Chosen By Grace (Psalm 65)

PSALM 65

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. A Song. Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion; And to You the vow shall be performed. 2 O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come. 3 Iniquities prevail against me; [As for] our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them. 4 Blessed [is the man] You choose, And cause to approach [You], [That] he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple.

PSALM 65:1-4

CHOSEN BY GRACE

“Chosen.” Here is a word we don’t like to hear sometimes. We often kick against it or try and get it to mean something other than what it means. But it’s all through the scriptures and so it must mean something and we do well to seek to understand this word and the truth it reveals about God.

We often think that God gives us “grace” and we choose if we receive it. We like to think that we are independent and able in our own strength and ability to choose God. But if you think about it, you really can’t choose to receive grace. It’s not up to the receiver on if they get grace or not, its up to the giver. It’s kind of like a getting hit in paintball. The one doing the shooting does the choosing. If you get hit by the paintball, for all your choosing or lack of choosing, you are struck. Grace is given independent of how it is received otherwise it’s not grace… you have merited it by your response (see how hard we play this game to take even grace out of the hands of God?)

Grace is more radical than you might imagine because grace does all the work. Indeed we can’t “choose” grace because grace by it’s nature has chosen us! The fact that you even WANT to “choose” grace is a GIFT of God’s grace (see verse 4). Read Ephesians 2:8-10 with me:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; [it is] the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

What is the gift? Grace? maybe… but maybe it’s also “faith,” that ability to trust in the Lord. What does it mean? Our lives (including faith) are a work of God’s hands! We are His workmanship! He is working faith in us! Read with me what Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for [His] good pleasure.

We are to work out our salvation, but why? Because it is God doing all the work! Grace isn’t a purely external work, it is internal. Grace causes me to WANT to worship God. Grace fixes me from the inside out. Grace changes everything!

It’s early in the morning when I publish these posts and so it may be difficult to grasp, but God’s choice of you or me is a far greater gift of grace than many can even imagine. It is more real and more weighty than what we often give God credit for. It’s blessing after blessing poured out over and over. It’s a cup running over. It’s a heart seeking missel that can’t be shaken. David saw it and was provoked to praise the LORD. We should be too!

One of the best ways to understand grace is to give grace. Grace doesn’t mean that you just don’t hold a grudge. It means that you seek to bless a person no matter what.

PRAYER

Father, Thank you for the grace upon grace that you have poured out in my own life. Thank you for your word that is truth. I am amazed this morning as we examine your utter and complete sovereignty. There is no better place for my future than in your hands. I am confident that you work all things for your glory and my good! today I marvel at your goodness poured out to even cause my heart to believe. I rest in the arms of your grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.

There is Room for Conflict in the Church (Acts 13-15)

The major thing that jumped out at me today is that there is room for conflict in the church. We see a few conflicts in the reading today. The biggest issue that took up a bulk of the reading was the conflict over if new converts to Christianity should be circumcised. It was an issue that was ultimately decided by taking the debate to the Apostles and church leaders in Jerusalem. I’d like to say that the conflict was resolved with a well drafted letter from Jerusalem, but the reality is that this became something that plague Paul’s ministry down the line.

It’s worth noting how Paul and his companions handled the conflict. They took it to the Jerusalem council and left it in the hands of those who had been called as Apostles to decide. These men met, prayed, and discussed the matter and finally resolved the issue. Then a letter was drafted affirming the decision they knew honored the LORD. This should have ended the controversy inside the church, but unfortunately there were those who would follow Paul wherever he went trying to teach gentile converts that they had to be circumcised.

Another conflict arose when Barnabas and Paul wanted to visit the churches they had planted. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, but Paul had no confidence in John Mark because he had been abandoned by him before. We are told that this was a sharp contention (15:39) that wasn’t even really resolved, but that ended with Paul and Barnabas going separate ways with separate partners.

Often we picture the early church being conflict free. We imagine that folks prayed about everything and that everything just worked out. The reality is that the early church was filled with drama and issues as good people, called by God, worked through their conflict. Earlier in Acts, deacons were appointed to deal with the drama surrounding feeding widows. Here we see a church council meeting to decide an important theological issue. We also see good friends going separate ways over what seems like a small issue. The early church had just as much conflict as the church does today.

Conflict resolution is part of ministry and a part of God’s church because it’s at the very heart of the gospel. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans, “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” We forget we were at enmity with God but that He made peace with us through the cross of Christ Jesus. When we see conflict in the church, we should recognize that we live in a fallen world and seek to resolve our conflict in a ways that honors God.

Father, thank you that we get an honest understanding of historical events when we read your word. Thank you that it isn’t dressed up or sugar coated, but that you are straight forward and honest with us about very real conflict that took place in the early church. Thank you that you have made us ambassadors and peacemakers to a lost and fallen world and we get to bring the message of hope to those who have yet to be reconciled to you. We pray that you give us opportunity and wisdom to be peacemakers today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, The Surprise of Judgment, The Hope of Holy War (Review)

The Skeleton in God's closet I’m a fan of The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War, Joshua Ryan Butler does a fantastic job of leading the reader on a journey exploring three of the controversial doctrines of the Bible. Butler writes to open up a dialogue with contemporary culture and it’s broadly popular misunderstanding of these key doctrines. His writing style is engaging, witty, humble and personable. He has a way of inviting his readers to investigate their own biases, what the bible really says, and how people have understood or misunderstood these doctrines in the past. This is a well written book that could easily have been turned into a shorter three book series. (You get your money’s worth).

Once you understand Butler aims his book at a postmodern mindset it comes into focus. There were a few moments where I pondered, “Why is he going here?” and “What is he about to say?” because he came seemingly close to a different understanding of a doctrinal issue. Thankfully at each point he clarifies his understanding and leads the reader to a biblical appreciation for the doctrine in question.

Over all I thought this was a great book. The author has a brilliant writing style that at times is very poetic. I purchased my copy from amazon.com who has it on sale right now for $12.84 in paperback.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Did you enjoy this post? Did you consider it helpful? Subscribe by e-mail on the top right of this page and get fresh articles like this one and more sent straight to your e-mail inbox. Don’t for get to share on Facebook or Twitter.

Acts 5: Your Sin isn’t Small

God kills Ananias and Sapphira. Before you start to get upset about that consider that He had every right. He’s God! We all owe him our breath. We all live at his pleasure. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that God doesn’t posses the same right over you… He’s your maker.

Ananias and Sapphira wanted recognition for selling property and giving their money to the church. No worries there, but they held back and lied about the gift. I don’t know what they were holding back for, maybe a 401K, a better car, or maybe to just pay off some debts. Either way, they held back. Not that they owed all the money to the church like a debt or obligation, but that they claimed that it was everything. They were faking generosity.

Faking generosity to the church is a mockery of the gospel. Consider that this offering was going to meet the needs of the poor (4:34-35). Consider that those who sold their property were giving all of it away and this enabled the apostles to boast even more about the resurrection of Jesus (4:32-35). This unity that the church experiences is a direct witness to the power of the gospel. It puts both the present condition of those who are destitute and suffering and the eternal condition of those who profess faith in Christ in the same light… If God would not withhold his son from me, so that I might be saved… Who am I to withhold earthly goods from those who have immediate need.

The problem came when Ananias and Sapphira held back. That’s not the gospel… it’s a feigned generosity. It’s a lie. It’s a false gospel. They are not mimicking the generosity of God.  They held back. They care only about having the appearance of piety and so they lie.

The lie costs them. It costs them their lives… by the way, that is what sin costs. It’s not small. It’s not trivial. It’s not as though the cross were a small thing. The love of God compelled Christ to die for our sin and this single act is the most generous thing that has ever happened in all of history. The early church was a testimony to that in the way that the hearts of the wealthy were moved to outrageous generosity… but when one couple held back they were reminded to never take the generosity of God for granted. Sin always costs.

A Story of Restoration and Hope for the American Family

978-1-4143-6394-3I read Road Trip to Redemption: A Disconnected Family, a Cross-Country Adventure, and an Amazing Journey of Healing and Grace a while back and was greatly encouraged.  The Author, Brad Matthias, shares a detailed story about his family’s breakdown and reconnection. The book chronicles a road trip that the author and his family took in search of healing.

I grew up in the general area where most of the road trip takes place (the North West US and Southern Canada) and I remember traveling to some of the same sights with my parents and grandparents. So I have to admit that part of me was longing to go on a similar trip just to re-live part of my childhood.

The real gold to the story though wasn’t the tale of the open road (though the Matthias family does encounter a few obstacles and victories along the way), but of how the family reconnected throughout the journey. I appreciated the insights shared by the all the family members in their journals and was blessed to be able to share in their journey in a small way. I don’t think this book was intended to be an instruction manual as much as an encouragement. The author is transparent in his struggle to illustrate that he hasn’t always been there for his family like he should, but even broken families can be restored and brought back together through the power of the gospel.

I really liked this book and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good non-fiction read. It’s especially good for dad’s who are looking at how to reconnect with their teenagers. It’s really not a “how to” manual, but it does provide some solid advice in the form of a story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their Tyndale Blog Network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges (a Reveiw)

I intentionally took a while to read Transforming Grace so I wouldn’t pass over anything too lightly.  There is a danger in reading a book like Transforming Grace, in that experienced Christians feel that they are beyond the meat of the message.  There may be a sense of, “been there, done that.” And to be honest the book doesn’t set out with any new truths (given the nature of the book, I wouldn’t expect it too). But there is a great value for mature Christians in reading Transforming Grace.  While the truths are not new, they are still truths.  While Jerry may belabor a few points, they are worth belaboring.

In Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love Jerry does an excellent job in cutting the meat and  doctrine of transforming grace into palatable and bite sized portions while maintaining an emphasis on the work of Christ.  It’s a great read for new believers.  Mr. Bridges has a knack for taking difficult topics and presenting them in an easy to understand fashion.  Transforming Grace is also a great read for mature believers as well.  The doctrine of grace is one that should never get old or tired.  None of us are past grace.  All of us have a proclivity to default to a works based system of favor with God.  Believers come into a right relationship with God by faith, through the work of Christ, which is undeserved on our part, and indeed a gift of God’s grace.

There is also a companion Discussion Guide for Transforming Grace.  It takes one or two chapters at a time and provides details and discussion points.  The Discussion Guide seems like it would work well in a small group Bible study or book club.  Reader’s interested in the topic of transforming grace may also want to check out John Piper’s book Future Grace.

If you are looking to learn more about God’s grace in the life of a believer, this book is for you.  I highly recommend this book to believers new and old.  The retail price is $14.99 (Paperback), and is available at a discount at  Amazon.com for $10.19.  The Study Guide is also available on Amazon.com for $9.99. I gave it five stars.

The Fruitful Life by Jerry Bridges (a Review)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”