The Outhouse Flower

Nicole should have a bumper sticker that reads, “I brake for interesting vegetation.” Well, so many of my friends need that phrase emblazoned on their vehicles! Many of us carry digging tools in our cars for “emergencies” such as finding an unusual plant in a neglected area, sometimes about to be bulldozed over.

It should be stated here as a disclaimer that neither Nicole nor I would knowingly dig a protected species of flower just so we could cultivate it in our own gardens, but there is such a thing as a bona fide “plant rescue.” Then there are the times when we couldn’t resist a wonderful roadside “weed” that was in large supply.

That was the case when we came upon a beautiful stand of what we tentatively identified as  Rudbeckia Laciniata, or Cutleaf Coneflower. I was hoping that it was what many people used to call “The Outhouse Flower.” That version is actually Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia, with a doubled flower, which blooms most of the summer. Continue reading “The Outhouse Flower”

The gravity of grace (4): Overview of Romans 6-8

Within Romans, Paul addressed an ancient human urge that can be captured by the expression, “I want to have.”  In chapter 1 such desires erupted as idolatrous rebellion against God. For Paul, sin is not merely an activity that a person might step into and then out of, rather he treats it as an enslaved spiritual identity.

Grace figures predominantly in how God righteously saves us. An illustration can help us review while also preparing us to survey the next few chapters. Continue reading “The gravity of grace (4): Overview of Romans 6-8”

The gravity of grace (3): Overview of Romans 1-5

Luther quipped that he hated the commonly accepted idea of “the righteousness of God” within Romans. Accordingly, he discovered a new definition that created a whole new way to interpret Romans.

We need to be aware that what we do not want to be true as well as what we value can exert powerful influences on how we interpret. I call this the hermeneutic of desire.

My goal in summarizing Romans below is neither to conform to nor reject popular understanding. I neither seek to stand in Luther’s shadow nor run from it. Using your Bible, you will have to decide to what extent the following represents Paul’s thoughts.

Whatever message we understand embedded within Romans will greatly influence how we interpret grace. This in turn will shape our Christian behaviors, values and teachings. Continue reading “The gravity of grace (3): Overview of Romans 1-5”

The Gravity of Grace: proof texts (2)

Satan quoted scripture: “For he will command his angels concerning you … On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6). So does the text teach this or not? It does (Psalm 91:11-12). Satan was right that scripture taught this concept.

Yet Jesus’ response reveals Satan’s usage of this verse violated scripture’s message, namely the principle that we are to abstain from testing God (Matthew 4:7). Context matters.

If we are going to understand God’s message to us, we need to seek an objectivity anchored in what the inspired biblical author sought to communicate. Conversely, we will want to avoid the subjectivity of “what does this text mean to me?”

Continue reading “The Gravity of Grace: proof texts (2)”

The Gravity of Grace: Definitions and Results (1)

Whatever a person understands scripture to teach about grace has enormous repercussions on Christian teaching and practice. Differing definitions of grace have led to whole new theologies of grace. Some perspectives might align better with scripture’s intended message than others.

Typically today, grace is defined as “unmerited favor.” However, even this phraseology promotes ambiguity and diverse practices because opinions differ over what qualifies as constituting “unmerited.” Thus the heart of the matter revolves around grasping when merit is absent, so that the gift can truly be given as grace. Continue reading “The Gravity of Grace: Definitions and Results (1)”

Character can be destiny

“Character is destiny.” This quote, attributed to the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, has been on my mind these last months. Seemingly a response to those who claim that fate controls one’s life regardless of one’s life-choices, “character is destiny” places the path and end of one’s life into one’s own hands.

Certainly, there is much truth in this statement, both from a secular and religious viewpoint. It does not mean to suggest that a person of poor character cannot be successful from a worldly standpoint. Only that the result of their life will reflect the choices which they made, and the character which informed those choices.

We might be dismayed to see wicked people, liars, cheaters, and the like, rise to prominence and power in our world. We might be saddened to see the world seemingly support such people. But we, like the Psalmist, have a more informed perspective. Continue reading “Character can be destiny”

David’s grace to Mephibosheth

Jonathan and David were the best of friends. If we look at their relative ages, which we can determine from when they both first appear in 1 Samuel, it is likely that Jonathan was up to twenty years older than David. Yet they had a healthy respect and love for each other, to the point that Jonathan was convinced that David would be the next king and not himself as next in line to the throne (you can read about this in 1 Samuel 23).

Before David lived as an outcast from Saul for several years, he and Jonathan made an oath that whichever of them survived, the other would take care of their children (1 Samuel 20). After David had reigned a number of years, he remembered Jonathan and his promise. He asked, “Is anyone still left from the family of Saul, so that I may extend kindness to him for the sake of Jonathan?” (2 Samuel 9:1 NET). Continue reading “David’s grace to Mephibosheth”

Unfinished business

A gardener’s work is never done, much like a mother’s work — only less urgent and important. When we finally have a flower bed or vegetable plot just the way we want it, things happen to change it. Often, however, the change is for the better!

We are all familiar with the sentiment, “Please be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.”

We understand that when it comes to our own failings and shortfalls, but do we really put that idea into practice as we deal with others? Continue reading “Unfinished business”

Grace’s one great demand

Grace presents us with one great demand.

I know it seems strange to see the words “demand” and “grace” in the same sentence. Usually we view grace as the means by which we gain acceptance by God without carrying out works of the law. After all, as Paul reminds us, by “works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

Many try to earn their salvation. Continue reading “Grace’s one great demand”