Friday, April 29, 2016

Necessary Grace

In Robert Lowry’s revival hymn “Nothing but the Blood”, the simple question is asked, “What can wash way my sin?” and answered, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus”.  Nothing could be more simple, straightforward or theologically correct.  We have a need.  We are doomed sinners.  In loving grace God sent His Son to die for our sins.  There was no other way, absolutely no other way, by which we could be saved from our sin and our doom.  What God did in grace was necessary for us and our eternal destiny.  Grace is necessary. 
It is not that man hasn’t tried to reach God without grace; it is just that man has and always will fail in the attempt to do so.  Adam and Eve bought into the satanic lie that we could be like God or equal to Him.  We have kept that same egoistic mentality for all the history of humanity.  Men have attempted to be gods by self declaration.  They have created gods more amenable to their own condition to feel more able to measure up to a godlike expectation.  Even when they consider the one true God they remain futile in their imaginations by assuming that they be worthy in themselves of His approval and acceptance.  All of this is a fantasy and leads to failure, death and doom. 
But, that is not the outcome desired by God.  We can never, we must never, forget the words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son!”  Our church choir sang that yesterday as a beautiful reminder for us all.  Paul puts it this way in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  To restore men to fellowship with Him; to save them; to redeem them from the enemies possession; God had to do something.  It was necessary and He did it.  He gave His only Begotten Son.  It was the only way to buy back man from sin and its condemnation.  God’s grace excels all other graces in that He has done what is necessary even at the cost of the cross of His own dear Son Jesus Christ. 

It was and is necessary grace.  Nothing else can ever satisfy God’s demand for justice and righteousness. Ask it, “What can wash away my sin?” Answer it, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”  When nothing else can do, then that particular something is necessary.  Grace is God’s necessary response to our need.  Praise Him for it today.  Sing these lasting words of praise, “O Precious is the flow that made me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  

  The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Matchless Grace

Samuel Medley’s beautiful hymn of worship and praise, “His Matchless Worth”, concludes with this magnificent declaration, “Triumphant in His grace, Triumphant in His Grace.”  Haldor Lillenas in his epic hymn “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” begins his chorus, “Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus”.  What can compare to the grace of Jesus?  What can stand alongside it and say, “I am just as good as that.”  What else could gain eternity for sinful man and bless him on his way?  Nothing! Absolutely nothing!  The grace of Jesus Christ is matchless.
The author of Hebrews tells us in chapter 11 that there are passing pleasures of sin.  The King James Version calls them “the pleasures of sin for a season”.  They look all shiny and bright.  They beckon us from every TV ad, every billboard, every magazine or computer ad we see.  They shout out, “Come to me and be satisfied.  I will meet your need.  I will make you happy.  You deserve me.”  People pay thousands of dollars on seminars to learn how to be happy.  The things break.  The next seminar comes along with a new idea because the old one just didn’t work that well after all.  They all offered things to the flesh and the flesh perishes and all that feeds the flesh will also perish.  They look good.  They sound good.  But they don’t match up to their hype. 
Jesus isn’t like that at all.  His offer is matchless.  He surpasses all expectations.  He never fails.  He never breaks.  His truths don’t need an update.  Jesus does not perish and those who come to him will never perish either.  Every promise that He makes is a lasting promise.  They are heaven guaranteed promises.

The things of earth are bought with a price.  The more we value them the higher the price.  Jesus gave a matchless price for us.  Peter says that we have not been redeemed with corruptible things like silver or gold (how odd that what we covet God calls corruptible) but with the precious blood of Christ.  Don Aldridge in his song “It Wouldn’t Be Enough” includes this line, “And I couldn't pay the price for one single drop of blood that was shed for my salvation.” Why wouldn’t it?  The triumphant and priceless grace of Jesus is truly matchless.  Not gold nor silver nor the passing pleasures of sin for a season are enough.  The wonderful grace of Jesus is matchless.  

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lifting Grace

Among the many of Charles Gabriel’s hymns and Gospel songs is the stirring “He Lifted Me”.  The chorus comes to a crescendo as it sings, “O praise His Name, He lifted (hold that note) me.”  The song begins, “In lovingkindness Jesus came (and we saw kindness yesterday), my soul in mercy to reclaim.  And from the depths of sin and shame, through GRACE He lifted me.”  Praise God for lifting grace, our “L” in alphabetizing grace.
In a long past and forgotten America I used to wend my way around the country using my thumb.  People would stop and crank (yes, crank) down their window and say, “Do you need a lift?”  I would hop in the car and away we would go somewhere toward my destination.  Without that “lift” I would make very slow progress.  I even “thumbed” it to candidate for my first pastoral position.  Believe me; I always appreciated the “lift”.
In life we are all on a road to eternity.  Everyone starts out on the wrong road, the broad way that leads to destruction.  That road, while seemingly filled with the glitter of promise, has very dark skies and many horrible terrors.  We find no real peace, joy or hope on that broad way.  We are all hitchhiking to hell.  We need someone to pick us up, give us a lift, and drive us to a different destination.  We all want hope, peace and joy.  We need a driver who can really take us there.  Jesus is the One who can do that.  He came to seek and to save that which was lost.  He has died that we might have the peace of forgiveness, rose that we might have the joy of justification and lives that we might have the hope of a real heavenly eternity.

 Jesus has commissioned us to ride along with Him picking up the lost.  He has commissioned us to go before Him and pass out notices to others on the broad way that He is coming along that road to give them a ride to somewhere where promises are real.  He died to give a true and eternal “lift” to a lost and truly hopeless humanity.  He did it all in grace. As Charles Gabriel put it so beautifully, “From sinking sand He lifted me.  With tender hand He lifted me.  From shades of night to plains of light, O Praise His Name, He lifted me.”  

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Kind Grace

Keith and Kristyn Getty begin “Compassion Hymn” with these words, “There is an everlasting kindness You lavished on us.”  That is indeed what we find in the wonderful grace of God – kindness.  Kindness is such a simple idea but such a powerful and transforming act.  We have been transformed by God’s kindness to be kind.
Paul wrote the Ephesians, “But be ye kind, one to another, tenderhearted forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (4:32) As a pastor of nearly 40 years I can testify that one place that sees far too little of the kindness that Paul describes is the church.  Of all places where it should be easiest to manifest the kindness of God, it should be in the house of God.  It should be where we hear of His grace and are strengthened in the walk of grace.  We need to practice kindness in the church.
In Luke 6:35 Jesus uses this same word to describe how God is to those who are unthankful and evil.  Kindness is an integral part of the great grace of God.  It is a manifestation of His grace that we can participate in daily. Think of those to whom Jesus was kind.  There was the outcast leper who no one would help but Jesus.  There was the woman caught in adultery that the Pharisees wanted to unlawfully execute.  There was Syro-Phoneician woman who was a despised Gentile whose daughter Jesus healed.  There was Matthew the tax collector, Mary Magdalene the prostitute, the Mad Man of the Gadarenes and we cannot forget Peter after he denied Christ.  He was kind to them all.  Do we know many people who are “worse” than these?  We need to show the kindness of Christ to needy people in streets of our life each day.

Peter also uses this word “kindness”.  When we find it in I Peter 2:3, however, it is translated “gracious”.  The idea of the words is truly inseparable.  I would like to add another verse to Kate Wilkinson’s lovely devotional hymn “May the Mind of Christ, My Savior”.  Sing this with the same tune.  “May the grace of Christ my Savior flow from me for Him each day; that the world may see my Jesus, find in Him the way.”   

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Joyous Grace

Whether it is the classic hymn by Henry Van Dyke “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” based on Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or J. Edward Ruark’s Gospel song “You May Have the Joy-Bells”, there are a lot of songs and hymns based on joy.  The simple Scripture chorus “Rejoice in the Lord Always” based on Philippians 4:4 gives a brief and easy way to remember to sing about the joy that God has given us.  Today we will use joy for our “J” in alphabetizing grace.
In the Greek New Testament, from which our English one is translated, the word “joy” is a derivative of the word “grace”.  If there were a family tree of vocabulary words then “Grace”, that beautiful woman we met at the start, is the mother of “Joy”.  Grace has other beautiful children we will meet along the way as well.  It is not just linguistically, however, that grace and joy are connected.  It is the very essence of the truth of grace that we should be filled with joy because of it.  John Newton wrote, “I once was lost but now I’m found.” What profound joy to be found after being lost!  What ecstasy in being safe!  Imagine being lost in the mountains, or on the vast ocean or in a dark forest for days.  Hope is all gone.  Then out of seemingly nowhere a rescuer finds you and returns you to hearth and home.  Joy!  We are lost in sin and our rescuer is Christ.  What absolute joy to be found! 

 Now, what would you do for that person who rescued you?  Would you walk away from them with indifference?  Would you send them a thank you by email?  Would you hug them and remember their name forever?  If they were ever to ask for your help with a real simple task, would you give it?  It would be your joy, your great joy, to put their picture on your mantle.  It would be your joy, your great joy, to go to the reception given in their honor.  It would by your joy, your great joy, to help them if you could.  Joy, like her mother Grace, becomes an action, not just a sentiment.  Oswald Smith expresses this joy in his wonderful hymn “There is Joy in Serving Jesus”.  He uses such rich phrases as “Joy that throbs within my heart”, “Joy that triumphs over pain”, “Joy that never will depart”.  This is the joy of grace.  This is joyous grace. 

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Infinite Grace

We return today to Julia Johnston’s hymn “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”.  As we continue to alphabetize the various ways we can see grace, we come to the fourth stanza of this hymn:  “Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace!”  For today we will choose Infinite for the letter “I”.  Infinite grace is quite a grand thought.
The question has been asked by the world for many ages, “How big is God”.  Philosophers pose the question to ridicule Him.  Atheists insist that since He can’t be seen He must not be big enough to believe.  The hurting want to know if God is big enough to meet their needs.  The Bible answers the question with clarity.  The psalmist says there is no place we can go to escape Him.  That is just one place we see His omnipresence.  God challenges Job to match His ability to lay out all the heavens and control the affairs of all the earth.  That is just one place that teaches His omnipotence.  God tells Isaiah that He knows the end from the beginning.  That is just one place that teaches His omniscience.  The answer to the question, how big is God, is that He is big enough to be all present, all powerful and all knowing.  This is the God of grace.
Grace then is as big as God is.  God is infinite in scope.  Grace is infinite in scope.  There is not a place where God cannot extend His grace except hell.  Those who have rejected His grace will never have another chance.  God has elected to exclude hell from His grace, but He pours grace out freely so that no one need go to hell.  Grace is as infinite as His omnipresence.  There is no need so great that in omnipotent grace He cannot meet it.  Grace is as infinite as His omnipotence.  There is no need so deep or vague that in omniscient grace He cannot understand it and care for it.  Grace is as infinite as His omniscience. 

Stuart Hamblen’s country classic, “How Big is God” is a fine way to think of how big God’s grace really is.  Hamblen points out that God is big enough to do everything.  God is also “small enough to live within my heart”.  That is where we find God’s infinite grace so precious, “within my heart.”  Sing the praises of God’s infinite grace today.  

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Holy Grace

When I grew up I thought the first song in every hymn book was Reginald Heber’s classic “Holy, Holy, Holy”.  There is such majesty in those few words.  The angels in glory cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy” and their eternal song is recorded for us in both Isaiah and Revelation.  God, the Lord God, the Triune God is holy, holy, holy.  The last lines of the first and fourth verses of this hymn also declare Him to be “merciful and mighty”.  Yes, the Holy God is the merciful and gracious God.  The grace of God is holy grace. 
Being a holy God, Our Father cannot tolerate sin.  Sin cannot remain in His presence.  It will be cast out and driven into everlasting hell.  All mankind are sinners.  Because of that mankind can not dwell with God.  His holiness demands that sin be removed.  But God is also merciful and gracious.  In His mercy and grace He devised a way that man could be accepted in His presence.  Man’s sin could be removed if there were to be a perfect sacrifice made to atone for it.  So our holy and gracious God sent His own Son, who is also perfectly holy and gracious, to come to this world and live a completely sinless life.  Then His Son died a merciless death on the cross of Calvary and God accepted that death as our own.  Instead of our sin He gave us the very righteousness of His own Son in order for us to live with Him.  That is holy grace.

Our permanent standing with God in heaven is the holiness of Christ.  God also wants us to live with a standard of holiness before men.  In Leviticus God charged the people to “be holy for I Am Holy.”  That same commandment is given to us again in the New Testament in the book of I Peter 1:15-16.  “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I Am Holy.’”  The holy grace of God that saved us calls upon us to walk in His grace by living a holy life.  After worshipping God today by singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”, add a little time of silent reflection while also singing William Longstaff’s well known consecration hymn “Take Time to Be Holy”.  Reflect on the holy grace of God today. 

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Giving Grace

In Ira Wilson’s famous Gospel song “Make Me a Blessing” the third verse goes, “Give as ‘twas given to you in your need, love as the Master loved you.” In the fullness of the grace of God, our Master laid down his life for us.  Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper, “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  It was a bold challenge to them and to His church to lay down our lives as Christ laid down His.  He did not ask us to die in a physical sense, but to die through Him to our own selfishness that we might live through Him in effective service and care to others.  He asked us to take on the form of grace and give of ourselves as we have been given.
Grace gives. Grace is giving.  That is our “G” word for grace.  God loved the world and gave His Son.  By grace we are saved.  It is His gift of salvation to all who will believe.  When God tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by grace through faith, He goes on in verse 10 and says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works that He has before ordained that we should walk in them.”  We were saved to manifest the grace of God to the world.  We were saved in order that we might give unto others as He has given unto us.  As Jesus told His disciples, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” 
We will never do a good work to save our soul.  Jesus blood has done all the saving that can be done.  God’s grace was given to make it happen for our eternal salvation.  Our good works are not done for us.  They are done for Him that He might magnify the hope of His salvation to a lost and dying world.  Paul exhorts us in Titus to be “zealous for good works” and twice to “maintain good works”. He says, “Let those who have believed” do this. 

Ira Wilson didn’t just write a “sweet” song; he set the clear command of Scripture to simple singable music.  “Make me a blessing, make me a blessing, out of my life, may Jesus shine.  Make me a blessing, O Savior I pray, make me a blessing to someone today.”  As grace has been given to you, go on in the giving of grace.  

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Forgiving Grace

In Julia Johnston’s hymn “Grace Greater Than Our Sin” she writes in the chorus “Marvelous Grace, Infinite Grace” (those are the harmony part words), then in unison, “Grace that will pardon and cleanse within.”  Every day people become overcome with despair at the depravity of their own sin. Such guilt is manifest in many negative ways.  But there is a remedy and it is found in the theme of this song and the words of the chorus.  Grace and pardon can change despair to a life filled with hope, victory, joy and everlasting peace. 
If you have ever been pulled over by a police officer for some “minor” offense, and when we commit them they are always “minor”, what are you hoping when the officer approaches your car?  The most common response is that people hope the officer will be gracious and just let them off with a warning.  People don’t want a blot on their driving record.  After all, it wasn’t really serious; it was just momentary slip of responsible driving.  Don’t let my parents know; don’t let my wife know; don’t let my insurance company know that I had this “minor” mistake today.  That is how people feel and they really want the officer to extend them a little grace and pardon for their behavior. 
What about all the other “mistakes” we make in life?  What about our complete failure to keep the two great commandments to love God supremely and love our neighbor as ourselves?  This kind of law breaking isn’t just an occasional lapse; it is engrained in our nature.  We are sinners and there is just punishment for all our sins – death. Our sins are a real offense against a holy and pure God. Whether they are “minor” to us or not, they are ugly to a holy God. 

But God in grace sent His own Son to die for our sins!  In that horrible death, Jesus Christ shed His blood and that pure blood can wash away sin.  In that blood, and that blood alone, is the full atonement for all sin and the sole means to find forgiveness.  Forgiveness means that we will not be held accountable for that sin forever.  It means that God has chosen in His power to not only forgive our sin, but He also will forget our sin forever.  By faith in Jesus Christ we stand new and pure before God and it is a forever secured position granted by God’s grace through His Son’s sacrifice.  Indeed we can sing with joy the opening line of Julia Johnston’s hymn, “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured – there where the blood of the lamb was spilt!”  Rejoice today in God’s great forgiving grace.  Live in the joy of His abundant grace.  

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Eternal Grace

300 years after the Scottish Psalter printed “The Lord’s My Shepherd”, John Peterson wrote a newer version of the 23rd Psalm.  “Surely Goodness and Mercy” has become a familiar Peterson classic.  The song actually has a double chorus.  The first one repeats the phrase, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”  The second chorus, to be sung after all the verses have been sung, begins with two power phrases sung with strong emphatic power notes, “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” and “I shall feast at the table spread for me”.  This chorus takes us beyond the gracious care of God in this life to the eternal promise of His grace – heaven with Him forever.
In I Corinthians 15:19 Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”  This verse is set in a chapter devoted to the triumphant truth that since Jesus lives, so too shall we.  The old Gospel chorus says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through; my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; the angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”  This world is a stopping point on the way to an eternal destiny.  If by faith we have embraced the grace of God in Christ then that eternal destiny is heaven.  Each day that we walk in this dim shadow of our hope, we have the presence and care of God’s daily grace.  But there is more, much more, to come. 

God’s grace will be fully seen as we enter heaven’s gate.  There we will see our beautiful Savior, the reflection and perfection of grace.  There we will receive the fullness of all the promises.  There will never be need or sorrow or sin or shame.  There will be the full beauty of eternal forgiveness. There will be the full embrace of eternal grace with nothing between us and our dear Savior.  As Charles Gabriel wrote in his beautiful hymn about heaven, “O that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me; when by His GRACE I shall look on His face, that will be glory, be glory for me.”  That is abundant grace for today and for eternity.  

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Delicious Grace

One of the oldest hymns originally composed in English and still used today is The 23rd Psalm from the Scottish Psalter, “The Lord’s My Shepherd”.  Its graceful melody and well written meter add a rich cocoon of warmth to this most favorite of all psalms.  Some of the beautiful promises in this psalm surround a banquet we will enjoy with God in the future and of His presence with us as we feast with Him in the present.  Think for a moment how delicious the food is that is served by the Savior. 
Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good.”  No, we are not cannibals nibbling on God.  We are his children tasting the good things from His hand.  Those delicacies are the outpouring of His grace.  Certainly as we come to the Lord’s Table we find the great riches of His grace in the feast that is set before us there.  Consider the most costly food that you really REALLY enjoy.  The food set before us at communion is more costly and of far greater richness than anything we could have named.  How delicious is forgiveness?  How delectable is hope?  How scrumptious is the joy of being in Christ? 
But the feast that God prepares for us is also for everyday and every needful hunger in our lives.  Romans 8:32 poses a strong rhetorical question, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  Psalm 23 points out many of these “all things”.  Count them.  Consider the tastiness of each and every morsel.  David can easily come to the point in his psalm where he says, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” 
“God,” David says, “you are good.  You satisfy me with good things abundant and overflowing.  You do it today and you promise it for eternity.  How great is your grace!” 

The Scottish Psalter, Psalm 23, Verse 4: “My table thou hast furnished in the presence of my foes.  My head Thou dost with oil anoint, and my cup overflows.”   God’s abundant grace is truly delicious.  

  The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Convincing Grace

Daniel Whittle wrote another famous hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed”.  He begins each line of this hymn with an honest statement regarding the unknown things of God.  He concludes each verse with the rousing chorus of what he does know: He is fully persuaded that Jesus Christ is able to keep whatever we have committed to Him unto eternity.  That is confidence of faith.  That is related to one of the things Whittle says he doesn’t know: “I know not how the spirit moves, convincing men of sin, revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith within.”  The process of God is really not necessary for us to understand.  That the process has taken place, that is the issue in which we rejoice.
Whittle connects convincing of sin and producing faith in the same verse.  The first verse of this hymn speaks of grace.  All of these are really connected.  Ephesians chapter two gives us a wonderful commentary on these combined truths.  We were dead in sin. The Holy Spirit quickened us; He made us alive.  By Grace He Convinced us to place our Faith in Jesus Christ.  He awoke us from our stupor of sin and death to see and understand God’s love for us and respond in faith to the promise of forgiven sins and eternal life in Jesus Christ. 

The Greek root word for faith is a word meaning “to be convinced or persuaded”.  King Agrippa, in Acts 26:28, says to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”  It wasn’t Paul’s persuasion, however, that was needed to make Agrippa a Christian; it was God’s.  When God persuades us to believe, that is grace moving us to faith.  How the Holy Spirit works through the medium of His word to convince us of the truth regarding our need and His grace is not really our concern.  Our hope is in the effect of this convincing.  Our hope is faith in Him, His truth, His righteousness, His word and His promises.  By grace God has convinced us of saving truth.  By faith we respond.  We truly need to be thankful for convincing grace.  Then we need to sing with Daniel Whittle, “But I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able, to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day!” 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Beneficial Grace

Daniel Whittle’s famous hymn “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing” is a grand statement regarding the grace of God.  By God’s grace we have benefits that outdo the best any Fortune 500 company could offer.  As we alphabetize grace, Beneficial Grace, makes a good “B”. 
Psalm 103:2 says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”  Then it lists benefits that God has provided and continues to provide.  David goes on to highlight at least seven different blessings of God.  God has saved us from sin, which David lists first, but there is so much more.  Verses 4 and 5 say, “Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfies your mouth with good things”.  Think of that!  He places a crown of blessing on our head. 
Go to your employer today and ask him to place a crown of blessing on your head.  He would probably ask you to have your head examined.  Ask your employer to forget and forgive all your past mistakes.  He would probably want to know what all of them were so they could be properly placed in your file.  Ask your employer today if he would kindly assure you that your package of benefits will also be passed on to your children.  He would remind you that he has already asked you to have your head examined. 

Then there is God.  He has forgiven all our past transgressions.  They are not on file anywhere in the vaults of heaven.  He has promised us a crown of lovingkindness and mercy today.  For the future he has also promised blessings to our children.  Verse 17 of Psalm 103 says, “But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children.”  That is grace, abundant grace.  That is beneficial grace poured out to us from our loving heavenly Father.  Rejoice in His grace today and sing with Daniel Whittle, “There shall be showers of blessing; this is the promise of God. There shall be seasons refreshing, sent from the Savior of above.”  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Amazing Grace

Charles Gabriel begins his well known hymn “My Savior’s Love” with this line, “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene”.  It clearly resonates of John Newton’s famous “Amazing Grace”.  As we remember that Jesus is the full personification of grace and that grace is love in motion, we can appreciate the words of Charles Gabriel.  Grace should leave us amazed.  In alphabetizing grace words, Amazing makes a really good word for “A”.
Are we daily amazed at how gracious God has been toward us?  Are we daily amazed at how gracious God continues to be toward us?  If we skip the first two questions in the Heidelberg Catechism and consider the first major point, then maybe we can reflect more fully on the amazing grace of God in Christ.  The first point deals with the misery of our natural condition as humans.  We are sinners, depraved sinners, condemned sinners, sinners who are contrary to God in our thoughts and words and desires.  We offend God every day.  Nothing we do is good or righteous in God’s pure and holy eyes.  God is holy and our sin is repulsive.  But, God in grace sent His Son to die for our sins so that He, God, could justly forgive them.  Jesus, who is perfect and holy as the true Son of God, became sin for us that we could then become the righteousness of God in Him.  That is AMAZING GRACE! 
More than that, however, after we become His child we still sin.  Yet, in grace, He still forgives us and still claims us as His own.  Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive a man clear up to seven times.  Jesus surprised him by saying up to seventy times seven times.  How many times has God forgiven us?  It is far more than seventy times seven.  That is gracious indeed.  But not only has He forgiven us He continues to bless us and care for us and watch over us.  We haven’t exhausted His grace.  That is amazing.  THAT IS AMAZING GRACE!

Today let the strains of that classic hymn “Amazing Grace” flow through your heart and mind.  Sing it; hum it; meditate upon each of its well scripted lines.  And each time that you sing it, hum it, or meditate on it, praise God for His amazing grace and reflect how you can show it to others as He has shown it to you.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Grow in Grace

The great American hymnist, Thomas Chisholm, wrote “O to be Like Thee”.  Our question is - how are we going to be like Him?  If we are really honest with ourselves, we must admit that it is very easy for us to sin.  We want to sin because it pleases us to do so.  We do not love the Lord our God with all our heart, but we do love ourselves a great deal.  When we lay hold of the true depth of the nature of sin we come to the sad realization that we fail to be the representatives of God that we aspire to be.  So, how do we become like Him?  Peter tells us in II Peter 3:18 to “grow in grace”.  Since Jesus was the perfect embodiment of grace, then growing in grace will make us more like Him.
That leads to the next logical question.  How do we grow in grace?  Peter couples growing in grace to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  To grow in grace will include growing in knowledge.  But Paul tells us that if we know all things and lack love, that knowledge profits us nothing.  Knowledge by itself is not grace, but growing in knowledge is part of the process of growing in grace.  It also reveals to us a means of growing in grace.
How did we learn to read?  We learned one letter at a time.  Then we put letters together and made words and put words together and explained ideas.  Growing in grace can be just like that.  Grace has many attributes the same as the alphabet has many letters.  We learn them and then string them together and then apply them the same as we did with letters and reading and writing.  We can take the letters of the alphabet and apply an example of grace to each letter.  We can think of what grace means to us, what our pastors and teachers have taught that grace means and what we have discovered in our own Bible study concerning grace.  Then we can list those characteristics and then alphabetize the ideas.  Soon we will have a mini-dictionary of grace with many ideas under each letter.  Yes, there are multiple ones for X, although it helps to step outside of English to get them. 
Now we learn our new ABC’s of grace.  We practice them.  We put them together into ideas of obedience and service to God and man.  We find ourselves overwhelmed by the ways that God has manifested them all in our own lives.  We come to realize that we are only responding to the magnificent measure of God’s grace already bestowed and we thankfully participate with Him in its manifestation.  O, friends, we learn to sing and shout and praise and proclaim, “Almighty God, Thy love unbounded, Grace abundant given me,
How my soul looks up rejoicing, Kneels before that bloody tree. 
Almighty God, Thy grace unbounded, Poured thru Christ upon my head,

Let that glow of grace conceal me, Show to all my Christ instead.”  

Friday, April 8, 2016

Wonderful Grace

In Stuart Townend’s great worship hymn, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”, he adds in the second line, “how vast beyond all measure”.  Haldor Lillenas in his hymn “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” uses these words in the chorus, “deeper than the mighty rolling sea, higher than the mountain, all sufficient grace for even me”.  It is the incredible vastness of God’s grace, His love in Jesus Christ, which both overwhelms and blesses the believer.
In I Peter 1:6 Peter points out that the believer will encounter various (NKJV) or manifold (KJV) trials and temptations.  The word used here for various or manifold is used again by Peter in I Peter 4:10 to describe the manifold grace of God. What Peter has said is that in every need there is a grace to meet it.  In II Corinthians 12:9 Paul says that in his hour of frustration over his thorn in the flesh that God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  That wasn’t a need for saving grace; rather it was a need for supporting grace in his ministry.  It wouldn’t be Paul’s strength showing through; it would be the strength and grace of God being made manifest in his life.  In James 4:6 James says that God gives “more grace” to us.  Since we cannot be more saved than we are at the point of conversion, more grace means that it is grace to live our newborn life not just get newborn life. 
God’s grace is vast.  It is deep.  It is wide.  It is sufficient for all needs.  It is wonderful.  God’s grace is saving, enabling, sustaining, wooing, giving, rejoicing and we could go on and on.  At the table before a meal we say “grace” showing that we are thankful for God’s bountiful blessings.  Grace is the unmatched and unrivaled blessings of God toward His own children.  It is a general grace offered to all mankind in the rain that falls on the just and unjust.  It is a bidding grace to everyone to come to the cross and be born again.  It is a grace to strengthen the believer through the portal of eternity.  It is the old adage, “There but for the grace of God go I”.  God’s grace is beyond measure.  It can never be used up.  It springs from the very nature of God who is full of grace. 

John Newton begins his hymn “Amazing Grace” by telling how that grace saved him.  In the next verses he reminds us that it also sustained him in many dangers, toils and snares.  Then he makes us clear that the grace that began our walk with God will also finish it with Him.  In the original, not the American version of the hymn, Newton also assures us of the great promises of that grace for us that God has promised in His word.  Let us learn more of that grace and sing it with exuberance each day.  

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Grace, Grace, Grace

Philip Bliss, in his great Gospel hymn “Once for All”, begins with this glorious declaration, “Free from the Law, O happy condition!”  Indeed, the desperation of all who are trying to please God by keeping the Law has been overcome by God’s gift of grace. They have been given a gift of grace through Christ’s full obedience to the Law and then dying for all who break it.  We are no longer condemned by the Law that we cannot keep. We are pardoned through the shed blood of the One who kept it.  But does that mean that we are free from obedience to the Law of God?
Paul asks, “Shall we sin (break the Law) that Grace may abound? God forbid!”  Christ summarized the Law into two behavioral demands that illustrate that we can keep the Law while walking in the glory of Grace.  Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  We might think of this as a Grace walk.  One foot walks in holiness to God and the other foot walks in love to mankind.  Both feet walk together in the path of Christ as revealed in God’s inerrant holy word.  The heart grows stronger in love toward God and man the more walking is done.  The brain becomes more focused on the beauties seen in the walk as the walk progresses more toward the image and glory of Christ.  

The conflict does not come in coupling Grace to obedience to the Law.  The Holy Spirit, who is God and loves man and indwells the believer, will strengthen us in this dual walk every day.  The conflict is that attempt by man to supplant God’s grace by our own obedience to the Law as being sufficient to please God.  That will never do.  It will end in failure, fatigue and Phariseeism.  But walking in graceful obedience to the law of loving God and man will bless us, will bless God and will bless man.  Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, walked this Grace walk.  Let us sing with Washington Gladden, “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee”, and then purpose in our hearts to walk the Grace walk with Him today and every day.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Beautiful Savior

The great German hymn “Fairest Lord Jesus” begins the third verse with the line, “Beautiful Savior . . .” This helps us make the connection between Grace and Jesus.  Grace, the beautiful woman, is the heart and soul of Jesus, the beautiful Savior. 
This does not mean that He was the handsomest man to walk in ancient Galilee.  In fact, the prophet Isaiah had said of Him that He would have “no beauty that we should desire Him.” (53:2 NKJV) What He did have was Grace.  What He was, was Grace.  He was the perfect embodiment of all the Grace of God.  He was full of grace, brimming over with it. 
Grace poured out of Him to the outcast leper that He didn’t hesitate to touch.  Grace poured out of Him to the little children he stooped to embrace.  Grace poured out of Him to the grieving mother whose son He raised.  Grace poured out of Him to the multitudes that He invited to come to Him and find rest.  Grace poured out of Him in His sorrowing with Mary and Martha and in raising Lazarus from the dead.  Grace poured out from Him to the sinful woman who had washed His feet with her tears.  Grace poured out from Him to the centurion who had supervised His crucifixion as He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Grace poured out from Him as He returned to His doubting and mocking brothers James and Jude following His resurrection and said to them once more, “Believe in me.”  Grace poured out from Him to Peter the denier when He offered him a ministry during a seaside breakfast.  Grace was His nature.  Grace poured out from Him because that was who He was.

In Christ that is who we are to be as well.  We are commanded to grow in grace.  We have been saved to minister the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to a world desperately needing someone to be gracious to them.  We are to be gracious in speech, gracious in actions, gracious in character.  We are to have Jesus alive in us and He is Grace.  Tom Jones, in his beautiful Gospel song, “Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me”, challenges us to follow Christ in His expression of God’s great and wonderful grace to this world.  Sing it over and over today, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.”  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Grace Revealed

Lela Long wrote, “Jesus is the Sweetest Name I know”.  The title sounds connected to John Newton’s “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.”  John Newton wrote another hymn with a similar title, “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.”  There seems to be a lot of “sweetness” in the air.  That fragrant smell all revolves around “The wonderful grace of Jesus”.
Jesus Christ is the grace of God revealed.  The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus was full of grace and truth.  John also tells us that the Law came by Moses but grace and truth come through Jesus Christ.  Paul’s benediction in II Corinthians 13 says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Grace and Christ are inseparable. 
How does that impact us?  How does this truth affect our lives?  Is it “stuffy doctrine” or is it something I can peacefully go to sleep on?  Can it help me when my boss yells at me for a mistake I didn’t make?  Can it help me when my boss yells at me for a mistake I did make?  Can it help my family?  Can it help my relationship with others?  Can it make my relationship with my dog any better?  Yes, it does impact us.  Yes, it does impact our lives.  Yes, it is something we can sleep peacefully on.  Yes, it can make a difference in all areas of our lives. 
Jesus Christ is alive.  He is risen from the dead.  Every day He is with those who love Him.  He is the all powerful God.  He is the strength of this life and the hope of the next.  He is the fullness of the measure of the grace of God.  Therefore He is able to impact us by and with His grace at all times and in all situations.  It is not idle doctrine; it is living, active, impacting power of the grace of God.  It makes the dead alive.  It makes the living into a new creature of grace to demonstrate the glory of God’s love to all they encounter.  It is meaningful on a grander scale than we can imagine. 

This is the power of grace. It is the power of the risen Christ within us. It is the power of the living Christ manifesting the fullness of His grace through us.  This is the joy of living in the grace of God.  This is the point of this blog.  This is daily living in abundant grace.  As Paul would say, “Grace to you.”  

Monday, April 4, 2016

Beautiful Grace

Beautiful Grace
John Newton wrote, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound”.  Haldor Lillenas wrote, “Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus”.  What better word can we know than “Grace”?  Grace is such a beautiful word. It is such a beautiful name. 
Grace is a name attached to a beautiful woman.  Imagine walking into a room, a crowded room, and there sitting alone at a small table is the most beautiful woman ever seen.  It is not Hollywood type beautiful.  There is no pretentiousness, no falsity, no made up charm to this woman. She is modest in appearance, demure in poise and fully calm in her manner.  The very nature of her demeanor is electrifyingly attractive.  She is a bright light in an otherwise dim room. It is as if a radiance from an ancient icon has been has settled on her head and singles her out from everyone else.  She is, in a word, irresistible.  In fact, you find yourself uttering that word audibly, yet unconsciously as you look at her. 
“Agreed!” says your friend with gusto. 
“Huh?” you mutter as your senses return. 
“Irresistible,” he replies.  “Just as you said.”
You follow his line of vision to a small bar set at the end of the room.  There sits a semi-inebriated woman who is halfway falling out of her clothes. 
You find yourself gasping at the stark contrast.  “No, not her.” Then turning your eyes back again to the woman who has caught your attention and your heart, you reply, “Her.” 
“No “old maids” for me,” your friend retorts as he briskly walks toward the bar.
“Old maids?” your mind reels at the description as you once again look into the center of the room and the most beautiful creature ever formed.  And you know, you know for an absolute certainty that this vision in front of you cannot be compared to anything that mere words could describe.  You know with an absolute certainty that any man lucky enough to have this woman as his wife would never be disappointed in all the greatest expectations of marital bliss. 
But the real question is, why would she have such a schlump as you?   A minute ago you had thought of yourself as the greatest catch a woman could land.  Now you see yourself as quite the opposite.  You see yourself as just another Joe trying to score a little action and that you are therefore totally unfit for such a woman as you see before you.
Then she turns your way.  She sees you staring, a bad beginning but you can’t help it, and she smiles.  It isn’t a condescending smile.  It isn’t a pained smile at your rudeness.  It isn’t a weary smile that another man has noticed her beauty.  It is a simple smile.  It could almost be described as a glad smile.  Yes, she seems genuinely happy to have you stare at her.  Even in that her beauty is enhanced and not marred.  She watches you for a minute, watches you watching her.  Then she nods ever so kindly at the vacant seat beside her and you know that she has beckoned you to come and join her.  There was no lurid signaling with one finger rakishly calling you to her table.  There were no raised eyebrows and pursed lips in a thrown kiss.  There was simply a smile that said come and a simple nod that said welcome.  In that simple gesture was the greatest and most irresistible invitation that could have been given. 
Your heart pounds, your feet move of their own volition and you find yourself seated next to her.  “I’m Grace,” she says.  “I am glad to meet you.” 
Everything else becomes a dream that is a reality.  She is indeed the best wife any man could ever have.  She is indeed always satisfying.  She is indeed all that had been imagined in that brief moment of first contact.  She wasn’t it for just a moment.  She was Grace, renewed and beautiful and satisfying each and every day. 

That is grace.  Grace is the gentle welcoming of God to a lifelong relationship of love.  Grace is the promise and the fulfillment of all God’s deepest care for mankind.  Grace is the overwhelming exaltation of God, not just for a moment at first glance, but forever.  And by the wonderful providence of God, the great blessing, the great hope, the great exhilaration, the great joy of that first meeting is renewed each day.  That is Daily Grace.  That is abundant grace. That is the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Made and Kept

Thus says the Lord, ‘Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool. For all these things I have made and all those things exist’.” Isaiah 66:1-2
We have looked at parents who make promises they can’t keep. We see politicians making promises they have no intention or power to keep. We can almost begin to believe that promises are simply made to be broken. They are broken because the promiser is either powerless to keep them or not sincere in making them. Then we consider the promises of God.
God is the maker of heaven and earth. Obviously He is able to keep whatever promise He makes. He is, after all, all powerful. Then we see that God sent His own Son to die for the sins of mankind, a promise He had made to Adam way back in the Garden. That shows that He is sincere in the promises He makes. All the promises of God are certain, even if they take some time to fulfill. He will do what He said and we can count on it. Forgiveness of sins, new heaven and earth, hope for each day, joy in the midst of turmoil; He has promised them all and He will fulfill each and every one. Praise God for His wonderful promises.
Dear Father, We thank You that You both make and keep all Your promises. Amen. 

  The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

This is devotion number 765. I began writing these devotions in April of 2013. They have come to you each day, M-F, for 3 years. I am going to take a sabbatical from writing new devotions, but that doesn't mean they still won't be here everyday. Starting on Monday I will be posting Abundant Grace devotions beginning with the first and progressing through them. These devotions have been picked up by a major mission board for posting on their website and by an AppleApp magazine for reproduction in their publication. I hope that they will continue to be a daily blessing to you all. Thank you for coming here each day for your encouragement of Abundant Grace.  

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