Archive for the Grace Category

My Bucket (2015)

Posted in Grace on January 2, 2015 by nmpreach

bucketDepending on who you read or the numbers you believe, 75-80% of those who make resolutions will fail – many in two weeks or less.  Those are horrible odds.  And because of past failures, many people look for the proverbial white towel and give up and/or become cynical to goals or any attempt at change.  At times, people say things like, “I used to make resolutions.  But because I failed so often, I just don’t make them anymore.”

The famous quote “I yam what I am” from Popeye comes to mind.  For what it’s worth, that phrase has been used to rationalize immorality, settle for mediocrity, and to simply coast through life.  How many people do you know live six or seven decades only to look back on their life and say, “I should have… I wish I would have… If only I could have…”?  I know several.  The good news is it’s never too late.

A new year brings new opportunities – opportunities to invest in what matters.  In recent years the phrase “bucket list” has become popular.  In a 2007 movie, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman encouraged us to live life to the fullest.  “Do something you’ve always dreamed of.”  Etc.  As I see it, the trouble with a “bucket list” is the bucket is often limited to this world.  In other words, the parameters of the bucket force one to focus on worldly things.  The list may include jump from a skyscraper, travel to exotic lands, build the perfect house, drive the greatest car, paint the white picket fence, etc.  But as those things are added to the “bucket,” one finds the bucket to have several small holes in the bottom that allows the contents to drain.  The fulfillment found in worldly goals or possessions is fleeting.

Jesus once said, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matt 6:19-21 ESV)

Did you catch it?  Jesus attempts to define the “bucket” for us.  Why focus on things that will one day be gone?  Why not invest in things that will last forever?  For some reason, I think the bucket God offers is without holes.  Remember John 15?  IF you remain in me… but if you don’t…

Of course Christians are far from immune to the ways of the world.  A popular preacher has asked believers to consider, “What would you do if you only had thirty days to live?”  The book and preaching series was popular for a time.  People began to do things they had been called to do years before.  Relationships were restored.  Faith grew.  But too often even those things that were once “hot” became “lukewarm.”  The passion was there for a time and then simply gone.  Why should it take someone describing our life ending in thirty days to cause change?

It seems to me that we need goals – whether we call them resolutions or not.  We must be reminded to “look towards the finish line.”  It’s much too easy to see all of the things around us and lose focus.  For that among other reasons, God offers us new seasons, new days, and even new hours.

In this new season, year, month, day, I resolve to:

1) Let God define the “bucket;”

2) Invest in things that will last rather than those things that are limited;

and

3) When I fail, lose focus, and fall, I resolve to receive God’s grace and get up.  Cf 1 John 1:5-10

I’m grateful for new seasons and another chance!

Does Grace End?

Posted in Grace on October 9, 2013 by nmpreach

I’m wondering this morning when does God’s grace end?

All too often, I hear people note their imperfections/hang-ups/sins.  Sometime during the conversation, it’s clear that they don’t believe in grace.  “How could God love someone like me?  You don’t know what I’ve done. etc.”  Because of this belief (verbalized or not), the enemy has convinced them they’re no good to society.  In other words, life for them means nothing more than survival.  The hidden secrets are too numerous to count.

What a sad way to live!

Yesterday, I noted the faith of those God called to rebuild the temple.  But if you’ve read Ezra, you know everything isn’t as “cut and dry” as it seems.  Upon returning, God convicts the Israelites of their sin and selfishness.  They were told to be different from the other nations.  Yet they have followed their own desires/wishes.  And for this rebellion, there are consequences.

A priest/scribe named Ezra prays to God concerning the nations sin.  Read the prayer in chapter 9 and note how he describes sin and its results.  But today, I want to focus on after the confession.

And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.  Ezra 10:2 ESV (emphasis mine)

The rest of the chapter records Ezra’s reminder to set themselves apart from the foreign nations.  The Israelites were told to put the foreign wives “away.”

This is a good reminder for me of what my sin does to my relationship with God.  It’s simple to say it’s ugly and nasty.  But in reality, it causes death.  There always has been (and will always be) consequences for my selfish rebellion.  Yet look again at the end of verse 2.  Even now there is hope for Israel.  If they will confess, repent of their wickedness, and turn back towards God, He will receive them again.  It happens over and over again – in Scripture and in my own life.

If somehow you’ve been convinced that your sin is worse than others, be encouraged.  There’s hope found only in God.  Humble yourself to return to relationship and realize the peace God gives.  May it be so!

Silence Is Golden

Posted in Grace, Scripture on September 13, 2012 by nmpreach

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Ecc 3:7b ESV)

Do we really believe that?  I find myself giving my opinion when I should just listen.  I attempt to be wise when I have no business chiming in.  After the fact, I pray God’s grace covers a multitude of sin.

I was reminded of speaking too much over the last few days.  Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc…. anyone even remember MySpace?) allows people to post their struggles and prayer requests.  Although I hate that some people thrive on drama, the benefits are obvious.  I appreciate the opportunity to pray for these people, for their concerns, and for God’s grace, mercy, and compassion.  But all too often, I’m tempted to tell them what they should do.  Sadly, sometimes I offer advice before praying God’s will.

Chances are you fall prey to the same temptation.  I’ve seen it!  Let’s face it: We hate when our families, our friends, and people in general experience pain.  We want to eliminate their pain.  We attempt to “fix” the problem.  Sidenote: I wonder if those around Paul attempted to eliminate Paul’s thorn?  If so, they were disappointed and perhaps even caused even more pain for Paul (Cf. 2 Cor 12).  Remember, God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient.”

Here’s a thought:  You and I see struggles on the surface but not in places close to the heart.  In other words, I can hear someone describing their struggle, but I really don’t know how they feel.  I may have experienced similar struggles, but we’re all different.  And how one struggles may be different from how I struggle – similar experience, different responses.  It’s what makes us unique.  If they want your advice, they’ll ask for it!

For believers, we know the Holy Spirit lives within us.  But we rationalize our counseling before determining what God wants to say through us.  Notice the “our counseling”, not God’s.  Stop being a counselor 24/7!   Surely there are times when God wants us to speak.  We see that again and again throughout Scripture.  But sometimes He wants us to do as Solomon says, recognize the time of silence.  Sometimes God simply wants us to listen and to pray.

Borrowing from the practical letter of James, maybe we should be quick to listen and slow to speak.  Maybe there are times silence really is golden.  Any thoughts?

STORY

Posted in Grace, Love on June 20, 2012 by nmpreach

I was asked this morning, “If you could share, what would you say you’ve learned the most since you were twenty?”  I had just a few seconds to answer a question that I thought deserved more than a few seconds, but I did my best.  I spoke about my little world.  In other words, when I was twenty, I believed my issues were more important than others.  As I’ve grown, God has shown me that my story is no more important (nor less important) than those around me.  Everyone has a story.

I’ve learned that there’s ONE STORY.  And the STORY is God’s.  He allows me to exist within His story.  Better yet, He desires me to not only exist within His story, He wants me to be an active part of His story.  He wants me to be a part of your story.  What a great blessing!  What tremendous love and grace.

Please understand, I haven’t figured it completely out.  I know in the next twenty years, there will be much more to learn – provided Christ doesn’t return.  But I’m praying that God would remind me that my story is just a “flash in the pan.”  His story is much bigger than mine (or yours).  His story is perfect.  I pray His STORY is revealed to all mankind.  And I’m grateful that He allows me to be a small part.

Forgiveness

Posted in Grace, Scripture on July 21, 2011 by nmpreach

Have you ever marveled at God’s grace?  I mean more than thankfulness, more than gratefulness in passing.  I’m speaking of being in awe – of marveling at something you and I don’t deserve.  As I grow in Christ, I realize more and more of my inability and impotence.  I have developed a greater appreciation for Christ’s life and sacrifice.  It’s grace that still amazes me.

1 John 1:9 reads, If we confess our sins, he (Jesus) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Notice the conditional clause – If we confess.  If we acknowledge our sins, God will give us peace.  If we turn from our rebellion, God will offer redemption.   But it’s only if we confess our sins!

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.  For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Ps 32 1-5 ESV

David says it well.  When we keep silent, there is no peace.  When we fail to acknowledge our sin, God allows the consequences of sin to remain.  You remember what the punishment for sin is right?  Check out Romans 6:23.  It’s when we recognize our sin and God’s ability to forgive, that God frees us.  What is it that you need to come clean about today?  Will you allow God to bring you peace?  Don’t wait until tomorrow.

The Heathen

Posted in Community, Discipleship, Grace on June 1, 2011 by nmpreach

Often times, we in the western world think of heathen as being those who live in what is deemed “third world countries.”  Their society hasn’t progressed to where ours has.  They have limited resources.  And often times, crime is rampant due to survival instincts. 

For centuries, the Western world has sent missionaries to these people – in an effort to convert them to the Western way of life to include (but not limited to) government, economics, infrastructure, and religion.  Because of the lack of progress – at least in a Westerner’s mind – those they hope to convert are deemed “heathen”.  Synonyms might be uncultured, uneducated, or uncivilized.

But is it fair to deem one a “heathen” just because they don’t believe as I do?  carry an iPhone like mine? or have the luxury of a supermarket down the street?  In other words, maybe we should rethink our idea of what it means to be a heathen.

Paul writes to the Romans, For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things (1:21-23)

Our tendency is to look at the last phrase images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things and conclude Paul is speaking of those uncultured, uneducated, and uncivilized.  He’s not writing to people like me.  That thought is not only arrogant, it’s also completely wrong!  Notice the phrase in verse 21  For although they knew God.  That’s what we so often miss.  Paul is speaking of those who had a relationship with the Creator.  So why would they ever exchange truth for a lie?  The answer is three-fold.  1)  They didn’t honor God or give Him thanks;  2)  They became futile in their thinking; and 3) Their foolish hearts were darkened.  Summary:  Paul says their pride and arrogance was their downfall.

Thought:  It’s easy to recognize God when He comes through.  For example, when a prayer is answered the way I want it answered (and at the right time) or when it rains after a long drought.  But what about when God doesn’t answer prayer my way?  What if the rain comes slower and slower each year?  It’s a little harder to recognize God then.  In fact, often times we blame Him for our circumstances.  And slowly we line up with those whom Paul would describe as being futile in their thinking.  Our hearts will eventually be darkened, meaning the absence of God.  Who is the heathen now?

Hope

Posted in Grace on March 28, 2011 by nmpreach

For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if  I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  Romans 7:15-20 ESV

Paul is, of course, speaking of the reason why God had provided the Law.  It’s not the Law that saves, but grace.  Many scholars believe Paul wrote the above after maturing in the faith and coming to grips with his sin.  It’s helpful for us to know Paul’s background – an arrogant, blasphemous, murderer who meets Christ on the road toward more persecution.  In the blink of an eye, Paul is transformed.  He goes on to write 2/3 of our New Testament and is considered the Apostle of Grace.

That gives me hope.  After reading Paul’s confession above, I see myself time and time again.  Yet if God transformed Paul to do what Paul did, maybe there’s hope for me as well.  Need hope today?  Look towards the God who transformed Paul.  He can do the same for you!