The Opposite of Karma

Christmas tree ornament that says "grace"

My wife and I were watching the tv show, “The Rookie,” and in one scene, the lead actor, Nathan Fillion, says, “I’m doing this for good karma.” About ten minutes later, the guy he was helping tried to kill him.

The idea of karma has somehow elbowed its way into our English vernacular. People mix up Christ’s teachings on reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7) with karma.

Karma is defined as, “The force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence. – Merriam-Webster 

What About Grace?

Grace is an essential part of God’s character. Grace is closely related to God’s benevolence, love, and mercy. Grace can be variously defined as “God’s favor toward the unworthy” or “God’s benevolence on the undeserving.” In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve to be treated so well or dealt with so generously. (Got Questions)

It seems to me that grace is the opposite of karma. So let’s toss that word “karma” out of our conversations and let grace come in. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV) 

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Rest Easy

cat resting on a person

In the observable universe, there are an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. That’s 1 billion trillion. And that’s not counting planets, moons, and so forth. We can’t truly comprehend that number, yet each celestial object is unique. Here’s what our God said about this starry host:

Isaiah 40:25-26 (ESV)
“To whom will you compare Me,
or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high:
Who created all these?
He leads forth the starry host by number;
He calls each one by name.
Because of His great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

Indeed, God is beyond our understanding, and yet He knows everything and everyone in the universe! He knows you, and He knows me, and He knows what we need and what our hearts desire.

Thanks to Jesus, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

We have joy, mercy, grace, and peace in God through Jesus Christ. Rest in Jesus, no matter what you need!

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Grace Not Place

compass

A few months ago, my wife and I watched a British TV series, “Fake or Fortune.” We were sucked in because art experts were analyzing paintings that had insufficient documentation, commonly known as provenance, that could confirm the authenticity of the artwork. Was it real, or was it a fake?

It was a fun show because each owner of a painting was sure it was worth a fortune, but they couldn’t prove it. And many times, the experts couldn’t establish the painting’s provenance, so the artwork was deemed worthless.

There were a few times the TV team made astonishing discoveries. When that happened, everyone’s faces burst into smiles, and there was a joy that swept through the group.

I am so easily deceived by a person’s “provenance.” I know the history of their dad or mother or relatives. I know the place where they were born, the place where they grew up, so I make a mental note, categorizing them. Shame on me! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)”

A person’s worldly history is expunged when they are reborn. Each one of God’s children is born the same way – by grace, through faith, as a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9) It matters not who someone was. What matters to God, is that person His child.

In closing, I encourage you to take 3 minutes and listen to this old hymn, Grace That Is Greater Than All Our Sin.

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God’s Beloved

Dust on a man's handds

First published on August 24, 2019 (I’m sick today)

We obey as a result of being God’s beloved

I came across an article I found interesting. The article is titled, “4 Ways Your Bible Points to Jesus.” In the article I read there wa a quote that gave me pause; I knew I needed to ponder the words. Here’s the quote: We obey as a result of being God’s beloved, not to cause God to love us. His grace toward us precedes, enables, and motivates our efforts toward holiness.Bryan Chapell

How amazing and how consistent Mr. Chapell’s words are with God’s message to us throughout the Bible. God always initiates, always provides, always loves. We do not obey God to cause Him to love us. We obey because He already has loved us.

Then there is God’s grace. The simple definition of grace is receiving what you did not earn. God’s grace equips us, His beloved, to attain the holiness to which He calls us (1 Peter 1:16). God’s tool house is full of every imaginable tool that we might need for us to move from where we are to being holy. He made them for us before we existed, and they exist for our asking, provided we use them.

God Acts Before The Facts

God has done all these things while we were still sinners. This fundamental characteristic of God to act before there is evidence of success is found throughout the Bible, and not only regarding humanity’s salvation. We find assurance of God’s compassion in our walk with Jesus in Psalms 103:13-14:

13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

This is such an encouraging passage of Scripture. God knows how we were formed. He was there. He did the work. He truly knows you and me

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Angry People

My son and I are on a mini-vacation. Yesterday, the man behind us at a gas station became angry when my son went into the store to pay for the gas while our car was at the pump.

This left us “hogging” a pump which made the driver behind us so upset he came up to my car to yell at me. I was in the passenger seat. I lowered my window and listened to his complaint. As he then stormed off, I said a quick prayer and hobbled back to his pickup truck.

He lowered his window, and I began by apologizing. He said the apology didn’t help. So, I just started talking to him. I accepted the fault, understood the impact to him of our selfishness, and continued to absorb his understandable anger instead of reflecting it at him.

Ran Out Of Steam

Rather quickly, he ran out of steam and began to become more congenial. By the time my son got back to our car, the driver had forgiven us and wished us a good day. I thanked Jesus on my way back to our car, and we drove away with everyone reasonably happy.

Jesus said, in His sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) We are all called to be peacemakers. And, there is a big difference between peacemakers and peacekeepers.

Yes, my son and I were inconsiderate, and that was wrong. The anger of the driver behind us was justifiable. So, as much as I wanted to, I could not ignore the problem. I was going to be either a peacekeeper or a peacemaker.

Don’t Mollify

A peacekeeper is a person that mollifies angry people. There is often little value from peacekeeping because they work to suppress hurt feelings. By sealing a person’s anger, the peacekeeper may achieve short-lived success, but eventually, that anger will come out. And, the more prolonged anger is suppressed, the more bitterness and fury will be manifested. Anyone that receives this explosion of rage probably has had little to do with causing the anger.

Jesus didn’t call us to be peacekeepers; instead, we are to be peacemakers. The peacemaker’s role is difficult, but a part each Christian is called to do. It’s our job to tenderly “lance the boil” of anger, hatred, and bitterness. These harsh emotions evaporate like frost on a field when they come out of their darkness into the Light of God’s glory.

It is our job to gently open the wound so that it can receive the treatment it needs by the Holy Spirit, and then we suture the damaged tissue so healing can be completed. Accordingly, if you haven’t done so already, add peacemaker to your Follower of Jesus job description.

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Toxic

I spent many years owning businesses, working on the mission field and in churches, and managing teams. One of the things I learned from these roles was that there will always be a group of people that disparage you, that can never be placated, and will always work against anyone in a leadership role. That just goes with the job.

I’ve been lied about, stabbed in the back, drowned in corporate politics, and betrayed. I thank God for these and pray God will bless the people that did these things and that God will open their eyes.

No, I never prayed, “God, give me hateful people.” I never needed to;  I got them with no effort at all! The reason I am thankful for them is that Jesus had this same environment. We see this in the account when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Let’s read John 11:33-37 (NIV):

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

There it is: “But some of them said…” If we are to rejoice when we are counted worthy to suffer for Jesus (Acts 5:4, Romans 5:3-5), then it seems right that we should rejoice when we are counted worthy to share in the same kind of toxic environment which our Lord so graciously passed through.

An easy road will never prepare us for the great spiritual battles which God desires for us. God’s love is beyond comprehension. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” (James 1:2)

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Sometimes it is right not to demand your rights.

While I was still working, I made a trip to our office in the Philippines (see picture). I intended to help the team understand how important they were, how much we appreciated their contribution to our success, and to help me learn any frustrations or inefficiencies that our U.S. team was inadvertently causing.

On my second or third day with them, I asked if I could sit with each of them while they handled work assignments that they received from our U.S. team. As soon as I sat with the first team member, I could tell I was doing something culturally wrong.

I found the operations manager and explained my plan. He said, “Oh, no, that will never work.” They saw me as a person in a different “class” from them, so they were disturbed and afraid by me going to their cube and “chatting” with them. Instead, I had to sit in my “big office” and have each person, one by one, come to me and explain the work they did. I complied, and it all worked out.

I needed to sit and watch how they worked. I had the right to do that. I had participated in the hiring process of these employees, and their salaries were paid out of my budget. Nevertheless, for the sake of harmony, I had to comply. It is appropriate to surrender our rights, from time to time, for the sake of harmony. We do this so that we may keep our witness and preach Jesus and the cross.

How did my acquiescence help further the gospel? Well, when I was back in the U.S., I could Instant Message each person. We developed some rapport. Shortly after my return, these wonderful people were hit by a massive typhoon.

Some of my Filipino team members had family members killed by that storm. I was able to tell individuals that I was praying for them, other members of my U.S. team chatted and prayed for them, and we took up a donation which we sent to them.

You see, we do not need or want distractions. Jesus showed us this, and it’s recorded in Matthew 17:24-27.

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

I have a framed poster that the employees of my first real company gave to me which says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” There’s a lot of truth in that one sentence.

Faith is a noun

Several years ago I worked with a guy that was born and raised in New York City. I had the great privilege to spend a couple of days with him in NY while we were working on a project. Since he was my boss, I said, “Show me your town.”, and wow was it fun!

As much as I’m sure you’d love to read of my exploits in NY and how I lived to tell about them, I do have a purpose for this devotional, other than encouraging you to visit New York if you ever get the chance.

When you’re in New York City, you can use the Holland Tunnel to drive to Manhattan. Likewise, we are saved by grace (i.e., a moving vehicle) through faith (i.e., the Holland Tunnel). Faith is the noun.

Now faith, it seems, has the quality of size. “He [Jesus] replied, “…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt. 17:20) Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:15: …as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand,

So, as a metaphor, let’s say that instead of faith you have a powerful battery. It’s more powerful than even Elon Musk can imagine. It’s just amazing. However, your powerful battery will do no more work than a AAA battery if it’s not connected to something. If your Elon Musk-sized battery is just sitting on your couch, taking up space, and giving off noxious fumes, kind of like your great-aunt Betty, then there’s no value, unlike your great-aunt Betty. 

Only when you connect your battery to a motor or a light or a Tesla car will work be done. Once connected then power flows. That’s the way faith is. It’s a noun that represents potential. 

Now here’s my point: Are we like the Apostles in Luke 17:5, praying “Increase our faith!”, when faith does nothing until it’s connected to God’s will? 

Our faith can be a AAA battery size or an Elon Musk-sized battery, but nothing is going to happen until it connects to a device for work. And, let there be no doubt that it is God’s will that connects faith to the thing that needs power. God’s will is the conductor; it’s the wires.

Perhaps, my ineffectiveness is not a lack of faith but a poor connection of my faith to the work God intends to be done. Maybe I have a faulty connection! Only as I pray and seek and listen for my Master’s voice will I know God’s will. And once I yield to His will, then the faith God has placed in me will be connected to the thing that needs the power of God. When that happens just watch! A mighty work of God will take place.

God has placed a measure of faith in each of us. If we want to do great things for God, we need to put more of our attention on understanding God’s will. Rest assured that God has placed a sufficient amount of faith in you for any work He wants to accomplish through you. You just need to know where the work is and what is God’s will. Now that’s good news! 

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Who sinned?

John 9:1-3 (NIV). As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

From “Vincent’s Word Studies” we learn, “It was a common Jewish view that the merits or demerits of the parents would appear in the children and that the thoughts of a mother might affect the moral state of her unborn offspring.”

I know men and women who have struggled with guilt because they have a child with a malady. I hope these next few paragraphs help.

First, notice that Jesus, “saw a man blind from birth.” Typically, the sick and lame came to Jesus. This time Jesus sought the blind man. Then, His disciples asked Him who sinned. Jesus says, “Neither.” Therefore, here’s a person in a tough place due to a serious disability who was in that condition “that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

For this blind man, God was displayed through a miraculous, creative act. For other people, God is glorified in ways we may never know, such as Trophimus, who Paul “left sick in Miletus.” (2 Tim.4:20)

I have a precious mentor who is now elderly. She is deeply committed to demonstrating Christ in this world. Recently, we were talking on the phone about our ailments. In passing, my mentor mentioned how so many people want to call her aside and pray for her healing. She’s blessed by this and she knows they mean well, but she said, “If it were God’s will, she probably would have been healed a hundred prayers ago.” Of course, this reminded me of Paul’s “thorn in his side.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

It is a Biblical mandate for us to pray in faith for the sick and lame; God still heals. Nevertheless, we need to remember that God may have other plans. For the blind man, his purpose was to give Jesus the opportunity to show God’s love in action and to help the world understand that things whose purpose is not apparent to us may exist for a reason.

It’s no wonder that life is complex for life’s Creator is complex.

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