Archive | June, 2010

Lessons in Grace- King Hezekiah

29 Jun

I’m back!! After a long hiatus, I am now free to work on the blog once again. Marking and end-of-the-year duties are just about done, and I’m happy that now I can focus on many things that I’ve neglected such as this.

Only a few more posts in this series will follow. Today I want to share what I was learning about in my devotions this morning. In reading 2 Chronicles 30, I came across a story about God’s grace shown to the Israelites, on behalf of King Hezekiah. In brief, after the death of King David, Israel had gone through many kings that had been unfaithful to God and turned the hearts of the people to serve idols and false gods. Then enters King Hezekiah. In spite of the unfaithfulness of his own father, he “did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his [fore]father David had done”. He became king at the age of 25. In the very first year of his reign, he reopened the doors of the house of the LORD that had been shut for some time, and repaired them. Hezekiah brought in a series of reforms and called the people to turn their hearts back to serve the LORD.

The passage that I read today just blew me away. Hezekiah sends a message to all Israel to tell them to come to the house of the LORDin Jerusalem to celebrate Passover as a nation since this had not been done in a very long time. His request was met with laughter, scorn, and mockery from many of the tribes. But, some of the people came. And when they gathered together, they reinstituted the Passover celebration.

Passover was meant to be a celebration of God’s forgiveness and redemption of His believing people. It began after God “passed over” the households of the Israelites in Egypt and spared the firstborn sons from death in any household that had covered their doorpost with the blood of a lamb. Passover is a symbol of God’s “passing over” the sins of His people and sparing them graciously from His wrath.

While they were in Jerusalem, the people did not properly observe the celebration, perhaps since it had not been done in some time. So, in light of the fact that the people were not celebrating Passover the way that the law prescribed, Hezekiah prayed saying, “May the good LORD pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary”. And the LORD answered him and “heard Hezekiah and healed the people”.

It also says that as a result, there was great joy in the whole assembly and the people celebrated for an extra seven days! There was “nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel… their [the Israelites] voice was heard and their prayer came to His holy dwelling place, to heaven”.

The point I want to raise from this passage is four-fold.

1) God desires faithfulness from each generation, in spite of what past generations have done. We are each required to be faithful to God regardless of the sins of our fathers or the things that those around us do that are unfaithful to God. The unfaithfulness of others is NO excuse for our unfaithfulness to God.

2) God heard the prayer of Hezekiah on behalf of the people, and He granted them forgiveness. God hears our prayers for others and He is faithful to answer.

3) God is concerned about the attitude of the heart and this prevails over outward activity. That is why he forgave those who, in spite of the fact that they did not celebrate according to the rules, were still forgiven because of the attitude of their hearts.

4) What a wonderful display of God’s goodness, that He “heard their prayer” and it came to His Holy dwelling place, heaven. I pray that our repentance and contrition over our sin, and our celebrating of God’s goodness would be heard from Him in heaven and be a sweat-smelling aroma.

Thank God that He is still faithful and patient in spite of our unfaithfulness to Him. Just like He showed the Israelites his grace, He continues to display it today to those who would come to Him in humility and repentance and seek forgiveness on behalf of His Son. Praise God for His mercies that are truly new every morning!

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Lessons in Grace- Steven Curtis Chapman

17 Jun

Apologies for being absent in the blogging world for the past week! It’s a crazy time right now as the school year winds down and teachers find themselves awash in marking and other end-of-the-year duties. The posts will be much more consistent as soon as the summer hits.

For now, I’ll share a few brief things I’ve been thinking about regarding our current topic. The other day, I was listening to an old album that I bought when I was about 13. Steven Curtis Chapman, a Christian recording artist, is someone that has influenced me greatly with his music. One song in particular has come to mind at many points in my life and reminded me of the supreme importance of having a right view of what God has done in freeing me from sin. The song is called “Remember Your Chains” from his album, Heaven in the Real World. The reason why this song stands out as one that highlights the grace of God is because the lyrics remind me that in order to be grateful for what God has done in my life, I need to remember constantly where I am coming from and what God has truly freed me from. I can think back to even five years ago and how different my life was. I was not walking in obedience to God’s Word. In fact, all I cared about was doing what pleased me and made me happy, regardless of how that displeased and hurt God, as well as those I loved. My life had been moving in a downward spiral for several years, and yet God, in His great love and mercy, rescued me from a life of dangerous and destructive rebellion. To think about how much has changed since then reminds me that only God can do what He does in the life of unrepentant, sinful people who care nothing for Him. He is the one, as the Bible says, who will “replace your heart of stone with a heart of flesh”. Thank God for breaking the chains of sin! I pray God will make me as the song says, like the “wisest ones… they will never loose sight, of where they were set free.”

Take a listen to the song: Remember Your Chains

(To get to it, click on his album Heaven in the Real World, and scroll through to track 9 on the music player… You’d think with all our technology I’d have a faster way of getting to the track, but I don’t! It’s worth the effort so take a listen)

Lessons in Grace: Jim Pile

9 Jun

Three things to share:

1) I have a little contest for anyone interested. I will be awarding a small prize of a Starbucks gift card to the first person who can email me at thispassinglife@gmail.com and correctly identify where the following passage is found in the Bible. Why Starbucks? That’s self-explanatory to anyone who knows that I basically own shares in the company!

“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”

2) Aside from the contest, I’d love people to post comments on what this verse means. I’ll provide some feedback tomorrow, but I’d like to hear what people understand of this short passage.

3) This short video clip is one I came accross from pastor John MacArthur’s church, Grace Community Church. They have been doing short interviews with members of the congregation called “Pictures of Grace”. The gentleman in the video, Jim Pile, shares the story of how he was saved. As my pastor Habib Sakr always reminds us, God’s grace is His unmerrited favour and forgiveness towards us that we cannot earn, do not deserve, and can never repay. What evidences of grace does Jim identify have been at work in his life? Feel free to comment on this as well.

Lessons in Grace- Psalm 103

8 Jun
I am thankful that God “does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” The verse just mentioned from Psalm 103 has been one that has come to mind often in the past few weeks. I am not “merciful and gracious” or “abounding in steadfast love” or “slow to anger”. In fact, I can think of several times today that I had the opportunity to be gracious, loving, and slow to anger but I chose the opposite. I chose to treat the person that wronged me the way that I thought they deserved; a cold shoulder, an angry yell, and an unmerciful attitude. Yet, thank God He does not deal with us the way we deserve. I need to be reminded of the truth of Scripture, humble myself, and by His grace “learn ourselves to be slow to anger; if the Lord is longsuffering under our great provocations how much more aught we to endure the errors of our brethren! And plenteous in mercy. Rich in it, quick in it, overflowing with it;” as Charles Spurgeon explains. Below is an excerpt from Psalm 103 and a wonderful short commentary from Spurgeon on verse 8 from his collection of sermons entitled “The Treasury of David“.

“The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will He keep His anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion tho those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.”
– Psalm 103: 8-14

Verse 8. Those whom he deals with are sinners. However much he favours them, they are guilty and need mercy at his hands, nor is he slow to compassionate their lost estate, or reluctant by his grace to lift them out of it. Mercy pardons sin, grace bestows favour: in both the Lord abounds. This is that way of his which he made known to Moses (Ex 34:6), and in that way he will abide as long at the age of grace shall last, and men are yet in this life. He who “executeth righteousness and justice,” yet delighteth in mercy. Slow to anger. He can be angry and can deal out righteous indignation upon the guilty, but it is his strange work; he lingers long, with loving pauses, tarrying by the way to give space for repentance and opportunity for accepting his mercy. Thus deals he with the greatest sinners, and with his own children much more so: towards them his anger is shortlived and never reaches into eternity, and when it is shown in fatherly chastisements, he does not afflict willingly, and soon pities their sorrows. From this we should learn ourselves to be slow to anger; if the Lord is longsuffering under our great provocations how much more aught we to endure the errors of our brethren! And plenteous in mercy. Rich in it, quick in it, overflowing with it; and so had he need to be or we should soon be consumed. He is God, and not man, or our sins would soon drown his love; yet above the mountains of our sins his mercy rise.

“Plenteous grace with thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound,
Make and keep me pure within.”

All the world tastes of his sparing mercy, those who hear the gospel partake of his inviting mercy, the saints live by his saving mercy, are preserved by his upholding mercy, are cheered by his consoling mercy, and will enter heaven through his infinite and everlasting mercy. Let grace abounding be our hourly song in the house of our pilgrimage. Let those who feel that they live upon it glorify the plenteous fountain from which it so spontaneously flows.
-Charles H. Spuregeon

Lessons in Grace- Forgiveness & Steve Saint

7 Jun

A few years back, I had the privledge of listening to the testimony of a man named Steve Saint. His father, Nate Saint, was a missionary to the Waodoni, a tribe of Auca Indians, notorious for its cannibalism. Steve’s father along with several other missionary men were macheted to death by members of the tribe. Yet, his aunt and the other missionary wives of the men who had been killed decided to stay to minister to the tribe and continue the efforts their husbands had begun to share the Gospel. By God’s grace, the entire tribe of Waodoni Indians came to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

Take a look at these wonderful clips. The first is directly related to the topic of forgiveness and showing God’s grace to those that have wronged us. Steve shares the story of his father’s death and the miraculous relationship that evolved between himself and the man who killed his father. The second, although not directly related to forgiveness, is a powerful story of how Steve learned to trust that God is always doing good in the lives of his people, in spite of the way circumstances may appear.

Steve Saint & Mincaye

Steve Saint on Suffering & God’s Soverignty

Lessons in Grace- Forgiveness & The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

6 Jun

I’ve been reading (now it’s been about a year and a half!), a great book by Victor Kuligin called Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said.

In the chapter entitled “The Art of Spiritual Forgiveness”, Kuligin identifies the reason why people have so much trouble forgiving others. He uses the parable of the workers in the vineyard from Matthew 20:1-16 to highlight his point. In the story, the workers that have worked a full day complain to the vineyard owner that he has been unfair because he chooses to pay the same wages to those that come late and only work for a short period of time.  We learn that those who work the whole day get exactly what they had agreed to receive; a full day’s wage. When they complain, the owner, who represents God the Father, responds saying, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?” In other words, God shows favor to people in spite of what they deserve. He displays grace which, by definition is unwarranted and unearned. And this relates to our salvation. God does not grant salvation to people on a basis of the works they have done for Him. It is a free act of grace by God towards undeserving sinners.

Kuligin explains that,

“This understanding of grace is instructive concerning forgiveness because we must understand that everything we receive from God is undeserved. Everything. We will always have a tendency to harbor bitterness and grudges as long as we misunderstand God’s mercy shown to us. Once I believe all I have is mine, and what I have is deserved by me, I will be less willing to show mercy to others. After all, if they have harmed me, I deserve recompense for my suffering…

Did someone harm us, slander us, or abuse us? What they deserve, of course, is punishment. What they deserve is to endure that same treatment from others. But Jesus expects his disciples not to think that way. We have an unholy propensity for desiring mercy when we have harmed others but being stingy in offering it to those who harm us. An unforgiving spirit is almost always the product of a false view of ourselves and our salvation, placing ourselves on a pedestal above others. But when we realize God has shown us unmerited favor, we will be quick to show it to others.”

How often do we find it difficult to forgive others when they have hurt us? We are so quick to demand justice in the form of their suffering or their punishment. We can hold on to wrongs that were committed long ago when we feel that we have not adequately been repaid for our hurt. And this “unforgiving spirit” can be a result of a false view of ourselves and our salvation, as Kuligin says. As a Christian I am called to forgive those who have wronged me, no matter what the offense, because I have been shown forgiveness by God, and I do not deserve it. A right understanding of the way God has dealt with us, must lead to us quickly forgive those that have sinned against us.

Can you think of a person that you harbor bitterness or resentment towards? Maybe it is a person who has slandered and gossiped about you. Maybe it is a parent that has neglected to show you love and affection. Maybe it is a spouse who has betrayed you. Whatever the circumstance, we are called to forgive and to do it from the heart. If we are not forgiving those that have sinned against us, we need to check and see if we have truly understood our salvation and the fact that God has not dealt with us as we deserve. We must ask God to forgive us for not being quick to forgive those that have sinned against us. And then, by His grace, we must obey his command in Ephesians 4:32, to “[forgive] each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you”.

Lessons in Grace- Major League Baseball & The Prodigal Son

4 Jun

What better topic for an inaugural post than the topic of God’s grace? I have been challenged to think often about this subject over the past year and the more I learn, the more I realize I do not know. For the next few weeks, I will share some of the lessons I’ve been learning from Scripture, along with words from authors that I’ve come across.

Today, I happened to hear about an event that took place in Major League Baseball this past week. For those who don’t know, when a pitcher pitches a “perfect game”, he allows no hits, no walks, and no runs. 27 batters go up to bat and not one makes it to first base. Simply put, it’s a rarity for anything like this to happen. In fact, in all of MLB history, only 20 pitchers have ever pitched a perfect game. So, on Wednesday, June 2nd, the Detroit Tigers were facing off against the Cleveland Indians in what seemed to be turning into a history making game. The young 28-year-old pitcher for the Tigers, Armando Gallaraga, was on the verge of finishing off an epic performance with 26 outs, and 1 to go in the ninth. Yet, what happened after he threw what seemed to be a career making pitch, saw the batter dribble the ball between first and second, and ran to first to receive the catch from his teammate and make the out, stunned the entire stadium. The umpire, Jim Joyce, a vetran in baseball officiating, called the runner safe. The thing was, the call was clearly wrong. Gallaraga had made it to first and caught the ball before the batter made it there. Everyone in the stadium saw it. The instant replay confirmed it. Even the runner, Jason Donald, looked stunned. So what happened? What was Gallaraga’s response to a call that would strip him of what seemed to be rightfully his: a title that would immortalize him in baseball history? He smiled. He smiled at the ump! Questions began to arise in everyone’s minds. What was Joyce thinking?? What will Gallaraga say? How could a guy with 25 years of experience make a call like that, in a game like this?

Joe Posnanski, a writer for Sports Illustrated, wrote an article about the incredible game and focused particularly on the response of both the pitcher and the umpire to the difficult situation. His observation of their attitudes towards one another highlights an important lesson to be learned.

“When told afterward that Joyce felt terrible about the missed call, Gallaraga said that he wanted to go tell Joyce not to worry about it, that people make mistakes.

Gallaraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night in Detroit. I’ll always believe that. I think that most baseball fans will believe that. But more than anything, it seems that Gallaraga will always believe that. The way he handled himself after the game, that was better than perfection… Armando Gallaraga’s perfect game was a lesson in grace.”

In fact, the next game, as a peace offering, to show that he wasn’t angry or resentful, Gallaraga went right up to a teary-eyed Joyce and handed him the game card along with a handshake, amidst thousands of cheering fans.

The story of this game and how the umpire responded with much humility, readily admitting his missed call, and how the pitcher displayed much grace, in spite of what had been lost, highlights a very essential truth that every believer should think much upon. We read in God’s word the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 and see a picture of God’s unfair dealings with us. Unfair because, just like the father in the parable, God does not treat his children as they deserve. The son squanders his inheritance and turns his back on his father. When he comes to his senses and decides to return home, he is received lovingly and joyfully by his father who waited eagerly for him. The son deserved rejection, disownment, and maybe more! But what did the father do? He embraced him. In the same way, our sins against an infinitely holy God deserve His wrath, His rejection, His punishment. And yet, on the cross, Jesus took that penalty that we deserved; death and separation from the Father. And what have we received in return? The loving embrace of a heavenly Father who now calls us His own children and has cancelled out the debt that we owe as a payment for our sins.

What did Jim Joyce deserve from Armando Gallaraga? He deserved irate screams. He deserved to have people call him a fool for making that call. He received all this and much more, but not from the man who would have been justified in doing it. Instead, graciously, Gallaraga extended his forgiveness and quickly acknowledged that Joyce should not feel guilty.

Can we thank God today, that He has dealt with us in a way that we don’t deserve? Can we be humbled by the grace that was shown to us on the cross? Let us be quick to acknowledge how clearly guilty we are of sin, and humble our hearts towards God, who has not treated us as we deserve, because of the sacrifice of His Son.