Tag Archives: grace

February 8; Rules

Exodus 19-21

We come to the part where God lays down the law. Verse after verse of rules and regulations for EVERYTHING. Some of the punishments for breaking the rules are harsh – like the death penalty for cursing your parents. Many include some sort of retribution.

In fact, in regard to injuring a pregnant woman we read, “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (21:23-25)

In regard to your neighbor’s bull, you break it, you buy it.

Now  I am aware we live under grace. But does that mean we should throw out the rules? Does God’s grace negate consequences?

A while back I was talking to the 3-5 graders in our Good News Club about rules, and asked them what our club would be like if there were no rules. It was an interesting, lively conversation. After trying to picture what a club with no rules would look like, we decided rules aren’t such a bad thing after all.

Rules are boundaries that make life better.

But we live in a society that’s nibbling at the rules. In fact, we are encouraged to live by our own rules. Can a society survive without rules, or with an infinite number of rule-sets? Can you picture what that would look like?

Oh yeah. I saw it on the news last night.

God gave the rules we read here in Exodus for a reason, so that the Jewish people would enjoy a safe, and caring lifestyle. God’s rules made life better for them.

And they still do for us. I don’t have a bull, or a slave. But if I read these rules God specified, and apply the principles to my life and in my dealings with people, my life and theirs would be better.

Rules are not meant to be broken, but rather followed, and taught. Without them, our world would be nothing but chaos. Without rules, our society will crumble.

Thank God for rules.

February 6: Not From Yourselves

Exodus 13-15

Every day I read God’s Word, I write my thoughts and observations in a journal. These past few years my journals have served as a rough draft for the posts on this blog. The journal I am using now has a Bible verse on each  page. Today’s verse is Ephesians 2:8-9, and it reinforces the truth found in these chapters in Exodus so beautifully!

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

The parting of the Red Sea is a familiar story to most. The dramatic rescue of the Jews from the Egyptians is nothing short of spectacular. God revealed His power to the whole world when those waters parted, and the Jews were saved.

I am reminded the Jews didn’t build a dam to stop the water. They didn’t throw together a barge to float across the water. They didn’t do a part-the-water-dance. In fact, God told them to be still.

Their salvation had nothing to do with anything they did. It was His grace that saved them. And His grace is still saving souls thousands of years later.

Someone told me recently that a friend of their’s who lived a very difficult life with health issues and heartache was in heaven now because, “She paid her penance on earth.”

Dear one, that isn’t close to being true. Your troubles here on earth – or even all the good you do – have zero to do with whether or not you spend eternity in the Presence of God.

ZERO.

There is only one thing that will save you. It’s not from yourself. It is a gift from the heart of God. It’s His grace.

The Jews walked through the waters of the Red Sea on dry ground because God alone made a way. And we can walk through this life and into the next because God made a way. His name is Jesus.

There was only one way for the Jews to be saved from their enemy. And there is only one way for us to be saved from ours. They had to go through the Sea. We have to go through Jesus.

Acts 4:12 tells us there is no other name on earth or in heaven, no other salvation in anyone else other than Jesus Himself. No other way. And we can accept what Jesus did on the cross, because of the grace of God.

If you haven’t already, please surrender to God. Be still. Quit trying so hard. Ask God to forgive you, and He will. Let Him save you by His grace through the precious blood of Jesus.

 

Galatians; I’m An Heir!

Reading Galatians thrills my soul. As a Gentile, to hear God say through His servant Paul, that I am His child, I am heir to His Promise, and that in His eyes there is no difference between Jews and the rest of us, I am humbled and grateful.

God doesn’t say I am His step-child, or His foster child. He doesn’t say I’m His child except for this one thing. Or that I’m an heir of only some of the Promise. I read Galatians and rejoice in my position as a child of God, wholly His.

I’m an heir, not because of parentage or some ceremonial circumcision, but because of Jesus. I am a child of God because I have accepted what Jesus did for me on the cross.

I hope you’ll read this letter for yourself, and rejoice with me in the cross of Christ. Because, if you have received God’s grace through the blood of His Son, you are a new creation. And God, through Paul, says that’s the only thing that counts. (6:15)

Matthew 20-22; The Invitation

Jesus sure had a lot to say about the Kingdom of God. I’m learning some things about my own walk with Him as I consider how the Church should look and operate according to the Lord. I want to be an intentionally obedient citizen.

Jesus tells us in chapter 20 the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hires laborers. For one thing, this parable reminds me we all are to be out there working, planting, watering, and harvesting every day.

And, although this parable is talking about the heavenly kingdom and grace, God is revealing some things about Himself. First, He is the boss. Period. How He runs things is really not our business. He’s not sending out a survey asking how we think He’s doing. He doesn’t need our approval. But He wants us to know He is a good boss, a fair boss, as well as a generous boss.

Which leads me to the second thing God is revealing about Himself in this parable: His grace is His to give and I can be sure that, as His child, I will not be cheated. As a citizen of the Kingdom of God, I am assured that my King does all things well. I need to look less at others, and recognize the enormous amount of grace He has shown me. God is generous to me.

The next parable is also about a landowner. This one reveals that the Jews would reject Jesus as the Messiah, and would be responsible for Jesus’ death. The kingdom is no longer a Jewish thing. It’s a believers thing. Praise God!

And that parable is reinforced in the next one, the wedding banquet. God’s kingdom is open to everyone; rich, poor, good, bad…

But, and here is the kicker, only those wearing “wedding clothes” will be granted entrance. The invitation is there. But you can’t be a citizen of God’s Kingdom on your own terms. The Kingdom of God is reserved for those who accept God’s grace through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Looking at God’s Kingdom through these chapters reminds me what a privilege it is to belong. It encourages me to get out there, working for a harvest, inviting others to join us who know Jesus as our Savior.

So I’m inviting you!

Obediah; There is Hope

I can’t help but think of the sweet reunion between Esau and Jacob as recorded in Genesis 33. A lot had gone down between the two, but when the brothers met after years of separation, they hugged and kissed each other. It seemed all was forgiven. It seemed they would finally live in peace.

If you know their history, you know peace was short-lived. That makes me sad.

Obadiah tells the descendants of Esau that judgment is coming because of their hatred for and mistreatment of Jacob’s family, the family God chose above all other nations to be His instrument. Edom will be punished for rejecting God.

Once again I am reminded how serious God is about being obeyed, about being honored as the only true God. All other religions are doomed to destruction.

But I love how God, even after rendering a death sentence for sin, points to the Messiah. No one has to die in their sin. There is hope. There is salvation through the blood of Jesus for anyone who believes.

The kingdom is the Lord’s. I pray you are a citizen.

Hosea 6-14; Take Words With You

The book of Hosea is a picture of unfaithfulness and judgement. But it is also a picture of God’s grace and mercy. It is so beautiful.

I would encourage you to read Hosea and ask God to speak to you about your own walk with Him. What was true concerning a group of people known as Israel or Ephraim in Hosea’s day, carries with it spiritual truth for us in 2018. I read these chapters today and replaced any reference to “Israel” with my name. It became very personal, because what God said to the Jews through Hosea, He is saying to me. I love God’s Word!!

When I read verses like 5:4, I ask myself if there are things I am doing that do not permit me to draw near to God. Do I have a spirit of prostitution in my heart by harboring hatred or unforgiveness, by holding on to a “secret” sin and telling myself it’s no big deal? Are there times I am more concerned about my “self” than about God?

I hear God say He hates His wicked children. (9:15) HATES! Do I give God reason to hate me because of my own disobedience? That is a sobering thought. Hosea reminds me God rejects the unfaithful.

But then I also read verses like 6:6 and realize God wants only to love me, to show me mercy. Look at 10:12:

Sew for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love…

Doesn’t that encourage you to sew righteousness by putting on Jesus’ righteousness? Don’t you hunger for the fruit of God’s unfailing love? I do.

When I read 14:2 I had to stop a minute and think what it means to “take words with you” as you approach God. God is not asking for an animal sacrifice. He’s not asking me to go to church, give to the poor, or be a good neighbor. What He’s asking is that I come to Him purposefully, repentant, and say the words, “Forgive me,” and mean it.

Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: Forgive all (my) sins and receive (me) graciously, that (I) may offer the fruit of (my) lips. 

It goes on to say God wants me to realize nothing else can save me. Nothing and no one but God Himself.

What is the result of such a prayer, of a heart that is honest before my Holy God? Hosea tells me He will heal my waywardness and love me freely! (14:4) God will give me everything I need to be fruitful. (14:8)

Then listen to the way God inspired Hosea to end his book.

Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (14:9)

I want my walk with the Lord to be intentional, honest, and fruitful. When I go to Him, I want to go with the words He wants to hear. And I want to mean them from the bottom of my heart.

 

 

Hosea 1-5; The Allure

We know God disciplines His children. You probably know that all sin comes with consequences. But Hosea reminded me something today about God I’d like to pass on to you.

You remember, Hosea, don’t you? He’s the prophet God told to marry a prostitute as an example of God’s relationship with His people. I kind of feel bad for Hosea, because I think he might have loved the unfaithful woman. Then I remember – I am that unfaithful woman, and God is the One who loves me still.

Make no mistake about it: God hates sin. He never condones sin or ignores it. Every sin comes with a death penalty. God is a just, and harsh judge. But there is a side to God we might sometimes either overlook or misinterpret. That is His mercy.

God, through Hosea,  calls out His children, exposes our nakedness, our depravity, and God tells it like it is – we have turned our backs on Him. We deserve it if He turns His back on us.

But I want you to notice 2:14. After exposing Israel’s sin, God says this:

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. (emphasis mine)

I love that so much. I would expect God to say, after expressing how He looks at our sin… “Therefore I’m done with you!” Instead, God in His mercy says, “You’ve done awful things, You have sinned, turned Your back on me, defied Me. So I’m going to court you, and woo you back to me.”

“Here I  am,” He says. “Love Me. I love you.”

That allure can occur as you read His Word, or in answered prayer, in the changed life of a believer, in a hint of joy in sorrow, in unexpected blessings, or any number of reminders of God’s love in your life. Those sweet whispers from God are personal and intimate. Don’t miss God’s repeated attempts to woo you, to entice you to come to Him.

Because God doesn’t want you to live – or die – without Him. Just don’t mistake God’s tenderness for acceptance. His mercy has conditions.

Please know, if you accept Him on His terms, His mercy and grace are yours! Jesus paid the penalty for your sin and for mine. And God only wants you to accept it.

I want to share what Matthew Henry had to say about this:

“Those who will not deliver themselves into the hand of God’s mercy cannot be delivered out of the hand of his justice.” (Commentary in One Volume, Zondervan Publishing, 1961; page 1107)

Pay attention to God’s attempts to allure you, whether it’s to find Him for the first time, or to draw you closer to Him as His child. There is no one He loves more than you.

Joshua 22-24; God’s Compassionate Discipline

When you feel the sting of God’s discipline, do you ever consider it a sign of His compassion? 3:1 tells us God allowed the enemy nations to live with the Jews in Canaan “to teach warfare” to His children. Living among the enemy would require skills, stamina, and strategies. God, because He loved them, wanted them prepared to battle.

Maybe you’re like me and think it sure would be nice if, when a person becomes a Christian, God would just straighten out the path, remove all sickness and heartache, and make life a bed of roses. But that’s not realistic. As long as we continue to have the ability to choose, we will choose sin once in a while. That’s how we are wired.

Think about it. God shows His compassion every time we sin, and He doesn’t kill us. He shows His compassion when He disciplines us, refines us through the fire, so that we can have fellowship with Him instead of being cut off from Him.

The next time you identify sin as the reason you are going through a difficulty, thank God. Our compassionate Father is giving you a chance to get right with Him.

I think of the beautiful hymn, “Amazing Grace.” The second verse says that it was God’s grace that taught us to fear Him, and it’s the same grace that erases our fear of Him. How amazing is that?

God is compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 145:8)

Thank you, God, for loving me enough to discipline me, to prepare me to battle my enemy Satan, for giving me opportunities to confess sin and accept your amazing grace. You are worthy of my praise, no matter what circumstances I find myself in. You love me more than I can comprehend. I worship You.

Joshua 22-24; Choose

I wonder how many times Scripture tells us to “choose.” I wonder how often Scripture either explains in words or in examples the blessings associated with choosing God, and the severe consequences for choosing anything else. Never underestimate the importance of your choices.

God’s made His choice. He chose you. He went to the cross for you. He bought your salvation and is willing to shower you with grace.

When the jailer asked Paul what he needed to do to be saved, Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 16) In Joshua 24, the Jewish leader told the Jews to “choose today” who they would serve. Would they choose God, or the idols of their neighbors?

Choose Jesus today, my friend. Admit you are a sinner, and receive the forgiveness He died to give you. But let me remind you, if you say you aren’t quite ready to give your life to the Lord today, you’ve made your choice to reject Him today. Don’t do it.

Accept Jesus. Choose to obey Him. Choose today who you will serve.

Deuteronomy 30-34; The Law and Grace

What is your definition of grace? When you think of God’s grace, what comes to mind? Jesus? The cross? Forgiveness? Eternal life? What about, the Law?

I’ve heard religion criticized for being a list of rules, of “don’ts.” And actually, Moses reminds us it is. The Law is a very big part of this thing we call Christianity. Even though we know the Law is powerless to forgive sin.

The Law reveals sin, though. And in doing so, it points us to our Savior.

I guess God could have left us to our own devices, not defined sin for us, then sat back and watched us unknowingly crash and burn. Like a cop who knows the speed limit sign is missing, then pulls over unsuspecting drivers and tickets them for driving too fast.  Sorry, boys, not knowing the speed limit doesn’t change the speed limit.

Not knowing what sin is doesn’t change what sin is.

But God is full of grace. In Romans 7:7, Paul tells us he would not have known what sin even was if it had not been for the Law. I wouldn’t know what light was except for the darkness, what health was if it weren’t for sickness, what joy was but for sorrow. I wouldn’t know what forgiveness was if I didn’t know I needed to be forgiven.

Deuteronomy 33:3 tells us God loved the people, He held them in His hand, they worshiped Him, and God gave them the Law as a possession, an inheritance. God gave them the Law as something precious, not because they deserved it, but because He graciously wanted them to know their boundaries so they wouldn’t cross over them. Then He could bless them, like He longed to do.

The Law is still in effect today. Those boundaries are still in place. Idol worship is still a sin. Adultery, lying, dishonoring parents are still sins. And because the wages of every sin is death, God wanted to spell it all out so we would not be caught unawares.

He wanted to give us life instead of death. A life, as sinners, we don’t deserve. That’s grace. And in a very real way, the Law plays a big role in God’s grace.

Grace greater than all our sin.

God, thank you for letting me see your Law as an act of grace. You want us to know what sin is so that we are quick to repent of it, to accept what Jesus did on our behalf, and to enjoy unbroken fellowship with you. That’s grace. Thank you for grace that is even greater than my sin.