Cut-Off

WARNING: This is not your average-sized blog post. The reason for that is this an excerpt from my previously released book, Grace Pace… By “excerpt” I mean an entire chapter.

I do pray you forgive my abuse of this platform in making this entry so long, but hey read it in pieces if you have to. Give it a look… go check your Facebook… read some more… go convince your significant other it is IN FACT their turn to do the dishes, and then come back and finish it up.

It brought me such great joy bringing this book together and I wish to share that experience with you here now. So consider this a gift from a guy who would buy you the world if he could… instead he will offer words and occasional wisdom because (though they are far more valuable) they do not cost as much to give away.

I present to you, Chapter 14 of Grace Pace, Cut-Off:

 

When Jamie and I were expecting our son, Elliott, we were thrown into a whole new world. Jamie is great with mom stuff. She read articles, books, articles about books, and every blog on the internet. She even watched YouTube videos of real live childbirth (I am all for an action film, but that is an entirely different level). Isn’t that disgusting? The execs at YouTube should look into that; we cannot allow such disturbing video content to circulate so freely amongst the eyes of the innocent.

I would be lying in bed all ready for sleep when suddenly, out of nowhere, a blood-curdling scream would shatter the peace and calm of our darkened bedroom. I would throw myself over to check on my wife and be face to face with the most horrifying scene my sweet little eyes had ever witnessed. Illuminated brilliantly on that little 6-inch LCD billboard like the noonday sun.

Blood, sweat, tears… it was everywhere. And that was just the father. I was horrified and not so sure I was ready to role-play in this game in just a few short months. I still do not understand why my beautiful wife would torture herself like that knowing she was going to have to do the hard part, but Jamie is nothing if not curious. Because of this curiosity, she does a lot of research. Some of which is less scarring for me than others. So naturally, my wife knows more on just about everything than I do. Especially when it concerns being a parent and everything that it entails.

Perhaps the greatest revelation to me during the entire pregnancy season was seeing my son on the monitor of an ultrasound machine. My wife was ready. She obviously knew this whole thing was real because she felt the changes in her body. She was prepared and knew enough for the both of us, so I just carried on with life as normal. I would do what I could to cater to her needs and keep her comfortable, but that had not really changed anything for me. I was going to be a dad but I did not realize it. Not until the instant I saw my baby on that screen.

I could not decide if I was hoping for a boy or a girl, I just wanted a healthy and strong baby. It was a few visits later that we would find out we were having a boy. I was pumped. Jamie was too. She already knew, due to her research, what I did not. It would cost us more to have a boy than if we were to have a girl. Now by more, I mean it was only going to be one hundred or two hundred dollars but for me that was a lot of money at that time. (Who am I kidding, it still is.) There was to be a little procedure that would need to take place after birth that had skipped my mind entirely. I really was not prepared for this dad thing.

I had made up my mind then and there. I wanted a girl. I mean come on. I would love the baby the same, despite gender. The baby would grow up in a house surrounded by loving family, no matter the sex. He or she would be a Chiefs’ fan regardless. These were unnegotiable convictions. As far as I was concerned, nothing would change but the price tag. I understand, in the grand scheme of things the price for a little snip is nothing. However, I have been known to be unreasonable at times.

All of this is in fun of course. At the end of nine months, Jamie and I were blessed with a beautiful baby boy and I would spend everything I have to give him whatever he wants. If cost was a concern with having Elliott, I cannot imagine if I had had a girl. Daddy’s little princess. Are you kidding me? I would be in real trouble.

I offer this story of my ignorance to you, my friend, in an attempt to casually transition to the topic of circumcision.

Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians,

“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” Galatians 5:2-4

 

I often wonder why Paul wrote so much about circumcision. I mean it is a very uncomfortable topic to discuss in a group Bible study and I do not think Paul was very cognizant of that in his writings. In reality, it was a big deal to the religious people of the day. Circumcision was the ultimate symbol of devotion to the Law of Moses and for obvious reasons.

The problem is it was an outward symbol only. Paul goes on to say the only sign of any value is faith working outwardly through love. That would be today’s equivalent of lifting your hands in worship then going to lunch after and treating your server like garbage. Your worship is worthless if it does not transform you and cause outward action. God is not looking for a show. He does not want sacrifice and offerings above love and mercy. (Hosea 6:6)

Jesus came and brought with Him a new covenant, a new agreement we could enter into. Along with that, He brought a new kind of circumcision. One that produces real results and an authentic righteousness. A cutting away of the heart and the things nobody else can see.

Paul tells the Galatians that to trust the act of cutting away your flesh for righteousness is actually only cutting you away from Christ.

 

NOT THE BOSS OF ME

When I was five years old, our family moved from Topeka, Kansas to Texas City, Texas. As we learned from a previous chapter, this trip was not a favorite of mine. I have already informed you how torturous this trek could be for a young child like myself. Endless hours with endless boredom, not a fan. This particular trip – the last one we would take from Kansas to Texas- came with on-board entertainment though: A fight with Aunt Donna. Now an important fact to note about Aunt Donna is that, unlike Aunt Linda, she had little to no patience for brats.

She is the fun and crazy aunt, but she is also the aunt that would make her boys cry loud enough during butt-whippings that we could hear them through the walls. Aunt Donna, in an act of kindness and generosity, decided to come up to Kansas to help my mom with my brother and me during the move.

I liked Aunt Donna even then, but two worlds were about to collide. From what I have been told I was a bit of a spoiled brat growing up. So of course I was unaware of my loving aunt’s great sacrifice in coming to help us. All that mattered was that this little brat had grown tired of being in the car for hours on end and was going to let everyone know it.

As the story goes, I was sassing off to my mom somewhere in the middle of Oklahoma. Aunt Donna had been patient and held her tongue until then, but the offense of a snotty little twerp disrespecting his mom – and her sister – on her watch was not going to stand.

In a diplomatic effort to diffuse the situation, Aunt Donna offered some words of encouragement to me. Something along the lines of how I should not talk to my mom like that. And of course I completely complied, asked for forgiveness, and was an angel the remainder of the trip…

YEAH. RIGHT.

Not me, I was a stinker in every aspect of the word and did not try to hide it. What is the go to response for a snot nosed little punk in such a situation? I knew the answer to that one all day and twice on Sunday:

“Shutup! You’re not my mom! You’re not the boss of me,” I jeered with a five-year old demon smirk across my face.

Look, I am as embarrassed about it now as you feel I should be. It was not my finest moment. However, at the time, something in me knew I could say that in front of my mom and there was nothing Aunt Donna could do to me.

As a matter of fact, I don’t remember even getting in trouble for it, but the look on my aunt’s face said it all. I could read her thoughts loud and clear. “Why you little… I HOPE you come stay a night at Aunt Donna’s house when we get to Texas. We will fix that real quick. ‘Not my mom?’ You’re right, and you are dang lucky.”

Let me reiterate, I love my Aunt Donna. She is amazing. She actually did have to spank me once and hated every moment of it. It was because I crossed a line she very clearly established, and I did it with the same intentional disregard for her authority. On that day, we came to an understanding. She gave me a popsicle afterward, I sat on the couch with her to watch TV, and we have been good ever since.

I think when we hear the message of grace we can take on a similar attitude concerning the teachings of the Bible that I had toward my aunt during our memorable road trip.

Let me be clear, what I am not saying is, “Hey it’s all good. Jesus paid the price for your ticket to heaven so go get wild. Throw caution to the wind, if it feels good do it. Don’t worry about consequence, you are good. Grace covers that for you so soak it up.”

No, Jesus did not come to get rid of the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).

I am not saying you can ignore what the Bible teaches. It is the foundation for your life and will steer you correctly. God Himself has commanded us through His word to be holy (Leviticus 11:44, 1 Peter 1:16) – but even that can only be accomplished as we allow His grace to empower us in our attempts. What I am saying is your right standing with God is not determined by your success or failure to keep every command of the Bible without err.

God loves you entirely and is pleased with you because you have put your faith in His Son who did live the law perfectly. Because Christ fulfilled the requirements the law made, as we continually draw closer to Him- and are transformed into His likeness through grace- our lives should reflect that same fulfilment of the law. Not from the will but from the heart.

I was not under the authority of Aunt Donna in that car, I did not answer to her, but I still owed her respect and honor. The law in itself is not evil. Romans 6:12 actually tells us it is holy.

Galatians 3:24-26 says the Law served as a pedagogue. That Greek word is one that signifies a slave who was entrusted with ushering a child to school. It was the purpose of the schoolmaster to transform the mind of the child and form his character, not the pedagogue. A pedagogue’s purpose was to keep the child on course and ensure he arrived at the schoolhouse. The care of the pedagogue ceased where that of the schoolmaster’s began.

The Law’s purpose was never to make us right with God, but to show us our flaws. It came to reveal sin and make us aware of our need for a savior in order to escape the punishment of that sin, death. Like the pedagogue, the Law came to direct us toward the one that could bring transformation. The Law’s authority over us ended the moment we stepped into a new covenant, a new agreement, with Jesus.

GOD DID IT NOT ME

Remember our friends the Judaizers? They taught circumcision was the required act to make one righteous. It was the ultimate sign of devotion and commitment to keeping the law. I cannot say I disagree with the notion that the act in particular reveals dedication. However, the law being powerless to justify anyone, made it a moot point where righteousness is concerned. These guys were proud of their commitment and wanted everyone who desired to come into the club to live by the same rules. “Abraham, the forefather, kept the law through circumcision so we do too,” they taught.

Paul sets this lie straight in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Romans:

Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The point was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised.”  Romans 4:11

Can you imagine the regret of the guys who had just followed through with this burden of circumcision the day before Paul’s letter arrives?

Wait, what? Come again?”

 “You are saying this was NOT necessary for me to get right with God???”

These guys lived their entire lives deceived. To their knowledge, they were following the path of the one who came before them. He did this to get right with God, so we do it, and now you must do it also. But Paul reveals that Abraham was already standing in God’s righteousness through faith when he decided to recognize the law as a seal of what God had done for him. Not what he had done for God.

We live lives that reflect the Word of God because it shows the world that we are His and testifies of what He has done in us. What He has done for us. Never will you find that you read your Bible, go to church, worship God, and miss out on Chick-fil-a on Sundays in order to be accepted by God. Acceptance by God comes through accepting His Son.

I encourage you and even implore you to grab hold of this truth. Build your life on it. Move forward in the grace of God and His plan for your life. No matter the temptation, do not lay it down to pick up your old ways of working to earn God’s approval. Do not turn back to the things that once made you a slave to that fruitless and never-ending cycle of disappointment.

 

 

 

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