Saturday, July 18, 2009

Definitions of Grace, cont.

Noun
2. (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings; a divinely given talent or blessing; the condition or fact of being favored by someone

How cool is 2a? All I have to do is believe it. And what's really fun is being a Handbook leader in the Sparks Club of our local AWANA. During Handbook time, Sparkies (K-2nd grade) memorize and recite Bible verses, learning more and more about God and his favor. I *love* the sections in the AWANA Hiker Handbook that show Sparkies that "the Bible is a map from God [telling] us the way to heaven and what to do along the way." (p.14)

  • Sin is disobeying God's Word, and everyone has sinned. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  • According to the Bible, God's punishment for our sin is: 1) We are separated from God forever. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 ...will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord... 2) Our bodies die. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Being good most of the time won't make God forget my sin. James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. And being good all the time won't make God forget my sin. Titus 3:5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy...
  • Jesus took the punishment for our sin by dying on the cross for us. 1 Peter 2:24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree...
  • We can be saved from the punishment for our sin by believing that Jesus Christ took our punishment when He died in our place on the cross. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ... Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, That He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Acts 16:31 ..."Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved..." John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life... (AWANA Hiker Handbook, 2004. pp. 16-20)
That progression is an amazing thing: We all sin --> We're all punished for our sin --> We can't make God forget about our sin --> Jesus died for our sin --> If we believe that Jesus died for our sin, we don't have to be punished. The free and unmerited favor of God.

In some people, the "talent" of Definition 2b is obvious. Artists, musicians, athletes, scientists, people of outstanding courage all come to our attention daily. Less tangible or visible talents also abound. Walter Cronkite passed away a few days ago. His trustworthiness is being proclaimed far and wide. In other people, talents can be hard to recognize, I think. A few years ago, our church called for parishoners to consider their talents for volunteering within the church. The pastor pointed out that talents could include being good with numbers or with repairs or with children. That got me to thinking: Just what is my talent? I can easily see all the things that I'm NOT: musical, artistic (How I lament this lack!), brave, athletic, etc. But I don't want to define my life by what I'm not. (Had enough of that with my in-laws, thanks! NOT Catholic, NOT Irish, NOT thin, NOT frugal.) I want to define my life by what I am (in those days of family judgment, AM Christian, AM American, AM comfortable with myself, AM living within my means!), which circles me back to the question of what my talent is.

I'm (apparently annoyingly) organized. This, I think, comes from the Asperger's trait in me that craves structure, but for whatever reason, I break things down into their component parts and organize them accordingly. I can listen. I'm listed as first contact person for the Autism Spectrum Support Group in our county and take a lot of calls. Some people just want to know when the next meeting is, but some want to vent and some desperately need a person to hear their concerns. And despite the fact that I no longer pull in a paycheck, I know I can teach -- doesn't really matter what though it used to be English As a Second Language (ESL). My friend once said that a good teacher can teach from the phone book. I expect she's right; I've thought of many a lesson I could teach from it.

I heard Joel Osteen once talking about putting on God's crown of favor because He *wants* to give me His many blessings. "When you choose to receive and acknowledge His blessings by faith, you open the door for His bounty, His supernatural blessing to overwhelm you in every area of your life!" Joel Osteen, 7/8/09 *Remembering* to think this way takes some effort, but what another pretty cool blessing.

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