Amazing Great Big Grace (God’s Power To Become)

This article is part 2 of 4 in the series Grace

   Grace – God’s Power To Become
   Understanding God’s grace is one of the greatest challenges of God’s people. We sing about it, thank God for it, quote scriptures which mention it, yet in reality seldom do we understand it. Some are challenged by it, because it means freedom from the ‘out of balance’ thnking of legalistic, check list systems they try to enforce. When truly understood, it means freedom from the guilt feelings of “I haven’t given enough, done enough, won souls enough, attended enough.” When grace is properly understood, it means real power, power to actually ‘become’, to grow, to serve from the most powerful of motives, love. Paul said, “the love of Christ constrains me”, not guilt, not fear of hell… THE LOVE OF CHRIST.
   How many Christians have withered on the vine as it were, not using their gifts and talents? Well, let this be a clarion cry, for all Christians to open their Bibles and study the “riches of His grace”, grace that gives power to become what God wants you to be.
   Some of this may be ‘old hat’ to some who already know about his grace. The challenge is to study with a renewed desire passages memorized years ago, in search for new truth, great principles, which will bring life to the soul, transform the life. The shackles of guilt that have been carried for years for sins of the past were never meant to be carried by the Christian.
   The story is told of a man walking along a country road. He had travelled for miles it seemed, when a man in a horse drawn wagon came along. He offered him a ride, which was gratefully accepted. He climbed on the wagon, and the old man drove on. After a while he looked back, and saw that the man on the back of the wagon was still carrying his heavy nap sack. He stopped and asked him why he was still carrying it. The man said, “I didn’t know you wanted to carry my burden  as well.” This is so much like us when we come to Jesus. We repent of our sins and are immersed for remission of sins like Peter said in Acts 2:38, but then we insist on continuing to carry the burden while trying to walk with Jesus. We wonder why it is so difficult, and why the joy is not there. Fact is, Jesus not only wants us, He wants to carry that old ‘sack of burdens’ that have weighed us down for so long.
   Take time to re-read the first article in this series, GREAT AMAZING GRACE, and get your coffee and sit and just think about this wonderful subject. The series  will continue to grow as more and more we discover together what the Bible teaches, and it is my prayer, that we will grow, in grace, applying it to every aspect of our walk in Christ (as well as our recovering from sins in our lives). 
   There will be no appology offered for the study, for it is much needed. Where the Bible leads in this study, that’s where we will stand. Some traditions may have to fall, some ‘old ways’ may have to change, but if it is because of understanding God’s great grace better, then so be it. Yet all will be because of a deep desire to know the truth, and be set free, not to ’cause trouble’. Our hesitancy about preaching on the subject, our fear of ‘reprocussions’, will have to laid aside if we are to truly “search the scriptures’ and “speak where the Bible speaks”.  
   John Newton was confronted while preaching one Sunday, by a man who stood up during his sermon. He said, “How dare you preach about Jesus when you have raped and beaten slaves.” To this John said, “That’s right, I have, and that’s why I preach. Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
   The problem is, many look at the forgiven and say, “THAT’S NOT FAIR… YOU DESERVE PUNISHMENT… NO FORGIVENESS.” “You have to un-do what you did in the past or we cannot accept you!” The fact is, we all have committed sins in our past that have not been ‘un-done’ by us. We have simply leaned on and continue to lean on His grace as we should. We realize, that we cannot ‘unscramble the eggs’. Even if we could, it wouldn’t pay the price, and that is what grace is all about.
   Does this mean take his grace for granted, or abuse it. “God forbid”. Even though I (we) all must admit that I (we) have abused grace at one time or another, and that we are ashamed of it, as I have been ashamed, and repent. But we certainly do not want to make it a habit, for that would lead to being lost forever.
   Praise God for His great, big, awesome, GRACE (Romans 5:9).
   (As we continue this study, please understand that I claim no attitude of ‘knowing it all’ nor some ‘special knowledge’. I am sharing with you, what I have learned through my ‘sit downs’ with dad, and others who have helped me tremendously with over-coming guilt and shame. I ask if you can help me, and all of us, grow in this subject, that you contact me by email.)
   (More to come) 

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Great Big Amazing Grace

This article is part 1 of 4 in the series Grace

   Mercy is when you DON’T GET what you deserve. Justice is when you GET what you deserve. Grace is when you GET what you DON’T deserve. Three simple principles to remember when studying the Bible.
   We have made the Christian life far to difficult, and taken the joy right out of following Jesus by allowing legalism to creep into pulpits and classes. Legalism is a system of works whereby one feels he has balanced the religious scales so he can get into heaven.  Legalism is the focus on obeying commands (of God) and minimizing the grace which makes a “walk with Him” possible,  and takes the heart, joy and soul out of following Jesus.
   Answer these questions: Can you give more? Can you attend church more? Can you tell others about Jesus more? Can you read the bible more? Can you pray more? You say, “Sure, I can do more.” Well, legalism says, “You are bad because you have not done all you can.” Law has no Savior, no Calvary, no forgiveness. It just condemns you when you don’t DO what it says. You can never do enough ‘under law’. You will find a lot of guilt on this ‘road too much travelled’, because no matter what you do, it is never enough. This is what many use to get people to give, pray, and attend, bring people etc…
   Consider these questions: Do you give some? (“Yes” – Wonderful! Grow), Do you go to church? (“Yes” – Wonderful), Do you tell others about Jesus? (“Yes” – Great! Keep it up). What’s the point? Well it should be obvious because we are showing the difference between legalism and grace. Life under LAW is hard, and demanding and a life of guilt. Life under GRACE on the other hand is a life of joy, and encouragement to keep growing in Jesus.
   For example, just think about your driving record. All of you “good” drivers, think of all the times you did a ‘rolling stop’, or crossed the solid white line, or made a “U” turn where you shouldn’t have, or went over the speed limit, or parked wrong. Now imagine a roll of paper coming down from the sky with ALL of your infractions listed over the years you have been driving. Long list, right? Under LAW, you are a terrible driver. Add to that all the other things you’ve done wrong. There’s no hope. 
   Under GRACE however, this roll of paper has nothing written against you. God says, “This one is Mine, My Son paid for his sins. Read Romans 8 
   Well, will Christians who act like they are under law and works go to heaven? O, I believe they will, but they will go kicking and screaming, never confident about their salvation, never believing they have done enough, prayed enough, given enough, attended enough. Never seeing that Jesus did it all.  Amazing grace is not tiny grace, narrow grace, or ‘barely there’ grace… it is great grace. Great enough to save even the worst of sinners. Great enough to save believers who disagree.
   I don’t, go to church, give, sing, pray, study, write articles – to be saved… I do these things because I am saved by grace and heaven bound.
   May I suggest that gaining a balanced and Biblical view and understanding God’s grace along with His commands, will truy make His yoke “easy” and the burden truly “light”. God bless you.  (More to come).   

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Blessed Are The flexible For They Shall Not Get Bent Out Of Shape

   Listening to “The Horse Whisperer” last night was really interesting. ‘Buck’, had gone through a really tough childhood along with his brother. His dad had pushed them into stardom in TV commercials, since they had learned at a very early age about twirling a rope, doing fancy tricks that drew many crowds.
   Their dad was a drunk, and often they would receive beatings because of his anger over the least bit of imperfection he noticed in them. Eventually the football coach noticed the whelps left on ‘Buck’s’ back when he showered after PE, and called the local Sheriff, who had the boys taken away from their dad (their mom had passed away).
   It was hard but they had to learn to trust and love people again. As ‘Buck’ told his story, he spoke of how he had always been interested in horses, and one day, met Ray Hunt a horse whisperer’. He followed him for years, watching how his method of gently handling the roughest horse, could accomplish more in a few days, than most could in a month. Now, ‘Buck’ is a ‘horse whisperer’, and he speaks of how training a horse is similar to training children, and dealing with people. He spoke of how his past helped him understand how horses and children are sensitive to body language, moods, sudden movements, anger, love, touching, etc.. They know when they are loved, and when they are hated and unwanted. You can hurt both to the point that any movement you make, will cause them to react in fear and self-defense.
   ‘Bending’ is a life principle, and deals with handling burdens. Sometimes the burden and stress gets too much, and sometimes you need a ‘flexible attitude’ in dealing with both a child and a horse. Being a rigid, over-demanding, perfectionist… is not the way to train either one. Trainers/parents have to have the love and patience to be flexible… and not get all bent out of shape over everything. The important thing to remember is, it takes love and time to train. If you don’t CARE, it will show.
   ‘Buck’ and his family now travel to appointments at ranches, where horse owners from all around come to learn how to handle their horses. Many are confronted by him for their bad methods, and they have to learn how to un-do the damage they have done. Sometimes, it is too late and the horse has to be put down… Sometimes it is too late for a child, and some end up in prison for life. Bottom line, it is time for people to wake up and seek help if they need help in raising their children.
   “And ye fathers, PROVOKE NOT YOUR CHILDREN TO WRATH (don’t push them to the point of hating you and others); but bring them up in the nurture (care) and admonition (teaching and encouragement) of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4). Jesus never beat a child… and I doubt He would beat a horse. People young and old, wanted to be with Jesus because they knew He cared.
   If you want to change things… begin with the one in the mirror… try being flexible.

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Pullin’ Weeds

   Never fancied myself as a gardener, yet growing up somehow prepared me for the job. Dad was the boss, and the one with the plan. For some reason there was never a shortage of weeds. When in Ireland, dad purchased a house on Gilnahirk Road. It was a typical two story bungalow. It was white with black window sills. It surrounded as most houses there, with thick hedges about five feet tall. Of course dad wanted to re-do the yard, so it began.
   His built in ‘work crew’ was drafted to help and the first thing to go was the front hedge row. We had a Volkswagon Bus, and we used it plus a heavy rope to pull out all hedges along the road. We had raised gardens… two circular, two diamond shaped, and a big square one in the middle with long rectangular gardens running down each side. All kinds of flowers with special designs were planted.  All had weeds needing pulled regularly. We absolutely hated weeds… but it had to be done. The paths between these raised gardens were all re-done and flag-stone was carefully re-laid. The driveway was re-done, by leveling the ground and again, flag-stone laid. We all did our share of pulling weeds. Even Bob got out there in his wheel chair and pulled weeds. In the end, we had what we thought was the most beautiful front yard on the road. Eventually, our neighbors complimented these ‘strange Americans’ who dared to be different.
   WEEDS…. I still hate weeds, in my yard! Every year, there are about a zillion weeds to pull or spray, hoping they will not return. Hours and hours during the growing season, I pull and spray, and every year, I say something like, “Adam, it’s your fault… thanks a lot!” “If you had not given in and eaten what Eve gave you, we wouldn’t be in this mess and have all these weeds!” Yet weeds have many uses for the environment, and they have their beauty.
   We learned lessons. We learned it does no good to leave the roots… they only grow back. We learned that before you can build a garden, you first have to clean the area and prepare the soil. We learned the value of working together. Most importantly, we learned to use our hands.
   Jesus once told a story of a man who went out to plant seeds. Some seed landed on stony ground, some on weedy, thorny ground, some on hard ground and some on good ground. Of course the young plants grew, (except on the hard ground), on stony ground, got choked by weeds and thorns. Amazing how concerns and worries of the world can choke out any growth that God’s word might have in someone’s life.
   Jesus later spoke about the uselessness of worrying. He used the lilies of the field as an example of how God cares. Aren’t you more valuable than the lilies? Surely God cares more for people. How much does He care? Well, enough to send His Son to be a sacrifice for sin.
   Weeds, I hate them in my yard, but they teach many lessons.

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   Oakley, England (UPI) Sarah Steed, 3years old, fell in a septic (waste) pool and lay submerged for ten minutes before she was pulled to safety from the nine foot pit. The police said, she must have been in an air pocket somewhere beneath the surface or else she could not have survived. Obviously the parents were very grateful to receive their child back alive.
   We have many priorities in life. Many things call for our attention all the time to the point where we have to read books and take courses on how to organize and prioritize and get things done. Yet when we think about it, we know what is really important even though we don’t act like it.
   I was taught to “keep it simple”, and it really is… but it’s hard to keep it that way. God first, family second, business and friends third. As busy as we become, all our busy-ness gets laid aside when life is threatened, especially when it is one of our own. We will ‘move heaven and earth’ to save our child. Other things all of a sudden don’t matter. “My child is in danger!” Priorities have changed.
   When Jesus taught His sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), he taught priorities. It is hard for us to see spiritual things as more important than physical things. Yet Jesus shows us how putting God and spiritual matters first can have a dynamic affect on our physical lives.
   Blessed (happy) are the poor in spirit; Blessed (happy) are they that mourn; Blessed (happy) are the meek; Blessed (happy) are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness; Blessed (happy) are the merciful; Blessed (happy) are the pure in heart; Blessed (happy) are the peace makers; Blessed (happy) are the persecuted for righteousness sake.
   The world looks at these things and laughs. “That is ridiculous! How can these attitudes bring happiness?” The world looks on and thinks of these things as signs of weakness. “Turn the other cheek?!” “Go the second mile?!””Love your enemies?!”
   Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable and rich in this world. He came to help us find real priorities. He will not take second place, yet he will not force us to give him first place.
   Life is important, and saving life is important… yet even more important than that, is our spiritual life. For after this life is over, there is more to come. “Seek first His kingdom and righteousness” and see what will happen in life. Get priorities right and keep them right. Jesus definitely is the answer to many of our troubles… He can put life together, and make it meaningful, when others just shake their heads. His promises are true, and his blessing are real, and when all other things in life fail… Jesus won’t.

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The Snake And The Electric Fence

   I don’t like snakes, and I don’t like electric fences. Put them both together and you have a bad day… at least for me. It was 1978 and I was working as an apprentice at building custom cabinets. However, one day I decided to go fishing. I knew someone who said he had a small farm, with some private ponds with cat fish. So, I gathered the necessary equipment, and dug some nice worms, and drove out to the farm. I parked along the fence on the dirt road and got everything out and ready to go fishing. I raised one of the barbed wires, held the lower with my foot and went through, stood up and wham! The fence had an electric wire I had not noticed. It was enough electricity to discourage cows and careless people for sure. Anyway, I recovered and trudged on, murmuring (not so) under my breath about the man who put the fence there. I arrived at the ‘pond of dreams’ examined all the fishing spots, trying to locate the right spot. Then I found it, and set my tackle box on the ground, and started to put my fishing pole on the ground. I was about to put my pole on what I thought was a rock, when I saw that the ‘rock’ was a snake coiled up. It was black is all I know, and my face flushed, hot sweats broke out. That was it… my fishing day was done, and I got out of there as fast as I could.
   Life is really about learning from the mistakes of others as well as our own mistakes. William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers is known for his wisdom and quick witted ‘one-liners’… here are a few. “Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.” “Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.” “There’s two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither one works.” “If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.” “The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.” “It doesn’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.” “Don’t squat with your spurs still on.” “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
   Solomon is also known for his wisdom which he recorded in the book of Proverbs. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them” Proverbs 1:10. “Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. (Dealing with temptation he says) Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you” Proverbs 4:24-25. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace but with humility comes wisdom” Proverbs 11:2. “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay to the bones” Proverbs 12:4. “An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk, but a righteous man escapes trouble” Proverbs 12:13. “A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of the fool blurts out folly” Proverbs 12:23 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” Proverbs 14:12.
   Why make the same mistakes and reap the same results as others? Seek wisdom, and when you find it…. use it.  James says, “If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

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When We Were Kids

   When we were kids, mom and dad sent us to bed when we wanted to stay up. When all was ‘clear’, we would sneak and get things like marbles, baseball cards, plastic army men. Mom and dad believed in ‘communal sleeping arrangements’ three boys in one room. We had a bunk bed, I was on the top, Ed was on the bottom, and Bob had a separate bed four feet away. I remember getting rubber bands to shoot at Bob, but he was well ‘armed’ as well. The war was on, and we had a great time, until mom or dad would come in and spoil the fun. As usual, they always came in when we didn’t expect them.
   We had good times, there wasn’t a lot of money. Dad was making $164.00 preaching in Dallas. We got $.25 weekly allowance, spent wisely on 5 cent Bubble gum, and 5 baseball cards, which we collected). We chewed the gum all day and at night (when we remembered) we stuck it on the bed post, hoping that someone had not stolen it by morning. Sometimes we forgot to take it out at night, and mom had to cut it out of our hair.
   Dad didn’t mind giving us work around the house and yard, pulling weeds, planting rose bushes for mom, laying flagstone, pulling bushes, cut the grass, pick up after our selves, clean our rooms, wash the dishes, dry the dishes, wash the car, clean the garage, empty the garbage. So, we asked “How about an increase in our allowance?” Dad would say, “You don’t pay rent son, I’ll put it on your bill.”
   Mom was the ‘house doctor’.  She had special cures for most things. If we skinned our selves, she would get Iodine, and rub that yukky brick red stuff on the cut (Iodine). She would say, “This is going to hurt a bit.” (Wrong!!! It hurt a lot!!!)  She would blow on it till the pain went away. Then put a band-aide on it and off we would go. We always went to “Dr. Mom” for everything, from skinned knees and bruises to splinters and burns. She always knew what to do. Her cure for almost everything was a hug and a kiss. We were amazed how that helped. Mom was also the ‘house defense attorney (most of the time), when we wanted something from dad. She was our mediator, and sometimes defense attorney. We didn’t always get what we wanted, but somehow, we always got what we needed.
   I was the first of three boys in the family, mom lost two other baby girls prematurely, we had three adopted sisters, that were loved the same. Now, mom and dad are gone, one brother (Ed) and sister (Charlene) have passed away. This leaves Bob, Sandi, Tammy and myself. As we grow older, we reflect back when we get together on the times we had with mom and dad and laugh and cry.
   We remember mom and dad praying, and reading the Bible to us. They would read things like, “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck”

Proverbs 1:8-9. Through the memories, and their teachings, they are still with us.

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Whatever Happened To Sin

I grew up during the time when people first started saying, “God is dead”. Prayers that were said in schools, stopped. Things which had been taught as immoral, unnatural, and sinful, began to be called “diseases”, “in-born” and “natural”. “Sin” was changed or omitted from the vocabularies of young people. People are now becoming more concerned about political correctness than Godliness, righteousness. The attacks on faith in God, and trusting His Word have become the clarion call of many professors in our universities. The promotion of evolution, and humanism is being injected in students eager to learn, and better prepare themselves for life.
   Some may say, “Well, all that talk of “God”, “Creation” “Right and Wrong”, is just old fashioned.” “Man is evolving!” To this I say, after two world wars, a Korean War, Viet Nam, Iraqi War, etc…. we should know mankind is not EVOLVING, and certainly not morally!
   The fact is God is the Designer of the Universe, His Son is “The Supreme Scientist”. 
   When we break (or get broken) by God’s laws, we sin. John says, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness” (I John 3:4). What did Paul mean by “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”? (Romans 6:23). What did he mean by “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”? (Romans 6:23). We all sin, but what happens when we do? What dies when we sin? Isaiah says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, ¶so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). Sin, separates us from God, we die spiritually.
   DEATH TO INNOCENCE: To do things which are right, is good, but to do things that are wrong, destroys innocence to that thing. Sin brings a dark feeling of guilt, and wrongness. Teens may hide it from parents, and others, but they like all people cannot hide from themselves. Sin makes someone get up and look in the mirror, and say, “I HATE YOU!” Man’s law may never catch up with a person who sins, but we get ‘caught’ inside. Yes forgiveness is offered through Jesus, but the innocence is gone.
   DEATH TO IDEALS: When sin rules a person’s life, it begins the erosion of the standards, and ideals that were held. Compromising and rationalizing begin. Lying and stealing begin to be gauged by degrees. This where the “white lie” came from. One young man wore a tee shirt which read, “Death to Virginity” on it, but with this comes the death of morals, and convictions, and conscience.
   DEATH TO THE WILL: Over time, a person slips down into gross sin. It is a step by step process. A minister counseled a church member, who was outgoing and had a good reputation.  The path she had chosen had eventually led her into a life of prostitution.  No one knew about this ‘lifestyle’ nor the pain in her heart.
   The minister spoke kindly to her about falling into Satan’s trap of selling herself to others.  She said, “If you had called me a prostitute three years ago, I would have slapped your face.  Now it’s true and I am so ashamed”.
   “How did this evil thing happen to you, how did you get where you are today?” I asked.  Her statement was simple — “Step by step!”  First were bad companions that brought death to innocence,   Then the gradual erosion of ideals and goals to live a good life.  Finally, the I lost my will to turn back.”
   Whatever happened to sin? It’s still here… just ‘dressed up a bit’. Jesus came to deal with sin by giving his own life for ours. Where sin has gone, God’s grace IS.

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