We Can’t Pay God Back!

Good morning. It is Monday, April 4, 2015. This is my Monday off, because I’m to work this coming Saturday.

Today’s Word of the Day from Merriam-Webster is cozen. This is a verb, meaning, “to deceive, win over, or induce to do something by artful coaxing and wheedling or shrewd trickery,” or, “to gain by artful coaxing or tricky deception.”

Today is Firefighters’ Day, dedicated to men and women everywhere, who put their lives on the line on a daily basis, to protect and rescue people. And sometimes kittens. Give it up for the firefighters.

Just as predicted, yesterday held nothing much but resting. We watched a good bit of television, getting caught up on several of our programs. I think Christi might be feeling better this morning, and she went to work, as usual. I need to go to the grocery store after I finish the blog, this morning, and then I have my doctor’s appointment at 2:00 this afternoon. I was fortunate that they had an opening today, since I was scheduled to be off today, anyway.

That’s really all that’s going on in the personal world at Bickleyhouse. I guess it’s time to get back on the trombone playing wagon, now that things have sort of returned to normal, so I can at least be able to play something resembling music for the band reunion weekend in June. I’ve also been inspired to pick the guitar back up, as I haven’t played it in a while. I can’t just give these things up.

It was on this date in 1871 that the National Association of Base Ball Players, the first professional baseball league, began its first season in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Today’s birthdays include Alice Pleasance Liddell (girl for which Alice in Wonderland was written), Ed Cassidy (musician, Spirit), Maynard Ferguson (jazz musician), Audrey Hepburn (actress), Dick Dale (guitarist, King of the Surf Guitar), Tyrone Davis (singer), Paul Gleason (actor), Robin Cook (author), George Will (speech/political writer), Richard Jenkins (actor, Cabin in the Woods), Darryl Hunt (bass player, The Pogues), Pia Zadora (actress), Randy Travis (country musician), Will Arnett (actor, Arrested Development), Chris Tomlin (musician, worship music), Ben Grieve (baseball player, son of Tom), and Lance Bass (NSYNC).

Ed Cassidy was a drummer and one of the founding members of the rock group Spirit. He was born on this date in 1923, and passed away in 2012. This is one of their biggest songs, “I Got A Line On You.”

Notable deaths on this date include Moe Howard (Three Stooges), Bob Clampett (cartoonist, Beany and Cecil), and Paul Butterfield (blues musician).


Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah.
God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!

Psalm 47

(From Solid Joys)

Today’s reading is “A Dangerous Motive.”

“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Romans 11:35-36

This reading discusses something that have struggled with, myself. Gratitude as a motivation for obedience. This was one of the major flaws that I remember from “Evangelism Explosion,” back in the eighties. Good works were presented as being done out of gratitude for what God has done for us. This was the alternative to thinking that good works earned us anything at all, which is equally dangerous.

Gratitude is a dangerous motive for obedience. “It tends to get expressed in debtor’s terms.” The idea is this: “Look what God has done for you!! Shouldn’t you be doing something for him?” “You owe everything to God! What have you done for him in return?”

There are several problems with this way of thinking.

1. It is impossible to pay God back! He has given us infinite grace and mercy. Therefore, we would never be able to pay him back for it. In fact, we cannot even begin to pay him back. The answer to the rhetorical question in Romans 11:35 is, “Nobody!” If we believe that God owns everything that we have, then how could we give it back to him in return for his grace?

2. If we were able to succeed in paying God back, then we would turn his grace into a business transaction. If you can pay someone back, it was not a gift; it was not grace. If you return someone a favor or gift, it nullifies the gift or the grace. I guarantee you, God does not like having his grace nullified. “He likes to have it glorified.”

3. “Focusing on gratitude as a motive for obedience tends to overlook the crucial importance of having faith in God’s future grace. Gratitude looks back to grace received in the past and feels thankful. Faith looks forward to grace promised in the future and feels hopeful. ‘Faith is the assurance of things hoped for’ (Hebrews 11:1).

“This faith in future grace is the motive for obedience that preserves the gracious quality of human obedience. Obedience does not consist in paying God back and thus turning grace into a trade. Obedience comes from trusting in God for more grace — future grace — and thus magnifying the infinite resources of God’s love and power.”

Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Faith looks to that promise and ventures out in obedience.

Father, thank you for the grace that you have given. I understand that there is nothing wrong with gratitude; it should be the constant state of my heart. However, when that gratitude becomes the motivation for being obedient, I turn your grace into some sort of transaction, and it ceases to become grace. I in now way desire for that to happen. Give me the faith that looks to your future grace, based on the grace that you have already provided, as well as the promises of Scripture. Let that faith be the motivation for my obedience!

I pray for this day. May you give Christi strength today, to do the job that needs to be done. I pray that she continues to feel better, physically. I pray for Stephanie, today, that you would grant her your grace and show her your love. May you also show your love to Rachel and Justin, as they go about whatever needs to be done in their lives today. I pray for my mother to have continued strength as she works through grief; in fact, I pray for all of us as we work through the grief. This may be the hardest thing I have ever done. I cannot imagine what my mother is going through, as it must be exponentially more difficult. But your grace is all-sufficient, Lord. And that is what has kept us going.

I pray for Brandon as he goes to court today over his father’s estate. Give him peace, justice, and closure, Father. I also pray for Kevin, that you might grant him peace from anxiety as he struggles today.

There is nothing wrong with being thankful for God’s grace. Let that not be misunderstood. But when that gratitude becomes our motivation for obedience, we are trying to pay God back for his grace, and that simply is not possible.

Grace and peace, friends.


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