Category: Grace (Page 1 of 11)

Leading Lavishly

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~1 John 3:1

Our God does not measure his love out to us. He doesn’t weigh it on scales or scoop it out with a spoon. He doesn’t give just enough of his love to get us by or just as much of his love as we might deserve. He floods us with his love. We have more of his love than we could ever ask for or imagine. That’s the one thing you can ask God to do that’s impossible: God, will you love me more? Nope. Can’t. Impossible. He lavishes us with his love. We are his children. That is what we are.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” ~Ephesians 1:7-8

Our Father lavishes us with his grace. We sing about it. God’s amazing grace. Matchless grace. God’s grace that reaches even me! God’s forgiveness is over the top. It’s not that you’re forgiven of some of your sins or most of your sins or all the little sins or every sin except that one sin. It’s not that you’re forgiven is you do this one thing or keep this set of rules or follow this particular creed. In Jesus Christ, every single one of your sins — all of ’em; name em! — are all gone forever! God’s forgiveness is total and complete! Your sins are removed from you as far as the east is from the west! They are all hurled to the bottom of the sea, never to be dredged up again! God doesn’t put your sins up on the top shelf in the corner of a dark closet just so he can pull them out again and hold them against you at the worst possible time. God’s grace is lavish and complete.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~John 10:10

This is not an incidental or isolated remark from our Lord. This comes right between “I am the gate” and “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus is our doorway to salvation and the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. And in the middle is the key contrast between his purpose and mission and that of the thieves and robbers: They come to take, Jesus comes to give. They seek destruction, Jesus seeks abundance.

From the fullness of his grace we have all  received one blessing after another. God gives the Spirit without limit. The water he gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Rivers of living water for all to drink. You will bear much fruit and your joy will be made complete. You will  do greater works than me. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ lavish life-giving abundance. If we wrote them all down, all the books in the world wouldn’t hold them!

The apostle Peter says we shepherd like our Chief Shepherd. We treat those in our flocks the same way Jesus does. With lavish love. With limitless grace. With inexhaustible forgiveness. With unmerited favor. We give everybody in our church life to the full.



Grace First

Our Lord doesn’t gives instructions or commandments to his people before he saves his people. God always rescues first, then lays out the conditions second. God saves, then his people obey. God speaks, then his people respond. God reaches out in mercy and grace, then his people rejoice and give him praise. That’s the way it works. God acts in kindness toward his people, then his people act in kindness to one another.

God creates man, gives him a loving and equal partner, puts them in charge of everything in the beautiful garden, provides for their every need, and then gives them instructions regarding the trees.

God rescues Noah, he saves Noah’s whole family through the un-creation of the flood, and then he establishes the covenant with its commands.

God delivers Israel from Egyptian bondage, he walks them through the Red Sea on dry ground, he destroys all their enemies, and then he gives them the Law on Mount Sinai.

It’s always grace first, then law second.

Jesus first heals the leper, then he says, “Now go offer the gift.” Jesus cleanses the demon-possessed man, then he says, “Now go tell your family how much the Lord has done for you, how he has had mercy on you.” Jesus rescues an adulterous woman from her executioners, he saves her, and then he says, “Go and leave your life of sin.”

It’s a formula. It’s a pattern. It’s a rule for the way things are. It’s the divine order.

The Christmas trees don’t go up in Walmart until after Halloween. The kids don’t spill red Kool-Aid until after you’ve got new carpet. Jerry Jones doesn’t sign a player until after that player’s committed a felony. And our gracious heavenly Father doesn’t give rules and commands until after he saves us.

It’s just the opposite of Santa Claus. If you’re good, Santa gives you a great gift. With God in Christ, we’re good because we’ve been given such a great gift.



God’s Not Finished Yet

The little kids’ T-shirt is right: “Be patient, God’s not finished with me yet.”

We could/should all wear those shirts. All of us. Everybody. We should repeat the phrase to ourselves and declare it out loud to anyone who is listening. Be patient, God’s not finished with me yet. He’s not. Be patient with your church, God’s not finished with it yet. Be patient with your elders, your preacher, your small group leader, the people in your Bible class – God’s not finished with them yet.

The Bible says we are in a continual process of being transformed. We are being transformed into Christ’s image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord. It’s an on-going act upon us, something being done to us. We are being transformed. And we know this. God is patiently working to transform us into the image-of-God people he saved us and called us to be. So we can afford to be patient with each other because we know we’re not done yet.

I can’t walk into the kitchen and pull Carrie-Anne’s lasagna out of the oven and criticize it because it’s watery or flat if it’s only been cooking for three minutes. How can I criticize it if it’s not done yet? How can I make any judgment? We don’t put baseball players in the Hall of Fame after just one season. A graduate from medical school isn’t doing open heart surgery the next morning. Lance Armstrong didn’t win the Tour de France the first time he rode a bike – he had training wheels!

How can I ever judge you? It’s not like God is finished with you. He’s still very much at work. How can we fuss at each other or get frustrated with people in our churches? God is still changing you. He is still changing me. We are always becoming who we are meant to be. But certainly none of us has arrived.

So, let’s cut each other some slack.



Honor and Glory

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus… Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” ~1 Timothy 1:13-16

God saved Paul. This blasphemer, the personal persecutor of the Lord and his Church, this violent man who is deserving of death, this self-proclaimed worst sinner in the world – God saved him. Not just as an act of love and mercy, as amazing and wonderful as that is. Paul is a showcase for God’s unlimited patience. Paul says, “I’m the display, I’m the model. I’m the picture of all hostile sinful rebels against God, whom God tolerates while patiently working for and waiting for their salvation.”

And it’s so amazing and so wonderful, God’s patience is so awesome, that Paul just breaks out into praise! He can’t help it!

“To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever! Amen!” ~1 Timothy 1:17

Paul is saying, “Look at me. Look at my sins. Look at my rebellion. It doesn’t get any worse than me. But God was patient with me. Patient. And look what’s happened. Only God! Honor and glory!”

There was a time in my life when all I thought about was me. All I cared about was my career. I stepped on a lot of people and I hurt many others just to get a controversial quote or the inside scoop on what I thought was a big story. I only associated with people I thought could get me more access, more control, more power. I surrendered my integrity and my values to get better ratings for my shows. I paid more attention to the women at work than I did to my wife. I neglected my children. I was not good.

But God was so patient with me. God has been slow to anger and so very patient with me. And look what’s happened. And what’s happening. Only God! Honor and glory!

What about you? You’ve got a story, too. God has shown you his unlimited patience. God has been slow to anger with you for the sole purpose of saving you. You are where you are right now only by God’s great patience. Only God! Honor and glory!



If Not You…

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” ~Hebrews 12:15
As children of God and disciples of Christ Jesus, we demonstrate his grace to the people around us. We make sure all the people we contact every day know the truth about our God because they experience it in us. They encounter his grace in us. They see it and feel it in you.

This is as practical and tangible and as real as the Christian life gets. Whatever you have received from the Lord, you generously pass it on to others.

“Forgive each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” ~Ephesians 4:32
Forgive the person in your life who doesn’t deserve it. Forgive the person who’s never apologized. We’ve got more than enough people out there accusing and condemning. Who’s going to forgive? Christians who, by God’s grace, have been forgiven.

“Accept one another just as Christ accepted you.” ~Romans 15:7
Invite somebody over to your house who is 30 years older or 30 years younger than you. Take somebody to lunch who’s a different race or speaks a different language. Have a conversation with somebody from a different culture than yours and learn something. We’ve got lots of people out there dividing us and categorizing us and drawing lines and excluding others. Who’s going to accept others? Christians who, by God’s grace, have been accepted.

“Love one another as I have loved you.” ~John 15:34
Take a Sonic drink to your grouchy next door neighbor. Say something kind and encouraging to the customer service agent. Compliment the cashier at the gas station. Give up your own rights and give in to the demands of someone else. There’s enough hate out there, there’s enough haters – more than enough. Who’s going to show love? Christians who, by God’s grace, have been eternally loved.



He Touched the Coffin

Jesus is walking to the little town of Nain. This little village is so small, so insignificant, so completely unimportant to anybody, that most scholars have no idea where it was located. This was a nothing town full of nobody people. But in Luke 7, Jesus is going there. That means something, yes?

“As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out – the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” ~Luke 7:12

In that part of the world, at that time and place, it was over for this poor woman. If you’re a woman in that setting and your husband dies and then your only son dies, it’s a death sentence for you. This is a picture of utter despair and hopelessness.

“When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.'” ~Luke 7:13

Death is the ultimate sign that things are messed up. Any kind of sickness, too. Sickness reminds us that death is coming, eventually. We don’t know when or where or how, but we do know death is in the cards for all of us. Sickness reminds us of that. Sickness and death are connected. Death reminds us that this world is broken and things are not the way God created them and intended them to be.

“Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God… They said, ‘God has come to help his people!'” ~Luke 7:14-17

It’s important that Jesus touched the coffin. He touched the coffin and everything got still. Jesus touched the coffin and stopped death in its tracks. Where death was going, where death was taking this poor woman, what death had planned for this family – all of that was stopped cold as soon as Jesus touched the coffin.

According to the Law, when Jesus touched the coffin, it made him unclean. It tarnished him, it defiled him. According to the Law, it made Jesus an outcast, it separated him from the community of God’s people and, in some sense, for a while, it separated him from God. But he still did it. Jesus touched the coffin.

Jesus is willing to identify with the situation. He purposefully walks to the awful circumstance, he doesn’t back away. He touches the coffin, he goes to the problem, and he takes it into himself. He becomes one with your death. Whatever is killing you or threatening to kill you, whatever is stealing your joy, whatever is hijacking your hope, our Lord Jesus resolutely walks to it and touches it. He identifies with it, he identifies with you, he touches you, and he stops whatever is going on.

God in Christ has the amazing power to reverse the curse. God in Christ has the power and authority to fix everything that’s broken in your life and to make right everything in your world that’s gone wrong. And, praise the Lord, he has the desire, the willingness, and the grace to do it. For you.

At great cost to himself, yes. But he has that same grace for you.



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