Tag Archives: God’s grace

Who would you recommend?

In this new age of consumerism, people are always looking for the best deal.  It’s understandable.  If we’re going to spend our money, we want to insure we’re getting the greatest value for our buck.

Services such as Angie’s List, Yelp, and Business.com, offer us a way to hedge our bets before spending our money.

The modern consumer thrives on information. Before making a buying decision, customers have long sought out the opinions and experiences of others to inform themselves as to whether a company is creditable or not. Today, this process is quick, easy, and accessible to anyone with a computer and internet connection.

Consumerism and politics

We are rapidly approaching general elections in November.  Unfortunately there is no service we can pull up on our computer to help with selection of the best candidates.  During this “season” of health pandemics, social crisis, and family challenges, we are in search of individuals who can reverse the problems we’ve experienced in 2020.  All the candidates, locally and nationally, claim to have the best “offer”.  Who would you recommend?

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is presented as an active, compassionate, and obedient Servant who ministers to the physical and spiritual needs of others.  Consequently, this gospel moves quickly to His public ministry where He performs many miracles (there are eighteen).  Jesus used these miracles to demonstrate not only His power but also His compassion.  As I look around at the needs of our city and our nation, service to and compassion for people are characteristics of one who will quickly attend to the problems and trials we face. Such was the case in our study text which is only recorded in Mark’s gospel.

Best qualified

In Mark 7:31-37, Jesus is found in the region of Decapolis by the Sea of Galilee.  A man who is both deaf and speech impaired is brought to him.  They recommended Jesus as the One best qualified for the task at hand.  It isn’t clear whether those seeking Jesus’ help expected healing but they did ask that Jesus “put His hands” on the infirmed man. (v. 32)   Sometimes we come to Jesus in our prayers not knowing what to ask But Jesus, who is omniscient knows exactly what we need (Rom. 8:26-27).

Better than expected

I’m sure the man, unable to hear or speak, was curious as to what was about to happen to him.  It is noted in one commentary, that Jesus in preparing the man for his healing used His own form of sign language:   And He (Jesus) took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue (v. 33). Then Jesus looked to heaven, and sighed, and said to him, “Be opened.” (v. 34)  With one command, both impediments were cured.  The crowd was astonished.

Although Jesus charged the crowds to say nothing about the miracle, they could not help themselves and in their zeal shared the miracle with this observation:  “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak” (v. 37).  To do things well means to do things “excellently”. (1 Cor. 14:17; Gal. 5:7)

Consumerism, the soul, and Jesus

Unfortunately, consumers, as a rule, aren’t very intentional when it comes to matters of the soul.   I don’t know where they go to seek out the opinions and experiences of others to inform themselves.  Where do they go to insure their spiritual needs are addressed excellently?  Where do they go with their fears and anxieties? Who would you recommend?

As believers, we know one thing is sure.  We have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who is more than equipped to handle the challenges we face today and tomorrow (Jude 1:25).  He is best qualified to meet our every need—provisionally and spiritually, because “He does all things excellently”.

It is natural for us to expect Jesus “to save us” by doing miracles in our life, like the deaf and dumb man.  And HE DOES.  But Jesus also wants us to know that He can be trusted with the daily events of our life.  Jesus’ grace will provide all we need to manage both our spiritual and temporal needs (Ps. 23:1-3).   Why?  Because He (Jesus) does all things well! (v. 37)

As we prepare for this day and the days ahead, look to the only One we can recommend to see us through these tumultuous and challenging times.  Trust the only One who died for us (John 11:25); who never fails (Is. 55:10-11); who cannot lie (Num. 23:19). Jesus has the power and authority to do “all things” (Matt. 28:18).    Jesus does all things well.

Wilderness Living

wilderness experience

Are you experiencing wilderness living?   I’m not talking about a survival challenge where one willingly goes into the wilderness to test their mental and physical endurance.  This wilderness experience is usually thought of as a tough time in which a believer endures discomfort and trials. We are unable to enjoy the pleasant things of life.

Similarly, this new decade (2020) is testing both our mental and physical endurance.  The stress and strain on our emotional health is unbelievable.  The combined effect of the health pandemic, racial strife and financial strain is unrelenting.  As a result, we have seen our lives played out like a bad dream repeated on a continuous loop.

I was encouraged when Michelle Obama shared her personal struggle with mild depression.  Her transparency and vulnerability are character strengths we can model during these difficult times.  In the same vein Israel  needed support to help them successfully navigate wilderness living.

God revealed during wilderness living

Captivity was Israel’s “wilderness experience.”  The nation was away from their land, their temple, and most importantly, their God.  Therefore, God, through His prophet Isaiah, sent words of consolation to Israel during their wilderness experience.  He promised to do a new thing (Is. 43:16-19).

New in Hebrew means to renew, rebuild, or repair.  Most certainly,  people today  need these three actions during times of uncertainty and chaos.   Our minds need to be renewed from the the insanity of the world (Rom. 12:1-2).  Our relationships need to be rebuilt and repaired  (Rom. 12:17-18).  We are divided on so many things.  Therefore, Satan uses these differences to further polarize us and  negate Jesus’ mandate to love one another (Matt. 5:43-44).

Because of His love for Israel, God promised He would not only renew, rebuild, and repair what was loss during the exile, but also   do the impossible.  “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring and my blessing on your descendants” (Isaiah 44:3).  In other words,  God would revive Israel physically and spiritually.

Facing wilderness living

Wilderness living is different for everyone. For example, for some people wilderness living may be relational—failed, estranged, or disappointing relationships.  For others the experience may be professional—finding the right vocation or personal significance.  But for some, wilderness living may be experiential—moments of personal loss, loneliness, or misfortune.  No two wildernesses are the same.

Likewise our spirit man may also feel strained.  What is God doing in the world and in our lives?  We may feel alone and isolated.  We may even think God has left us and no longer hears our prayers.  Is God with us in our wilderness?  He answers, “Yes!”  It’s in His Word (Ps. 91:15; Isa.43:2; Isa. 49:15).

Living in the wilderness

Above all, regardless of the type of wilderness experience, we can trust God.  We can relinquish control to God’s sovereign will and His steadfast love.   God is for us and He cares about everything that keeps us awake at night—our family, our provision, and our future.  God will sustain us In short, while we have no forecast as to when and if our world will ever be the same again, we have the blessed assurance that God is with us.  (Ps. 119:116)

After our wilderness experience

Through our wilderness experience God can renew, rebuild, and repair our lives (Ps. 130:5).  As we strengthen our intimacy with Him, we will find true happiness, contentment, and peace (Rev. 21:7).   God can do that for us individually.  Likewise, He can also do that for our nation.

God can do the impossible and bring us back to a healthy, vigorous and flourishing condition (Isa. 40:31).   We may not look the same but because of God, we will be better because of our experience in the wilderness (Job 23:10).

Gratitude Power

No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18 (NLT)

In the New Testament, gratitude and appreciation expressed in thanksgiving, has three primary associations.  The first, thanks is given at the communion service (Eucharist) for the broken body and blood of Jesus (Matt. 26; Lk 22; 1 Cor. 11); the second time, thanks is given for the blessings that come through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 2:14; 9:15) and finally, thanks is given for those who come to know Christ and who bring joy to the Apostle Paul (Col. 1:3; Eph. 1:16).

In his letters to the early church and ministry, the Apostle Paul lavishly expressed gratitude to those he wrote to for their role in both receiving the Gospel and in extending God’s “hope of salvation” to others within their immediate sphere of influence.  Paul was well acquainted with the power of gratitude (Ep. 1:15-19; Phil. 1:3-4).

Because gratitude is critical to not only individuals but also to the health of society in general, new focus is being placed on how to increase its occurrence.  Recent studies in the area of psychology confirm that we can intentionally cultivate gratitude with the consequence being increased well-being, joy and happiness.

In addition, gratefulness, especially expression of it to others, is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.  The positive psychology movement has embraced these studies and in an effort to increase overall well-being, has begun to make an effort to incorporate exercises to increase gratitude into the movement.[1]

It is God’s will that in everything, we give thanks.  It is not God’s will that we express gratitude for “gratitude’s sake only” but because with the giving of thanks, His power can be released into our life in ways never before seen.  This includes the formation of incredible joy, unshakeable hope, and unbroken peace (1 Pet. 1:2-4).  The outward expression of appreciation to God and others, works to bring new power and access that, under other circumstances, would be unattainable.

As we examine our walk of faith, we must ask ourselves, “Am I harnessing the full power of gratitude?”  “Am I receiving the benefits of gratitude that are now available to me?”  According to the Greek writer and philosopher, Cicero, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” Maybe it’s time for you to begin engaging in gratitude power.

[1] Wikipedia, “Gratitude”.

The Language of Gratitude

Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?  Luke 17:17 (NRS)

How is “grateful” language developed?   Gratitude, as we defined it is an expression of thankfulness for benefits or goodness.  God is our Eternal Benefactor providing us both good and perfect gifts (Ps. 103:1-6).  While it is understandable that believers should desire to express our gratitude to Him for all His many benefits, we must exercise greater intentionality in displaying our gratitude to the world.  We must develop the language of gratitude.

Interestingly, the concept of thankfulness is noticeably absent in the early writings of the Old Testament.  Instead language that was ordinarily translated as “praise”, such as yadah and todah, was used to convey the concept of thankfulness for God’s works and character (Ps. 118).  It would be later in the wisdom literature that God’s people would be encouraged to express purposeful gratitude for God’s provision and protection (Ps. 107:21-22; Eccl. 5:8-6:9).

In the New Testament the vocabulary for thanksgiving and gratitude expanded with the use of “thanks” (eucharisteo) and other terms such as “grace” (charis).   Jesus thanked God for hearing His prayers (Matt. 11:25) and for raising Lazarus (John 11:41).   The Gospels and the Epistles later developed the concept that gratitude for God’s deliverance in Christ characterizes the language of gratitude (Col. 1:12-14).   As God revealed Himself through His various dispensations, thankfulness and gratitude became a key response by creature man.  This was true in the case of the one leper healed by Jesus in today’s text.

As Jesus passed through the region between Samaria and Galilee, ten lepers entreated Him to have “mercy on them”.  They recognized the possibility of receiving beneficence from Jesus—He would help them in their affliction.  Jesus “saw them”—He recognized their need in this dire circumstance—and then “sent them” to the priest to verify their healing.  As they went, they were made clean.  But one of them saw that he was healed and turned back to Jesus, praising (doxazo) God.  He prostrated himself at Jesus feet and thanked (eucharisteo) Him.   The one leper showed the proper response to Jesus’ act of grace (charis) but what about the other nine?  Were they not grateful?  Why were they not also praising God and thanking Jesus for their healing?

As you read the narrative of the Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19), who do you most identify with—the one leper who returned to thank Jesus or the other nine lepers?  What stands in the way of your expressing gratitude to God?  Do you attribute your accomplishments to your efforts and yours alone (pride)?  Do you compare your current life circumstances with that of others and feel “cheated” of your rightful blessings (envy/covertness)?   Are you dissatisfied and discontented with life desiring more than is currently yours (greed/thankless)?  Let your expressions of gratitude mirror those of the one leper who could do nothing less than praise, worship, and thank God for all His goodness.  Begin today practicing the language of gratitude so that when you enter heaven, your gratefulness will explode into joyful praise (yadah and todah) as you stand before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the One who made eternity possible for you (Rev. 19:1-6).

The Boundless Gift of Grace

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence.

Ephesians 1:7- 8 (NKJ)

Grace was a song we often heard as children at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church.  I can still hear in my mind the Senior Choir, led by Mrs. Olivia Gentry, bellowing out the chorus which highlighted the richness and indescribable power of God’s grace.

Grace, Grace, God’s grace

His grace is sufficient for me.

Grace, Grace, God’s grace

His grace will give you

The victory.

As we continue our series on victorious living, we would be remiss if we did not take time to examine the source of our salvation and “crown jewel” of God’s blessings—God’s grace—without which, victorious living would be impossible.  For it was the grace of God that would finally resolve man’s issue with sin—his personal sin that thwarted his relationship with His Heavenly Father.  It would take extraordinary, boundless grace to reverse the downward spiral of fallen man.

In the Old Testament, grace (hen) generally referred to one finding favor and acceptance with God (Gen. 6:8; Exo. 34:9; Ps. 84:11).  In the New Testament, while grace still infers the favor of God, grace (charis) is extended to include God’s good will and loving-kindness.  This boundless gift of grace was and is extended to us through Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11, 14).

Jesus Christ made it possible for God to complete His plan of salvation, created before the foundations of the world (1 John 3:5, 8; 4:9).  This “glorious grace” (Ep. 1:6), which actually characterizes the nature of God  has resulted in God’s choosing us, adopting us as sons, and making us ”acceptable in the Beloved” or one with Christ (Ep. 1:3-6).

In Christ, man finds redemption and forgiveness of sin.  Jesus satisfies the holy and “legal” requirements of God by paying the price for sin with “the shedding of blood” (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22).  When God’s people chose to continue in their sin, unable to keep His laws, God made actual the eternal blessing uttered in eternity.  God sent His Son (John 3:16).

In Ephesians 1:8, Paul states that the riches of God’s grace abound toward us.  The RSV translation builds on that thought, using instead, “lavished upon us.”  Such extraordinary covering by God’s grace flows from the depth of His love (1 John 4:9-10) and includes with it the recipient’s understanding (wisdom and prudence) of “Christ’s purpose, to feel His heart of mercy, to approve and to concur with His redeeming plans, as men ‘made wise unto salvation’” [1]

One thing all men (and women) have in common regardless of time, space, or geography is sin.  We see sin’s effects everyday—crime, civil strife, social injustice—all these find their root in sin.  And there are “subtle sins” that are hidden from the visible eye yet still affect the behavior of individuals, churches, and society, in general—greed, jealousy, envy and hate.   But “in Christ”, the believer’s identity with Christ and his position before God the Father, men now have access to the only thing that can reverse sin’s grip on hearts.

The issues of the 21st century are in actuality “heart issues”.  Hearts hardened and determined to live self-centered and disobedient lives.  Neither money nor power can resolve humanity’s woes.  Narcissistic or charismatic leaders cannot end political impasse.  Better schools or larger jails won’t end generations of economic inequality.  There is only one thing that can reverse the cycle of death set forth by sin in the Garden of Eden—it’s God’s boundless gift of grace.

Alec Motyer in this classic book, Look to the Rock, gives insight into the impact of God’s boundless gift of grace:  “When God’s people could not rise to the height of His standard, God didn’t lower His standard to match their abilities, He transformed them.”  This transformation is possible only through acceptance of God’s boundless gift of grace.

Grace, Grace, God’s grace

His grace will give you

The victory.

SELAH:  Write down your thoughts on how the boundless gift of God’s grace has changed, is changing, or can change your life.

[1]  Ephesians Studies, H.C.G. Moule