Celebrating God’s Attributes: His Grace

Mark Verkler

Grace defined:

1. The free unmerited love and favor of God; the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. (Romans 11)

2. The application of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner. (Romans 5)

3. A state of reconciliation to God. (Romans 5:2)

Perhaps grace is the ultimate expression of God’s love to us and for us. …for God is love (1 John 4:8b). It is hard to describe and hard to grasp, partly because it’s so unnatural and so much against the flesh. I have such a tendency to either compare myself favorably to someone I suppose is a worse sinner than I am and unfavorably to someone I suppose is a better saint. Pride would keep me out of each group–humility would put me in.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9: ‘The Lord said, ‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at it’s best in weakness.’ So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me.’

One of the most amazing parts of God’s grace is that He promises that it is enough. No matter the sin, no matter the failure, no matter the weakness, His grace is enough. I have learned that I AM NOT to ask for God’s grace. That is like asking for rain that is already falling, or asking for sunshine on a cloudless day. I am to accept by faith that God’s grace is extended to me and receive it moment by moment with thanksgiving. Of course it makes sense to give thanks for a gift as great as Grace. But I am afraid I all too often ignore it, or ask for it, instead of opening the gift of grace that is right in front of me and giving thanks and rejoicing.

In Luke 17: 3-4 we see another picture of grace. Jesus tells us that if our brother trespasses against us seven times in the same day, repents and seeks forgiveness, we are to give it to him. Would God ask us to do something he wasn’t willing to do? No. That is God’s grace’a well that is so deep it will never run out of water no matter how much we need or use. Though we are warned to not use grace as a license to sin (Romans 6), we are exhorted to embrace our weakness and need of it.

To truly know grace, it must go far beyond understanding and into experience. That means embracing my need for God. I am a Saint by God’s grace, and a Saint who sins and needs His grace every day. Dietrich Bonhoffer noted,

‘He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding in corporate worship, common prayer , and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur because though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners.

The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from their fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!’

This is evidence of God’s grace working in me: I can admit my weakness and need for God’s grace to myself, my God and my brother’s in Christ. I don’t have to cover up so that I appear to have no need of His grace. On the contrary, I can ‘uncover’ and embrace my need of the gift of grace.

Someone said that God doesn’t clean his fish until AFTER He catches them. God is in the business of justifying the ungodly.

 Romans 4:5 says: ‘But to him not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.’ That is grace. I must not think that I have to justify myself. That is his job. Mine is to admit my need.

In closing, I am inspired by Henri Nouwen’s vision of grace in the story of the Prodigal. He writes:

‘In my minds eye, I see Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. The dim eyed old father holds his returned son close to his chest with an unconditional love. Both of his hands, one strong and masculine, the other gentle and feminine, rest on his son’s shoulders. He does not look at his son but feels his young, tired body and lets him rest in his embrace. His immense red cape is like the wings of a mother bird covering her fragile nestling. He seems to think only one thing: he is back home and I am so glad to have him with me again.’

May we all go ‘back home’ into the arms of grace.

The Struggle to Keep Going in Recovery

Pastor Ed Grant

The decision to make a significant life-style change is important, but not as important as the plan for change and the resolve to continue following the plan when it becomes a grind. The experience of Nehemiah is both insightful and encouraging for all who find themselves stuck in the recovery process.

Under the wise direction of Nehemiah the Israelites had organized a Herculean effort to rebuild the walls of their beloved city. The city wall, which was the primary defense against marauding bands of thieves, had lain in ruins for a generation. For our discussion, the city wall represents self discipline.

As Solomon said,28Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.’ (Proverbs 25:28).

Our story begins some time after the reconstruction efforts had begun. Nehemiah lists in detail the various sections of the wall with the names of the families who worked on them. The people worked hard and rejoiced as a new wall arose from the rubble: 6So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.’ (Nehemiah 4:6).

But suddenly a series of events threatened to frustrate their efforts. Local warlords were unhappy with the project and plotted to attack the city. There was also a serious problem that surfaced among the people: 10Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” (Nehemiah 4:10). So much of the rebuilding effort involved moving and removing the rubble and debris that littered the unprotected city. Unfortunately, the efforts to rebuild our lives resemble Jerusalem, a city knee-deep in rubble. Restoring the walls invariably involves the hard work of organizing and sifting through the rubble. Much of it will actually be used in re-building the walls of self control! Let’s see how Nehemiah helped the people address the threats from without and the struggles within.

1. Acknowledge your fears and your feelings. Don’t minimize or ignore the sense of being overwhelmed or the feelings of futility and hopelessness. The enemy will whisper his potent lies in the privacy of your thoughts. How you address these lies will determine if you will continue to build or give up. Listen to the members of your support group, your family and friends who express concerns about your emotional withdrawal, your anger, or about your return to harmful patterns. They speak with loving concern. However, I encourage you to regard your pre-occupation with the addictive behavior as a cry from your heart for help and refuse accept the debilitating messages of shame and guilt.

2. Take steps to address the threats. Nehemiah organized the people to address the danger posed by those who opposed his efforts. 12Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” 13Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.’ (Nehemiah 4:12-13). Review your action plan in light of your current threat. What modifications are needed to ensure success? Do you need to speak with a pastor or a counselor? Do whatever it takes to meet the threat!

3. Don’t think success rests on your own strength. 14After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome,’ (Nehemiah 4:14a). Through the prophet Zechariah God addressed the same situation in this manner: ‘Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit’ says the Lord Almighty.’ (Zechariah 4:6b). God is awesome and almighty! Through our weakness He allows us to experience His faithfulness and His power. Prayer, worship, fellowship and meditation on God’s handbook for living are invaluable and irreplaceable power boosters for all of us in our times of trial! Remember and resolve to stand on His promise that no temptation will come upon us that we can’t meet with His help.

4. Remember your vision for sobriety and everyone who will benefit by your changes. ‘fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” One of Satan’s deadliest lies is that our struggles and efforts don’t matter. God’s purpose for godliness (God-likeness) is that we reflect His character to a lost world, especially those who are closest to us and have been most affected by our actions.

Satan’s invitation to partake in old, destructive habits is powerful, but not as powerful as the One who lives within us and calls us His children. To the world your broken walls might appear as worthless rubble, undeserving of the efforts it will take to change. But God has called your heart ‘holy ground’. No one but Him can imagine the glory your life will reflect by the time He returns to bring you to heaven.

Knowing the ROCK: Knowing TRUE Intimacy in Recovery: Part 1

David Mackey

If you attended the Every Man’s Battle Workshop (and if you haven’t you are missing out) you will recall a session on False Intimacy. It seems that those who struggle with the Battle quite often struggle with intimacy. Which are what we were created for; Intimacy with God and Intimacy with others.

In Mark 12, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is and His answer is ‘to be intimate‘, i.e. ” to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. To love with your whole being. Not just God but others as well (Matthew 22:39 says, ‘The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor’).

Agape (gr.); unconditional love with one’s whole being. Quite often, those who give themselves over to acting out become great avoiders of true intimacy. Truth is, those who act out, very often never experienced intimacy as a child, nor with a spouse or a friend and certainly not with God. Sexual impurity can trick us into numbing even the need to have intimacy with a real person. Acting out can somehow, for very fleeting moments, seem fulfilling’ it is false but an effective numbing agent for our true intimacy needs.

So, one might ask, what is true intimacy and how does one develop real and true intimacy? I’m glad you asked. There is not a simple and easy answer. There is no formula or 3 step process toward developing intimacy’it is quite mysterious. But a simple definition, someone once said, was that intimacy is just that’In-to-me-see. That’s a pretty good definition because intimacy does involve seeing into each other. Seeing each others whole being and allowing another to see within us. It has many facets but God has offered us an intimate relationship with Him and with others. He has given us glimpses, through His Word, of what that intimacy can be like.

This is the first of five articles examining some of the facets of intimacy. We will not come close to exhausting this subject but will focus on David and some of what made up his intimate relationship with God. Especially as one reads his Psalms, it is pretty clear that David knew God intimately. God told Samuel that David was a ”man after my own heart.’ The Psalms are full of emotion with David speaking to God from his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Throughout those Psalms David commonly uses phrases and the same word pictures repeatedly. These pictures seem to include some common facets of INTIMACY.

Specifically we will look at Psalm 31:1-5. Throughout the Psalms, David repeatedly mentions knowing God as his ROCK, as his REFUGE, and as his FORTRESS. I suppose we all have some idea what they might mean but David seems to have a lot to say in these word pictures. David uses them interchangeably throughout the Psalms, as in verse 2 when he says: ‘‘ be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress’‘ In further study we will find that David also uses these words repeatedly to connect with some of the In-To-Me-See aspects of intimacy.

That’s where we are going! Discovering what it is to know God as our rock, refuge and fortress. To have intimate relationship with God and in turn learn how to be in intimate relationship with others. Scary thought isn’t it. Inviting our Holy God to see in us and looking back toward Him. To look in the face of Jesus, inviting Him to see within us. It is joyous mystery’though scary nonetheless. Especially for those of us who, in our acting out, ran and hid from just such a prospect. It is not much less scary to do the same with another person who we can see standing beside us. Is it possible that prospect is even more terrifying? For so long, we have run and hid in our acting out.

Listen, my friend and brother in the Battle! God invites us to know Him and be known by Him at the Rock of Refuge. A stronghold and fortress that provides safety. These things are terrifying because we have not yet experienced them. Trust God; He invites us to rest with others on the safe Rock and Fortress of Refuge with Him.

One more thing. If you are already fighting in the Battle, you likely have already begun to taste of true intimacy. You have begun to find safety and protection in God’s forgiveness and acceptance. If you have an accountability partner, someone you told about your struggle, a group you attend, or a band of brothers, then you have begun to taste of intimacy in those relationships. And Our Holy God offers us even more! Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5