His Incredible Grace

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. -Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)

I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t reflect on God’s incredible grace that I so desperately depend on. One of the issues we sometimes lose sight of in churches is exactly that: our absolute dependence on grace and not “religion” to save us. Sometimes we need that grace to cover sins we have committed after salvation — never mind what we did before we came to saving knowledge of Christ.

Some think that we can lose our salvation because of sin. I do not. I believe the blood of Jesus is sufficient to take care of our sin once and for all when we accept Him and make Him Lord of our lives. However, I mean really coming to faith and working on a relationship — not some emotional experience we may have had at one time in a church or crusade that ended when the event was over. The kind of relationship I am talking about invokes a conscience to remind us when we sin. When the Holy Spirit comes to live in us, our sin gets exposed. He does not come to condemn us, but to point it out and correct us so we can better walk in harmony with God.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. -Hebrews 4:16 (KJV)

So often we put our own spin on something that Jesus or perhaps one of His disciples stated in scripture and build a personal, judgmental theological system around it. It is sad when that happens because it often demeans the work of Christ on the Cross and most certainly ends up excluding people for some less-than-critical doctrine or perhaps some past sin which that particular theological system considers worse than another.

So, as I ponder the meaning of grace and its deep value, I cannot help but wonder how much pain and suffering would be excluded if we simply embraced grace and its Giver in love and appreciation? Much of it, I suspect.

Sin must not have power over you. You are not living by the Law. You have life because of God’s loving-favor. -Romans 6:14 (New Life Version NLV)

The First Step

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” -Mark 10:13-15 (NLT)

In any twelve step program, the first step involves admitting the fact that you are powerless over whatever dependency your are facing and it has made your life unmanageable. You cannot face an addiction head-on without first acknowledging that it is real and you can do nothing about it on your own without help. Many people show up to a program like Alcoholics Anonymous and either don’t get or stay sober [clean] because they convince themselves that they can do it on their own and don’t need other people — and most importantly God. In some cases, people get sober and take credit for it all themselves. Those are unfortunately of the type that don’t stick around. Ultimately, if I admit I am powerless, I don’t suddenly gain the power that is necessary to stay sober or clean on a daily basis.

In the same way, we must approach the idea of God and our salvation.

In The Life Recovery Devotional, the very first day discusses the idea of approaching and admitting our powerlessness to whatever our dependency is with the attitude of a little child. The devotion for that day goes on to say that children are a society’s most dependent segment and certainly completely dependent on their parents during the formative years of their development and beyond.

One of the many stumbling blocks between myself and God for the longest time was my addiction. It tried to blind me to everything and keep my sinful nature in check and in service to Satan for as long as it could. I listened to the lies of the enemy that would tell me that God would have nothing to do with me because of the person I had become and that I would never be able to get clean and live a decent God-centered life — ever. Lies, all lies.

Have you approached God as a little child? Jesus will welcome you.

Crazy…

Acquitting the guilty and condemning the just—
both are detestable to the Lord. – Proverbs 17:15 (HCSB)

It seems that the world has gone crazy! Even the pretense of having some morality in our society is quickly vanishing. Some many things that were considered sinful and contrary to the law of God are now celebrated and those who oppose them are rebuked and called haters, among other things. Thank God He has given us His law to know what is good and acceptable in His sight.

Suffering…

I realize it has been quite a while since I did any posting, so I thought it was time to start making up for that!

My wife and I have been busy settling into a new church fellowship. It is a small, somewhat rural church with a faithful gathering of believers who have done much to make us feel welcome as part of the church family. Revisiting our former church family this past Saturday evening served to validate our decision to move on — although we miss some people there and were happy to see them again. Between the new church, my job and the Spring improvement projects we’ve undertaken, my focus has shifted to some degree from my writing to other matters

And not only this, but [with joy] let us exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardships, knowing that hardship (distress, pressure, trouble) produces patient endurance; and endurance, proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope and confident assurance [of eternal salvation]. Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. -Romans 5:3-5 (AMP)

The pastor at the church we attends now has been focused on suffering the past couple of weeks. Certainly not a topic that most Christians wish to engage in or practice! Nonetheless it serves us well, in terms of building ourselves up in Christ as His followers and children of the most high God. Sometimes, I think that people in countries that persecute Christians can be better off. Why? I know that, for me, I am closer to God and more thoughtful of Him when things aren’t going the way I want them to. More than once has fear and anxiety driven me to the throne of God for help. When things are going well, it is easier to buy into the flesh — which tells me that all that matters is right here and now (in front of me and material in nature) and that I deserve some credit for what I have or have accomplished. It is such thoughts that drive me from the foot of the cross to the threshold of the enemy. That I must always be on guard against.

The God of Comfort

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction,[a] so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. -2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (HCSB)

 

Nonsense?

So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. -1 Corinthians 1:23 (NLT)

The depraved mind of those who have not been called by God to hear and know the gospel message is evident as discussed in 1 Corinthians 1:23. It is not just that God offers us a plan of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus, He makes a way for us to understand the offer and accept it by drawing us to Him. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. -John 6:44 (ESV)

Once our eyes our open and we see the miraculous grace shared with us by our Heavenly Father, we are free to receive it and begin to grow through it to a closer walk with Jesus and a fruitful, abundant life. This is not to say that are abundant life is filled with the things of this world, which will rust and rot and eventually fade away, but rather a life filled with the peace of mind and happiness that can only come from a solid walk with Jesus. There are many engaged in the prosperity game who teach a ‘name it and claim it’ gospel that just doesn’t hold up in the light of scripture. We shouldn’t give to “sew seeds” and plan to reap a material harvest much greater than our original gift. That’s not the point of giving to others. As children of the most high God, we should be happy to give to others in need, feeling really good about sharing the love of Jesus not just in word, but in deed! It’s not about me giving you 10 so I get a 100 back, it’s about me giving you 10 because it’s what you need.

Preaching Christ crucified means being prepared to be crucified along with Him:  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

So, if preaching Christ crucified is nonsense, count me in. It makes much more sense than the true nonsense that is the teaching of this world.

Happy Easter to all. I pray it may have the same meaning for you as it does for me.

We are all set!

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
    nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

-Psalm 103: 8-13 (NLT)

There is so much one can write about just those few verses! Fortunately for the reader, I don’t have the time to write everything I would like to write about them! So, I’ll just touch on some highlights.

I have been guilty of bringing up the same accusations over and over, even if the matter is supposed to be long since settled. I file things away in my mind under the category “To use in anger.” While I may be better than I used to be, I still have a long way to go. Thank God that He does not deal with me as I sometimes deal with others.

I can hold on to resentment, still being bitter and angry toward someone long after the offense has been committed — and I think I have “let it go.” A case in point is a family member I struggle with who I feel has wronged me and my wife. I sometimes get angry all over again when I think of the things he has said and done. Today I asked my Father to help me not only forgive them, but to look where I was wrong and be prepared to ask forgiveness, should the opportunity arise. While that may not be easy, I know it is essential to my walk with our Lord.

Quite often, I have asked forgiveness for things I have already received it for. I suspect that is something we all have done from time to time. Satan loves it when I hang on to guilt and struggle with accepting the fact that my loving Father in Heaven has already forgiven me because of the work of His Son on the cross.

“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake
    and will never think of them again. -Isaiah 43:25 (NLT)

Father, forgive me for not having faith enough to remember Your precious Word. Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, I am forgiven and my sins are blotted out. May I always remember that You have removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. Please open my eyes when the enemy tries to minimize your incredible grace and love for me as your child, hindering me from being effective in your service as a witness to others.

 

He Chose Us

If you are a Christian, it is not because of anything you did to obtain your salvation. I think that is a huge fact to be clear on in our understanding of the matter. As people, we all-too-often ascribe to ourselves more power and authority than we ought to. It is important to remember that, as fallen beings, we are too depraved* to desire having a relationship with God on our own. God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die in our place and then draws us to Jesus for our salvation. Do you fill the tug at your heart? Are you tired of asking yourself what it is all about and feeling that emptiness we all feel apart from Christ? If so, it sounds like He is calling you.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
-Isaiah 53:6 (NIV)

  The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it? -Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)

Please don’t think you were born pure and somehow the world did this to you…
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. -Psalm 51:5 (NIV)

So, we’re sinful from birth, deceived by our own hearts and beyond cure. How do we ever find our way to God? We find the answer in John 6:  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. -John 6:44 (NIV)

*Deviating from what is considered moral, right, proper or good (courtesy of WordWeb)