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When Grace Goes Deep

When Grace Goes Deep

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who in his love and mercy called you to share the eternal life he gives through Christ. You are already following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who twist and change the truth concerning Christ….” Galatians 1:6-7

The prodigal son trudges up the path. His pig stink makes passersby walk wide circles around him, but he doesn’t notice. With eyes on the ground, he rehearses his speech: “Father”—his voice barely audible—”I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am not worthy to be called your son.” He rehashes the phrases, wondering if he should say more, less, or make a U-turn to the barnyard. After all, he cashed in the trust fund and trashed the family name. Over the last year, he’d awakened with more parched throats, headaches, women, and tattoos than a rock star. How could his father forgive him? Maybe I could offer to pay off the credit cards. He’s so focused on penance planning that he fails to hear the sound of his father…running!

The dad embraces the mud-layered boy as if he were a returning war hero. He commands the servants to bring a robe, ring, and sandals, as if to say, “No boy of mine is going to look like a pigpen peasant. Fire up the grill. Bring on the drinks. It’s time for a party!” Big brother meanwhile stands on the porch and sulks. “No one ever gave me a party,” he mumbles, arms crossed.

The father tries to explain, but the jealous son won’t listen. He huffs and shrugs and grumbles something about cheap grace, saddles his high horse, and rides off. But you knew that. You’ve read the parable of the gracious father and the hostile brother (see Luke 15:11-32).

But have you heard what happened next? Have you read the second chapter? It’s a page-turner. The older brother resolves to rain on the forgiveness parade. If Dad won’t exact justice on the boy, I will.

“Nice robe there, little brother,” he tells him one day. “Better keep it clean. One spot and Dad will send you to the cleaners with it.”

The younger waves him away, but the next time he sees his father, he quickly checks his robe for stains.

A few days later big brother warns about the ring. “Quite a piece of jewelry Dad gave you. He prefers that you wear it on the thumb.”
“The thumb? He didn’t tell me that.” 
“Some things we’re just supposed to know.”
“But it won’t fit my thumb.”

“What’s your goal—pleasing our father or your own personal comfort?” the spirituality monitor gibes, walking away.

Big brother isn’t finished. With the pleasantness of a dyspeptic IRS auditor, he taunts, “If Dad sees you with loose laces, he’ll take the sandals back.”

“He will not. They were a gift. He wouldn’t…would he?” The ex-prodigal then leans over to snug the strings. As he does, he spots a smudge on his robe. Trying to rub it off, he realizes the ring is on a finger, not his thumb. That’s when he hears his father’s voice. “Hello, Son.”

There the boy sits, wearing a spotted robe, loose laces, and a misplaced ring. Overcome with fear, he reacts with a “Sorry, Dad” and turns and runs.

Too many tasks. Keeping the robe spotless, the ring positioned, the sandals snug—who could meet such standards? Gift preservation begins to wear on the young man. He avoids the father he feels he can’t please. He quits wearing the gifts he can’t maintain. And he even begins longing for the simpler days of the pigpen. “No one hounded me there.”

That’s the rest of the story. Wondering where I found it? On page 1,892 of my Bible, in the book of Galatians. Thanks to some legalistic big brothers, Paul’s readers had gone from grace receiving to law keeping.

Joy snatchers infiltrated the Roman church as well. Paul had to remind them, “But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work” (Romans 4:5).

Philippian Christians heard the same foolishness. Big brothers weren’t telling them to wear a ring on their thumb, but they were insisting “you must be circumcised to be saved” (Philippians  3:2).

Even the Jerusalem church, the flagship congregation, heard the solemn monotones of the Quality Control Board. Non-Jewish believers were being told, “You cannot be saved if you are not circumcised as Moses taught us” (Acts 15:1 NCV)

The churches suffered from the same malady: grace blockage. The Father might let you in the gate, but you have to earn your place at the table. God makes the down payment on your redemption, but you pay the monthly installments. Heaven gives the boat, but you have to row it if you ever want to see the other shore.

Your deeds don’t save you. And your deeds don’t keep you saved. Grace does. The next time big brother starts dispensing more snarls than twin Dobermans, loosen your sandals, set your ring on your finger, and quote the apostle of grace who said, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (I Corinthians  15:10 NKJV)

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The Child In Us

Do you remember how it felt when you learned something as a child?  Remember that feeling of accomplishment that you were smarter by learning that tidbit?  You couldn’t wait to go and let everyone know what you had learned, no matter who else knew that tidbit or if anyone cared.

In Mark 10:14-15, Jesus tells us that we have to receive the Kingdom of God “like a child to enter it” (NLT).  Such a simple command, yet many struggle with that concept.  The worldly attitude is that, as an adult, we can’t act like children, it just isn’t mature.  We worry about how that will look if we act like a child, in anything.  But here is where the line gets blurred by many.  Jesus didn’t say act childish, He said we have to be childlike.  

When we study Scripture and approach our study with a childlike mentality, we then allow God to mold and teach us His Word, as He wants us to learn.   When we approach our study with an adult mentality, we limit the possibilities of learning what God has for us to learn.  When we absorb God’s Word with a childlike mentality, it makes us excited about what we have learned, and thus, like a child, we want to run and tell anyone and everyone about our tidbit.  Thus, we have then obeyed the final commandment that Jesus told the Disciples in Matthew 28:19.

So, let’s resolve to study God’s Word with that childlike mentality, and with that same childlike spirit, spread the Good News about our Savior, Christ Jesus!

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Are You Lonely In Your Trial?

Are You Lonely In Your Trial?

In most cases and situations, God peels away, and turns away people in our quest for help, so that we will have no other option but to turn to Him. Although we know He should be our FIRST option, the world will continually attempt to convince us that He should be the last option, and even try to convince us that He is not even an option, based on our past.

It is the times when we feel the loneliest that God is right beside us, patiently waiting for us to finally turn to Him with EVERYTHING, with TOTAL FAITH in Him.  Let’s look at what Moses had to endure in Egypt to free God’s people from bondage (Exodus 7 – 14).  Each time God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, He showed Moses what He could do, and each time, He strengthened Moses’  faith in God, which would later come to help Moses when He would speak for the Children of Israel in the wilderness.  At each point that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Moses was alone, with only God to turn to.  And when God had Moses’ full faith in Him,   Pharaoh released the Children of Israel to Moses.  But not without yet another trial.  Once The Children of Israel was released, God again wanted Moses’ total faith in Him, this time in battle with Pharaoh’s army.  This wasn’t the traditional battle that we would think of, where both sides are firing weapons, only one side had weapons of the world.  The Children of Israel had the the One weapon, the mighty Hand of God.   Moses demonstrates his faith in God with the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21).  It all started with God showing Moses that all he needed was faith in God, and God alone.  God also demonstrates this with Noah (Genesis 6:13), and with Job.

If God can deliver in these extraordinary situations, He can also deliver you from any situation, and trial you face in life.  The beauty of it all is there is no monetary price to pay, there is no hard physical labor you have to endure.  Jesus paid all the dues for this, when He died for us all.  His faith in The Father as He hung from the Cross, ALONE, is the ultimate example of the total faith we should have in God.

When we feel that we stand alone in our trials and tests in this world, it is where God has peeled back the world, and has given you a clear path to HIM.  God knows our human nature, that it is in times of trouble and trial that we seek Him the most.   As we mature in God’s Word, we learn to seek Him always, through good and bad, and put total faith in Him!  He leaves the choice to us, He doesn’t force us into any decision.  We see the evidence in His Word, we need not look any further than a mirror to see the true miracle of God’s mighty Hand, for we are made in His likeness (Genesis 1:27).  He did not say it would be easy, and trial and tests are continual.   The true measure of one’s maturity in God’s Word and our faith in God can be measured by the frequency we seek God’s help and how often we glorify God, whether it be in word, song, action or sacrifice of material possessions.

Remember, when we are at our loneliest,  when we are at our lowest point, God is patiently waiting for your call, waiting for your faith.  Once you put it ALL in God’s mighty Hands, He will deliver, just as He did with Noah, Just as He did with Moses, and just as He did with Job.

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Faith, A Five Letter Word

Faith.  A five letter word.  Faith. A word that has 2 definitions.  The world defines faith as complete trust or confidence in someone or something.   A simple definition.  We can accept this definition and apply it to all aspects of our life, including our spiritual life and walk with Christ.   But I can’t, nor will I accept that simple definition of faith and it’s application to my walk with Christ.  In the King James version, Faith is actually mentioned only twice, while faithful is mentioned over 75 times.   This tells me that, in order to learn faith in Christ, we have to study His Word to find and understand true faith,  the level of faith we strive to have in God.

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 
 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

Genesis 22:1-2

God gives Abraham the ultimate test of faith, telling him to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering.  Abraham shows his total faith in God,

And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

Genesis 22:11-12

Abraham is rewarded for his total faith and obedience to God.  We can see that God wants a broken heart of self-will, which is what Abraham shows, by not questioning God, no showing any kind of hesitation.  We can see that, when we have faith –  faith that God will be there for us, when we obey – obey what God tells us to do in our Walk with Him,  sacrifice – sacrifice our selfishness and our self-thought to do for others without expectation, God will pour out His love and grace on us.

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:1-6, NIV

We need not brag or bring attention to our faithfulness,  or our prayer for others.  When we do that, we take the glory away from God,  and puts it on us.  We need not brag, nor bring attention with words to our walk with Christ.  Our actions from our heart will define our walk, our faith, our obedience in God.  When you serve God, and expect worldly acknowledgement of any sort, you are serving the world.  You then are saying your faith is not in God, but in what the world will reward you with, for your deed.  Notice I did not say GOOD deed.  I can only define GOOD deed as deeds done for the glory of God.

Faith.  A five letter word.  There are many examples of faith in God’s Word.  Joseph.  Moses.  Joshua.  Esther.  Ruth.  Job.  Gideon.  All were faithful to God, and were blessed for their faithfulness and obedience.   You won’t find their names in the dictionary under faith.  I challenge you to pick up your Bible, and study each example I have listed here.  Nine examples of faith, all before Jesus came and gave us the ultimate sacrifice and taught us the ultimate faith in God, His life for our sins.

Do we have that same faith in God?  Can we walk up the mountain, and unconditionally have the same faith that Abraham had? Do we have that faith that is easy to have when things are going our way, but when things are not so well, we look to the world for answers? Questions only you can answer,  an answer that can only come from your heart.

Faith.  Just a five letter word.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20, NIV

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The Seed and The Soil

We are all familiar with the parable Jesus used in Matthew 13:18-23,  using the farmer and the planting of the seeds.  If we look closer at this passage, we can identify ourselves as both the farmer and the seed.

In Matthew 13:19, Jesus says,

The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts.

We can look at this passage, and at some point in our walk, we are the seed, and we are the footpath.  We are the seed, for we heard the Message, and in our infancy of our Walk, we didn’t understand what we were hearing.  It is in that confusion, that lack of understanding, that Satan comes in, and lures us away, with simple, worldly ideas and lies.  Lies are so much easier to believe, and Satan plays on our human, worldly make-up.

We are the footpath, for the seed about the Kingdom, about the Good News of Christ, falls on a hardened heart, a spirit that is unwilling to take in the seed of Christ.  It is not impossible to break through the footpath, but it does require lots of prayer and faith that God can and will break that footpath down to rubble.

Matthew 13:20-21 says,

The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.

We can look at this passage, and most of us have been the seed and the rocky soil at some point in our walk with Christ.   We are the seed, we go to the altar, we turn our lives over to Christ, or rededicate our life to Christ, we have that joy in our heart and spirit.  We stay on this momentous joy for days for some, and hours for others.  Most times, unfortunately, it lasts until we walk out of the church, and make contact with the world.  Satan knows just what to float in your direction, a song, a thought, a person, that will take you back to what you gave to Christ to handle.

We are the rocky soil, for we are witnessing the new Christian, or the rededicated Christian, and we cast doubt on their faith.  It may be a person we don’t care for, a person that has wronged us.  So why should I show support for them?  Why should I be excited for their wanting to reach out to God?  We can, and probably have been, that rocky soil that seeds have fallen in, that God has wanted us to cultivate, and instead of following our guide and direction from the same God that the new seed is looking to do, we halfheartedly show token interest, which in turn, lets doubt creep in the seed.

Matthew 13:22 says,

The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 

As we look at this passage, we can relate to both the seed and the thorns.  We are the seed, we hear God’s Word, however, that is all we do here: we hear it.  We give token time to hear a Scripture, we try to put or confine it to a time limit, then resume our thoughts and worries about the worldly things.  Too many times, we give 10 minutes to hear a short Scripture, to claim that we heard our Scripture of the day, then give the rest of the day to worry about how we look, how much money do we have, how do we look to the neighbor, the parents at the school, our friends.  We grow impatient when our 10 minutes listening to a Scripture doesn’t produce what we want.   Satan conveniently reminds us here that there is no need to give more than the 10 minutes we give, for that 10 minutes isn’t doing any good.  Unfortunately more times than not, we do our token 10 minutes to impress our church members and our Pastor.

We are the thorns, for too many times we are quick to point out our neighbors deficiencies, we are quick to dismiss conversations about Scripture, and are instead quick to remind others of problems, situations, or adverse issues that may be surrounding them.  We throttle the one thing we are supposed to do with Scripture and God’s Word: and that is talk about it and live it!

We have 3 scenarios in which Jesus used the seed of His Word, and the obstacles that hinder the seeds of His Word.  As stated above, we all can say that, in each instance, we have been both the seed and the obstacle.  But as we grow in our faith, our obedience, and our walk with Christ, all 3 of these scenarios can be overcome.  It is so crucial that, as we grow and mature in Christ, we become the 4th. example in the parable, as Matthew 13:23 describes:

   The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Obedience, true faith, and an always growing love for Christ will bring us to be both the seed and the good soil in this passage.  We become the seed, as we continually grow closer to Christ, stronger in His Word, deeper in His Word.  We become the servants of Christ that He wants us to be, and as we go forward, as Jesus as our Savior, all will be provided, as Christ promised us.

We become the good soil, as we grow in Christ, we are able to be the companion in Christ that we are called to be for new Christians as well as leading by example of Christ in our heart, in our spirit and in our life.  As we mature in Christ, we in turn, can pass that on to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  All of us are teachers in this good soil.  As Christ teaches us, as He molds us in his image, we in turn, will help mold other seeds that God puts in our soil.

What are you today?  Which seed or obstacle applies to your walk today?   None of the 1st 3 scenarios are impossible to overcome, and none of them are too far out to be transformed into the 4th. scenario.  Nothing is impossible with God.  Cultivate your path today, and be both the seed and the good soil Christ calls us to be.