Tag Archives: Christ

Grace Versus Works – Galatians 3:3

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Galatians 3:3

The topic of grace and works is something that we don’t completely grasp. I’ve seen in my own life and in the lives of others a skewed picture of grace. Paul saw it too as he was writing to the Galatians. John Piper sees it in today’s world and wrote a great book about grace entitled “Future Grace”. It’s a little deep for me and I had to read it twice just to begin to understand it.

Here’s the problem. We believe and say that it’s God’s grace that saves us. We generally believe this, at least in Protestant churches (I can’t speak with authority on other denominations) and we can quote the verses like Ephesians 2:8,9 and others that remind us that it’s God’s grace that saves us. So, when we first come to Christ, we’re pretty good at recognizing that there’s really nothing of our own merit that can suffice to earn eternal life. It’s God’s grace.

Where we have trouble, I think, and Paul and John Piper seem to teach, that after we’ve accepted God’s grace, we kind of forget about the grace and begin to rely on our works, the things we can to do, to obtain God’s favor. Yes, it’s true, that a faith without works is a dead faith. However, after coming to Christ, we often start living a life sort of thinking that “If I do this….”, “If I can pray more…”, “If I teach this class, if I be this leader…” then that will grant me more favor in God’s eyes. That is, we begin to try to rely on our works and all those things we do and say to earn what God has already given us, free and clear, with no debt to repay. Yet we continue living as if we can somehow pay down that debt like a run-up credit card.

God’s grace is enough. Of course, we need to work out our faith and let the fruit of that faith and God’s work in our lives and hearts be visible and multiplying. But God’s grace was enough to save us and it is enough to keep us. God’s grace is enough to live and respond to all of life’s circumstances. God’s grace is enough to help us overcome all those issues we deal with. It’s foolish to think otherwise. It’s foolish to start with grace but finish with works. God’s grace is what saved us and God’s grace, as the hymn “Amazing Grace” goes, “will lead me home.”

I had a link to a great version of Amazing Grace in another post that you can hear here.

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Hidden in the Jungle

There are people all over the world who have never heard about Jesus.  The Amazon Basin in South America is home to several hundred culturally distinct people groups.  Here is a video about the Amazon Basin and its people.

Hidden in the Jungle

Every Day is Christmas

Wow. What a beautiful day this morning in my little piece of the world. For the last week or so, it’s rained pretty much everyday as Tropical Storm Fay came in and out of our town. I haven’t seen the sun for a little while. That’s not necessarily a bad thing here in Mississippi where it can be downright miserable in August. We’ve had several days this month in the 70’s and 80’s which is almost like Christmas weather for us. But it has been pretty rainy and everyday has brought its clouds and rain and gloom.

This morning when I woke up, I could see the sun, for the first time in days, having broken through the darkness and beginning to rise over the horizon and the line of trees in our backyard. As I looked out the window, though the sun was visible, the fog clouded the trees and sort of blocked the sun and the sky. Even so, I knew it was going to be a pretty day as the sun was trying to burst through the fog and the misty hold it had on the day.

As I drove the kids to school this morning and the fog gave way, the sky began to become fully visible. And as it did, all I could see is blue sky. There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky anywhere. Not the small little white streaky clouds, not the puffy kinds of clouds that float around, not even the little miniscule dots of fluff. Nothing but blue. Just to be sure, as I came up a hill coming to work, I looked out across the horizon in every direction and the sky was completely clear, completely blue. What a beautiful day in Mississippi.

I love Christmas. It is my favorite time of the year and my wife and kids know it. A few weeks ago we went to Nashville to see some friends and on the way back, we listened to Christmas music. Christmas in August – you gotta love it. A few days later, we had Christmas Eve snacks, a tradition we’ve carried over from my parents. Every Christmas Eve, we eat all kinds of little snacks, like hors d’oerves, cookies, you get the picture. This week on the way to school, we’ve been listening off and on to Michael W. Smith’s (my all-time favorite singer) Christmas album. I wish everyday was Christmas day.

2,000 years ago, hope dawned on humanity when a little baby was born in Bethlehem, bursting through the darkness. As the light of the world was born, hope and life began to shine down on the world. Just like this morning with the sun rising and the fog fading, Jesus came in to the world as a light for the nations. Of course, we recognize his birth on Christmas Day. Like the fog fading away and the sky becoming completely clear, Jesus, when born in our life, washes away the fog and gives us hope for everyday, for every moment, for all of our life.

So, for me, everyday is like Christmas as I’m constantly reminded of the birth of Christ in me. Today, Christ will be born in people’s hearts all over the world, just as He was born in Bethlehem, just as He was born in my life, bursting through the darkness. Today is Christmas. Tomorrow is Christmas. Everyday is Christmas.

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.   John 1:4-5

 Christmas Day – Michael W. Smith with Mandisa

I’d Rather Have Jesus – Crabb Family

Good Sunday morning. There are lots of things that vie for our attention and there are lots of things in life that we seek after, hoping to be satisfied by them. We look for that satisfaction in money and material things, in success, in power, in relationships. Many times, we long for the applause and adulation that people give.

Philippians 3:7-11 reads, “But those things which were profit to me, I gave up for Christ. Yes truly, and I am ready to give up all things for the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, which is more than all: for whom I have undergone the loss of all things, and to me they are less than nothing, so that I may have Christ as my reward, and be seen in him, not having my righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may have knowledge of him, and of the power of his coming back from the dead, and a part with him in his pains, becoming like him in his death; If in any way I may have the reward of life from the dead.”  (Bible in Basic English)

I think we all have a “satisfaction center” in our minds and hearts that longs to be completely filled and satisfied. That is why we constantly search for something to make us happy. When we don’t find it, we try to find something else to fill it. For me, the only thing I’ve found that truly satisfies is Jesus Christ.

You can read more about the history of this great hymn here.  I hope you enjoy the Crab Family’s version of Rhea F. Miller’s song made famous by George Beverly Shea.

Trusting God – Proverbs 3:5,6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5,6 (NIV)

One of the hardest things for me is trying to understand things and life.  My wife would agree that I do not understand most of what she says.  Really, she’d argue that it’s more a listening problem than a comprehension issue.  But I do struggle with understanding and trusting God sometimes.  It doesn’t come natural.  So many times, I’d rather be able to completely understand a situation and fully define it.  I like to have problems solved.  I feel more comfortable that way.

That’s a human characteristic and part of our nature that dates way back.  It is great to study and learn and try to figure out why and how things work.  That’s what we do in science and all its fields.  But there are some things we’ll never figure out.  The psalmist must have known that when he wrote these words.  Now, thousands of years later, they still have meaning.

When we lean on our own limited understanding, doubt starts to creep in.  We can’t figure out the why’s and how’s and it causes us to struggle.  Sometimes we worry and fret so much about figuring things out that we lose sight of where we are and where we’re going – we can’t find the way, it seems.

Following God means trusting Him.  Trusting that He is in control.  Trusting that He knows what we feel and what we think.  Trusting that He is so much bigger than ourselves. 

One of the most difficult times in my life happened a few years ago when I left work as a missionary to return to the United States.  This verse became very encouraging to me as I began to really trust God and not figure things out myself.  One particular night, after giving an email notification of my intentions,  I was praying that God would just affirm our family’s decision.  I didn’t know it then, but during the same time, I received an email from someone that I hadn’t seen or talked to in about eight years.  Ultimately, it led to where I live now and what I do now as I walked in the steps that God put before me, one after the other.  It has been an exciting and fulfilling time.

For me, it came down to trusting God, acknowledging Him and believing He would direct my path.  That’s exactly what He did and the way things have worked out for me have been better than I had imagined.  It’s hard to trust, but as we do and as we see God work in our lives, it becomes easier and easier to follow Him.