The Law and Grace

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament in my yearly Bible reading and am currently in Deuteronomy. At the same time, our church is going through a series on the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew chapters 5-7.

I have been trying to memorize the Sermon on the Mount in short sections as they are preached each week. This gives me from January – June to learn the three chapters, using weeks where we have our Missions Festival or Easter services to review and catch up. Many of these verses are familiar, so it hasn’t been too hard to memorize, and it’s been such a beneficial exercise to have these verses being written in my heart and called to mind during the activities of daily life.

It is interesting to be reading about the Law in the Old Testament and then studying Jesus’ teaching to His disciples in the New Testament. Jesus gives us a higher standard in our personal relationships in His Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said…” [giving some command from the law, such as “you shall not murder” or “you shall not commit adultery,” etc.], “but I say to you…” [a new and higher way for that law is given, such as likening anger with murder or lust with adultery, etc.].

As I’ve read through the Old Testament Law, with its many details, and about the sacrificial system in place then, how thankful it makes me for Jesus! Through the Law, we see that we are sinners, that we could never keep it perfectly! We sin, intentionally and unintentionally. And Jesus became our single sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:1-18)! He came to earth, took our punishment for sin in His death on the cross, and rose again that we might have new life in Him. It was a complete and finished work that He did on our behalf. Through faith in Jesus, we can be born into new life in Him.

Jesus not only provided salvation from sin and death through His death on the cross and His resurrection, but He also gives His Holy Spirit to those who believe to help them know how to live and follow Him. We obey, not out of sheer commands to do so, but out of the joy and delight in Who He is and what He has done for us!

I’m also reading a parenting book right now called Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. It contrasts the law and grace and our children’s need to understand grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ as the way through which they find life. It shows how rules can build a law-based method of parenting that keeps our children from understanding this lavish love and grace of God by which we are saved. I’m only 80 pages into it, but it echoes so much of what I believe, and challenges how much I act otherwise with my own children at times!

So these are some thoughts I’ve been pondering as I read lately. They are not too well developed here. I’m finding when I read several chapters of the Bible at a time (as when reading through the Bible in a year), I don’t spend as much time meditating on small portions of Scripture, but I do love getting the overall themes and tracing different concepts through the Bible as I read. What a beautiful Word God has given to us in the Scriptures! Thank you, Jesus.

Romans 3:19-20 “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”

 Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:24-26 “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” 

10,000 Reasons

Psalm 103:1-10

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, 
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

I love this song, 10,000 Reasons, by Matt Redman. Maybe it’s because it resonates with the words of Psalm 103 which I love. Have you heard it?


Psalm 103:11-22

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.
The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
Bless the Lord, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Summer So Far

We’ve had a relatively busy summer. My husband participated in graduation at the college where he works on a Saturday in May. He then started 2 weeks of summer school the following Monday. The last day of summer school, he left for Europe and was gone 25 days!

While he was leading a student tour through Italy and Switzerland, I was finishing the school year with my children. We ended school on a Friday, which also was my last day working at the school (in a job I had loved!) after being there since its beginning over 5 years ago. The following Monday, I started a new job which God clearly led me to this year and for which I am also so very thankful. My mom came in town for 2 weeks to help me with the transition until my husband returned.

In the transition, I gave up my computer and cell phone, which belonged to the school but which I was allowed to have for personal use as well, and I have been learning to enjoy more of a technology free life. It’s been good for me to not spend as much time on the internet when I have spare time, but to do better things.

My children and I have been to the pool a lot this summer. I’ve enjoyed reading while they swim. I finished Uncle Tom’s Cabin (what an incredible book!) and am now on Pilgrim’s Progress. I have a friend who is newly seeking the Lord, and she is reading Pilgrim’s Progress, so I thought it would give us something to dialogue about.

I’ve also written a lot more letters. For a while, I was trying to keep my stationery on hand and send out one a day. I wrote a letter to a couple who have meant a lot to me in my life since my childhood, but it occurred to me that I had never said it! The reply letter I received within a week showed me what it meant to them! I have also written more timely thank you notes. I’ve also tried to act when I feel like the Lord is moving my heart with the thought of someone to do something for him/her.

One thing I’ve most enjoyed: memorizing and reflecting on Scripture. I decided to just randomly pick out passages of the Bible that I’ve memorized in the past, but just can’t quite remember all the words. For example, Philippians 4:4-9 — when it gets to verses 8-9, I would always forget the order of these words: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace shall be with you.”

I can now say them all and know what I am really supposed to reflect on and think about when my mind is tempted to think on other kinds of things (worry, anger, bitterness, pride, self, etc.). So my goal has been not to introduce all new passages, but just to really nail down the ones I should know. I’ve gone over Psalm 103, James 1, I Peter 1, Ephesians 6:10-20, and the Philippians 4:4-9. I’m trying to add a section each day.

Over the days I’ve been doing this, I’ve been blessed in so many ways. Tonight, I just blew it, stumbled and fell spiritually. I loved it that as I was praying asking God for forgiveness, the words of Psalm 103 were flowing through my head: “He has not dealt with us according to our sins or punished us according to our iniquities… as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

And as I pondered the first 5 verses about blessing the Lord and the benefits He give us (He forgives our iniquities, heals our diseases, redeems our life from destruction, crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies, and satisfies our mouth with good things so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s), I realized that not only is God so gracious to wipe away our sins, but He goes so much farther with blessings! He crowns us and satisfies us and gives us so many blessings! He doesn’t just take our sins and then sort of keep us at a neutral place; no, He delights to give good gifts to His children, and so many of those ways are listed out in Psalm 103. It was so humbling to think on His great mercy and grace, so undeserved, yet so lavishly given.

Well, my husband brought home an iPad from a trip to Atlanta this weekend, a gift he received. I guess technology is back for me, at least in the form of letting me read my emails in a timely way! But hopefully, I’ll be a little wiser in my time and enjoy the things I’ve been learning in technology’s absence.

A page in my memory journal:

Praise the Lord!

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD!

Psalm 150