Exploring Grace: The Divine Paradox

Exploring Grace: The Divine Paradox

By Pastor Ben Hill (Reproduced with permission)

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30

Think back to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Do you remember how the massive pile of rubble, molten steel and unrecognizable human remains became a focal point of terror’s evil? Remember President Bush ascending a rubble pile with a fireman, and with bullhorn in hand proclaiming for the world to hear our Nation’s resolve, our determination to bring to justice those who were responsible for that horrific attack? That section of destroyed land was referred to over and over again as “Ground Zero”.

What is a ground zero? It is a place of origin, an established point of beginning. Can you think of the “ground zero” moments in your own life? For the Child of God, the ultimate “ground zero” moment happened over 2,000 years ago on a hill called Mt. Calvary!

God is perfectly holy, and His justice demanded punishment for sin. The complete wrath of God was poured out against the rebellion of man, at the cross where Jesus suffered and died for OUR sins! It was there that the justice of God was satisfied through the Lord’s sinless sacrifice.

This is where we see the divine paradox of the cross. In that very moment, God unleashes His unbridled punishment of sin but He also reveals His greatest expression of love, mercy, and grace! (Romans 5:8) God the Father gave His Only Son to die so that we don’t have to… this is grace defined! Yet grace is further revealed in the reality that Jesus was not an unwilling sacrifice. He freely laid down His life to pay your death sentence and mine!

O, what a Savior! We are redeemed by the blood of The Lamb!

The ultimate Ground Zero: Jesus died once for all who will surrender to Him.

Pray that you might fully appreciate the divine paradox of grace and that we all might share the love of God everywhere we go.

God’s Tapestry View

God’s Tapestry View

By Pastor Ben Hill (Reproduced with permission)

‘The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”’
Genesis 12:1-3

Most, I’m sure, have heard the analogy that our lives are as tapestries. Viewing a tapestry on a wall, you may see a beautifully woven landscape of brilliantly intermingled color, intricate design and detailed order. And if it is displayed on the wall, it is likely completed. But, if you look at the back, you will find a different scenario. What you will see is a chaotic and jumbled mess of colored threads, hardly revealing the beautiful design just on the other side.

From above earth and above all the heavens, God sits on His mighty throne, and views our lives in a way that we can’t! He sees the finished product: what we will one day be! But from our viewpoint, we can only look up to see the other side; the countless threads of uncertainty, fear, pain and sometimes despair. We see threads, He (God) sees the tapestry! (Do yourself a favor and look up the song “Threads” written by my good friend, Eric Childers. It will bless you.)

Now concerning the context of the scripture you just read: Abram saw through his “Abram eyes.” BUT GOD saw him as Abraham, the Father of Nations — who he would one day be! Abraham was a man of character and a servant of the Almighty Father. Over time, God molded Abraham into what he became: a man who trusted God no matter what.

What about us? As you view your life and circumstance, remember that you are seeing the back side of the tapestry. But God sees you through His Son’s blood – painted, finished and a beautiful masterpiece of a tapestry. And HE calls you forgiven, redeemed, sanctified, and glorified!!

Trust God’s “Tapestry View” and don’t fear the uncertainty of the jumbled perspective we have. God’s got this!!

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control

By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permission)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

We have come to the final fruit of the Spirit and it is self-control. As I have been meditating on it, I have asked myself the following questions: “why is self-control the last of the fruit?” “Is there any significance in the order that they are listed?” Well, while I cannot give a definitive answer to these questions, there does seem to be a strong argument at least for the “bookends” (first and last) being in their respective positions.

Love comes first. That is true in every aspect of the Christian experience. In the Gospel, John 3:16 reads, “For God so LOVED the world that He gave…. His Son…” and in the Christian’s interaction with the lost, as found in Luke 10:27, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, (i.e. love God first – spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually) and your neighbor as yourself.” The truth is that without love, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, I am NOTHING! So, love makes all the other fruits possible, because without love nothing else is genuine.

Likewise, I believe that self-control is the perfect other side of the bank of the fruit of the Spirit “river” that (hopefully) freely flows in our lives as Believers. A river with only one bank (i.e. “love” in this case) is not a river at all but rather just a swamp or marsh. Another bank is required in a river to keep the waters flowing, to keep them contained and effective. Self-control is that “river bank” of the fruits of the Spirit. Without it, the other fruits lose their effectiveness, and even identity. Self-control is required to show true Godly love, necessary to define genuine joy, essential to recognizing peace, a prerequisite for patience, and the absolute boundary that gives kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness credibility. Without self-control, the other fruits, regardless of how much they mean to you, are wasted. Loss of self-control makes the other fruits unbelievable, simply running off into the “swamp” of just another hypocrite.

The truth is that lack of control is what is in the natural man. Take, for instance, a temper tantrum: frustrating but acceptable in a small child, but ridiculous and damaging in a grown adult in the workplace! Paul outlines in painful detail the frightening results of a total lack of self-control in the previous three verses to our passage found in Galatians 5. To navigate the “river” of this life, I submit that if you follow the path that is defined by the “riverbanks” of LOVE and SELF-CONTROL, then the other fruit of the sweet Holy Spirit will be both evident and revealed in our lives!!

 

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

Fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness

By Pastor Ben Hill (Reproduced with permission)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23

Picture, if you will, a beautiful meadow with the wind softly blowing the tall grass and dandelions, a barefoot child in light spring clothing, playing just an arms-length from a laughing and engaged mother, butterflies dancing daintily on the breeze. Or the care with which a mother lifts her newborn from a crib. Perhaps these are the images in your mind when you hear the word “gentleness.”

The word in Galatians that is translated into gentleness is the Greek word, ‘chrēstotēs’. It can also be translated as meekness. This word certainly does not mean “weakness” or “timidity”; rather, it means a humble attitude and appreciation for God, and a polite and restrained demeanor when dealing with our fellow man. The fruit of the Holy Spirit in a maturing and surrendered Christian is manifested as strength and authority, cushioned by humble and respectful (or gentle) dealings with others. Notice it doesn’t mean questioning or turning away from truth or the strength of one’s convictions. It is similar to the way submission to God and His control brings an ability to correct others with ease and patience rather than with an argument in anger and resentment.

As I was preparing my amazing father’s funeral message, God kept directing me to the fact that, looking back, I could clearly see the evidence of all the Fruits of the Spirit in my father’s life! But, the one that seemed most prominent to me was this one, “gentleness.” Daddy was indeed a Spirit-filled and “gentle” gentleman. He had the conviction to boldly and unapologetically preach the Truth of God’s Word, while at the same time treating everyone with kindness, humility, and respect…yes, with gentleness.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in this excerpt from his poem “The Village Blacksmith,” paints a wonderful word-picture of this strength and power, wrapped in soft velvet:

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man…

Then he tells of the blacksmith sitting in church listening to his daughter sing:

It sounds to him like her mother’s voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Be gentle and show the love of Christ!

 

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

By Pastor Ben Hill (Reproduced with permission)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

In a today’s culture, where opportunism and self-appeasement are so prevalent, it can be discouraging to try to find “faithful” people. The primary word translated to “faith” from the New Testament Greek is pistis, which is the same word used for “faithfulness.” Therefore, it represents both assurance and belief. When we think of faithfulness as in Galatians 5:22, it is generally thought of as “reliability.”

It is interesting, I believe, that in the Greek, ‘pistis’ is used for both faith (a quantitative commodity) and faithfulness (a measurable attribute), as they are different in definition but connected from the same root in meaning. You see, the faith in the Lord that we have is in direct proportion to, and indeed developed by, our exercising of faithfulness. The Bible provides a direct definition of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (see Heb 11:1). The only way to build the quantifiable substance of faith is to practice faithfulness!

I hate to admit it, but I am repeatedly guilty of waiting on God to miraculously endow me with any faith that is required whenever a crisis hits. But although God does often give me the faith required, the need for a miracle keeps repeating itself. However, if I were to exercise faithfulness daily, hourly or even minute by minute, the things that are considered crises now would be relegated to minor bumps in the road that we all travel!

Paul establishes faithfulness as a bedrock of Christian living when in 2 Timothy 2:2 he says, “And the things that you have heard from me, among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” It is said: “practice makes perfect” but I profoundly disagree! Only perfect practice makes perfect! God gives us all the gifts we need to “practice” perfectly. So keep swinging as life throws curve balls and fastballs down and in…but just keep swinging.

Looking at each one of the “fruits of the Spirit” individually has certainly called to attention to so much that is lacking in my life! What about yours? Just a thought…for the day.