Monday, April 30, 2012

Noah "found" grace

Though grace is fundamental to the gospel of the Kingdom; sadly the subject of grace can be a somewhat controversial one among Christians.  We have all heard it, “A lack of the preaching of grace keeps people bound by the law,” or more often heard, “Too much preaching of grace gives people a license to sin.”  As if we humans need an excuse or license to sin!  Seems to me we sin quite easily without a license, but the debate goes on none the less. Adam and other Biblical characters prior to Noah certainly had experienced God’s mercy being poured out upon them; but Noah may have been the first man to “find grace.”  Let’s take a look at his story.

The first mention of grace found in the Bible is in Genesis 6:8 where we find the fascinating statement, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”  As if this statement of Noah finding grace in God’s eyes isn’t profound enough by itself, if you read the preceding verses it becomes even more amazing.  The wickedness of man had gotten so great in the earth that God was regretting that he had created mankind in the first place.  He was so grieved in this heart that he said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping things, and the fowls of the air: for it repenteth me that I have made them.” (Gen 6:7)  Yet in the midst of His pain and His plan to destroy all living creatures, God looked across the face of the entire earth and finds one man who is different than all the rest, this one man caused God to do a 180.  God had in mind to annihilate all flesh from the earth when God takes notice of Noah looking deep into his eyes, and this simple yet mind boggling statement is recorded, “But Noah.”  The scriptures are full of stories of mankind who are lost in there sin, up to their neck in trouble, or bound by their circumstances with no way out, when we read, “But God.”   What precedes or follows the “But God” statements are dialogs of how through His love and power God steps into the middle of the impossible and turns it into the possible.  But here we find the situation reversed.  God is at his wits end from putting up with a rebellious, hateful, and wicked people.  We find God’s hand raised ready to destroy them, when suddenly there is a pause in heaven, angels freeze, and all eyes shift toward one man when scripture records, “But Noah.”   What was it that so captured God’s heart that it turned His eyes away from the wickedness of the masses and His plans to obliterate them, and instead caused His focus and attention to be solely upon Noah?      Selah!

Was Noah somehow completely righteous and holy?  Did he live a life of perfection void of all sin?  Was his love and goodness so great that he was eclipsed only by God himself?  The next verse, Genesis 6:9 give us God’s perspective of Noah, yet I’m afraid if we are not careful here we might jump to a wrong conclusion.  “Noah was a just and righteous man, blameless in his [evil] generation: Noah walked [in habitual fellowship] with God.” Amp   The King James Version says Noah was, “perfect in his generation.”  Noah truly must have been an extraordinary man to be called just, righteous, blameless, and perfect in his generation by God himself.  Yet the question we must ask is, “was Noah called this because he was truly a perfect man?” 

I believe Noah was not called all these things because he was a man without fault or sin.  Noah was proclaimed to be righteous, just and blameless not because he never did anything wrong, but because Noah had “found grace in eyes of the Lord.”  The text states that Noah “walked with God.”  The Amplified Bible says he walked in “habitual fellowship” with Him.   As Noah walked and fellowshipped with God,  he came to know God and understand His character; as their relationship grew Noah looked into God’s eyes and found a God of justice.  He looked into God’s eyes and found a God of love.  On this particular day when Noah looked into God’s eyes, what he found there was grace.  “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”  How could God continue with his plan to destroy him when this man Noah had “found grace” in his eyes and was clinging to it with all his soul?  Grace was always part of God’s character but now that Noah had found it, God’s actions concerning Noah were shifted.  So you see, Noah was not righteous and blameless because of his perfect actions, nor was he spared from God’s righteous wrath because he was just in his deeds.  Noah was “made” those things by God because he found grace. (1 Cor.1:30)   Noah was “declared” righteous and perfect by looking forward to what Jesus would one day accomplish on the cross.  Noah, like Abraham, believed and trusted in the character he had seen in God’s eyes, therefore God, “credited it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6)   Noah did not earn God’s grace through good behavior, though I am sure that following his discovery of grace, Noah lived a much more upright life than he had prior to that time because such undeserved favor must be honored.  The discovery of grace in God’s eyes not only changed Noah’s life, but led to the saving of his entire family.  In fact it saved the entire family of mankind.   In the days that followed, the wicked and unbelieving still perished in the flood because of their sin but Noah, his family, and his seed were all saved because of grace.  Even today grace is available to all men, but does us no good until we “find” it, until we apply it to our lives.  Grace is of no value to us until we by faith accept Jesus’ sacrifice as the “only” payment that will atone for our sin, cover our shame, and take away our guilty conscience.   “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)   Living a holy lifestyle will not make us just, righteous, or blameless in God’s sight.  But once we have been “made” righteous by grace through faith, we should strive to live holy in order to honor such an extraordinary gift.

The subject of grace is very dear to my heart; for I was one of those people who was bound by the law, stifled by guilt and shame, and always trying to be “good” enough to earn a righteousness that Jesus had already paid for and imparted to me.  Then one day, like Noah, I “found grace” and my life has never been the same.  I have been set free.  The discovery of grace will not only change you, but may change your entire family.  In fact with God working in you and through you, the grace that God will pour into you has the potential of touching the entire family of mankind.

Note: Once a person understands the magnitude of their sin and the consequences of it, grace will never give him an “excuse” or” license” to sin.  Grace, when applied to a repentant sinners’ heart, will instead give his flesh man an “excuse” to live outwardly the righteous and holy life that Jesus has already made his spirit man to be within.


For more reading on the subject of grace and what grace has accomplished for us, check out these older posts, “Pardoned,”  “Power comes when the accuser is cast down.” , “The Great Exchange.”

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"A Quiz to Ponder"

The following questions were attached to a newsletter I received recently. I found this exercise to be quite insightful and moving, so decided to share it with you all. You don’t have to actually answer each question, but take time to ponder each one. You will get the point at the end.

1 Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2 Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3 Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
4 Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
5 Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
6 Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. Yet these are no second rate achievers. They are the best in their fields.

But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here is another quiz for you! See how you do on this one?

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.


The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They simply are the ones who care! The ones who love!


Our highest calling as children of the Most High God is to make a positive difference in the lives of the people we come into contact with each day. We are to be a living demonstration of the love of Jesus upon the earth. So as Jesus commanded concerning the actions of the Good Samaritan, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:37) 

"For this is the message we have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." (1 John 3:11)

"Little children let us not love merely in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity)." (1 John 3:18 AMP)

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a)

Monday, January 30, 2012

“I Want To Be Like Jesus!”

You may have heard someone say, “I just want to be like Jesus!”  You may even have said this yourself.  Oh, how noble and Christian this sounds.  We get visions that if we were to be like Jesus, we would go about our day extending unconditional love to the unlovely and we would spend our time helping the poor and down trodden.  We would be given supernatural powers that we could use to heal broken bodies and broken souls, while mesmerizing the masses.  Yes, being like Jesus sounds so fanciful and romantic. But is this actually true?  Is this actually all of what being like Jesus would entail?  Have you ever stopped and seriously contemplated or searched the scriptures to see what it would mean to actually “be like Jesus?”     

Yes, Jesus did go about demonstrating love and doing good, but his life was not near so romantic or fanciful as we may envision!  First of all, He did not live a nice structured life like most of us, having a family and a nice house to return to each night.  A man once came up to Jesus claiming he would follow him wherever he went, to which, “Jesus replied, Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.” (Matt. 8:20)   Jesus did not tell this guy he shouldn’t follow him, but did warn him that the cost of being like Jesus was no life of ease with fluffy down pillows and soft mattresses. 

It is easy to say we want to be like Jesus, but the price require to actually “be” like him, may be more than we are willing to pay.  Jesus was despised and hated by men.  “The Jews persecuted him.” (John 15:16)  “The chief priests and elders of the people assembled in the palace…and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.” (Matt. 26:3-4)  If we were to become like Jesus, we too would be hated and persecuted.  In fact Jesus promises us just this.  “All men will hate you because of me.” (Matt. 10:22)  “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world… That is why the world hates you… If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18-20)  A life lived being like Jesus, means a life lived being persecuted and having men hate you.  Not exactly typical alter call material.

Another stumbling block to us being like Jesus is that as independent Americans we are quite accustomed to doing and saying “whatever” we please, “whenever” we please.  God has given us free will and we exercise that free will, well, quite freely.  This is not the life Jesus lived, for although Jesus also had free will, he chose not to use it; but chose instead to “do” and “say” only what pleased and glorified the Father.  For Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me…for I always do what pleases Him.” (John 8:28-29)  “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19)  “But the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14:31)  To be like Jesus would mean to only “do and say” what the Father gives instruction for us to “do and say.”  A far cry from how most of us now live.  Surrendering our will to such a subservient lifestyle is not medicine that goes down well, but this is the price if we are to truly be like Jesus

The part of our will that we do surrender to the Father, most certainly does not include death.  We may say we want to be like Jesus, but we most certainly don’t want to go there, or do that!  Like every man, Jesus did not want to die and his flesh was in agony just thinking about what lay ahead of him on the cross.  The Word says that Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  Going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me, yet not my will, but as you will.”    He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”   “He went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.”  (Matt. 26:39, 42, 44)   Despite his total fleshly objection to the idea of a torturous death, Jesus surrendered his will to the Father’s, agreeing to drink the cup of God’s wrath about to be poured out upon him (because of “our” sin) in order to accomplish the Father’s will, and bring glory to his Name.  Surrendering our will to the point of giving our lives for the sake of the Kingdom is the ultimate sacrifice, and certainly not for the “casual Christian.”  Most of us spend our lives seeking peace and comfort, yet the life of being like Jesus is a call to persecution and death.  Jesus himself said, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his Lord.” (Matt.10:24)   So why should we expect to sacrifice less than what Jesus did?

Our churches are full of “contributors” to the Kingdom, but nearly void of “true disciples” who sincerely want to be like Jesus with all that this requires.  I found the following story on a fellow blogger’s site, which perfectly illustrates the difference between “contributing” to God’s purposes, and being “all in’ surrendered to God’s will.

A chicken and a hog were walking past a church building one day when they noticed the Sunday morning sermon posted on the outside bulletin board, "Helping the Poor." They walked a ways when the chicken suddenly came across with a suggestion. "Say, Brother Hog, why don't we give all the poor people a nice breakfast of ham and eggs?" The hog thought a moment and replied, “That's all right for you to say, because for you it is only a contribution, but for me, it's a total commitment.” 

The chicken was willing to contribute to the poor that which cost her little more than minor inconvenience.  This is how most of us live our Christian life.  We spend our time and resources in pursuit of the “American dream,” chasing wealth and ease; while patting ourselves on the back for throwing a few crumbs and leftovers to the poor or into an offering plate to build bigger churches.  For the hog however, this sacrifice for the poor would cost him all that he had and all that he was.  Nothing would be held back.  No life of ease, and no retirement in the Hamptons for him.  If he were to choose to do this, it would be a total commitment.  This is how Jesus lived His life, and how we must live our lives too if we are to actually be like Jesus.  Jesus said to us in Matt. 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”   Jesus is not offering us an earthly life of fame, fortune and ease should we choose to follow him.  No, instead he asks us to “deny ourselves.”  Deny ourselves?!!  This is a dirty word in our American culture.  We deny ourselves of nothing.  That is why our waist lines as well as our credit cards are maxed out. This is why our government owes trillions of dollars in debt that not even our grand kids will be able to pay off.  We think we “need” and “deserve” the big house, the new car, and a vacation on the beach.   “Deny ourselves…?”  I think not!   This is why the rich young ruler from Mark 10:17-22 turned and went away sad when Jesus asked him to give all his riches to the poor and come follow him.  He understood he was being asked to “deny himself” and he just couldn’t do it.  We Christian often look down our noses at the rich young ruler, calling him greedy and self indulgent, choosing money and comfort over Jesus; but aren’t we doing the same thing every day?  The truth may be that “he” understood the call of Christ much better than we.  We want to hold on to the things of the world which includes all our comforts, and follow Jesus at the same time.  But Jesus didn’t give this rich young ruler that option.  He basically said, choose your stuff and “your” will; or choose “me” and my will!  The rich young ruler went away sad because the price was too high. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid believer in grace, for there is nothing we could ever do to earn our righteous standing before God.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8)  Praise his Holy Name for grace, for without it you and I would have no hope!  But the question I still must ask myself is this, if Jesus were to give me the same ultimatum today that he gave the rich young ruler, would I choose to be like Jesus and submit to the His will no matter what the costs; or would I also walk away sad?  Will I, like Miss Chicken, continue to merely “contribute” to the Kingdom; or will I like Mr. Hog, choose to be “all in” and give a total “commitment” in order to truly be like Jesus?  .....  The question lingers!

“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son.” (Romans 8:29 - The Message Bible)

Monday, January 9, 2012

“New Wine”

Inevitably as the calendar rolls over to a new year, we tend to reflect upon the old and contemplate what the new will bring.  We look forward with anticipation to the new; however the positive outlook for the new is often hindered by what is carried over from the old.  The following verse reflects that this fact is true in our spiritual lives as well as in our physical.  God impressed this verse upon me as a focus for my life in 2012.        

No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results.  No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine will be lost and the skin as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22)

According to scripture, being filled with “new wine” is reflective of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon God’s children.  One of the Biblical promises that I cling to and pray daily over myself and my family is found in Isaiah 44:3 where it states, “I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”  I truly need the Spirit to be poured out upon myself and my family, and I desperately desire to be filled with this “new wine,” but according to the above scripture, if my “wineskins” can’t handle the “new wine” it will be of little value to me.  The “new wine” will be lost because the old container cannot adapt to the changing nature of the new.  Our old ways of thinking and doing things are not necessarily bad, but may not accommodate the processes associated with the “new wine.”  As in the parable above, be it putting a “new unshrunk patch” on an old garment, or “new wine” in old wineskins, the result is the same.   The old loses its usefulness altogether, and the new is wasted.   Old garments have fulfilled their purpose, and old wineskins obviously served their need well; but we have now entered a critical hour in history, and we can no longer settle for “old garments” or “old wineskins.”  “You know what (a critical) hour this is, how it is high time now for you to wake up out of your sleep (rouse to reality). (Rom. 13:11) AMP    We desperately need the “new wine,” therefore are in desperate need of a new wineskin to hold it.   We can no longer get by on rule keeping or law oriented religion.  We can no longer be content with traditions, or spiritual entertainment, orchestrated by man’s natural abilities.  All that will suffice is that which comes from the breath of the Father himself.  That which comes from man is no more than cheap amusement, while that which is poured out by the Spirit is no less than life itself.  Being filled with the Spirit is no longer an option.  Oh, how we settle for so much less than Jesus wants to give.  Not understanding the abundance of God’s grace or how it pleases God to extravagantly give to us; we settle for a few spiritual crumbs from the master’s table when we could be feasting “with Him” as an honored guest, “at” the table.  “For it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

To make use of the “new wine” and assure that none is wasted, we must by grace receive a new mind and a new heart.  Our traditional way of thinking must be submitted to the Spirit, and some sacred cows may need to be slaughtered. If we are to be filled with the “new wine,” we must be able to stretch and change, move and flow, however and wherever the Spirit leads.  Our ridged order, well designed ideas and paradigms must be submitted to the flexibility of the Spirit.  Obviously none of this comes easily or without some mental anguish, but the reward is great.

New wine must be put into new wine bottles.” (Mark 2:22b) KJV

We cannot receive the new wineskin needed for holding the “new wine” by some religious activity or by holding our mouth just right while jumping backwards through some hoop.  We cannot receive a “new mind” by trying harder or by turning over a new leaf.  (Trying to receive in this manner is part of the “old wineskin” that needs to be replaced.)  The “new wine” as well as the “new wineskin” is received only as a gift of grace, appropriated by Jesus’ finished work.  It comes as we “hunger” after, and submit our hearts to that glorious grace

I urge you to pray to be filled with “new wine,” but pray also to be given a “new wineskin” in order to accommodate the “new wine!”

“God gives the Spirit without limit.” (John3:34b)