Tag Archives: grace

Apple Pie and Amazing Grace: Doing Better than I Deserve

The Question

It came from Africa.

No, it wasn’t an animal trying to eat me, or a disease for which no one has a cure (which is more scary). It was a question, one asked by a Facebook friend in Uganda.

Pastor Ndahayo Shine asked: “How are you?”

imageHow am I? How does an American answer that question? I mean, seriously? What do I have to complain about?

Honestly, at the very moment Pastor Shine’s question popped up on Facebook Messenger I was eating a warmed-up piece of apple pie (as American as it gets).

Pie, I tell you!

I’m eating pie, and I get a question regarding how I’m doing from a man in Uganda. Africa! The place where famines kill more people than the NRA is blamed for!

So, I replied with the following answer:

“I am alive, not hungry, and not hurting. I have a roof over my head, a car in the driveway, and children who love me. My wife is faithful, the police are not after me, and the dog hasn’t chewed anything important in a long, long time. I guess you could say I’m doing better than I deserve.”

Am I Blessed?

So many times we answer questions like “How are you doing?” with things like, “I’m fine,” or “I’m blessed.” However, to be honest – which I try to be most of the time – I’d rather admit to being “fine” than “blessed.”

Why is that? 

Saying that I’m blessed has a sneaky way of implying that those in other places – like Africa – are NOT blessed, at least not as much as me. I mean, what does it say about Christianity and the character of God when those who are “abundantly blessed” are the ones who rarely feel the need to trust God for their next meal? What I own or what’s parked in my driveway is not a mark of spirituality, nor should it insinuate I’ve lived a life more worthy of blessing than my brothers and sisters living in poverty.

If I am blessed at all, it’s not because of anything I’ve done or deserve; I am simply the recipient of God’s grace. I have been allowed, according to God’s sovereignty, to live in a country where leftover pie in a functioning refrigerator is commonplace.

Jesus made it pretty clear who the “blessed” really are. They are the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers (Matthew 5:3-9). And if that’s not enough, “…Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord…” (Revelation 14:13).

What I Don’t Deserve

While saying “fine,” I’d bet the temptation to answer the question “How are you doing?” with complaints is almost overwhelming for most. Oh, admit it – you say you’re “fine” because you don’t think the person asking is really that interested in hearing your list of ailments, worries, and irritations.

You probably answer with “fine” because you don’t want to sound like a cry baby or a hypochondriac, right? Because, admit it, you feel you deserve better than what you have; you don’t really feel “blessed,” do you?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t deserve anything but hell. Yet, for some reason God has allowed me to be the recipient of many good things which I don’t deserve, even if I have worked for a lot of it.

I don’t deserve a faithful wife, loving children, and a devoted dog. I don’t deserve to be a pastor, have a regular income, or be respected in my community.

I don’t deserve electric appliances that make life easier or the home in which I live. I certainly don’t deserve the freedom to come and go as I please without having to rely on public transportation or worry about being stopped by thugs demanding to search my car.

How am I doing? What can I say? I just ate pie…because it was there…and I wasn’t even hungry! If I’m blessed, it’s abundantly above and beyond what I need.

God is good, but His grace is Amazing! 

 

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under America, Christian Living, Life Lessons, Thanksgiving

Do You Have Hope Without Jesus?

In Acts 16:30 the Philippian jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?

“Forgiven” by Thomas Blackshear

William MacDonald wrote the following comment in his commentary:

“This question must precede every genuine case of conversion. A man must know he is lost before he can be saved. It is premature to tell a man how to be saved until first he can say from his heart, I truly deserve to go to hell…Many people today seem to have difficulty knowing what it means to believe. However, when a sinner realizes he is lost, helpless, hopeless, hell-bound, and when he is told to believe on Christ as Lord and Savior, he knows exactly what it means. It is the only thing left that he can do!” (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer’s Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or Logos)

Do you have hope without Jesus? Then you’re without hope. Simply hopeless.

And that breaks my heart.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” – Acts 16:31


If you would like to talk with someone, there is a phone line open 24 hours a day. Call 1-800-NEED-HIM (1-800-633-3446). Someone will be happy to show you how to be sure you have eternal life. Don’t wait.

2 Comments

Filed under Christianity, salvation

Let’s Get Controversial…Where Do the Babies Go?

Hanging Out

Right now I am sitting in the office of the Ringgold Wedding Chapel, just hanging out, so to speak.

I’m here, today, to officiate 3 weddings, but in one wedding that is about to take place the family brought their own minister.

I don’t feel like going and watching a wedding just for the fun of it, and I don’t want to sneak over and steal any food from the reception hall while the bride and groom are otherwise distracted. So, like I said, I’m just hanging out for a little while.

What a perfect time to stir up a theological stink, right?

Babies

We should be thanking God for the surging tide of pro-life sentiment sweeping much of our nation right now! I firmly believe that the killing of infants in the womb is murder, for I believe that each and every fetus is an actual human being, regardless whether or not they vote for Republicans or Democrats.

But all this talk about abortion, the right to life, and millions of babies has brought back to mind a conversation I read years ago on a Calvinistic website (Monergism.com). It was just one of several “conversations” that eventually pushed me from Calvinism and helped define my theological stance as that of “provisionist”

The conversation was between two pastors and the subject was the funeral for an infant.

The first pastor discussed how challenging it had been to preach the funeral for a child, just a baby of less than a year old. He went on to say that the only thing he could do to help the grieving parents cope with the loss was to reassure them that one day, some day, they would be reunited with their child in heaven (since both parents were believers).

The second pastor, however, brutally chastised the first pastor for giving the parents of the dead child a false hope! Yes, he rebuked the first pastor for telling the parents they would one day see their child again because – now get this – he had no way of knowing if the deceased baby was “one of the elect.”

The second pastor said a better thing to have told the parents would have been the truth…that if the baby had been one of the “elect” they would see him again, but there’s no way to know till we get to heaven.

I still remember the burning indignation that welled up within me as I read that. With my face flush, I hammered out on the keyboard something akin to the following: “If I had been one of those parents, and you had told me that about my child, I would have given you the opportunity to go see where my baby went.”

Where Do They Go?

But, let’s be honest, what else is the reasonable conclusion to the Calvinist position on this subject? Are all babies who die too early to have accepted Christ (including those murdered in the womb) members of the “elect,” or is there the possibility that some were predestined to salvation and others were predestined to damnation? Even though some of you Calvinist friends of mine might not believe in “double predestination,” what is your answer to this?

Are we going to accept the proposition that God, the one who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” is the same God who would, for His own pleasure, doom any number of consciousless infants to an eternity in hell? Is that EVEN a possibility within your theological systematic?

You may use the comment section to calmly and kindly discuss. 

15 Comments

Filed under Abortion

What’s the Difference In Tears?

Without God, tears are spilt; with God, no tear is wasted.

That’s the difference.

2 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Faith, Life Lessons, wisdom, worship

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

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