Tuesday, July 31, 2018


We return today to Daniel Whittle’s hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed”.  The first stanza of this hymn contains the key idea for God’s unmerited Grace.  Whittle wrote, “I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me he hath made known, nor why, unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for His own.”  Unworthy clearly states our condition.   Grace clearly states God’s response.

Why was God moved to save sinners such as us? Was it our good looks?  Was it our natural abilities?  Was it our keen intellects?  Was it our good conduct?  Was it our financial standing?  Was it our important standing in the community? Was it the good benefits that we could offer Him?  Obviously these were not the reasons. Paul told the Corinthians that God did not choose the wise, the mighty, or the noble.  Rather, God chose the weak, the foolish, the despised and those which are accounted as nothing. 
We bring nothing to God.  Our best efforts, Isaiah said, are just a pile of leprosy infected rags.  Peter said our money can’t buy God’s blessing of Jesus Christ.  Paul said that we can’t bring God our works or we would have something to boast about.  We come to God naked, poor, needy and sick.  We come to God as completely tainted failures.  We come, as Daniel Whittle said, unworthy.
That is what makes grace so wonderful.  We do not merit it. God gives it.  God pours out His matchless love, His matchless care, His matchless provision not in response to our value but in response solely to His grace.  Such a gift is too high for us to comprehend.  Such a sacrifice is too great for us to understand.  Our comprehension or understanding, however, is not necessary.  What God wants is for us to receive His grace.  He wants us to take the gift He offers.  He wants us to become His children.  He wants to display His grace to the world by displaying His grace in us, unworthy, unfit, unclean sinners who have been changed by the grace of God.  Let us respond to this great grace by having our lives conform to the familiar words of Elvina Hall’s great consecration hymn “Jesus Paid it All”.  The third verse and chorus read, “For nothing good have I, whereby Thy grace to claim. I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb. Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow.”  Thanks be to God for His unmerited grace.   

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Songs of Thanksgiving and Praise

My favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving.  It is a time for family and feasting and singing great songs of praise.  When we consider the origin of some of our favorite Thanksgiving hymns, it inspires us to give ever more heartfelt praise to God for His grace.  Martin Rinkart who wrote “Now Thank We All Our God” did so in the midst of the 30 Years War in Germany.  At the time he wrote this hymn he was serving as the only pastor left living in his city and there was a plague going on.  Think of that as the backdrop for your next Thanksgiving Day celebration.  Another great Thanksgiving hymn is “We Gather Together”.  It was written in the Netherlands during the brutal attacks by the Spanish king against the Dutch Protestants.  War ravaged their land for two generations.   It was called the 80 Years War.  

How could these people be so thankful in the midst of such overwhelming calamities in their lives?  They were thankful for the care they saw coming from God each day.  They were thankful for the certainty of His grace toward them.  They did not equate God’s grace and care with having everything they could imagine in a material way.  They understood that grace and care are ongoing in adversity.  They understood that grace and care were eternal and that what they were experiencing was not what they would always experience.  They were convinced that the words of Paul in Romans 8:36-39 were absolutely true.  They were thankful for a sovereign God who would undergird them in life and keep them in death. 
Thanksgiving is totally integrated into God’s grace.  The very word “thanksgiving” as found in our New Testament is a derivative of the word grace.  Without the word “grace” there is no word “thanksgiving”.  The New Testament word “eucharist” is translated thanksgiving.  It is the same word that we use “Eucharist” to describe the thanksgiving feast of the Lord’s Table.  Perhaps a very literal translation of the word could be “built upon grace”.  That is what thanksgiving is, an attitude of the believer founded on the sure grace of God. 
With Martin Rinkart we can joyously sing with hope and thanksgiving, “O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us.  With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us; and keep us in His GRACE, and guide us when perplexed, and free us from all ills in this world and the next.”  Let God’s rich grace produce genuine thanksgiving in His people.  

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Haven of Rest

If I could travel back in time I would like to meet two great women hymnists, Lena Sandell and Frances Havergal.  Their hymns of worship and consecration have greatly enriched the singing of Christ’s church.  Their heart of devotion and faith minister the hope, grace and peace of God to all who will meditate on their words.  One of my absolute favorite hymns is by Lena Sandell, “Children of the Heavenly Father”.  The first line reads, “Children of the Heavenly Father, safely in His bosom gather.  Nesting bird nor star in heaven such a refuge e’er was given.” 

God’s grace is the safest place to be.  Men seek refuge in all manner of things.  They seek safety in financial security.  They seek safety in military might.  They seek safety in medical technology. They seek safety in political power.  They seek safety in knowledge. They constantly seek safety in the things that they can make or hold.  Lena Sandell knew that safety comes from none of those.  Safety comes from the grace of God.  It is only as we throw ourselves on the mercy of His grace that we will ever learn or ever possess true safety.
Jesus tells us that the world of Noah’s day is no different than the world of today.  People were running around doing all the things that people do to have a happy and secure life.  One man, however, sought something different.  He sought God.  That man was Noah and Genesis six tells us that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  By grace he and his family were saved when all the rest of the world perished.  Grace was the safest place to be. 
Grace will comfort us with its safety in every storm of life.  Grace will assure us with its safety in every trial we face.  Grace will uphold us with its safety in every need that we confront. Grace will wrap us safely in the arms of Jesus where our hope and peace and joy is secured by His mighty power forever and forever.  America’s greatest female hymnist, Fanny Crosby, wrote these words that echo those of Lena Sandell.  “Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast; there by His love o’er shaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.”  Rest in the safe arms of God’s grace today.  

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, July 26, 2018

What a Friend Grace

Whenever we have a hymn-sing at church, where people can choose the songs they want to sing, one of the first ones always chosen is Joseph Scriven’s “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”.  The message of this hymn resonates with everyone.  All of us have sins, griefs, trials, loneliness and cares.  All of us at some point need a friend to come alongside us and comfort us, lift us up, care for us and help us on our way.  Jesus is that someone and He has His grace ready to give us in every need.  His “ready” grace will be our “R” in alphabetizing grace.

The author of Hebrews says in 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  The offer has been placed on the table by God.  If you need grace to help, ask and it shall be given.  If you need mercy, ask and it shall be given.  If you need to talk, talk and I will listen.  He is ready to hear and to meet our needs with His grace.  His grace is always ready to be poured out to His dear children. 
Jesus likens this need meeting grace to a father’s care for his children. If they need bread he will not give a stone.  If they need fish he will not give a scorpion.  So it is with God’s grace.  He isn’t waiting to disappoint us; He is waiting for us to ask that He might pour out the fullness of His grace to meet our needs.  Ask of Him and He will be ready for He loves His children so much that He gave His own Son to die for us.  What then can His gracious hand withhold? 
The readiness of Christ to bestow grace in the hour of our need reminds me of an old Gospel song written by Frederick Lehman that the Willow Wood Boys (a Gospel group I sang with) used to do. “The Royal Telephone” has this first verse and chorus: “Central’s never ‘busy,’ always on the line; you may hear from Heaven almost any time; ’Tis a royal service, free for one and all; when you get in trouble, give this royal line a call.  (Refrain) Telephone to glory, O what joy divine! I can feel the current moving on the line, built by God the Father for His loved and own; we may talk to Jesus thru this royal telephone.” Talk with Him today and find His grace “ready” in your time of need.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Quickening Grace

William Sleeper’s great evangelistic hymn “Ye Must Be Born Again” expresses a clear message of our spiritual state.  It can be summarized this way, “Once born, twice dead; twice born, never die”.  Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.”  Paul amplifies this explanation in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God . . . even when we were dead in sins hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).” 

Quickened is an old fashioned word meaning to “make alive”.  We were dead in the spiritual realm and needed to be born again, quickened or made alive, in the spiritual realm.  Paul tells us that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.  Jesus says that that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.  God’s spirit enters a person and gives them rebirth.  This is done by the grace of God.  We are quickened by grace. 
This passage in Ephesians 2 is a young preacher’s delight.  It has the simplest 5 point outline of God’s grace. We are Dead in our trespasses and sin. (Vs 1)  We are Disobedient in our conduct before God and man. (Vs 2)  We are Doomed to the wrath of God. (Vs 3)  We are Delivered by the grace of God. (Vs 5)  We are Designed (by grace – vs. 8) for service to God. (Vs 10)  Anytime a simple devotion or Bible study is required on short notice, there is this great passage on grace in Ephesians 2. 
Having been quickened, born again, by God’s grace we can sing a new song of praise to our Redeemer.  John W. Peterson gave us a great new song for just this occasion.  The chorus resounds with the joy of being born again, “New life in Christ, abundant and free! What glories shine, what joys are mine, what wondrous blessings I see!  The past with its sin, the searching and strife, forever gone, there’s a bright new dawn!  For in Christ I have found NEW LIFE!” This is the blessing of quickening grace.  

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

All the Time Grace

In Gary Paxton’s Gospel song “He Was There All the Time” he makes this simple statement about God’s grace, “He was there all the time, waiting patiently in line”.  In chapter after chapter and book after book in the Bible we see the unimaginable patience of God towards the subjects of His grace.  He calls; He woos; He pleads.  God’s loving grace is seen in the patience of His grace.  Our letter “P” will be patient grace.  

Imagine if God’s standard were “one and done”.  Humanity would have been wiped out in Eden.  When Moses asked Pharaoh to let His people go, Pharaoh made their labor harder.  The Israelites did not respond in faith toward God when that happened.  Israel would still be in bondage to Egypt.  David’s kingdom would have come to an end after the incident with Bathsheba.  Peter, the Christ denier, would be a footnote to the history of the church.  The apostle Paul would have been struck dead by lightening instead of being struck down by light. 
Imagine if God’s standard were “one and done” in our life.  How many received Christ as Savior on first hearing the Gospel?  How many have walked obediently with Christ every day since coming to Him for salvation?  How many trust Him fully in every situation of life?  We are no different than Adam and Eve, the Israelites, David, Peter or Paul.  We are human as they were.  We may think it remarkable that God could be so patient with them while we also need to be honest in how remarkable it is how patient God is with us. 
This patience of Grace, however, cannot lead us to two false conclusions.  The first is that God’s patience extends beyond our death if we have rejected His grace.  It is appointed on to man once to die and after that the judgment.  Judgment will be based on what we did with Christ.  The other error is to think that God is somehow so kindly viewing our constant rebellion that His grace will never allow Him to correct it.  Parental care requires the correction of rebellion in the home and God’s loving parental grace and care requires it in our lives as well.  Still, His Grace is seen in His great patience toward us as He woos the lost and shepherds His sheep.  Sing through Gary Paxton’s song today and praise God for His patient Grace.  

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent Grace

In his stately hymn “Immortal, Invisible” Walter Smith lays out in beautiful pictures the grandness of God.  He uses phrasing like, “Most blessed, most glorious . . . almighty victorious” and “Unresting, unhasting nor wanting or wasting”.  We get a picture of a grand and glorious God who is unequaled.  We see the great God of the three O’s that we teach children are some of His key attributes: Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent. Since God is those things, so is grace.

When we think of the greatness of God’s forgiveness, we must realize that He knows all our sins.  He is omniscient.  There is nothing that we had ever done in open or in secret that He does not know.  We have never thought a thought that He did not hear.  All of the vileness of all of those sins was on our known record before God.  But in grace He sent His Son.  In grace He loved us.  In grace He forgave us.  That is the grace of omniscience.
How could He do something as unimaginable as that?  The most powerful court in the world could not erase and forget every thought, word and deed that offended God and man.  It would require someone who is all powerful, omnipotent, to accomplish that feat.  Our sins can be forgiven because He can.  He is powerful enough to accomplish all His will, and His will is to redeem sinful man from the curse of the fall and forgive all who will come to His Son in faith.  That is the grace of omnipotence.
How far does this grace extend?  We can hear it in His Word at church.  We can read about it in His Word at home.  What about at work where we are rightly concentrating on our jobs?  What about at play where we are concentrating on safety or a good time of camaraderie with our friends.  Yes, His grace is there as well.  His grace is there because He is there.  He who said, “I will never leave thee” meant it.  Where we go His grace goes with us.  It must because He is there with us as well.  That is omnipresent grace. 
Samuel Davies and John Newton combined in the great hymn “Great God of Wonders!” After extolling the very greatness of God they address the very heart of His glory as expressed in His grace. “But the fair glories of Thy grace, more Godlike and unrivaled shine.”  All the power and knowledge and presence of God shine forth in His grace.  Praise Him with the chorus of this Davies/Newton hymn, “Who is a pardoning God like thee? Or who has grace, so rich and free? Or who has grace so rich and free?”   

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Friday, July 20, 2018

Blood-bought 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, July 19, 2018

Totally 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, July 18, 2018

In Loving Kindness

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, July 17, 2018

A Holy Kindness

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, July 16, 2018

Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee

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, July 13, 2018

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.  

  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, July 12, 2018

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, July 11, 2018

Make Me a Blessing

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, July 10, 2018

Grace Greater Than Sin

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, July 9, 2018

When By His 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, July 6, 2018

Table of 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

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Confident in Christ

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!” 

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Showers of Blessing

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.”  

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Standing Amazed

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.

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Monday, July 2, 2018

Growing 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.” 

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