Sunday, January 12, 2014

Coal or Diamond - Part 2

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of Wikipedia
The image for today's post is of one of the most famous diamonds, the Oppenheimer Diamond.  It's almost .8"x.8".  Large and nearly perfect.  As you can see, it's rough and doesn't have the symmetry and beauty of a cut stone.  The Oppenheimer Diamond is renowned for its size and clarity.  If you and I walked past most uncut stones, we wouldn't recognize they had any value and would most likely ignore them.  Let's think together about that one.


Jeremiah 1:5 (KJV)  Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.  

That's the verse we talked about, last time.  There's reason why God knows us.  He's omniscient, but He also created us.  Which makes God the perfect diamond cutter.  He can see our imperfections in a way no one else can.  A human diamond cutter will study a diamond for hours, days, sometimes weeks.  That's to recognize the flaws and faults, then determine how to cut the stone so that the inner beauty shone instead of the flaws.  If a diamond is cut in the wrong way, it can shatter into valueless pieces.  That's one thing we don't need to worry about with God.  We're never going to be shattered beyond value.

I mentioned, last time, that I was born physically challenged.  That meant surgery at least once a year for the first thirteen years of my life.  I've been told that, at an age young enough for me not to remember it, that I stopped breathing on the operating table, for over two minutes.  And, over the years, I learned to hate ether.  But more on that comes later.  For now, the only thing that's important is that all that surgery has one hand partially usable instead of useless, and I'm walking instead of rolling around in a wheelchair.

I share that, not looking for pity, but as a basis of some other things I want to say.  So, to continue, let's get back to the subject.  For the coal/diamond contrast, being physically challenged in some ways had its pull into human perceptions of the value of coaldom.  One of the side effects of being a gimp is the tendency to feel less than normal.  When you're a kid with normal amounts of energy, but lacking the skills or coordination to properly do some of the energy depleting activities well (like baseball and football), there's a sense on incompleteness (Is that a word?).  And there are enough of your peers who are willing to tell you that you are incomplete.  At least there were when I was growing up.  We definitely weren't PC.

Counterbalancing that was my parents' love and their bending over backwards to make up for my physical shortcomings.  That includes spending lots of money on all that surgery, spoiling me with things to try to make up for the physical.  That went as far as going out of their way to make sure I had every educational opportunity.  And it included more second chances than I deserved.  But that's for later in the series.

I grew up Roman Catholic, complete with all the things I now see as doctrinal errors.  Now, for all those hardline nonCatholics rubbing your hands with glee, some are thinking, "Here it comes, he's going to get those God forsaken Catholics, now!".  Not happening!  I've been on that side of the fence and seen how many really love God.  Doctrinal differences and heresy are not necessarily the same thing.  In fact, that highlights something important.

All my medical stuff put me behind in learning my catechism lessons.  For those not familiar with Catholicism, catechism classes are a formal way for children and new converts to learn the foundational beliefs and the rules & regs of Catholicism.  My parents enlisted the aid of a nun to help me catch up.  Sixty plus years later, I don't recall her name, but it's indelibly etched in my memory that along with the things she taught about what we needed to do to please God, there was one thing very obvious.  She loved Jesus beyond anything I'd seen before and very rarely since.  She instilled that in me.  Unfortunately, it was an emotional response, backed by all the "I must" teachings.  My flesh maybe must do things, but it can't.  So that love of Jesus that was instilled, also dwindled over time.

Think of Paul in Romans 7.  He mourns that the Law expects to be fulfilled by his flesh.  Yet, he recognizes that it's impossible to do that.  It's 1 Corinthians 15:10a (KJV) that states, "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain;".  Until God's grace takes over, it's impossible to please God.  Any form of legalism fails.  Which is why those who expected my religious training to create a "good little Billy" were in for a future unpleasant surprise.

We'll continue, next time.  But I'd like to close with a couple of definitions the founding Pastor of our ministry used to share.  He defined mercy as God taking away what we do deserve (including Hell), grace is God giving us what we don't deserve (Heaven, among them).  Both are intended and designed to draw us closer to God.  Which is a good thing.  We couldn't do it without Him.  How have you experienced grace and mercy, today?

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