Sunday, March 31, 2013

Day 11 - Loved in the Midst of Our Sinning - 30 Days of Grace

The wonderful truth of grace that God loves us even when we sin is just so big, so important, so crucial to having rest in your heart about how God feels about you, that I just want to talk about it another day!

When I first got overwhelmed with the grace of God, I was a burned out Christian.  I had tried and tried to live a good and successful Christian life, and the more I tried, the more I saw my failures.  I felt like a failure as a Christian, felt it was hopeless that I could ever succeed in being holy, and I just quit.  I truly burned out and gave up on trying to be a good Christian.  Then I was introduced to the idea of God's grace, something I had never really grasped before!  And my life was changed!  One book I read back then when God first taught me about grace was the wonderful book  Classic Christianity, In it, author Bob George say that "Grace is the unconditional love of God manifested to us in the midst of our sinfulness."  This really stuck with me because I felt so sinful and like I was always failing in what I was 'supposed' to do as a Christian, and I really wondered how God could ever love or accept me when I failed so much.  And then I found out that God really does love me, even when I'm sinning!  I found out about grace!

Grace is God's love that is undeserved. That means it comes to us even when we don't deserve it, that is, when we sin, fail, disobey, doubt, rant and rave, rebel, struggle, crash and burn!!  THAT is when grace comes into its own!  Grace is love for the unlovely, acceptance for the unacceptable, friendship with the unfriendly!  I think this is my favorite thing about grace and what makes grace so wonderful and important in our lives  - grace comes to us when we're hopeless failures, and when we're hopeless failures is just when we need grace the most!

It's when we fail that we feel so weak, start to have negative thoughts about ourselves and get down on ourselves for being such dirty, rotten failures.  Satan often comes and attacks at those moments of failure with thoughts of guilt, condemnation, self-loathing, shame and worthlessness.  He tries to tell us there is no way God could love us, that we are far from God, that God is disgusted and disappointed with us, that God is angry and wanting us to 'shape up or ship out', and on and on.

And right then, in that place of feeling like such a failure and feeling so far from God, so displeasing in His sight, so unacceptable and out of fellowship and 'not right' with Him, right at that moment is when we so desperately need the message of grace and often is when God reveals it!  It's like a little voice saying, "I love you right now, as you are, where you are.  I love you, I love you, I love you."  And it is unbelievable!  It brings such relief to know He loves us and accepts us and speaks to us, is close to us, even in the midst of our sinfulness!

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.                            1 John 2:1-2

Let's look at these verses to see God's attitude toward us when we sin.  First, what are we called here?  We are called dear children!  That's a term of love and affection!  Next, what does the verse say we have if we sin?  We have an advocate with the Father.  What is an advocate?  

Here is a definition for an advocate from the King James Version Dictionary:

One who defends, vindicates, or espouses a cause, by argument; one who is friendly to; as, an advocate for peace, or for the oppressed.  In scripture, Christ is called an advocate for his people: "We have an advocate with the father."    1John, 2.

Here we see that Christ is our defender who comes to our aid when we need help.  He espouses or takes up our cause for us.  He is our friend who comes to help us when we fail and need support and encouragement.  He is an advocate defending our position of peace when we are oppressed.  Christ is an advocate with whom?  With the Father.  Notice it doesn't say against the Father!  The Father is not against us!  The Father is for us!  Notice that in the next verse it says that Christ is what for our sins?  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, the propitiation - which just means satisfaction.  In other words, God is satisfied with the sacrifice of the Son for your sins!  He isn't mad, at odds with you, against you or judging you!  He is satisfied with the work Jesus did to take away your sins, and He was the One who sent Jesus in the first place, because He loved you and was on your side and wanted to get rid of your sins and the ruin they caused in your life!  So notice that, that the Father and Jesus are on the same side in this verse!

Jesus is an Advocate WITH the Father for us!  Jesus isn't defending us against the FATHER'S accusations!  The Father isn't the accuser!  Who is the accuser of the brethren?  The devil!  We see that as an Advocate, Jesus stands up for the peace of the oppressed.  The Father isn't an oppressor!  Who is the oppressor?  Once again, it is our enemy, the devil!  So in these verses, Jesus joins the Father in standing up for us against the accusations and oppressions that Satan tries to put on us, thoughts of guilt and condemnation and shame, feelings that the Father is angry or distant, feeling we are not accepted or loved, feelings we deserve punishment and God is going to 'get us.'  All these are accusations the devil throws at us, and Jesus and the Father are on our side as our Friends to defend us, stand up for us, help and comfort us, and support the fact that 'we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!"

After we sin, when the enemy may be attacking us with feelings of failure and shame and estrangement from God, Jesus and the Father are right there with you saying, "This beloved child is in total peace with Me because of the blood shed by the Son!  There is nothing wrong in our relationship!  We love and accept this one and nothing is between us, because the Son's death cleared away all this one's sin and guilt and punishment!"

Right when you sin, hear the message of grace - there is no condemnation on you, God loves and accepts you, and the work of the Son is effective on your behalf and has taken away your sin, God is totally satisfied with Jesus' work, and there is complete peace between you and God!  You are loved, you  are supported, you have a friend on your side right when you sin!  Every time you sin!  No matter how often, and no matter how many times you do the same sin over and over, it doesn't matter, He is still your Advocate (Supporter, Helper, Friend, Comforter) with the Father - so that means God loves you, is your Friend and is accepting toward you, helping and supporting you even when you fail.  When you fail, God isn't standing by to yell at you!  He is standing by (another meaning of the word Advocate) to comfort and help and heal!  "With grace, failure doesn't make any difference."  (David Seamands)  Our failures don't affect His love for us!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 10 - Grace for Sinners - 30 Days of Grace

 We want to dig more deeply into the riches of grace and see all Christ has done for us, but first, it's a good idea to deal with some feelings that may surface from time to time as we study grace:  "This all seems too good to be true!  We get all these wonderful things for free, without any hard works?  And how come I don't 'feel' some of these things in my life?"

For example, just looking at Day 9 and the passage from 2 Peter:  when we think of all Christ has done for us by grace, how He brought us to faith, how He has delivered us out of the decay and ruin in the world of sin and has given us a relationship with Himself, even giving us the divine nature inside us to want to love and trust Him, all as a gift without any mention of our need to clean up our behavior or really do any can seem too good to be true, can't it?  And sometimes it can make us shake our heads wondering how this good news can be true when we still see sin and evil doings in our lives, when we don't always feel loving or trusting, when sometimes we feel distant from God rather than in a close relationship of true knowing, and when we sometimes feel we are lacking so much when it comes to godly living. 

I have had those feelings and thoughts come to me before.  How can grace be true when I have this sin in my life, feel sinful thoughts and urgings, and really haven't done anything to deserve it?  Let's look through a passage that can help us with these questions:

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.   Rom. 5:6-8

According to this passage, at just the right time, Christ died for us.  When was the right time?  While we were powerless!  When we were at a low point, really the lowest we could be, THAT was God's right time to send Christ to die for us!  Powerless means helpless, unable to do anything to help oneself.  So why would that time, when we were without any power or strength to help ourselves, be the right time for Christ to die?  Because then the work He did could be shown to be completely by His love and grace, all of His work and not earned or produced in any way by us.  But the verse describes us even more fully.  Who did Christ die for?  The ungodly!  Ungodly means the total opposite of God!  That means we were the total opposite of Love, for God is Love.  We were the total opposite of Holy, for God is Holy!  We were the opposite of Good, for God is Good.  So God died for people who were not like Him in any way at all!  We were totally without God, God was foreign to us. Not only were we helpless to save ourselves, but we were ungodly and didn't want to be saved!  We were bad, rebellious, having resistant thoughts and a disobedient attitude toward God!  We were not running toward God trying to find Him and just helpless to do so, NO, we were running away from God, hiding from Him, not wanting a relationship with Him! 

According to the passage, what kind of person would someone dare to die for?  A good person.  And then, only rarely would someone actually die for that good person.  Why is that?  Because giving up your life is the ultimate sacrifice of love you can make for a person, and it's rare to find that kind of love, that kind of person willing to die, and that kind of person who deserves such a sacrifice to be made for him/her.  

And yet, what did God demonstrate to us, the helpless and ungodly?  He demonstrated His love!  His love is bigger, greater, more self-sacrificing, more amazing and abundant than any other love.  It's in a class by itself:  God's Love!   It's perfect hesed love that never fails and never ends, going on and on and being faithful to love no matter what the circumstance, obstacle or cost!  How did God demonstrate this love to us?  He demonstrated it in that while we were STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us!  (He died not just for helpless and ungodly people, He died for sinners - what is a sinner?  A sinner is a person who sins by nature.  We were people infected with a sin nature, following Satan rather than God, choosing to disobey God.) 

It was a great demonstration of love for Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners!  Had we done one thing good for God yet?  NO!  Had we even turned to Him and asked for help yet?  NO!  Had we even thought about God yet?  NO!  Had we even cared at all about God?  NO!  THAT'S the kind of people we were before knowing Christ, and THAT'S the you Christ died for!  Christ died for bad people!  He died for people who were rebels and God-resisters, flat-out troublemakers with nothing good to say about themselves.  He died for people who didn't deserve to have someone die for them.  He died for people who didn't qualify to have someone die for them.  He died for people who didn't merit or deserve to be saved!  For Him to do this act of love to save us BEFORE we had cleaned ourselves up or even turned to Him in repentance or faith, was and is and act of PURE GRACE.  That is what grace is - it is love that acts to save and bless the undeserving!

Now if Christ would do that, what does it tell us? It tells us God's love is unconditional!  No matter what sin we commit today or tomorrow, no matter how far we fall, no matter how much we run from God, forget God, or resist God, no matter what ditch we fall into from our own wrongdoing, no matter what, God is there loving us STILL!  None of that fazes God!  He loved us at our worst.  He helped us at our worst.  That is real unconditional love.  Jesus' death for us on the cross truly shows the depth of His love, that He is going to love us always, for He already loved us - and even sacrificed His own life for us! - at our worst.  Here is someone who knows you at your worst and still takes you in, still loves you, still acts on your behalf to lift you up!  Not only does He love us in our mess, but also He doesn't condemn us in our mess but instead lifts us out of it!  THAT is the love we have been looking for all our lives, and it is found in God!

Jesus' death on the cross for us tells us something else, too.  It tells us that this helping us out of our mess/saving comes solely by grace.  Christ died for us before we could do one good thing to earn points with God.  Christ died for us before we could clean ourselves up. Christ died for us before we could even turn to Him or have faith, say we're sorry, vow to change, surrender, promise to do better, make Him Lord of our lives, feel bad about our sin, or even ask for help. In fact, Christ died for us before we were even born!  So we know that we contributed nothing to His work on the cross.  We did nothing to make Him decide to go there and die.  There wasn't anything good in us that caused Him to die for us.  What does this tell me?  I don't have to be good to be loved!  I don't have to do anything to get God to love or help me!  He is already on my side to save me!  None of my works are required.  I don't have to merit His help.  His love and help are free.  They are gifts of grace.  God is for me, without me having to be or do anything.  He is for me!  He has aleady moved to help me!  He sent Jesus to die before I even existed! THAT is grace!

So how does this study help us with our feelings of unworthiness to have such wonderful gifts?  It reminds us that we don't have to be worthy to be loved and blessed by God!  God loves and blesses us because He IS love.  We don't have to be lovable to be loved.  That is a wonderful truth in the good news of grace!  So next time we have those feelings that this is all too good to be true, that we don't deserve it, that we don't feel qualified to receive all this goodness and salvation from God, we can remember we don't have to qualify for grace!  God's salvation is by grace, which means it is for the UN-qualified and UN-deserving!  So if you are unqualified, I guess you actually "qualify" for His grace!  His favor is UN-merited, so those who are without merit are the ones who get it, which just means ALL of us get it!  

What do we have to be to have Christ die for us? Helpless...ungodly...sinners!  Jesus didn't die for perfect people.  He didn't come and die for righteous people.  He died for dirty, rotten, messed up, rebellious sinful people.  That's you, that's me.  Thus, we 'qualify' for His salvation, just by being 'unqualified.'  

This reminds me of a story told by Brennan Manning about something that happened in a church once.  The parishioners were kneeling to receive communion, and as the church leader came with the cup to a certain young girl, he noticed she was crying. She felt she had done so many things wrong, and felt ashamed.  The man leaned down and whispered to her as he handed her the cup, "Take it, lassie, it's for sinners."  If you've felt you were sinful, a sinner, condemned, ashamed, and dirty, well, you are the one He died for.  He died for sinners.  So receive His grace, His love, His salvation.  You see, it's for sinners, so if you're a sinner, then it's just for you, isn't it..  It's for you, it's for me!  What wonderful grace!

By the way, if the very God of the universe would take on flesh and actually give up His life for you, you must not be so worthless or useless after all.  You must be pretty valuable.  You must be pretty special.  You must be truly precious to Him!  To love means to value and esteem highly, as precious.  God showed His love for you when Christ died for you.  That means He showed what you are worth to Him.  You are worth what He was willing to give up for you:  you are worth His Son!  I guess you are pretty precious and esteemed in God's eyes!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Day 9 - Grace Has Given Us All We Need - 30 Days of Grace

We have looked at a general definition of grace as seen in the Old Testament and then in the New Testament.  So what is the work of grace in our lives, and what has God done for us by grace? Let's look at some verses that sum up what God's grace has done for us:

1 ...To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
2Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

2 Peter 1:1b-4 

What is God acting by in these verses?  He is acting by or through His righteousness and the righteousness of Christ!  The righteousness of God is the power and force behind all His acts of grace in our lives.  His love moves His heart to act in grace (undeserved favor), and it is by His righteousness that His grace works in our lives - not through OUR righteousness!  We don't have to be righteous in order to be loved or graced (favored, accepted, empowered) by God!  It is HIS righteousness that matters, and by His perfect goodness He moves in our lives and helps, saves and blesses us!  So how does He bless us?  Let's see...

How do these verses describe our faith?  Our faith is precious!  We have received or been brought into a state of faith that is of equal standing with all other believers in Christ.  That is the first work of grace in our hearts!  God moves in our hearts and stirs us and implants a seed of faith in our heart so that we can believe the gospel.  We don't even have to muster up faith on our own - it is a gift from God, it is the faith of Christ Himself given to us!

Next we see God gives us grace and peace. How much grace and peace?  A multiplication of grace and peace, in abundance! God showers on the grace and peace and makes it ours!  He pours out the grace - His freely given favor, acceptance, and acts of blessing; and He pours out the peace - the wholeness, tranquility, rest, and perfect harmonious relationship of oneness with Himself!  Wow!  

How does He pour out these things on us, how does He minister this grace and peace to us?  Through us coming to know Him and His Son Jesus!  (Notice it doesn't come by our working hard, earning it, or striving to be good enough to get it - it just comes by simply knowing Jesus!)  So God by grace gives us the gift of faith so we can believe and come to know Jesus, and He pours out His grace and peace as we have this knowledge of Christ!  We actually come to know Christ when we become a Christian.  We are brought into a wonderful fellowship and relationship with Jesus!

What has God, in His divine power, given us as a gift by grace?  He has given us everything we need for life and godliness!  How much has He given us?  Everything!  Everything we need for life, and everything we need for godliness!   So do we need any more or anything else than what He's given us already?  NO!  Are we lacking or deficient in any way?  NO!  Do we need to strive to get more, have more, etc. to really be successful in life and Christian living?  NO!  Do we have less than others or need to compare ourselves to others in any way to see if we are short on some virtue or gift?  NO!  Is there anything more we need to become, do, attain to, strive for, or reach?  NO!  If we already have everything we need in Christ, we don't need to do more, be more, attain more, or have more.  We have all we need and we are all we were meant to be, just by knowing and having HIM!

This is such a wonderful and big way of saying what God's grace does for us!  He gives us faith, brings us to know Christ, and then He pours out the grace and peace in our hearts and gives us EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness!  Wow!  It's a full package deal!  We aren't trying to get anything from God, then, for HE has ALREADY given us all we need for life and for godliness!

Through what means does He give us this grace gift of everything we need?  It is through the knowledge of Christ!  We have come into a personal relationship with Christ and through HIM, we have received it all!  Thus we see that where are all these things, everything we need?  They are all in Christ Himself!  Christ Himself has, holds, and IS all these things!  HE is everything we need for life and godliness!  So the big grace gift of God, the everything we need for life and godliness, is really what?  It is really Christ Himself!  HE is all we need and everything we need.  All that's needed for life and godliness is wrapped up in a Person, and we have come to know that Person!  We have been brought into constant, unbroken fellowship with that Person.  We have come to know that Person in a real, personal, deep way by real experience!

Is this all our doing and by our work?  How does this knowledge come about?  It comes through Him who called us - it comes through God's work of calling us to Christ!  It doesn't come by our straining and striving to do enough good things to get on God's good side so that He will let us come into Christ's presence.  No, it comes through God's calling! Through His choosing us and calling us to come to Him!  Through His drawaing and wooing and making the way!  He wants us to know Him and brings us to Himself, shows us Himself, introduces us to His Son so we can know Him.  He isn't hiding Himself but revealing Himself to us!  It isn't us who had to call and search for God, but He who called us and came and searched for us and brought us to Himself!

Why did He call us?  It was by His glory and goodness!  In other words, it is the essence of who He is (His glory) and His nature (good) that brought Him to call us and bring us to know His Son!  It was by grace!  It was a free gift!  And not only that but some translations say He called us by and TO His glory and goodness, meaning that is not just why He acted in grace but also what He brings us to in grace - He brought us out to know and participate in His glory and goodness, to know and experience His glory presence and His wonderful goodness to us!  He lavishes His Presence and His good gifts on us!  What a wonderful God and what wonderful grace!

Through His glory and goodness, what has God graciously given us?  He has given us His precious and great promises!  He has given us His word telling us His will, and we know He'll keep His word, for He is always true to it.  So we know His promises are SURE, and CERTAIN, and He is so faithful that we can call them already DONE!  The Bible says that all the promises of God are Yes and Amen ( in other words they all come true and come to pass ) in Jesus, so in coming to know Jesus, ALL the promises of God have come true for us already!  We are standing on fulfillment ground!  They have all been made ours!  

What have these promises done for us?  They have made us partakers of the divine nature!  Wow!  Talk about a grace gift!  We, through becoming a born again believer, now have a divine nature rather than a sin nature!  We will talk more about this later, but for now, it means that we have been made righteous and good!  We have God's nature inside and we share His own nature!

How is this possible since we had been such sinners?  We have escaped the corruption in the world through evil desires!  In coming to know Jesus, God has delivered us from the corruption, decay and death in the world that came through evil desires of the sin nature!  He has rescued us from that existence, that nature, and the effects of that nature (sin and curse and death).  Christ's death has taken away our sin and cleansed us, so that we could now have a new life and nature, starting afresh with no sin nature or sin problem or sin punishment/effects. His resurrection has brought us to new life in Him!  We have been lifted into the new creation life of Christ and born again with His nature!  

This is just an overall summary of what God's grace has done for us in Christ.  God, by His grace, has truly given us all we need!  He has brought us to faith in Christ and brought us into relationship with Christ.  He has brought us into the fullness of everything Christ has and is.  He has brought us into the life and nature of Christ!  We have truly been graced and favored, and this is all a wonderful gift of God that we didn't have to earn or deserve or work for in any way.  It was abundantly given to us through the work of Christ, His work of grace.  

Let's dig in more into this work of grace that Christ has done for us and all He's given us!  Next time, let's start that grace excavation and really go deep and uncover the riches of His grace in His gift to us through Christ - let's dig into the gospel of grace and His finished work for us, which has given us a whole new identity  and riches in Christ!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Day 8 - Grace in the New Testament - 30 Days of Grace

We've looked at the idea of grace in the Old Testament and have seen how it is similar to the hesed love of God, the faithful and firm love of God that moves Him to act to bless and care for us out of His own goodness, not out of whether we stay faithful or obedient or not.  It is a love that acts to help us even when we fail, a love that goes beyond failure to bless and restore us to joy.

So what about the New Testament idea of grace?  The word grace is used many times in the New Testament.  Let's see how it is defined for us in Ephesians 2:.

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

How do these verses describe us on our own, without God?  Well, it's not too pretty, is it?  We were dead in our sins.  And what/who were we ruled by?  We followed the ways of the world, the ruler (the devil) who works in the disobedient, and followed the desires and thoughts of the flesh.  What did we deserve by nature?  We deserved wrath.  

But God did something good for us, though we were in such a state!  What moved Him to do this good thing?  It was His great love for us that caused Him to help us, for He is described as rich in mercy!  Mercy is a similar word to grace, just focusing on a different aspect of God's love.  Mercy is the love of God that moves Him to withhold the punishment we deserve, while grace is the love of God that moves Him to give us the blessing we don't deserve!  Mercy is God being moved to pity us who have fallen into the ditch of life and are so alone in the cold, and grace is God being moved to give us a warm bath, a hot meal, and a permanent place of honor at His table!  Mercy is God loving us in our need and trouble and mess caused by sin; grace is God loving and lifting us out of our mess into His glory!  

But back to our text.  We see that God's love and mercy motivated Him to help us when we were dead in sin and controlled by the world, flesh, and devil. What did He do for us?  He made us alive with Christ, raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ!  Wow, that's upward mobility!  What was the purpose of Him giving us life along with Christ and raising us up to sit with Him along with Christ in heaven?  It was so that in the coming ages He might shower the riches of His grace on us and show off His grace by being kind to us.  In other words, He saved us to be kind to us forever!  What are we called at the end of this passage?  We are called God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus.  Why were we re-created as His masterpiece in Christ?  To do the good works God planned for us.

Now let's look at how this took place.  We were saved by what?  By grace!  That is the grace of God, not our graciousness.  The only thing in this passage that could refer to us or our response is what?  The words 'through faith' refer to our response, and even this is said to be not of ourselves, but the gift of God.  So salvation is by grace, to be simply received by faith, and God makes it so easy He not only does all the work of salvation, but He also gives us the faith necessary to believe and experience that salvation!  Salvation is seen to be being made a new creation in Christ, seated in authority beside God, to be showered with God's kindness as we have an eternal love relationship with Him, which overflows into good (loving, kind, generous) works of God flowing through us!  Wow!  That is what He has done for us by grace!

So what does this passage tell me about the grace of God?  It tells me that grace is 'not of works' so that 'noone can boast'.  Grace means God did something for us when we could do nothing for Him to earn or deserve it - He raised us up when we were dead in sins, following after evil.  We deserved wrath, He gave us deliverance and new life in Christ.  We were ruined, He made us new.  We see that we didn't contribute anything to make this happen.  We didn't have to somehow 'get' God to love us, He already did! We didn't have to earn or deserve His kind act of salvation, He just acted out of the goodness of His heart, out of grace!  So how is grace defined in the New Testament, according to this passage?  It is the love and kindness of God that moved Him to save us, without our having to earn, deserve, or merit this love and saving in any way.  It is the favor of God that made Him act in our favor/do us a favor!  Wow, what a wonderful thing is grace!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 7 - Grace as Love That Goes Beyond Failure - 30 Days of Grace

We have seen how the concept of grace is closely linked to the word 'hesed', or faithful love, in the Old Testament.  This love was considered to be a strong, committed love and was used in the covenants God made in the Old Testament.  As a covenant love, it was a love that God bound Himself to have for the other party, a love that committed Him to come to their aid, give all that He promised, and keep all the terms of the covenant.  The Law covenant is one many are familiar with in the Old Testament, which includes many laws like the Ten Commandments that the Israelites were to keep as their part in the covenant. God's part was to bless them and have them as His special treasure that He valued (loved) with hesed faithful love.

Yet what would happen if Israel broke their part of the Law Covenant?  What if they failed to keep the Law?  Let's read a passage from Hosea 11 where God speaks to Israel about exactly what happened after He brought them from Egypt and made the Law Covenant with them:

11 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and I called my son out of Egypt.
But the more I called to him,
    the farther he moved from me,
offering sacrifices to the images of Baal
    and burning incense to idols.
I myself taught Israel how to walk,
    leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care
    that it was I who took care of him.
I led Israel along
    with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck,
    and I myself stooped to feed him.
“But since my people refuse to return to me,
    they will return to Egypt
    and will be forced to serve Assyria.
War will swirl through their cities;
    their enemies will crash through their gates.
They will destroy them,
    trapping them in their own evil plans.
For my people are determined to desert me.
They call me the Most High,
    but they don’t truly honor me.
“Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?
    How can I let you go?
How can I destroy you like Admah
    or demolish you like Zeboiim?
My heart is torn within me,
    and my compassion overflows.
No, I will not unleash my fierce anger.
    I will not completely destroy Israel,
for I am God and not a mere mortal.
    I am the Holy One living among you,
    and I will not come to destroy.
10 For someday the people will follow me.
    I, the Lord, will roar like a lion.
And when I roar,
    my people will return trembling from the west.
11 Like a flock of birds, they will come from Egypt.
    Trembling like doves, they will return from Assyria.
And I will bring them home again,”
    says the Lord.

How is God described in taking the Israelites out of Egypt?  He is described as a Daddy helping a toddler to walk, leading him and caring for him!  What was Israel's action as God treated them so well?  They never seemed to acknowledge God, turned away from Him.  What came upon them?  They went into captivity under their enemy (this is exactly what the Law stipulated if they broke their part of the covenant.)  But how did God react?  Even though He had no obligation to do anything for Israel, even though they broke His covenant and didn't care about Him, He just couldn't turn His back on them!  How did God describe His feelings?  He said His heart is torn within Him and His compassion overflows for these who rebelled against Him and were still estranged from Him at that moment!  So what is His decision, based on these feelings?  He say He will not unleash anger, will not completely destroy them, but will instead bring them back from captivity, bring them home again!

What a wonderful picture of hesed love and how it acts in the midst of broken commitments!  What do we see about hesed here?  It not only binds itself by covenant to keep on loving, blessing and being faithful, but also it is love that goes BEYOND the covenant and keeps on loving, blessing and being faithful even when the covenant is broken!  Since hesed is similar in concept to grace, what does this passage tell us about God's grace?  It tells us that it keeps on coming to us even if we fail!  

Our failures don't stop God's grace!  Our broken promises and commitments to God don't change His love or favor toward us one bit, for His grace is dependent not on us but on Him.  What does this passage say is the reason God's love acts like this in relenting from giving up on people?   The reason is because He is God and not a man!  God's nature is so different than ours that He doesn't return evil for evil!  He doesn't give up on people!  He doesn't respond tit for tat.  He just keeps on loving because that is WHO He is!  He is Love!  He is Grace!  He is unmerited, free favor and favors!  So we learn something important about grace from this passage:  no matter what I do, no matter how far gone I seem to be, His grace will still be there for me, for I can't outsin the grace of God!  Grace is the love of God that goes beyond failure and just keeps on accepting and blessing us! It's a love that just can't stop loving us, can't stop helping us, can't let us go...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Day 6 - Love That Acts - 30 Days of Grace

We have seen how the word 'hesed', translated 'faithful love', is the Old Testament word most similar to the New Testament idea of grace.  It means love that is faithful and loyal.  The word, as I have studied it, has three main ideas behind it - the idea of love, the idea of strength, and the idea of faithfulness.  So it is a strong, committed love that God has for us!  This word is often used in the covenants made in the Old Testament, so it is considered a covenant word.  This word means love that has bound itself to be there for the other, to always act for the benefit of the other and to stand with the other and defend or support them with all one's resources and with one's very own life. So this word that is similar to grace is steady, faithful, committed love that doesn't just 'feel' loving and tender and affectionate, no!  This is love that acts!  It acts on our behalf to help us!  What does this faithful love and graciousness of God move Him to do for us?

I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, the praises of the Lord,
According to all that the Lord has granted us,
And the great goodness toward the house of Israel,
Which He has granted them according to His compassion
And according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses.
For He said, “Surely, they are My people,
Sons who will not deal falsely.”
So He became their Savior.
In all their affliction [f]He was afflicted,
And the angel of His presence saved them;
In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them,
And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.

Is. 63:7-9

In these verses, Isaiah is recounted the lovingkindnesses (the acts of steadfast love/grace) of God toward Israel in time past.  What does he say that God's loyal love and grace moved Him to do for them?

First, He granted them great goodness.  God's grace acts to bless us!  His grace moves Him to pour out His goodness on us, for free - just because of His nature of love, not because of anything in us that merits it. He gives good things because of His compassion and steadfast love/grace!  So we don't need to be or do anything for God to love and bless us!  He gives to us freely out of the goodness of His heart and the graciousness of His nature!  He gives to us because He is good, so we don't have to worry that we first need to be good to receive any blessing from Him.  He gives solely out of who He is, with nothing required on our side to make Him give.  This shows me God isn't stingy or withholding good from us.  No, He wants to give!  He loves to give!  That's His nature, that's His heart of love toward us!  He isn't against us but for us.  He isn't keeping things back from us but instead releasing all thing to us!  All for free!  That's grace!

Okay so what else did this great love and grace of God move Him to do for Israel?  Well, secondly, He made them or called them His own people.  He chose them.  He set it up so they would be His own.  He made or started a relationship with them.  He called them friends.  He called them His children.

Third, He became their Savior. He became their rescuer.  He delivered them from the enemy, the Egyptians, and freed them from the enslavement of the enemy.

Fourth, in all their affliction He was afflicted.  He took on their pains and sorrows.  He felt what they felt.  Their plight moved Him to act.

Fifth, He saved them by the Angel of His Presence.  He was present with them.  He stayed with them.  He never left them.  His very presence was with them and saved them.  It was a protecting presence and a guiding presence as well as a glory presence that brought awe and wonder.  It let them know that they were never alone.  He was personally there for them and with them. 

Sixth, He redeemed them.  He bought them back from slavery.  He bought them to be His own people.  He showed they were valuable to Him by buying them back.  He counted them as precious to Him by getting them to be His own.

Seventh, He lifted them up.  He didn't leave them where He found them.  He lifted them up to know and experience His love and a relationship with Him.  He lifted them up to experience freedom and victory.  He lifted them up to be able to praise, have hope and rejoice.  

And lastly, He carried them all the days of old.  He took care of them.  He provided for them.  And He carried them through to their destination.  He made sure that they got where He wanted them to go, to the Promised Land of plenty, rest and peace.  He did the work.  He brought them through!

This is just what God's grace does in our lives!  How do all these things God did relate to how His grace moves Him to act in our lives?  Well, out of His grace (steadfast and committed love that gives freely out of God's nature and not out of something we have to do), He gives good things to us, He calls us His own children, He became our Savior, He hurts when we hurt, He saves us through His presence and life, He redeems us from sin and the enemy, He lifts us up to where He is and His victory, and He carries us through and completes the work He began in us!! 

Wow, what wonderful grace!  In the Old Testament He did all these things for Israel, and in the New Testament He does all these things for us as believers!  How does He do these things?  Through the finished work of His Son, Jesus!  What wonderful grace!

There is one other part of God's amazing faithful love that is seen later in Israel's history.  It is the faithfulness of His love toward those who fail.  It shows us how grace acts even when we mess up and fall.  That is so important and relieving.  So let's look at that next time..

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day 5 - Grace in the Old Testament - 30 Days of Grace

I want to take a bit of time and think about the concept of grace back in the Old Testament, then I want to look at the idea of grace in the New.  So first, grace in the Old!

It seems like the word grace isn't used much in the Old Testament.  the Hebrew word 'hen' means grace and it's use is not so much.  But I found as a studied that the word that most closely resembles the New Testament concept of grace back in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word 'hesed.'  Wow, what a rich word!  It is translated in many ways, like mercy, loveingkindness, steadfast love, faithful love, and loyal love.  It is very often linked with the work 'emet' which means truth or faithfulness.  These two words put together show us something of the character of God.  What do they show us?  That He has a love for us that is loyal and that He is faithful and committed to us!  We can trust this God to love us, to keep on loving us, and to be there for us and keep His word to us!

21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lam. 3:21-24

These wonderful verses help me to understand the meaning of hesed better.  Here hesed is translated as steadfast love.  It's linked with God's compassions, or mercies.  What do these verses say about God's love and compassion?  

First, they say that His steadfast love never ceases.  So if we are seeing this word as an Old Testament way of talking about grace, we see that grace is God's steadfast love that never stops.  It goes on and on. It keeps on going no matter what.  It goes on, no matter what we do, think, say, believe, or become.  It goes on no matter what bad choices we make, no matter how many times we run away or rebel.

Second, I see that His grace is so immense in scope that it never comes to an end.  It is unending.  It is so big and vast that there is no end to it.  We can't reach the end of it or run out of it.  We'll never come to a place where there is no more grace for us. No matter what dark alley we find ourselves in, whether by enemy attack or our own wrong turns, no matter how far we fall or how far we run away from God, wherever we end up, His grace is right there for us!

Third, I see that His grace is new every morning, it keeps coming to us fresh and new each day.  It doesn't matter what we did yesterday, it doesn't matter what confusion we had yesterday, it doesn't matter what failure or doubt we had  yesterday, today His grace is right there for us, fresh and new and the same as always, as if nothing happened between us!  We can't outsin, outrun, or outlive this grace, love and compassion of God!

Then these verses put the word faithfulness in, which is so common in the Old Testament. What is God telling us about His steadfast love/grace?  He is telling us He will be faithful to always be gracious toward us.  His love won't fail us.  His love won't leave us.  His love won't be deterred.  His love for us will always be there for us.  His love will always find us.  His love will always care for us.  His love will always hold us up.  His love will always work to bless us.  His work will always woo us to turn to Him.  His love will always be fresh and new and unchanged.  No matter what happens on our end, NOTHING is ever going to happen on His end to change His heart of love and His commitment to us!  He will be loyal to and loving toward us no matter what the cost to Himself!!

So what does the presence of this love and the knowledge of this faithfulness toward us do for us?  The verses say it gives us hope!!  It gives us hope because it means we're never too far gone, we're never out of His reach, we're never out of His love.  There is no place where love won't find us.  There is no pit so deep but God is not deeper still, as Corrie ten Boom liked to say.  God grace is bigger than our sin. God's love is deeper than our rebellion. God's faithfulness is stronger than our unbelief.  That gives us hope that no matter what, we can't get away from this love.  That no matter what, there is hope of a new day with God, that nothing can shake His favor and love toward us.  That we can really be free of our sin and in a perfect relationship with Him, no matter what our problems or failures.  

This love won't fail us.  This love just won't let us go!  This kind of love is called grace!  It is unmerited, unearned, freely given, given because of God's nature of love and not needing to be initiated, earned, or brought about by anything on our end. We don't have to be good enough, faithful enough, strong enough, perfect enough, or any other 'enough' to get this love.  It is ALREADY ours!  It is God's heart toward us!  

And more than that, it isn't just an emotion He feels, it isn't just His heart toward us - it is something that moves Him to ACT on our behalf, to bless us and do us good!  It's an active kind of love, this wonderful grace of God!  Let's talk more about how that is so next time..

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Day 4 - The Mystery Revealed - 30 Days of Grace

We have seen that grace moved God's heart to give us a gift, Jesus earned it for us, and the Holy Spirit reveals it to us.  So what is this gift, this great mystery that God had planned and has now revealed?  What is the great gift of His grace?

25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Col. 1:25-29

Paul the apostle is speaking here about the ministry or stewardship God gave him to preach the word of GodWhat does he call this word he preaches?  He calls it the mystery that had been hidden but is now manifested to the saints.  Why did God make this mystery known to His saints (believers like Paul)? He told them about it because it was His will and desire that they share the glorious riches of this mystery with the Gentiles.  That means God revealed the mystery to the early Christians, who were Jews, so that they could share it with the rest of us, the Gentiles.  This is a mystery, which isn't a mystery any longer but a wonderfully revealed message of God's gift to us, is meant to be known by the whole world! 

I notice how this mystery is described as glorious, full of riches, full of glory!  It is something wonderful, a wonderful gift that is glorious, a gift that makes one rich and full!  What is this mystery gift of grace? It is Christ in you, the hope of glory!  What is the effect of having this gift in us, revealed to us - what is the effect of Christ in us?  He gives us hope or expectation of glory, the glory of being in and radiating God's presence!  And it makes people complete and whole!

The wonderful secret gift and plan hidden for ages but now revealed is the gift of Christ to be in us, giving us hope of glory!  Christ in us is what makes us rich!  Christ in us gives us the glory of God!  Christ in us is the wonderful gift given freely, that we don't have to work for, earn, merit or deserve!  Christ is the gift given on God's initiative, not because of anything we'd done to make Him give, but just because of His heart of love and kindness toward us!  He favored us!  That is grace!  He was on our side and wanting to do us a favor, to bless us and do us good, without there having to be any merit or works by us to bring it to pass.  He brought it to pass and gave it to us, not by our doing, but by Christ's doing.  Christ became poor so we could be rich.  And the Spirit was sent to show us how this was done and to reveal to us the One who is inside us, Christ Himself, and to help us understand all that it means to have Christ in us!

Christ in us, the hope of glory!  This is the fulfillment of God's grace plan for us, this is the message of the gospel of grace, this is the heart of God for all people!  There is so much to know about what it means to have Christ in us.  We have truly been made rich by this gift of grace, and there is so much to unwrap and enjoy in this treasure that has made us so rich, Christ Himself!  The gospel is just the good news of Jesus, what He's done to bring about the gift of Himself being in us, all because of God's heart of love that wanted to give this wonderful gift.  For now that Christ is in us as a free gift, God has what He has wanted and longed for all along - communion with man in perfect harmony and fellowship! He has longed for this deep and intimate relationship with man, and He has given it to us freely through Christ and in the gift of Christ to be in us!  This is all done by grace and shows me the way God acts in grace toward me!

The good news of grace is all about Jesus Christ.  He is the free gift. He is what it is all about.  He is the grace gift God has given us.  I can't wait to spend much more time unpacking and reveling in this gift, the process Jesus went about to deliver it to me, and all that is within this gift!    We are rich indeed in Christ!

But first, I would like to study a little more on what the word grace means, beginning with the idea of grace in the Old Testament.  This will shed light on grace in the New Testament and help me understand even better God's nature and the gift of Christ in me. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day 3 - The Spirit's Revelation of Grace - 30 Days of Grace

Grace is the Father's heart toward us, and grace happened when Jesus worked on our behalf to make us rich...but what about the Holy Spirit?  How is the Holy Spirit involved in the ministry of grace to us, and how does the Holy Spirit demonstrate what grace is?

7..We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

1 Co. 2:7-13

What does this passage tell me about the work the apostle Paul (the speaker here) is doing?  His work is to declare God's wisdom, a mystery once hidden but now revealed.  How does the passage describe the greatness of this mystery?  It tells me that it's so wonderful, no mind has ever imagined the greatness of it, so beautiful that if Satan and his demons had known about it, they wouldn't have crucified Christ, because the crucifixion brought the whole mystery/plan to manifestation!  

What is this mystery?  It is the things God has prepared for those who love Him!  It is the gifts God wants to bestow on us!  The passage says the mystery was hidden.  Is it hidden any longer?  NO!  This passage tells us a main reason the Holy Spirit is given to us - what is it?  He reveals the things God has for us, the gifts He gives, this mystery that is a wonderful gift given to us by God!  He is sent to us to share God's heart with us and show us how generous and loving and gracious He is, that He would give us some wonderful things!  The Holy Spirit reveals these things to us and brings us to understand what God has freely given us.  That's the whole message that Paul declares - He declares this spiritual reality that he understood from the Holy Spirit, declaring the mystery now revealed of all the wonderful things God has freely given us!

A big word standing out to me that shows me more of the definition of grace here is the word 'freely.'  God has freely given us gifts.  Freely means without charge or payment required.  There are no stipulations or requirements to be met on our part.  A gift is just plain free.  So this tells me that God's grace has to do with gifts He gives for free, with no strings attached.  Nothing is required on my part.  I do not have to 'do' anything to qualify to get these things.  They are gifts.  And they are emphasized to be free.  Grace stresses the freeness of God's giving, that He gives just because of His heart of love, not because we've earned it somehow.

What does this passage say about the Holy Spirit's work of grace?  It shows me that the Holy Spirit's part is to reveal God's grace and gifts of grace to us.  He sees into God's heart and knows the deep things there, the deep love and kindness and goodness, the plans for a future and a hope, the marvelous gifts He has for us that no mind could ever imagine or conceive.  And then He shares God's gracious heart with us and reveals to us all the gifts He's given us through Jesus' work.

So I can sum up these thoughts by saying that grace is the Father's heart and nature - He is gracious.  And this graciousness moves Him to give us gifts and bless us, all of us, without distinction.  So He has a plan to give us wonderful gifts and make us rich, actually, and Jesus is the One who brings this about through His work - He does it, He works out the process of bringing the gift to mankind, without our initiation or works.  And then the Holy Spirit reveals to us and makes us understand what God has freely given us through Christ's work - He reveals what is freely given, without our having to qualify in some way.

So grace has to do with God blessing humanity out of His loving heart toward us, blessing us through Jesus' work to bring the blessing/gift to pass in our lives, and then He sends the Spirit to us to reveal the blessing/gift to us!  What is this gift that is so wonderful that no human mind could conceive?  Let's talk about that next, so we can unwrap and enjoy this gift of grace that God has freely and lovingly given us through Jesus! 

Prayer:  Dear Holy Spirit, thank You for Your work in me to share with me the things God has freely given me.  Make me to understand all that God has given me. Thank You!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Day 2 - Jesus' Work of Grace - 30 Days of Grace

We've seen how God the Father is gracious in all He is and does, and that has helped me see into the meaning of grace.  But I also wonder, how does Jesus show and personify grace?

" For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.  (2 Co. 8:9)

This verse is in a passage about giving financially to help others, but I think it applies in a broader way as well, as I think about what grace is in general.

What does this verse tell me about who Jesus is?  First, it tells me that He was/is rich, that He has an abundance.  Yet it also tells me that He is very kind and self-sacrificing, thinking of us more than Himself, because He gave up His riches to become poor for our sakes.  It tells me He has a loving heart, and that He must think we humans are pretty important and special, since He was willing to give up so much in order to bless us! It also tells me that His heart is that He doesn't want me to be poor or lacking in any way, but that He wants me to be rich and abundantly provided for.  He wants me to have more than enough.  He even wants to give me His own richness, it would seem!

What does this verse tell me about what Jesus did?  It tells me He gave up a lot for me, all His riches. It tells me that He became poor for me.

What does this verse tell me about why He did what He did?  It tells me He did it so I, through His poverty, could become rich!  And it tells me He did it out of GRACE.  Grace motivated Him.  Grace caused Him to do this!

So what does this verse tell me about the meaning of grace?  Grace must be the love and kindness that would cause Christ to give up everything in order to bring me up from poverty to riches with Him!  That shows me how great His love is for us!

I have heard that grace described as "love that stoops."  I like that, and with the verse above in mind, I would even say it is "love that stoops and lifts us up".  His love stooped down to where we were, but we weren't meant to stay down, no!  It was all so He could lift us up to where He is - in a rich and abundant place!  A place of blessing and plenty!  A place of overflowing and being well off!  So grace has to do with being given something really good, being put in a much better state than you were before.

Maybe you have heard Grace defined by the acronym, with one word for each letter - God's Riches At Christ's Expense.  That really fits in well with our verse! And it points out another thing mentioned in our verse, which is how this blessing comes to us. How are we made rich, according to the verse?  We are made rich at Christ's expense and by His work, His sacrifice of becoming poor for us.  He has done a work to make it so.

What is our work and what do we do, according to the verse?  This verse doesn't list anything that we 'do', except to be poor!  We are just sitting there poor, that is all it says about us!  Jesus is the One who did all the work to make us rich.  He is the One who gave up everything and became poor, so that through His poverty we might become rich.  Grace, then, must mean getting something you didn't have to work for.  We get something Christ worked for!

So Christ has provided riches for us through what He has done.  But what exactly did He do, and what exactly are the riches He provides?  These things will come out as we dig into some other wonderful scriptures.  And knowing all that will give us a fuller definition of grace!

Till next time,

Friday, March 1, 2013

Day 1 - The Father's Heart of Grace - 30 Days of Grace

I have been wanting to kind of do a Bible study on Grace, and thought I would just put my thoughts here.  God is reawakening me to the truths of His grace after I've come through a dry time, and I want to just soak in the truth of GRACE!  Sometimes I feel like I'm learning it all over again, just what grace means!  I feel like the Spirit is impressing truths into my heart one by one, just revealing the beautiful image of Jesus before me, revealing the beautiful finished work to me!  I want to share what He's showing me, and I thought I'd call it "Thirty Days of Grace".  I'm going to try to write some things He is showing me and scripture passages He's illuminating for me.  So this is Day 1!

Grace, the Loveliest Word!

To me, grace is the loveliest word there is, besides "Jesus" - and grace really is who Jesus is.  Grace describes Jesus perfectly. He is the embodiment of grace and the extender of grace to us!  In fact, He IS grace!  But how exactly is Jesus grace?  How does grace describe God and who He is?  And what exactly IS grace?  Sometimes I stumble over describing it, when someone asks me to do so.  I find it hard to put into words something that has changed my life and perception of God and myself so much!  But grace is God's nature, so to look at what Grace is, we can look at who God is and see that's grace!

  From Ps. 145 we read:

4One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[b]
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.[c]
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.

I know this is a long passage, but I love what it says about God, describing who He is.  How does it describe God? What adjectives are used?  Well, I see that it says He is good, righteous, gracious, compassionate, patient, and loving!  Wow!

This passage tells me that He is gracious in all His ways..and then it lists many of the things He does that exemplify His grace.  What things can we find in this passage that exemplify His graciousness, that tell us what kind of God He is?  Well, I can see that He is RICH in love, He is ABUNDANT is goodness, He is good to ALL, that He has compassion on ALL He has made, that He is trustworthy in His promises, that He is faithful in ALL He does, that He uphold ALL who fall, and lifts up ALL who are bowed down, that He gives ALL their food at the proper time, that He satisfies the desires of EVERY living thing, that He is righteous in ALL His ways and is near to ALL who call on Him.

What I see is a God who is consistently, faithfully GOOD and GRACIOUS and LOVING.  He loves to give, to bless and to help.  He provides for all, answers every prayer, lifts up all who fall or are bowed down.  Is there any stipulation on these promises?  Are they only for a certain kind of people or only for those who do a certain thing/act in a certain way?  NO, they are unconditional!  They are for any and all!  They are for good and bad people, smart and not-so-smart people, sinners and saints!  God doesn't make any distinction!  He is loving and good to ALL!

So I have learned three things:  

I have learned that God is described as good, loving and gracious.
I have learned that the way He shows His nature is by doing good things for people and blessing them.
I have learned that He does good to all without any distinctions or anything required from our side to do.  In other words, no works are required, no level of being 'good enough' to qualify or obtain these blessings.  They are freely given to all.

Wow, this passage is really showing me what it means to say God is a God of grace!  It means He loves and is good to us all unconditionally!  That is His heart!  All this study is starting to help me form a picture of who God is in my mind, and it's also helping me to understand what grace means!

More tomorrow!

Love to all,
May the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 2 Co. 13:14