Amazing Grace

During this past Sunday’s sermon, my pastor referenced a scripture that has always touched my heart. His teaching didn’t center on this particular passage, but it was used to expound on a different subject.

 I was reminded of the scripture again this morning during prayer. This beautiful event is recorded in Luke, capturing the last few moments of Jesus’ earthly life. It so clearly demonstrates the love and mercy of God that I want to share it with you:

“Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him (Jesus). When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

 “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”

“One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

 “And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23-42 New Living Translation

What a contrast between love and hate, between humility and pride, between compassionate mercy and stubborn denial. Who do you know that would intercede, asking forgiveness for the people who had condemned them to die?  Who else would take the time to comfort another while both are suffering a slow, tortuous death?

With the few precious minutes he had left, a dying man, a thief, recognized that Jesus was the Son of God and repented.  I am brought to tears when I read the verse that follows:  Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

The Lord’s words echo in my heart, filling me with awe at the magnitude of His mercy. One more soul saved from death! Forgiven not because of anything that he himself had done to earn it, but by the act of the One who took the punishment we all deserve. This is God’s amazing grace!

For whoever takes the time to read this post, just think on this for a while:

Salvation is not earned. You haven’t done enough wrong to be excluded from it and you can never do enough right to deserve it. You cannot buy mercy and grace. It is the free gift of God for whoever will receive it.

Blessings as you go about your week! If you have the time, enjoy this song by Todd Agnew: Grace Like Rain 

More on the High Road

Some further study into kingdom principles:

 It seems like a contradiction to tell someone to submit to authority and in return they will yield authority (power), but this is absolutely the case in God’s Kingdom:

 “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:6b-7

Submitting to God means doing things His way. It is an acceptance of His Lordship over us. It is an acknowledgement that His wisdom and understanding are greater than ours. How else can you explain the Lord instructing us to be kind to people who are unkind? Or praying and asking God to bless someone who has hurt, used or taken advantage of us? How about giving to receive? Or having peace in the midst of turmoil? In God’s kingdom, all of these are possible through His grace and wisdom.

 The following is an example of how to apply the James 4:7 scripture in our daily lives:

 Let’s say you are new to a job that you very much need. Your boss hands you a stack of papers with the names, addresses and phone numbers of businesses that use the product your company manufactures. You are told to contact each business and introduce them to your company. If you are asked how you got their number, you are told to not answer and to redirect the conversation, because the list was taken from the office of a competitor. You recognize that this is wrong, but speaking up could cost you your job. What do you do?

 A quick memory scan of scriptures yields the following truths:

 Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” Leviticus 19:11

 “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 1 Timothy 6:9

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16:13

At this point you are most likely experiencing anxiety and fear. Ignoring the situation will not make it go away because your boss expects updates on your progress. On the other hand, confronting your supervisor carries tremendous risk. So you pray, you ask advice from trusted friends and then receive their various answers:

 “Don’t rock the boat. Just go along and make the calls. What’s the harm?”

“Hey, it’s business. Everybody does it. Survival of the fittest, right?”

“You need the job and the economy is tough now. Don’t mess up a good thing. God will understand.”

The entrance of Your word brings light

This is actually a temptation and a test. You are being tempted to lie, cheat and deceive people. Fear of losing your job is testing your faith. Is God your provider or not? Do you trust Him to work this out, even if you lose your job in the process?

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”1 Corinthians 10:13 New Living Translation

 “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:7 NLT

 Jesus is the most powerful man to have walked on the earth. He healed sick people, delivered the oppressed from demonic influence, performed miracles and lived His life in perfect obedience to God, so that at the end of His earthly life He could say, I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me…”

 The right thing to do here is to speak privately with your boss and tell him you cannot in good conscience make the calls. Since he told you how the list came to be in your company’s possession, your beliefs will not allow you to contact these businesses nor lie to their representatives. Your part is to choose God’s way, which is the way of integrity, and then to trust Him with the results- good or bad.

 So, back to the original verse: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Pray and ask God to intervene in your tough situation. Asking for help is a characteristic of a humble heart. “Therefore submit to God”- do things His way, in His strength and ability, in accordance with His word. Then you will be actively resisting the devil, and he (the devil) will flee from you. Whatever bad situation you are going through will come to an end. It will not go on indefinitely because you have the promise of James 4:6-7. (See also Isaiah 54:17)

I want to leave you with one final scripture. I know this post has been heavy with them but I am a Christian who loves the word, so bear with me and be blessed 🙂

“Being found in appearance as a man, He (Jesus) humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:8-11 New American Standard Bible

The High Road

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

 This scripture passage is often quoted but rarely understood. It is usually spoken to someone who is battling an illness, suffering with a loss or going through difficult times. When used this way it carries with it the suggestion that the suffering is from God, so we just have to endure it because God knows what He is doing.

 God does know what He is doing, however, His intention is not that you suffer and simply endure it. While we may experience suffering for a period of time, God wants us to stay connected to Him and trust Him to lead us through the pain and difficulty, coming out on the other side stronger, with an abiding faith that knows that God is good.

 Jesus said that whatever comes to kill, steal or destroy is from the “thief” (Satan) but He (Jesus) came so that we can have abundant life. God will supply you with everything you need in whatever situation you find yourself in.

 So, back to the higher ways of God versus our ways…

 Jesus was sent to proclaim the kingdom of God (see Luke 4:43). It functions differently than man’s kingdoms and institutions.  As God’s Son and chief representative, Jesus came to show us the way we are to operate, as well as how we are to interact with God and with other people.

 Our ways tend toward anger and revenge. Or perhaps fear and anxiety. We want to be nice to who we want to be nice to and we want to do things our way, in our own wisdom and strength.  We want to boast and brag and make ourselves look good, and we definitely want other people to know when someone has done us wrong. This is a short list of “our ways”.

 Now for some examples of God’s ways. In regards to anger and revenge:

 And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27

 “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” Romans 12:17

 If you are experiencing fear and anxiety, listen to what the Lord says: 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.…” Matthew 6:31-33

 Most of us have heard how we are to treat others, but how many of us actually do what the Lord says?

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36

His way of doing things is higher (wiser, superior, better) than the way we would naturally choose to do them. They are founded on love, in mercy and in His wisdom, not in the wisdom of man. The only way we can hope to accomplish any of this is in His strength and ability, not our own. And by choosing to do things God’s way, other people will see His goodness flowing through us and hopefully want everything His kingdom offers:

Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.

 Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
 Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you… ~ Isaiah 55:1-3

God bless you today as you live out your life through Him.

flying heart