Category Archives: grace

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)

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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!

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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

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

I Will Praise Him! Will You?

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m about to go to church. I’m looking forward to preaching about Jesus.

I’m on this computer, however, just to share this song.

I am literally wiping the tears away from my eyes…the keyboard and screen are blurry.

The following song by Mountain Faith Band is one of my very most favorites…because it is my life…and every REAL Christian should understand its message.

I’m so unworthy, but I’m so thankful for God’s mercy and grace!

 

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Filed under Church, Faith, God, grace, Love of God, salvation, worship

Things to Do In 2019: More Mercy, Compassion, and Grace

I Broke the Law

Oh, I know what you’re probably thinking. Being that I am a Christian, a preacher, and “the recovering legalist,” by breaking the law you think I’m referring to something of a spiritual or biblical nature, like eating pork, or smoking a cigar.

No, I literally broke the law! Like as in a statute recorded in a City Hall – the kind for which a police officer can arrest someone.

What did I do?

Well, this morning I drove my daughter Katie to where she is student teaching in Dayton, Tennessee. She directed me off the main highway and through a part of the town where I rarely visited.

As I came to a 4-way intersection, I looked all over for a stop sign, then up for a traffic light, but I saw nothing (which I thought was odd), so I proceeded cautiously, looking to my left, then right.

That’s when I saw the bright red light. I had just run a red light! I’m a professional driver – I don’t do that kind of thing!

And when you’re in a little 2-horse town, that’s NOT a good thing to do, especially when there’s a budget crunch!

So, why didn’t I see the light? It wasn’t where I expected it to be – nowhere close. It was on the other side of the intersection, about 6-ft off the ground. I just didn’t see it until I crossed the intersection and there it was on my right, shining at me through the passenger-side window.

Breaking Our Laws

Thankfully, there was not a police car anywhere close. I can only hope there were no traffic cameras, or else I’m going to have to pay a fine, for I did, in fact, break a law, and ignorance is no excuse.

But how often do people break OUR laws? And by that I mean the kind of regulations and legalistic standards we all have; the kind that lead us to judge others’ spirituality based on how they dress, the tattoos on their face, or what’s in their glass at the restaurant.

Even when our standards of conduct and demeanor are biblically justified, what if the other person just missed the light at the intersection? What if they never read that verse?

When you have the time, I would encourage you to read or re-read the whole chapter of Romans 14.

If the truth be known, much of the time we find ourselves judging others based on OUR laws and regulations, not the ones the Lawgiver has written. So, in reality, who are we to hold them accountable? It’s not our job.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. – Romans 14:4 ESV

This year I want to criticize less, be less judgmental, and show a little more mercy, compassion, and grace.

I know that’s what I would have wanted when I ran that red light.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christianity, Do not judge, grace, legalism

Who Was that Young Man?

I saw a picture of a younger me and wondered what ever happened to him.

Oh, I know what happened to him! He learned what it was like to fall flat on his face, fracture every thing worth treasuring, and fail in his efforts to fix it all with God.

In short, he learned the hard way what Grace was all about.

I’m glad he did.

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Qualifications for a Pastor (and a reminder for the rest of you)

There are places in the Bible where the Apostle Paul describes the qualifications necessary to be a pastor (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9).

But there are some additional characteristics I think every pastor should have if he wishes to survive until the next Easter service or deacons’ meeting… and believe me, I speak from experience.

This photo was taken at a bi-vocational pastor and wives retreat. These men were gathering around a fellow pastor who’s son who was a drug addict and missing.

Among other things, a pastor should have a thick skin, a broken heart, a humble spirit, and a hope that rests in the fact that Grace is there to pick up the pieces.

As for you, the congregations they lead, be reminded that the only perfect Shepherd was Jesus; the rest are human.

Pray that the light of Jesus will shine through the cracked vessel which is your pastor.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Faith, grace, ministry, Prayer, Preaching

God Did Not Create Another God

Would you take a moment and consider something?

When God created man, He didn’t create another God.

You might think that’s nothing new, but it is a very, very important truth – one that is rarely unpacked when discussing issues of sin and suffering.

There are people who wonder why God, if He exists and is so powerful and wise, created a free agent who could sin (break God’s law).

Others question why Scripture would suggest that Jesus was slain before the foundations of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20).

The answer to these questions and many more is that God did not create another God, only man.

God has certain characteristics that Man could never have simply because he was created. The most obvious are that he is not eternal, omnipotent, immutable, or omniscient. The most important is that Man, no matter how perfect he was at the moment of creation, was not holy as God is Holy.

If God were to create another like unto Himself, then God would not be God. If Man could be created, he couldn’t be eternal.

No matter what God created, His creation could never be Himself, and therefore not God.

God is eternally immutable, unchanging, therefore He cannot sin. On the other hand, Man is not eternal, nor immutable, so even from the beginning of creation, he had the potential, however remote, to sin. Therefore, even though God did not create sin, nor did He cause Adam to sin, sin was inevitable simply because God created a creature that was not Himself.

Why was it part of God’s plan that Jesus would be crucified, even before Adam even sinned? Because simply creating Man brought with it the inevitable possibility, the inevitable reality, that he would need to be redeemed – because he is Man, not God.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:9-10 KJV

Simply put, the only way sin could have been avoided would have been for God to never create any being capable of freely communing with Him. If he had created a robot, a machine, then sin would not have been inevitable. But since Adam was given the freedom to choose, a will, and since he was not God, the inevitable required an Emmanuel.

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Filed under Christianity, God, grace, Jesus, salvation

Nine Years of Blogging

I Missed It

It is now September 5, and the only thing truly special about this day is that I’m writing this post while in a waiting room – a dreary one at that. My wife is having a scope done of her esophagus, and so I have nothing else to do but wait…I’ve already prayed, so I’ll write.

Anyway, I missed my WordPress anniversary on the 27th! 9 years ago last week I wrote my first blog post, and I still have those same Crocs! I have, however, retired them.

I Mused It

Looking back over the years, I’ve used this blog to share a lot of my thoughts about different things. Some of those things were current events which are no longer relevant, while others were topic of interest which will continue to be discussed – if not reposted.

But I’ve also used this blog to formulate my thoughts. I’ve used it as a test bed for my ideas, in the preparation of sermons, and as a way to hone my speech before it’s spoken.

Overall, blogging has probably helped me more than anyone else.

I Misused It

Right now I’m reading Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. If you haven’t read it, you should; the practical wisdom is invaluable.

In the first chapter Carnegie addresses the dangers of being critical of others and cites multiple examples. Towards the end of the chapter he says:

“If you and I want to stir up resentment tomorrow that may rankle across the decades and endure until death, just let us indulge in a little stinging criticism – no matter how certain we are that it is justified.”

Even though I’ve been convinced I was right, I may have been too critical of others at times, priding myself on the “stinging” part. Granted, much of that would have appeared while debating within the comment sections, but I’m sure I could have been more gracious at times. I apologize.

I’ll Make It

So, now that I’m into my tenth year of blogging, I look forward to writing even more about subjects that interest me and may interest others. In doing so, I hope that my transparency will not hurt my own reputation, but encourage others in their own walk of faith with grace.

Life is tough at times. Like I’ve mentioned before, I know full well the dangers of depression and an outlook that forgets Who is in control. Maybe more posts in the future will help others see and understand how good and faithful our God is. Maybe they’ll be less critical, less controversial, and more encouraging as the days get darker.

Sure, some things will have to be addressed or I’ll just explode – like how now that the mayor of Chicago and a black preacher at Aretha Franklin’s funeral said what needed to be said, but the culture is too far gone to accept it…and who’s fault is that? But, when all is said and done, the command of Philippians 4:8 must rule the day – we must think on those things.

In the end, Lord willing, I’ll make it safe and sound of mine to our 10th anniversary at The Recovering Legalist. If you’ll stick with me we’ll make it a celebration to remember!

Thank you for your friendships!

Anthony

PS, My wife is not yet out of surgery, and this waiting room is sadly depressing. No coffee!

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Filed under blogging, Faith, Future, grace, Struggles and Trials, writing

The Magnificent Fifty: Foundation of Faith (Maine)

Augusta, Maine (Artist: Susan Cassidy Wilhoit)

Constitution Preamble (1820)

We the people of Maine acknowledge with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity… and imploring God’s aid and direction in its accomplishments.


I wonder if the current leadership of Maine has a grateful heart toward the Sovereign God, Ruler of the Universe? I wonder if they implore “God’s aid and direction” in their government? It’s something we should all be asking ourselves…”We the people…”

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Filed under America, Apologetics, Culture Wars, God, grace, The Magnificent Fifty