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In my last post, I brought up the question of whether the laws that were given in the Old Testament still apply to us. If some of the laws on food restriction don’t apply, do any of the others? In a sense, no. But, you might argue, does that mean that it’s okay to lie and murder and steal, since we don’t have to obey those laws anymore? Of course not! Just because we are no longer under the old covenant, doesn’t mean there is no covenant at all. To begin with, we are told in Romans 13:1-7 that we must obey whatever authorities are in place; they have been appointed by God.

Then in Romans 13:8-10, the Apostle Paul boils it down for us. In Romans 13:7, he had just instructed his readers to pay their debts, and to give to others what is due them. Now in Romans 13:8, he tells us that once we have paid our debts, we should owe nothing to anyone, except for love. Love is an obligation that though we pay it, it will never cease to be an obligation. We must love, not because we have some highly emotional feeling that attracts us to someone else, and therefore we want to show our affection. The love being discussed in this passage is agape love, the unconditional love that Christ has for us and that He commands us to have for one another. We are to have concern for every other person on this earth because that is what Christ requires of us. We will certainly need the power of the Holy Spirit within us to accomplish this.

Perhaps the Pharisees liked to have rules because it gave them structure and boundaries. Perhaps they found following the rules easier than loving others. They thought that Jesus was flouting their law, their authority and their tradition, but Jesus said, “I did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law.” (Matthew 5:17) He also said that the greatest commandments were to love God, and to love others. (Matthew 22:36-40, John 13:34) We are now under a new covenant with God, based not on law but on His grace. If we follow the guidelines of that covenant—loving each other—we won’t have to worry about breaking Old Testament laws.

I believe that the grace of God is much more amazing than we as humans can comprehend, and yet it is available to each one of us. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes the dire situation that the human race was left in because of Adam’s sin. Then verse 4 starts with “But God”. It begins the explanation we find in Ephesians 2:4-7 of God’s mercy and grace. Mercy means that we are not given the punishment that we deserve. Grace means that we are given the salvation that we don’t deserve. Both are given to us because of Christ, a fact that is repeated three times in these four verses, and they are gifts that are available to anyone, even the thief who was minutes from death on the cross beside Jesus. Because of Christ we have been transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life. We have been raised up in Him, and when this life is over we will be with Him in the heavenly realms. Spiritually, we are already there. This was made possible only because He loved us enough to die as a sacrifice in our place. Can you even begin to imagine this?!

I am also encouraged by Ephesians 2:7 which tells us that the surpassing wealth of His grace will be demonstrated to us in the coming ages. It is only going to get better and better. We will continue to know God more and more, but what I find most uplifting is that we are not expected to know it all right now. God’s love and grace is beyond what we can fathom, but there is a lot that He has already made known to us as well. He has given us the gift of the scriptures, His Holy Word, so that we might learn more about Him and His great love at our own pace. No pressure. It’s a gift.

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  • Before accepting Christ we lived in darkness.  Even if we did "good" things, we were unholy in God's sight.  (Ephesians 2:1-2)
  • Without Christ to intercede for us, we deserve nothing but wrath from God, but God is merciful, and He loves us SO much that He sent Christ to pay our way.  Thank you God for Your grace!  (Ephesians 2:3-5)
  • When we accept salvation through Christ's sacrifice, God gives us the same status as Christ has. (Ephesians 2:6)
  • We have not yet seen the full extent of God's grace.  (Ephesians 2:7)
  • It is only by God's grace that we are saved from His wrath.  There is nothing that we can do to earn our own salvation.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • We are God's masterpiece--a work of art.  We were created with a purpose, to do good works.  (Ephesians 2:10)
  • It is only through Christ Jesus that we can be brought near to God. (Ephesians 2:13)
  • Jesus came to bring peace for all. (Ephesians 2:14)
  • It is not about legalism anymore. (Ephesians 2:15)
  • Jesus' purpose was to reconcile us to God. (Ephesians 2:16)
  • Through Christ we are now members of God's family. (Ephesians 2:19)
  • We were made to be a dwelling place for God's Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
  • Ephesians 2 starts out discussing the spirit who lives in the disobedient, and ends by saying that we were made for God's Spirit.  We have a spirit living in us one way or the other.  Both spirits want a place in our hearts, but we get to choose which one stays.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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  • We have been blessed with ALL spiritual blessings in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)
  • We were chosen to be holy and blameless in His sight before the world was created.  (Ephesians 1:4)
  • God intended for us to be a part of His family through Christ.  We do not have to plead for this privilege; we only have to accept the invitation.  (Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:11)
  • God's grace and forgiveness are given to us through Christ's sacrifice.  His grace does not depend on us or on anything that we may or may not do.  (Ephesians 1:7-8)
  • When we hear the truth of God's gift of salvation and accept it, we are given the Holy Spirit as a seal--a family crest.  The Holy Spirit should shine through us and be a sign of to whom we belong, but the Holy Spirit is also our assurance, a deposit to guarantee our inheritance from God. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
  • Spiritual wisdom and revelation are available from God. (Ephesians 1:17, James 1:5)
  • Believing comes first, and then the eyes of our hearts are enlightened. Faith is required. (Ephesians 1:18,Believing Is Seeing)
  • His power is made available to us.  The extent of His power was demonstrated when He raised Jesus from the dead.  (Ephesians 1:19-21)
  • God gave Jesus authority over the church (those who believe).  (Ephesians 1:22)
  • The church is Christ's body, His representation on earth.  (Ephesians 1:23)

Please share your thoughts on Ephesians 1 in the comment section.

I often hear my friends say that they feel guilty about one thing or another. Why is it that we feel guilty? Are we brought up that way? If we are in Christ Jesus, there is no reason to feel guilty. (Romans 8:1)

Romans 8:33-34 asks us who can bring any charge against us. Who can condemn us? Since it is God who justifies us, no one can bring a charge against us. No one can overrule His verdict. There is no higher court of appeal. Since it was Christ who died as a penalty for our sins, and since the power to judge us has been given to Him, (John 5:27) only He can condemn us. But He does not. He is interceding for us. He is taking our requests to the Father even when we can’t articulate them. (Romans 8:26)

Don’t get me wrong. There are consequences to our actions when we do things that we shouldn’t, and we do still have to abide by the laws of our land. We have, however, already been forgiven for all of these things. The price has been paid, and there is no eternal condemnation. Yes, there will still be trials and struggles, but God has overcome all of these things, and they are temporary. We can have hope and assurance of salvation.

If we do our best to make decisions with a pure heart and right motives, we should have no reason to feel guilty. It is the forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12) that are fighting against us and trying to make us less effective by deceiving us this way. If you are feeling guilty about anything, examine your reasons. Have you done something that you need to rectify? Do you need to ask forgiveness of someone? If so, remember that you are already forgiven by God, but you need to take the necessary steps to fix things with your friend or family member. (Matthew 18:15) If not, tell Satan to get out of your face. (Mark 8:33)

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I believe that the grace of God is much more amazing than we as humans can comprehend, and yet it is available to each one of us. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes the dire situation that the human race was left in because of Adam’s sin. Then verse 4 starts with “But God”. It begins the explanation we find in Ephesians 2:4-7 of God’s mercy and grace. Mercy means that we are not given the punishment that we deserve. Grace means that we are given the salvation that we don’t deserve. Both are given to us because of Christ, a fact that is repeated three times in these four verses, and they are gifts that are available to anyone, even the thief who was minutes from death on the cross beside Jesus. Because of Christ we have been transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life. We have been raised up in Him, and when this life is over we will be with Him in the heavenly realms. Spiritually, we are already there. This was made possible only because He loved us enough to die as a sacrifice in our place. Can you even begin to imagine this?!

I am also encouraged by Ephesians 2:7 which tells us that the surpassing wealth of His grace will be demonstrated to us in the coming ages. It is only going to get better and better. We will continue to know God more and more, but what I find most uplifting is that we are not expected to know it all right now. God’s love and grace is beyond what we can fathom, but there is a lot that He has already made known to us as well. He has given us the gift of the scriptures, His Holy Word, so that we might learn more about Him and His great love at our own pace. No pressure. It’s a gift.

In Romans 5:1-11 Paul discusses the benefits of being justified by faith. Years ago, I memorized Romans 5:1-2 in the New International Version: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

First of all, we are justified by faith. I once heard someone define the term justified as “just [as] if I’d” never sinned. Through faith, and only by faith, we are worthy to share in the benefits that Paul describes here. They are gifts given through the grace of God to those who believe. The NET Bible translates “justified” as “declared righteous”. We don’t start out righteous, but we don’t have to clean ourselves up before we can be accepted by God. All we have to do is have faith, believe. (Romans 4:3-5)

The term peace here does not simply mean a contented feeling, but a state of peace. It is not the peace of God, but peace with God. We are not on opposing sides. We can join God’s team, and the only way to get on the team is if we are justified by faith. And this is only possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus acts as a mediator for us to reconcile us to God. As soon as we make the decision, we are at peace with God. So, our faith plus Jesus gets us access to God’s grace. We no longer have to worry about God’s wrath because He is surrounding us with His grace, His undeserved favour. It was grace that allowed us to be justified by faith in the first place.

This all brings us to the hope of the glory of God. Hope, as it is used in the New Testament, is not defined as wishful thinking but as expectation. We expect to see the glory of God; we are looking forward to seeing the glory of God—to see God as He truly is. We know that we will see God clearly in eternity, but we can also see glimpses of God’s glory now if we keep our spiritual eyes open. (Titus 2:11-13, I Corinthians 13:12)

Sometimes we can get discouraged by all the things that we have to face in life, and maybe we sometimes think that God is punishing us. He’s not. It’s true that we may have to face the consequences of our unwise choices, but this is not punishment, because, if we are justified by faith, we are no longer under God’s wrath. If we dwell on the promises of these two verses, perhaps our hope will be renewed. What we are going through today is small in the light of eternity. Even still, God is on our side.

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A few days ago, a friend shared a photo on Facebook that I thought represented Psalm 91:4 beautifully. I shared it on the Memos From God Facebook page. I particularly like that verse in the New International Version: He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge. In my Bible a feather marks that page.

Psalm 91 is one of the most reassuring chapters in the Bible. First of all, it tells us that God who is sovereign, almighty and trustworthy will rescue us and protect us. The words are figurative and symbolic, but surely that is their message. It goes on to tell us of all the kinds of dangers from which we will be protected, and assures us that He will be there for us to save us. That all sounds excellent, but is it true? The Bible also tells us that we are guaranteed to face trouble, (John 16:33) and this Psalm doesn’t tell us that we won’t see those dangers, only that they won’t overtake us. But how do you explain the fact that faithful Christians suffer—disease, tragic circumstances, financial ruin—and sometimes die at a very young age? Where is the truth of Psalm 91 then?

Two particular circumstances come to mind—the death of several friends at too young an age, and the fact that Albert Chretien is still missing in the Nevada wilderness after seven months. How can we say that those people are protected from all the dangers in the world? Perhaps the sense of being protected as described in these verses is not the same as avoiding trying circumstances altogether. Perhaps all the trying circumstances we go through have a purpose, something to teach us. Perhaps it means that we will be rescued from them in the life to come. Perhaps we need to dwell in the shelter of the Most High, rather than just visit occasionally, in order to experience this refuge. Perhaps we just can’t imagine how awful life could possibly be without God’s protection, a protection that we actually experience without fully realizing it. John Calvin has said, “When we look back on our life from the perspective of eternity, we are going to see that the power of Satan was so great, that the weakness of our flesh was feeble, and that the hostility of the world was so strong, that every day of our lives—if God had not intervened—we would never have made it through a day.”

What I do know is this: God knows better than I do. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that His ways are not like our ways. Just as the sky is higher than the earth, so His deeds and plans are higher than ours. And His grace is sufficient. (II Corinthians 12:9) Whatever trials we have to go through, He will give us the strength to endure them. What we need to do is trust Him, and be devoted and loyal to Him. (Psalm 91:14) He will take care of the rest.

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Update:
Al Chretien has not yet been found, and I would like to ask for extra prayer right now as hunters begin to enter the area for deer hunting season. This is Al's best chance of being found before winter returns.

Rita Chretien has now shared her story publicly. You can see the report here.

We are only two days away from the 10th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, known simply as 9/11. On that date, 2, 977 people died, beginning with the 87 people who were on board Flight 11 out of Boston, the first plane to hit the towers. One person who did not die that day was Steve Scheibner, the pilot originally scheduled to take that flight.

On September 10, 2011, the American Airlines computer showed one flight for the next day as unassigned—Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles. It listed only one pilot who was available to take that flight—Steve Scheibner. The procedure was that any available pilot could ask to take the flight, but there was only a 30 minute window of time, starting at 3:00 p.m. on September 10, when the request could be made. The most senior pilot would be given the flight. A telephone call would come from American Airlines to confirm, and once that happened, the pilot would not be changed. Steve Scheibner was penciled in to take that flight, but during the 30 minute window, Tom McGuinness called to ask if he could take it. Since he had seniority, the flight was given to Tom.

Tom McGuinness did not know that he would be giving his life for Steve Scheibner that day. When Christ gave his life for us, He knew, and He gave it willingly. Matthew 8:17 quotes Isaiah 53:5 when it says that He took our weaknesses and carried our diseases. This does not mean that we will not face illness, or that we will be healed from all of our illnesses here on earth, but it does mean that we will be healed of all our illnesses at the Second Coming of Christ. I Corinthians 15:26 tells us that death will be the last enemy to be eliminated. Revelation 21:4 tells us that when Christ returns, death and mourning and pain will no longer exist. Hallelujah! I’m looking forward to that day.

Because of Tom McGuinness, Steve Scheibner’s physical life was saved. Because of Christ, we can be saved for eternal life. You, however, have to make the choice to believe and accept the gift. (Acts 10:43, John 1:12, John 3:18, John 20:31)

In Canada, it is the last day of summer, the day before school starts. To mark the occasion today's post celebrates summer and perseverance. It is a review of the movie Soul Surfer by Meg Korpi and Rusty Wright.

Kauai, 2003. A 14-foot tiger shark bursts through the waves and tears off 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton’s left arm. She loses 60 percent of her blood, and faces the end of her pro surfing dreams. Three months later, the unstoppable teen is surfing competitively again.

If you’re looking for inspiration to thrive in tough times or to appreciate life more fully, Soul Surfer—the movie based on Hamilton’s brush with death and remarkable comeback—will knock your socks off. The Sony Pictures release, starring AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, and Carrie Underwood opened across North America in April, and was available on DVD August 2, 2011.

Fantastic Surfing, Tough Competition, Heart-stopping Tragedy, Strong Character

The film’s breathtaking surfing footage and heart-pounding athletic competition will appeal to sports enthusiasts. But Bethany’s true story of gut-wrenching tragedy, driven character, and hard-won victory is what makes Soul Surfer worth seeing.

Pre-attack, Bethany (Robb) is a lighthearted kid, as well as a skilled surfer. (At 13, she ranked #2 among females 18-and-under in the USA.) After the attack, Bethany emerges as poised and determined, with a well-grounded spirit. Where does a 13-year-old gain the inner strength to remain surprisingly positive while adapting to a missing limb and rebuilding athletic prowess?

Why This? Why Me?

After the attack, Bethany struggles with the mundane (ever try slicing a tomato with one hand?), the profound (how could this be God’s plan?), and the weighty (“will a boy ever like me with only one arm?”). In addition, as a champion surfer driven by love of the sport, Bethany confronts the likely loss of her career: How could she possibly paddle a surfboard, one-armed, through breaking surf, much less re-conquer championship surfing maneuvers?

“I don’t need easy; I just need possible”

But a love of God also drives Bethany. In a story line that some may see as contrived, but which reflects actual events, her youth group leader, Sarah Hill (Underwood), encourages her with the biblical assurance: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘…plans for good and not for harm, to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)

As Bethany learns to rely on this truth, it compels here. With dogged determination, she decides to tackle surfing again. She seeks help from her father (Quaid).

“It’s not going to be easy,” he cautions.

“I don’t need easy,” replies Bethany. “I just need possible.”

Inspiring Role Model

At the film’s NYC premiere, director Sean McNamara offered insight into Bethany’s remarkable fortitude. “Her faith was amazing. I watched her overcome adversity and [attribute it to her] faith in Jesus Christ … I’d been through years of Catholic school, but it’s different when you actually see someone walk the walk and talk the talk.”

This film will not necessarily please moviegoers who expect dark drama and gore from a shark-attack movie. Skeptics will likely scoff at the portrayal of Bethany’s resilience and positive attitude. In fact, the filmmakers toned down the real Bethany’s indomitable spirit for fear audiences wouldn’t find her believable. “They kept wanting [her character] to act sad in the hospital,” Bethany’s brother Noah told us, “but she wasn’t like that. She was upbeat.”

Good teen role models are hard to come by. Thirteen-year–olds who inspire adults to greater courage are virtually unheard of. If one is open-minded enough to accept the fact that admirable and wise-beyond-their-years teens do exist, one could learn a lot from Bethany’s example.

Soul Surfer is thought-provoking PG entertainment. The Hamilton family’s faith is portrayed as integral to the characters, not preachy. The shark-attack scene is tame enough for the squeamish. We found the movie hard to leave in the theater, and carried it in our heads for days, reflecting on the individuals’ character, wisdom and choices.

Some of the real Bethany’s insights are so profound and selfless that they’re indeed hard for the rest of us to comprehend. She once said,

“If I can help other people find hope in God, then that is worth losing my arm for.”

Amazing. Grace.

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Meg Korpi studies character development and ethical decision-making through the Character Research Institute in Northern California. She holds a PhD from, and formerly taught at, Stanford University.

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com