Category Archives: God’s Grace

To the God who is able and who is greater than all

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.  Jude 24

My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  John 10:29

Have you ever  had bad stretches where things are just hard?  I’ve been in one of those stretches.  It’s kind of like that book, Alexander’s No Good Horrible Day that overstays its welcome.  I messed up my shoulder this summer from a pickle ball injury, just short of a rotator cuff tear.  Someone suggested I should come up with a better story than that, but in the interest of truth, it wasn’t from sky diving or fighting a bear–just a collision in pickle ball gone bad.  And it has lingered to the point where my left arm has not been useable for two months, in constant pain, and I’m awaiting a cortisone shot that will hopefully fix things a bit.

In the middle of that I went to the eye doctor thinking I needed new glasses and I found out instead that I had cataracts.  This week I go to get the first eye done, and the next soon thereafter.  I don’t appreciate getting cataract advise from people twenty years older than myself.  But apparently with computers and UV rays, younger people are getting them.  But it doesn’t fit into my busy school schedule.

Doesn’t pain know  this isn’t a good time?  I had to get a shot in the rump the other day just to make it through the day.  So the two above verses are well timed words of encouragement, cups of cold water in the desert:

God is ableGod is able, and He is greater than all.  Aren’t they good words?  No matter what we face and when–God is able.  Ephesians 3:20 starts with the same proclamation: Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.  And 2 Corinthians 9:8, And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  All things at all times for every good work.

Do you get it?   God is able.  Do I get it?  God is able.  Get my eyes off of  my issues and put them on the God who is able.

And He is greater than all.  It is one thing to boast about your                                   football  team that you God is greaterthink is better than everyone, but then that team gets beat.   God never gets beat, so you never have to go to work on Monday and eat crow.  God always wins!  We can boast about Him all the time.  So why don’t we?  We know 1 John 4:4, Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

So it is time for us/me to live like it.  What’s a little pain, or a few setbacks?  Paul said, Our light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, in 2 Corinthians 4:17.  They are nothing compared to the glory that awaits us.

There, I’m encouraged already.  I hope you are too.

*Images by lovethispic.com; engageyourstory.com

 

 


Real Change

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:3-7

I was just at jail the other night, to lead a Bible study for interested women inmates.  I always pray that God would lay on my heart what to share. I’m never quite sure who is going to be there.  I can guess that a couple of the ones from the weeks before will still be in, but when I count on it, they either get switched out, or they don’t feel like coming.  But God knows.

Change was on my heart.  Plus God’s overwhelming mercy that shows up and brings about the change in our lives that we need.  If God doesn’t show up in my life to change me, I am stuck in the same old rut. And that rut doesn’t stay the same, it finds ways to get worse.  I am no different than the women in orange that I go to meet with.

I began the jail study by asking, on a scale of 1-10, to give a number of how much they really want to change–so they would never return to jail or prison, so they would be free from addiction, and so they would be with their kids again.  Each of the six ladies said it was definitely a 10. But then I said what was their reality of change score. They each said it was more like a 2 or a 3, maybe a 4. That’s why they are “boomerangs.” I have seen them again and again over the years.

Instead of lecturing them about knocking off their stupid ways, or not really wanting it bad enough, I turned to Titus 3, which God had put on my heart.  I shared how they only way we can really change on the outside is for God to change us on the inside. We are all like the description of verse 3–foolish, disobedient, and slaves to our passions.  All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God,  Romans 3:23  That’s the sin condition.  That’s why God had to send Jesus to save us.  We just can’t save ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

There is the account of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9, which we read the week before.  David hunted down anyone he could show kindness to on the behalf of his friendship covenant with Jonathan.  Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s crippled son who lived in hiding because he deserved to die when his grandfather King Saul died in battle years before.  

When the king died, they wiped out all of the sons and grandsons, so there was no claim to the throne. So when now King David found him (appeared), it was Meph’s  day of reckoning.

But instead of pronouncing Meph’s death sentence, David showed the same incredible mercy God shows us: David took Meph to Jerusalem to eat at his table as his son for the rest of his life.  No longer a death sentence, but now treated like the king’s son and living in the palace.

¤ That’s exactly what God does for us.  We have all sinned, but instead of crushing us like ants, He appears in the form of Jesus and pours goodness and loving kindness out, because of God’s mercy.  Also it is because of His covenant love for us, just like David’s covenant love that he had with Jonathan. He saves us, just like Mephibosheth was saved, and gives us a seat at His table.  It’s not because of works done by us in righteousness–we don’t earn it or deserve it.

¤ The other good news–God washes us because we are dirty because of sin.  Not just people with a rap sheet, but all of us, because all have sinned.  And not just new believers, but all of us regularly. We all need washing. Jesus told Peter at the foot washing at the Last Supper that he was clean and he just needed his feet washed (John 13:10).  So the good news for believers is that we get washed with a cleansing that lasts. It is a part of our spiritual renewal and regeneration that takes place at our new birth.

Isaiah 1:18 reads, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  We get them washed away.  And then the Holy Spirit renews us.  Again, not just once when we are born again, but all of the time.  That is good news! It is this renewing that they need to change to not keep coming back to jail again and again.  It is what I need to break my sin habits and to keep becoming who it is that He wants me to be–not the fleshly me that craves self and not the things of the Spirit.         

¤ But that renewing of the Holy Spirit is also what keeps me going in my Christian life, some fifty years after my new birth.  Psalm 103:5 promises, He satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  And Isaiah 40:31: But they who with for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.                 Image result for Titus 3:3-7

The renewing work of Holy Spirit is to keep changing me to be more like Jesus and it is to keep giving me the youth and energy that I need to enjoy life and to live it to its fullest!

¤¤I read a lot that we’re supposed to preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday.  Well, I did it at jail, and I’m doing it as I write this. The good news is that Jesus changes everything and He is changing me.  Without that I am toast. And without that x factor, so are those women that I spoke to in jail. He is the key to changing the heart and real change in our behavior and in our life.

 


Christ is our life

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.  Colossians 3:3-4

First of all, I read these verses over and over, trying to grasp what it means to be hidden with Christ in God.  Part of it means claiming the truths of what it means to be a child of God, like:

  • Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39)
  • Because of the blood of Jesus, I am justified, made right before God (Romans 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:11))
  • I am therefore a friend of God (John 15:15)
  • My eternal destiny is in Heaven and is secure (John 3:16; 5:24; Jude 24; John 10:28)

I could go on and on!  That lifts my spirits just thinking about all of the things that are mine because I am in Christ.  What I really wanted to write about today is that Jesus is my life, and what that means. It’s all connected.

This summer we “cut the cord” on Direct TV, which has been a good thing all on its own.  We still have Amazon Fire Stick, but the only thing I’ve really watched all summer has been Christian speakers on Youtube.  It’s been really edifying. I was watching a talk by Paul Tripp (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9S7fgW8XVw) that really got me thinking about Colossians and Jesus being my life in a deeper way.  If you get time to watch it, it is really good. So most of the thoughts of this study are the ideas from Paul Tripp’s talk.

In Mark 6:45-52 there is the account of Jesus putting the disciples into a boat to go across the Sea of Galilee.  He didn’t get into the boat with them, and a storm blew up. He put them into the boat by themselves, knowing a storm was coming.  Why? To build their faith.

“Faith isn’t natural.  Worry is, envy is, doubt and anger are, but faith isn’t.  That’s why God has to take us outside of our comfort zones to produce in us what doesn’t come naturally to us.  He has to take us where we don’t want to go to produce in us what we can’t achieve on our own. That’s grace. It’s not the grace of relief.  It’s the grace of refinement–it’s uncomfortable grace. Often the grace of God comes in uncomfortable forms because that’s just what we need.”  Paul Tripp

Then Jesus really blew them away by walking on the water to the boat.  They thought it was a ghost.  He stood next to the boat. He spoke to them and said, Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid. And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded.  Mark 6:49-51  

*When you are in the middle of something terrifying, what do you say to yourself about God?  They said, “It’s a ghost.” No–it was Jesus. It showed that they just didn’t get it.

*Who do you talk to the most?  It is yourself.

Watch what you say to yourself about God, and watch what you say to yourself about yourself.  Think about it. Think about the last time you were in a jam–what did you say to yourself about you?  And what did you say to yourself about God? Were they good things? Were they faith things? Or were they things that cut like a knife, words that were so bad that no one else would ever dare say those things to you, or out loud say them about God?

Look at Mark 6 and see what Jesus said to the disciples.  He didn’t say: “Get out of the boat you imbeciles! I’m getting 12 different guys who are smarter.”  No–He said, “Don’t be afraid, it is I.” “It is I” is a variation of “I am.” In other words, “I AM” is here.  I AM has invaded your life with grace.  This is what I must say to myself. I am not in this alone because my life has been invaded by the great I AM and it has changed everything.

Don’t forget who you belong to, who has invaded your life and who you belong to.  Stop with the negative talk, the worry, doubt, anger and fear! It hurts you, and it hurts others.  You end up saying those things to others that are close to you as well, like your spouse or your children.

Suppose you got a really cool gift, but you were more taken with the gift wrapping than with the gift.  Don’t just be happy with the box and not the amazing gift of grace. Don’t be content with just a little bit of Jesus or of Bible knowledge, a small dose of worship, or a small adventure with this life of faith.  

Grab a hold of this AMAZING GRACE with both hands, saying with your life: I love this Jesus isn't a small partgift.  It is my life. I am blown away.  This is who I am and I AM has invaded      every inch of my life.  

When Christ who is my life appears, then I will appear with Him in glory.

 


From Alienated to Reconciled

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation–Colossians 1:19-22 NIV

The story of the Bible starting in Genesis is that man was created to be with God.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the evening. What fellowship, what perfection.  Then sin entered, disrupting that bliss. And boom! Separation, alienation, sin, finger pointing, blame, toil and pain.  Genesis 3:15 contains a promise that one day someone from Eve’s seed would come and crush Satan’s head. It’s been a long time in waiting…

The best news in all the world is that our alienation from God is ended and we are reconciled to the King and the Judge of all of the universe and of all time. God sent His Son, His only begotten Son Jesus, the One who would contain all of the fullness of Him in bodily form to come and be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  In dying on the cross, shedding His blood, Jesus made peace. The result: God is no longer against us, but for us. His wrath is satisfied. How can it be?

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things.  That is what gave Jesus the authority to reconcile everything to Himself when He died on the cross.  When He shed His blood on the cross, He brought peace to everything and to everyone that was totally alienated from God.

When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, it alienated humanity from God, nature from God, humanity from each other, and humanity from ourselves.  That’s why we need counseling. We can’t even get along with ourselves. Romans 8:19 says that even creation is awaiting its redemption. It was thrown off by sin too.  Jesus came to bring reconciliation to all parties by shedding His blood on the cross.

Once we were alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior.  That’s why people can’t stand Christians, can’t stand church, and can’t stand the name of Jesus.  It is really because they are enemies of God because of their sin. They don’t know that. John 3:19-20 tells us that men (and women) love the darkness because their deeds are evil.  That causes them to hate the light.

Some people can’t stand the idea of the Biblical God, so they just make up their own God.  They imagine God to be the way they would like Him to be, which is heavy on loving and very light on judging, except for the people that they don’t like.

But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.  Reconciliation Col 1-19involves a change in the relationship between God and man.  There has been a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of peace and fellowship.  2 Corinthians 5:18 says that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ.  And now the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  It is all because of the blood of Jesus.  

Now we are found to be holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  In a jail Bible study, a woman said, “I am nothing but an old junkie.”  I said with a fiery determination, “You are not!” She said, “That’s what I feel like.  That’s how people treat me.” She has called out to Jesus to save her. She is earnestly attempting to leave her life of drugs behind her, but still has relapses.  

I took her and the other women to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor adulterers..nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We were all washed, sanctified and justified by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit of our God.  We are not old junkies, we are not just ‘sinners saved by grace,’ or anything else that would minimize this reconciled, changed and empowered position.  We are washed and clean, friends of God, ready for action!

*Picture from Google Images

 

 

 


A pretty good Easter message

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce all ungodliness…and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in our present lives.  When the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared He saved us…by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.  Titus 2:11-12; 3:4-5

When Jesus showed up, that’s when His grace came.  That’s what gave us the ability to “Just say no” as the old anti-drug slogan said.  It’s His grace that trains us to be better people.  Coupled with the Holy Spirit, we can change from being selfish jerks to something much better than that.

Well then, why did I launch off on the Sirius XM customer service person on the phone because of their hidden charges fee that I found on my bank statement the other day?  Aren’t I supposed to be better than that?  I hung up, shaking my head at myself.  Who was that on the phone?

I was just reading these verses: “Fools show their annoyance at once,” Proverbs 12:16.  And “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools,” angrywomanfrom Ecclesiastes 7:9.  I don’t need to let things like hidden taxes set me off and I roll out the welcome mat to anger.  Forgive me God.  I’m sorry phone person.

I am not going to let anger take up residence in my heart.  God’s grace is at work in me, training me away from a life of being irritated easily, being grumpy, prone to resentment, self pity or moodiness.  That’s not who I am.  Romans 5:20-21 says that where sin increases, that where grace abounds all the more. As sin reigns in death, grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life.

In other words, when I sin, God pours out His grace so that righteousness triumphs instead of sin.  When Jesus came, He brought goodness and kindness with Him.  He brought grace and mercy with Him.  He’s pouring it on on me so I can pour it out on others.

That’s a pretty good Easter message.  Grace is what showed up when Jesus came and the the training away from ungodliness was made possible because He rose from the dead.

*Image from Google images

 


The Power of the Cross

the cross.pngFor Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:17-18

Oh how we try to rely on everything but the simple message of the cross to get by and to get ahead in life!  We rely on eloquent wisdom, fancy words, glitzy images, good looks, muscle, craftiness, slick tricks, sometimes manipulation…anything but the simple message of the cross.  It’s a fitting Easter thought–the cross.  I need to return to it again and again.

In reading through Isaiah 53, and back through the corresponding Gospel passages, I am struck with the basic message:

  • Jesus was sinless.  Pilate said he found no fault in Jesus (Luke 23:4).   Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  In other words, Jesus never sinned.  That’s why He was able to be the sacrifice for our sins.
  • The sinless one took our sins.  Back to Isaiah 53:4-5,  we find that Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.  That’s the good news of Easter.  Jesus paid the price for sin so we don’t have to pay it, if we allow Him to.
  • Jesus gave up His life willing for us. Sin brings death and demands that a price be paid.  We’ve all sinned, and we all deserve death.   Isaiah 53:6 says, All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  Jesus said in John 10:18 No one takes (my life) from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  Jesus willingly gave up His life to pay the price for our sin.
  • This is where true love and peace are found.  Romans 5:8 proclaims, But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  And 1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the wrath satisfier (my word) for our sins.  And Romans 5:1 so marvelously declares, Since we have justified by faith, we have peace with God.  There is no other way to find peace deep down inside than to get this straight.

This is the message of the cross.  1 Corinthians 1 goes on to say that God entrusted the foolish, the weak, the low and despised to carry this message to shame the strong, the wise and the mighty so that none might boast in the presence of God.  God picked me, and for that I am eternally grateful.  And I get to tell others this simple, yet powerful message, not with eloquent words of wisdom lest I empty the cross of its power.

Jesus, use me.

*Image by ‘Faithlife Sermons’


My Favorite Billy Graham Memory

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 5:1

billy grahamI grew up watching Billy Graham crusades on TV, and developed the same reverence for him that many mainstream evangelicals around the  world living from the 50’s through the turn of the century did.  So when I had the opportunity to participate in one of his crusades while living in Columbia, South Carolina I did so with excitement.

It was the spring of 1987.  I had met with hundreds of others weekly from January through April to prepare and to pray for the big event.  My job was to be a “second tier” counselor on the field.  When people came down on the stadium field to pray after Billy preached, they would meet with a counselor.  If that counselor got ‘in over their head,’ encountering something that they couldn’t handle, such as talk of suicide or any other complicating issues, they would raise a red card and that’s where the second tier counselors would step in.

One night there was a big thunderstorm and he didn’t get to preach, the choir didn’t get to sing, etc.  But Billy did get up to say that if people came wanting to accept Jesus as their Savior that they could still come.  We stood down on the field in the rain waiting and over 3000 people came forward without him even preaching.  It seemed that the prayers that we had prayed and the power of the Spirit were way stronger than the thunderstorm and blackened skies.

But that’s not my profound memory.  I was in Columbia attending Bible School.  I was also waitressing at the Cracker Barrel.  My co-workers treated me like I was an anomaly throughout my time there.  I wasn’t like them, not smoking pot during breaks in the parking lot, not cussing up a storm, not partying after work…But we became fast friends and they were interested in my faith in Jesus.  They were super excited when Billy came to eat one afternoon at the restaurant, even though several admitted they didn’t know who he was.

A waitress friend went with me one of the nights.  I had been telling her about Jesus for a year and a half and she had been listening with interest.  But it seemed like there was a wall that kept her from accepting Him into her life, like it couldn’t be for her.  No matter how I explained it to her, nothing breached the wall.  Until that night.  When Billy finished preaching and began to invite people to make their way to the field if they wanted to know Jesus as their Savior, she asked, “What would happen if I went down on the field?”

I explained that someone would talk to her, asking if she would like to invite Jesus into her life.  I asked if that’s what she wanted to do.  She responded, “No, I want to talk to you.”  I told her that because there were about 50,000 people there it was going to take a good two hours to make it through the traffic.  I suggested we talk in the car.  For the next two hours, the wall that I could not bring down previously was brought down by this very evident power of the Holy Spirit that was impacting my friend Jan.

She poured out how she had been listening to everything that I had been sharing with her about Jesus and wanted it.  But she knew Jesus couldn’t love her and she couldn’t tell me about it because she didn’t want to lose me as her friend.  She told of how she had an abortion five years earlier and how she deserved every bad thing that had happened.  There in my car I was able to explain how Jesus’ blood covered even her abortion and that if she repented of it, He would forgive her and wipe it out permanently.  She did that night, and she was set free.

Just as I am, without one plea…


Depth of the Gospel, Fullness of the Spirit

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love if Christ–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

But when the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.  Titus 3:4

Fullness of the Spirit and depth in the gospel are inseparable, and one always leads you to the others.  The more you grow in your knowledge of the gospel the more intimate you become with the Spirit.  JD Greear, from Jesus Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than the Jesus Beside You

gospel-changes-everything-1-300x168

Another thought provoking chapter to chew on.  Greear’s point is that we grow in fullness of the Spirit not by asking for Him, but by believing the gospel.  If we want to grow in the Spirit, we don’t just plead for more of the Spirit, we put more renewed faith in the gospel.  Fullness of the Spirit is a by product of believing the gospel (p. 107).

In Galatians 3:1-5, Paul reminded them that they received the Spirit by hearing with faith, not by any kind of work.  It was by believing the gospel.  But they had slipped back into a works based system.  Isn’t that what we do?  When we first come to Jesus we get that it is by grace we are saved through faith and that He’s thrown our sins away as far as the east is from the west.

But then we think we have to work after that to prove things.  We have to work to prove to God that we really mean it, or to prove to others that we have a better faith than them…or to prove to ourselves that our past is really behind us…or to make up for the sins that we’ve committed since we turned our lives over to Jesus that we really shouldn’t do anymore.  And then we miss the fullness of the Spirit because we’re operating in the flesh trying to strive and control and to just live life on our own.

So how do we really get to know how wide and long and high and deep Christ’s love is so we can experience more fullness in the Spirit?

My thought: In Matthew 22 Sadducees came to Jesus with a question.  They were probably trying to trap Him, because they didn’t believe in a resurrection and were asking about Heaven.  “What would happen if a woman’s husband died and she married his brother and he died and she married the next brother and he died and she married the next one–who would she be married to at the resurrection?”

Jesus’ answer in 22:29, You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.  In other words, you don’t really know the Bible and you don’t know God’s power.  I was sharing about that in a church that I was once in, that Jesus might say the same thing to us if we don’t really know Him through the Word in a real relationship and haven’t gotten to know His power through our faith walk.

The pastor asked a real question, something like this, “How do you answer your kids when you try to tell them Bible stories and they say they’ve heard it all before and they won’t listen?”  My quick answer was, I believe it was from the Spirit because I couldn’t be that profound was this: Go out as a family and find people who have never heard of Jesus and His love and find a way to share the Gospel with them.  Then it will become alive to your kids.  That was over fifteen years ago and I believe it more strongly today.

For me, the way you grow in your knowledge of the gospel, and thus become more intimate with the Spirit, is to share the good news of it with people who have never heard it, or who need to hear it again and again and again.

I was talking to some boys who had carried a grudge for months now.  “Meet me in the bathroom at 2:30,” was one boy’s challenge.  The teacher had caught wind of it, and she was unable to convince them of why they shouldn’t fight out their issue.  In she marched them to my office.  “I need to know when this started.  One at a time, no interruptions.”  They talked of surface conflicts, then it came out.  Months ago the one boy had insulted another boy’s mom, who was dead.  He was new, he didn’t know it.  He had apologized many times, but the boy and his friends wouldn’t listen.  He had crossed a line and had to pay.

This was one of the friends.  It’s a week before Christmas.  I’ve been pondering the line from Titus 3:4, But when the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, throughout most of the month.  I guess it’s become part of me now.    I began to talk about forgiveness, and how it is a gift that the other person doesn’t deserve.  It is based on kindness and goodness.  But one day the shoe will be on the other foot and you’ll need someone to forgive you for a debt that you can’t repay.  I said that there’s no better time than Christmas to extend the gift of forgiveness.  I don’t think the teacher had tried this line of reasoning…

I didn’t talk about Jesus, but I did talk about the Grinch, whose heart was two times too small and how it grew three times.  Unforgiveness makes your heart two times two times smaller and forgiveness is what makes it grow three times in a day.  The offending boy turned and apologized one last time and the other boy then was faced with the choice to forgive or not and chose to forgive rather than to fight him at 2:30 and to pay the consequences.

Maybe one day he will get the Gospel, maybe he won’t.  But I am struck still with the depth of the gospel.  Maybe I grew a little more in the fullness of the Spirit this week because of realizing a bit more of the kindness and goodness of God our Savior who appeared and saved us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Extravagant generosity compels an extravagant response

I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.  So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome, for I am not ashamed of the gospel.  Romans 1:14-16

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  John 12:3

I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.  2 Samuel 24:24

Paul realized that he owed a great debt to God.  He often called himself a servant, a slave, or a bondservant.  In the Greek, it is “doulos”: somebody who is forced to work for somebody else for no payment and is regarded as the property of that person.” (Encarta Dictionary)

If grace is free, why should we operate from the concept of owing God, or of being His slave?  There is a difference between a slave of God, and a bondservant.  A bondservant served out his or her time as a slave and could go free, but instead chose to stay with his or her master and to serve for the rest of his or her life.  It is done willingly.  So we are God’s bondservants.  We serve Him willingly.

As for sharing the gospel eagerly like Paul, we should do it out of obedience, out of love, and out  of understanding the gospel.  This involves grasping the depth of our own sin and the depth of the love of God displayed by Jesus on the cross.

perfumeSomehow the two women that washed Jesus’ feet with their hair, tears, and perfume got this while the onlookers didn’t.  In the Luke 7:36-50 account, it was the Pharisees who scoffed while the “sinner” poured out her extravagant response to Jesus.  In John 12:1-7 it was Judas who sneered at Mary that the expensive perfume could be used for the poor.  What catches me with Mary was that the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  Mary’s generous sacrifice wasn’t just a beautiful odor to Jesus, but to everyone there.

  • Am I willing to pour out my most expensive possession to wash Jesus’ feet because He washed me with His blood?
  • What is my most expensive possession that I need to hold on to more loosely to give to Jesus as a thank offering?

JD Greear: “God wants us to be consumed with His glory and filled with compassion, just as He is, moving instinctively to a world of need around us.” (Jesus Continued, pg. 89)

When Jesus said “Follow Me,” He bids us first to come and die, like in Romans 12:1-2 and John 12:24, Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone.  But if it dies, it bears much fruit.

No one wants to die.  They want their cake–

I want to be near my family…I want cute kids…I want a comfortable job…I want a nice husband…I want a 9-5 job…I want a good income with money to spare…I want good neighbors…I, I, I

It is the death of “I”: The Village of Me: Population 1    Welcome to ME

When I chop down that sign, then that’s when God really begins to work.  I surrender, God takes over and He moves my heart with gratitude just like the two women with hair and perfume.  I think gratitude triggers compassion

I sat across the table this week from a dad at school.  His hands were dirty from trying to start his car in almost below zero weather for two days and the car wouldn’t cooperate.  He was early for the meeting, so we had time to talk.  I made him coffee and we chatted.  I’ve known him for years.

His wife died at her own hands several years before, leaving him to raise three boys on his own.  He was severely burned in a welding accident since then, leaving him with just a knob of a nose and no eye lids.  He explained how he should have asked them to give him eyelids because when he goes out in the sun it’s like rivers of water, but he wasn’t complaining.

My heart wells up with compassion for him and his boys, thinking about Christmas, about what life looks like for them, telling him that I was sorry to hear that his dad died just a couple of weeks ago.  How can I bring Jesus into his world?  Oh God, tell me.

Use my life, Lord, to the greatest extent, to bring salvation to those around me.  You used great people to pour the gospel into me, so use me to pour the gospel into others.  I am obligated because of what You have done for me, I am eager because the great news of Jesus, and I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation for whoever hears it.

 

 

 


A Christmas Message from 1 Chronicles

David provided great quantities of iron for nails for the doors of the gates and for camps, as well as bronze in quantities for weighing, and cedar timbers without number, for the Sidonians and Tyrians brought great quantities of cedar to David.  For David said, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceeding magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands.  I will therefore make preparation for it.”  So David provided materials in great quantity before his death.  1 Chronicles 22:3-5

With great pains I have provided for the house of the Lord 100,000 talents of good, a million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond weighing, for is so much of it; timber and stone, too, I have provided.  1 Chronicles 22:14

JD Greear writes in his book, Jesus Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You, A heart that truly understands the gospel overflows with gratefulness to God.  Extravagant grace produces extravagant givers.  (Pg. 88)  David was so overwhelmed with what God had done for him that his heart overflowed with a desire to give back to God.  God had told David that he couldn’t build His temple, but God did allow him to provide the materials for the temple.

Did you catch that in the 1 Chronicles verses?  He provided so many materials they were beyond weighing.  So why was it such a big deal to David to see the Temple get built?  Maybe it was like what Prince Ea from You Tube said in one of his clips, “Martin Luther Jr. didn’t have a dream, the dream had him.”

I would say maybe David wasn’t so much a man after God’s own heart as He was a man whose heart God was after.  And He got His heart.

Isn’t that what God wants?  Our hearts?  And when He gets it, He takes it and runs with it.   And God overflows it with so much stuff that it can’t be weighed.  It’s like the Grinch’s heart that grows three times bigger after hearing the Who’s sing when he took all their presents.  In Psalm 119:32 David wrote, I will run in the way of Your commandments when You enlarge my heart!  There it is.

Jabez prayed for it in 1 Chronicles 4:10.  Jabez called upon God saying, ‘O God that You would bless me and enlarge my border.’

So what does this have to do with Christmas?  If we truly understand Christmas and the gospel, that God gave us Jesus to save us from our sin, or as my favorite Titus 3:4 simply tells, when the good and kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us.  If we get that, then our hearts should be enlarged three times bigger, and we should be caught with a dream like David that consumes us.

extravagant grace.jpg

It might not be a Temple, or an enlarged border, but if our hearts overflow with gratitude then we become extravagant givers because of God’s extravagant grace.  That is what has caught me over this last week.  I have spied the people around me with new eyes thinking, “how can I bless them this Christmas?”  I have prayed that God would speak to me to give me His eyes and then to tell me what to do for those He puts on my heart.

There are at least two families that I am hoping to bless with God’s grace, as well as some individuals.  I would like to say that it will be so much that it can’t be weighed, but it’s a start.  Enlarge my heart O God.  Pour your extravagant grace through me to others so that they can come to know You.

*Image from Bethel Bible Church, Winimac IN