Extending Grace to Others

Is there someone to whom you need to show mercy, who perhaps doesn’t deserve it? Why not show this person that mercy, no matter how hard that might be to do? Isn’t that what Jesus has done for us?

After running from God, Jonah had given up on life, and told the men on the boat in the storm to throw him overboard. However God’s grace provided a fish to save his life! God’s grace never gives up on us, even when we give up on ourselves.

On December 2, 1979 Elvita Adams woke up in the Bronx, and decided she had given up on life. She went to the Empire State Building, and went to the 86th floor observation deck and jumped! She was in midair and had nothing to hold on to, but God’s grace was holding on to her! A gust of wind came and threw her inside the 85th floor. She had a full and complete physical and emotional recovery.

When God’s grace miraculously saves us, it usually creates in us a graceful attitude towards others, but not for Jonah. Instead of praising God for His amazing grace Jonah is angry that God is graceful.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Jonah 4:1-2 NKJV

Apparently Jonah did not appreciate the fact that the same grace that saved Nineveh was the same grace that provided a fish to save him. Jonah was given grace, but he did not extend that grace on to others, like Paul, who wrote,

But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16 NLT

Jonah had a wonderful opportunity to go to Nineveh and use himself as an example of what God’s grace can do for the worst of sinners, so they could believe and have eternal life too. Thankfully God’s amazing grace worked in spite of Jonah to save Nineveh instead of because of Jonah.

I heard an old-time Adventist preacher once say that God will finish His work in spite of the church, not because of the church. Let’s not be stingy with God’s grace and force Him to finish the work in spite of us. Let’s extend the grace we have received to others, so God can save others through us instead of in spite of us.

Better Promises Make A Better Covenant

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The story goes of a man who got a job chopping down trees. The first day his foreman noticed he had chopped down only ten trees while the other men had cut down a hundred or so. “Oh well,” thought the foreman, “it was his first day,” But the next couple days went the same way, so the foreman decided to have a talk with the new worker. “I am sure you have noticed you are not chopping down nearly as many trees as the others are” the foreman began. “Yes I know sir, but I am having trouble with this saw you gave me,” said the new worker. The foreman took a look at the saw and pulled the cord to start the motor. The buzz of the motor on the saw scared the new worker, and he jumped back shouting, “What is that sound?”

The new worker did not realize he was not expected chop down a hundred trees in his own power. He did not realize what power was available to him. It’s the same way with us.

Many people shirk at keeping the law, thinking it is an impossibility, not realizing they were never expected to keep it in their own power, and like the power saw, there is plenty of power available. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it.  But when God found fault with the people, he said:

“The day is coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:7-10

There are those who would have us believe that the Ten Commandments were done away with because God realized they were unreasonable and could not be obeyed. However that is not the case.

Psalms 19:7 KJV says,

 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.

A legend tells about a huge ship that spotted a light off in the distant fog and radioed the source of the light telling it to change its course 15 degrees to avoid a collision. The source of the light radioed back that the ship needed to change its course instead. The arrogant sea captain once again demanded the other vessel change its course instead, only to find out the source of the light was not coming from a vessel but from a lighthouse.

So it is in life. Many people want the law to be changed just like the ship wanted the lighthouse to change, but lighthouses don’t move out of the way and neither does the law. The law is perfect. The law does not need to change.

That the law which was spoken by God’s own voice is faulty, that some specification has been set aside, is the claim which Satan now puts forward. It is the last great deception that he will bring upon the world. He needs not to assail the whole law; if he can lead men to disregard one precept, his purpose is gained. For “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10. By consenting to break one precept, men are brought under Satan’s power. By substituting human law for God’s law, Satan will seek to control the world. This work is foretold in prophecy. Of the great apostate power which is the representative of Satan, it is declared, “He shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand.” Daniel 7:25-Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 763

No, the law is not faulty. Hebrews 8:8 NLT says the fault was not with the law but with the people. So why would God change the law when the law was not the problem?

The fault of the people was in trying to keep the law in their own power. God made a covenant with the people, and instead of them asking for God’s help they eagerly replied,

“We will do everything the Lord has commanded.” Exodus 19:8 NLT

God knew this was never going to work from the get-go.

He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 172

God never intended for man to keep the law on His own. This is why God says in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:33 NLT,

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

You see, the old covenant was not called old because it was the first covenant. It was called old because it was a useless covenant that God never asked them to make. He never asked Abraham to have a son on his own. He never asked us to keep the commandments on our own. This is what Paul is talking about inHebrews 8:6 NLT when He says the new covenant is, “based on better promises.”

In the first covenant the people in Exodus 19:8 were the ones making promises God never asked them to make. I don’t need to tell you how worthless man’s promises are. The new covenant is based on better promises because they are God’s promises!

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:4 NLT

The law was never the problem. The problem was the people and their worthless promises. Even in the Old Testament we find the new and better covenant when Abraham becomes the father of Isaac, based on God’s promise. We find the new and better covenant based on better promises in Jeremiah 31:33 when God is promising to write and establish the perfect law in the hearts of men, not by their own power and promises, but by His power and promises.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 21 (Beyond the Manger, Jesus’ Giving)

I am writing tonight from beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida.

I am writing tonight from beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida.

When I was in the 3rd and 4th grades at Tulsa Adventist Academy, we had our classes in the church building as the school was being remodeled, including the cafeteria. For those two years we had to bring our own lunch to school each day as there were no warm lunches. Occasionally, one of my classmates would forget their lunch. When this happened, the rest of us would share a portion of our lunch, maybe an apple or two, and part of a sandwich and some chips, so that with our combined offerings, they would have a complete lunch. However, I don’t remember any of us giving all of our lunch away, but look at what Jesus did, as a child growing up with his step brothers, when he found someone without a lunch.

Jesus sought out these very ones, and spoke to them words of encouragement. To those who were in need He would give a cup of cold water, and would quietly place His own meal in their hands. As He relieved their sufferings, the truths He taught were associated with His acts of mercy, and were thus riveted in the memory. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 87

Jesus gave all, and because of His acts of mercy people listened to what He taught. His acts of mercy gave to merit to what He taught. Later in His life it was said of Jesus,

“No man ever spoke like this Man!” John 7:46 NKJV 

The reason that Christ spoke as no other man spoke was that He lived as no other man lived. If He had not lived as He did, He could not have spoken as He did. His words bore with them convincing power, because they came from a heart pure and holy, burdened with love and sympathy, beneficence and truth. . . .Ellen White, Heavenly Places, Page 237

Are your teachings accompanied  by acts of mercy and sympathy?

Crime and Punishment

Clear Water 1

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong. Ecclesiastes 8:11 NLT

Several years ago I was studying with a family and the wife’s father was in the hospital. I went to see him, and arrived literally moments after he had passed away. The family asked me to join them in the family room as they met with doctors. A son said he probably would not have died if they would not have let him add that room onto the house. That extra work is what did him in. The daughter suggested he would still be alive if they had gotten him to his current hospital before taking him to the closer, smaller hospital. Everyone chimed in with their explanations on why the elderly gentleman had just passed away. As they talked, I listened quietly, while I thought to myself, he died because the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23

Satan works with us over a lifetime, getting us to compromise here and there, and disobey. Time goes by, and we think we are getting away with sin. Then at the end of the line, sin brings us to the grave, which is the reward of sin, and Satan says, “thank you for playing my game.”

While Hosea is chock- full of pleas of mercy from God, and forgiveness for transgressions, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that sin does not have consequences, even when there is forgiveness and redemption. We do not want to use fear as a motivation for obedience, because we rightfully want to focus on God’s love and mercy. We don’t obey for rewards or to avoid punishment. We obey because we love Jesus. That being said, I will never forget hearing a preacher on the radio telling everyone, “God may be loving, merciful, and forgiving, but Hell will still be hot!”

I don’t know that I would use his exact same approach, but he was right! Satan’s lie in the garden, “you shall not surely die” was more than about spiritualism. He was also insinuating there would be no dire consequences for sin. Today, as we stand over the grave of a loved one, we realize Satan is a liar. Even the repentant thief, who asked to be remembered in Christ’s kingdom, accepted his death as his just due. This is one sign that his repentance we genuine. He did not make any pleas for Jesus to deliver him from the consequences of his sin. The repentant thief was sorry for his sin, and not just the consequences. Even though forgiven and promised eternal life, he still had to pay the consequences.

People point to David, and say “look at what David did, and God still forgave Him.” True. God did forgive David, and He will indeed forgive us. Still, there are two lessons we can take from David’s sin and repentance.

  1. Even though David was forgiven, he still had to reap the consequences of his son dying, and also the influence it reaped on the rest of the family. One son committing rape, and another committing murder. Not exactly the legacy God wanted His nation’s first family to be passing along. Even though David was forgiven, it would have been far better had he never made those choices.

Even so, David’s repentance was sincere, in that He did not lament the personal consequences of his sin, but rather that He broke God’s heart.

“Against you, and you alone have I sinned.”   Psalms 51:4 NLT

2.The good news is we don’t see David going back and making the same mistakes over and over.

While Israel kept falling back into apostasy we don’t see David making the same mistake, possibly because unlike Israel as a nation kept making promises and resolutions they could not keep, David instead, clings to God’s promises.

Instead of promising God He would be pure He asks God to purify him.

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalms 51:8 NLT

Instead of trying to rehabilitate himself, David asks God to just recreate his heart.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Psalms 51:10 NLT

Hosea, and the rest of the Bible teach us there is a God who forgives and saves us. He loves us unconditionally. Still, let’s not lull ourselves into a false sense of security, like those Solomon talks about in Ecclesiastes 8:11, who think because sin is not quickly punished that there are no real consequences.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on Hosea here.

Glimpses of Grace: Mercy

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Titus 3:5.
When Satan tells you that you are a sinner, and cannot hope to receive blessing from God, tell him that Christ came into the world to save sinners. We have nothing to recommend us to God; but the plea that we may urge now and ever is our utterly helpless condition that makes His redeeming power a necessity. Renouncing all self-dependence, we may look to the cross of Calvary and say, “In my hand no price I bring;  Simply to Thy cross I cling.” – {The Desire of Ages  – page 317}

I would like to invite you to experience this grace at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the Tampa Bay area you  may find a grace filled church in your part of the world here.

Glimpses of Grace; Far As The East Is From The West

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.  Psalms 103:10-12

Notice the Psalmist did not say as far as the north is from the south, but as far as the east is from the west. If you go north, eventually you will cross the north pole and then be head south, but if you go east, you can go east forever and never be headed west. So the Psalmist chose east and west instead of north and south to show how far our loving Savior wants to separate us from the record of our sins.

What Sin?

It happened so long ago And I cried out for mercy back then

 I plead the blood of Jesus Begged him to forgive my sin

 But I still can’t forget it It just won’t go away So I wept again, “Lord wash my sin,”

 

But this is all He’d say

 

What sin, what sin? That’s as far away As the east is from the west

What sin, what sin? It was gone the very minute you confessed

Buried in the sea of forgetfulness


The heaviest thing you’ll carry Is a load of guilt and shame

 You were never meant to bear them So let them go in Jesus’ name

 Our God is slow to anger Quick to forgive our sin

So let Him put them under the blood Don’t bring them up again

 -Morgan Cryar

Romans 9; Predistination

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Some people try to twist Romans 9 into saying that God predestines some people to be lost, when in reality, the only predestination the book of Romans teaches, is for all to be saved. See Romans 8:29. When you read Romans 9 in its context, you see that God is defending His right to save people even though they deserve death. He is defending His right to be merciful. When you study this in the context of the entire book of Romans, this becomes even more clear.

 

It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.  Romans 9:12-13 

Some people use this verse to teach pre-destination, saying that God had already decided before Esau was born that he would not be saved. God says that He hated Esau, right? Before we jump to conclusions lets see how Jesus uses the word “hate.” In Luke 14:26, Jesus says, “If any [man] come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

Of course Jesus does not want us to hate our families as we think of the word “hate.” All He is saying is we must prefer Jesus above our families. So in Romans 9:13 when God says, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau have I hated” all He is saying is, I preferred Jacob to have the birthright rather than Esau. This is very clear as verse 12 tells us that “the elder shall serve the younger.”  The context is very clearly about the birthright and not Esau or Jacob’s personal salvation.

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.  For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Romans 9:15-19

  

Many take the quote, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” as God defending His right not to be merciful to some people. However it is a direct quote from Exodus 33:19 where Moses is asking for a special favor to see God’s glory. The question is not one of personal salvation, but rather God defending His right to give Moses the favor he requested and receive God’s mercy in seeing His glory. By showing mercy and compassion on whomever He wants, God is not defending His right to not be good to people but rather the exact opposite, which is His right to be good to people who don’t even deserve it. If you think about it, God would not have to defend His right to not be good to people as no one deserves that right in the first place.

  

Did God give Pharaoh a rebellious heart? Not at all! God did not make Pharaoh to be rebellious just to accomplish His own purpose. God was actually preserving his life through all of the plagues. God simply preserved his life even though he deserved to be destroyed and accomplished His purposes.

  

God did not actually harden Pharaoh’s heart, but rather accepts responsibility for what He did not prevent. Exodus 8:15 says, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.”  And again in verse 32 of the same chapter we read, “And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.”So we clearly see that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and God takes responsibility for what He allows or does not prevent, since He gives us all a free choice.   While some people allow God’s goodness to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4) others take advantage of God’s goodness to continue in sin and rebellion (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Thus because of people’s own choices they are softened or hardened by God’s goodness. The same sun that melts butter hardens clay. You have a choice. You can let God’s love melt your heart or you can harden yourself by resisting that love. The choice is yours.