God is Grace

godsradicalgrace copy

What do you think about when you hear the word grace? Well I can easily define it as unmerited favor. But is that what I think of first when I hear the word grace? No, and I doubt that is what you think of first. Perhaps you think of a hostess gliding around a packed party with a smile on her face, gleefully handing out food and drink. Maybe you think of a kind-hearted or courteous person. Then again you could think of someone with great diplomatic skills or one who seemingly endures many insults from others while never returning insults. The word grace could mean any of these things. But none of this things should be the first thing we think of when we think of grace.

Grace Is the Essence of God’s Being

The setting I want you to consider is Exodus 34. We are on Mt. Sinai – again. Moses is getting the tablets with the 10 Commandments replaced. He had shattered the original ones because of his anger towards Israel for worshipping a golden calf while he was getting the first set of tablets from God. Moses, following God’s orders, made a couple more tablets and quietly ascended Mt. Sinai to present himself to God so that God would write again His Law for Israel.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of theLord. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “TheLord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; Exodus 34:5-6 NASB

So God is going to explain to Moses just who He is. Do you notice the second adjective God uses here? Yep, there it is: gracious. The root word in Hebrew means to bow down. The idea is to bow down to those below Him. This shows God’s willingness to reach with affection and care down to the poeple of Israel who do not deserve that affection or care. Israel could make no claim on God – they had just been sternly rebuked for worshippinga golden calf. They had demonstrated in no uncertain terms their depravity. And yet God, in revealing Himself to Moses, basically said “I stoop to them to show them kindness, affecton and care.” Wow. But is doesn’t end there.

who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; Exodus 34:7a NASB

Take a look at how God illustrates HIs graciousness: He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. NOw God is granting these things to a people who have demonstrated time after time that they don’t deserve these things.

Before we go any farther, let me state unequivocally that God establishes the same attitude in the New Testament

 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himselfperfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 NASB

It is God who will sustain us after suffering, according to Peter. Now notice how Peter refers to God her: God os ALL grace. That means that God has an inexhasutible amount of grace from which to draw on. You see, grace isn’t something God has. It is who He is. This is the nature of God. (To be sure there are other attributes that God has that are equally important and equally present. We’ll discuss those another time)

God give great and wonderful gifts without strings attached. He gives them without us earning them or deserving them. When we stand before Him at the end of time to be judges, our salvatio is not an issue. No, our reward is the only thing at issue. Now think about this. The works we have done will be tested as with fire. The ones we performed with wrong motives or just within our own power will be burned up. Regardless of what others may have thought about the work, to God it is worthless if done in our own strength.

The works that survive the fire of His judgement are the ones that will las. These are the ones that we performed by the power of His Holy Spirit – God dwelling in us. Now here is the good stuff. God, Who empowers us to do good, and in fact is the only reason we can do good, rewards us for the good work He accomplishes through us. Now THAT is gracious!

Grace is a difficult concept for us to understand because it is so unlike the way we human beings operate.

We were placed on this earth for God’s glory, not our own. So when we fulfill that purpose He is pleased. This doesn’t mean that life will be easy for us. It doesn’t mean we will always have an abundance of material possessions. What it does mean is that as God works on me and you – as He purifies us, forgives, sanctifies, and makes us holy through the trials and tribulations of life, our attitude, our very being should glorify Him. We shouldn’t wait to be in a big house with fancy rooms to say God is good. We should not rejoice only when life is comfortable. In fact the best rejoicing we can do is when we have a lack – at least a perceived lack – in material things. When we do that, we give glory to God and put on disply His graciousness to us. For if He wasn’t gracious to us, we would have nothing.



My family and I live in a 1200 square foot rancher style house. There are nine of us stuffed in there. Soon we will have another so there will be ten of us living in 1200 square feet. We eat, sleep, do schoolwork and (sometimes) have friends over. We live in close quarters, that is for sure. There are times I have to do some work at home but I don’t have a dedicated home office. So I work in my bedroom or in the living room. Our house is loud most of the time – that happens with nine people living in a small space. But we have no plans on moving. We have no plans to upsize our home. We would rather downsize our possessions. Why? Because God is good. All the time. And since He is good all the time, we would rather save the extra cost of doubling our house size by buying another home by being more efficient in our current one. If we can do that, then we will have extra money to spend on things that really matter rather than on things that just make us more comfortable.

When we mess us and sin, He is gracious not to cast us aside. He isn’t waiting to slap us down or make us feel downcast. No, He has said in 1 John that when we sin we need to confess it (agree we are sinners) and He is righteous and just and will forgive us and cleanse us. He does this not because of us. No, He does this because of Him. He is gracious to us. He gives us, the undeserving rebels we are, His love, compasson, and kindness.

So if we have a lack – be that lack is in space, stuff, or other more important things – we will always seek to glorify God where we are. Because where we are is a good – no, great – place to be. We are the recipients of God’s radical grace. Grace that stoops down to us and shows us love and compassion. Grace that forgives our sin, heals our bodies, mends our broken hearts. He doesn’t have to do these things, but He simply chooses to do these things.

That is the way He is.


God’s Radical Grace


godsradicalgrace copy

Have you ever thought about the nature of God’s grace? We don’t often do that but we should. We should contemplate what He has done for us. We should think about the effect it has on us. We should recognize the fruit it bears through us. But we don’t.

Grace has been described as amazing, wonderful, and matchless. But have you ever really thought about God’s grace? Most, sadly, have not. Many in the Church have figured out what grace is and is not. Usually this is done through consulting a lexicon. Grace is defined as unmerited favor. Well there ya go! Grace is simple and direct. Unmerited favor. Let’s move on to something more interesting.

Grace isn’t one of the sexy doctrines. If grace was a piece of art, it would be perceived as a simply line drawing. Simply black ink on a white sheet of paper. Nothing more, nothing less. We see this in the teaching of the church. We tend to teach about the exciting things – missions, tongues, etc. but rarely do we go deep on God’s grace. Why is grace found to be so boring?

One reason is we may think we have it all figured out. We define it, grasp it, and then move on. But in our hurry to declare ourselves wise regarding grace, we show ourselves fools for having missed out on one of the deepest, most beautiful doctrines and actions of God. When we define it simply without attending to the meaning of it, we see God’s grace as a simply a vehicle to get us from sin to righteousness. It is a black-and-white drawing of a map. That is all. Next, much more exciting doctrine is next.

Grace is not a punchline and it isn’t simple. Grace is not a shallow doctrine to be understood with simple phrases and trite sayings. Grace is not a simple drawing. No, God’s grace is a masterpiece. It is an oil painting, full of contrasts that seem incongruous until the Master’s intent is revealed in the totality of the painting.

Grace is full of wonder and awe. Grace touches every part of our being. It rules and reigns supreme in a life that has been touched by it. A person who has been touched – truly touched – by God’s grace is never again the same. A grace-touched person is like his  Master. The grace touched person is a one who simply is a certain way, defying the simple definitions

Grace affects every facet of life. It changes us and remakes us. Learning about God’s grace – more importantly living God’s grace – is a revolutionary thing. Being touched with God’s grace makes me and you different.

Grace is often misunderstood and misapplied. Confused with a license to sin, grace gets a bad rap. Grace is also abused when it is used to excuse bad behavior and fail to hold everyone accountable to God’s standards.

Grace is ignored by others, opting for rules and regulations where God’s grace has provided freedom. Yes, God’s grace is not simple…but is is simply beautiful!

Grace is vibrant. Grace is alive. Grace is the way we live and have been enabled to live. Grace is beautiful, freeing and restraining as well.

Grace is amazing, wonderful, and matchless. And God’s grace is…



God’s radical grace saved a sinner such as I. God’s radical grace is something worth understanding. Understanding grace is worth the effort and the struggle.

To understand God’s radical grace – a tall order to be sure – is to get a peek into the very nature of God. Experiencing God’s radical grace is the starting point for each Christian. It is also a main ingredient in the portrait God is painting of each Christian’s life.

Are you willing to give trying to comprehend God’s radical grace? Are you willing to join me on a journey to understand and appreciate God’s radical grace? I hope so. But be warned. To begin this journey is to begin a journey on being radicalized. For no one who experiences and understand God’s radical grace ever returns the same person.

No one.

This for That

Life is hard, isn’t it? There are struggles, disappointments, seemingly no end to trials and tribulations. Life is difficult. Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of bad news that we hear each and every day. Becoming numb to that news is easy too.

Now is not the time to cower in a corner, hoping to be left alone. Now is the time to run with purposed abandon into the battle.

Ethnic cleansing, wars, rumors of more wars abound. Natural disasters, human-made disasters, anger, strife are all around us. The Church appears on the decline while secularism appears on the rise. God is neglected – not only in our society but also in some churches. The Bible is dusted off once a week to be carried to hear someone drone on about something that no one appears to care about anymore.

Even for the so-called committed Christians it isn’t much better. Google and the internet have made everyone an expert, everyone a scholar. It doesn’t matter if one has actually spent time being taught the deep things of God. Just enter a search term, copy and paste a response that seems right. Pop theology and armchair theologians are a dime a dozen. And it doesn’t seem that many care. Everyone’s opinion is equally valid.

So too is everyone’s relationships. No longer do we as a country value the millennia-old definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Now a man may marry a man, a woman may marry a woman. What’s next? Men with multiple women? Women with multiple men? Women? Is there any limit to the depravity our nation will condone? Well, the answer is “No.” It is a free-for-all now. There are nearly no limits on so-called human freedom. “Do as you please, your dignity is all that matters” we are told.

As Bible-believing Christians – commonly referred to as Bible thumpers, knuckle dragging morons, and other terms – we recoil at this turn of events. Our society has unraveled before our very eyes. It has been unraveling for some time, we just started to notice. In some countries it is illegal to call homosexuality a sin – even from the pulpit. Pastors have been jailed for that.

Our sonship in Christ will cause us to suffer at the hands of the unrighteous.

In some countries Christians are routinely targeted and murdered because they are Christians. ISIS, or ISIL (or whatever four letters we use to describe them these days), is hell-bent on cleansing Christians from the face of the earth. Of course women are slated for special treatment.

Persecution of this kind is coming. In some ways it is already here. We can rant “Make America Great Again!” We can build a wall, kick out all illegal aliens, outlaw practices we don’t agree with. It won’t matter. The only thing left to happen is the total collapse of our society, economy, and the last vestiges of morality. Don’t kid yourself, this is happening right now.

Church, the time is past where we need to be politically engaged. We need to be Savior engaged now. Not to save America or the world – they both are in God’s hand. But to bear witness, to tell THE story of our Savior.

Jesus told us things would get rough. He said that the world – the non-Christians and the system they love – would hate us because they first hated Jesus (John 15:18). So don’t be surprised by all this stuff. Don’t be discouraged. Why?

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:18 NASB

Paul knew about suffering. He had been imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked and would eventually be martyred because of his faith in Christ. All the apostles would die a martyrs death except John the beloved. John would be exiled to a rock as a punishment by Rome.

The word Paul uses in Romans 8 translated sufferings is the Greek word pathemata It carries the meaning of suffering for any reason and in any form because we are His sonsSo great suffering and small suffering is in view here. And that is important to know. Our sonship in Christ will cause us to suffer at the hands of the unrighteous. And that is OK. I will gladly exchange some present sufferings for the future glory that has been promised. In fact, when I weigh the suffering that I have endured or could possibly endure, they come up short – way short – of the glory that awaits. The glory that is the final step in my sanctification. The glory that is reveled both to me and in me.The word translated to (eis) can mean either to or in. Here it probably means both.

That fine day when I will no longer be hampered by this body of death, when I see my Savior face-to-face, my sanctification shall be completed. Oh man, I can hardly wait.

Church, the time is past where we need to be politically engaged. We need to be Savior engaged now. Not to save America or the world – they both are in God’s hand. But to bear witness, to tell THE story of our Savior. Now is not the time to cower in a corner, hoping to be left alone. Now is the time to run with purposed abandon into the battle. Yeah, that’ll mean we get hurt. It means we’ll get ridiculed. That is part and parcel of being related to Christ.

So if I have to endure another year of trouble, so be it. If I have to listen to meaningless drivel about how to be tolerant, so be it. If I lose everything because I am a Christian, so be it. If I am imprisoned because I am a Christian, so be it. If I am killed because I am a Christian, so be it.I will gladly endure all this for that promise of finally being with my Savior.

I will enthusiastically trade this life with all it’s troubles for that promise of perfection with God. This for that…not matter the cost, I (and you) come out ahead.

Comfort for the Afflicted

‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure;

Lately I have been reading quite a few messages, emails, and stories about the trials and tribulations of life. Some are quite sad. Some make me want to run out and fix something or someone. Mix in with this the silly season of politics and we have plenty of reasons to fret. We hear accusations and counter accusations from the candidates. We see bullying that I thought was left on the playground in 5th grade. And the language. Oh, the language. All this can lead to despair. Life these days can be trying.

The issues in life today can seem out of control. We feel helpless. We feel afflicted. We despair.

Are you afflicted with physical pain?

There are times – almost all the time – that my back hurts.  My knees ache, I have bone chips in my left ankle. I hurt continually somewhere. But hey, I’m 52 years old and did stupid stuff when I was younger. I should feel some pain now. But sometimes the pain gets the best of me. The pain make me want to have a pity party and say to myself (and others) “woe is me! I’m in such pain.” But you know what? I shouldn’t do that. I have good reason not to focus on my physical pain.

I have good reason not to despair. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with chronic illness?

I have diabetes. I also have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I have high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol, an arrhythmic heartbeat, and an immune dysfunction that cause my immune system to attack my own body from time-to-time. I’m a wreck! If I was a car, I’d be recalled for being a lemon.  I have these chronic illnesses. I won’t get rid in this life of them unless God intervenes and performs a miracle. I take nine pills each day. Nine pills just so I have a chance at a slightly less abnormal life. In looking at these many chronic problems I have, I could despair. I could give up knowing that I have no realistic hope that I’ll ever be rid of them, the pills or the pain they cause me on a daily basis.

But I have good reason not to despair, not to focus on my chronic illnesses. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with depression?

Do you have clinical depression? I do. Having it is a beast. Feelings of worthlessness, overwhelming powerlessness come up over and over. I have even contemplated suicide. My past won’t leave me alone and at times my future – at least the one I thought I was going to have – eludes me. I get bummed. I start to focus on the issues that surround me and not where I should focus. Then I think I’ll never climb out of this pit. I’ll never have a day where I genuinely feel good.

But I have good reason not to despair, not to focus on my depression. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with unfulfilled dreams?

I love to preach. I love sharing God’s word and encouraging those listening to do something with what they learn. The greatest compliment i ever received was when someone told me they acted on an issue because of what I said from the pulpit. But, sadly for me, I feel my preaching days are over. I’ve taken some hits – some stinging criticisms.  The person(s) who feel this way haven’t talked to me about their perception of me, but they have talked to others.  I have become a stumbling block to that person (or persons) learning when I preach. So I would rather not preach than to cause someone to stumble. And that fact – that I am a stumbling block – saddens me. My love for preaching goes unfulfilled now.  Perhaps you have yet to find your place in the Body of Christ. Maybe you’re looking for a job – any job – and can’ seem to find one. Maybe you’ve been laid off or fired and your heart aches. Maybe, like me, you focus on your loss and you begin to despair.

But I have reason not to despair. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with financial struggle?

I have a wonderful wife and seven – soon to be eight – children living under one roof. My house can be loud, messy, and dirty. It can also be a madhouse. But it is my house – the house God has given to me.

My wife is the most wonderful woman in the world. She manages everything so well, home schools our children and gets more beautiful by the day. She is wonderful. More than wonderful. I don’t have a word for her she is so wonderful. She is my heartbeat, she is my life.   My children are great as well. They are growing so fast. My oldest is nearly 13(!) and my youngest is about to be born in May or June. They are generally loud, running, jumping, active kids. And I love each one of them more and more each day.

But we struggle financially. We are a single income family. That is a choice my wife and I made before we got married. You may have made a different choice and that is OK. Maybe you struggle too. There are some months we don’t have two nickles to rub together. Other months we are better. But whether we have plenty or not, we have each other. Sometimes though I wonder. I wonder about the future, our paltry savings. I see the economy in the US faltering and wonder when I’ll be out of a job. I worry. I start to despair. You probably do too.

But I have good reason not to despair, not to worry about our finances or future. And so do you.

The Reason?

My Good Reason is simple: God is sovereign. Period.

 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.       Psalm 115:3 NASB

God does what God pleases to do. Since God is holy and makes no mistakes, I should take comfort in that fact. And so should you.

In Isaiah 46:10 God says

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;

You see God will accomplish all He plans to accomplish. I take comfort in that. And so should you.

I mess up every day. I sin. I fight against God. I struggle through His grace. Then I get frustrated that I’m not as holy as I’d like to be and should be. I wonder sometimes if I have crossed some line in the sand that causes God to have had enough of me. Then I read John 10, Jesus says

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-20 NASB

Jesus claims to be God here. He claims sovereignty over my life. If you are a Christian he claims sovereignty over your life too. You can’t be lost once you are found. And neither can I. I take comfort in that. And so should you.

Finally, in Romans, Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 NASB

There is plenty in these few verses but I want you to focus in the first one. Everything in life is worked together for good by God for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. That means you Christian. Whether you are afflicted by physical pain, emotional strain or financial stress,

God is working it out for good in your life.   And we – WE – should take comfort in that.   No, we MUST take comfort in that.

Since God is sovereign in my life and in your life, we need not fret about those things that so easily distract us and stress us. Whether those things are temporary or chronic; whether they are physical or emotional; whether they are tangible or intangible; we should – we MUST – reject the control they desire over us and rely on on God.


We must find comfort in the absolute sovereignty of God for it cannot be found anywhere else.

Built on God’s Provision

The Path Less Traveled Final

When we choose to walk the path of holiness rather than the road of mediocrity, we will have all we need to walk that path.


“Just keep going. This will all be worth the effort” I was told as I ran through the hills behind my base. I was in the US Marine Corps at the time and I was running with a friend in what was termed “The Hills” behind my base in California. These hills were steep – both going up and going down – and seemingly took forever to run through.

As we ran I was ready to give up. I yelled to Sgt. Ski “I’m done. I’m done.”

Sgt. Ski told me to keep going. “There is a reward at the end of this” he yelled to me. All through our run he ran with me. He didn’t run ahead of me. He didn’t run behind me. He ran with me.

When we finished our run, I was shown my reward: a job well done. It was strangely satisfying. I had ran with Sgt. Ski and followed the directives of my Commanding Officer to continue to train and be in top physical shape. Though running “The Hills” were difficult, it was well worth it. My CO provided the command. Sgt. Ski ran with me, encouraging me  to continue.

In my final article in this series and in Genesis 22, we see how God provided for Abraham. Let’s take a look and discover the way God provides for us as we walk on the path less traveled.


Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”                 – Genesis 22:13-14 NASB

The Unexpected Expectation Met

Remember when Abraham and Isaac were trekking up the mountain? Do you remember Issac asking his father where the lamb for the sacrifice was? Issac saw the wood, saw the fire but didn’t see the lamb needed for the sacrifice. Abraham responded that God Himself would provide the lamb.

Understanding what Abraham was thinking – or at least trying to understand – is not productive. Was he thinking that the sacrifice would be his son Isaac? Did Abraham think God would make a substitute available? We simply don’t know because the text doesn’t go any further on Abraham’s comment. And that is a good thing.

What is interesting is that Abraham’s expectation was for a lamb.


The Hebrew word usedseh for lamb, seh, means a young sheep, or young lamb. The picture to the right is a very good representation of what Abraham expected God to provide.



The Hebrew word used for the ram here is the word ayilWhen you see that word think of one of those big-horned sheep. This wasn’t some little thing this was B-I-G BIG!



Do you see the difference? The size of the sacrifice that Abraham expected and what God delivered could not be more different. God provided much more than Abraham imagined He would.


The Expected Sacrifice Made

So Abraham made the sacrifice he expected to make. The only difference was the subject of the sacrifice. Abraham – by all indications – expected to sacrifice his son but perhaps was hoping for a lamb instead, followed God’s instructions to the letter. God had a different idea. God supplied much more than Abraham needed for the sacrifice that God demanded. God was much more generous to Abraham (and Isaac) than either could have imagined. Hmmm.


The Expected Provision Remembered

Abraham made the sacrifice.He killed the ram provided by God. He named that place “The Lord will provide.” Remember that God sent Abraham to the mountain of Moriah. We saw that in v. 2. The word Moriah is a Hebrew participle meaning the place of seeing. The idea that we glean from that in this context is where God sees, God provides. So Abraham named that spot as the place where God saw and provided.

Where are you on this path less traveled? Where are you in the pursuit of holiness? Are you at a point of appointed sacrifice?

The lesson we should learn – the one we better learn – is that God’s provision for us as we follow Him on the path less traveled is often times much more than we can imagine. And that is OK. While we should expect God to provide for us as we follow Him, we should not expect that provision will be small.

When we choose to walk the path less traveled. When we choose to walk the path of holiness rather than the road of mediocrity, we will have all we need to walk that path. Often we will have much more.

Our walk on this path of holiness is built on nothing less than God’s provision. Regardless of what form it take, it is from God and we should expect that it will be more than enough for us to finish the task God has called us to complete.