Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Grace; Small Thought, Huge Implication

A woman has a daughter who is really walking down a dangerous path. She is using drugs and is living on the street, and pays for her drug habit by prostitution. The mother's heart is broken for her daughter. She is also angry with the choices this child of hers has made.

She cannot let this child into her home because she cannot have this kind of behavior there. It would destroy the rest of the family. What is this mother to do?

The girl cannot get into rehab, she has no money. She cannot get away from her pimp for she has no power over him. She cannot even see that she is destroying her life because her mind and body is set on serving the drugs that have seduced her.

This child will surely die if something does not happen.

As the mother watches her child she knows what she must do.

First: The mother pays the bill for a rehab center in full, for as long as the treatment might take, whether 1mo, 6 mo, 20 years.

Second: The mother purchases a house that she pays in full for this child to live in once she is clean. The provisions  for the rest of her life are set up and all her needs will be met.

Third: The mother has someone who will take this offer to her daughter and walk her to the door of the rehab center and wait while she gets well. This person will then take the child to the home prepared for her and help her as she learns to walk in her new clean life.

My question for you is this;

Is grace found in the treatment and home and the friend provided? Or is grace found in the fact that the mother chose to make this offer?

Jerry Bridges wrote:
It was BECAUSE of His grace that God the Father sent His only Son to die in our place. To say it another way, Christ's death was the RESULT of God's grace; grace IS NOT the result of Christ's death. BECAUSE Christ completely satisfied the justice of God, we can now experience the grace of God.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The plan to send Jesus is the ultimate act of grace.

May I challenge your heart with this; grace did not happen on the cross of Jesus. The true picture of God's grace was that He chose to reach down to make a way for us to be reconciled with Him, before we even knew we needed Him.

Just like the mother in the story above, God cared too much to allow His child to remain helpless.
However, neither the daughter in the above story, or the daughter writing this blog, or the daughter reading this blog, can experience the benefits of the grace offered without accepting the gift.

That is where we pick up the story of grace next time.

Chasing After Their Hearts,

Glenda Johnson

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Just Can't Do It On My Own!

I sat at the beach Friday in Ocean City, MD. The sun was shining, a cool breeze was blowing and the waves were gently crashing onto the shore. It was just wonderful. I could see water as far as the furthest horizon.

As I was looking over the ocean it occurred to me that while I am actually a very good swimmer, I would never get very far heading out to swim across it.  I would have as much success trying to swim across the Atlantic ocean as I would trying to keep the the covenant of the Law. Remember the Ten Commandments? They are the basis of the Mosaic covenant with God. Take a look:
Exodus 20:1-20
And God spoke all these words, saying,
 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
 "You shall have no other gods before me.
  "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
  but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
  "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,
  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
  "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
  "You shall not murder.
  "You shall not commit adultery.
  "You shall not steal.
 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's."
  Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off
 and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die."
  Moses said to the people, "Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin."

The problem is, no one could keep from breaking these laws, and therefore sinning against God. No one.

Romans 3:23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God  
I might do alright for a little while, then, wham! Just like getting a cramp while swimming, I sin and sink again .
Then I find something kinda scary in Galatians;

Galatians 3:10
Certainly, there is a curse on all who rely on their own efforts to live according to a set of standards because Scripture says, "Whoever doesn't obey everything that is written in Moses' Teachings is cursed."
Not only do I have to keep God's commands, but I have to keep all of them. ALL OF THEM. ALL THE TIME. Like swimming across the ocean, it can't be done.

The great thing is that God's grace is bigger than the ocean, and bigger than my sin and inability to keep His law.

I am glad that the Mosaic covenant was just temporary. It was put in place to prepare God's people for the second covenant. It was there to show us we could not keep it and needed help.

We needed a Savior. So while we were still enemies of God, His great graciousness sent the only thing that could bridge the gap of the ocean size vastness of our sin, Jesus.

Tomorrow, the grace that sent Jesus.

Until then, remember, God knows you cannot make it on your own in this world. His grace will provide everything you need. You don't (can't) have to go it alone.

Chase after His Heart!!

Chasing Their Hearts,

Glenda Johnson

Friday, March 19, 2010

Promise Keeper Or Promise Breaker?

Last fall our family took a three day vacation to Cape May, NJ. We had very generous friends who let us use their beach house free of charge. The economy  has hit our house just like everyone else, and this was only way we could afford a much needed vacation. Everything we did was free except one lighthouse that we visited.

My kids really wanted to rent bikes and ride through out Cape May. We just could not afford to do it at that time. I told them that before it got cold, we would go to Ocean City, closer to our home, and rent bikes and ride there. I promised them.

I made a covenant agreement with them.

I did not keep it. Things happened and we just were not able to do it.

While my children understood, they were still are disappointed.They also know that mom doesn't always keep her promises.

That thought saddens me. I let my kids down. My integrity has dropped a rung with them. It hurts.

Good thing God is not like me. Our God is a God of covenants. And better still, He has never broken a promise. This promise-keeping God shows His grace in this way.

Noah had a promise made to him by God,
Genesis 9:8-17
  God also said to Noah and his sons,
  "I am going to make my promise to you, your descendants,
  and every living being that is with you-birds, domestic animals, and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ship-every living thing on earth.
 I am making my promise to you. Never again will all life be killed by flood waters. Never again will there be a flood that destroys the earth."
God said, "This is the sign of the promise I am giving to you and every living being that is with you for generations to come.
  I will put my rainbow in the clouds to be a sign of my promise to the earth.
  Whenever I form clouds over the earth, a rainbow will appear in the clouds.
  Then I will remember my promise to you and every living animal. Never again will water become a flood to destroy all life.
  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember my everlasting promise to every living animal on earth."
  So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the promise I am making to all life on earth."
The interesting thing about this promise is that it was not only made for Noah and his family but for all his descendants too. Guess who you and I are? That's right! We are Noah's descendants! That promise is for us. We still see the sign of the promise after every rain in the sky. After all these years God has still kept that promise.

Lawrence Richards writes, " A biblical covenant is a clear statement of God's purposes and intentions expressed in terms that bind God by solemn oath to perform what He has promised."

In the covenant that God made with Moses, we have God's law. He gave Israel a set of laws to live by. Here is God's agreement with them,

Exodus 19:1-6
Two months after the Israelites left Egypt, they came to the desert of Sinai.
  Israel had moved from Rephidim and had come into the desert of Sinai. They had set up camp there in front of the mountain.
  Then Moses went up the mountain to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, "This is what you must say to the descendants of Jacob. Tell the Israelites,
  'You have seen for yourselves what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to my mountain.
  If you carefully obey me and are faithful to the terms of my promise, then out of all the nations you will be my own special possession, even though the whole world is mine.
  You will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.' These are the words you must speak to the Israelites."

In a nutshell it says; obey my voice and keep my commands and God will make them a special people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
The agreement or covenant was Israelites obey, God Blesses.

God kept His bargain, the Israelites, not so much. They turned from God and they got into all kinds of trouble.
But our loving and gracious God did not forsake His people.
In comes Jeremiah, and He says this;

Jeremiah 31:31-34
  "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new promise to Israel and Judah.
  It will not be like the promise that I made to their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of Egypt. They rejected that promise, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD.
 "But this is the promise that I will make to Israel after those days," declares the LORD: "I will put my teachings inside them, and I will write those teachings on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
  No longer will each person teach his neighbors or his relatives by saying, 'Know the LORD.' All of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me," declares the LORD, "because I will forgive their wickedness and I will no longer hold their sins against them."

The old covenant was the law and even when man chose to turn from God, God's grace still remained. God made that covenant to show us how much we needed the second covenant.
You do know that is the promise Jeremiah is talking about above in that scripture, right?
"because I will forgive their wickedness and I will no longer hold their sins against them." 
That is a picture of the grace of God.  While we are turning away from Him, He is putting the plan in place that will bring us back to Him.

God has never broken a promise. That is the very nature of God that shines out grace all over us every moment of our lives.

Rest in His grace. Rest in His promises. Be filled.

Then shine His grace on everyone you meet.

Chasing Their Hearts,

Glenda Johnson

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Longing to Be Gracious

As what the world and the Church call Easter approaches, the thought of grace seems to be forefront on many minds. After all grace was what happened on that hill of Golgotha so many years ago, right?
Grace is what saved me from my sins, right?

So just what is this GRACE that has everyone so excited, thankful, and in a Church building on Easter Sunday morn?

That is exactly what we are going to tackle here everyday until the wonderful Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter) arrives.

So let's look at what Isaiah has to say about the subject:
Isaiah 30:18
Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.

Do you grasp what that says? God LONGS to show grace to us. He waits to have COMPASSION on us. The Creator of the universe, God almighty is waiting and longing to be gracious to me. That totally blows my mind.

So how does that look?
Everyday I have air to breathe, sun or rain, a world that orbits like it is supposed to, no matter WHAT I DO.
I do not have to worry that the earth will stop spinning on its axis. I do not have to worry that the sun will stop shining. God's grace and compassion has provided all of that for me.
You see God's grace did not begin at the cross. It started long before that. That is what we are going to explore over the next week or so.
Don't misunderstand. We WILL get to the cross. Our path does not begin there. Nor does the topic of grace end there.

Think about the garden of Eden. God's grace provided everything Adam needed. Including Eve. Ever thought about that before?

A statement by John Piper says: " So even before they sinned, Adam and Eve lived on grace. And God's will for them was that they live by faith in future grace-God's daily, fatherly care and provision."

Grace was around before sin, and remains after our sin is removed.
The following really touched me as I read it and I want to share it with you:

The Father and The Child (from "Becoming A Woman Of Grace by Cynthia Herald)

 The Father Spoke:
Dear child, it is time for you to understand My grace.
Yes, Father; I know little of Your grace.
If you do not begin to comprehend the depth and breadth of My grace, you will not live in the freedom and holiness that I have purposed for you.
I want to live fully as You have intended.
My grace to you came at a great cost, and I desire that you become a woman of grace.
How will I learn of Your grace?
By listening carefully to My Word, drawing close to me in prayer, and allowing My Spirit to teach you. Come, child, let us begin. I long to show you My graciousness.

I hope this walk through the thought of grace will help you to grow, as it as, and continues to help me grow and chase the heart of God.

Chasing Their Hearts,

Glenda Johnson

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm Jesus' #1 Follower!

People boast about their faith in Jesus all the time. Sometimes I am one of the them. Ok. So a lot of the time sometimes I am one of them. Confused? Me too. Words can be confusing. Especially when our actions don't match up with them. Think about these things:

A husband beats his wife, then says: " It's just because I love you so much".

A college student says, " I really want to be a doctor!" But doesn't attend their classes or do the class work.

A woman says, " My husband is the head of our house." And yet at home, she undermines every decision he makes and will not submit to his authority because she can do it better. 

A church says " We are Pro-life! Abortion is wrong." But they condemn the young woman who finds herself pregnant, and trying to find God in the midst of it all. And allows her no joy in the celebration of her coming baby!

I say all these things because, I hear all the time, "I love Jesus!" And then nothing.

The biggest problem is, more times than not, those are my own words I am hearing. Every time I say "I love Jesus", and don't serve those around me, I commit the sin of omission.

James 4:17  Whoever knows what is right but doesn't do it is sinning.  But, I do what's right (in my own eyes).
I set the standard far too often for I think is doing right.

Listen to what Jesus says:

John 13:12-17  After Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothes, he took his place at the table again. Then he asked his disciples, "Do you understand what I've done for you?
 You call me teacher and Lord, and you're right because that's what I am.
 So if I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you must wash each others feet.
 I've given you an example that you should follow.
I can guarantee this truth: Slaves are not superior to their owners, and messengers are not superior to the people who send them.
If you understand all of this, you are blessed whenever you follow my example.

Jesus wants me to serve others. ( But He was talking to the disciples, did He really mean me too?)

If I am to become like Jesus, I must follow His example like He asked me too. He, and only He knows what is best for me.

James 2:17- 19( GW) says this,
  In the same way, faith by itself is dead if it doesn't cause you to do any good things.
  Another person might say, "You have faith, but I do good things." Show me your faith apart from the good things you do. I will show you my faith by the good things I do.
  You believe that there is one God. That's fine! The demons also believe that, and they tremble with fear.

My words do not mean anything if my actions do not match.


If I want to chase after God's heart, I need to serve like His Son. Everyone. Everywhere. Even my enemies.

Wow, I need to get busy!

Chasing Their Hearts,

Glenda Johnson