Tag Archives: Amazing Grace

God’s Grace: It’s Good News That’s Tough!


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“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound!”

Grace, the real thing, is precious almost beyond belief. It’s cool water to a man dying of thirst. It’s life and health to a woman who a week before was lying feverish on her deathbed.

Grace really is amazing!

But what even Christians, and maybe especially Christians, often fail to realize is how very tough it is, too.

Yes, it’s amazingly good news, this news flash from Heaven that though we were all sinners condemned to death, convicted criminals languishing on death row, “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

It’s amazingly good news that “God raised us up with Christ” so that for all eternity and to the amazement of the entire universe he could “show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (2:6).

And there’s no catch.

There’s no fly in the ointment. No hook under the worm. No fine print. No “real sinners need not apply” clause.

So how can this wonderful thing called grace, the most beautiful gift ever given, still be as tough as nails?

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.” No boasting. Period.

You see, grace is indeed the free gift of God. Grace means for us life and joy and peace. Grace really is amazing!

But, make no mistake, it can’t be earned, not even a little bit. It comes completely from God’s side of the equation. Do I in any way deserve such a gift? No! Thank God, deserving doesn’t even enter in, and to dare to use the word “deserve” in the same paragraph with words praising God for his mercy and grace is a slap in the face of the Almighty, a denial of the cross, and a backhanded attempt to breathe life into an arrogant and self-righteous spirit that really must move out and die before grace can enter in to give us life.

Yeah, I know. When you really think about it, it gets kind of scary. If this grace business is true, then God might let almost anyone into heaven. He might forgive folks who really, unlike me, aren’t as obviously good and religious and among his favorites. If you didn’t know better, you might almost think that God still feels like Jesus seemed to feel when he walked this globe, that not only did he spend time with “sinners” who knew they had no hope except for God’s mercy (but who knew the joy of finding it), he really enjoyed that time more than time spent with Pharisees. Could that be true?

Grace won’t leave me a single wobbly leg to stand on if I want to make my stand on rule-keeping “righteousness” and my own goodness. But if I focus on God and get over myself, I’ll find to my everlasting amazement that “the God of all grace” has given me two very good legs to dance on.



      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

What’s the Right Tune to Sing for the New Year?


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Although I certainly wish for you and yours a happy and blessed New Year, I confess that I’m rarely very excited about New Year’s fanfare. I like almost any reason for some days off and time with friends and good food, so I’m not a total New Year’s Grinch by any means. But, to me, by far the most impressive thing about New Year’s Day is that it is the eighth day of the twelve days of the Christmas season. Christmas is the nuclear reaction; New Year’s is a dime store sparkler.

Our society gets almost everything backwards, so why should we be surprised if it gets Christmas end-first and whomper-jawed? We celebrate what someone has called Hallowthankmas, and it’s a good thing Santa’s sleigh flies, or it would be skidding on Halloween candy in the street and mowing down pint-sized goblins.

I’m glad that more folks are re-discovering the wisdom of the church across the centuries and observing Advent, a time of preparation for Christ’s coming. Christmas Day arrives on the 25th and is counted, in many western church traditions, as the first of the twelve days of the Christmas season.

“Glory to God in the highest,” the angels sang. The thing, you see, about Christmas is that it centers on something only God could pull off, and the only proper response to what God has done is to praise him. The angels sing, and we join them! God has done something absolutely apart from our puny power, completely out of our reach. It was more likely that one of those shepherds at Bethlehem would cipher out the Theory of Relativity ahead of Einstein than that we could come up with a plan to save this fallen world. Christmas—the real thing—is a moment of rare sanity for the human race as we get over ourselves, focus on what God has done, and realize we can’t add to his Gift, or improve it, or in any way earn it. All we can do is accept it. We learn that since the Child came at Bethlehem, everything has changed. It’s all new.

But then comes New Year’s, and, if we’re not careful, we fall right back into our old ways. Focusing on our power and glorifying man is “business as usual” for the human race. We take center stage again and glorify not the Almighty but honor instead our puny might and our pathetic attempts to “make something” of ourselves.

I won’t be so unkind as to point you to old New Year’s resolutions and ask, “How’s that working out for you?”

If mankind could have just “tried harder” to get “it” (meaning, life) right, we’d not have needed a Savior. A law-giver and a law, a man-centered religion, a really good self-help book, would have been just fine. Then we could swell up in pride and look down our noses at others we’re sure haven’t worked as hard.

And we could forget not just the angel’s song but also the grand hymn “Amazing Grace.” Grace we think we deserve is not very amazing. “Glory to Me in the Highest” would be our tune instead.

Alas, “trying harder” never really works or honors God. Focusing on trusting God and living life to thank him for what he is building in our lives does.


       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com



Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“What’s So Amazing About Grace?”


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“What’s so amazing about grace”?

The whole universe is not large enough to contain the wonderful answer, but maybe part of the answer is found in contrasting grace with what Philip Yancey, in his fine book What’s So Amazing About Grace, calls “ungrace,” grace’s ugly opposite.

Ungrace says, “You are what you produce.” Grace says, “You are what God has produced.”

Ungrace says, “What you produce is not good enough.” Grace says, “What God has produced is beautiful and you will be amazed at how beautiful it will yet become.”

Ungrace says, “You must keep working to earn God’s love.” Grace says, “You already have God’s love now, completely, and forever.”

Ungrace says, “Look how bad you are!” Grace says, “Look how good is the God who loves you now, completely, and forever.”

Ungrace says, “You don’t measure up,” and it frowns. Grace says, “Through Christ, you do. You absolutely do,” and it smiles.

Ungrace measures. Grace exults.

Ungrace says, “You can never afford the luxury of real peace and contentment and serenity.” Grace says, “Yours is peace beyond comprehension, worth more than gold.”

Ungrace says, “You must always keep working to be sure you’ve done enough—and, by the way, you can never know.” Grace says, “Christ has done enough, far more than enough, and you are Christ’s. Live in him, with peace and joy, and be amazed at the bounty of good works he does in your life.”

Ungrace says, “Work harder to be saved.” Grace says, “Work well and joyfully because you already are saved.”

Ungrace groans. Grace laughs.

Ungrace says, “Look at yourself! You’re worthless!” Grace says, “Look at God who knows you completely and says, ‘You’re priceless, worth the gift of my Son!’”

Ungrace says, “Let’s make some rules for some slaves, pretend we keep the rules, and worship what we call our religion.” Grace says, “Let’s bow gratefully before the God who has made us his children, freed us from subservience to law, and saved us to freely obey the law of Love.”

Ungrace says, “Grovel, slaves, before the stern Taskmaster who can’t wait to damn you when you foul up.” Grace says, “Dance, children, before the God who is your Father, whose Joy fills and empowers your every step and whose love covers and redeems your every misstep.”

Ungrace looks at those who glory in God’s grace and warns, “You’ll be sorry! Even God can’t forgive somebody like you!” Grace looks at God and sings his praises, “Worthy, worthy, worthy! Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” even as ungrace’s whiny voice is forever obliterated, and God’s people from all ages raise their voices in the everlasting and joyful praise of “the God of all grace.”


     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com



Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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