“Dangerous Grace”

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Grace is dangerous and risky. It could lead to misuse and license: “Let us sin that grace may abound!” The Apostle Paul new of this danger and wrote extensively on it in several of his letters (e.g. see Romans 6:1-7:25 and Galatians 5:1-15), and we do not have space here to present a major treatise on this amazing subject of Grace (and there are many scholarly works available to peruse). But what I do want to present is the Hope of this dangerous Grace….

The hope? When we do fall, this dangerous Grace is all-sufficient for us to get back up and keep on walking in the Spirit in the steps of my Savior. We do not take this dangerous Grace lightly. We are fully aware of the price paid of the lavished Love flowing from such all-sufficient Grace. Yes, I could take it for granted, and continue wallowing in the muck and mire of my flesh—my sin, but the Love Lord Jesus has lavished on me somehow propels me to step out of the miry clay and have my feet firmly placed on the Rock that is higher than I. His dangerous Grace is faithful to forgive me when I confess my sin and cleanse me from all that muck & mire…. It is all-sufficient.

Charles Spurgeon, the 19th Century Prince of Preachers, shares a very personal moment regarding v. 9 of our main text:

The other evening I was riding home after a heavy day’s work. I felt very wearied and sore depressed, when swiftly and suddenly as a lightning flash, the text came to me, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” I reached home and looked it up in the original, and at last it came to me in this way. “MY grace is sufficient for thee”; and I said, “I should think it is, Lord,” and burst out laughing. … It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking  the river dry…. Or, it seemed after the seven years of plenty, a mouse feared it might die of famine, and Joseph might say, “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.” Again, I imagined a man away up yonder, in the lofty mountain, saying to himself, “I breathe so many cubic feet of air every year, I fear I shall exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere,” but the earth might say, “Breathe away, O man, and fill the lungs ever, my atmosphere is sufficient for  thee.” Oh brethren, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your souls. [Source: Streams in the Desert, February 26]

So I rest in the hope of this dangerous, all-sufficient Grace. The hope that gets me back up when I fall; the hope that a confessed sin is not only forgiven, but replaced with heaven’s righteousness; the  hope that my feeble steps behind my gracious Master are strengthened by His dangerous Grace. Does this hope spur you to get back up and drink in His never-ending all-sufficient Grace? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (NIV) 7 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;2 Corinthians 9:8 (NASB95)

  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.—1 Timothy 1:13–14 (NIV84)

  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say, “No,” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.— Titus 2:11–14 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I am humbled by this amazing, dangerous Grace. I know I am not worthy to receive this, but Your Love for me has made me valuable. You Loved me even when I was Your enemy. Lord Jesus, I praise You for Your sacrifice of Love and Grace. No words can truly capture my heart’s gratitude. Baruch Ha Shem Y’shua! Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Righteous Judgment?”

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Probably one of the most difficult things about a God, Who is Love, is to reconcile His Wrath and Judgment. It goes something like this: “How can a loving God send people to hell,” or the  like. And before we quickly dismiss this, we truly must engage the challenge. How can a loving God do this?

Obviously, treatises and tomes have been written attempting to resolve this conflict. I cannot pretend to say I have read them all or even a near majority. But what I can offer in this brief blog, is a Both/And response to an Either/Or Dilemma.

God is either severely wrath-filled and vicious or He is completely Loving and forgiving: This is the general framing of the conundrum. But I want to submit that a Holy-Love God can express both wrath against evil and Love toward Good at the same time. The problem comes when we reduce the LORD to a human parent, whose fickle punishment and discipline have scarred many for life.

Our God’s wrath is neither capricious nor reckless. The main verse notes that an essential element of His character is patience: He “is slow to anger.” But He is also “great in power”. His anger/wrath when executed is not out of control, thrashing about like a drowning swimmer. No, rather with pinpoint accuracy the LORD punishes the wicked, who refuse to repent, thus protecting His own, who have been cruelly treated by the wicked. This is true justice; Holy Love….

How slow was He to anger? Well, with the people of Noah’s day, it appears He waited 120 years (not counting the many years before Noah) before He executed judgment. And when He did, His Holy-Love spared Noah’s family. (I hear the book is better than the movie.) Another example of our LORD’s slow to anger is with Assyria. After they repented from their wickedness under Jonah’s reluctant preaching, the LORD spared them, on the low end, 120 years as well, before His Holy-Love destroyed the wicked nation for its sorcery, idolatry and violence, but yet protected His people, Judah….

Beyond the theological conundrum and the personal struggle with a God Who is Holy-Love, at least two questions need to be addressed: (1) How does this change my view of disciplining my children? and (2) Where does the cross fit in here?

When discipling our children, let us never do it in anger or reckless temper tantrums. Have a plan. Have reasons. Clearly explain the expectations and the consequences. The older the child the more involved they are in the discipline process. But remember, they do need discipline…

When considering the cross, I see the welding of God’s Holy-Love with Grace. I’m reminded of a sandwich quarter: Holy and Love are the two precious metals on the outside, but welded in the middle is another precious metal: Grace. Beyond the mystery of God, the trinity, etc., I find this fascinating. It was on the cross where the Love of God was demonstrated (Romans 5:8) and, at the same time, I see God’s Holiness express in the sacrifice, the required payment for sin—all sin. And I see the Grace proffered all people, so they do not have to receive the pinpoint wrath of an unrepentant heart.

What are your thoughts on this rather heavy subject?

Main Text— Nahum 1:3 (NIV84)— 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of His feet.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.— 1 Peter 3:18–21 (NIV84)

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God—John 3:17–18 (NASB95)

Whoever does not discipline his son hates him, but whoever loves him is diligent to correct him.— 1Proverbs 13:244 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, fill my heart with Your Holy-Love so I may graciously discipline those under my care. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Two Types of Forgiveness”

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Date: 05-20-15

Perhaps you are aware of one type of “forgiveness”. This is known as “Confront Forgiveness” (see Matthew 5:23-24 & James 5:13-16). This is when you confront someone with their ‘sin’, “they” confess their guilt and you forgive “them”. This is a very powerful and effective way of building strong, healthy Christian families. Forgiveness is an essential element. And bringing an issue out in the open is very healthy, too.

But there are some issues and some circumstances that require the second type of forgiveness: “Hanging on the Cross” Forgiveness (aka “Cross Forgiveness;” although all forgiveness flows from the cross, this just makes it easier to communicate the two). With this “Cross Forgiveness” we join our Lord Jesus on the cross and say—regarding a particular person with a particular offense: “Father, Forgiven them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV84 emphasis added). (I have discovered that this “Cross forgiveness” must be specific. If I just do a general “forgive them for ‘whatever'”, I have found I still stew and flinch when “it” happens again.)

I’m not sure which is harder. Perhaps you can share your thoughts on this. But I do know that sometimes I need to do this “Cross Forgiveness” and then walk in grace towards this person. I have witnessed literal miracles too personal too share, but I know this “Cross Forgiveness” is just as effective and essential in any healthy family—any healthy relationship with Jesus. And as I decrease and the Life of Jesus in me increases, I am becoming more and more “Forgiveness Ready”….

Lifestyle worshiper, have you found this to be so, to? Do you have any experiences with either of these two types of forgive? Any thing safe to share?

Main Text: — Ephesians 4:32 — Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense — Proverbs 19:11 (NIV84)

 “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” —Jeremiah 31:34c (NIV84)

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”. — John 5:14 (NIV84)

 “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:9-14). Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“The Next Meeting”

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Date: 04-02-15

The Big Idea: I have found that when forgiveness and reconciliation are genuine, the next time I see that person, “they” are warm and receptive.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, have you found that it is the next meeting the seals the deal? You know you’ve had this very emotional moment of reconciliation and forgiveness. It appears that you’ve finally restored a deeply wounded and fractured relationship, but once the emotion passes, do you wonder, “Was this for real?”

I have found that it is in that next meeting the reality is confirmed and the “deal is sealed.” Perhaps this is how Peter felt when he went for another walk with Jesus—this time on the beach and not on the water. …

After I have had an emotional moment of forgiveness and reconciliation, I have found that when it is genuine, the next time I see that person, “they” are warm and receptive. Sadly, there have been those times where apparently it was purely an emotional experience, and they still need some time to work it through. Yes, “they” looked away when I saw them….

But with Peter, Jesus not only did not look away, He initiated the next meeting. And in this next meeting, His Love and forgiveness were abundantly manifested…. Jesus knew Peter wasn’t quite ready to walk in His forgive. When Peter answered Jesus’ questions, he was more than blunt about his love for Jesus. Peter knew that at this time in his life his love  was a deeply devoted and highly committed loyalty, but he was understating what he had overstated at the Last Supper where he said: “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). This wasn’t quite true—then….

Peter grew into that depth of Love—agape Love. And Jesus gave him the space—and time—to do so—starting with that next meeting.

Have you found freedom of forgiveness in that next meeting? I know I have. Your thoughts?

Main Text: — John 21:15— 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agapas) me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love (philō) you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. — 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV84)

  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   —Ephesians 3:17b-19 (NIV84)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   — Romans 8:37-39 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I receive the forgiveness You offer me in Your Son, my Lord Jesus Christ. As I grow in my understanding of Your Love for me, make me a channel of this forgiveness to others. In Your Son’s Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike