Church Speak - Part 2 - Grace

Any reader of the New Testament will see the word grace well over one hundred times.  Clearly, the writers of the Scripture (especially Paul) placed priority on teaching the doctrine of grace.  Grace is central to the gospel. 
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
Prior to writing those verses, Paul penned a statement that sets the context of his teaching.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,    Ephesians 2:4 (NIV)
In order to understand grace, we need to understand God's nature - namely, that God is love (see 1 John 4:8) and that out of His love pours boundless mercy.  Choosing to extend love to all, God extends mercy.

To me, the word mercy best defines grace.  Through His extension of unmerited love, God provides salvation to all who believe.  Upon belief in Jesus and His sacrifice (see last week's post), a person experiences the gift of mercy.

The thing I enjoy most about the concept of mercy is the clear picture of One who has all power choosing to grant a gift of eternal value to one who lacks power.   Without the gift of mercy, we do not have the power to set things right (fix; redeem).  If anyone could save himself or herself, he or she would have reason to boast.  Since everyone comes up short in the "saving" department, only One receives the credit - namely, God.


Church Speak Part 1 - Propitiation

Romans 3:25 (ESV)
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

1 John 2:2 (NASB)
and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Within those two verses, we read the word "propitiation."  Outside discussions on those verses, the word finds its way into few conversations.  Nevertheless, the word (or, at least, the truth it communicates) is central to the Christian faith.

Merrill Unger (Unger Bible Dictionary) wrote -

God does not have to be asked to be propitious, because He has become so through the death of Christ.  (page 894)
God, by His choice, favorably disposed Himself toward us while we were still sinners.  (See Romans 5:8.) 

In his book, The Cross of Christ, John Stott wrote -

God does not love us because Christ died for us, Christ died for us because God loves us.  (page 174)
Jesus is the propitiation for my sin because God loves meGod loves you, too!  He sent His son to this world, which He crafted, to restore all things to Himself.  His son accepted the cross, thus taking upon Himself the penalty for our sins.  That is the central act of propitiation and, therefore, the central focus of the Good News.


Fishy Language

- If you must eat the pinks, don't wait very long after catching them to do so; or get them canned.
- Turn your nose up to dog.
- Dip for the reds, savor the silver, and don't forget your stamp for the kings.

Not long after my wife and I first moved to Alaska (20 years ago next month), I received such pointers.  Around the same time, I met the first person I knew who worked in Prudhoe Bay.  He told me that he worked "on the Slope" two weeks on and two weeks off.  As a cheechako (one "wet behind the ears" as to Alaskan life), I thought he worked on the ski slopes. 

Twenty years later, I know much more about this great state.  I do, however, still get confused on which salmon is which.

As a Christian who "grew up in church" and whose Ordinary Life has always included the church, I can forget that many people who enter our church (or any church, for that matter) do not know their way with the language and lingo of the church.  Some words are obviously less familiar to many ears. 
Think -
propitiation, justification, sanctification, and amanuensis
Other words seem more easily grasped. 
Think -
saved, redemption, grace, and sin
Nevertheless, the sourdoughs (old-time Alaskans) of faith need never assume (or expect) that their cheechako brothers and sisters hear what they mean when they speak in the language of "the churched."

Over the next several weeks, I will devote my Ordinary Life posts to the explanation of "church speak."  Log on and learn a bit.  Let me know if you have a request.

Growing with you,


Stranded Travelers and Safe Landings

Within the past month, my family members and I have, at times, encountered travel difficulties.  Two cancelled flights, one delayed flight, an almost-too-brief layover (7 minutes before they closed the door), and a lost piece of luggage.  

While frustration and anxiety fought patience and peace for dominance, the latter pair added an "L" for the former's column.  For the sake of full disclosure, I confess that similar situations have added more than a healthy number of "Ws" to the pesty pair.  

My Win/Loss columns remain healthy when I recall (and act upon) Jesus' words in His Sermon.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

Can I get an "Amen!" to the last sentence?  Now how about a hearty "OK" / "Right on" / "Roger" (your pick) to the first sentence? 

Far more often than we like to confess, tomorrow's worries cripple our todays.  Likewise, today's troubles habitually steal the joyous anticipation of tomorrow.  When the worries and poor habits threaten, I try to focus on the good that occurs.  

For example:
- While one of the cancelled flights stranded 20 plus of us in Florida, we were able to eat Chick-fil-A one more time and Alaska Air paid for it.
- Alaska Air, without being asked, also issued flight vouchers to each of us.
- The luggage will be found or paid for.
- I met a delightful person that I would not have met otherwise.
and most importantly
- We all arrived safely!

Leave the worrying to tomorrow; it will handle it better than you will.



Tomorrow Americans celebrate freedom.  Dads fire up their grills.  Moms ready their daughters with red and blue bows and dust off the red Radio Flyer.  Teens cross county lines to purchase Black Cats, Ground Spinners, and Roman Candles - hoping the local authorities turn a blind eye (and deaf ear).  Shriners polish their mini cars and don their Fez. 

The Fourth stands for freedom and cries out for celebration.  Freedom deserves celebration.  Freedom also deserves protection. 

The Apostle Paul wrote on the matter.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh rather, serve one another humbly in love.  Galatians 5:13 (NIV)

While some people use freedom as an excuse, others recognize freedom's potential for good -- for good based in love.  Anyone even vaguely aware of Christianity knows that those who call themselves Christians talk about love (hopefully, talk matched with action).  However, "'love others" often sounds generic enough that it is received as a platitude rather than a powerful opportunity to impact lives for the better. 
So let's help the platitude meet the Ordinary Road.  In recognition of this week's national focus, how can we "love others" on July 4th?
- Invite someone new to your BBQ.
- Buy a neighbor kid a red wagon.
- Ask "one of the least of these" to join you for the fireworks show.
- Say "thank you" to at least one person who makes you smile.
- Pray for the leaders of our nation.
- Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
- Show appreciation for the people who planned your town's parade.
- Smile.
- Tell your daughter in the red and blue bow, "I love you."
- Help the teen who burns his fingers with the Roman Candle.

Christ set us free.  That's worth celebrating.  Celebrate with love.