Grace

Bible Bible Study Hand Assign Read Christian

Your Holy Calling

I admit that I’m a magnet for phrases. I have no explanation; it just happens. One that is stuck in my brain is from the movie “The Blues Brothers.” It’s when, in unison, John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd yell, “We’re on a mission from God!” Well, I have good news. If you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you’re on a mission from God. How wonderful is that!

who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

2 Timothy 1:9 emphasis added

Before Creation

When I read this passage of Scripture, my spirit stirred in me. Before anything existed, God decided a holy calling for you and me. Our callings were before His creation and are part of His Creation. We each received our holy calling in Jesus Christ only after becoming a child of God.

To add some perspective:

“Astronomers have imaged a beam of matter and antimatter that is 40 trillion miles long with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. The record-breaking beam is powered by a pulsar, a rapidly rotating collapsed star with a strong magnetic field.”

Chandra X-Ray Observatory

This forty trillion miles long antimatter is but a speck in the cosmos that our God created. Yet, He thought of you and gave you a holy calling before He created any part of our universe. That’s how important God’s call upon your life is.

Our Divine Purpose

In Jesus, we each have a divine purpose. It may manifest itself in some profound visible way or profound but hardly be noticed way. We must not covet anyone else’s calling. That’s insulting to God. It’s like saying we don’t want a gift someone gives us. So today, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal even more of His calling upon your life; God is the God of abundance. There is always more there than you or I were initially aware of.

Irrevocable

God will never take back the call He places on you. We know this from Romans 11:29: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” This should be a great encouragement to every child of God. Too often, we give up on ourselves, but God doesn’t. He knows the end from the beginning, and He always completes what He starts. Trust in Jesus, talk with our Father, listen to the Holy Spirit. And remember, where God guides, He provides.


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man sitting in an empty church

Take Me Back

I heard an interesting perspective about Peter and some other apostles at the Sea of Galilee after Jesus arose from His grave. We remember that all the apostles were scattered when the Pharisees apprehended Jesus under duress. Well, the apostle John didn’t scatter, but the rest did. Peter’s was the worst, for he watched the proceedings against Jesus but denied three times that he ever knew Jesus.

Denied Jesus

Before we get on the blame train, have we ever failed to pray at the beginning of lunch with an important client? Have we joined the guys in our brother-in-law’s living room to watch Sunday NFL but conveniently overlooked giving thanks to God for our food? Have we ever joined in wishing someone “good luck?” All of those are denying Jesus. So let’s be slow to judge.

Still, Peter knew he’d messed up real bad. I’m sure he felt like a failure and a hypocrite, the very things the official clergy had been saying about Jesus from the start.

Playing Left-Out

So, as the dust settled, Jesus had proved that He is the Son of God. Everyone could feel the momentum building. His followers were full of questions, and excitement, and anticipation, but not Peter. He thought that he’d missed the boat. Everything Jesus had said was beginning to be fulfilled, but Peter was playing left-out on Christ’s baseball team.

In the Bible, the narrative shifts from Christ’s resurrection to Jesus at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus finds that the fishermen in His inner circle have gone back to their old lives. They were fishing for fish, not men. But I don’t believe Peter was there to catch fish. Peter had been in the inner circle of the inner circle of Jesus. Peter, James, and John were tight with Jesus.

Why was Peter in a Boat?

So, what would Peter be doing, back on the sea, the wind whipping the sail, and the lingering smell of old, dead fish – nothing. Peter was doing nothing. He was going through the motions but he felt dead inside. Have we ever gone through the motions? Years ago, I wrote a song that had the line:

You go through the motions without emotions, and you that that ain’t no good.

I think that was what Peter was doing. Let me share a profound statement I heard a preacher say. He said, “Peter wasn’t there to catch fish. He was there because that was where he first met Jesus.” I think that’s true.

Back to the Beginning

I can’t make a doctrine out of that thought, but it makes sense to me because that’s what we all do when we really mess up, and we can’t see how God can take us back – when we know we deserve nothing from Jesus.

Maybe we ran away from Jesus on purpose. Perhaps in our hearts, for a fleeting moment, we wanted just to be our old selves. Immediately, like Peter, we know we’ve done wrong; not just wrong but we’ve broken our relationship with Jesus and invited an insurrection, just as the devil did in heaven.

I don’t know your experience. But here’s what I do know. In our relationship with Jesus, there always comes a time when our spirit cries out, “Take me back, to the place where I first received you” That’s a line from an André Crouch song.

Renewed Vows

Peter needed it. I needed it. Maybe you need it too. We don’t have to deny Jesus to need our life in Christ renewed. You may have read this post and not identified with a single feeling or problem. Praise God, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t want you to renew your vows with Him.

You want to remind Jesus that you stepped out from those of the world. You stepped out for Jesus to see you. Oh, the preacher saw you. Maybe your momma saw you. Maybe a loved Sunday school teacher saw you. They may have gone on to glory, but Jesus is still here, and it sure would feel good to step out for Jesus.

Peter was ready. Oh, I’m sure he was a hurting man. So when the apostle John said, “Hey, I think that’s Jesus.” Peter didn’t have a moment of hesitation. He dove in the water and ran to his Master. And as Jesus does, Jesus restored him.

Cheap Grace

Jesus restored him but not with cheap grace. Peter had denied Jesus. He had broken faith with Jesus, the one Peter had received revelation from the Holy Spirit that Jesus was the “Son of God.” So Jesus prodded him. “Are you going to do what I have called you to do? Will you feed my sheep. Will you die for me?” Jesus asked Peter hard questions, and He does the same to us when we have sinned deeply. That’s how relationships work.

If my wife and I have a marriage threatening disagreement, it doesn’t get solved with a peck on the cheek and an “I still love you.” No, we must talk through the problem. Someone must change. We must make sure that our foundation is strong. That’s what Jesus did with Peter. That’s what Jesus will do with us, but maybe we need to go back to the start, like Peter. To go to the place we first received Jesus.

Step into the Aisle

Maybe we need to renew our vows to Him. Perhaps we need to step out, again, into the aisle at church; let everyone look. You can’t let the judgment of others overrule your intimacy with Jesus.

As you may have noticed, I feel strongly about this need, especially for people in leadership positions. If you’ve broken your relationship with Jesus or if you feel dry as dust, then ask Jesus to do for you what He did for Peter, to take you back to where you began your life in Him so He can restore you.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay


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seeing eye dog

Why is God Hard to See?

“Daddy, if God loves us, why does He hide?” I asked my dad when I was young. I don’t remember Dad’s answer but, knowing him, he gave me a thorough, accurate, and theologically correct answer. But, sometimes, we don’t need an expansive answer articulated to us. Instead, we need something we can grab on and cling to for dear life.

Of course, the answer we receive must be theologically sound doctrine; that’s a given. But the words used, and their presentation can be vital when tossed as a life preserver to a brother or sister that feels their strength waning and satan’s imps pulling on our feet. To understand God’s Words, we must first hear them interpreted by the Holy Spirit.

I don’t remember Dad’s answer, but I knew I needed the correct answer to my question: “Why is God hard to see?”

By faith, not by sight

Why does God appear to be hiding? Oh, when I look at His creation, I see the handiwork of God. His work testifies to His existence. And when I see a newborn baby, and I’ve seen a lot of them, I am humbled by God’s gift of life. And when I sit at the bedside of a saint of God passing from this life of trials and turmoil and entering the presence of God, I see the unspeakable grace of God to His children. So, for years I was baffled by God’s propensity to remain in in the periphery of my sight.

Why, oh God, maker of heaven and earth, the establisher of kings and kingdoms, the Great I AM, why do You make it so difficult for us to see you?

God’s answer is simple. Jesus told His apostle Thomas the reason. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) God gives a special blessing to all of us that believed Christ’s Gospel without seeing God.

It’s a matter of trust

From Genesis all the way to the end of the book of Revelation, three things that God continually offers to people: repentance, saving faith, and the promise to never be abandoned.  Yet most people reject God and become hard hearted. Salvation is a matter of trust in the perfect work of Jesus. This is rejected by most, but God’s desire is that all would come unto repentance:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

So, why is God hard to see?  God can’t be seen. Our entrance into His kingdom is only available by grace, through faith, which is a work of God. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.(Matthew 7:14)

It is out of God’s love that He has made faith the device for us to not only see Him, but to be received by Him.

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash


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court room

Distorted Gospel

 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7

A time of distorted gospel

We live in a time like the days of the apostle Paul, so much so that this passage in Galatians, from the pen of Paul, resonates in us as we, too, seek to tell the good news that Jesus bought and paid for with His blood and royal position (Revelation 17:14). Yet even while we tell people that Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke19:10), we are confronted by false doctrines from laypeople, religious leaders, and people at all levels of our government that lay claim to the name of our Savior, yet twist His words, attempting to smother the Truth with a gospel mixed with the leaven of this world. (Matthew 16:6)

Our goal is obedience

A Christian’s goal is not to rack up the most days lived, but to rack up the most days lived in obedience to Christ Jesus. It’s not a long life that we seek. It’s a long obedience in the same direction that we seek. Being schooled by public officials on how we should worship and where we should worship is beyond foolish; it’s heretical. 

This world is not our home. We are as Abraham, looking for a city built by God (Hebrews 11:10). We are just passing through this veil of tears (Psalm 84:6-8 NLT), attempting to avoid the Slough of Despond1. We live in this world, but we are not of this world (John 15:19). If we were to receive and ingest the heretical teachings from those who believe they have made wickedness holy by their own power, then I would no longer need the cleansing of my feet, but as Peter said, “wash all of me.” (John 13:9-10)

Purveyors of a perverted gospel

These purveyors of a perverted gospel are received and extolled by business tycoons, heads of state, and all manner of media moguls. The safety net that Christianity has so long enjoyed is gone. We are witnessing a separating between the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), a kind of foreshadowing of that great day of God’s judgment. (Acts 17:31)

Where sin abounds, grace abounds more

So, what is a Christian to do? Flourish! Where sin abounds, grace abounds more (Romans 5:20). We are in the midst of a great harvest. People are desperate for the true fruit of the vine. (Matthew 26:27-29) True, people deceive easily. And when told the true Gospel, the decision they face is whether they will surrender all to Jesus. (1 Peter 5:6-10) And by all, that means their lives, prejudices, predispositions, and pride – this often costs them their family, friends, and the very structure upon which they’ve built their lives.

Yes, it’s no longer business as usual. We can’t just hide in our houses and wait for this sea-change to fall upon us. God is a Mighty Warrior. His name is El Shaddai – God Almighty, the Overpowerer (Job 40:1–2Matthew 19:26)

God is a Mighty Warrior

I think many of us have forgotten this. It’s time to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11) and join in the spiritual battle that now rages, for we fight not against flesh and blood (people are made in the image of God):

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12

God destined us for this time in history

Some Christians may lament the loss of a lifestyle that their grandparents had, a time of distorted gospel, but be of good courage. God had us born into such a time as this, for this is our calling!


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Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

  1. Slough of Despond – The Slough of Despond (/ˈslaʊ … dɪˈspɒnd/ or /ˈsluː/;[1] “swamp of despair”) is a fictional, deep bog in John Bunyan‘s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, into which the protagonist Christian sinks under the weight of his sins and his sense of guilt for them.
sign says GRACE

The Ubiquity of His Grace

I’ve written a lot about grace, but today I would like us to look at an additional facet in God’s diadem of grace. This aspect of God is the ubiquity of His grace.

A simple definition of grace is unmerited favor, and that meaning is sufficient for this devotional. We don’t need to dig deeper. For now, let’s consider two words: unmerited and favor.

Nothing Without Grace

If you’ve ever worked for a large company, then you’ve probably sat through job reviews. Your supervisor probably talked about your contribution to the success of the company, and then you were told you would receive an x% increase in your pay based on merit. That meant you deserved your raise because you earned your raise. Likewise, if you were in the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, then you’re familiar with merit badges that you deserve for your specific accomplishments.

In our English language, “favor” means many things. I may have injured my right leg so, when walking, I “favor” my right leg, meaning I’m treating it with care. I may do someone a favor by helping them without receiving full payment for my effort. And, we can substitute the word “prefer” with “favor,” as I favor t-shirts to button-downs.

Right now, wherever you are, you are living within God’s grace. Why? Because you can receive nothing from God without it being given by God’s grace, unearned and given because God’s favor is with you. If God ever did anything for you because you earned it, then God would be sharing His glory with you; God doesn’t do that (Isaiah 42:8). 

Our walk with Jesus begins within His grace for “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17). Let that sink in.

Promises

As believes we harvest God’s promises from God’s Word. Does that mean that we are earning God’s grace? Hardly. We are told to study God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15). As we study, we find God’s promises. We receive answers from God’s promises through faith, by His grace.

Here’s a promise from God for Christians: For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14 ) You may ask, “How is Romans 6:14 a promise?” Since grace is unmerited favor, it doesn’t matter what your condition or circumstances are, you still have God’s favor. If by faith, you turn your sin over to God, then this sin will lose its mastery over you. It may take time and effort on your part to recover from the ravages of that sin, but that sin will no longer be your master.

Throne of Grace

In closing our quick survey of the ubiquity of God’s grace, consider this verse from Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We find God’s grace in God’s throne in heaven. We see God’s grace as part of the very nature of Jesus. And we know that everything God has ever done for anyone has come by the grace of God.

Isn’t God good!

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Christmas tree ornament that says "grace"

The Opposite of Karma

My wife and I were watching the tv show, “The Rookie,” and in one scene, the lead actor, Nathan Fillion, says, “I’m doing this for good karma.” About ten minutes later, the guy he was helping tried to kill him.

The idea of karma has somehow elbowed its way into our English vernacular. People mix up Christ’s teachings on reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7) with karma.

Karma is defined as, “The force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence. – Merriam-Webster 

What About Grace?

Grace is an essential part of God’s character. Grace is closely related to God’s benevolence, love, and mercy. Grace can be variously defined as “God’s favor toward the unworthy” or “God’s benevolence on the undeserving.” In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve to be treated so well or dealt with so generously. (Got Questions)

It seems to me that grace is the opposite of karma. So let’s toss that word “karma” out of our conversations and let grace come in. “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. (2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV) 

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cat resting on a person

Rest Easy

In the observable universe, there are an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. That’s 1 billion trillion. And that’s not counting planets, moons, and so forth. We can’t truly comprehend that number, yet each celestial object is unique. Here’s what our God said about this starry host:

Isaiah 40:25-26 (ESV)
“To whom will you compare Me,
or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high:
Who created all these?
He leads forth the starry host by number;
He calls each one by name.
Because of His great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

Indeed, God is beyond our understanding, and yet He knows everything and everyone in the universe! He knows you, and He knows me, and He knows what we need and what our hearts desire.

Thanks to Jesus, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

We have joy, mercy, grace, and peace in God through Jesus Christ. Rest in Jesus, no matter what you need!

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compass

Grace Not Place

A few months ago, my wife and I watched a British TV series, “Fake or Fortune.” We were sucked in because art experts were analyzing paintings that had insufficient documentation, commonly known as provenance, that could confirm the authenticity of the artwork. Was it real, or was it a fake?

It was a fun show because each owner of a painting was sure it was worth a fortune, but they couldn’t prove it. And many times, the experts couldn’t establish the painting’s provenance, so the artwork was deemed worthless.

There were a few times the TV team made astonishing discoveries. When that happened, everyone’s faces burst into smiles, and there was a joy that swept through the group.

I am so easily deceived by a person’s “provenance.” I know the history of their dad or mother or relatives. I know the place where they were born, the place where they grew up, so I make a mental note, categorizing them. Shame on me! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)”

A person’s worldly history is expunged when they are reborn. Each one of God’s children is born the same way – by grace, through faith, as a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9) It matters not who someone was. What matters to God, is that person His child.

In closing, I encourage you to take 3 minutes and listen to this old hymn, Grace That Is Greater Than All Our Sin.

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Dust on a man's hands

God’s Beloved

First published on August 24, 2019 (I’m sick today)

We obey as a result of being God’s beloved

I came across an article I found interesting. The article is titled, “4 Ways Your Bible Points to Jesus.” In the article I read there wa a quote that gave me pause; I knew I needed to ponder the words. Here’s the quote: We obey as a result of being God’s beloved, not to cause God to love us. His grace toward us precedes, enables, and motivates our efforts toward holiness.Bryan Chapell

How amazing and how consistent Mr. Chapell’s words are with God’s message to us throughout the Bible. God always initiates, always provides, always loves. We do not obey God to cause Him to love us. We obey because He already has loved us.

Then there is God’s grace. The simple definition of grace is receiving what you did not earn. God’s grace equips us, His beloved, to attain the holiness to which He calls us (1 Peter 1:16). God’s tool house is full of every imaginable tool that we might need for us to move from where we are to being holy. He made them for us before we existed, and they exist for our asking, provided we use them.

God Acts Before The Facts

God has done all these things while we were still sinners. This fundamental characteristic of God to act before there is evidence of success is found throughout the Bible, and not only regarding humanity’s salvation. We find assurance of God’s compassion in our walk with Jesus in Psalms 103:13-14:

13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

This is such an encouraging passage of Scripture. God knows how we were formed. He was there. He did the work. He truly knows you and me

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Angry bird

Angry People

My son and I are on a mini-vacation. Yesterday, the man behind us at a gas station become angry when my son went into the store to pay for the gas while our car was at the pump.

This left us “hogging” a pump which made the driver behind us so upset he came up to my car to yell at me. I was in the passenger seat. I lowered my window and listened to his complaint. As he then stormed off, I said a quick prayer and hobbled back to his pickup truck.

He lowered his window, and I began by apologizing. He said an apology didn’t help. So, I just started talking to him. I accepted the fault, understood the impact to him of our selfishness, and continued to absorb his understandable anger instead of reflecting it at him.

Ran Out Of Steam

Rather quickly, he ran out of steam and began to become more congenial. By the time my son got back to our car, the driver had forgiven us and wished us a good day. I thanked Jesus on my way back to our car, and we drove away with everyone reasonably happy.

Jesus said, in His sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) We are all called to be peacemakers. And, there is a big difference between peacemakers and peacekeepers.

Yes, my son and I were inconsiderate, and that was wrong. The anger of the driver behind us was justifiable. So, as much as I wanted to, I could not ignore the problem. I was going to be either a peacekeeper or a peacemaker.

Don’t Mollify

A peacekeeper is a person that mollifies angry people. There is often little value from peacekeeping for they work to suppress hurt feelings. By sealing a person’s anger, the peacekeeper may achieve short-lived success, but eventually, that anger will come out. And, the more prolonged anger is suppressed, the more bitterness and fury will be manifested. Anyone that receives this explosion of rage probably has had little to do with causing the anger.

Jesus didn’t call us to be peacekeepers; instead, we are to be peacemakers. The peacemaker’s role is difficult, but a part each Christian is called to do. It’s our job to tenderly “lance the boil” of anger, hatred, and bitterness. These harsh emotions evaporate like frost on a field when they come out of their darkness into the Light of God’s glory.

It is our job to gently open the wound so that it can receive the treatment it needs by the Holy Spirit, and then we suture the damaged tissue so healing can be completed. Accordingly, if you haven’t done so already, add peacemaker to your Follower of Jesus job description.

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