The Key To Paradise

I believe that one of the “hard” things of the Christian faith, is that if we are not careful things can become lost in translation. We can read the same things over and over in our bibles, without having what we read move us or change us. I’m no different, I struggle to pray as I should, and though my bible reading is disciplined. It can seem very robotic, as though I only do things out of “religious duty”

We all know the story when Christ is on the cross, with two people on each side of him. If you don’t know of it, I encourage you to read Luke 23:26-44. Again, I have read this passage quite a bit over the span of my faith journey, and it sadly doesn’t move me sometimes or nothing jumps out at me. The story kept coming to memory, so I opened my bible with the thought in my mind

“Okay Lord, what are you saying to me?”

As I was reading, it came to my attention that there were two different types of hearts: On one hand, there is the heart of stone, the first criminal almost has a mocking tone of voice and posture of heart. “Your Jesus right? So why not get yourself off this piece of wood and save us!?” (My translation). If I’m not careful, this can be me too, I can have a horrible attitude about my life and faith as well. In which case, I have to bring myself in Gods presence, seek forgiveness for my hard heart and allow him to soften my heart over again.

I love the words of Ezekiel 36:26:

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone[a] and give you a heart of flesh.

In my observation, this is what happens to the second man hanging beside Jesus, something happens inside of his own heart to invoke a different response. He says “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same condemnation ? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom .” And he (Jesus) said to him “Truly, I say to you. today you will be with me in paradise.”

Again, I’ve read this before, this really isn’t anything new to me per say, but what I noticed, is that there is so much going on between the second man and Jesus. I don’t know much at all about this mans life, his past or anything. But I think it’s safe to assume, that he knew deep down he made a mess of his life, wasn’t proud of himself at all and knew that there wasn’t much at all that he could do to merit the grace of God.

I believe that that is the best place a person can be, because when we are to proud, full of pride then there really is no way we can see the grace of God, can we? No we can’t. And our hearts cannot ever really soften, unless the spirit of God breaks through with a holy sledge hammer.

The way Christ responds to this man, completely blows my mind, Jesus doesn’t lead this man in a prayer, tells him to repent or anything of the sort. The man only cries out from his heart, which is in a way a form of repentance and asking for forgiveness. And Christ accepts him willfully. The man knows, that if he is to enter paradise with Christ, it has everything to do with the goodness of Christ and zero to do with himself.

This, my friends, should set us free! Why? Because it’s no longer about us, we know longer have to slave and white knuckle our way into Christs love. We can rest in the grace and mercy of Christ, and breath with great joy because it’s all about the finished work of Christ for us.

Trust me, if you feel like God is done with you, or wants nothing to do with you, you’re mistaken. He just wants you. All of you. While you are still alive, there is still time to know the grace and goodness of God. All you have to do is cry out to him.

The Beauty and Invitation of Grace

Lots of people are addicted to many things, me, however. I am addicted to the grace of God. I can’t get enough of it, I need it almost every moment of every day. Grace is the one sustaining reality in my life that keeps everything else going. I talk about grace so much, because it has utterly changed my life.

Many churches have hot button topics that they love to preach about, and for me grace is that truth. I was am the prodigal sons, before I gave in to the affectionate calling of the Lord drawing my heart, I was the other younger son that was arrogant, and felt like God owed him everything (if there was a God) and now, being a redeemed Christ follower, I am the eldest son that runs away and comes back home.

Yet, the father still runs to be every single time. No, grace is not an invitation to live a careless life, grace is the gift and ability to walk closely with Christ each and everyday. And with joy. But the reality is that, we do wander off the path. Take for example, the timeless hymn “Come Thou Fount”

“Prone to wander Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love”

We sing this all the time, but I don’t believe that we understand what we are singing. God is not stupid, he isn’t. He knows that you and I are gonna screw up and screw up a lot. He knows we are gonna lose our tempers, say things we don’t mean, totally blow it and act counter to how we Christians should act.

But you know what? He’s not shocked. He knows. And dare I believe that he is shaking his head at us, rather he picks us up, brushes us off and reminds us who we are in him. And sets us on the narrow road. Any anger that we may believe that God has toward us, was poured out on the cross. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation. The old has been done away with and the new has come.

The sins you cannot forget, are the sins that God has forgotten.

I believe that because God is slow to anger, his hearts cry is for people to finally notice how much they need his grace. On one hand, proud people who already think they are amazing. Have no need for the beautiful gift of grace. While on the other hand, those that know they have blown it time and time again. The grace of God is the most precious of gifts.

It’s a gift, you can do nothing to deserve it, let alone un-deserve it. But you can embrace it with all its joy and beauty.

But I’ve Sinned Too Much (Grace Part 2)

The other day I was writing in my journal, about how I simply could not understand how God could be so loving toward me. How deep and wide his grace is for me, how!? I have clearly sinned far too much in my life, I am far too prideful, stubborn and absorbed and have clearly out sinned the grace of God…

Except, I haven’t, you haven’t and we cannot exhaust his grace for us. If you are in Christ, your sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103). We are new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:27).

The problem becomes, when we can know this in our heads, but we fail to live as if we are out of our hearts. We know it mentally, be we live as though we are still condemned. Yet scripture tells us, that there is NO condemnation when you are in Christ (Romans 8:1-1)

There is no condemnation for us, no guilt, no shame! But I still struggle, you say, yes me too, I believe that we are struggle in our own ways. And anyone who says that they no longer struggle I believe is a liar. Furthermore, if a person is fully healed and does not struggle with his or her sin nature any longer. Then they need to speak up and share their secrets.

For the the only way I have learned to combat my former self, is to renew my mind with the truth and love that Christ offers me through his word.

You might even think that there is no way, you could have victory over the besetting sin in your life. whatever it is. And so you think, there’s no way Gods grace is big enough for your situation, but I tell you that that is a lie the enemy wants you to believe.

I believe that the grace of God is big, far and wide, that you can complete wreck your life, and God’s grace would still be more than enough to cleanse, re-create your heart and sustain you.

Consider the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43)

Not much is know about this man, he might have had an entire life of stealing, cheating and lying has way to get what he wants. And in the last moments of his life, he begs the Lord to remember him in his kingdom.

What happens inside this man? In the final moments of his life, I believe that the holy spirit softens this mans heart and opens his eyes to see the Christ that is suffering beside him and for him. And so in other words he, says, Jesus have mercy on me a sinner.

The common reply to this is:

So your saying I can screw my life up and God will forgive me?  Well, yes and no. We just saw that Christ can forgive the man on the cross, who was asking to be remembered. Yet that was only by the grace of God to begin with. And even though Gods grace can make anyone new, I do not believe that God is saying to go make a disaster of your life. In fact, I would submit that he wants us to live a better life. One in line with him.

I’m telling you that the grace of God is so good, is more amazing than anything else in the world. It can make everything new in your life, regardless of what your prior life has been. But it is always amazing because it will set you on a pathway to a new destiny.

For his grace to us is this, when you and I are in Christ, it as though we have never sinned. For the father see’s the perfect image of his son in us, therefore the father see’s us as he see’s his beloved son.

There is hope,

don’t give up the fight.

Because he hasn’t given up the fight for you!

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Gods Grace

Gods grace is the single most beautiful, amazing and life changing gifts in my life and the world around us. Jesus Christ is the perfect, beautiful and amazing embodiment of that. His grace is all that I am and all that I have. Without his grace I am utterly lost, like a homeless soul begging to be let in to a warm home or begging for scraps.

gods-grace1His grace has changed my life, grace has rescued me from myself. Grace has given me the ability to discover my true self, it has given me the ability to live free from within and grace has taught me to smile regardless of what circumstances may be put before me.

The apostle Paul said that Gods grace made him what he is (1 Corinthians 15:10), the apostle Paul is most famous for his conversion in acts 9. Before his conversation, he hated and persecuted Christians, he had them thrown into prison and even killed.  Paul was a man who new the Jewish tradition inside and out, he even followed with utmost care and perfection it seemed. Though, he was a deeply religious man, he did not know true inner peace or who he really was or meant to be.

In my own spiritual journey, that following the commands of the Lord, is far more difficult when I am trying to do them out of my own strength and religious piety. But when I am operating out of a place of love and grace, things are more easy and light. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

You might be thinking: Okay, well how does one begin to operate out of the heart beat of grace? Great question, but I will first tell you that, at first, grace will not feel comfortable or even very “loving” why? Because grace has to break through the resistance of your mind, heart and being.

Again, this might be very comfortable at first, because God in his love, has to break through your pride, your self-reliance, your will, your desires everything. Basically in love, the Lord has to break you down to build you back up. He makes you a new creation.  He gives you a new mind, heart and will.

God did this in my own life, when he graciously allowed me to encounter his son Jesus. He melted me, he made me see all that I ever longed for and was longing for. He made me see, just how miserable I was and how horrible I was at playing god with my life. More importantly, he showed me that only he could be the satisfaction and peace that I so deeply longed for.

Feeling and knowing his amazing grace, spun me inside and out in the best way possible. I was happy and truly smiled! What I learned though, over time and actually on countless occasions, is that grace is much more than a feeling, but a true state of being, a deep anchor that a child of God can hold onto in the midst of life’s most violent storms.

No, I don’t always feel grace, but I have learned that it is so profoundly sufficient. Some days I am reminded of the sins of old, and the shame and regret that comes with them. Somedays I am so desperate to feel his grace, as though I am some sort of addict. I’m crying out for it.

In this time, Christ cries back to me saying I am the embodiment of grace! His life, death and resurrection is the all the grace I need, not a mere feeling. When I cannot feel the grace of God, he reminds me of what he did on the cross for me.

One) He took my place on the cross, and died the death that should have been for me (and you).

Two) He took my sin, shame and guilt. And in a great exchange, he gave me his perfection and made righteous in the sight of his father.

Three) While on the cross, he was momentarily separated from his father, so that you or I never have to be.

Four)  The resurrection of Christ, means that we have died to our old selves and that we have risen with him. Furthermore, it means, we will have a resurrection of our bodies when he comes again.

This is the only assurance we will ever need, in regards to his grace towards us. Even if we never saw another shred of evidence. Christ’s actions on the cross are more than enough evidence to show us the depth, width and breadth of his grace for us.