Advent at the Chapel: Salvation is by Grace

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SALVATION IS BY GRACE

by Nick and Diana Laninga
In the fall of man we lost our ability to choose what is good or right. Our
problem is that all mankind is under the bondage of the will. After the fall,
our natural hearts are not inclined toward God. We would not nor could our
will choose God. We are under the bondage of sin and cannot be freed from
this slavery except by the GRACE of regeneration. We need a Savior !

God alone regenerates. As Ephesians 2:1 puts it:
“ And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sin”
4 “BUT GOD who is rich in 
mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.
5 even when we 
were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with CHRIST.
8. For 
by GRACE you have been saved through FAITH, and that not of yourselves it
is the GIFT of GOD.
{ See the beauty of this it is all of GOD } Not only is 
GRACE a gift but so is the FAITH to believe His gift. It is all of God who regenerates us and gives us the FAITH to believe.
Titus 3:4-7. IT IS ALL 
OF GOD !!!

We now stand in this GRACE under the covering of CHRIST, the state of
acceptance and unmerited favor before God. Here we need a word of
warning. So often we hear that glorious song “Amazing Grace” it is at the
top of the charts of songs so often “performed” at so many tragic situations
and funerals; but many are those who never take a second glance at the
message. We must never lose the wonder of Grace. Be humble “ Lord be
merciful to me a sinner ! Thank you for the GRACE I do not deserve and sing
“ I know not why God’s wondrous GRACE to me He has made known, nor
why unworthy Christ in love redeemed me for His own.
Please take the time to listen and read the words to Horatius Boner song. “
“ NOT WHAT MY HANDS HAVE DONE “

After the song pray the prayer that is in the prologue to the song.
PRAYER
LORD; please forgive us when we presume upon Your GRACE. Let us
understand the graciousness of that GRACE that we might move from life to
life, from FAITH to FAITH, and from GRACE to GRACE that we might
understand that we are saved through FAITH and even that faith is of You.
So there is not of him who runs, not of him who wills, but of THEE who
shows us mercy. AMEN !!!

YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU DO BUT WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST.
YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH ONLY HE IS.
Let us praise the GOD of GRACE. “CORAM DEO” Is to live one’s entire life in
the presence of GOD, under the authority of GOD, to the GLORY of GOD.
Have a blessed Christmas full of grace.

 

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Advent at the Chapel: Giving Up Self-Determination

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“Jesus gives us the courage to give up our right to self-determination.”

by Nate Gibson (Tokyo)

Recently, my nine-and-a-half month old daughter discovered a taste for french toast, but under one particular condition: that my wife and I allow her to feed it to herself.  She will not accept it if we try to put it directly in her mouth, but if we put the thin strip of toast in her hand, she devours it eagerly, and with startling haste.  She makes a mess in the process, and as of now, still struggles to maneuver the last morsel from the palm of her hand into her mouth, but she simply will not have it any other way.

From a young age, before we are even able to articulate what we are doing, we fight tooth and nail for the right to self-determination.  We long to make our own decisions, and not have them made for us.

This desire only intensifies with age as we experience and enjoy greater levels of autonomy.

Society, too, preaches the importance of self-determination–to individuals, to communities, to nations, even–albeit in ways and to an extent that may cause Christians to be uncomfortable with the very term.

I find the subject of self-determination fascinating and, in fact, dedicate an entire two-month unit of my school-year to studying the concepts of agency, individualism and victimhood with my 11th graders, digging into Scripture, history, literature and current events in order to navigate the difference between each of these topics, and their implications for our pursuit of justice in a broken world.  It is my favorite unit to teach, and often, my students’ favorite unit of the year, as well.

To sum up two months of Humanities class in a sentence: making an idol of self-determination is foolish and destructive, but the fact remains that our ability to make decisions, whatever the consequences may be, is a fundamental piece of what it means to be human, and moreover, a key component of our identity as God’s image-bearers.

Former Michigan state congressman and Pepperdine political science professor Stephen Monsma writes in Healing for a Broken World that while God could have made Adam and Eve without free choice, “If he had done so, we would not have sinned, but we would have been less than God’s image-bearers.”  Monsma goes on to describe the importance of pursuing public policies that “make possible–but do not force–creative, joyful, loving lives of service to others.”  Similarly, Bob Lupton, founder of Focused Community Strategies Ministries and author of Toxic Charity sharply criticizes charitable actions that overlook or strip away the freedom of the poor or oppressed to make their own decisions.

Pastor Tim Keller echoes this in Generous Justice in a discussion of community development, citing urban pastor Mark Gornik as he says that “The community residents themselves must be the main ‘locus of analysis and planning’ and they must be in control of the type and pace of change that will affect their families, lives, and economic life.”  Simply put, doing justice means ensuring that the vulnerable have a voice, protecting and preserving their right to make their own decisions.

The prompt for this reflection, also adapted from Keller, reads, “Jesus gives us the courage to give up our right to self-determination.”  Given what a cherished right self-determination is, given how tightly we grasp onto it, and given just how easily it can become an idol, this is an unsettling challenge for us to hear.

As my young daughter is quickly discovering, we all struggle to relinquish our sense of control.  Those moments when we find our agency taken away from us cause us to feel profound disequilibrium.  So, we insist all the more fiercely upon having our way, and any call to self-denial can seem like madness.

And yet, as we examine Christ’s life, this is precisely the pattern we find laid out for us.

Jesus modeled the ultimate sacrifice of self-determination as he surrendered his will by “becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:8).

Self-determination may be a right, but we know all too well that just like in Eden, when we are left to our own devices, we stray.  Like my daughter eating her french toast, our desire to make our own decisions more often than not leaves behind a mess.  This does not cancel out our obligation to protect the agency of the vulnerable, and it certainly does not justify stripping away self-determination from others. Having self-determination forcibly taken away is not remotely the same as surrendering it–the latter is a significant act of faith and the former is not.

Although surrendering our right to self-determination is a leap of faith, it is not a leap into the dark. Jesus’ sacrifice and his triumph over sin and death ought to give us confidence–when we surrender all to him, we can trust that he will not lead us astray.  When we take up our cross and follow, we can be assured, once and for all, that we have made the right decision.

As we look ahead expectantly to Christmas, may we have the courage to pray, as Jesus did, “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Advent at the Chapel: Jesus Gives Us Courage

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Jesus Gives Us Courage to Take the World’s Disdain

 by Tate Garrett

About a month ago, I began work on a persuasive speech that I was to deliver to an audience of both my public speaking class and anyone from the college campus who wished to attend. My subject was one that, ever since I was little, my Grandpa and parents had taught me about; the scientific evidence for Biblical Creation. But of course, a topic as vast as this can only be skimmed by the shallowest of margins in the 10 minutes I had to deliver my speech.

As I went about my preparations, one school day came when we were broken into small groups and assigned to give each other feedback on the progress we had made on our speeches. When my turn came, I realized very quickly that the three students with me were all atheists who believed that life originated without God. They believed in the view that currently prevails today; science proves that life evolved over hundreds of millions of years and the idea that any involvement of a higher power is a matter of faith only, and therefore wholly unscientific. In their minds, there was as much logic or science behind my thesis as there is behind the idea that the world is flat, though they did not say this out loud – they were polite and considerate, as most of us tend to be, though their disagreement was plain. Afterwards, when I thought more critically about my audience rather than my subject matter, I realized that almost all of the people I would be speaking to would likely believe that what I had to say was merely religion – which is itself a leftover of older “less evolved” times when humans attributed what they did not understand to mythical supernatural powers – masquerading as science.

The realization that what I had to say would likely be disdained by most of my classmates, even if they were too polite to say so openly, changed my approach to the speech drastically, and it also opened my eyes more to what Christ calls us to do. He does not call us to be right and to lord the unassailable truth we possess over our unbelieving peers. He calls us to be faithful, and to be his image bearers to the world. And the image he bore was not one of superiority or haughtiness, but of servanthood and humility. We may be right; right about the origin of life, right about the reason for our existence, and right about what will happen in this life and the next, but that is not enough to convince people to believe in Jesus. Convincing them to believe requires more than mere facts; it requires us to know them, and to know them we must open our hearts and accept all the vulnerabilities that entails so that Jesus can reach them through us. It means being willing to take the world’s disdain, because trying to disdain the world because of its sin will only alienate it from us and fill us with selfish pride.

No matter how many facts and evidences I threw at my audience, I would never be able to make them believe the universe was created by God; beating people over the head with facts, no matter how true or compelling they are, would only foster stubbornness, and close their minds to my message, because all they would be able to see is me. And all of me they would see is a threat to the existence of their worldview, rather than an expansion or revolution of it. And so, I realized that it is better to use facts as a defense and Jesus’s love as our offense, even though it will mean taking the disdain of the world upon our shoulders.

But what consequence is human disdain if it gains us treasures in heaven? When my speech was finished, it was aimed, not at forcing people to believe in Creationism through the evidence that supported it, but at encouraging people to debate the validity of Creationism based on the evidences that appear to support it. In this there is the possibility that even one person might talk with someone else who understands Biblical creation, and so be exposed to Jesus in a personal conversation rather than by me hurling facts at them in an auditorium.

Jesus gives us the courage to face whatever challenges, temptations, and difficulties life holds for us; we need not fear the disdain of the world, because we have the love of the one who made it.

 

Advent at the Chapel: Infinite Comfort to the Suffering

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by Emily Gibson

Jesus brings infinite comfort to the suffering

17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Hebrews 2:17-18

 

At seventeen years old, I thought I had things all figured out.  I was a good student heading off to college and felt confident about who I was becoming.  I had attended church all my life but my commitment to my faith was actually waning rather than strengthening.

In anticipation of college tuition bills, I took a summer job at a local nursing home for $1.25 an hour as a nurses’ aide.  My training was two days following a more experienced aide on her rounds of feeding, pottying, dressing and undressing, and bathing her elderly patients.  Then I was assigned patients of my own and during a typical shift I carried a load of 13 patients.  It didn’t take long for me to learn the rhythm of caretaking, and I enjoyed the work and my patients.

One woman in particular remains vivid in my memory 46 years later.  Betty was in her 80’s, bedridden with a painful bone disease that had crippled her for a decade or more.  She was unable to do any of her own self care but her mind remained sharp and her eyes bright.  Her hearty greeting cheered me when I’d come in her room several times a shift to turn her in her bed to prevent pressure sores on her hips and shoulders.  The simple act of turning her in her bed was an ordeal beyond imagining.  I would prepare her for the turn by cushioning her little body with pads and pillows, but no matter how careful I was, her bones would crackle and crunch like Rice Crispies cereal with every movement.  Tears would flow from her eyes and she’d always call out “Oh Oh Oh Oh” during the process but then once settled in her new position, she’d look up at me and say “thank you, dear, for making that so much easier for me.”  I would nearly weep in gratitude at her graciousness in her suffering.

Before I’d leave the room, Betty would grab my hand and ask when I would be returning.  Then she’d  say “I rejoice in the Lord” and she would murmur a prayer to herself.

As difficult as each “turning” was for both of us, I started to look forward to it.  I knew she prayed not only for herself, but I knew she prayed for me as well.  I felt her blessing each time I walked into her room knowing she was waiting for me.

One evening I came to work and was told Betty was running a high fever, and struggling to breathe.  She was being given oxygen and was having difficulty taking fluids.  The nurse I worked under thought she was likely to pass away on my shift and asked that I check her more frequently than my usual routine.

As I approached her bed, Betty reached out and held my hand.  She was still alert but very weak.  She looked me in the eye and said “Do you know our Lord?  He is coming for me today.”   I could think of nothing more to say than “I know you have waited for Him a long time.”   I returned to her room as often as I could and found her becoming less responsive, yet still breathing, sometimes short shallow breaths and sometimes long and deep.  Near the end of my shift, as morning was dawning, when I entered the room, I knew He had come.

She lay silent and relaxed for the first time since I had met her.  Her little body, so tight with pain only hours before, seemed at ease.  It was my job to prepare her for the mortuary workers who would come for her shortly.  Her body still warm to touch, I washed and dried her skin and brushed her hair and wrapped her in a fresh sheet, knowing now I could turn her with no pain and no tears.

I could see a trace of a smile at the corners of her mouth.  I knew the Lord had greeted her and carried her from this bed Himself.

I rejoice in the glory of the Lord and am comforted in my difficult days, thanks to Betty.  She showed me what it means to watch for the morning when He will come.  Immobile in bed, crippled and wracked with pain, her faith led to loving a teenage girl uncertain in her faith.  Betty had brought the Lord home to me as she went home to Him.

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

Advent at the Chapel: A Life of Service

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Jesus Inspires a Life of Service

by Esther Meyer

 

Jesus served his disciples by washing their feet.

The Lord said:
Go out into the world and bring the good news to all people.
Serve the Lord with gladness  with all your heart and mind and soul.
Do to others as you would like them to do to you and you will receive your just reward.

Jesus commands us to a  life of serving others: a kind word is the same as serving.

Show love to all mankind.

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

Advent at the Chapel: The Courage to Admit We are Sinners

 

Jesus gives us the courage to admit we are sinners

by Lance Crumley

 

Tick…Tock…Tick…Tock
What is wrong with this clock?

It goes around and makes a sound,
something is wrong with this clock!

The dime goes in…
I should be told the time…
I paid the money, did the work.

Tick…Tock…
something is still wrong with the clock.

I’ve pondered a lot,
life is not what I thought.
It’s not the maker or the clock.
I cannot see,
blinded by the sin that covers this clock.
In recognition of the sin,
that’s the path to see the clock.

Tick…Tock…
through the sin I see the clock!

It’s hard to hear a whisper-
when the soul is cluttered with sin
I recognize the sin was my first step
to redemption.

I still hear the Bell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

Advent at the Chapel: Christ is With Us

by Jan Lovegren
Hear Jesus’ prayer for us from John 17:20,25&26,
“My prayer is not for them, (the disciples), alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
  Those are the most wonderful words we could know, “God with us”. I can hear the choir sing that from “The Messiah”. So what do we do about that? Do we take time and listen to what the maker of the universe has to say to us? Sometimes. We live in a very busy world with things coming at us from everywhere. How hard it is to quiet myself and listen to the King of Glory who lives in me. But, if we are to live our life in Jesus we must.

  I have been texting on school mornings to my grand-kids and a few other loved ones a short devotional to start their school day with the Lord. I am amazed at what it has done for my heart. Pulling myself out of bed early has not been easy. In fact, a real battle. Then who do I meet with? My Lord and Savior! By faith…being sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see. That’s hard, the already but the not yet. I can see, touch and hear my loved ones. But Jesus comes to me in those secret places, while I read his word, hear a song or soak up his beautiful creation.

  My husband collects songs for us to listen to. I have been lifted so many times out of the every day when I listen to those songs, specially picked by him for us.

  One of the latest really spoke to the precious time we have when we force ourselves to be still and know that he is God. “Be self controlled so that you can pray”. Spending time with our Savior and Redeemer.

  So here are the words to this song and the song itself. It’s country, simple and maybe not a theology lesson like so many of our wonderful hymns. But it blessed my heart with the blessedness of meeting with the Lord. And isn’t that what Advent is all about, pointing  us to Him?

 

There’s a swing on the back porch where I sit in the morning
when the sun is slowly rising with a Bible on my knee
and at the last swallow of coffee
I’ll just sit there in your presence for a while
let your spirit come and move all over me

Thank you Lord for everything you’ve given me.
You’ve provided every need both big and small
more than all of the blessing that you pour out every day,
Your presence is my favorite gift of all

Sometimes late at night when the kids are asleep,
I’ll go out into the yard and just listen to the night
and I can feel your holy spirit as a whippoorwill leads nature in a praise song
every critter in the forest seems to cry out.

More than all of the blessings that you pour out every day,
your presence is my favorite gift of all

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas