Tag Archives: Credit

Oracle

Oracle (CaD Ps 21) Wayfarer

Your hand will find out all your enemies;
    your right hand will find out those who hate you.
Psalm 21:8 (NRSVCE)

In the movie The Matrix, the protagonist Neo is told that he must visit “The Oracle” who is the person who will tell him if he is “the One.” I love how the movie builds up suspense about the identity of this powerful person only to find out that it’s a chain smoking African American grandmother baking cookies. Brilliant.

The word “oracle” comes from the Latin word meaning “to speak.” It’s same root word from which we get the word “oratory.” Oracle could refer both to the person and the message he or she uttered. Oracles in the ancient world were considered portals through which the divine spoke, typically predicting what was going to happen. An Oracle was different from a Seer, who interpreted signs kind of like the reading of tea leaves.

There is evidence of a specific type of oracle in the ancient world that was specific to battle and it was the “oracle of victory.” It was a prediction given to the king of what would happen in the battle. For the Hebrew people, prophets served as oracles and would predict the outcome if the king was proposing to ride out to battle an enemy.

In today’s psalm, David begins the lyrics of his song by praising God for all the God has done for him and acknowledging his trust in God. But then, in verse 8, the voice changes from “you are” to “you will.” The rest of the song is an oracle of victory, a song of faith that God will destroy David’s enemies.

One of the things I’ve learned to look for when reading through the texts of the Great Story is recurring patterns or themes. The theme I’ve noticed in the last few of David’s songs is the fact that the great king and warrior, the famed slayer of the giant Goliath, is intent on making God the focal point. David ascribes his victories to God. David’s oracle of victory is about what God is going to do. While David had every opportunity to bask in the spoils of his position and track record, he chooses time and time again to point all the attention and give all the credit to God.

That has me thinking about my own life, my accomplishments, my successes, my little victories. Do I want the attention on me, or do I want the attention on God? To take it even further, will I still trust God, praise God, and make God the focal point even in life’s defeats? I can’t help but think of the scene in The Matrix when the Oracle surprises and disappoints everyone by telling them what they didn’t want to hear. There’s a very similar story in 1 Kings 22 when the prophet Micaiah gives the king an oracle of defeat. Sometimes life delivers an oracle of victory, and sometimes it gives us an oracle of defeat. Am I willing to accept both, and trust God for the ultimate outcome?

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Faith-full Father Abraham

What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Romans 4:3 (NIV)

There is no one in history quite like Abraham. He was a wayfarer and a nomad as he followed God’s call to follow toward unknown places. As an ancient man with an ancient wife beyond childbearing years, Abraham was promised that he would be the father of many nations.  He believed. He became the father of the Israelites and the Ishmaelites, both the Jews and the Arabs. The scriptures of Christians, Jews, and Muslims all journey back to the same forefather: Abraham.

And what did Abraham do that was so great?

He believed God at His word.
His faith motivated him to live according to what he believed.
God credited Abraham with righteousness.

In today’s chapter, Paul is making a religious legal argument against those who believe that our good works earn us a place in heaven. Exhibit A was father Abraham. Righteousness, Paul argued, was not rendered by God as payment for Abraham’s good deeds. It was credited (unearned) because of Abraham’s simple faith, his believing God.

In a world in which I must earn my way in almost every respect, it is easy to slip into the religious world view of heaven being earned like a divine 401K plan, just like everything else in this life: “A buck to charity here, refuse to give in to temptation there, and a good deed or two and the Big Boss in the sky puts a credit or two in the Pearly Gates Retirement Plan for me. I just hope I have enough in the account for retirement.”

But God says, “my ways aren’t your ways” and God’s Message is clear. Grace and favor is not about what I have done or not done. It’s simply about me believing what God has done and promised through Jesus. Then my faith will motivate me to live according to what I believe. John makes the link clear in his biography of Jesus when he writes that those who receive Jesus, who believe Jesus, they are credited the right to be children of God.

Just like faith-full father Abraham.

 

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Prepared for Success: Connecting the Dots

david-warrior-and-kingKing David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued…. 2 Samuel 8:11 (NIV)

Yesterday I was in my client’s office and he was sharing with me a little bit about his background. He took me through a brief overview of his professional journey and resume. At the end of it, he had connected the dots to reveal how his entire career had uniquely prepared him for his current role in his company and industry. Laughing, he told me “I guess I learned a thing or two along the way.”

I thought about that conversation this morning as I read today’s chapter. David was on a roll. Bent on expanding and establishing his kingdom, his energies were focused on conquest. Connecting the dots, I recognize how all those painful years on the run from Saul now benefitted him greatly. Those difficult years prepared him uniquely to be a successful leader. He had been forced to live in foreign territories and had gathered around himself an international military team. He knew how to lead a diverse group of men. His understanding of neighboring nations, their politics, their militaries, and all of the geopolitical nuances of the region allowed him to be shrewd in his decisions as a general and a king. Like my client, David had learned a thing or two along the way.

I have to believe that all of those years depending on God for daily strength, courage, provision and perseverance also prepared David with humility. He knew what it was like to be an outlaw living life in a cave. Now that he was king and the military victories were stacking up David had not lost sight of God who made those victories possible. The trophies of victory he dedicated to God, refusing to take the glory for himself.

Today I am reminded to place credit where credit is due in my own life and victories. Like my client, like David, I can connect the dots in my journey and see how God has led me to this place. I’ve learned a thing or two as well, and have been prepared for my calling. Though my victories are relatively small and insignificant in the scheme of things, there is no doubt that I have been richly blessed. God has been good to me and I never want to lose sight of that nor take credit for what has been graciously given.

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Consider the Farmer

Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings.
Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.
Psalm 85:12 (NLT)

Wendy and I were among those who were touched and enthralled by the commercial Dodge aired during this past year’s Super Bowl. Paul Harvey’s iconic voice and lyric style describing the farmers who work our land and feed the world.

Growing up and living in Iowa is an interesting experience. Despite being raised in the city and having nothing but the most rudimentary understanding of agriculture, I can’t help but be influenced by the way farming is woven into the lives and genes of the people who live here. When I read this lyric from Psalm 85, I immediately thought of the farmers and children of farmers I know whose first thought upon hearing the daily weather forecast will forever be about how it will affect the crops and their livelihood.

When your lives and income depend on the weather, and the weather is beyond your control, I’ve found that faith becomes an even more integral part of your life. When the weather cooperates and you pull in a bumper crop there is a distinct understanding that you are harvesting a blessing for which you can’t take complete credit. Like the Sons of Korah who penned the lyric above, there is a natural understanding that you have been blessed. In the same manner, when the weather does not cooperate and the crop is at risk, there is the distinct understanding that you are dependent on God to meet your needs and get you through.

Today, I am thinking about my own blessings. While I am not a farmer, I am also dependent on God’s blessing in a million different ways. It’s always a good idea to stop, consider, and offer a word of thanks and praise.

A Very Different Economy

paycheck
paycheck (Photo credit: owaief89)

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 15

And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. Genesis 15:6 (NLT)

We live in a world where credit is earned. We work. We put in our time. We show up. We do the job. We are then credited for what we’ve earned. There is usually a direct line connecting our effort to our paycheck. If we do this job we earn this much money. Most of us are even given credit to receive an advance of money we haven’t earned if we want to purchase something for which we don’t have the money right now. If we handle that advance correctly, we earn a higher credit score and the ability to borrow even more money. It is a simple concept. You work to earn an income. You are merited for what you do.

No wonder it is so hard for us to grasp the very different economic system of God’s Kingdom. The verse above is one of the cornerstones of Kingdom Economics. Righteousness in God’s economy is not earned by what we do, but credited for our faith and trust in the Provider [read the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans for more explanation]. It’s called grace. It is being given favor that is unearned or unmerited in any way. Our lives and good works are not to be motivated in an effort to earn God’s favor. In Kingdom Economics, our motivation to do good things is out of a sense of gratitude for God’s favor which we have already received and didn’t do anything to earn.

Today, I’m thinking about my life. I don’t want to just understand the concept of grace, but embrace it and live it out in my daily thoughts, words, and actions.

Chapter-a-Day Colossians 2

debt
debt (Photo credit: alancleaver_2000)

He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:14 (NLT)

Anyone who has been deeply in debt knows the heavy weight it can become on one’s life and soul. It feels unescapable. With each payment you stick your shovel into the debt load to try and dig yourself out, but the interest on the debt seems to fill in every hole you make.  It leaves one feeling utterly hopeless.

The same is true of our spiritual debt. The things I want to do are the things that never get checked off the task list. The things I tell myself I’m not going to do because they are bad for me (or others) are the things I find myself doing again and again. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to stop doing the things I don’t want to do and do the things I should do. It leaves one feeling utterly hopeless.

Imagine being that person so deeply in debt that you can’t possibly pay back what you owe. The phone rings off the hook with collectors pressing you for money. Repo men are casing your place to take away your things. You’re left living each moment of every day with the knowledge that you about to lose everything you own and leave you utterly bankrupt. How would you respond if someone came along, a person to whom you owed one of those debts, and that person wrote a check to pay off everything you owed? No strings attached and nothing requested in return. You walk away free and clear, your debt paid. Would you feel grateful? Would you not offer to do anything that person asked in thanks for the exceeding, unwarranted kindness they showed you?

According to God’s Message, that’s exactly what Jesus did for us and our spiritual debt. Despite what we’ve done. Despite our inability to stop our bad behaviors and consistently do what we know we should do. No matter how great a debt we’ve built up from all the shitty things we’ve done in secret and in public to ourselves, to others, and to God Himself – Jesus paid our debt. The end we each deserve is the end He experienced when He died on the cross. He was paying off our spiritual debt once and for all.

How am I going to respond to that?