Through him (our Lord Jesus Christ) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5: 2


It seems to me that if there is one thing that would make aa difference in the way that our world operates, that one thing might be the presence of more grace in our interactions and in our relationships. Now grace is an interesting concept, and it is a risky thing to engage in giving or receiving. Grace defies some of the rules of life that we all have learned, for it operates outside of the usual idea that all human interaction carries with it an inherent requirement that there be reciprocity. If I give something to you, then you are indebted to me until something of relatively equal worth is returned to me. This is the sort of platform upon which most of what we do and how we engage with each other is constructed. This give and take economy is where our world stands.


However, this is not where God is coming from in the way that He engages with His creation, in general, and with people, specifically.  In the beginning, He breathed life into us, and after we defied Him and went our own way into a universal journey of sin and its death, God came to us and provided Himself as our means of reentering the fullness of life. God asked for nothing in return as He poured out His grace upon our unworthy souls, and the only thing that Christ asked was that we be forgiven. Because of Christ and through God’s grace, anyone who turns to Him in repentance and submission is granted a new home in God’s Kingdom and a renewed purpose for this life in service to its King. Thus, in so living, we enter into our own hope of eternity wherein we will be covered in the glory of the Lord, but grace is still really for this life and it is about how we approach living today.


In Christ, we have received grace beyond our capacity or capability to measure it. There is no way to quantify or to compare this gift from God to anything else that we can perceive in this world. Yet, this grace that God has granted to us is intended to serve the purpose of setting us free from the bonds and the constraints that sin has imposed upon us. This is especially true when it comes to the way that we react to and interact with others. It seems to me that if we prepared out hearts to pour out grace upon people in all situations and under the wide range of circumstance in which we react to them in life, then this world would have a different tone and flavor to it. We might see others in a way that is more like Christ’s, and we just might find that other people start to understand some more of God’s gracious desire to redeem them. So, Lord, help me to stand today as a grace-soaked follower of Jesus and guide me to pour out that same infinite love upon others as an offering of grace given in worship to my King.


Are not five sparrows sold two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.

Luke 12: 6


The details matter. Just ask an airplane pilot or a surgeon, and they will confirm this fact. The details of life matter to God, too. Some of these details are formed out of attitudes and from intentions; while others are defined by the way that people live out their days in pursuit of God or in attempted escape from Him. Still, without regard to what we do, where we go, or even what masters we serve, God knows it all and Christ seeks to enter into every aspect of each day of our existence with us. You see, the point that Jesus was making when He brought up sparrows was that they were truly the poor person’s sacrifice. They were so cheap as to be completely disposable; yet, to God, their Creator, each of those throw away birds was known and considered as a valuable part of this world’s beauty and balance of nature. They all had a purpose in God’s plan for this world.


So, if that was true about humble birds, how much more so does this same Creator God care about and fully comprehend each of the people that He has set out in this same world? We matter to God; so, we matter to Jesus Christ. God’s intent and desire for us is to be in close relationship with us; thus, Christ comes into our lives in order to redeem us from the separation of sin and to restore us to the glory of God that is our greatest and truest potential. We can fight against God’s intent and His desire. In fact, to various degrees most people do struggle with and against God for parts of our lives and throughout all of our days to some extent. However, these times of departure, rebellion, and disaffection with our Lord are futile. Those sparrows have more power to set their own direction and destiny than we do, for in the end, we all face the reality of our lives as our days on this earth end, and we go before Christ as the purveyor of truth and final justice.


There is no escaping this day of reckoning, and we should not be living in fear of it, either. God’s desire is that He would be greatly pleased to welcome each person on this earth home into His eternal presence. Jesus literally poured out His blood in order to buy each of us that outcome to the life that we have been given by God. This is a good day and this hour is the perfect time to consider my life in light of God’s view of those precious sparrows. Although the world may have viewed them as throw aways with no real usefulness or value, God sees the unique design and infinite depth of quality in every feather on their bodies. So, it is with each of us. God sees us as vitally important to Him, and He grants to each of us the talents, skills, and gifts that we will need in order to follow His will and to live out our days in service to our Godly calling. Our lives are filled with those details that matter so greatly to our Lord, and He will not overlook or forget anything that truly matters as we live out lives of service to Him.

Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

Joshua 24: 14


History matters. There is something to be gained by taking a good look at it from time to time, and that is exactly what Joshua has just been doing at this point in his narrative. He has gone over the highlights of all that God has done for himself and for the Israelite people. This is a long and complex tale of the Lord’s faithfulness to them that has remained true despite the fact that the people have frequently wandered away from His path and have far too often needed to be rescued from the consequences of those side trips and sinful excursions. So, Joshua is summing up the Lord’s engagement with the Israelites by directing them to respond to the Lord’s commitment to them by being singularly faithful to God and by following His will in all things. The Lord was to be the sole and total object of their worship and the recipient of their love and devotion.


Each of us has a history that is different from the one that shaped the lives of Joshua and the people of Israel. Yet, each of us does possess a story that tells of where we have been, the influences that have shaped us, and that also contains an element of God’s involvement with us and in shaping the way that life has gone. As I see it, God does actively seek out everyone, and He pursues each of us in order to demonstrate His unfailing love for us and to grant to us the opportunity to enter into the gift of His redemptive grace and perfect will for our lives. This is not all that different from what the Lord had done for the Israelites. In our stories the locations have different names, our Egypt of captivity might have another shape or form, and the gods that we have served will probably require other forms of sacrifice and worship than did those of the Amorites or that were found in other lands of the Middle East. Yet, almost everyone has gone through the stresses and the struggles of a journey through life with its times in the desert and its challenges of faith and loyalty to God.


Thus, the call to give our total respect, love, and devoted worship to the Lord is not very far off track for anyone today. This is something that we purpose to do, but it is also something that God provides the way and the means to accomplish. We have been granted an advantage over what the Israelites had received in that Christ has come and become the final sacrifice in payment for our sinfulness, our wandering. As we seek to enter into Joshua’s command to fear the Lord and to serve Him with our whole beings, in Christ we have the presence of the Spirit to empower and to guide the process of that commitment. We also possess God’s Word in its entirety to inform our thinking and to influence our actions. So, we are granted the gift of the presence of the Lord in our lives and with us in its journey in ways that are even greater and more powerful than the miraculous and wonderful ways that the Lord was with and among the Israelites during their travels. However, just as it was for them, it is also up to us to decide that we will listen to the voice of the Lord and commit all that we are and every aspect of our lives to Him and to serving His will for us.

Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Say to the people of Israel, “Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood.

Joshua 20: 1-3


The cities of refuge that are discussed here in Joshua have a very slight connection to the politically motivated and dedicated ones of our times. In admittedly simplistic terms, the cities of refuge of today’s world are a protest statement against laws and governmental attitudes that the leadership of these cities stand in disagreement with. The places that God through Moses instructed Joshua to dedicate were primarily about redemption and forgiveness. They created an opportunity for people who stood under penalty of a sentence of death in certain circumstances to gain an opportunity to be pardoned and set free to live within the society again. They also cut short the potential for a cycle of violence that revolved around revenge and retribution. These ancient cities of refuge are closely related to the way that God has worked with people and in our world since our first days upon the earth.


When Paul said, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3: 23, 24), he is making a very inclusive statement. The “all” there is a group that enfolds you and me and every other person who has ever drawn breath in this world. We are born with a sentence of death already proclaimed for us, and we will live out our days awaiting its execution upon us if we do not encounter and respond to God’s offer of refuge that comes to us in and through Christ. In God’s great and marvelous graciousness, He took His desire to offer redemption to us to another level of accessibility. In Jesus, God made it so that the cities of refuge in our world are as close as the air that surrounds us. He eliminated the need for us to travel to His designated place, and instead, God came into our world in a manner that makes His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness real and tangibly present with everyone. We dwell inside of the walls of our city of refuge if we will simply open our eyes to grasp its reality.


Christ opens the door to salvation, and He invites us in. This invitation is ours to accept or to reject, but even that offer is an on-going thing. The Lord continues to seek after people as He goes to every end of the earth in His pursuit of us. Unlike these cities in Joshua’s day, Christ’s offer of grace covers all of the sinfulness that we may engage in, for there is nothing that we can do that is greater than the life-saving sacrifice that Jesus offered up on our behalf. God’s heart and His intent is to be known by all people; so, He offers His redemption to all of us. This is the same inclusive “all” that defines our lost state in Romans. When we accept Christ’s offer of refuge, we are set free from the death of sin that covered us previously. Thus, in this new life that we have been granted we are sent out to live fully in the presence of God and to bring the reality of that life that we now enjoy into contact with a world that is still in need of that safe and secure place of refuge.

But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

1 Corinthians 8: 3


This idea is somewhat the opposite of the way that we often view our relationship with God. At least I tend to think in terms of loving God and so seeking to know Him ever more fully, deeply, and completely. Yet, if I think about it, consider what Paul is saying, and meditate upon these few simple words, it begins to make sense. Love is something that changes people. It reshapes the way that we see the world round us as it takes us into a deeper form of engagement with its object. In love, we seek out the beloved, and we desire to know that person very well, but love also opens up the lover to the other. This is true in romantic love relationships, and it is also true in other forms of deep, personal relationships.


In fact, there should be no place where this confident openness is more present than in our love for God. There is no one who is more trustworthy than is the Lord, and there is no other relationship that we can enter into that has the same degree of commitment inherent in the nature of the beloved than that which is present in God. God is in relationship with each of us who know Him for the duration of time, and there is nothing that can change His perspective on loving and on being present with us. The Lord is the definition of the sort of unfaltering promise of loving others that is missing in our world, for He does not hold our weakness, failure, and inconsistency as a form of ransom over us so that we think that we need to perform in order to retain that affection. Instead, God gave Himself up as a ransom of love in order to set us free for all of eternity from our own sinfulness and its shame.


So, my love for God leads to giving Him my heart, mind, and soul. I allow Him into my inner life in a way that is not even possible for any other to do. As Christ has given each of us who know Him His Spirit to dwell with and in us, we are inhabited by God’s love as it is poured out upon His people. There is no other experience in this life that is like this in its fullness and totality. God’s love is what brings this rare element into our world, and His love given to me is what defines, enables, and empowers all of the love that I have to give to others. Thus, as I love God, I come to relax the protective barriers that life in this world has taught me to place around my heart, and I allow Christ access to the full range of my feelings, my responses to others, and to my willingness to trust and to engage with people. In Christ, I know perfect love, and He pours Himself into me so that I can, in turn, be that sort of committed lover in all of my other relationships.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.

2 Corinthians 9: 6


This is a discussion about money and what we do with it. It is also a statement that applies to the things that we own, and it speaks to our attitude toward our time. Mostly, this is a comment on the way that we view other people, their needs, and our own sense of security in our relationship with Christ. He gave everything for us. Christ lived a life in which He took on our pain and suffering while demonstrating the depths of God’s loving compassion for His people. While doing this He continually looked to the Father and trusted Him to supply all wisdom, direction, and the resources that were needed.


Even with Christ’s example in mind, it is not always so easy to actually believe that God will supply me with everything that I need. So, holding everything that I have, including my money, prized possessions, and time, in fully open hands is not all that natural an act for me. It is even harder to risk exposing my heart to others in a manner that makes me vulnerable. Still, all of this is what God has given to me. He gives completely, absolutely, and without reservation for everything of significance that I have comes from His generosity. Most importantly, Christ gives me His heart, and in doing this, He changes mine from one that seeks to protect itself from exposure to pain and loss to a heart that can more openly share God’s love with others.


When we give we don’t get to control the return; yet, the more we give, the more we are acting like our Lord. The more open we are with our love, mercy, compassion, and understanding, the more we are transformed into the image of Christ. God’s direction for our lives is not easy, but it is simple. He wants us to openly and willingly reach out to all who are needy, all who are thirsty, and all who are alone. Then, He wants us to give everything that we have to meet those needs while fully trusting Him to continue to provide us with all that we will ever require for life.


But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever;

you are remembered throughout all generations.

Psalm 102: 12


When we travel it is often fun and interesting to visit historic sites that are in or near the place where we are going. These places have stories to tell about the people who were there long ago, and they provide us with chances to see how these long ago people and events have influenced the way that we live today. Many of these ancient cultures believed themselves to be great, and some actually thought that what they were creating would last through the rest of history. Yet, in truth, none of them have made it much past a few generations before they began to fade and decline into oblivion. Now, their ruins tell their stories, and the timelines of their power and dominion always have an end date attached to them. As grand as the work that the hands of people can create may be, it will never be eternal, and it will not do anything to save them from the eternity of separation from God that is the legacy that we all gain without God’s loving grace and saving mercy.


So, God forms and defines the only culture that truly lasts beyond a rather short period of time. His society is one that is founded upon the Lord’s promise to remain in relationship with people despite our lack of faithfulness to Him and upon His commitment to heal and to restore His creation. We are gathered in faith into God’s new kingdom come upon the earth so that we can dwell in the presence of our Lord and be ruled by the righteous truth of His reign. As bound together in Christ, the church forms a society that will always be counter cultural to those of the balance of the world, for it is a society that is formed out of a relationship of trust in God’s Word and acceptance of His ultimate and perfect authority over us and over all that is. This society is one that values sacrifice, peace, and justice above all else, and it is one that embraces people for their God given value rather than for their worth in terms of economics or power.


When we accept and embrace the reality of God’s economy on earth as our own, we step out of the failed history that humanity has written and that it continues to craft for itself, and we enter into the eternal story of God’s ever present love and drive to restore people and creation to our place of intimacy and health at the side of our Creator. We become participants in writing out this ongoing history in which Christ’s sacrifice and victory over the forces of this world lead us into a new way of viewing the importance of life and the impact that each of us can have on the nature and the quality of the journey that others take as they navigate their way through their days. As we follow Christ we become His voice of grace and provide His loving touch to sooth the pains and the concerns of a troubled creation, and by engaging in these eternal acts, we demonstrate the unceasing glory of the Lord.