Greater Grace Needed

Adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever decides to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy.  Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”?  But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”  So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. -James 4:4-10 (New English Translation)

I believe that we need more grace.  God has in store greater grace than any carnal, worldly desire that we have.  God's grace is more satisfying than the world and is what we need.  God wants to satisfy our deepest desires.

More grace, greater grace, is the answer to our deepest desires. We are designed to live in and by grace.  God is jealous for us to desire him.  Grace got us saved.  Grace gives our Christian life oxygen to breathe.

The context of the word from James that God can and will give us greater grace to float our boats above worldliness, is an indictment of a church that has become worldly, rather than Christ-like.  God notices, God cares.  Christianity does not work, "in name only".  Christians are Christ's bride and God's children.  We are covenant people.  Worldliness, carnality, arrogance, and self-focus go against walking with God.  God is righteously jealous for His children to walk in grace before Him and not to love the world:
"Doesn't God long for faithfulness in the life he has given us?" 
“The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning.
“God jealously longs for the spirit that He made to live in us.” 
“the Spirit which he made to dwell in us jealously yearns for the entire devotion of the heart” 
“he’s a fiercely jealous lover.”
 -James 4:5 (CEB, NET, NET notes, and MSG)
The church who loves the world in in danger of being the enemy of God. (James 4:4)  The world is, "a system of values and character qualities that are in opposition to God.(1But, how do you know if James' indictment is towards you? Are you filled with selfish desire or desire for God?  Do you have a jealous heart that envies others and covets and hates those who have more?  It's a spirit of, "keeping up with the joneses", gone wild.  We compete, we compare, we shamefully idolize people "above us", and proudly look down on those "below us".

God's Spirit longs, yearns, and is jealous for us. "Jealousy is an intensely painful and powerful emotion that the conduct of the believer elicits from the Spirit of God.(2)"  He misses us intensely when we are "away" from Him. 

The church who loves the world more than God is selfish.  We are self centered.  We see prayer as a way to impose our will on God, a formula, or magic; rather than an ongoing, 24-7, relationship with Father God.  James 4:3 says, "you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions."
The world urges us to love ourselves, to put our pleasures before God’s pleasures. If we agree with that idea, we are unfaithful as the Lord’s spiritual brides. We have deliberately chosen to follow the world’s philosophy rather than God’s will. We cannot be on friendly terms with God if we follow the world’s philosophy (Matt. 6:24). The world wants us to exclude God from all aspects of life. God wants us to include Him in all of life because He is in all of life, and without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

God has set a high standard of wholehearted love and devotion for His people, but He gives grace that is greater than His rigorous demand...  However, He gives grace to the humble: those who put God’s desires first in their lives. He gives grace (help) to withstand the onslaughts of the flesh within and the world without.(3)

If we have messed up in our Christian life, there is grace for us.  Grace saved us and greater grace will get us back on track.  "First John one nine it", my pastor used to say.  God is always ready to forgive, if you are ready to repent.  Repentance is a way of life for the one who walks with God (Isaiah 30:15).  Don't be ashamed of this.  Humiliation is the path to humility.  Repent and receive more grace.

What is grace?  God's unmerited favor.  That means favor that you cannot earn.  It is by grace that you have been saved.(Eph. 2:8)  Grace can also be defined as God's sufficiency or God's fullness in the life of the believer.  God said to Paul, "my grace is sufficient for you."(2 Cor. 12:9)  Grace is from the Greek word "charis", like charismatic.  A.W. Tozer said that, "Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving."(4)  Louis Berhof wrote that grace is, "the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit."(4)

A simple definition of grace is the word favorHow does more, grace, more favor operate in James 4:6?  On this verse, Kurt Richardson writes, "God wills the correction of his people through the continuing application of his favor."(5)

We all stumble, make mistakes, or get it wrong (James 3:2); but he gives us more, greater, grace (James 4:6) to live the life of walking with God. We need more favor, charis. Charismatic people are favored people. We follow charismatic people. We might say, in Christian terms, that they are anointed. There is favor there to succeed.(Gal. 2:9)

Grace empowers us to succeed against sin. I have the grace to live the life.
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!  -Galatians 2:20-1 (NET)
Grace is not just a theological concept that describes a position God puts people in, that we want to live in, but it is an atmosphere or a source from which the life is lived. We live the life by grace.

Grace is more than a descriptive term.  It is participative, tangible, substantive, and locomotive.  Grace moves you forward.  Grace empowers you to walk the walk.  Grace gives you the words to say with power.  Remember that The Gospel is the power of God (Rom. 1:16) and God's Kingdom isn't about words, but about power (1 Cor. 4:20).  So, where is the power?  That is what all believers need.

Acts 4:33 says, "The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all."

Grace is favor.  The unmerited part means you didn't earn it.  If we are a people who have seen the sick healed and demons cast out; it's a sign of God's favor upon us.  Grace got you saved and grace keeps you keeping on (Col. 2:6).

Jesus came to save.  Grace and truth came through Jesus (John 1:17).  He came to reveal the Father and to empower us to walk and live, as he did.  We need to grow in truth and grace (2 Peter 3:18).  Sin can not out do grace (Rom. 5:20).  There is enough grace to extinguish all sin, the most depraved sin; in the world and in believers, because the resource of grace is unlimited.  We serve a God with unlimited resources.  

James gives some bullet points on how to position your self to receive more grace:
  • So submit to God. 
  • But resist the devil and he will flee from you.  
  • Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. 
  • Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded.  
  • Grieve, mourn, and weep. 
  • Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair.  
  • Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.


The last verse of the Bible is Revelation 22:21:   
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.



Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.

Julia H. Johnston (1849-1919)
  

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1.  An Out-of-this-World Experience: A Look at "κόσμος" in the Johannine Literature,  W. Hall Harris III
2. The Holy Spirit and Our Emotions, David Eckman 
3.  New English Translation, NET, notes
4. What Is Grace?,  John MacArthur
5. James, Kurt A. Richards on



 
   

He'll Be Coming Round The Mountain

Listen! It’s my lover: here he comes now, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.  My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.
-Song of Solomon 2:8-9a

I heard the song in my heart that, "He'll be coming round the mountain when he comes."  Can you hear him coming?

A move of God is coming.  Awakening, revival, or times of refreshing.  It's coming and He is coming.

The way God comes could be described as leaping, dancing, and spinning.  We know God is not human, but God is a person, three persons; and we can only describe God and his movements in human terms and words.  Bible writers probably saw and heard things that they could not adequately describe, so, for example, in Ezekiel and Revelation we read, "like a"(1).

To see and hear him coming, you will have to look and listen.  Today, you can hear him coming.  Tomorrow, you will hear his voice.  The following day (the third day), you will see him.

To hear, you must listen, so listen.  You will have to turn down, turn away from, and turn off the other sounds; so you can hear.  You'll hear before you see and you will hear even if you can not seen.

Will you listen and hear your lover, the Lord?  Or will you stay distracted and instead hear thunder (John 12:29)?  Do you know that when Jesus walked the earth, many people missed it, including his own brothers (John 7:3-5)?  Even you and me, believers seeking more of God, can miss a move of God, if we are not attentive; so stop, look and listen.

When he comes, he will round the mountain.  He will leap upon the mountain.  He will bound over the hills.  This means many things.  Jesus will take the high places, in our lives and in the world; if we will partner with him in prayer and deed.

Problems, impasses, obstacles: things that are in the way or hindering you life or your dream from God, are not a problem for Jesus.  He dances on them.  When he is with you, when he comes, the problem is solved.  He moves the mountain or he moves you away from the mountain or he moves you up the mountain or he leaves the mountain and changes the way you see the mountain.

When he comes, he is all you need or desire.  It has always been that way, but as we anticipate his coming and listen and watch, turning our ears and eyes away from the dim world, to the horizon; we come into congruency, harmony, and alignment.

Can you hear him coming?

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Painting Credit: Upon The Mountains  2010, John Grapperhaus

1.  (Ezekiel 1:16, 22, 26; 8:3, 10:10; Revelation 1:10, 1:13, 3:3, 4:1, 6, 7; 6:6, 14; 8:8, 10; 11:1, 12:15, 13:11, 14:2, 14; 15:2, 16:15, 19:6, 21:11, and 16)

Pride

Look now (Behold), I will make you of little importance (I have made you small) among the nations; you will be (are) totally (very) despised.  Your proud heart has tricked you (The wickedness of your heart enticed you) — you who live in the cracks (clefts) of the rock, whose dwelling (habitation) is high above.  You who say in your heart (to your self), “Who will bring me down to the ground (earth)?”  -Obadiah 3 CEB & (The Complete Jewish Bible)

Proud people are deceived people.  The price that arrogance pays is deception.  The proud heart is self-righteous, it does not need to bow down to God because it is self-sufficient. 

We see pride as arrogance, superiority, presumption, and sense of entitlement.  The proud person rejects the truth.

The Holman Bible Dictionary defines Pride as:
Undue confidence in and attention to one's own skills, accomplishments, state, possessions, or position. Pride is easier to recognize than to define, easier to recognize in others than in oneself. Many biblical words describe this concept, each with its own emphasis. Some of the synonyms for pride include arrogance, presumption, conceit, self-satisfaction, boasting, and high-mindedness. It is the opposite of humility, the proper attitude one should have in relation to God. Pride is rebellion against God because it attributes to self the honor and glory due to God alone. Proud persons do not think it necessary to ask forgiveness because they do not admit their sinful condition. This attitude toward God finds expression in one's attitude toward others, often causing people to have a low estimate of the ability and worth of others and therefore to treat them with either contempt or cruelty. Some have considered pride to be the root and essence of sin. Others consider it to be sin in its final form. In either case, it is a grievous sin.

The deceived person, the proud person, is tricked and starts living delusionally. 

The proud person  becomes deceived and out of touch with God.

Pride replaces God with self.  The proud person may be very religious, but they treat God as an "add on", or convenience.

Pride, the proud person, is independent of God.  Their ultimate confidence is in themselves, rather than God.  God may be an addition or a convenience, and the proud person sees themselves as the center, the achiever, the producer, the author, the source, the creator, the destroyer, and the one worthy of praise.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible illustrates the destructiveness of pride.  Pride seems to be at the center or core of every sin.  We disobey God because of pride, we don't listen to God because of pride, and we hurt others because of pride.  What is pride, simply put?  It is over-esteeming self (inflated self-esteem).  If that becomes our modus operandi, our controlling principle; then we are in for trouble, because we won't listen, won't repent, won't look after others.

Pride is mentioned in the love chapter of 1 Corinthians: "Love is not proud".  That kind of sums it up.

The prophecy of judgement about pride in Obadiah illustrates and teaches us today about the toxic destruction awaiting the proud person who has set themselves against God.  They are deceived and they will be humbled.  The people of Edom were a people ensnared by pride.  Their pride made them foolish.  Their pride made them believe lies.  They became bewitched and beguiled.  Pride makes you insane.  In their insanity, they came against God's people.

There are only two paths, two doors, two ways: The way of pride and the way of humility.  God has always offered the way of humility from his dealings with Adam and Eve to The Incarnation of Jesus.  Pride is not, "the other comfortable, perhaps more comfortable, option", instead of walking with God in humility.  Pride is the path of destruction.

At the cross, we humble ourselves before The Savior who humbled himself.  We humbly bow to The Savior and give our whole lives to him in humility.  We then, walk humbly, living a life of love, with Christ, before God.

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Photo credit link

Sharing Food is The Heart of God

Don’t grieve a hungry person, and don’t make a person in dire straits angry.
You should not despise the hungry soul, and you should not aggravate a poor man in his need.
-Sirach 4:2 (CEB & CPDV1)

A number of years ago, there was a young man I would see on the corner, who was asking for hand outs.  One day, as I was giving him a drink of water; a middle-aged man with a pony-tail, driving an older Mercedes coupe, called out to me from his car window, "don't give him anything, I know him and he is a ____."

If you had to boil all sin down to one common denominator, I think it would be pride.  Pride is always looking for a way to look down on others.  Pride always says, "I am God".

The person following Christ and saved by Christ has walked away from the life of pride.  Jesus humbled himself to come to earth to save mankind.  Christ followers humble themselves before God and in this life with other people and do not look down on others.  Many people who are in Christ now realize they would not be alive today without Jesus and live each day in that thankful reality.

The Jewish people who were wanting to walk with God and do the right thing in the one or two hundred years before Jesus Christ and the early church of Christ were very interested in godly wisdom.  The book of Sirach was so popular with the early church that it was nicknamed the "church book".  Those who were new in Christ had the same questions of, "now how shall we live?"  Here is an 8 minute video on Sirach by a couple of theologians at the University of Nottingham, if you want to learn a bit more about Sirach.

Poor people, hungry people, or people who lack have feelings too.  They can be grieved and they can be made to feel despised.  They can be made angry and they can be aggravated.  Wisdom says to you and me, "don't do it".  Don't grieve them, don't despise them.

Hungry people are hungry for what they are in lack of.  For homeless or poor people, that is food.  To not grieve them would mean to meet the need that causes the hunger.  To not despise would mean to honor and love with action by feeding and clothing and befriending.

These words, like much wisdom, sound like common sense.  It is sanctified common sense.  But, many people who say they are Christ followers grieve and despise hungry people.  We do that by ignoring them, judging them unfit for our care, and we even adopt crass, twisted theology that says they are getting their punishment.  I'm embarrassed to even type those words.

If we have been filled, the gospel gives us an obligation to meet the need of the hungry people we encounter, especially in the church community.  Notice that Jesus says, "give us the bread we need for today"(Matt. 6:11).  I'm afraid that in our western rugged individual, consumerist, narcissistic christian culture; we think Jesus says to us to pray instead, "give me today my daily bread".  We apply "us" to "self" and "we" to "me and my immediate family".

My pastor taught us that "daily bread" means, "tomorrow's bread today".  He said this because the Greek word for daily is a word that means a lot more than daily.  It means "the coming day", or literally "super substantial".  Donald Hagner  suggested the translation, "give us today the eschatological bread that will be ours in the future"2.  Dr. Hagner argues that Jesus instructs us the pray for bread for all, with the banquet in heaven in mind, where there will be no hunger.

All Christians are one church in Christ.  Jesus is the one loaf:
Since there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, because we all share the one loaf of bread.  -1 Corinthians 10:17
So, we all share Christ and we also share bread, so that no one among us is hungry.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about this in Life Together:
"We share our bread.  Thus, we are firmly bound to one another not only in the Spirit, but with our whole physical being.  The one bread that is given to our community unites us in a firm covenant.  Now no one must hunger as long as another has bread, and whoever shatters this community of our bodily life also shatters the community of the Spirit.  Both are inextricably linked together.  For the Lord meets us in the hungry."
I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  -Matthew 25:35
Bonhoeffer finally says:
"As long as we eat our bread together, we will have enough even with the smallest amount.  Hunger only begins when people desire to keep their own bread for themselves.  That is a strange divine law.  Could not the story of the feeding of the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves have this meaning among many others?3"
True walking with God is lived out in sharing food (Isaiah 58:17).  Sharing is the heart of God (John 3:16) and sharing food is part of that.  Feeding the hungry and sharing bread is the heart of God that we share.  The table of fellowship and the extension of that table into the world, is a place of sharing and stopping hunger.  This is authentic living in Christ and authentic ministry.


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1.  Catholic Public Domain Version (2009): a new translation of the Latin Vulgate, using the Douay Rheims as a guide.
2.  Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13, Word Biblical Commentary, 1993; pp. 144-50.
3.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp. 73-74
The work of art above is by: Sperindio Cagnola, Works of Mercy (Feed the hungry), 1514 -24, Paruzzaro, San Marcello Church.

Shut Up and Sing!

Sing praises to God! Sing praises! Sing praises to our king! Sing praises.  -Psalm 47:6

Sing.  Shut up and sing.  Sing if you love the Lord.  Sing if you have problems.  Sing.  We need to sing more.  I'm convinced of this.  It's spiritually healthy.  It's Biblical.  Sing.

Are you depressed?  Sing.  Sing praises.  Sing the truth that you may not feel or believe.  When you sing the truth, your spirit will say, "amen", and affirm the truth that God is good, no matter what; and whether you expect it or not, there will be a building up inside you that will drive out depression.  

When we pray, "thy kingdom come", we better get ready to start praising next.  Sing it.  The presence of the King will make you want to sing praises to him.  Sing praises.

Singing praises brings God's presence.  If you have not noticed this, take notice.  I know God is omnipresent and I know God's Spirit is already here.  But, God's manifest presence increases when we praise him.  If we ask, "come Holy Spirit", or sing it; we are inviting God to increase His presence among us.

Singing praises changes the atmosphere here on earth.  We live in contested territory.  The Devil and all the demons are pushed back by God's Spirit and by God's presence.  Praise, singing praises, pushes these negative spirits out and away, like a candle pushes out darkness.

We need to sing when we are alone and also with and to each other.  The with part, everyone can get by thinking of a choir or singing with others.  But we also need to sing to other believers:

Speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts.  -Ephesians 5:19

The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts. -Colossians 3:16

Maybe these New Testament verses are telling us that singing is a ministry of the church, not only to God, but to each other.  Most of us are probably blessed and lifted up by hearing others sing praises to God and glorifying Him.  That is wonderful.  I'm there too, but I think that this feel good feeling from hearing the choir is mostly in the soul realm, just like when a movie makes you shed some tears because you are moved.  We have this experience, but we don't receive the inner healing or deliverance we need.

But what if there is more to Colossians 3:16 than a t-shirt for a committed choir member to wear?  What if there is power released when we sing to another believer as a ministry?  What if we did ministry time by having those who need ministry get sung to?  When the Holy Spirit sings to you through a person or persons, I believe there will be impact and change: healing and deliverance.

Sing more.  Sing praises to God more.  Sing to one another.  God invented singing.  Shhhhhh and sing.

God's Secret, Hidden People

(The children) of Elam 1,254.  -Ezra 2:7

Do you feel hidden?

The name Elam means secret or hidden.  Do you feel like you are on the shelf, not being used by God?  Maybe you are part of God's secret agents.

God has people who are in secret.

I have this idea that God has His attention on secret people.   I believe that God has rewards for secret people coming.  You may feel on the shelf, but you are actually hidden for a special purpose.  God has you in reserve.

The number one thousand, two-hundred, and fifty-four; tells us God's plan for his hidden, secret, and in reserve children

One thousand speaks of recompense. 

Recompense means that you will be compensated or made amends to, due to harm or loss you suffered. In Genesis 20:16 is the story of Abimelech recompensing Abraham and Sarah.

Two speaks of fellowship, partnership, and co-laboring (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). 

There are hidden people who have felt like they are "going it alone", who are about to be joined by someone.  Two also speaks of testimony (1).  Your testimony is about to be strengthened by corroborating testimony.  You are about to be complimented and affirmed in the message that God has uniquely given you that has seemed to fall flat to others because you have been a lone voice in your realm saying these things.

Hundred speaks of prosperity. 

Prosperity means prospering.  You will prosper.  In Genesis 26:12, Isaac prospered because God blessed him.

Two hundred speaks of expectancy. 

Twenty is the number of expectancy and two hundred is twenty, ten-fold (2).  Twenty is one less than twenty-one and twenty-one is seven times three.  Seven is spiritual  perfection and three is divine perfection (3).  Twenty anticipates twenty-one.  Ten means complete (3).  Two hundred means complete, full expectancy.

Perhaps you have struggled in hiddenness with hope being deferred making the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12).  Like a pregnant mother, you are going to become encouraged in expectancy.  You will expect to see God move.  You will be a person you cultivates an atmosphere of faith.

Two hundred also speaks of insufficiency (John 6:7, Ezra 2:65). 

In the world and in the flesh, we don't have the resources to do God's work and please God.  We need God's help, God's grace, anointing, power, and miracles.

Fifty speaks of jubilee or deliverance. 

Fifty is the number of God's deliverance and rest at the perfect time (3). The year or time of God's favor is coming for secret people: deliverance, rest, liberation, and recovery of sight (Luke 4:18-19).

Four speaks of God's creative works (3). 

I believe that secret people will see God's creative works.  God is going to be on the move, in your life.  You'll see God move.  God will make a way where there is no way.  God will do works in creation.  The kingdom of God is going to break into the earth realm again in your view.

Have you ever wondered why all the lists of families and names in the Bible?  I think they reveal to us that God cares for and has plans for individuals, families, groups, and tribes.


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Footnotes:

1.  Testimony of two witnesses:  Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6, 19:15; Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28.

2.  Twenty years Jacob waited to get possession of his wives and property, Gen 21:38,41.  Twenty years Israel waited for a deliverer from Jabin's oppression, Judg 4:3.  Twenty years Israel waited for deliverance through Samson, Judg 15:20, 16:31. But his work was never much more than "begun," Judg 13:25. Twenty years the Ark of the Covenant waited at Kirjath-jearim, 1 Sam 7:2. Twenty years Solomon was waiting for the completion of the two houses, 1 Kings 9:10; 2 Chron 8:1. Twenty years Jerusalem waited between its capture and destruction; and Twenty years Jeremiah prophesied concerning it.  Bullinger, Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance

3. Bullinger, Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance