Posts Tagged ‘amazing grace’

Faults and Amazing Grace

August 23rd, 2017

Love sees what others do not care enough to look for.

 “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”

Romans 5:20

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Faults and Amazing Grace.”

We all have faults aplenty, if anyone is looking for them. And it is not uncommon to recognize faults in others that we ignore in ourselves. The challenge of any relationship is choosing to keep in view the things that first caused love or friendship to be valued. As time passes, it is easy to notice more things that are other than were expected. Those are less numerous and probably smaller than what you might appreciate, but a wrong focus can soon cause another’s graces to seem overshadowed.That’s when you will be tempted to highlight another’s supposed shortcomings, much to their displeasure and the gradual diminishing of your relationship.

When a person seems oblivious to a beloved’s imperfections, it is explained that, “Love is blind.” I suggest that God’s love is not blind at all, but chooses to overlook what is contrary to love. How would you otherwise explain this verse? “Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 NIV.

This is the real question. How could God see your sinfulness, and yet love you? Do you ever think that strange? Exceptional? Our humanity waits until love has cause and justification to be offered, but is easily revoked when disappointed. God’s only justification was your need for His love and ample forgiveness. Paul marveled at God grace. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” . . “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” Romans 5:20/2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV.

Many years ago, Dottie Rambo wrote a touching song of testimony that declared, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.” That kind of love, from God or man, has an relentless power to transform a human heart and rescue a ruined life. Mark reports Jesus’ encounter with a young man of wealth and authority, who sincerely asked how he might inherit eternal life. Painful moments after Jesus’ response, he would walk away sorrowfully. The price seemed too high for him to accept. “But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Read Mark 10:17-22 NKJV.

Though more than fifty years ago, I vividly remember my Dad’s sermon about “the rich, young ruler.” As a young teen, his words painted an unforgettable picture in my heart of a young man walking away, shoulders slumped with sorrow, and his back turned to Jesus. My Dad’s description has influenced my lifetime, lest anything cause me to turn my back on Jesus’ offer of eternal life. No sacrifice is too great as an exchange for eternal life.

While writing Peter’s memory of the encounter, Mark observed, “And Jesus looked at him, and loved him.” Mark 10:21 NIV. Make no mistake. Others saw his wealth and position and would have received or rejected him on that basis. Jesus saw more. He saw a heart searching for real life, and loved him, before he chose and even after he chose unwisely. Do not make the mistake than young man made.

After explaining his notable, religious pedigree and his brutal, relentless persecution of the young church, Paul wrote, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,  for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.” See Philippians 3:4-14 NKJV/Galatians 1:1-16 NIV. No wonder they call grace amazing!

Today, I pray for you to love others, believe the best of them, and show them grace.

Christian Communications 2017

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Betrayal and Amazing Grace

April 18th, 2014

“On the same night that [Jesus] was betrayed.” 1 Corinthians 11:23 NKJV.

It is as wrong to underestimate His grace as to overestimate our faith.

My thoughts and comments today are about “betrayal and amazing grace.”

Betrayal is a terrible thing. It isn’t accidental; it’s deliberate, intentionally hurting another. When it occurs, the pain is immediate and can be enduring. The reactions vary – stunned disbelief, destruction of trust, emotional pain, grief, anger, self-pity, and eventually estrangement. Be careful; betrayal is often sown in the seed of offences, harbored and unforgiven. Forgiveness is the only true remedy.

The history of man is cluttered with betrayal, beginning with Adam and Eve. Abel experienced betrayal by Cain; Jacob betrayed Esau; Joseph was betrayed by his brothers; Job felt betrayed by his friends; Absalom and Ahithophel betrayed David; David betrayed Uriah; Haman betrayed Mordecai; Demas betrayed Paul. The best and worse among us are capable of unthinkable betrayal.

The wondrous story of the Resurrection cannot be told apart from the undercurrent of betrayal. I have been intrigued by this cryptic verse, “The Lord Jesus on the same night He was betrayed took bread and said, ‘This is My body broken for you . .’” 1 Corinthians 11:23-33 NKJV. The juxtaposition of dark betrayal alongside this intimately sacred moment seems unthinkable. But Jesus was neither surprised nor stunned. “[Jesus] had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”­ Read John 2:23-25 NKJV.

Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. For thirty pieces of silver, he identified Jesus with a kiss in Gethsemane. Jesus knew Peter would deny Him. In spite of his protests, he would do just that. Jesus knew all the disciples would forsake him. After His arrest, they all would flee in fear and self-preservation. Yet for this Passover, Jesus gathered these very disciples with a sense of strong urgency saying, “With fervent desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Luke 22:15-16 NKJV.

This was the Passover the Exodus from Egypt foretold generations earlier. This was no casual evening. His earthly ministry and the future success of the Kingdom of God would now rest on their devotion and efforts. And He knew the shattering effect His suffering and death would have on their confidence. John later described Jesus’ intent on this fateful night, “. . Having loved His own . . He now showed them the full extent of His love.” John 13:1 NIV. They had to be persuaded of an unfailing love.

It is as wrong to underestimate His grace as to overestimate your faith. Jesus knew their frailties, as He does ours. Amazing grace. Jesus still loved them – and you, and me. He desired for them, as for us, “to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” Read Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV. As in Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son (Luke 15), “[Jesus] came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10 NIV. Not only to save, but even to seek. He would seek for Judas at that Passover Meal, for Peter at a fireside on the shore of Galilee, and for the disciples, and Thomas, in an upper room where the risen Savior showed them His pierced hands and wounded side.

This Good Friday and Easter is not about Judas, Peter, or the disciples; it is about you and me. Today, and every day, Jesus offers amazing grace – second chances, renewed vows, and new beginnings.

My prayer for you today is for a joyous and glorious celebration of His Resurrection.

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Regrets, Repentance, and Redemption

October 9th, 2013

“Jesus . . became poor so that you through His poverty might become [enriched].” 2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV.

Redemption is the lavish application of God’s grace to remove every cause for regret.

My thoughts and comments today are about “regrets, repentance, and redemption.”

Everyone has regrets. Everyone makes mistakes. What happens after you make a mistake or poor choice is what matters most. People regret things wrongly committed – harsh words, angry reactions, bad behavior, impatience – which they wish they had restrained. Or regret can result from good things omitted. The Bible cautions, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” James 4:17 NIV. God views sins of omission and sins of commission alike.

Your goal should be to have a sanctified and trained conscience that preempts your natural inclination to do wrong, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Paul offered a worthy goal, “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” Acts 24:16 NIV. Regret is a belated recognition of wrongdoing.

There was a time when I assumed righteousness could be measured by how long I could go without sinning. Trust me; that is not very effective. Along the way, I have come to understand that a better measurement of a Godly heart is the brevity of time between recognition of wrong and repentance for it. Regret is ineffective; only repentance can release redemption. Any delay or neglect of repentance produces the pain of regret without promise of release.

The prodigal son experienced devastating regret. Read Luke 15:11-24 NKJV. Eventually, he felt humiliated by his foolishness before and his degrading existence now. Nothing would have changed had he not “come to himself” and determined to return home to his father. Vs. 17-20. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Read 2 Corinthians 7:9 NIV. Regret alone is insufficient, but true repentance results in redemption. “Just see what this Godly sorrow produced in you . . you showed that you have done everything you could to make things right.” Vs. 11 NLT.

Regret preoccupies you with paralyzing emotions of remorse; repentance releases you from regret and remorse. “You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was. Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you [enriched].” 2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT. Obviously, Paul’s contrasting words, “rich and poor,” reference our spiritual poverty contrasted with the abounding riches of God’s grace. “I thank my God always concerning the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him . .” 1 Corinthians 1:4-6 NKJV. In Christ, regret is replaced by rejoicing.

Redemption is the lavish application of God’s grace, removing every cause for regret, whatever its source. See Ephesians 1:3-9 NKJV. On His cross, the Savior “emptied Himself,” (Philippians 2:5-9 NAS) so that you and I can be enriched in the fullness of grace and redemption His eternal sacrifice affords. Whatever your regrets, bring them to Jesus and rest secure in His amazing grace.

My prayer for you today is that you live free of regret, rejoicing in God’s plenteous grace.

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March 1st, 2013

“Forgiving each other, just as . . God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NIV.

Forgiveness occurs only when you release the offense and offender to God.

Your innocence does not preclude the possibility of another’s offense. Life will have plenty of wrongs and hurts. When those occur and they will, what happens in you is more important than what happened to you. What happens to you is just for a moment; what happens in you can affect you deeply and negatively. You should not give anyone the power to impose upon your inner life. Do not let what was external become internal.

Paul gave sound instruction, “Get rid of all bitterness . . along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV.  A lot of unpleasant and unprofitable things can occur, such as negative feelings, unholy passions, unhealthy emotions, distracted thoughts, misdirected attention, revengeful plans, wasted time, as well as broken hearts and damaged relationships. See Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV.

Often enough, the worst pain from an offense is frequently self-inflicted. What has been done will be hurtful enough; don’t add more pain to it. You can’t get over your pain until you get past the hurt; you won’t get past the hurt until you give the offense to God. There is one sure cure; that cure is forgiveness. Forgiveness does not involve feeling different about what has happened; forgiveness is a unilateral choice to release another person, or persons, from accountability to you. Place their offense and your pain into God’s hands. Forgiveness occurs only when you release the offense and offender to God.

Paul wrote to Christians in Rome who endured much more than offenses; they suffered severe, religious persecution. His instruction? “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 NIV. That would appear to me to be more easily said than done, but it needs be said and it must be done. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.”  Vs. 17-19 NIV.

It may be an oversimplification, but I would summarize Paul’s counsel this way: don’t insert yourself into God’s way. My Dad’s advice was both similar and simple, “Two wrongs never make a right.” God will deal with offenders and their offenses; don’t make it necessary for Him to deal with yours also. Choosing to do what’s right is the only way you heal a wrong.

“Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:12-14 NIV. You fail to forgive another when you fail to remember the amazing grace with which God has forgiven you. Unforgiveness is a costly thing to hold tightly. Unforgiveness inflicts more suffering on you than on the person you fail to forgive. Forgive; be kind to yourself and pleasing to God. What a deal.

My prayer for you this day is that you will be quick to forgive and willing to forget.

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Failure and Redemption

May 7th, 2012

“Samson prayed . . ‘Remember me, O God . . strengthen me just once more.’ Judges 16:28 NIV

“If you entertain a wrong appetite for a moment, you may struggle for a lifetime.”

My thoughts and comments today are about “failure and redemption.”

Everybody likes a success story of someone who hits the bottom and fights their way back. Business and sports are filled with such stories, as have been a few marriages and prodigals – individuals who had a golden opportunity, squandered it badly then realized their wasted opportunity, changing their ways before it was too late. Samson’s story is one of those.

Samson is the poster child for failure and redemption. Usually people are prone to linger longer on the down side of a person’s record. Preachers tend to do that with Samson. See Judges 13-16. Why do we have such a fascination with one another’s failures? Heaven weeps over moral and spiritual failures – whether public or private – while we are drawn to read every lurid record of others flaws and failures. And such stories are not hard to come by – politicians in scandals, celebrities in rehab or jail, athletes using performance enhancing drugs, law enforcement breaking laws, corporate leaders ravaging shareholders’ trust, or ministers living immodestly or impurely.

Samson would have been on the front page of the tabloids, big news in the worst ways. Why would he entangle himself in wrong relationships and be attracted to harmful things, distracted from what he should have prized more highly? A valuable life-lesson is this: if you entertain the wrong appetite even for a moment, you can end up struggling with it for a lifetime. How could someone start so miraculously with prophecy and promise spoken over them, yet get himself into such compromising situations?

Samson had Godly parents and a great beginning. He was called by God as a deliverer, blessed with unusual spiritual and physical strength. But he chose to companion with the ungodly Philistines, consort with harlots, use his strength and gifts for others’ amusement, and broke sacred vows to his parents, nation, and God. But there is always a price to be paid – often a very high price, occasionally in a very great and public shame.

As a young teen, I heard my Dad quote a Scripture that caught my attention, “You may be sure your sins will find you out.” Numbers 32:23 NIV. There have been moments in my life when the Holy Spirit has whispered that verse to my heart when I needed to hear it most, and for which I am grateful. Solomon wrote, “Through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil.” Proverbs 16:6 NIV.

Like Jesus’ story of the Prodigal – and stories of a lot of others, such as Abraham, Moses, Jonah, Saul, David, Simon Peter, Paul – Samson’s story ended up in Heaven’s history book, not in trashy tabloids. Read Hebrews 11:32. The end of his story was told in the language of God’s grace, not his own shame. Just like yours may have been, or could still be. That’s why they call grace amazing! Samson’s ultimate comeback was greater than his public collapse.

Samson remembered his beginnings and prayed, “Lord, remember me, and strengthen me once more . . thus he killed many more [Philistines] when he died than while he lived.” Judges 16:28/30 NIV. And the Lord remembered Samson; He will do the same for you! God doesn’t throw you away when you feel like you have, or others would. He remembers you, when you remember Him. In God’s love, there remains a place of grace for you.

My prayer for you today is that you never forget there is a path home to God’s grace.

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