Tag Archives: Faith

The Grace Covenants (Yes, plural)

Prosperity Gospel.

These words can frustrate a sincere preacher of the Word faster than my psychotic relative’s mood can change (actually, I have more than one psychotic relative, but that’s just my opinion). Sure everyone is going to sign up for your religion because all you have to do is pray to God and the blessings come!

Want a shocker? That’s the Old Covenant. Now unless you aren’t familiar with all this Christianese, let me explain as best I can. God called a people to be His special people. He would give them His precepts and decrees and He would, by His grace, live out these precepts and decrees in the lives of His people. They would serve Him and He would bless them so much that other nations would come running – wanting to know about Israel’s God. That was God’s first plan of using one people to draw all others to Himself. The Old Covenant.

The funny part is, there are many Christians today who don’t want to have anything to do with God’s precepts and decrees. After all – they claim – those were nailed to the cross. We want the new covenant. We shouldn’t have to keep some outdated law. We’re post modern! Okay, fine, take the second covenant. You know the one where Jesus says, take up your cross daily and follow Me. Heard of that one? Kind of flies in the face of that fake prosperity gospel, doesn’t it?

So we have a bunch of folks out there that want to party like the 1st Covenant and not have to worry about the rules like in their version of the 2nd Covenant. Pretty crazy, right? What am I saying? God tried it the blessings way first. He tried to reach us in the pocket book. What did we do? The Bible says God’s followers began to think all these blessings were their own doing and sometimes even attributed them to other gods. So the blessings were taken away. God’s people repented and got back in line. The blessings came back. Over and over again God dealt mercifully with this stubborn people. That’s the Old Covenant.

The New Covenant? Since God’s people wouldn’t stay on the blessings train, He brought out good works, self-sacrifice and service. Die daily to self and follow Me. You won’t have the blessings of this life, but you will have the assurance of the life to come. Others will see your good works and glorify God in heaven. It won’t be untold riches now attracting the heathens into our ranks, it’s our good works of selflessness.

Here’s the amazing part – it’s still the same thing. It’s still grace. We can’t die to self daily and serve others any more than we could keep every decree and precept in the Bible on our own. It has always been and always will be by God’s grace. Folks before the cross had to have faith in what God said He would do and those of us after must have faith that what God did is enough to cover our sins. Either covenant, either way, it’s still saved by grace through faith.

 

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Of Faith and Old Wives’ Tales

There is a big potted plant in our house, a gift from our church family for Pastor Appreciation Month in October. Thankfully, they got us a plant that is hard to kill. I don’t have a great track record with indoor plants (or outdoor for that matter).

Karl was asking the kids why it was important to talk to the plant. They knew the answer – we give off carbon dioxide and the plant uses that for its vital processes. In return, it gives off oxygen, which we then use for our vital processes. It is all scientific. But there was a time when it wasn’t all about science.

There used to be an old wives’ tale that if you talked to your plants, they would be healthier plants. A lot of people laughed, but those who talked to their plants knew it was true. They didn’t know why, but they saw the results and kept up the good work. It wasn’t until many years later that scientists broke down into vital processes and symbiotic relationships what many people had before received – simply on faith.

It’s kind of like Thomas – often referred to as doubting Thomas. He wasn’t there when Jesus appeared in resurrected form to many of the disciples. So when they began to tell him all the news, Thomas doubted. He wanted proof. He wanted a scientist to say that this is why plants are healthier when you talk to them. It’s not the talking, it’s the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen. He wanted it presented in a way that would remove all doubt.

Jesus came and showed Thomas the scars in His hands. Here was the proof. Thomas claimed Jesus as his Lord and his God. Then Jesus says something really interesting in the gospel of John 20:29.

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

So I’ve learned from my beautiful new plant that I hope lasts a very long time, that faith is sometimes not knowing how something works, but seeing that it does work; and choosing to believe that it is the right thing to do, even if you can’t say why it works. Faith is like talking to a plant, before science showed us how it worked.

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Who vs How

I’m reading and enjoying Ed Dickerson’s book, “Grounds for Belief.” He writes about some of his coffee shop style meetings with young adults and how they share their faith. Early in the book, Ed makes it clear there is a difference between faith/belief in God and religion. He calls faith in God the “Who” and religion is simply the “how.”

When it comes to a worship service, the Bible has little to say about the how and a whole lot more about the Who. While it is true that “how” can give us structure and so forth to help us function better in order to reach more folks about the wonderful “Who” we serve, our faith loses something when it becomes primarily about the how.

One of the things my husband would love to change about the church worship service is what he calls the “pontifical entrance.” He explains that the Bible doesn’t record anywhere that Paul told all the people to sit down and then wait for him to go behind the door and then march in the room in a very solemn like manner to indicate church was now about to begin. Reverence, yes of course we need reverence. Just read a few stories about people that got a tiny glimpse of God and fell flat on their faces. He is awesome! But if we get hung up on church can’t start because it takes three men to have the pontifical entrance and one is gone on vacation – we are more worried about the how instead of the Who.

I think of it this way: our little family of five – we’re in this together. We often say we live and die as a family. So we have chore charts, menus and schedules to keep track of what needs to be taken out of the freezer and put in the oven and who needs to be where at what time. But that’s not our family. Those things help our family function, but it’s not our family. They make getting through life each day easier, balancing everyone’s schedules and dietary needs – but the people are the family. When the chore chart, menu planner or weekly schedule become more important than time for a tickle or reading a story together – our focus is off.

If God intrigues you, but religion turns you off – you might want to consider worshiping with a group of folks that focus on Who instead of how. It could make all the difference.

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