Category Archives: Musings about God

Grace and Truth or Good and Evil?

The Tree of Life

As I am reading through the Old Testament again, I continually wonder why God tells this story of a feckless Israel and one that puts Him in a bad light, seemingly. Even as I write that I think of what I am writing for my grandkids and their children after them, and theirs after them, and so on. I want to be honest and not sugar coat things, but I also am selecting the stories that come to mind and that capture the essence of what shaped me to be who I am today. Is that not what God is doing with the story of the Old Testament?

The Gospels and Epistles make it clear that Jesus Christ is the true representation of God, the revelation sufficient for us in this world’s realm. There are some who interpret our journey as God’s journey of development as well. He started out without a legal code, then gave the legal code to Moses, then realized it was never going to work so sent Himself in the incarnation of Jesus Christ to satisfy that code once and for all and has spent the last 2000+ years encouraging us to accept His gift of mercy and grace in Himself to us.

I am leaning more toward God giving us what we wanted and chose in Adam and Eve, the knowledge of good and evil, rather than eating from the tree of life. Since that was our choice He responded in kind, knowing it would never work, always calling us to relationship with Him outside of that construct, yet always dealing with us within the construct we had chosen; good and evil, right and wrong, Law and consequences.

We still, by nature, choose that way. With or without acknowledging Him we tend toward drawing circles of defined behavior and then go about choosing who is in and who is outside of that circle. Once the circle is drawn judgment is required according to the identified rules of the circle. That can be the current vogue of wokeness and is just as clearly represented in the total rejection of the standards of the “woke” by many conservatives. It always states itself in moral terms; right and wrong, good and evil. In the public discourse in the United States of America these days almost all disagreement is cast in the form of the “other” being disagreeable beyond being merely in disagreement. “They” are wrong and we are right.

God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ is a radically different approach to our partnership together with Him. In Jesus Christ mercy and truth have kissed. Mercy without truth would be meaningless and truth without mercy is too harsh for us to bear. The Old Testament describes for us the clear choice that is still before us every day. Will we choose a quid pro quo existence with God, one in which we are constantly the loser and failing? Or will we choose to live in a relationship with Him that depends on His mercy while He coaches us toward His truth? Honestly, my instinct is toward the former, but my choice is the latter. May the Lord help us all to live in His grace and by so doing offer His grace and mercy to our family, friends and all with whom our lives intersect.

New Testament / Old Testament: Together God’s Self-Revelation

I have been doing a Bible study with a good friend of mine and his sons and we just completed a lengthy Biblelook at what the Scripture has to say about war, asking the hard questions.  For our next topic we decided to look at the relationship of the Old and New Testaments.  It is my conviction that in the whole of Scripture, including the Old and New Testaments, we have God’s chosen self-revelation.  There is much truth about God and the world He made to be discovered outside the Scripture but within the two testaments are contained God’s self portrait inspired by the Holy Spirit and worth a life time of study and meditation.  This is a brief summary of the relationship between the two.

I first heard this from Bible Teacher, Ern Baxter:


There is a school of thought that believes the advent of the New Testament sets aside the validity of the Old.  This is an argument that fails to stand in the light of the New Testament itself.  Every reference in the New Testament to the Scriptures is a reference to the Old Testament for the New did not exist at the time.  Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 &  17“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (ESV)  Accepting the authority of the New Testament then we accept the Old Testament as (1) breathed out by God.  The Old is part of God’s revealing of Himself and breathed by Him.  He hasn’t changed His mind and what is breathed by God is eternal.  (2)  The Old Testament is profitable for reproof, correction and training.  That means it is not only breathed by God but the content retains its value.  There is wisdom to be mined, principles of life, stories of faith journeys, stories of God’s interactions with the creation He made.  In Jesus Christ we see the radiance of the glory of God and His exact representation set in the context of the people of the Old Testament.  It is that context which provides the background for the incredible gift and revelation of Christ as recorded in the New Testament.

Luke 24:13 – 35 contains the story of two disciples disconsolately walking on the road to Emmaus following the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, and His resurrection of which they were unaware.  After describing their reason for being so glum to an unrecognized Jesus He said to them, “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”  The New Testament records Jesus Himself encouraging His disciples to believe starting with Genesis and going all the way through the history books, the wisdom books to the prophets showing how He has been concealed in them all.

There are over twenty references to the Scriptures in the Gospels alone.  Remember this is referring to what we now call the Old Testament.  It was the only Scripture that existed for the Jewish people.  There are another seven references in the book of Acts and over twenty more in the rest of the New Testament.  Clearly the New Testament affirms the value of the Old Testament and the Old was central in the life and teaching of the early followers of Jesus Christ.

Next we will look at some guidelines for the relationship between the two Testaments and how together they provide a treasure and focus for our journey of discovery of God.

Common Ground or That Which Divides

Several years ago a friend of mine suggested I read a book by Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, which I did.  It was a challenging read.  Last year, as part of my regular time with the Lord, both Barbara and I read his book, Free of Charge, an excellent deep discussion of God’s grace.  As a result of both those books I made the decision that Volf would be my mentor this year and that part of my quiet time will consist of reading others of his works.

I am currently reading Allah, A Christian Response.  With all that is in the news both within the United States and internationally, that seemed a natural choice.  In this book Volf is looking for the common ground between Christianity and Islam as a basis for conversation and dialogue.  As a part of his study he references those from both Islam and Christianity who refuse to find any basis for dialogue maintaining that the differences between the two are so profound that no meaningful conversation is possible.  Volf disagrees.

As I have been thinking through what I am reading I have been reflecting on a training I attended last year provided by my employer.  The company that did the training is Conversant and a good summary is a book written by the founders of the company, The Communication Catalyst.  The authors are Richard Rianoshek and Mickey Connelly.  I had the delightful experience of spending an entire day with Mickey along with another of my colleagues.  A fundamental concept of their approach to communication is that every human being on the planet has purpose (what we are for), concerns (what we want to avoid), and real circumstances.  Valuable conversations happen when we find a place of intersection in purpose, concern and circumstances.  When we focus outside the intersection very little of value happens.

My thought for today is then, are we looking for common ground or are we looking for that which divides?  Because, whichever it is we will find what we are looking for. There is no question that there are vast differences between the beliefs of Christianity and Islam.  But, then, there is also no question there are vast differences between you and me.  Still, you are reading this because there is some common ground between us, some place in which we intersect, and so you are willing to spend some of your precious time in conversation with me through reading this blog.  Maybe you are family, or a friend, or even someone who wants to see what kind of off the wall thing I am up to these days.  There is some kind of common ground.

There are also things that divide us all.  Even with Barbara and me there are things in us that divide.  In 42 years of marriage we have found a way around all that with our primary focus on the common ground but that doesn’t change the fact that there is still that which divides.  While not always the case it is all to often true that we make up our minds about something and then find the evidence to prove a choice we have already made.  If you decide that I am a “good” person you will hold on to the things I do that prove you correct in your choice.  On the other hand, if you decide I am a real snake in the grass you can find evidence to support that as well.

So, my question remains are you looking for common ground or that which divides?  What is the common ground between you and that co-worker who is getting under your skin? What is the common ground between you and your obnoxious neighbor, who by the way probably thinks you are the obnoxious one?  What is the common ground between you and your enemy?   Aren’t you glad that God chose to stand on the common ground He created for us all, transcending the divide between us which is far greater than any human divide could ever be and, in Christ, has reconciled us to Him?

What will you look for, common ground or that which divides??