Tag Archives: grace

Unseen Grace, Divine Providence

In the past, the phrase Divine Providence, was a common phrase used to refer to God’s overriding prerogative to advance His Kingdom and protect His people even when they were unaware of His guiding hand. In a culture that emphasizes the personal relationship of each individual believer with God most heavily, and that calls for personal seeking of God’s guiding will; this concept of Divine Providence, a grace we cannot see or ask for in our lives, is somewhat lost.

My upcoming 5th wedding anniversary has caused me to meditate heavily on this topic recently. I have been blessed to be married to a wonderful woman, who lives out Proverbs 31 every day. She cares for our family and shows me perfect respect, while not allowing me to move forward in areas of weakness or error. To be honest I couldn’t have picked a better wife, and it truly was the hand of God that brought us together. None of it would have been possible, however, if it wasn’t for one small action.

I met my wife working my first “real” job in high school. Now let me just be honest here, when it was time to decide where to go to college I spent weeks praying with my parents and researching where I would get the best education. When it was time to take that first job, I simply took the first decent job that I could get. There was very little thought, and not too much prayer either; it was simply a decision that had to be made and I made it.

This is the blessing of following Christ. I was pursuing His will for my life with an open heart and mind. I wasn’t looking for a wife, I wasn’t really looking for anything but some money and job experience as I got ready to go to college. Other than a few very important relationships (let me include a special shout out here to my 3rd set of parents, we love you all!), college didn’t really do much for me. That first job however impacted who I married, and as a consequence my 2 precious children. Not only that, it proved instrumental in providing for me all through college and the early years of my marriage and helped me land each new job I’ve had since. What I considered a small thing, turned out to be one of the most important decisions I ever made. Yet there was Christ, watching out for my needs and interests even in something I thought was small. The decision was guided and secured by the strong, sure hand of my Father in Heaven whether I thought it was important or not.

Looking at a more recent example, I have been moving forward much faster in my agricultural education through the online Permaculture Designers Certificate Course I mentioned recently. The funny thing is, I wasn’t looking for educational opportunities. I knew my family needed to do something, but we were having a very hard time finding anything compatible with having small children and a busy work schedule. So we were simply being faithful to try to develop skills at home through gardening and raising chickens in the backyard. I found the class, not through some great search engine or my own ingenuity, but simply because I decided I should finally set up a twitter account to support this blog (follow @thetonedeafbard). In order to keep up to date I followed several Permaculture news type sites, and one of them posted an interesting video by Geoff Lawton about how to develop abundance on just 5 acres. I watched several more videos and he announced the course, and my wife and I chose to enroll. Think for just a minute with me, had the timing of my impulsive decision to get on twitter been off just by a few days, I might have missed a big opportunity, yet I didn’t because there in the background of my life was grace.

Think over your life the last few years, have you had any random events of grace in your life? Be sure to praise God for taking care of you even when you didn’t look for it.

We, as a western culture particularly, get so caught up looking for direct answers to prayers and guidance for situations we have chosen to pray about, that we easily miss these small movements of God in the background. The fact is, life is busy and we don’t always think about the possible implications of our actions. What a joy it is to know that in the fullness of His Divine Sovereignty, God is in the backdrop of our lives, working for our good even when we don’t see it. His purposes will not be frustrated or stopped, all we have to do is submit our lives to His will and the rest begins to fall together.

Blessed By Hardship?

There is a now widespread doctrine, particularly in these United States, but growing in adherence throughout the world that teaches that God will financially and physically bless those who place their faith in Him. I am not saying that this is never true, certainly in examining Scripture – the Old Testament especially, we see plenty of examples of God blessing those who are faithful to Him. The trouble over the last few, at least for me, is that it seems like as God begins to prepare judgment on these United States for her sins that those who have been the most faithful in many cases have suffered the most hardship. I know countless families who have placed their full faith and trust in God for His provision only to struggle day after day to even make ends meet.

Now before I get to far in, let me say this. I am well aware that anyone in these United States should consider themselves financially blessed, however, that does not make the sudden onset of financial hardships less real for these families. It also doesn’t do much to explain why even as others around them may be prospering, those whose faith has been most in God to provide, seem to lack provision.

Let me suggest that this is a blessing from God! Some of the darkest and most difficult days the world will ever see are closing in fast on this country. God is about to pour out wrath and judgement like most people here have not seen before. The artificial world we have built with all its gadgets and amenities is collapsing, and in the meantime the American people have grown very, very soft.

For this reason, God is introducing those who have followed Him faithfully to hardship by degrees. He is reteaching them dependence upon Himself and upon the work of their own hands. They are relearning the skill necessary to survive without being able to rely on the work, the government, or an insurance policy to protect against every contingency. This is God showing His grace!

In His wrath, He has allowed many of those who turned away from Him after the wealth of this culture to continue placing their faith in that culture even as it fails. To those He has set apart He is demonstrating hardship to make their hearts and minds ready for the times ahead.

Are you struggling? Have you faced great adversity in your life? Continue to trust in God’s provision, but recognize that hard times are coming and God is making you ready to face them!

Take the Gap

When the dark tide seems ever rising,
And evil closes in,
When the orphan goes hungry,
And the fatherless is killed before she’s born,
When the earth is being destroyed before us,
The mountains hacked down and streams corrupted,
When the soil fails,
And we turn to chemicals for food,
When the just ones pollute themselves with the blood of the innocent,
And celebrate endless war,
When the nation turns away from her God,
And faces instead His fiery wrath,
Then will I pray:

This day by Thine grace and power,
I place myself between the oppressed and the oppressor,
Upheld by the three who are one,
I will stand between the helpless and the darkness,
When the gap stands gaping open and the destroyers come pouring through,
I will place myself in the gap,
And by Your Hand overcome,
You are able to make your servants stand,
Therefore I will not be polluted with innocent blood,
You will have your glory,
Therefore I will shine out as a light in the midst of the darkness,
Some will see no evil,
Some will hear no evil,
Some will even speak no evil,
But by the Power that flung the stars in space,
I will allow no evil,
If you aren’t a part of His solution,
You are probably a part of the problem.

Lady liberty bleeds out,
Slowly wounded and abused rather than attacked right out,
Yet the nation prides itself on freedom,
And doesn’t realize it’s in chains,
Chains slowly forged by giving liberty away,
The rich oppress the poor,
The poor rob those who might help them,
All this we’ve made lawful,
And in so doing become lawless,
There is wickedness in high places,
Yet the nation still places its hope in rulers,
Instead of in the the One who rules all, is all, made all,
The blood of the unborn cries out for justice,
The earth moans under the weight of our abuse,
The very food we eat speaks against us,
In such times I will pray,

Today, through your love and blood,
Shield me from the guilt of sin,
Teach me to walk guiltless before you,
Then I will take my stand,
Unashamed before you,
I will, by your power, place myself,
Between the innocent and the wicked,
To be a force for you upon the earth,
To hold back the tide of wickedness from your remnant,
When the courage of men falters,
I will rise in your might,
For the battle belongs to The Lord.

God of Wrath, God of Grace

The Gospel is good news, it’s good news for all of humanity; but in order to be good news it has to be understood properly. There has been an on going trend, over the last several decades, to reject anything condemning in the Gospels. As a culture, we have chosen to ignore all references to the need for holiness, and to God’s righteous wrath being poured out upon those who reject the Gospel.

When we look at what the Gospel is all about, we ought to turn to the Gospels and see what Jesus Himself had to say. Many people today, uncomfortable with the moral demands of scripture try to argue that Jesus taught only grace and no punishment, but Jesus in fact was very clear that without salvation, mankind would most certainly face the wrath of a righteous God.

Look at this passage, where Jesus addresses the certain punishment of those who are unable to satisfy the requirements of a just and righteous God, all passages are taken from the NKJV:

Mark 9:42-50

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—where

‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’

And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— where

‘Their worm does not die,
And the fire is not quenched.’

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire—where

‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’

“For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”

And this one, where Jesus maintains that we must maintain proper fear of God, who maintains the power to cast us into Hell:

Luke 12:5

But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

As for the righteous requirements of the law, look what Jesus has to say in this next passage, in that we cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless we are more righteous than one of the most legalistically righteous sects of all time:

Matthew 5:20

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven

Now look at the passages immediately preceding and following the above passage, in which Jesus lays the kind of morality that God demands

Matthew 5:1-19

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Notice that last passage, Jesus affirms that the teaching He is revealing does not in any way remove or nullify the moral law of the Old Testament, rather it reveals more clearly what the law demands. Now for the passage following 5:20

Matthew 5:21-30

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause[b] shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old,‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

Notice that Jesus’ moral teaching demands not only right behavior, but right thoughts and heart conditions behind that behavior. If we show self control and don’t commit a sin, such as adultery or fornication or murder; but in our heart we really really want to, and entertain thoughts and images to that effect, then we are just as guilty before God as if we had carried those thoughts into action. This poses great difficulty, because none of us is capable of keeping a law this perfect. In fact, if we are judged for our very thoughts, then everyone of us sins on a frequent basis.

This leads to an important question, if none of us can possibly meet God’s moral demands: What then is the Gospel or Good News?

This is where Jesus’ teaching varies radically from every other religion on earth, take a look:

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Matthew 18:23-27

Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt

A talent of gold, according to at least on source I looked at would be worth over $840,000 at todays gold prices. 10,000 of them of course goes way beyond anyone’s ability to ever even consider repaying.

And this is where the Gospel of Jesus differs from every other world religion. Whereas all other religions in the world lay out moral laws and demand that men be “good enough” to get into heaven, the Gospel clearly states that none of us can possibly live up to God’s moral demands; and so, rather than allowing us to perish, Jesus came in the flesh to dwell among us and took our sins upon Himself. Now if we will accept Him we can put on His righteousness and experience a total heart transformation that will take away all of sins and make us into those who can say honestly they meet God’s moral demands. This an only be done through the work of Jesus on our behalf and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. All we have to “do” is surrender our lives to the work Christ did on our behalf. In choosing to falsely believe that God does not practice wrath at all, we make the work of Christ of no value, and blaspheme the very one on whom we must believe for salvation. If God is only grace, then first of all Christ Jesus Himself was a liar and fool and secondly His death and resurrection were completely unnecessary. As it stands it is the paradox of God’s righteous wrath and saving grace that makes the Gospel the Good News.

Super Human

I’m no superman,
How frequently I fail,
In fact I’m super human,
Held back by seemingly super failings,
And a frequent inability to accomplish the task at hand,
I have so many responsibilities,
Resting on my shoulders,
Other lives depend on mine,
And the eyes that watch and voices that repeat my words,
Fill my heart with fright!
What can I do?
What if I give all and come up wanting?
What if the best I have,
Proves to simply be not enough?
I frequently fail in small things,
What if I fail in large things?

Then I hear your voice,
Child, you never had to be adequate on your own,
I have been adequate for you,
You were unable to redeem yourself,
So I took on flesh,
And paid the ultimate price to bring you back,
I am the only one Sovereign in the universe,
I alone never fail,
But I am upholding you by my right hand,
To prosper the work of your small, childlike hands,
Give me all that you have,
Put all of yourself into the life I’ve given you,
And I will supply the lack,
My grace will make up the difference,
As for you trust Me.

As I struggle through each day,
And pour my whole heart out,
I work harder and harder,
But my heart slowly gives out,
What am I really doing worth living for?
You’ve given me a call and a purpose,
But it feels so far away,
Like a future I’ll never reach,
The world is full of tragedy,
Crisis strikes nearly everyday,
Billions of people are hurting,
Each day countless number perish without you,
So much evil continues to progress,
And what can I do to hold it back?
I know you’ve called me to serve you,
To join your mission to redeem,
But I feel so powerless in a world spiraling out of control.

Your voice calls out yet again,
Who put you where you are child?
Did not I?
The balance is precarious in each and every life,
The smallest of kind words,
The most insignificant contribution,
In my hands can become,
A source of life for generations,
See the seed planted in the ground,
How for many days it appears lifeless and dead,
And then suddenly it springs forth,
And eventually brings forth food,
So is each and every action,
If committed to my plan,
You are on the path of becoming,
And I will use every action along the way,
For the redemption of My creation,
And the glory of My name.

Daily Scripture Meditation

2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.”

When our Lord Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness and removal of your sins, they were as of yet all in the future. You hadn’t been born yet, you hadn’t committed a single sin and yet He knew, and made a path to salvation for you. When the Holy Spirit called you and you responded, you received through the cross for all of your sin, past and future. Nothing you had or would do remained a secret from God.

For this reason, you can walk out from under habitual and addictive sin. There is no need to feel the ongoing condemnation of sin your life. As Romans 8:33 says “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Only God is lawfully able to prosecute our transgressions against Him, and when you accepted grace through the cross He chose to pardon you of His own sovereign will.

For this reason, the old you – the flesh, actually died at the moment of salvation. Instead you became a new creation in Christ Jesus, and that new creation is completely freed from the sin that used to entangle you. It may feel like you can’t shake something, but the scripture says you can. In fact it says you already have.

All you have to do is recognize that the only way you can be entangled in sin is by giving in to a lie. Sin only has an ongoing grip on you if you believe it does. Repent, not only for your sin but for believing its lie, turn back to God, and then forget. God has already forgiven you, repent and move on!

The Weeping Revival

This message has been processing deep within my heart for several months, it became crystal clear during the national outrage following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The heart of the American people has grown calloused. Not only is it hard in its response to the movements of God, but it is rare that anything tragic enough happens to move it to response. In a fit of self seeking and hedonistic pleasure, our people have buried their real emotions deep within in their breasts lest they be made to feel guilt or pain.

Despite the obvious historical signs that our nation is going down the path of Rome and other fallen nations before it, none dare care. Despite living in a world that gets smaller each day, a world where all know first hand about the lives of those living in poverty, slavery, and hopeless sin; none dare care. Despite the rape of our children by lies they here from the media, the music industry, their peers, and our public education system; none dare care. Despite the damage done in every home and family across the nation by divorce, pornography, hatred, and distrust; none dare care.

Therefore the Holy Spirit will fully withdraw Himself from our land, until such a time as we are able to weep over what we have become. The next revival, will not be ushered in by a fresh out pouring of prophecy, of power, of tongues, or of any such gift as we have so desired; rather it will be ushered in when the spirit of weeping is restored to our land.

Have you wept in your prayers lately? Contemplate your own condition before a just and holy God. We have taken the cross, the ultimate mark of suffering and grace, for granted. It is time to remember that the grace we all claim so lightly to cover our sins came at an incredibly high price. The Son of God offered Himself fully to experience the wrath of God on our behalf. For this reason, I call on the people of God to weep over the condition of their own hearts. We have become altogether cynical towards the most precious gift we ever received, let us turn to God in tearful repentance for our sins.

How about the lost, have you wept for them? There are over 6,000 people groups in the world today who have never even heard the Gospel you and I take for granted. Every day they live and die in total ignorance to great salvation Christ offers freely to all. India and China saw more baby girls aborted in the last decade through gender selective abortions than the total female population of the United States. You want to know what is really sad about this? It is that those who died in their mothers wombs had a better life than those who will now grow up in a Christless existence. As the people of God, the soul purpose of our being called out as a body, a church if you will, is to bring Christ’s salvation to the lost. It is time to weep over our failure and inaction.

Have you wept for the sins of our nation? The actions of the United States have caused the name of Christ to be blasphemed all over the world. Our sin and depravity has become to the world a public spectacle, revealing what a “Christian” nation is really like. Our churches, more often than not, only try to change our society through elections and government action. Oh, how timid we have become of trying to be a life changing force in our communities and cities. Will you take weeping action to address the sins our nations stands condemned of as our judgment comes upon us?

Friends, sure judgment is coming on America for the sins of her people. As the people of God we can respond with tears and weep, not over the coming wrath and the end of our prosperity, but over our own participations in the sins for which we must be judged. When we at last turn and weep before God, then, and only then, will the Spirit of God again rest on our people and give us the wisdom necessary to become what we were made to be. Until then, the days of our prosperity have been numbered and will soon end.