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There is a game which I have never played, but for which I am an excellent cheerleader with approximately two games’ experience. Often I get it confused with Frisbee Golf, which is considerably more difficult. It is called Ultimate Frisbee. Those who practice this game have some nice moves and are excellent athletes. Amateurs can apparently have fun. Rules are not difficult to learn. By the end of the first game I watched, I had grasped the majority.

The object (about now you’re wondering what this has to do with an octopus, but let me tell this in my own good time) of the game is to throw the Frisbee across your goal to a teammate who must catch it behind the goal. In fact catching is pretty important in this game. If you drop the Frisbee, the other team receives possession. In sports this is called a turn over. (If my audience was less male, it would be impressed.) If the other team catches a Frisbee, this interception is also a turn over. When you have the Frisbee, your feet cannot move. You must throw it. The idea is to transfer the Frisbee to one of your teammates, but there is no additional penalty if you fail, beyond a turnover. Defense is to discourage the player with the Frisbee from throwing it to the player nearest you. If they do, make the player fail in his attempt to catch it, or catch it yourself. Remember this.

In Awana there are three or four teams playing the standard games. Teams are laid out on a square or triangle surrounding a circle. As a Game Director for Awana last year, I appreciate the hilarious fun of turning a two-team game into one for three or four teams. Such was also the adventure the Game Directors at Camp undertook with their version of Ultimate Frisbee. At Camp there are three teams (unless Purple wants to play, but they are usually busy photographing, making rules, and tending sprains and scrapes). So the wonderful invention was a triangular field for Ultimate Frisbee, in which each team’s goal was one cut-off corner of the triangle. In case of a dropped “Frisbee,” possession advanced to the next team in a cycle of three, which got a little confusing and I’m not sure – perhaps dishonest. It was definitely a possibility.

As amazing an innovation as turning this simple game into a three-sided carnival was compounded by the substitution of a real dead Octopus for a Frisbee. Let’s review rules. No kicking. No batting. No one person moving the object down the field in their hands. Generally a Frisbee glides gracefully through the air over heads to the next player, occasionally sent off course by a gentle breeze. With an Octopus, its rather different. It is hurled from one player to another, draping tentacles and slimy arms over heads, and covering the face and shoulders of any player unfortunate enough to catch the beast.

I was a junior high counselor at camp. A girl counselor for girl campers. In general girls don’t like dead things, or slimy, or fishy, or smelly. For example, several girls upon finding an Octopus in their hands stood there, staring at the blob, and screaming. They did not throw the mess into the air like a hot potato, or drop it on the ground and run. I think there is a poison in Octopus that takes away rational escape instinct. There was one of my girls who, while she may feel that way, had no trouble setting aside her doubts and attempting to win the game. One of my girls was more hesitant. And the third of my girls did not want to touch the Octopus. A responsibility of being a counselor is to encourage campers to participate in games. Apparently the tactic employed by my male co-counselors was to excel at the game and occasionally allow campers to participate. Don’t get me wrong. To a certain extent this is highly effective. Once proven that Octopus guts do not kill you if you touch them, campers are bolder to try. I had a different gift in encouraging kids to participate. It involved corralling, coaching, and taking them literally by the hand with the reassuring comment, “I don’t want to touch it either. We won’t have to. We’ll play defense.”

Here’s what you do. It is sort of like meeting an angry grizzly bear in a forest. You stand up tall and make yourself as big as possible by waving your arms. In this way you intercept sight lines between team players and you give the impression that whoever is behind you is off limits. An important thing to remember is position. You want to be between the possessor of the *deep breath* Octopus and their teammates or goal. You cannot stand far from the goal. One danger in playing defense is that if the possessor of the Octopus happens to, in spite of all your deterrence, throw the Octopus your way, you might get hit. You might have to move. I recommend moving.

So the game was going great and I had dragged my more reluctant clubbers into a defensive position when the Game Directors changed the rules. Girls got to sit out for a while. Watching, I had to observe that the campers had the hang of the game, and most of them were reluctantly becoming willing to handle the Octopus. But counselors, who in most cases were ten times faster and ten inches taller than campers, were monopolizing the game. Interrupting his enthusiastic refereeing of the game, I pointed this out to a Game Director. At which point the game changed and I rescued myself from further participation. See how smart I am?

By the time only girls were participating in this unique game, all but two or three of those in my charge were eagerly chasing and tossing the Octopus. Still my defensive buddy seemed to have forgotten the importance of position. She wandered in the middle of the field, distant from the action. There’s something to be said for staying far away from the horrible stench of dead Octopus. When you are out of the crowd, though, you are much more vulnerable to detection. In a few years she’ll learn to blend in a little. This year, the Game Director caught her. He had located a wayward bit of Octopus limb, and stuffed it into her hand. Again, the paralyzing of escape instincts took over, and she merely stared at the mushy tissue in her hand. Then she threw it down and ran towards the game, all fear surrendered.

And so my job was accomplished with help from the Game Director, with whom I was prepared to be quite indignant if there were bad results from his tortuous methods. He is a devious man, who will not disappoint in driving you to desperate things. His next move was to call for “only counselors” to play the horrific game, Ultimate Octopus.

You have to understand. There were only four on each team, and the field was huge. We were playing against fast people, real athletes, aggressive people. And I can usually catch, but I can’t throw. Not when surrounded by people. Not some soft, stringy object. But mere defense was no longer an option. Fortunately I’d already mastered a plan for defense when the other team had the Octopus. (Actually to be quite honest, another team, Green, swelled their ranks with high school counselors who were supposed to be elsewhere, and so in the counselor score, Red looked rather bad.) When we had possession, though, we had to score. I postured for the Octopus, trying to communicate that I was open and hesitantly willing. I’m sure my body language was like raising your hand but with a mostly bent elbow, so that if the teacher doesn’t really want to think you have something to say, she doesn’t have to call on you. Then it happened.

My teammates (I did not pay sufficient attention to which teammate that I could futurely attack him/her) threw me the Octopus. And I touched it. I caught it. And I threw it to another teammate, who didn’t catch it because actually I threw it in the direction of all sorts of counselors and caused a turnover in their favor. To be quite honest, at this stage the Octopus had been dropped enough that the only substance actually touching my skin was dirt. But I was brave, and so unsuccessful in my possession that I rid myself of the need to ever touch it again.

The end.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I will be away until July 5.  Comment moderation is enabled.  Any comments – you are encouraged to leave many – will appear after that. 
 
Have a happy Independence Day in the USA. 
 
I’ll be attending Rocky Mountain Honors Camp as a counselor again.  Read my series from last year here: Lisa of Longbourn: Camp
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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April 24-28 I was in Jacksonville, Florida for Awana’s Journey 24-7 (High School) national Bible Quiz and Games. They call it Summit – a rather non-original name. Anyway, it was a group of 19 from our church, 13 kids and six leaders.

The short story is: At Bible Quiz we had two teams of six, who were quizzing out of the Awana study book on the entire book of Romans. They knew about 24 verses and lots of lists and facts and definitions, plus summaries of about ¼ the books in the Bible. One team made it to the forth round of Quiz (40 minutes: 20 speed like team jeopardy and 20 team multiple choice each round), and ended up between 11 and 15 in the nation (about 130 teams). The other team earned their way to the 5th round, Platinum, and ended up 8th in the nation.


Our Games team had great fun, finishing the day doing the chicken dance. We won some exciting games, including three-way tug of war, and played three rounds. No special prizes, because we’re not the tallest or fastest group ever. It was a fun team day, and afterwards the kids ran through fountains – the good thing about being in Florida.
 


Three girls earned their Citation Awards, representing 10 years of Bible memory.

We went to the beach twice, had many wonderful late-night meals, and joined in hundreds of teenagers at the main sessions. The airport and airplanes offered their adventures. People made friends, learned things, saw God’s grace at work, worshiped, prayed, and took thousands of pictures.

So I’m back, finally sick after putting off the cold for weeks before Summit. Since I got hardly any sleep while there, I’m just recovering. But I miss people. After five days spent entirely in the company of friends, sitting alone at work, even with a good book, is unsatisfying.

When I was in grade school, I saw high school Leaders-in-Training come home from nationals with bronze medals for Bible Quiz, and I started saving money to go myself. Nothing would stop me, not ropes or money or the fact that none of my good friends went my freshman year, or the flu. Not that I ever had the flu. This year came close. Lack of sleep and a rough two plane rides in a row knocked me out and I was in serious pain and seriously ill several days. So I got to test that.

Even after I graduated, nothing could keep me home. I immediately started coaching. I’m born to be a coach. In years past that’s been my main role, that and schedule enforcer, keeper of alarm clock, you know. This year was the first year that my role really shifted to a welcomed mentor role. I got to talk with the students on our team and build relationships with them, help them remember how God fits into their lives while hopefully communicating that whatever they think of the person I am now, I went through a lot of the same experiences and feelings they are having now.

What did I love? Getting to talk to and share life with our group. I feel like this year I really built relationships with people, and got to be a friend.

What did I learn? Jacksonville sits on a tidal river, which means it flows in different directions depending on the time of day. Surely God’s goodness and mercy will follow me… Little things chanted of His goodness.

What did I like? The ocean. It was fun. Not beautiful to the sight, but to the touch.

Where was I challenged? In being an authority and what to do when rules are broken. Also in not feeling up to par for most of the trip. I was challenged to be kind and grateful and emotional and relational. It’s so easy to hide when you’re not feeling well.


What now? I miss the constant community. At Summit I’m a different person, and it’s because I’m around those people. Things are changing. I’m starting to look at how to transition relationships from authority to purely friendship. And delighted to think that life doesn’t just end after high school; we can still hang out and be friends.

Special thanks:
That we made our connection in Memphis.
That our group got to experience Romans 12 (with a few rough patches).
That our Bible Quiz teams were blessed.
That we all felt sufficiently well to compete.
That when our van got lost we still got out of the hotel basically on time.
For finding three parking spots next to each other.
For brown t-shirts with white writing.
 
To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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My Awana high school team is going (with me) to Jacksonville, Florida this weekend for the national Bible Quiz, Fine Arts, and AwanaGames competition. I’ll be back Tuesday, probably with lots to say. Until then, you could read some old posts, comment (but they won’t appear until I get back to moderate), read a classic book, watch a classic movie, write your own blog, or pray for us.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Last Friday I had some of my dear friends over to spend the night.  As the girls fell asleep to a movie in my living room, I prayed for them because I had to.  There was no urgent need, but urgent feeling.  The next day as we spoke I felt convicted to get back to praying specifically on a regular basis.  I have been praying, but it has been need-based, and not diligent. 
 
Sunday morning my pastor preached on prayer.  I know this fact, even though I wasn’t there, and that’s enough.  Sunday afternoon there was a youth leaders meeting where the veterans reiterated the essential role prayer plays in making a meeting or ministry successful.  Filled with a sense of the needs, and the knowledge that God wanted me to refocus, I had a marvelous Sunday and Monday filled with intentional prayer.  And then I stayed up late, and slept in and stayed up and slept in.  I’ve been praying, but it hasn’t been the intentional, set aside time I resolved to do. 
 
Wednesday my mom taught the Awana Sparks about the Lord’s Prayer, and in our weekly debriefing of funny things kids said, she shared part of her lesson.  Afterward I read a new article on one of my favorite websites – it was on the Lord’s Prayer, too. 
 
This week I also received in the mail the newest Michael Card album, Hymns.  The first or second song (most listened to if you push play right before you fall asleep each night) is Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  There is a part of that song I remember a pastor talking about a long time ago.  The author of the hymn wrote “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it… Here’s my heart, o, take and seal it…”  He did wander.  That’s the testimony of his life.  He knew himself.  His heart needed sealed. 
 
So does my heart, because it wanders.  In some ways this week has been beautiful, but it’s only because I’ve spotted God’s grace and messages, not because I’ve had victory in yielding to them.  I know everything about the need to be content, but I just am not content.  My heart isn’t focused.  I’m not diligent with my time or energy, or responsible with my money.  I’m tired. 
 
On Sunday something said at the leader’s meeting reminded me of Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”  Like a breath of keenest fresh air to one suffocating, I needed every ounce of the hope in that verse.  There is conviction in Paul’s words also.  That is what I want to focus on today.  
 
Proverbs 4:20-27, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
Let them not depart from thine eyes;
keep them in the midst of thine heart.
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
Keep thy heart with all diligence;
for out of it are the issues of life.
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
 
The word “keep” in verse 21 is shamar, “keep, give heed” like a shepherd or watchman. The word “keep” in verse 23 is natsar, “guard, watch over.”  So Solomon’s words, inspired of the Holy Spirit, are to be kept.  And my heart is to be kept.  How is this done? 
 
The first thing Solomon mentions after this command is speech.  There is a lot about speech in Ephesians, but this reminds me also of James, whose vivid description of the tongue as the spark that sets a forest on fire opens with “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” 
 
We’ve probably all heard the question, “Who’s being walked?  The dog or the human?”  A man holds a leash with the cord wrapped around his hand several times in the manner of a bull-rider.  The dog strains ahead, eager, easily distracted.  Sometimes the man seems to be pulled along against his will.  Other times the firm hold on the leash restrains and directs the pet.  The image of a bridle in James is that of me being both dog and master, horse and driver.  The bridle doesn’t just restrain; it guides.  It controls and regulates.  This is self-control, one of the fruit of the Spirit, also known as temperance.  Many of the fruit of the Spirit involve a self-command or restraint. 
 
Solomon goes on to talk about our eyes.  Ok, I can’t resist.  One of the best songs kids ever learn is “Oh be careful little eyes,” and actually I think we should make teenagers and adults sing it, too.  Do you remember it?  Oh be careful little tongue what you say, oh be careful little tongue what you say.  For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.  Oh be careful little eyes what you see.  Oh be careful little feet where you go.  Tongue, Eyes, Feet.  Ponder your path.  Don’t get distracted.  Keep control of your tongue.  Guard your heart.  Commit to focusing on wisdom and truth and goodness.  “Set your mind on things above.”  
 
Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit.  All the virtues are connected.  Love is a choice.  Joy is something we are commanded to have.  Peace, Philippians tells us, is a result of giving our anxieties to God in prayer.  Patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.  Meekness has been described as power under control.  This may be what Mr. Darcy had in mind when he defended his character and his quiet nature by saying, “Where there is real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.”  While at first impression this seems like another evidence of Mr. Darcy’s arrogance, it has been suggested by those sympathetic to his character that what he was saying was a strong enough mind knew how to keep his pride – his selfish impulses – under control.  His reluctance to speak when he might be tempted to go too far is a sign of his meekness rather than of his pride. 
 
Dennis Prager is a strangely blended Jewish moralist who speaks, writes, and hosts a radio show.  Though his is by no means an absolute authority, he makes a good point by saying that happiness comes from the mind making choices over the instinct for fun or pleasure.  The mind knows better than feelings.  It can make choices based on the long-term.  Essentially he is saying that self-control brings happiness. 
 
Self-control, or temperance, is from the Greek egkrates, “strong, robust; having power over, possessed of (a thing); mastering, controlling, curbing, restraining; controlling one’s self, temperate, continent.”  Strength is active, working both on itself and on progress.  Tolkien describes a curb not only as a limit to where one can go, but as a tool for navigation: a ditch, bank, or curb would enable one to stay on a road in the dark or in a fog.  So limits restrain us, but they also get us to our destination.  Solomon warns against off-roading. 
 
Peter says to add temperance to knowledge, and patience to temperance (2 Peter 1:6).  A pastor is told to be temperate in Titus 1:8.  He is also required to be sober: “curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate”  Titus 2:5 uses the same word to describe that which a young woman ought to be taught.  It is translated “discreet” in KJV.  Modesty is a consequence of discretion.  Sobriety is the opposite of drunkenness or dissipation, in which control of yourself is loosed.  Dissolution is a word meaning exactly that “cut loose”, and it leads to all sorts of sinful indulgence and decadence.  I need to be moderate. 
 
Paul depicted this virtue in 1 Corinthians 9, in the metaphor of an athlete. 
 
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,
but one receiveth the prize?
So run, that ye may obtain. 
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.
Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 
But I keep under my body,
and bring it into subjection:
lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
 
Every man who strives for the mastery (enters the contest, contends for the prize) is temperate in all things.  Verse 27 says “I keep under my own body,” the word used here is a practice of athletes, to use their bodies roughly to make themselves tough or conditioned.  It comes from a word for the part of the face that turns into a black eye if punched.  Some Christians known as ascetics took this too far; they were so focused on abusing themselves that they forgot to do anything fruitful.  Rather, this is the same word Jesus employs in Luke 18, where He is teaching me to be diligent in prayer. 
 
Luke 18:1-8, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end,
that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying,
Avenge me of mine adversary. 
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself,
Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her,
lest by her continual coming she weary me. 
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him,
though he bear long with them? 
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh,
shall he find faith on the earth?”
 
The judge was made weary (kept under, conditioned) by the widow’s persistent appeal. 
 
Back in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul also says that he brings his body under subjection, he makes a slave of it using stern discipline.  One stern discipline, an exercise in self-control and dependence on God, is fasting.  Fasting should never be about indulging my own cravings, whether sensual, for food, for the praise of men, or to soothe my conscience.  Isaiah 58, beginning in verse 3, contains God’s design for fasting. 
 
Isaiah 58:3-11, “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?
wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?
Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure,
and exact all your labours.
Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness:
ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul?
is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
to loose the bands of wickedness,
                            to undo the heavy burdens,
                                                   and to let the oppressed go free,
                                                               and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry,
and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him;
and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning,
and thine health shall spring forth speedily:
and thy righteousness shall go before thee;
the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. T
hen shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer;
thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.
If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger,
and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul;
then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought,
and make fat thy bones:
and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water,
whose waters fail not.”
 
In a paradoxical way, while fasting is about denying one’s self, it is for the purpose of releasing bonds and weights.  Fasting is reliance on God, not only for what I don’t have, but also with what I do.  Fasting is always accompanied with prayer.  1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.  In the Sermon on the Mount, right after Jesus speaks on prayer, He goes into teaching on fasting.  Though food is good, or other things from which you might fast, the exercise of self-denial and sacrifice and dependence and focus on God is good.  All things are lawful, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, but not everything is beneficial.  When I practice what is beneficial, I am stronger for the unexpected temptations when I must deny myself. 
 
I must be ready, then, by exercising self-control, to do good works.  Pray with perseverance and persistence.  Be steadfast.  Stand therefore.  Gird up the loins of your mind, and be sober, that you may be ready in and out of season to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.  Hope is even described in the Bible as an anchor – the image of stability and strength.  Do not be slothful, but fervent in whatever you do.  Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Exodus 4:10, “And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”
Moses was not skillful as a speaker, so God let Aaron be the mouthpiece. 
 
Acts 7:22, “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.”
Moses was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, but don’t tell me that they didn’t know how to be great orators.  Perhaps this training was intentionally omitted. 
 
My brother and I were talking the other night about the economic oppression caused by the prevalence of debt.  Yet it is so pervasive that the few who rebel against the debt lie are still bound to it’s influence.  The only chance of massively changing the world, of fixing the problem, is to do what Dave Ramsey did: to exercise free speech and persuade people of the more excellent way. 
 
Like the ants in Bug’s Life, the voices of visionaries can spur the masses to stand up for themselves and relieve the oppression.  In America we have the right to free speech.  Egypt was not so gracious, and they certainly didn’t want their Hebrew adopted prince to be ready to lead an uprising.  So maybe they didn’t teach him speech.  Maybe they taught him that he was a bad speaker, or made fun of him when he tried to wax eloquent.  
 
Aaron didn’t have that fault in his education.  He was an excellent speaker.  But Moses could have been a good speaker if he would have relied on God, who promised to be with His mouth.  Tonight at Awana we were studying the faith of Moses.  This is the seventh in a series of heroes of faith we have been studying.  A few weeks ago we looked at Nehemiah, an excellent leader.  The quiz at the end of the lesson included a question on what made Nehemiah such a good leader.  My student had written that He was a good leader because he had God’s help. 
So I asked, “Does that mean you can be a good leader?”  Typically, I got the answer “No.  I don’t know.  I guess.  Maybe.” 
What is God calling and equipping you to be? 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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To hear someone tell you that the keyword of Romans is grace is so much less than discovering it for yourself. Since God has been busy revealing grace to me everywhere I look, I should not be surprised to find it again in Paul’s famous epistle. To be honest, grace is such an overwhelming subject that I have been unable to think of one coherent thing to say about it. One facet I’ve been exploring is the concept of being “disciplined by grace.”

Last night at Awana our high school group (called Journey) was studying Romans. We’re actually on chapters 9-11, but a verse from chapter 6 caught my eye. “You are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14) I’ve studied Romans at least three full times before. Always I’ve been so focused on the first half: not under law. Legalism has been such a danger to the church that its opposite, grace, has been neglected in study.

My Bible turned to Romans 6, I scanned the short two pages (including a bit of chapter 5). There, it seems, is the whole concept of being disciplined by grace. We know that faith produces works, that anyone who is truly saved will bear fruits of righteousness (which are by Jesus Christ). This does not happen on our own, but as a result of God’s grace, the activity of the Holy Spirit in us.

Even at the end of the passage, arguably the key verse, Romans 6:23 talks about grace. In every translation I checked, I find the word “gift” in this verse. Actually the Greek is charisma, which is accurately translated as gift – BUT is a derivative of charis, grace. Charis is used several other times just in Romans 6, let alone the other 15 chapters. So I suggest that we should read gift in verse 23 as “gracegift.” We miss so much in English. What charisma indicates is the product of grace.

In Romans 5-6 we see that grace:

  • Brings salvation. We are justified by faith, which gives us access to the grace wherein we presently stand. Romans 5:16 says that the free gift is justification of many offenses. Finally Romans 6:23 provides the contrast between the consequences for our sin: death, and the great gift we who are justified receive instead: eternal life. (See also: Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 2:11-12, Galatians 2:20-21)
  • Is the opposite of legalism. Galatians expounds this theme, and is echoed in Romans 6:14: “You are not under law, but under grace.” In Galatians I believe Paul uses “walk in the Spirit” as virtually synonymous with “under grace” in Romans. Galatians also says, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
  • Is not an excuse for licentiousness. Romans 6:1 asks the question: should we sin a lot, so that grace will abound? This is not an accurate understanding of grace. Grace is God’s power in us to walk in newness of life. Grace proves that sin does not have to control our lives anymore.
  • Enables righteousness. Throughout Romans 6 there is a taut balance between the necessity of righteousness as a product of grace and our new life through Christ and the danger of going back to the law, doing good for goodness’ sake. In between is also the horrible ground of doing no good at all, which would equally defeat the point. By grace are ye saved unto good works, which God prepared beforehand for you to walk in them.
  • Is our new master, rather than sin. The end of chapter 5 makes this point, which is then developed by chapter 6. Paul writes in 5:17 – “… much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ.” Over at the Elect Exiles, Disciplined by Grace explains Titus 2:11-12 with regards to grace. First, it brings salvation. Grace’s second activity is teaching, which is the same Greek word Paul used in Ephesians 6:4: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Thus the word means to discipline, teach, train, rear. The Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but now grace is our teacher. Romans 6:14 says, “…Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.”

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

For refers us back to the rest of chapter 6, all about being presently, as believers, under grace.

Gift is charisma, which I discussed above.

This gracegift is eternal life. Eternal life starts when we accept God’s grace and continues forever. It is life, not just a get out of hell free card. The grace of God gives us the life we now live in the flesh, by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. The life is through Jesus Christ, in His power, for His purposes, to His glory.

Our Lord tacked on to the end of Jesus’ name is a title of authority. The apostles recognized Jesus’ authority by calling Him Rabbi, Teacher, Master, Lord. John often referred to Jesus simply as “the Lord.” Here Paul is saying something about who Jesus is. He is our Lord, our authority. He is the Master, the giver of all good gifts. While the law came by Moses, grace and truth, John tells us, came by Jesus Christ.

We walk by faith and under grace. Faith talks about leaning not on our own wisdom, yielding control, following instantly and without explanation. Grace talks about leaning not on our own strength, praising and thanking God, obeying, but not because of rules – because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives, and “spiritual” gifts, and sanctifies us from sin. This washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit is as much God’s work as the mercy by which we’re saved. I sigh just in re-reading this paragraph, because the words and themes are found all over the Bible, not only in Romans. How exciting!

My life reminds me that walking by grace is the path of thanksgiving and rejoicing and humility and prayer often. All those we are commanded to do. Though I am not theologically a legalist, I sometimes find those hard to do, when I am depending on my own resources to accomplish anything, rather than seeking God. When I am, how impossible not to rejoice, to say with Jeremiah, “His mercies are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness!”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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