The Value of Grace!
May 22, 2017, 5:32 pm
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In the final verse of Colossians 4, Paul writes “The salutation by the hand of me, Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.” To Paul, grace was a serious issue, not to be ignored by Christians. As a former Pharisee, Paul knew what a life built on a graceless foundation looked like. His judgmental attitude led to a crusade on Christians. His pharisaical worldview didn’t contain the word “grace” and so he interpreted the acts of grace as signs of weakness, rebellion, and denial of the truth of God’s Word. Paul, in his desire to do the right thing for God, ordered Christians imprisoned or put to death because it was what the Pharisee version of justice demanded.
As we begin to read verse 7 to verse 18, names of individuals and groups of believers at specific cities and regions are mentioned. Each has a special story and a unique journey to and in the Lord. But I want to focus on two. Although vastly different in many ways, these two men shared a common bond; they both had failed. First is Onesimus, a slave returning home after running away. From what we learn, Onesimus was a slave belonging to a wealthy Christian named Philemon. Some think Onesimus may have stolen from Philemon, but one thing is certain: Onesimus ran away to Rome. While in Rome, he was placed into the same prison as Paul and evidently when hearing the Gospel, Onesimus became a changed man. He changed from a worthless slave to a man of whom Paul praised for his value.
The second man is Marcus, or John Mark. Known more today for the second gospel, Mark had originally been introduced as a member of Pau’s first missionary trip. Likely Mark had been included more as a favor to Barnabas on the first trip than for the value he added to the missionary team. Something went wrong, and Mark quit during the trip. While no reason is given for Mark’s departure, Paul’s reaction when Barnabas suggested Mark for the second journey indicates that Paul though Mark was a quitter who had abandoned them. So, whereas Onesimus was a lost slave who was transformed by salvation, most likely John Mark was a believer who failed.
Yet we read both names here included along the list of Paul’s choice helpers. While we know that God transformed the two failures, we also see how God had changed Paul. So many times, when others fail, we’re done with them! No second chance, not an ounce of grace can be found. This is especially true if we have been affected by the failure.
But look at what was true. Paul rejoiced to see the change that had occurred in Onesimus as well as what had happened to Mark. But maybe the biggest celebration was over the change that had occurred in Paul’s heart.
The penalty for a runaway slave was death, let when we read Philemon, we see Paul putting himself as the “spiritual dad” of Philemon. He even took the responsibility for the money owed by Onesimus to Philemon. Let you never read of a lecture Paul gave to Onesimus and a list of what would happen if he blew this.
Mark was not limited by restrictions on how he could serve God. Paul isn’t in judgmental court, passing sentences on Mark. He welcomed Mark as a servant of God and used him.
That’s because of GRACE. Believers are being in Christ and because of that, the failures had been removed as far as the east is from the west- an act of grace. John Mark and Onesimus were involved in serving God in ministry- an act of grace. There is therefore NOW NO CONDEMNATION to them that are in Christ Jesus- an act of grace. So, Paul could forgive Mark- an act of grace, and then have the freedom to ask Philemon to forgive Onesimus- an act of grace. Philemon is thought to have hosted the Colossian church, so the entire body of believers knew of Onesimus’ failure, and yet Paul was sending him back and seeking the church to forgive and forget- an act of grace. Remember how Paul ends this letter? “Grace be with you. Amen”
Is grace with you? Doesn’t it make sense that if it is, then grace is shown? The showing of grace to those who honestly don’t deserve it is exactly what grace is. If it is deserved, then it is not grace. Showing grace is one way to love others. Today, what one person in your life is the most undeserving of forgiveness? – is grace with you? Show that person grace, God’s grace. Remember the Lord’s discussion with the woman at the well. Jesus has the conversation with her at the sixth hour, or about noon. The woman would have to descend about 100 feet in the well to get water and then carry it back up, with the large jug balancing on her head. Why was she there, in a hot part of the day, alone? Many think she an outcast, rejected by the women of the city because of her relationships with five men or husbands. No wonder she is startled that a Jewish “religious” person would talk to her. Yet Jesus shows grace! He wasn’t assuming what she was or what was true,

A Psalm That Doesn’t Give Hope (Psalm 88)
May 20, 2017, 4:13 am
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The fear that I had made a horrible life changing mistake gripped my heart, leaving a sense of hopelessness. The panic grew more intense and the failure seemed more final. My comfort zone had evaporated and my friends vanished like an early morning fog. I blew it and I would live with the consequences for the rest of my life in loneliness and utter despair.
Most of us probably have experienced this feeling. A new job with so much promise turns into a bust when the company is bought out. A friend or someone like family turned on us, throwing us under the bus as an act of self-promotion. A relationship that falls apart, a loved one who dies or maybe we experience a time in life were we doubt everything. A new friend turns all my friends against me. So, as a child of God, where do we turn for encouragement. If you’re like me, we turn to God. We open our Bible, seeking for comfort and support from the Almighty. His revelation is our strength. Many of us turn to the Psalms. In some of the Psalms, we can read of someone who in the midst of a difficult and trying situation turns their attention to God who delivers from the “pit of despair”. Except for Psalm 88. The Psalm starts and ends the same way, with the writer in despair. Most scholars place this lament as a single example of a Psalm that doesn’t end on a happy note. There seems to be no rescue. So what can we learn from this passage.
First, why is the writer in this place? Considering that the writer was a “holy man” inspired by the Holy Spirit, we are reading the writings of a believer.
Second, what led to this depth of gloom and loneliness? For a person who trusts in the Lord, the answers can be an attack by our enemy, a life lived as if God doesn’t exist so we are trying to live by our own strength, or a life of open rebellion and sin.. The author places the blame on God so Satan is not the cause, and trying to live in our strength is also eliminated. When we sin as a habitually thing, our despair and loneliness comes from being out of fellowship with God. Sin separates. We also see the author lists cause and effect brought about by a life filled with sin. The writer has lost everything, so where can he or she turn?
That brings us to the third point, the focus. Notice what the writer knows about God. He is my salvation, He hears my prayer, He works miracles or wonders, He shows lovingkindness and faithfulness, and God is righteous.
But the Psalmist also reveals that God is just. Sin’s consequence separates us from God. If and when God is separated from us, joy departs. If God is away, hope is gone. If embracing sin replaces embracing God, then loneliness and despair grows as the void left by God separating from being near us is filled with everything that God isn’t. We have no reason to rejoice at the end because nothing has changed.
I believe that his chapter is a picture of what happens when we refuse to repent and continue on in our rebellion. Joy vanishes, comfort flees, peace disappears.  But remember, this is the view of the psalmist, the rebel.  But what is the TRUTH?
God never leaves!  He is like the prodigal son’s father, waiting for the sinning son to come home. He rushes to protect the son from those who will destroy the wounded child, near destruction by sin’s consequences. But our Father also waits with GRACE. Wrapping GRACE around us, God doesn’t make us earn our place back, He restores back to where we were. Everything the son lost by sin, the father gave back. There is no lasting prohibition placed by the father, no conditions that have to be met. There is only GRACE. The son was altered by the experience. More humble, more thankful, and more loving of the father. Rebel, come home to the Father. Staying where you are deepens the scars of the experience. God is really for you to come home.

When the First Step Ends in Failure!
April 22, 2017, 6:24 pm
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“My little children” starts off 1 John 2:1. Many Bible scholars jump pass these words to “deeper” issues but how important are these words! When I read these words, I think of “toddlers”. With three children and nine grandchildren, dealing with these precious “gifts from God” create memories which God often uses to remind us of His eternal truth. How often we try to warn them against doing something that may hurt them or teach them a new and necessary skill only to see their actions bring the very thing we wanted them to avoid or their attempts to try to use a skill end in failure, and many times tears. Think about that dear child taking that first step with our encouragement and teaching. Do you remember how that first step was so celebrated because of all the times that precious child ended on the floor? What about the warnings not to do something that are ignored, only to end in the pain we tried to get our little child to avoid? The Holy Spirit gives John the knowledge that we are “little children” of God, and even though the path to living right before God in this world is simple, it is difficult because we are little children, with a tendency to fail and fall. But take heart little children as your eyes are dried and you receive a hug from your heavenly Father and the encouragement to try again. Failure is only the final part of our story when we give up. This message from John, given to him to share by the Holy Spirit when he was the elder saint, doesn’t end here. Read the rest of the story and see the great news that destroys our fear of failure! Get up and try again! God is on our side!

Wasted Life or Wasted Eternity?
January 10, 2016, 4:04 am
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“People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives … and when the bubble has burst, they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.” These words by Nate Saint, one of five missionaries killed in January, 1956, are inspiring words from a man who knew God and knew that God had a plan for his life. The question that we must address in our lives is whether we are following Jesus in the fulfillment of His plan that includes us and will have eternal benefits or waste our life on the pursuit of temporary stuff. As I write this, a record setting lottery could be won. Someone might win $900 million dollars. That person will make a decision on how that money can be used. Most, spend it on temporary things and most lottery winners are broke within 5 years of a big win. Not only are they broke financially, but many are broken people, finding out that great wealth is not the secret to a happy life. Nate Saint died, happy in knowing that in life or death, he had followed Christ.
That’s the lesson the apostle Paul writes about in Ephesians. What I love about this passage is that Paul shows us we can actually know that God is using our life. In reading the verse words, Paul announces that he is a person chosen and empowered by, not by great inner strength or a commitment to a worthy cause, but by Jesus the Christ. Paul saw that God’s plan included using him as Jesus’ representative. Paul’s life had an eternal focus which resulted in eternal benefits. Throughout eternity, we will see the results of following Christ and fulfilling the purpose God determined was the proper way to use us. I also notice that this life, centered in the will of God, was a life of giving to others. It is much easier or natural for us to be takers. Nate Saint saw that following Christ involved putting our lives on the line, holding back nothing just like Jesus had done. Using the lottery as a comparison, recently a winner gave about 700,000 dollars to her church. What a great use of the money! Until you see that she has put 20 million dollars at risk to bail out her criminal boyfriend. Her eternal focus took a turn toward the temporary quickly. What a waste! Paul was constantly confronted with concerns of the world but never lost Christ vision of the big picture. Even when facing death, Paul talked about for Him to live was Christ. Everything in his life was motivated by the desire to carry out God’s will.
Paul also saw that the saints, or Christians who had been set apart by God, remained faithful because of their relationship with Jesus Christ. I guess the challenge to me is that no matter what, I want to be faithful to God in doing what He made me to do.
I know that verse 2 seems like just a simply greeting and it is. But don’t you find great comfort in knowing that God the Father and God the Lord Jesus Christ. His grace and peace surrounds us. I know that following Jesus involves a sacrifice on my part but I also see that following Him surrounds me with unmerited favor from God and peace. To us peace seems like a word that means the absence of conflict. But the word translated “peace” in the Bible means to “live well” in our standing with God. God’s plan for me, involves that I follow Him in serving Him as well as having the right relationship with God. Here’s the application of these two verses: eventually your life will either be viewed as something that has made a big deal in this world or something that has consequences that last for eternity. Look at yourself right now. What have you focused your life on doing? Will you have a wasted life or a wasted eternity?
wasted life or wasted eternity

The Plan
January 8, 2016, 3:27 am
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Ephesians 1:7-10
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.

In Christ, we have been purchased from the slavery that sin placed us in through the blood Jesus shed on the cross. We stand forgiven of sins because of the AMAZING riches of grace that not only purchased us, but blotted out our sins. The blood removed our sins from us as well as the chains that used to bind us. The blood was poured over us and we are no longer what we were because of our encounter with the Christ of the cross and the resurrection. With all wisdom, or the ability to see life from God’s point of view, He was given us insight and enlightened us the the great mystery of God saving us Himself, which was always His plan, set in motion before the foundation of the universe. With great pleasure, He has shared the Good News of what Jesus did in carrying faithfully the Plan of God taking upon Himself the responsibility to save His fallen creation. This plan will be fulfilled when the time is right and at that moment, He will return to make all things one, both on earth and in heaven and He rules as King! God, thanks for caring enough about me and help me to care about others so that I will share openly and often, the message of hope that freed me and made me His son. While You aren’t setting up Your kingdom yet, Please be King of me!
Jesus, the cross and the resurrection

Jesus, my strength when I am weak

Glorious Grace!
January 6, 2016, 3:31 am
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“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” When Paul wrote this verse to the Ephesians, he must have left tears upon the pages. The very thought that this terrorist of the early church as well as the person who took up the battle to fight against Christ as He built His church was “accepted in the beloved” must have overwhelmed the Apostle Paul. He had done so much against what Jesus wanted and was responsible for the murder of so many of the early followers of Christ must have felt there was no way that God could love him. After all, he had done so much WRONG that he couldn’t conceive of a love and grace greater than his sin. Yet, here he was, being used of God to establish churches, and to share the revelation that was so important to this new baby church. He was unworthy, but that didn’t matter because he was accepted IN THE BELOVED. It wasn’t about his righteousness or his worth, but was totally based on who Jesus was and what Jesus did. It makes sense that he was full of praise to the glory of God’s GRACE! Grace that is greater than our failures and our faults and our flaws. Have you ever felt like you’ve blown it? Ever feel like you have sinned so bad that there is no way that God could forgive you? You go to God, broken, empty, and without anything but failure to offer. And He picks you up, lifts up your head, and tells you “You are accepted in the beloved”! That amazing grace, abundant grace, overflowing grace! Grace that magnifies the awesomeness of God because it is His Grace. In fact He is Grace! Come back to Him and experience His GRACE right now!
Jesus, my strength when I am weak

Rahab and a Changed Life (Joshua 2, 6, Ruth 4, Matthew 1)
July 29, 2015, 6:29 pm
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The book of Joshua rahab and a changed life, july 29

One of the great messages of the Bible is that God pursues people who are perfect. In fact, God works through the lives of people who do bad things. Before having a relationship with God, Abraham had worshiped false gods. Moses, prior to being used of God, had murdered a person. David committed adultery by having a baby with another man’s wife. David then set up that man’s death by ordering him to fight in a war, and then having the other troops withdraw, leaving Uriah as an easy target for the enemy. Paul, prior to being transformed and following God, persecuted Christians and evidently ordered the death of many of them, as the example of Stephen in Acts 7. Mary Magdalene had been possessed by seven demons, according to Luke 8. So it comes as no surprise that God did something amazing in the life of Rahab, a harlot. Today, we don’t use the word harlot but our common term is prostitute. It is sad that a person sees there only hope in selling themselves to others, but there are people who see this as there only option to survive. We don’t know why Rahab was a prostitute, but we know that her sin broke God’s heart, not just because she was breaking the commandment not to commit adultery, but because she had such little love for herself. What do we know about Rahab? She loved her family. Reading verse 13 of Joshua 2 reveals that she helped the two spies because of an agreement she made with them concerning her “father, mother, brothers, sisters, and all they have, and deliver them from death”. Her actions may reveal that for some unknown reason, the survival of her family depended on her. She shows that she makes things happen for her and her family. Second, she is willing to make a change. She was open to helping the spies. In reading the story, she knew a lot about the Israelites. She talked about how God had supernaturally worked on their behalf in really amazing ways. She mentioned their deliverance form Egypt, passage through the Red Sea, and many victories over superior enemies. Then she revealed her belief about God. The phrase “for the Lord your God, he is the God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” reveals her belief that the real sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all was the Supreme God of the Jews. Her actions of helping the Jewish spies reveals that she truly believed this because her actions revealed her true beliefs. Rahab believed that God would give the Israelites the city of Jericho, so her actions in this event were based on her new faith in the God of all. Perhaps the most powerful part of the story is that God wants to save everyone. From before the foundation of the earth, God’s plan included Rahab. God revealed Himself to her and then was able to plug her into His plan. More on the extent of the plan later.
When we are first introduced to Rahab, we see her in the city of Jericho. The two spies of the Jews come into the city to check it out. They wanted to get details about the city as well as find out what the citizens were talking about. Evidently a great place to stay would be at Rahab’s. Visitors in the city would be less suspicious if they stayed with Rahab and the conversations of many would be heard in her house. Maybe her home, which was built into the wall, had an upper and lower part. The upper part was the families living quarters. Perhaps the bottom section was a tavern or roadhouse, full of visitors and full of wickedness. All visitors were welcomed here so it was not surprising that the king expected the two spies to be at Rahab’s. When the word of the spies’ arrival soon spread throughout Jericho, the king (most likely mayor) of Jericho sent word to Rahab to hand over the spies. And you know what she does? She lies! She tells a story that is full of lies! She LIES! As Christians, we struggle with her actions because we believe that she is now a follower of God. Her words, spoken about God a little later, didn’t turn her into a believer of God. They just revealed it. So how can we accept her as a believer? Trusting God doesn’t make us perfect, it just puts us on the road to eventually becoming outwardly what God transforms us inwardly to be. God begins to transform us inwardly so that our reactions become more consistent to His will. How long Rahab had been a believer in God is unknown and she needed to be taught the Will of God as revealed in the Word of God. (Which at the time was a small part of the Old Testament.) She makes a deal with the spies and tells them how to escape capture. When the Jews come back to the city to conquer them, Rahab is told to tie a red (scarlet) rope from her home’s window on the wall and let it hang down. This part of the wall would be spared and her family would be saved. We now skip over to Joshua 6 for the next part of the story. Joshua gives instructions about what the troops will do to conquer the city of Jericho. In verse 17 of Joshua 6, Joshua reminds all about sparing Rahab and her family. In verse 22, Joshua tells the two spies to go to Rahab’s and bring her and her family out before the city was destroyed. She survived the fall of Jericho but what happened to Rahab? If we continue to read the book of Joshua, we won’t find the answer but we now have the entire Bible. Can we look elsewhere? Maybe the best place to look is in the New Testament book of Matthew. In Matthew 1, we read a genealogy of Jesus, the King of the Jews. Starting with the father of the Jewish race, Abraham, we read of a patriarchal system in which one father begats a son who assumes the position of leadership after the dad steps down or dies. This genealogy is unique because women are mentioned. Because we are switching from a testament that is translated from Hebrew to a testament translated from Greek, the spelling of names will be different. Most of the Bible involves reading from the original languages and translating into the best English word possible. But names are “transliterated” which means we turn a Hebrew or Greek word into an English word by changing letters from Hebrew or Greek to English. So the Rahab we get from transliterating Hebrew into English is the same as the Rachab we get from transliterating Greek into English. So we read Rachab in Matthew 1, verse 5. We find that she marries a Jewish man named Salmon and has a son named Booz (or Boaz), who married Ruth. So Rahab is the mother of Boaz, the grandmother of Obed, the great-grandmother of Jesse, and the great-great-grandmother of David the King. She is also in the lineage of Jesus, the King of the Jews, the Son of God. What a transformation from prostitute to blessed member of the Messiah heritage. That is only something that God can do! God does have a plan and God will do what is needed to pursue us. Not everyone believes the Gospel and therefore reject God, although He has come after them. But Rahab did and she was forever changed.

Questions about Rahab
1. Who are the other 3 women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17?

2. Who are included in the genealogy found in Ruth 4?
3. In Joshua 6, Joshua ends the chapter with a curse placed upon Jericho. Read verses 26 and 27 in the chapter to see what it is?

4. The time between Joshua 6 and I Kings 16 is about 600 to 700 years, with I Kings 16 taking place that many years after the curse placed upon Jericho. Read I Kings 16:34 and tell what happened.

5. What is the only reasonable explanation for a prophecy coming true exactly as predicted 600 to 700 years before? What does that prove about the Word of God?