GRACE and Miracles

(from Grace Awakening by Lead Pastor Jay Risner)

17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. 1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, 2 and he said, “I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. 3 “For You had cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me. 4 “So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ 5 “Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, Weeds were wrapped around my head. 6 “I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. 7 “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple. 8 “Those who regard vain idols Forsake their faithfulness, 9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.” 10 Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.” Jonah 1:17, 2:1-10 NASB

What differentiates between Christianity and th other world religions? C.S. Lewis said “It’s easy. It is GRACE and MIRACLES.” Because God gives us both, Jonah went from Fleeing the Lord’s Presence to Seeking the Lord’s Presence. Whenever we sin, w go through these steps to seek Him:

First, the AWAKENING – Fully realize the depths to which we have fallen. Being away from God means to ALWAYS be moving down ….. spiritual decline dulls our response to God. In verse 3, Jonah realizes that God threw him int the water by using the sailors hands. God often uses the hands of others – even the hands of unbelievers – to carry out His Plan. God’s divine wrath is like a divine flood; the sea is the equivalent of death to Jonah. In Luke 15 prodigal son “came to his senses.” What has awakened, or is awakening, our hearts to our desperate spiritual condition/situation with God?

BELIEVING comes after Awakening – verse 4 shows the consequences of our sin; the despair in looking at ourselves turns to Faith when we turn to God. [John 3 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness…..” Heb 12 “Lay aside every sin that entangles….”] Sin runs deep within us and Grace is not cheap. Belief; saving faith means acknowledging we need a substitutionary sacrifice, and that sacrifice is JESUS. Through Him we receive Grace. But what is Grace? Grace is favor to an undeserving receiver by an un-obligated giver. Colossians 1:6 God gives us salvation even when we don’t deserve it.

After Believing comes REPENTING – verse 8. Repenting does not require Faith, but Faith makes repenting possible…. When we repent, we show our gratitude through WORSHIPPING – verse 9. Thankfully, we are not required to offer sacrifices to show our repentance because Christ has covered our sins with His Blood: “Salvation is from the LORD.” God appointed the fish to swallow Jonah, and then He commands the fish to throw up Jonah. God orchestrates our lives…. look at His Grace and His Kindness.

“But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” 1 Timothy 1:8‭-‬11 NASB

Hallelujah, my sins are gone!

FAITH BIBLE CHURCH – Edmond, OK
Believe. Grow. Connect. Serve.
http://www.FaithBibleOk.com

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God Only Knows

Have you heard For King and Country perform their song God Only Knows? They’ve released a new version; a collaboration with Dolly Parton.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17‭-‬18 NASB

Life gets so heavy sometimes. Things don’t go our way. Illness and disease happen. People die. Animals die. The love we are searching for doesn’t materialize…. or it goes away. There are as many afflictions as there are people, and we don’t know what anyone else is dealing with. Two people with the exact same affliction will respond to it completely differently.

“But that person has it made….!” Really? Are you quite sure of that? Do you know what they are going through? Do you know the road they traveled to get to where they are? We need to be praying for the driver who just cut us off and shouted obscenities; for the clerk who was rude, the coworker who ignores us, who gossips. Pray blessings on the people who hurt you. God loves me in spite of the mess I’ve made of my life, and He has forgiven me of all of my sins. I need to follow that example Jesus set on the cross: “Father, forgive them….”

My afflictions are temporary. So are yours. They don’t need to control our lives.

Begin With The End In Mind

Live each day as if it were your last day on earth: Begin with the end in mind, or in view; an eternal perspective.

“I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” Luke 19:26 NASB (Read the entire parable, found in verses 11-27)

Setting the scene: previously, Jesus was talking about His kingdom coming, soon, but not immediately. The event this parable is based on took place around 4BC when Herod Archelous inherited most of Herod the Great’s kingdom. He traveled to Rome to be crowned by Caesar. Caesar named him “ethnarch”, not king. Archelous was well known to reward those who backed him and punish those who opposed him.

In this parable, Jesus is referring to himself, also, as He will go away to heaven and He will return. Then He will reward those who supported Him and punish those who oppose Him. This is about the faithfulness of what God has given us and wants us to invest. He says “do business with this; occupy or invest this while I am gone.” We need to be prepared for when Jesus returns, because we will be called to account for our lives and what we were given – and not only financially. In verse 16, the first two are prepared for their masters return: “Your mina has made….” The master (boss) didn’t say “well planned” or “well intentioned” or “well thought”, but “well done.” Anything we can do, everything we do, are little things in God’s overall view, but He will reward us in a big way. Many of us are more like the third servant, who doesn’t trust the king and doesn’t know him. He hid his mina away and didn’t even attempt to invest it, as if he were uninterested in what happens to the king’s money. He didn’t want to be bothered with the king’s belongings. Are we so involved in ourselves and our own lives that we don’t invest the King’s gift of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

The significance of this parable is that while we know Jesus has gone away, we also know He will return. NOW is the time to invest in His kingdom; we can be Gospel entrepreneurs, strengthening our spiritual portfolios. It’s important to remember this, too: We do works for the Lord, but the ONLY work, the One work that will get us to heaven is the work HE did for us on the cross.

There are two kinds of people in the world:

“He who has the Son has the Life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” 1 John 5:12 NASB

My thanks to Pastor Mark Hitchcock of Faith Bible Church of Edmond, OK for the inspiration and the ‘meat’ of this post. If you are one of the people who doesn’t know Christ; who doesn’t have Life in Him, it isn’t too late to get it. Just ask Jesus for forgiveness. He’s ready, willing, and able; just ask.

copyright Roger Coles; from https://bible.com

I Hate Her / Him

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” Matthew 5:22‭-‬24 NASB

“The life we live today will determine the life we will live for eternity.” Mark Hitchcock (Pastor, Faith Bible Church, Edmond OK)

Think about that for a minute. If I spend my time, my life, on earth holding a grudge against someone, hating them, how will that affect my eternal life? I know it can’t hurt my salvation, because that comes solely through God’s Mercy and Grace in Jesus Christ. It can, however, affect my eternal life.

Every person who has accepted Christ as their Saviour enters into an undeniable, unbreakage relationship with the Creator Father. We are saved from damnation with the enemy for all of the ages. That is indisputable. The question of all time is what will it be like, and how will we be when we get to that glorious place called heaven? Does how we live on earth affect our lives in heaven? The Apostle Paul thinks it will:

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9:24‭-‬25 NASB

“….. for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8 NASB

We are striving for an imperishable wreath, or crown, in our lives. One that will be rewarded to us at the Bema Seat when we first see Jesus, and that will stay with us throughout eternity. Those people I want to hate because of their actions – is it worth it to lose out in my relationship with Jesus Christ? Is it worth losing out on the rewards He wants to give me? Turn them over to Jesus. Lay them at His Feet. Let Him deal with their lies, betrayals, ugliness. I don’t need that trash cluttering up either this life, or the next!

Willful Disobedience

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of Grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine , I will repay.” And again, “the LORD will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:26‭-‬31 NASB

We can know the truth, but sometimes in the moment (oftentimes?) the reality is that we think we know better and that what we are doing isn’t really a sin. Anytime – any time – we are willfully disobedient we sin. Did that strike a nerve? It did with me. I sin many times daily, but I don’t (usually!) consciously choose to do so. If I know the risk, and do it anyway, is that being willfully disobedient? If I choose badly, no, when I choose badly, especially in big decisions, my body immediately tells me. My stomach clenches. I get crazy butterflies….. or an angry swarm of bees….. in my gut. An indescribable ache starts up betweenmy eyes. Then when the error manifests itself and becomes obvious, my heart drops and fear tries to overtake me.

My fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in Your Love….. I could listen to this, and sing along with Josh Baldwin, all day, but right now, my heart is on the floor, and Mercy Me’s lyrics to Even If resonant within me.
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

It is well with my soul. I know it, but I can’t feel it. I know to let God lead. His hands are holding me, no matter what. I know this, but right now I don’t feel it, and that’s on me. All He can do is offer. It’s up to me to accept His help. Amen.

My Saviour’s Love

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8 NASB

In 1905, Charles H. Gabriel wrote these words:

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus
the Nazarene
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.
How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous!
How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!
For me it was in the garden He prayed:
“Not My will, but Thine.”
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.
How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous!
How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!
He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary and
Suffered and died alone.
When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
’twill be my joy through the ages
to sing of His love for me!
How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous!
How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!
How marvelous!
How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!

It’s really hard for me to speak the words to this hymn. They strike a cord deep within my soul; the depth of feeling chokes me up. I am so amazed that Jesus could love me – me, a sinner. It’s hard, no, almost impossible, for me to comprehend.

He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

Think about those words! Jesus, the Son of GOD, didn’t cry because of the horrible experience He was about to undergo; He sweat drops of blood for me, a sinner, unclean, flawed, and wholly undeserving of His Mercy.

He took my sins and my sorrows, He made them His very own; He bore the burden to Calvary and
Suffered and died alone.

My sins, my sorrows. Not His. Mine.

That last verse, though, WOW. When I get to see His Face, the voice that refuses to work here on earth will get to join the angels and the heavenly hosts, along with all of the other ransomed souls. We will raise our voices in Glorious Praise and Honor to our Saviour. His Love is so marvelous, so wonderful, so indescribable!

“To Him be the Glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:18b NASB

Forgive Me

C.S.Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

To quote Corrie ten Boom, “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32 NASB

And the best of all, the most important of all, is what JESUS, Son of the Living God, told us: “….. and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” – Matthew 6:12 NLT

Listen to the song Forgiveness as sung by Matthew West.