Monthly Archives: January 2016

SMGN guest post by Ros Otte

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Enjoy this guest post by Ros Otte. She was recently seen lurking on the fringes of a writer’s group, and once this indomitable encourager had been identified as a possible aspiring author, her rubber arm was easily twisted for a contribution. Here Ros muses, from the perspective of a parent, on the superiority of grace over law.


 

It has been said that the role of a parent is to prepare a child for the next level of life, and that is true. The means by which we do this include imposing rules and regulations, instituting boundaries, and ensuring that there are consequences for non-compliance.

Some parents, in doing so, are tyrannical and brook no opposition. Other so-called “helicopter” parents hover protectively over their children and monitor each and every move. For many children, acceptance is based on performance rather than on love. Other parents simply throw in the towel at the first hint of opposition or rebellion. The result is often a deep seated sense of insecurity in the child. This is the essence of Law. It sets rigid boundaries, and in its consequences for obedience or disobedience, it can be both tyrannical and “helicopter”. Behaviour is either right or wrong. Choices are limited and obedience is mandatory. Sadly, those under it develop few coping mechanisms, little sense of worth, and often a minimal sense of self control. Then, if there is rebellion, law has no means of recovering the rebel.

Grace, on the other hand, is at once fluid and constant. It operates within a framework of love and acceptance; it allows for getting it wrong; it never lets go, even in the face of rebellion; it sets free and permits individual choice; it unties the apron strings without letting go; it encourages and picks up the pieces when there is failure and brokenness; it enables progression from the tentative, tottering steps of a toddler, to the confident stride of a long distance runner. It says, “Come as you are”, not “clean up your act first”. Grace provides the ultimate security.

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I have the privilege of living in a home with a magnificent river view. There are three fish eagles that live in the surrounding cliffs. It is a joy to watch them and the amazing thing is that I have never seen them flap their wings. They glide effortlessly, reaching great heights or almost skimming the river. They find and catch the thermals, whether the wind is howling or it is completely still, yet have no fear of falling or sense of abandonment. That’s what grace does. It is by grace that we catch the wind of the Spirit, Who keeps us secure whether there is a gale blowing or it is quiet and still. It is by grace that we walk thorough life with confidence; it is by grace that we can make choices, knowing that we are firmly placed in the thermal of the love of God. It is by grace that we are set free from the fear of failure or abandonment. It is by grace that we are loved and accepted for who we are, and not by what we achieve or how well we perform. Grace enables us to be the best we can be because it is never disapproving or judgmental. If we had to read 1 Corinthians 13:4ff – the matchless passage on love – and substituted “Grace” for “Love” nothing would change in terms of the heart of what was written. That is because grace has a name, and that name is Jesus.

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Wrestler, runner, soldier all

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When Paul the apostle reflected on his life, he did so using three metaphors. “I have fought the good fight”, he said. “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. (II Timothy 4:7). Wrestler, runner, soldier – so helpful to us as we seek to live well.

We all wrestle with something. Perhaps it’s because some flaw, fault or weakness runs through our person. Or perhaps because a bit of shrapnel from an earlier skirmish remains lodged within, and has the propensity to fester again and again. Whatever the case, we all experience the enemy’s intrusion into our internal world, probing for purchase, at least to distract, and at best to destroy. His agenda is never benign, and establishing ourselves in the victories of Christ in the private enclaves of heart and mind is at least as essential as triumphing in other arenas. Paul mentions the private and personal first, and tells us that there he fought a good fight. Let’s be clear that a good fight is a fight won! A word to the wise – although these battles are by definition in the all-alone, a close confidant who is kept aware can be helpful is establishing oneself in consistent victory.

We also all have a race to run. This is of gifts and callings, of meaning and purpose; of destiny. It refers to endeavors unique to us; the good works prepared in advance for us to do. Our race is God-appointed and each of us is perfectly equipped to run it, for the grace of God is upon us to do so, no matter what twists, turns or obstacles we may encounter along the way. It’s our race, and no one else can run it for us, but this metaphor reveals the intriguing way in which Christianity is both an individual and corporate pursuit all at once.Those around us can watch our progress and urge us on, as can we them, and together we can draw strength from the great cloud of witnesses who preceded us all, ran well, and now cheer us on in the spirit-realm. Like Paul, let’s be single minded and run to win, doing all to encourage others, all the while drawing encouragement from them as we stride towards the line.

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Then there’s the soldiering. None of us have much to offer in this department when we stand alone, but together with all brothers and sisters down through the ages, we take our place in the great army of God. Together we steward the glorious truths of the Gospel as entrusted by the Lord to His church for the redemption of His world. Together we occupy, and little by little Heaven colonises earth, glory to glory, until all of His enemies have been manifestly subdued beneath Christ’s feet.


Wrestler, runner, soldier all –
Triumphing in victories
Christ-won at the cross.
Wrestler, runner, soldier all –
Living well, living full,
For the grave is empty

Our champion lives!
Wrestler, runner, soldier all –
For the sake of the Gospel,

And the glory of our Lord.


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Living life well

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The Gospel ushers us into condemnation-free living. In right-standing with God, and the rich promises of Scripture ours, there is every reason for living life well. These few modern-day parables will help establish you in the good of the New Covenant. It is God’s will for you to live there with confidence and ease.

Life is walking the high-wire, with Christ our safety net. We might slip and fall in the day-to-day, but we remain safely suspended in the lofty context of His victory. When we lose our footing, there is no inevitable devastating plunge to destruction. All there is to do is regain our equilibrium and get walking again. Consequently, we walk the tightrope confidently, without anxiety or fear, no matter how tetchy things might get on a wind-buffeted high-wire from time to time.

Life is an innings at the crease with an umpire who will never give us out. The bales scatter; we’re not out. Caught playing the shot; not out. Plumb LBW; a shake of the head from the umpire. We can’t even be run out. That’s because every ball that life or the devil bowls at us in the cricket game of life has been rendered a no-ball by the cross. Every one remains a scoring opportunity, but none can take our wicket.

Life is a ride on an up-escalator. The inexorable upward momentum of the life of Christ makes it well-nigh impossible for us to lose ground. Serious regression takes concerted, sustained effort, for He wills and works for our salvation at all times. We all stumble from time to time, but as we do, the escalator of His loving-kindness continues to carry us into our preferable future. In all things, He works for our good, even if the things themselves are not of Him, and not good. We can rest in Christ and enjoy the blessings and privileges that are ours by unmerited favour.

Ours is the privileged life of the adopted child. The fact is that we are His four times over – He created us; He redeemed (purchased) us; We are born again of Him; and He adopted us. The adoption aspect of it all was transacted by grace in the moment of faith, and it means that we and all of our stuff are His! We have a new name, and it’s His. And so, on the giant school playground of life on earth, who’s your Daddy? No need to submit to the bullies of anxiety, fear, guilt, condemnation and shame, and no need to inflict them on others. Rather, we live secure in the family to which we’ve been added – the community of Father, Son, Holy Spirit and saints.

I want to live for Jesus. I want to live life well. You do too, or else you wouldn’t bother reading this kind of post. Only those who have received the gift of His perfect righteousness can do that, because everything else falls short. But in Christ, that which we do in response to His love, is done in partnership with His perfection and under its banner. The result is ordinary men and women living lives to the glory of God, and doing so in the mundane of the daily, and at times doing extraordinary exploits.

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Water works

waterSevere drought has spawned innumerable initiatives for collecting and delivering water to those most acutely impacted. The challenge presented by dusty reservoirs and dry pipes is being addressed by compassionate people unleashing mercy-filled synergy as together with like-minded others they tap the potential of their interpersonal networks. Their initiatives are organic, practical and flexible, and everyone whose heart is moved can participate. Any container will do. For our household, that means that no plastic container (typically bottle) is discarded, but makes its way to a collection point. No fuss, and for each one who gives, according to their means and circumstance.

What an excellent parable of how the living water of the Gospel should reach every community under the sun. A team effort, unlocked and enriched through interpersonal connections of all kinds, with every believer participating according to their own gifts and callings. Simple, fluid, dynamic, cost effective and compassionate; not over-thought, over-planned or over-engineered. This is surely the recipe for the whole Gospel to go to the whole world in our generation. Let’s simply encourage all believers to get on with it, from the heart, and the Holy Spirit will ensure that there is nothing lacking at the end. Energy- and resource-sapping human organisation and control will give way to breathtaking divine choreography. All that’s needed is a paradigm shift in the hearts and minds of the many.

There’s a second lesson here also, at least as profound as the first. Imagine for a moment that you’re one of those delivering water to drought-stricken Smithfield or Aliwal North. The four trucks pull into the dusty urban township and the residents come flocking. They surround the convoy and cheers and whistles fill the dusty air. Despite the spontaneous nature of it all, these are desperate times, and an orderliness soon prevails. There is something for everyone, and offloading and distributing the liquid gold will be done in a jiffy. But suddenly, and most unexpectedly, things take a rather strange turn. Water that has been donated freely for anyone who has need will only be given to those who qualify for it. The selection criteria are all a bit vague, but those in charge of the particular convoy get to decide who qualifies and who doesn’t.

Such a proposition is outrageous. But does it not approximate the preposterous way in which we Christians at times behave. Salvation is a free gift, fully provided by God, for the whosoever will. Yet depending on our particular church affiliation (convoy), the Gospel is all too easily prejudicially dispensed in accordance with our norms. The love of God is for everyone, we say, but by which we can mean everyone who is repentant enough, serious enough, grateful enough, upright enough, or otherwise deserving enough in our eyes. But the truth is that the Gospel is not just for us, or for people like us, or for the people in a church like ours. It is to be equally lavished upon everyone, for it is intended for all. Indiscriminately, unconditionally, and continually.  All the more, given that Living Water is never in short supply, no matter how dry and sin-ridden the land!

 

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