reading this genealogy you find that Mary came from a long line of the “Who’s Who” from the Bible. This is the family into which Jesus was born. It means that He was real. He was a member of a family. He probably celebrated birthdays, weddings, and other family events. He also probably wept at funerals of members of His extended earthly family who had passed away. He existed in family life for 30 years before He began His ministry. He knows of family life. He knows of the human existence in a fallen world. We know that Jesus existed in history because of the extrabiblical references to his ministry. But, this genealogy tells us that Jesus was not only a real guy that made his mark on human history but we know that He was part of a family. He knows of human existence. He knows family. Thus, He knows you. God was careful to show these names of these people who are part of Jesus’ family as a reminder to us that everyone has a name and every name is important. Jesus knows you. Jesus knows your hurts, habits and hangups. Jesus knows what you are going through. He just wants you to come to Him and ask Him to be your Savior so that your name came be added to Jesus’ family genealogy. He wants you to have your name listed in His book of life. He wants you to be part of His family. He wants you to be co-heirs of the Father’s promises with Him. He wants you in His genealogy.

Father, thank you for sending Jesus into the world through the womb of Mary. Jesus understands the human existence. He was part of a human family. His genealogy proves that He had a human existence and that He knows of the dangers, toils, and snares of human life. This passage also tells me too that Jesus is not the exclusive club that some may make Him out to be, He is for everyone. His grace extends to all. Thank you Father for showing us through this simple often overlooked way, a genealogy. Thank you for showing us that women are just as important to you as men are. It also validates that Jesus is for everyone. His grace extends to all. Thank you Father for sending your Son to be grace for all. All we have to do is believe on His Name. Amen.

Luke 2:8-20 — This is it! We are here. The passage about the birth that changed history. What are the things that God speaks to us in that passage? I think that there are several things that we should explore over the next few days.

The first thing that you see is the mother of all birth announcements is not made to kings and queens. It is made to shepherds. Those who did shepherding for hire were not considered trustworthy by the mainstream culture at the time. They lived nomadic lives not connected to the mainstream life of Israel. They were necessary but shunned. Their testimony was not even considered reliable at trials. This is who the announcement was made to. In our cute little nativity scenes of today, the shepherds are considered almost noble. Usually clean cut young men play these parts. In reality, they were scruffy men who lived on the land. They lived most of the year outside, away from the townspeople. Many of them probably wished that they could be like mainstream folk. I bet that many of them felt locked into their lifestyle from which they could not escape.

So there, these lonely outcasts of society are the ones who receive the greatest news EVER. The Messiah is born. This is who the radiance of the Lord was revealed to. The radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded the angels. The brightest light of radiance imaginable is God’s glory. His presence breaks through the black night sky. All of this is revealed to lowly shepherds. The angels were joined by the vast host of the armies of heaven praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven!” This amazing scene is not above a palace or a temple. It is shown to unsavory shepherds in an open field. The Good News revealed to the lowest of the low. This is the message of the Christmas Story that really needs to be shouted. The Good News came to us all no matter who we are or what our social status is.

Do you think that you are too far gone to be reached by Jesus Christ. The Jesus I know is not the Savior of the rich only. He is not the Savior of those who have stayed out of trouble in life only. He is not the Savior of those who keep up good appearances only. He is the Savior of the prostitute too. He is the Savior of the drug addict too. He is the Savior of the thief. He is the Savior of poor too. He is the Savior of the outcast too. He is the Savior of all no matter who you. No matter what you’ve done. He comes to anyone with a heart humble enough to accept Him. Whoever you are, whatever you have done in your past, Jesus came for you. You are never so far gone that grace cannot reach you. Never think that you have to have extraordinary qualifications to receive Jesus in your life. He accepts you the way you are, where you are, who you are right now.

This is the message of this scene. The glory of God is revealed to the common man, to the outcast. The lowly are exalted to be in the presence of the Lord. The Good News is for all. Jesus came for all. He died for all. This is the Good News. It is yours. It is mine. We are never too far away from grace! Amen and Amen.

Luke 1:46-56 — This passage has come to be called the Magnificat because in the Latin translation of the Bible, Mary’s opening words are “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” (or in English, “My soul magnifies the Lord”). Of course, Mary spoke neither Latin nor English, but that’s beside the point. It is a song of praise in any language. There are two things to notice here in Mary’s beautiful song of praise.

Mary was not being proud, as some might suggest. Mary is not being a political revolutionary, as some have suggested. She is simply praising the Lord. She is in awe of what God has chosen to do through her. Instead of thinking of her words as pride, “and from now on all generations will call me blessed,” it should be seen as the voice of a young teenager who knows she doesn’t deserve the honor that she has been given. She admits right before this statement that the Lord has recognized his lowly servant girl. She knows that she is an unusual choice, probably an undeserving choice by human standards, for this honor. My soul, my soul magnifies the Lord. She is overcome by joy at being chosen for this deed that is now known through the generations. Certainly, Mary in the humility of this statement would be the first to disagree with how some in our faith grant her status equivalent with Jesus. This passage is evidence that she is blown away by the honor. I imagine Mary felt just as we do when we realize that Christ died for our sins and we have been given a new lease on eternity when we accept Him as our Savior. We are so undeserving of this favor shown by God. Though we are undeserving of any merit from God, we rejoice in that we have received favor. Think about it. On our own, we do not deserve to be in the presence of God, but through Christ we have been given a honor that we do not deserve. This is how Mary feels. If she wasn’t pregnant, she would be doing cartwheels. She would be a flyer in a cheerleading stunt. She would be doing that victory dance that we do when our favorite college team wins an important game. Mary had no special talents that we know of. Mary was not a self-aware, mature beyond her years political revolutionary. She was a 12-14 year old girl who was trying to figure out this crazy, mixed up world. She was just a kid. It was not that she had accomplished any great thing to deserve this. She had not earned it. She was just a girl in love with the Lord. Her song of praise is simply a recognition that God grants us gifts that we don’t deserve in so many ways. In thanksgiving, our souls should magnify the Lord for the undeserved gifts He grants us daily. He grants them. We do not deserve them. We should be thankful and joyful and singing praises at what God has done for us and in us through our faith in His Son.

The second thing that Mary’s Song of Praise is shows us is that Mary recognizes that God is faithful to His promises. Kingdoms may come and go. Princes may raise and fall. The rich cannot sustain their wealth in eternity. All of humanities promises are temporary. All of our accomplishments are temporary. There has yet to be a man-made kingdom that has lasted more than a millenium. All of man’s deeds, promises, and actions are temporary. The one thing that remains is the eternal promises of God. Mary praises God for this. There were those who doubted God would ever fulfill His promise to Abraham. Mary is stating emphatically here that God’s promises are eternal and they have now been fulfilled in the child she carries. She praises God in faith and in trust that He never fails. He does keep His promises. He may not answer them when we as temporary, fleeting humans want them answered but He does keep His promises. What joy Mary has in this. Her faith is vindicated. He is bringing forth the Messiah that He promised. Mary’s praise should be our praise. God is faithful. He is faithful always. When all the things of this temporary human life have disappointed or failed to keep promises over the long haul, we have God’s promises. He never fails. His love never fails. Take hold of that my friends. Even when we are in the depths of despair, God is working. He will keep His promises to those who are faithfull in His due time. When we are down and out and think we have nothing to cling to, cling to the Eternal King. He is faithful. He keeps His promises. We must have faith in this. Satan wants you to distrust and turn away from God. God will keep His promises. He always has. He always will. Mary is doing metaphorical cartwheels over this. She is doing the cabbage patch dance over this fact. She is doing the moon walk over this. She is doing the electric slide over this. Sorry, for the digression into various dance moves, but you get the picture. Mary is magnifying the Lord in her soul. She is shouting from the mountaintops for the promise kept! This lowly teenage girl we can learn much from! We whine and complain about what we don’t have, about the fact that God seemingly doesn’t hear us. Mary says, you fool, God is God. He is eternal. He does what He says—according to His Sovereign timetable not ours!

Father, help me to remember to have some Mary joy about the fact that though I did not deserve salvation you gave me this great gift, this great honor. To be among your chosen ones because of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That was all it took. No deserving acts. No deeds. Just faith. Help to remember like Mary that she did not deserve the honor bestowed upon her. May my soul continue and always leap for joy for my salvation, for my undeserved honor. Also, help me to remember the promises that you make are kept. Your answers to my prayers that are alignment with yours will come when You decide. You will keep your promises to your faithful ones. You always have. You always will. You are eternal. Our promises as humans are only temporary. You are eternal. You keep your word. Let me rejoice in that trust! Amen.

Romans 15:1-13 — To give God glory and to understand God’s glory. Giving God glory is our aim or should be in everything we do. Knowing Scripture helps us understand God’s glory.

Giving God glory is the dominating theme of this passage. First, our actions should be to give God glory in everything we do. Paul is telling us that we give God glory through how we treat one another. For Paul, it was the Jew vs. non-Jew, slave vs. free, rich vs. poor. By implication, we must be majoring on our similarities as Christians not on our differences. Satan wants us to be fractured. Satan wants us to be pointing fingers at one another. The fractures within the church as whole, all the different ways we have split ourselves up (Catholic vs. Protestant, and within Protestantism — Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc.) makes us less effective as a whole. Fractures within our local bodies make us less effective. Satan loves discord in the church. Discord within our local bodies and the church at large gets us focused on ourselves and not our primary mission. Our primary mission is to give God glory.

How to we give God glory within our body of Christ, by remembering that Christ did not come to earth to simply please Himself. He came to give God glory by His words, actions, and deeds. He gave God glory by teaching of God’s love. He gave God glory by encouraging all who were seeking God. Jesus gave God glory by offering God’s love to all who would listen to Him. He gave God glory by being obedient to the Father to the point of dying on the cross for our sins. He did not seek His own glory but rather to give glory to the Father.

How then do we put this into practice in our local church body? We seek not to glorify ourselves or those who are just like us. We give God glory by our own humility. We give God glory by not being territorial over our functions within the church. What does it matter who gets credit for something positive the church does as long as the job gets done? What does it matter as long as God is glorified? When our motivation is to glorify God, then, our egos do not need to be stroked. When ego comes into play, we find division and divisiveness within the body. Is this the kind of glory to God that we want to present to the lost soul. Do we want to present to them a group of petty people who are more concerned about the trees we have marked as our territory than we sharing the love of Christ? When we get it, that it is not about us, but rather about giving God glory by drawing all nations and all tongues unto Christ, then, and only then can we be effective tools. Let us seek unity with one another. Let us recognize and respect each other’s differences but let us seek unity in that we all are forgiven sinners. That is our common bond. Jesus is the source of our unity. Our unity comes from knowing that and expressing that and living that. Jesus is my Jesus and He is yours. We are both sinners covered in grace no matter if I am white guy and you are black, no matter if I am a man and you are a woman, not matter if I am educated and you are not, no matter if I am rich and you are poor, no matter if I am young and you are old. We are God’s kids. Our unity in that fact, that we are all kids of the King. That’s what people should see in us — that despite our differences we have unity in Christ. Our unity gives God glory and draws others to Him through our unity in a world of discord.

Paul tells us to that God is a God to be glorified because He has been faithful to His people. We can have confidence in that. How do we have confidence in that? By knowing Scripture. The more we know about what God did in the past, the greater the confidence we have about what He will do in the days ahead. The Bible gives us confidence in God’s glory. We have example after example in the Bible that God is faithful to those who seek Him and give Him glory. Knowing Scripture helps us to be less likely to see our own glory. Knowing Scripture helps us to not try to control things ourselves. Knowing Scripture is to know God’s glory. We don’t have to worry when we place our faith and control of our lives into God’s hand. We know from Scripture that He is faithful. When we live in this confidence, it helps us let go of our ego, our need to be in control. We know from Scripture that God’s got this. In our bold confidence in the Lord, we can more easily seek unity among our brethren. We are not scared for our future because we know what God has done in the past. Therefore, we seek God’s way and not our own because we know Scripture. When we all are trying to align ourselves with God’s unity results. In our unity, God is glorified. Without knowledge of Scripture, we give our opinions and our values greater rein and discord results. Each of us together reading Scripture daily under the influence of the Holy Spirit leads to unity. It is through Scripture that we are led to be more Christ-like. By being more Christ-like, we give God glory. By being more Christ-like we become unified.

Father, help us as Christians to encourage one another because we are all children of God. Help us to seek to build each other up. Help us to see what we have in common in Christ rather than majoring on our differences. Help us in so doing bring others to knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Through our unity and love for one another despite the ways that we are different, help us to draw people unto you because our unity makes us so different from the world of discord in which we live. Help us to be confident in all these things through understanding Scripture. Help us to see how faithful that you are so that we have great confidence in your faithfulness. Help us to have faith that you are the God of Scripture. In this confidence, we no longer have to worry. Without worry, we can be unified in giving you glory and demonstrating your faithfulness to your people in a world where anarchy and lies reign. Amen.

Romans 12:17-21 — Do you remember a movie from 20 years ago called, “The War” (starring Kevin Costner and a young Elijah Wood). It is one of my favorite movies ever. It speaks to our human nature. In that movie, whose setting was the Vietnam War era, kids build a tree house/fort and some other kids try to take it away from them. As the movie progresses, there is an ever-increasing level of violence to the point that on one summer afternoon the hatred of the two groups of kids for one another grows to the point that an all-out war for possession of the fort begins. In the end, the fort is burned to the ground. No one wins. There is nothing left to win.

It is this mentality that pervades our world today. It is to this mentality that Paul speaks through the ages directly to us in today’s verses. These verses summarize the core of Christian living and how it is often times the opposite of our human nature. It is our human nature to pay back evil with more evil. It is our nature to seek revenge for real or perceived wrongs done to us. In this day and age of ever increasing lawsuits, we demand that our rights not be abridged. In this world where we have become a people who says I can do whatever I want and I have inalienable right to do it, Paul speaks to us. Paul’s command sounds almost impossible.

When people hurt you deeply, in our sin nature, we wanna pay ’em back with what they deserve. Paul says to befriend them. Why should we forgive our enemies? C’mon Paul, that sounds so weak. That sounds like we should be doormats and let people just run roughshod over us. Why forgive our enemies? Man, that’s a hard one. My soul screams out for revenge. I want to be satisfied. I want to knock down my enemies and give them the same feeling of hurt and pain that they gave me. Can you feel that anger and pain? Can you feel it? Right now, you are drifting back in memory to a time that someone hurt you deeply. Right now, you may be experiencing that time all over again in your mind. The anger wells up in you and your stomach churns. Your pulse quickens. You mentally think about the revenge that you did take or should have taken. Why Paul? Why? Why do I as a Christ follower have to forgive me enemies?

Forgiveness may break a cycle of retaliation that leads to destruction and bring about reconciliation. It may make your enemy feel ashamed causing a change in the person’s ways. Even if your enemy never repents and forgives you as well, you have relived yourself of a heavy burden of bitterness. When we forgive evil done to you, you quit obsessing about that person. When we forgive, we quit “letting them live rent free in our head.” Lend a helping hand, send a gift, or just smile at them. Right actions often lead us to forgiveness. If we forgive without having the payback we want for revenge, we are extending grace. Remember, grace by theological definition is an undeserved gift. By giving an enemy grace, we are not excusing what they did, we’re not recognizing, forgiving, and loving that person with a love that they do not deserve. Hmmm. Who else did that? Yes, it was Jesus Christ. God loves us despite our rebellion against Him. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for the sins that we committed so that we can avoid our proper judgment and be reconciled to Him. It is like a father who loves his teenage son despite the fact that the son blatantly has disdain for him in word and deed. If we have been given grace through Jesus Christ, should we not extend that same grace to our enemies.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting like the saying says. Forgiveness means remembering what was done but choosing, get that – choosing, to love your offender anyway. We do not have to be gushy friends with those who have hurt us. We do have to extend them grace. They may have their own motivations that we must try to understand. In our understanding, we learn to extend grace. However, it does not mean we have to be best friends. We can learn to respect them again. We can end the cycle of revenge. In my divorce from my first wife, it was the “divorce from hell” where my ex constantly attacked me with intensity for over two years – to the point that she made accusations that prevented me from seeing my children for six months. It was nasty. It was mean. It consumed life and all that was around it. Through it all, I tried to take the high road and not get down in the dirt. Many times, my sin nature got the best of me but I was able to get beyond it. Today, twenty years later, I have forgiven all the mean things that happened. However, we are not friends. I care about what happens to her and can have a civil conversation with her these days when we do in fact talk but I have moved on in life. There is no commonality other than our grown kids now. There is just nothing in common. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that you have to be all up in their lives. Forgiveness is for us not for those we forgive. When we forgive, we give it up to the Lord. He may lead us to re-establish relationship but He may also lead us to just quit letting our enemy consume our mind and heart. When we forgive, He may lead us away to more healthy relationships. He may lead us to change playgrounds and playmates. We can’t have healthy relationships with others when we let our enemies consume our very soul. Our very soul should be consumed with the Holy Spirit not our enemies.

In the end of the movie, “The War”, the fort was destroyed. Nothing was left to win. The only thing, the one and only thing that broke the cycle of ever-escalating violence was when Elijah Wood’s character saved his enemies’ little baby brother from drowning. The war was over then. Although the kids did not become great friends in the end, the war was over. They learned to respect each other. They learned that revenge for revenge leads us to forget what the heck we were fighting for in the first place. Revenge becomes its own god. Revenge destroys our soul. Forgiveness frees us. Regardless of whether we get our payback or not, forgiveness sets us free to remove that idol from our lives. When we are obsessed with revenge, we are making ourselves god. Forgiveness puts God back on the throne. Forgiveness emulates our Father’s forgiveness for us. We have been given grave. Let us extend it to others. It doesn’t mean we have to be their best friend but it does mean that we let go of that obsession, that I idol that we have made of our hatred of that person. It is God’s job to judge. It is not ours. It is our job to extend the same grace that God gave us in Jesus Christ.

Otherwise, the fort is burned. There is nothing left. In “the War” the fort was never rebuilt. Destruction was complete and there was no desire anymore. Love has gained more than war every time. War just leads to more war. Love is a permanent solution. War consumes everything in its path. Love lets things grow. Forgive before the war consumes you. Forgive.

Romans 12:16 — “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” There is so much discord in the world, among nations, within nations, and in our homes. Pride can destroy. Harmony and humility go hand in hand.

How do we live in harmony with each other? It requires that we exchange pride for humility. Discord in life comes from competing pride. Your pride vs. my pride. My way vs. your way. In order to live in harmony with one another, I must consider your feelings and desires as equal to mine. You must consider my feelings and desires as equal to yours. That’s easier said than done, Paul! I want what I want and I want it now. I am right and you are wrong. Selfish desires are the American way. Our economy is built on pursuing our own self-interest. The whole theory of capitalism is built on competing self-interest. Adam Smith, the 18th century economist, established this very theory as the basis of capitalism. He stated that competing self-interests would bring prosperity. Competition is the hallmark of our lifestyle. Because of our self-interests, our economy has become the most powerful in the world and any nation that aspires to reach the pinnacle of economic development that we have must unleash capitalistic attitudes. So, Paul’s comments seem completely opposite of human nature. Harmony sounds like communism to us. Paul is not calling us to communism, but he is calling us to humility. We must turn our American dream ideals on their head. The American dream is all about me. It’s a me-me-me mentality. It fits in with our nature. Look out for number one. Have pride in yourself. We pick and choose our friends based on what they can do for us. We discard them when they do not. Paul calls us to humility and to love another. When we have humility, we can see others as just as valuable as we are. That is what God intended for us. We are all created in His image. Each of us has value. Should we not take advantage of the talents that God gave us. Certainly, using the talents that God gave us is why He gave them to us. However, we should not use our talents to crush and destroy others. We should use our talents daily as a way to glorify God and to lift others up rather than destroy them.

How do we enjoy the company of ordinary people? First, we do not consider them ordinary. Jesus demonstrated that everyone has value. He cared for those whom society had discarded. He did not choose who He touched based on what political advantage they could give Him. Same with us. When we serve others less fortunate than us, we should accord them the same dignity as we would folks that could be of great advantage to us. For example, if you serve in a soup kitchen, let us not walk away from it as prideful that we are better than those people. Soup kitchens are filled with people who sometimes by mistakes they have made are there. Sometimes they are there because of no fault of their own. Circumstances beyond their control may have brought them there. Do we serve them to boost our own ego or do we do it because we truly care about them. Are you moved to help them or do you do it to check off a box in your self-image about doing good so others see you doing good. Each of us is a child of God with a right to exist. None of us is better than the other. When we die, they put each of our bodies in a box. You can’t take your social standing into eternity. You can’t take your big fine house into eternity. Rich and poor alike meet death and must deal with the judgment of our maker as to whether we accepted or rejected Jesus Christ. Do you feel uncomfortable with people of less social stature than you? It is all pride and vanity. The bum on the side of the road is just as much a child of God as we are. We do not know everyone’s story from their outward appearances. Each of us no matter their social stature is deserving of our respect and are deserving of God’s love and are deserving of receiving the gospel. Who are we to judge? It takes humility to see others as equals regardless of the trappings of this life. The trappings of this life do not matter in eternity. Help us to be the kind of people that judge others by the content of their character, as Martin Luther King said, not by the color of their skin or any other segregating prideful mechanism we may use. All are welcome in God’s kingdom. The only segregator that God uses on judgment day is whether we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior or not.

How do we go about thinking that we don’t know it all? Humility. Humility. It’s all about humility. When we think we know it all. It is again a matter of pride. When we think we have all the answers, it says that we think we have arrived. We have made ourselves god. Pride is fertile soil for sin. When we think we know it all, we think that everything we do is right. We fall prey to our own pride. We rationalize our behavior away and slowly anything becomes fair game. Sin awaits. Discord awaits. When we realize that we do not know it all is the beginning of humility. When we realize that there are others more talented than us is the beginning of humility. When we realize that we do not have the answers is when God can work on us. When we realize that we have so much to learn is when God can really use us. An humble heart is putty in God’s hands. When we stop trying to rule our own world and tear others down when they expose our weaknesses is when we realize that we are not greater than we are. It is when we realize that we have need of something greater than ourselves. It is when we realize that we will never be God for He is God alone. He is above and beyond us. When we realize that we are not god, God can begin to mold us and use us for the purpose He intended for our lives. For the Christ follower, the most freeing moment in our life history is when we realize that we are not god and that He is. Let go and let God. When we humble ourselves to realize we are not our own god, it is the beginning of humility. When we realize that we are not god, we can see others as just as deserving of God’s grace as we are. When we realize that we are not god, everyone is deserving of love and respect. When we realize that we are sinners and are not perfect, we begin to give others some slack for not being perfect. When we realize that if it were not for the grace of Jesus Christ, we would be destined for hell, it takes our pride away. Humility begins. Love begins. Harmony begins.

Father, thank you for today’s meditation of a single verse of Scripture that says so much. Help me Father to love others because you love them. Help me to seek humility and not pride. Help me to see every fellow human being as deserving of being here. Help me to see everyone as equally deserving of dignity and respect. Help me to see them as your children. Help me to see them as deserving of hearing your gospel. Help me to see every person through the eyes that you see them with. Amen.

Romans 9:1-29 — Even though I am 52 years old now, does the fact that I grew up as a Methodist preacher’s kid give me an auto-pass into heaven? Does being part of church for most of my life give me brownie points on judgment day? Does doing all the right things get me there? These are the types of questions that Paul talks about in this passage.

In Romans 9-11, Paul deals with the heritage of the Jews as God’s chosen people and how that relates to salvation in Jesus Christ. The Jewish people were very proud of the fact that they traced their lineage back to Abraham. It was through Abraham’s line that God promised to make his descendants His people. God made covenant with the Jews and made them His chosen people through who He would bring forth the blessing to all nations. God made His chosen people different. He gave them the law, social and ceremonial rules that made them completely different from the nations around them. He did this so people would be drawn to them because it was through them that Jesus would come. Over time though, the Jews fell in love with who they were rather than being in love with God. The reveled in their privileged position. They thought that because they were among the chosen that this mere fact saved them and would give them heaven. Paul says no one can claim to be chosen by simply by heritage. Being born a Jew does not guarantee salvation. Being born a preacher’s kid does not make me chosen. It did not guarantee salvation. My pedigree does not save me. My salvation comes from the mercy of God to give me Jesus as the sacrificial lamb who took my punishment for what I deserve. My salvation comes from the Lord. It comes from His mercy. Being a preacher’s kid does not give me a free pass nor more than being born a Jew. We all are dependent upon the mercy of the Lord so that no one can boast. I was born this. I was born that.

OK, so if my heritage as a preacher’s kid doesn’t give me a leg up, what if I do all the right things? What if I am in church every Sunday? What if I serve in every way possible at church? What if I follow your command to tithe? What if I read the Bible daily? What if give alms to the poor? What if I do all the right things? What if I go to seminary to learn more about you, Lord? What if I write a daily post on Facebook and/or a blog where I help people understand Scripture? Nope. These things don’t save me. Don’t get me wrong, these things are admirable but in and of themselves they do not save me. Nothing that I do. There is no effort, no action that I can take that will make me heaven-worthy. The only thing that can save me is a relationship with Jesus Christ. No amount of good that I can do in a million lifetimes can erase the sin nature that I have and the sins that I have committed. If God is perfect and sin is imperfection then I cannot be in his presence no matter how much good I try to do in this life. I am saved by realizing that I need mercy. I am saved by God’s mercy as expressed through His Son Jesus Christ. He cleans me up and makes me right and beautiful before the Father. Doing good deeds for the sake of seeking favor or brownie points with God is like putting the cart before the horse. Because of the joy of our salvation, because of the joy of my salvation, good deeds flow overflow. We are so thankful for this salvation that we KNOW we don’t deserve that we can help ourselves but serve Him in every way possible.

If my lineage saved me, if my deeds saved me, there would be reason to boast and there would those who are excluded from salvation because they are from the wrong people group or they simply don’t care about doing all that churchy stuff. We could easily say I am better than you because I do this and I do that. If you live on the wrong side of the tracks, or you have done all these bad things in life that are so much more seriously bad than the things I have done, then sorry bud I guess you are screwed. Have you ever noticed when God leaves things up to us, we try to make gradations out of everything. That way I can measure myself against you. That way I can determine and show you that I am better than you. Paul says wait a minute! THERE IS NOTHING that we can do to earn our salvation. My pedigree doesn’t save me. My degrees don’t save me. My social position doesn’t save me. My church membership doesn’t save me. My good deeds and service don’t save me.

It is the mercy of our God that matters. A man that lives like hell for 70 years and accepts God as His Savior in the last years of his life has the same standing as one who accepted Christ at 7 and has lived a life of service ever since then. God grants His grace in the manner that He chooses. We are saved by grace not by who we are, what we are, what we do, when we do it, how often we do it. So, there is no life that is so horrible that God cannot redeem it through grace given through Jesus Christ. Nothing that you have done is so horrible that I cannot be covered in grace. You are never too far gone. Our bad deeds don’t condemn us. If that we the case, heaven would be empty. God’s grace through Jesus is a gift. It is not something we earn.

Think about it. It’s like doing something wrong repeatedly even though your parents told you not to. So, finally, they put us on restrictions and oh yeah you know that trip to Six Flags this weekend, you as a teenager have to stay with us your parents the whole time. Uggh what torture that is going to be. Being seen by all the kids in the world having to hang with your parents. The humiliation! But when you get to Six Flags as you are preparing for your humiliating day, your parents inexplicably say go, go have fun. See you at the gate at the end of the day! Freedom not deserved but freedom given. That is grace. If salvation was something we earned, then we are in trouble. I am in trouble. Thank God for grace. Thank God that He has mercy. And thank God it really isn’t about who we are and dependent on what we do. Thank God for your mercy. Thank God I don’t get what I deserve. Thank God for Jesus. Thank God. Thank God. Thank God!