Category Archives: grace

Still Unashamed Of the Cross

This Sunday morning I will be taking a break from my regular sermon series and will preach from the following passage:

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; – 1 Corinthians 1:23 

The key point of the sermon will be centered around the word “crucified.” Maybe I’ll, write about it in the future.

But below is something that came to mind as I was thinking of the Cross. It’s a post I wrote last year. And I’m STILL unashamed!


Back in 2014, during the semifinals of The Voice, “Team Blake” member Craig Wayne Boyd cranked out a fantastic rendition of the classic hymn “The Old Rugged Cross.” Many people – including those who call themselves “Christian” – were shocked. Why did a singer choose to sing this hymn on a national stage – in a competition? I mean, the cross? Really? What was this guy thinking?

Maybe, just maybe, Craig Boyd was letting the world know where he’d lay that crown, should he win it.

You see, it was on the cross of Calvary that the “Dearest and Best” was slain. It was on this cross that the “ordinances against us” were nailed (Col. 2:14). It was on this cross that our Savior promised that if He be lifted up, He would draw all men unto himself. It was on this cross where Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Without the cross, grace would be a non-issue and the Law would still be my master. Without the cross, Easter would be irrelevant. Without the cross, we’d never been able to witness the most powerful manifestation of love (1 John 4:9-10)the world would ever see.

It was on that old, rugged, blood-stained cross that Jesus paid the penalty for my sin. It was the crossroad of judgment and mercy where the Lamb of God humbled Himself (Phil. 2:8) and purchased my reconciliation with God (Eph. 2:16).

So, why cherish the cross? Because it was and is proof positive that even before I knew Him, even when I was steeped in sin, God loved me enough to die in my stead.

It’s shame and reproach I’ll gladly bear.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Easter, Faith, God, grace, Love of God, worship

A Reflection, Nonetheless

Real preachers can be distinguished from the rest of humanity by one almost-universal characteristic:

They are always on the lookout for illustrations.

In other words, when a normal, average citizen of earth sees something…anything…his or her immediate response is rarely to make a connection from that thing to some biblical truth. Such were the responses I got when I showed the attached picture to several non-preachers last night.

I’m going to show you a picture,” I said, “and I want you to tell me what you think when you see it.” The immediate responses were skeptical looks that assumed I was trying to trick them. But when they realized it was an honest question, they gave me honest answers.

“Uhhh, a star?” 

“Ummm, I don’t know. Is that a wheel?” 

“I don’t know.” 

“Oh, that’s pretty. Interesting. What’s it supposed to be?” 

Their answers were typical, even though I’d hoped for better. But then again, they rarely alliterate points, read theology journals for fun, or know how to pronounce propitiation. They saw what was there, what was natural, what anybody other than a preacher would see.

But what did this preacher see?

Well, let’s start with what happened, first. I was getting ready to leave for a doctor’s appointment yesterday morning. As I stepped off the back porch and walked up to the door of our Sienna, I noticed the star-like reflection of morning sunlight on the asphalt. I had never seen a reflection like that before, so it captivated me.

No more than a second or two later, I considered how amazing it was that light from the sun was reflecting off that unwashed, brake dust-covered aluminum wheel. I mean, the van needs to be washed, and here there was such a beautiful reflection staring up at me. How could this be?

One would think the wheel would have needed to be perfectly clean, like an aluminum mirror, to reflect the light of the sun, right?

Wrong.

BOOM! I saw an illustration!

Name one of the Disciples/Apostles who were faultless. Go look at the the judges God used to deliver His people in the book of Judges…were they flawless? What about the book of Genesis? The Patriarchs were the poster children of dysfunctional human beings! Yet, simply because they were obedient to the call, God used them to project His glory to a darkened world.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got issues. I’m not perfectly polished and showroom quality. Yet, as long as I’m looking at the Son, allowing His light to shine upon me, then there’s going to be a reflection of His light.

I won’t be a perfect reflection…it might not be as bright or distinct as it could be…but it will be a reflection, nonetheless.

You see, it’s not about us; it’s about Jesus. Even when we are dusty from constantly driving through this world, God still wants to use us to reflect His light into the darkness, even if the light is dimmer and the image isn’t as distinct as it could be. All we need to do is be looking at Him.

I know this is true, because, the first thing I noticed wasn’t the wheel…

I saw the light. 

 

8 Comments

Filed under General Observations, grace, Life Lessons, Preaching

It’s a Reality Show In the Making

Folks, I’m just going to shoot straight with you this Saturday morning. I only have a short amount of time to write this, so I’m just going to type it, post it, and not worry about the aesthetics.

Like the title of this post says, our life is like a dad gum reality show in the making. I don’t know who would sponsor it, and I don’t know who would watch it, but there’s more that happens to us in any given week than ever takes place on a TV reality show. The DRAMA! The TRAGEDY! The COMEDY!

The only problem is that what happens in our family, should it be made into a reality TV program, would be considered made-up, fake, or overblown just to get ratings. In other words, no one would believe it.

You may be reading this with a little smirk, thinking to yourself, “Yeah, right. It couldn’t be THAT bad, Anthony. Everybody’s got their issues.” Maybe, but consider what has happened in just the last couple of weeks.

  • After 14 months out of work (except for the occasional insurance commission), I finally got through all the red tape of getting my CDL (Commercial Drivers License) back in order to drive a school bus – that story is a book to itself. THEN, I only worked 2 days before Spring Break came – without pay.
  • Friday, the last day of Spring Break, I had a heart attack which required 4 days in the hospital and 2 stents. Now I can’t drive a school bus until I’m cleared by a cardiologist.
  • Our insurance through the Marketplace changed, so NONE of our doctors were covered – we had to find new ones. The only problem is that hardly any doctors or hospitals in our area take the new insurance! SOOOO, I’m having to wait 2 weeks to see a cardiologist.
  • The day before yesterday, in the morning, on the first day I was at home from the hospital, my mother (who stays with us) wouldn’t wake up. We had to call an ambulance. I had to take a nitro pill. She went to the hospital and didn’t wake up until 8 p.m.! We still don’t know why!
  • While at the hospital, I got a little too winded, so my wife said she would push me in a wheelchair. On the way to the van she flipped her knee scooter – the one she was riding because she had a broken bone in her foot and a fractured tibia from dropping my mother’s wheelchair arm on her foot – and fell in the hospital parking lot, doing more damage to her leg…now she’s in a full-blown cast.
  • Oh, she also broke her toe in the hospital where I was being treated. She closed the reclining chair she was sleeping on and it closed on her toe.
  • When my wife and I got the wheel chair out of the van, she pushed me (imagine how that looked) into the hospital where my mom was (they moved her from the ER to a room). As she was pushing me in, she looked down as we were going through the automatic doors. They opened outward, not inward, so she ran me right into them!

We’ve had little income, more bills than money to pay them, multiple injuries and illnesses, sermons to preach, people to visit, jobs that have been lost, arguments that have escalated, death that nearly happened, and people wondering what in the world we did to deserve all that’s been happening to us for the last 25 years.

YET… God is good, all the time.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. [We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; – 2 Corinthians 4:7-8 KJV

People look at us with wonder and ask, “How do you do it?” All I can say is that “He giveth grace.”

I don’t know why we have so much happen to us. I don’t know why it’s been so hard the last year and a half, especially. It could be that Satan is trying to attack us and defeat us. It could be that the Lord is testing us.

Either way, I will not yield ground to the Enemy by giving up. I will not surrender my faith by doubting God’s goodness, mercy, and grace. I will not give up. I’ll keep getting up. I’ll keep pressing on.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to be preaching on tomorrow morning, but I can promise you one thing: The devil won’t like it.

God bless you all, and have a great weekend!

Go to church somewhere this Sunday.

Tell the networks we are ready to talk.

18 Comments

Filed under blogging, Christian Living, Faith, General Observations, grace, Life Lessons, Life/Death, Love of God, ministry, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials

My Saturday-Morning Play List

This morning I woke up with a tune – including the lyrics – in my mind. 

The only problem is that it was a song I heard yesterday when I was channel surfing on a long drive. It was the new song by Ariana Grande, a totally degenerate ode to selfish lust at the expense of others…just because you’re bored…

Even after reading Scripture, the song (along with mental images) kept coming back. It was literally making me sick…it had to go.

So, I picked up my phone, went to YouTube, and selected the following three songs in the order you see below.

There is a logical progression to the list. I hope you enjoy it. Praise Him!

 

5 Comments

Filed under Culture Wars, grace, music, worship

Grace Doesn’t Keep a List

This morning I want to look at a verse from Proverbs. But before we do, let us read it in a couple of versions.

He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth [very] friends. – Proverbs 17:9 KJV

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. – Proverbs 17:9 NLT

Now, let’s talk about it.

Reminding 

Have you ever had someone remind you of a mistake you made years ago? If you are a husband, like me, then the answer is “Yes!

I may be running the risk of alienating many female readers, but men who are married know that mistakes made today are likely to be discussed tomorrow…and next month…and ten years from now. You see, wives are endowed by God with the uncanny ability to remember every time a man goofs up. I am convinced it’s an ability given to them to help even out the “weaker vessel” playing field.

However, I have also learned something else about wives – they know when to draw the line. If they wanted to, they could talk all day about the stupid things we men do; but they don’t. They remind us just enough to keep us humble, but not enough to break our spirits.

Most wives actually love their husbands, you know.

Repeat Reminding

Sometimes it is necessary to remind a person that is about to make a mistake what happened in the past. For instance, a true friend who might have been robbed by another friend who was drunk, or on drugs, might remind that person of his actions when he is tempted to take another drink. The reminder can be a warning designed to preserve a friendship, if not a life.

On the other hand, there are people who like to bring up the past on a regular basis. Their intentions are not to prevent anything, but to manipulate and control. That is what Solomon was talking about in today’s proverb.

The word translated repeateth is in the “active participle” tense.  So, to put it another way, the person who is losing friends is the one who is continually bringing up the past.

Gracious Love

Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.” In other words, it is hatred that keeps uncovering the pain of the past, but love heals as it covers. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything must be forgotten, for even though a bandage covers, the bandage only signifies a wound was there in the first place.

Of course, that’s what makes grace so great. Without sin there would be no need for grace; but because of sin, grace abounds. A love that is real is a love that testifies something is covered.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!

Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin!

– Julia H. Johnston (Grace Greater than Our Sin)

4 Comments

Filed under Christianity, grace

The Lie of “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”

An Old Saying

There is an old saying that has floated around for ages. Have you heard it? Have you quoted it like you were quoting the Bible? It goes like this…

“God helps those who help themselves.”

Oh, I understand the thinking behind this statement. We have always had too many people who would rather ask for handouts than work for anything. As a matter of fact, the Bible has a few things to say about those who refuse to work…

People who refuse to work are: 

  • Brothers to those who destroy (Proverbs 18:9)
  • Big dreamers, but don’t do anything (Proverbs 13:4)
  • Worse than unbelievers, or “infidels” (1 Timothy 5:8)

However, it is terribly UNBIBLICAL to suggest that “God only helps those who help themselves.” Ask yourself the following questions…

  • When Isaac was on the altar, who provided a sacrifice?
  • When the children of Israel were pinned between a blood-thirsty Egyptian army and the Red Sea, were they told to go ahead and try to swim first?
  • Before Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the furnace, were they expected to use some diplomacy and bow down just a little?
  • Before the aforementioned Jewish boys were thrown into the fiery furnace, were they expected to spit into the flames?
  • When Daniel was thrown into the den of lions, should he have smacked the lions around before God closed their mouths?
  • Did Jesus ask the crippled man to crawl a little first?
  • Did Jesus ask the blind man to go get an eye exam after trying a little saline solution?
  • Did Jesus ask for a plan from the hungry 5,000? Did He ask for an offering?
  • Did God ask Paul and Silas to first yank on their prison chains, then kick a little on the gates?
  • Did Jesus expect the demon-possessed man to watch his mouth, clean himself up, and get his act together?
  • Should Lazarus have made some effort on his part before Jesus raised him from the dead?

No, I didn’t think so! 

The Truth Is..

When the chains are unbreakable…When the disease is irreversible…When the money is unobtainable…When the marriage is unsavable…When the enemy is unstoppable…

When all hope is lost…

God helps those who CAN’T help themselves!

Help me, O LORD my God! Oh, save me according to Your mercy, That they may know that this [is] Your hand–[That] You, LORD, have done it! – Psalm 109:26-27 NKJV

In a fire? Lions ready to pounce? Bound by chains? Hungry and without hope? There is Help!

  • When I was lost, He found me!
  • When I was dead, He gave me life!
  • When I was blind, He made me see!
  • When I was an orphan, He adopted me!
  • When I was condemned, He took my place!

Thank God! He helped me when I COULDN’T help myself!

6 Comments

Filed under Christianity, grace, politics, Work

Do You Hate to Sin?

I hate it when I sin.

Some people hate to get caught, but I wasn’t caught. No one saw or heard or anything – only God.

I hate it when I sin because of the feeling it leaves, the drain on emotions, and the sense of powerlessness that leads to feelings of failure, defeat.

I hate it when I sin because I knew better! I knew better! It’s not like I didn’t know the consequences. It wasn’t like this was something I’d never before encountered. I just walked right into the sin and just committed it, just like it was the natural thing to do.

Oh, but that’s the issue, isn’t it? Nature. That battle between the redeemed and the unredeemed, the spirit and the flesh. How I look forward to the day when this tent in which I dwell is redeemed, also!

I hate it when I sin!

But you may be asking, “Aren’t you a pastor? Aren’t you supposed to be a spiritual and religious leader? How can you be talking about ‘sin’ like this? Won’t it hurt your reputation?”

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8

The Truth is in me. I’m not perfect, just forgiven.

And that’s really why I hate it when I sin; it’s because I know I’m forgiven! Yes, I’m already forgiven! I’ve been saved, justified, reborn, adopted, and have received the righteousness of Christ…and I know a little about what it took for that to happen…

“Forgiven” by Thomas Blackshear

It took the Cross! It took Calvary! It took Jesus bearing my griefs…carrying my sorrows…being stricken and smitten of God…being afflicted…being wounded for MY transgressions…being bruised for MY iniquities…accepting MY chastisement…and taking MY stripes so that I could walk away free (see Isaiah 53:4-5).

He – Jesus – did all that for me…all because of my sin…because He loves me (Romans 5:8).

But you may ask: “If you know you are already forgiven, then what keeps you from going out and sinning all you want?”

Two reasons. First, my “want to” has been changed. Second, it’s like the Apostle Paul said it: the love of Christ constraineth me (2 Corinthians 5:14). The thought of His love for me…what it took to redeem me from sin…to purchase my salvation…what He endured on that cross…the scourging He willingly accepted…it’s like ropes wrapped around me, binding me, “constraining” me.

Nevertheless, there are times when I sin. And I hate it. Romans 7:15-25 just about sums it up.

I thank God that where my sin did abound, grace…OH! What a word!…did much more abound (Romans 5:20)!

Then you may ask: “Well, if there’s more grace than there is sin to forgive, why not just keep sinning so that grace may ‘abound’ even more?”

Read Romans 6, is all I can say.

If you sin just because you can…there’s probably something major you’ve missed along the way. Maybe there’s nothing “constraining” you.

I hate it when I sin.


God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. – Psalm 51:10-13 CSB

6 Comments

Filed under Christianity, grace, Love of God, Struggles and Trials, Theology