Tag Archives: Grace

Catching the Germs

Catching the Germs

Our grandkids were with us for a few days. We love it when they come! But this time two of them had coughs and runny noses. We found ourselves hugging them a little more carefully, snuggling a little less and basically trying to love them without getting too close. After all we didn’t want to catch their germs or contract their viruses. Then we’d be coughing and blowing our noses.

I take some comfort in the fact that I know we’re not alone in this defensive behavior. How often have you:

  • fist bumped rather than shaken hands because the other person had a cold?
  • silently thought, or perhaps quietly verbalized “I wish they’d cover their mouth when they cough?”
  • cringed on an airplane because the person across the aisle kept coughing or sniffling?
  • stayed away from visiting someone because they were ill?
  • wanted to wear a mask to keep from inhaling germs?

Let’s face it. We do our best to avoid catching the germs. But after the grandkids had left the Lord spoke to me. He said, “Think about Jesus.” I said, “Okay. I’m thinking. Now what?” He replied, “Aren’t you glad He didn’t avoid our germs?” Then it hit me. Jesus did everything He could to catch my germs and contract my virus. He did everything He could to make my sin His.

When God His Father asked Him to come down to earth He didn’t say’ “But Father, I might catch their sin germs. I might get dirty. Can’t I wait until they’re better?” Rather “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:15) He made His dwelling not near people or close to people but among them. He touched them. He hugged them. He hung out with them.

Why? Because He knew the only way to heal us was to die on a cross. So He needed – and wanted – to catch our sin so He could nail it to the cross. The apostle Paul put it this way:

He didn’t just carry our sins – He became our sin. He caught our germs, He contracted our disease, He was covered with our dirt.

Think about it. He took up all our sin – from the beginning of time until the end. He was covered with every sin that had been committed and every sin that would be committed. It means He carried our germs, our sins.

Tom Cruise starred in the movie called Minority Report. It was about an elite police task force that routinely arrests people who will commit crimes in the future – in other words, this force could see the future and they arrested people to prevent crime from happening.

It makes me wonder what God sees when He looks into my heart. What sins did He see in me as He hung on the cross dying for me? Knowing full well what was in my heart, knowing fully all the times I would come up short and miss the target, still He loved me and died for me.

And it’s true for you as well. Consider: what sins did He see in your heart?  Knowing full well what was in your heart, knowing fully all the times you would come up short and miss the target, still He loved you and died for you.

Words cannot really express the wonder and magnitude of what Jesus did for us. Perhaps our best response is to follow the admonition and encouragement of the author to the Hebrews:


It Doesn’t Matter

While in elementary school I was awarded a part in our class play. In fact, I got the part of the main character. Are you ready for this? The play was “The Ugly Duckling.” So – you guessed it – the main character, my part, was the ugly duckling!

It’s okay to laugh – it is rather funny! …

But now that the laughter has died down, here’s the kicker. At the point in the play where ugly duckling first appeared as the beautiful swan, someone else took over the part.

Now that’s even funnier! You can laugh again. I wasn’t permanently scarred and there was a good reason for it – everyone had to have a role to play so parts were doubled up. At least that’s what they told me!

I, obviously, still love to tell the story. It’s a good ice breaker and can quickly lighten up a discussion. Yet what I remember equally well about the play, and the most important memory, is the song we sang at the end, which summarized the theme of our little play. I still remember the words and the tune. The words went like this:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re born in a pig pen, born in a pig pen, born in a pig pen.
It doesn’t matter if you’re born in a pig pen, if you’re really a swan.”  

What a lesson! Birthright doesn’t matter. Opinions of others don’t matter. What people choose to call me doesn’t matter. How I’m labeled doesn’t matter. As long as I know who and whose I am.
Perhaps that’s why I love the apostle Paul’s opening words to the Ephesian church.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:3-8 New Living Translation)

Wow! It doesn’t matter if we’re born in a pig pen when we’re really the most beautiful swan of all – a child of God! Can we even grasp it? “He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms … He has showered his kindness upon us.” It’s all ours! As the apostle John put it, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” (John 1:16) Jesus brings all of the faithfulness, kindness, and mercy of God into our lives. “From the fullness of His grace…” any and every grace He has is available for us. He will give us all the grace we need. Jesus brings grace upon grace, one blessing after another, repeated and endless favors. It is continuous, with no limit. Where one grace ends, another begins; when one blessing is no longer adequate, another begins. When one favor is no longer needed, another begins. When our needs and situations change so does the mercy of God; His mercies are new every morning. There is a blessing for old age and one for youth; there is favor for those in prosperity and for those in adversity; there is grace for success and grace for failure.

Why is God so good and gracious? Because even before the foundation of the world He took great pleasure in deciding and determining to love us. He even adopted us into His family. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus! No matter what anyone else says or thinks about us, no matter what someone else may do to us, it doesn’t matter. We are beautiful swans – because we come from good stock, the best stock of all.

There’s much more I could say (I can hear the shouts of ‘preach it brother!’). But let’s end it here. Or should I say begin here. This week read Ephesians 1:3-14 three times a day – morning, noon (mid-day) and before you go to bed. Think about it. Meditate on it. Digest it. And, along with that, remember the little chorus:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re born in a pig pen, born in a pig pen, born in a pig pen.
It doesn’t matter if you’re born in a pig pen, if you’re really a swan.”

Just see what a difference it makes.

That Good Old Salty Language

One of the toughest things for me to control in my life has not been my budget, my circumstances, my ministry, my mind, or even my behavior. It has been my tongue.

Considering what’s going on in our country right now, I have a hunch I’m not alone in this. And it’s important to understand, as Proverbs 18:21 bluntly states: “The tongue has the power of life and death…” How we use our tongue, the words we say and how we say them, is literally an issue of life and death.

Our tongue can destroy life. James 3:5-6 bluntly states “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Have you ever been burned by the tongue of someone who, with a few choice words, cut us to the quick? How many of us as parents have not, at some point in time, said something that burned and harmed our children? The tongue, like fire, does lasting damage.

Why does it do this damage? Proverbs 18:8 says, “They go down to a man’s inmost parts.” The image is that words, like food, are internalized, digested, and carried around forever; they live on long after they have been spoken. James even goes as far as to say the tongue, words, can kill (3:8): “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Growing up I learned to say, “Sticks and stones will hurt my bones, but names will never hurt (kill) me.”  It is nice to have a positive attitude, but I have learned that it is not that simple. I have ministered to too many broken people, and have been wounded enough myself, to know words can maim and kill. A talkative woman once tried to justify the quickness of her own tongue by saying, “It passes; it is done with quickly.” To which evangelist Billy Sunday replied, “So does a shotgun blast.”  I wonder how many people have been severely wounded because of the out of control rhetoric that fills our American air (and airways)?And the damage is not limited to those who are the targets of the words – it reaches those who speak them. Proverbs 13:3: “…he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” A quick tongue damages everyone in its wake. That’s why Proverbs 10:19 (TLB) states,“Don’t talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow.” I wonder how many people have regretted or will come to regret their inexcusable words because of the self-inflicted pain they will suffer?

It’s fair to ask: How many words of sarcasm have you uttered this week? How many insinuations have you made? How much blame have you pushed off on others? What about those “jokes” that caused more hurt than laughter? And what about the name-calling you did in jest? Or the gossip you passed along? How have you spoken to or about your mate, children, parents, coworkers, and leaders?

Yet there is a solution: The same tongue can be a positive instrument – it can build and give life. Paul wrote in Colossians 4:6: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” The tongue can offer healing grace. It used to be said of old sailors, “They use such salty language”, and it was meant as a negative as it referred to their foul language. But Paul says we are to season our words with the salt of grace.
Some people care enough about others to say the right things while other people care only about releasing their venom. As someone said, “The difference between a gossip and a concerned friend is like the difference between a butcher and a surgeon. Both cut the meat, but for different reasons.”

So how many words of praise will you utter? How many words of thanks? How much love will you express? How much affirmation will you give? How much honor will you give through what you say? How much salty language will you pour out?

I challenge everyone who reads these words to lead the way in healing rather than hurting, in giving life rather than killing. Paul wrote (Ephesians 4:29): “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” So let us bring our hearts under the captivity of Jesus Christ. Let the Holy Spirit speak to us before we speak to others. As Beth Day wrote back in 1855 we must always ask three questions before we speak: Is it true? Is it needful? Is it kind? And to that I would add a fourth: Is it of God? William Norris has penned it cleverly: “If your lips would keep from slips, Five things observe with care: To whom you speak; of whom you speak; And how, and when, and where.”

Let’s get back to some of that good old salty language. With the Psalmist we need to pray (Psalm 141:3-4): “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil…”

Who You Gonna’ Call?

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? You need help and dial an appropriate phone number and all you get is recorded options; there is no live person to assist you. And when you do finally reach a live person, they claim they’re not the person who can help you and they put you on hold while they transfer you to someone else.

How great it is that, when it comes to getting help and relief in life, there is something, Someone, so much better! The letter to the Hebrews ties right into our age of tele-communications by providing a formula by which we can contact live Divine Aid. The number to dial is 8-476-634-7223 (THRONE GRACE). To tap into divine aid, dial the throne of grace.

Hebrews 4:16 –  “Let us then approach the throne …”  What a marvelous invitation: approach the throne.

While we’ve never really seen throne (1) we do have some impressive descriptions. Consider the Psalms.  “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth (Ps. 8:1) “…the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids test, the children of men.”(Ps. 11:4) “…the Lord sits enthroned forever over the flood. The Lord sits enthroned as king forever.”(Ps. 29:10)

The prophet Isaiah shares his vision: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:1-4) The apostle John, in Revelation 4 and 5 provides yet another glorious description. The overall impression is that the throne is the seat for, the primary residence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. It is clear that the throne is the center from which emanates the power that sustains and controls our world. From this throne the Almighty, Holy God rules all worlds – at His voice heaven resounds with praise and hell trembles. And it’s at this throne where our Divine Aid begins!

But better still – this throne is THE THRONE OF GRACE. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence…” (Hebrews 4:16) John’s vision includes this description. “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.” (Revelation 4:1-3)

Notice the throne is surrounded by a rainbow. (2) God’s grace is complete and full! This is not the great white throne of judgment – this is a throne of grace! God’s sovereign power and dominion are rooted in love and grace. Our Divine Aid is rooted in love and grace. From the throne we will receive loving favor, even if we are utterly undeserving. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords has a grace-filled heart! To dial the throne is to tap into grace!

This certainly changes our view of prayer. As the John Newton penned:

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare:
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay;
Therefore will not say thee nay.
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much;
None can ever ask too much.

We do not dial up the throne to beg as a pauper or to settle for scraps; we approach expectantly to receive grace. For relief the number to dial is 8-476-634-7223– the throne of grace.

And there’s more! Who do you think we get to talk to? Check in next week for more!

(1) www.iStock.com… Throne-iStock-587816160

(2) https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisdubai/2579335447/