Grace Sat Down With Me, Until I Could Walk Again

By Frank Friedmann

I am not much for Christian cliché, pat answers, and overly simplistic offers of encouragement to my many questions as I journey through a dark and often desperate world. About a year ago though, Janet came home from a flea market quite proud of herself. She had bought me a plaque with a curt Christian phrase on it. As she explained what she had done, I must admit I was not thinking very thankfully toward her gift, until I saw what it said.
“GRACE SAT DOWN WITH ME, UNTIL I COULD WALK AGAIN”
I was stunned! As I reflected on the power of those words, and Janet’s own words that the creator of this plaque was not a believer, did not know why she had made it, and that she only made one of them. Janet shared with me that her conviction that the Holy Spirit had that lady create it just for me!
Powerful, isn’t it? Especially for someone like me who falls down a lot! When I ponder that phrase, there is a verse that comes to my heart from Isaiah 42. I know you know it well!
It tells us that God will NEVER cast off a bruised reed, or a dimly burning wick. In the ancient world, people would make flutes out of reeds. But in the process of cutting out the holes in the reed for the air to escape, they would often break or bruise the reed, and knowing it would never play properly, they would just throw it away and start with another one. After all, there was an abundance of reeds available.
In the same vein, the ancients used oil for lamps and would put a wick in the oil, and that would provide light for the lamp. When the wick burned down and was no longer providing light, they would just throw away the wick and get another one. After all, they were very inexpensive and there were lots of them available.
That is exactly how many people feel who have grown weary in their journey through this dark and desperate world. Perhaps they have fallen into sin or difficult circumstances and their light is not shining very well, nor are their lives playing beautiful music. They have sat down, exhausted and overwhelmed. Humanity at that point, especially religious humanity, very often has nothing to do with such people. At best they have no time for such people, or worse, they simply do not care!
Not so with God. He says He will NEVER cast us off or throw us away. He, GRACE, will sit down with us until we can walk again. Later in Isaiah, He will tell us that He has engraved our name on His hand and will NEVER forget us. God NEVER sees us as useless, no matter how weary we are, no matter how badly we have failed. By providing us with His Life, He tells us that our lives will make beautiful music once again, and our light will once again shine in the darkness of this world. This is what He promises to do for us. Wonderful!
As wonderful as that is however, it is not enough. Because He lives in us and expresses Himself through us, we too are to communicate this incredible grace to others, especially those who have grown weary and fallen down.
I find it compelling, that the motive for many of the miracles Jesus did, was compassion. Compassion is a HUGE word. It defines the spirit that is not content to feel for someone who hurts, but the compulsion to do something about it. In this world that is filled with so many bruised reeds and dimly burning wicks, we need to be known not only by our understanding of grace, but its application. As Grace (Jesus) sat down with us, may we sit down with them, until they can walk again.

Frank is Teaching Pastor at Grace Life Fellowship in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and communicates through his ministry, Our Resolute Hope.



The Unknown

By Yoland Stith

unknown

Why are Christians so fearful about the unknown, which lead them to become anxious and worry? Mostly, because they don’t know what the future holds for them and they imagine all sorts of things will or might happen. We want to know, because we want to have a sense of control, but, in reality, “knowing” doesn’t really give us control. The paradox is that the more we try to control the more out-of-control we will become.

The unknown presents us with an opportunity to discover and experience the reality of who God is in our lives. In other words, is He really for you? Is He really interested in you and involved in your life? As you look back on your journey with Him, has He not used “all things” in your life to bring about goodness and blessing, even if pain was involved?

Here are five reasons to trust God with the unknown:

1. He already knows your future circumstances and has a solution for them – God already knew every choice you would ever make, everything that would ever happen, and He has a plan (a really good plan) already in place taking all your choices into consideration.

2. He is Good – God’s definition of “good” is very different than ours; His might involve things that are painful, ours does not. What God calls good, often, we call evil. Hence the reason why Adam and Eve were not to eat from the Tree of Knowing Good and Evil. God is most interested in your freedom and ability to live as He designed you–in dependence on Him.

3. He is Sovereign – There is nothing in this world that can cancel out God’s plan or over-come His power. He’s the Man. Everything in His universe is under His control, even evil. The evil one and sin were defeated at the Cross. And we have been given the very life of God to live in concert with Him, depending on Him, choosing truth and walking in that truth.

4. He is your Ally and Friend – There is nothing, and no one, more important to God than you! He accepts you fully in who you are and as you are. God’s need for justice was satisfied at the Cross and His wrath toward evil was poured out upon His Son. Right before Jesus died He said, “It is finished.” By grace, through faith you are now His for all eternity. (Eph. 2:8-9)

5. He is the Source for everything you need – He loves you. He’s already forgiven you (past, present and future sins, so thank Him and move on!). He’s crazy about you, because after everything He created he said, “It is good.” He has given you an abundant life–a life that will never run out, fail you, or disappoint you. Whatever you need (not necessarily want), He has already provided in Jesus the Messiah–the gift of Life!

The unknown may be unknown to you, but it isn’t unknown to God. We can trust Him with it and live in the present moment with confidence that God has got our back, He’s on our side, and He’s a DAD who loves us like no other.

“…casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

Clean and Close to God

By Andrew Farley

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3.2-3)

Too often, we Christians presume that we’re ‘sinners’ at the core just like everyone else.  In doing so, we ignore one of the greatest aspects of the cross—the killing off of our old self.  When we take on the ‘I’m a dirty worm’ theology and then seek to ‘be like Jesus,’ we’ll find it to be a losing effort.  Christianity then becomes an exercise in futility and falsehood.  We’re essentially trying to act like someone that we don’t believe we are.  It then becomes religion.

We died.  We’ve been raised and seated.  And we’re clean and close to God.  What more can we ask for?”

Excerted from “God Without Religion

God Thoughts

by Blake Rymer

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  AW Tozer

beach sunset.png Eventually, at some point in our walk with God, we must ask Him “why”?

This is not the “why” of disappointment with God or of moral failure on our parts or of persecution or suffering. Any child can react to life’s realities and feel entitled to seek an answer for his discomfort or disappointment or debility.

This “why” is deeper and comes from the core of our being. It is the existential “why” of wanting to know the reason, the purpose or the place our lives are meant to fill. Yes, this is the “why am I here” question.

Sometimes we all want a diagram showing the way things really are with every part drawn out to scale and labeled and with a big “You Are Here” arrow that points to a spot on the diagram that shows our location and our connection to all the other pieces.

The Bible offers us this: “Bring My sons from afar And My daughters from the ends of the earth, Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”  Isaiah 43:6-7

God says we were created for His glory. If this is so, then we are here for a purpose much bigger than ourselves, a purpose as big as God. When we begin to get our minds around this idea as the very best answer to the deeper “why” question, all the other lesser “whys” begin to fall into place as well.

As we walk through this process of renewing and redeeming our God thoughts, we can begin to experience more fully God’s will for our lives. Perhaps that puzzling word “glory” will begin to make sense as well.

Blake is the founder of Grace Link International of Huntsville, AL.

The Gift of Suffering

by Yolanda Stith

Gift of SufferingYes, suffering is a gift. While it is not usually one that we look forward to, its benefits far out-weigh its negatives. In a perfect world there is no need for suffering. The world was created in all its beauty, both mankind and the world around them, perfect; however, when evil corrupted what God had created, man became self-centered, filled with evil intentions and all of creation was infected by sin.

Suffering is the remedy for sin. Jesus suffered beyond comprehension for the behalf of humanity and to redeem God’s creation. We suffer, too; sometimes as a result of the world we live in and sometimes due to our own selfish choices. Suffering forces us to take personal inventory, as it did with Job. It humbles us and breaks down pride and ego. It is a cruel reminder that we are not in-control and the temptation to be “god” was nothing more than a ploy to lead us astray and destroy God’s beautiful creation.

I’ve suffered greatly in my life, but I am certain there are others what have suffered more–a young man, barely out of his 20’s, a triple amputee from Afghanistan who no longer believes there is a God; a woman who lost her home after her abusive marriage fell apart and can’t make enough money to support her and her daughters; a baby born with multiple defects, just to name a few.

In my own suffering after my husband Ken died last summer, I came to realize that my response to it was going to make all the difference in the world. I can’t change anything. I could become angry and bitter and walk away from God, as some do, but he’s my ONLY hope and I know this in the depths of my soul. I began to think about the suffering as a gift, a gift that would open my eyes to greater things, even though I’m not entirely sure what those things are at this point.

Sorrow has forced me to look at myself, my motives and attitudes, and be willing for God to take me deeper into the interior life with him. This “perfect storm” and “dark night of the soul” of sorrow reveal hidden depths within that go unnoticed when we live on the surface of life.

The Scriptures are filled with examples of men and women whom have endured God’s school of adversity and discovered the great gift that was prepared for them. Without the night, we cannot enjoy the stars, without the pain, we cannot experience God’s comfort, and without the valleys and deserts, we will never truly know the joy of God’s mountain tops and Living Water!

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

Yolanda is co-founder of New Heart Living of Bethesda, MD.

Are you trying to get God to love you?

by Steve Eden

IfPlease love me you are trying to get God to love you, you are too late. He already loves you with a love that will never fail. He loved you before you were born. He even loved you before you started trying to get Him to love you! Your behavior cannot create love inside a God who already IS love. You are NOT on a date with God, trying by your actions to create love inside of someone for you that you hope will last. You are in covenant with a covenant-keeping God. You cannot manipulate/obligate God into loving you more than He already does.

Steve is Pastor  of Grace Church in Choctaw, OK

Surrender is Victory

By Yolanda Stith

abandonment   Practically speaking, abandonment to God, complete surrender consists in seeing the will of God in everything–in those you love, circumstances and, yes, your own life. If God replaces your wonderful plan that you constructed for your life with another and leads you into a valley instead of onto a mountaintop, no matter how scary, it is because he has a greater plan, a greater blessing.

It’s not that God takes joy in watching us struggle or suffer, but there is (in the struggle and suffering) a greater plan and purpose; one that you would never, ever know unless you were willing to let him take you there.

One of the greatest paradoxes of the Christian life is that surrender is VICTORY! “The man who loses his life finds it.” What makes surrender so difficult is our lack of faith in a God who loves so completely, our fears and insecurities, our perceived need to control and manage our own lives and those of others, our finite plans that we are deluded into believing are greater than God’s.

Yolanda Stith is founder of New Heart Living of Potomac, MD

What is the Harm of Mixing Law with Grace?

by Dr. Joe Langley

What is the harm in mixing a little bit of law (human effort) with grace? It’s still mostly grace isn’t it?

Here’s the problem. Self-effort says that I can do some part. It might be mostly me, half me, or just a little me. But I am to do something – and I can do something.
Grace says that it is all God. The very essence of grace is “God doing for me what I cannot do for myself.” So if I think I am responsible to do any part in my own strength, then I have nullified the basic truth of grace. I am trying to do at least a portion of God’s part.

I really like what Jess Hays writes in her very insightful book, A Rebel’s Religion. She lays out the formulas:
Law + Grace = Law
Little bit of Law + Massive amounts of Grace = Law
One sentence of Law + an encyclopedia set of grace = Law

Dr. Joe Langley is the founding pastor of Park Meadow Church is Waxahachie, Texas.

The Will of God is…

by Pat Everett

Mysterious.  Have you, like me, contemplated what the will of God is?  To me, it has felt like the game show, “Let’s Make a Deal.”  The host, with a sly smile on his face, points mysteriously to three curtains, “Do you want what’s behind curtain number 1, curtain number 2 or curtain number 3?”   I stand shifting from foot-to-foot, looking at others while contemplating what is hidden from view.  Fear of choosing the booby prize and hearing the laughter from the audience fills me with fear.  My desire is to receive the reward of a shiny new car or a treasure chest full of money.

In the past trying to determine God’s will for my life left me on my face crying out to God to please show me.  It seemed mysterious, unsearchable and unknowable.  I was terrified to make a choice sure I would miss out and end up with second best, plan B or a booby prize of a life, a failure.  What if the will of God is not a “something,” but a “Someone.”   Not a searching to find, but a receiving.  Not an outside compliance but an inside transformation.

Let’s start at the beginning to see what God had in mind.  “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . .’ Genesis 1:26.  God desired mankind would be like Him, perfect, holy, righteous; to give a correct estimate and opinion of who He is, to fill the earth with His glory.  The perfect will of God.   Man chose another way, his way, to rule his own life.  The first bite of the fruit left Adam and Eve bereft of the image of God and clothed only in self.  BUT God never changed Plan A.  His will for us is still the same.  While the first Adam failed, Christ, the second Adam did not!   “So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.   . . .  And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” 1 Corinthians 15:45, 49.  Christ makes those who were dead, alive.  He restores to us the glory of God.   “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;  I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”  John 17:22-23.   Receiving the life of Christ, we become partakers of His divine nature.  “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;  seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature . . . 2 Peter 1:1-4.

When we receive Christ, we are in God’s will.  Being one with Christ will never change, no choice made will ever take us out of Christ.  “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.   My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”  John 10:27-30.  Whatever the choices we make, God will use them all for good, for His purpose, conforming us to the image of Christ.  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become  conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”  Romans 8:28-30.

My friend Kim Huffman heard God say to her, “My will is not a place or a distinct path, my will is a Person.  As I will never leave you, I am with you wherever you go, as I am in you so is my will.”    I agree!  If you like me, have struggled to know God’s will, take heart and rest in Christ.  There is no Plan B!  There is only one plan, one will of God – that you would be one with Him, to be conformed to His image and He will accomplish it through you and in you!

Pat Everett is a Teacher/Counselor with Scope Ministries International

Legalistic Discipleship vs. Grace Discipleship

by Mark Maulding           grace discipleship

A lot of discipleship may be rooted in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Let me explain what I mean.  The knowledge of good and evil passed down to every human being from Adam and Eve has programmed us to think a certain way.  The world thinks, “I’m a good person if I do good things.  I’m a bad person if I do bad things.”  The Christian world thinks, “I’m a good Christian if I do the good things the Bible says to do.  I’m a bad Christian if I sin.” All of that thinking is law-based instead of grace-based.

Discipleship often has the goal of Christian behavior modification using Scripture to exhort a Christian to act good instead of bad.  The focus is on changing behavior, not replacing the knowledge of good and evil thinking with Tree of Life thinking.  In one sense, you might say this discipleship is trying to get Christians to jump from the bad side of the tree to the good side.  But the good side is still the same tree and the fruit is legalism.  I don’t think those who disciple this way have evil motives or are aware of what they are doing.  They just do it because that is how they were taught. I was once one of them!

God wants our discipleship to be rooted in the Tree of Life so He can produce the fruit of the Spirit.  This means, He wants to replace our stinking thinking with grace based thinking.  No wonder Paul didn’t tell the Roman Christians to do anything for the first eleven chapters! He strategically explained the Gospel of grace line by line.  He only told them to believe and yield to God in Romans 6:11 and 14  Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Then, in chapter 12, he tells them to let Christ live through their bodies and to live with a renewed mind.  What he meant was, he wanted them to let the clear Gospel message he had written to them push out their knowledge based thinking with grace based thinking.  After making it clear to them that they have a new identity in Christ which loves to please God, he tells them how believing this will change their behavior to what pleases God.

Do you ever find yourself tired of trying to change your behavior to line up with Scripture?  Are you worn out?  That’s what burned me out 25 years ago until God broke through my garrison of legalistic discipleship and began to replace it with grace discipleship.  The first one almost killed me.  The latter has given me a life of freedom, I could have never imagined, which I am still growing in.

Mark Maudling is President and Founder of Grace Life International