Tag Archives: jesus

God Pays the Price for Bread That Is Free and Freeing

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35).

Five little barley loaves and two little fishes. That’s all Jesus had, you know. And even those were sort of borrowed that day by the Sea of Galilee.

But the Lord who turned water into wine at a wedding feast took those loaves and fishes and turned 5000 hungry people hoping to see miracles into 5000 well-filled people whose bellies were rounded out by a miracle.

Now, when you’re hungry, about all you can think of is being hungry. But when you’ve been filled up with a miracle meal just a few hours ago but are well on your way to being unfilled and hungry again, what next?

Well, if you’re like the folks in John 6, you form a committee, take a hike to find the miracle worker, and start planning to force your feeder to become your free food king. Who knows? Maybe if he plays his cards right and gives away enough “Make Israel Great Again” caps, he just might amass enough power to take over as king and kick out those sorry Romans! At the very least, well, did I mention free food?

When they find him on the other side of the lake—by the by, how in the world did he get there?—Jesus says, basically, “I know what you want, and what you want is not nearly enough.”

“Oh, Rabbi, that free food by the sea . . . we liked it, don’t you see?”

“Oh, I see. But you should want food that’s better than free. Food that isn’t a few hours away from leaving your belly hungry again and your soul still starving. You should want more. Food that doesn’t spoil. You should want more. Food that gives real life. You should want more. You filled up with free food, but a day later what hadn’t turned into dung had turned into rot. You should want more! Food that’s not only free but frees your soul and fills it up forever. You should want more.

Now the wheels in their “bargain basement bread heads” were already turning. But this Rabbi’s words are a wrench tossed into their mental machinery.

Free food forever? Rot-free food that doesn’t route through your belly to fill your soul?

Oh, they could get pretty religious about “free,” but somebody tosses out a religious question. “You say God says “really free.” But our real creed, ages old, is as modern as tomorrow. ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ So what do we have to do before God does bread “free”?

Jesus answers, “One word. Believe. God’s work is this: believe in the One God sent.”

But one word can’t be enough, can it? “Let’s just get back to that old time religion, the kind we like that talks a lot about God and centers a whole lot more on us. We had a redeemer once named Moses who gave our ancestors manna to eat in the wilderness. Free food’s fine, and your barley loaf bread was mighty fine, but a really good sign would be . . . let’s see . . . You know, the old preachers said that when Messiah, the second Redeemer comes, he’ll bring not just bread, he’ll bring manna again. That’s the ticket! Show us a sign, and we’ll sign up! Show us some manna!”

I think they were disappointed in the answer.

“Manna was a miracle, and Moses was a great man. But you should want bread that’s better than manna, and you need to look a lot higher for a Redeemer. Even then, way “back when,” your Redeemer-Bread Giver wasn’t Moses; your Redeemer-Bread Giver was God. I warn you! If you keep on looking for life in stone-cold law that will never be bread, your bread will rot, your souls will rot, and you will very religiously rot trying to be your own redeemer. Do you want the real Redeemer? Do you want real bread? I AM the bread of life.”

“Is there work to do? Oh, yes. The work of believing. And even that is God’s work in you.”

“So, Lord, how do we get that bread?”

It’s still our question. And this is still our Redeemer’s answer.

“Believe. Receive. Take and eat.”

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 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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A Storage Philosophy for Garages, Closets, and Hard Drives

“I might need that.”

Step into my garage, my office, my shed, or my closet, and you’ll quickly discover that those four simple words are the guiding philosophy of most of my life and all of the spaces I occupy.

Those four words are the reason I’m convinced that the best rental property imaginable these days is not made up of lots and houses folks have acquired to rent to other folks to live in. No. The best rental property is not designed for human habitation at all; it’s built for people to use to store the stuff that’s about to literally bury them in the habitation in which they do live. My facility would be called “Because You Might Need That” Storage.

That popular philosophy/disease being what it is, people will clean out a garage or a spare room or an office, and then decide to rent storage space for a couple of months until they have time to go through all the junk.

A year later, of course, the stuff’s still stored, and the meter’s still running. Later still, the heirs of the original packrats will likely be on Social Security before they find time to don hazmat suits and dig through the archaeological waste accumulated by their progenitors. More than likely, they’ll then open the door, take one look at the detritus, and decide to pay the rental fee for a couple more months until they psych themselves up to tackle the mountainous mess. An eye-blink later, it’s a year later. The meter is still running.

All of this points to the fact that most of us have way too much stuff, a large percentage of which should have long ago been labelled “garbage” and relegated to a landfill. But we don’t toss it; we store it. Why? Repeat the four words.

A glance at my computer’s “desktop” will confirm that those four words also constitute my digital philosophy. I’ve got a new computer arriving in a few days, so I’ve been deleting old files and programs. I still need to find time to look through a file labelled “Old Files” that I created and moved from the computer that preceded this one five-and-a-half years ago. What I’ll probably do is start off digitally packing and tossing, and then I’ll mutter, sigh, and create a new folder called, maybe, “Old Files 2.” It’s the equivalent of packing one room at your old house, throwing up your hands, and then just letting the professional movers pack it all, trash still in your waste baskets, moving everything, garbage and all, to the new one. You can always sort through it later, right? And who knows? [Insert the four-word mantra here.]

I’ve found a program and a cable that promise to seamlessly move everything from the old machine to the new one, all settings intact. Is that a blessing or a curse? I really should make some decisions about which forty of the forty-five pictures of our five-year-old grandson’s first birthday that I keep. But, sure as the world, if I delete five, I’m afraid that I’ll wake up and realize, well, you know. So I just ordered a massive hard drive (so I can pack the trash cans, too). More storage. That’s the ticket.

No wonder Jesus warns, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where old hard drives crash and new operating systems corrupt” (Matthew  6:19, mostly).

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Wonder of Wonders, God Signed on the Dotted Line!

How long do you have to live to learn to be really careful before you sign anything on that famous “dotted line”?

It seemed so easy at the time. That new ride was cool. But we were just a few “easy payments” into the seventy-for-darn-near-forever of them before we realized that they weren’t much fun and not very easy. Now we’re wondering if we’re working to one fine day finally own that vehicle or if it already owns us. Very legally. Our signature on the line was all it took. Hmm. Maybe “paid for” easily trumps cool. Dotted lines are speed bumps to rattle our brains into thinking before we sign.

We warn each other, usually from sad experience: “Better read the fine print! The devil’s in the details!” Most of us have learned that “what we don’t know” can definitely hurt us, especially if it’s in the fine print of a contract.

Along this line, dotted or not, I always feel just a little nervous when I’m installing a new computer program and that very familiar screen pops up so I can just click on “I Agree. I’ve read and understood the vast verbiage of legalese below.” Sure.

What do 99.95% of the best people you ever met do at that point? They lie. Cllliiiickkkk! And Mother Teresa or St. Francis of Assisi would do the same thing.

Of course, we haven’t read it and never intend to. Even if we tried, we’d need a Rosetta Stone course in legal mumbo-jumbo to understand a tenth of it.

But we click the button anyway. We all play the game, lest any software attorneys be rendered homeless and left unable to drop lawyer litter on our screens. Most of the time, it matters not one bit or byte. But for all we know, we might have just promised to dedicate our firstborn child to a cult of nudist vegans in Tasmania, or, heaven forbid, to never again scarf down a medium rare steak, or to swear off chocolate for the rest of our days.

Oh, it’s probably not that serious, but I guarantee you, and you already know, in lots of situations, you’d better read the fine print before signing on the dotted line, sealing the contract, doing the deal, agreeing to the agreement, consummating a covenant. Not looking before you leap has consequences.

Yes, our signatures say yes. To some sort of agreement. To some serious obligation.

Such agreements are no new thing. Covenants. The party of the first part agreeing to buy something, sell something, do something for, to, or with, the party of the second part. Nothing new.

Ah, but what if it’s the God of the universe who signs on the dotted line? “Testament” means “covenant.” Read in the Old Testament about the agreement God made with his people on Mount Sinai, and you’ll be amazed.

But far more amazing is the covenant we call “new.” (Read about it in the New Testament.) The Father initiates it, gives us his Word on it, fully pays the price for it with one Lamb, one Son, one sacrifice for all forever, an agreement sealed with the most precious drops of blood, infinitely costly to him, but free to all who believe. An amazing covenant! Grace indeed.

Wonder of wonders, God signed it.

 

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! And special news: An amazing, exciting, and inspirational story written by Capt. Red McDaniel, Scars and Stripes: The True Story of One Man’s Courage Facing Death as a POW in Vietnam, has now been narrated by Curtis as an audiobook. You can purchase and download the book, or listen to free sample, on Audible.com, Amazon.com, or iTunes.com. 

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


“My Mother Was a Daughter of Encouragement”

 

One of the most important leaders, and one of the very finest men, in the early days of the Christian church was a man named Barnabas. This good man’s name meant “son of encouragement,” and he blessed the church by living up to his name.

If Barnabas was the “son of encouragement,” I’m quite sure that encouragement’s daughter was my mother. Mom died twenty-five years ago (hard as that is for me to realize), but her encouragement lives on.

Near my desk sits one of the last birthday cards I received before Mom’s passing. In her uniquely beautiful hand (I’ve never seen more beautiful script) are written these words: “We love you so much! Every day we thank God for you and all you have meant to us and to the family. You are so sweet, so gentle in a manly way, so caring, and just so very special. Every day we pray God to bless you, to guide you, to give you strength, and, always, to be so very close to you. Love, Mom.”

May I hasten to admit that my mother’s opinion of me was much inflated! But that was another of her gifts to me. She looked for the best in me and my siblings, and her praise helped us to reach for the best in ourselves. Every day I thank God for her love and encouragement which are still as real to me as breath.

Mom gave me lots of precious gifts. She gave me life. She taught me to love words. And she nurtured in me faith in the One who gives life direction, purpose, and joy.

From my earliest days, she read to me, immersed me in and taught me to love the great stories from the Bible. She was smart, too. When my younger brother and I were small, she’d read the wonderfully paraphrased stories from books like Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible, rather than bore us out of our minds with words we could not understand. We never thought “The Bible” and “boring” were words that went together. I still have the pictures from A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories indelibly etched in my mind. (Those books and many others are still available. One of the very best more recent children’s Bible story books is The Story for Children (Lucado, Frazee, & Hill).

Mom was sure that since God gave us the capacity to laugh, we ought to use it. She taught me that to be serious about God means to refuse to take ourselves too seriously and that laughter washes away pomposity and repels Pharisees.

Mom taught me that people are more important than issues and that folks ought to be careful about thinking that their molehills are God’s mountains.

She gave me so many good gifts, but surely one of the best was her unfailing encouragement. No matter how long I live, I’ll be “playing to her”—not in a pathetic attempt to measure up, but joyfully sure that, whatever I accomplish, she’d be the first one to say, “Well done!”

I hope you’ve received the gift of encouragement from your parents. More important, moms (and dads), I hope you’re giving this beautiful gift to your own sons and daughters every day.

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Mustard Seed Faith May Often Be Faith Enough

 

One Easter years ago (almost two decades!), I got to play the Apostle Peter in a community Easter cantata. I enjoyed it. For one thing, the music was really good; for another, I like Peter. I think everybody likes Peter.

But, another apostle really high on my list (I suppose it’s okay to have favorite apostles?) might not make the top slots on many folks’ lists. He does with me! I’m speaking of the Apostle Thomas.

I doubt that Thomas (See! Thomas and I get along already!) asked for any evidence just before he met the Risen Lord that the other apostles hadn’t already pretty much checked out before he had the opportunity. But his are the seemingly doubt-filled questions that make it into Scripture. I think his questions were excellent, and I’m glad he asked them.

I like Thomas, and I love the fact that once he saw the risen Lord, his “You are my Lord and my God!” is one of the most stirring affirmations of faith in all of Scripture. By the way, I appreciate the author who pointed out that nothing in Scripture ever indicates that Thomas actually retraced the nail prints in Jesus’ hands with his own; it was enough for him that Jesus loved him so much that He invited him to.

It’s okay to ask questions.

It’s okay (though rarely comfortable) to deal with honest doubt.

Oh, there’s a blessing in childlike faith, and Jesus tells us to strive for such. But there’s also a blessing in learning to work through and, when necessary, live with some honest doubt. Jesus never once turned away an honest doubter.

Thank God for days when the sun is shining, life seems very good, and faith seems to come easily.

But, in a different sense, on days when the sun of your happiness is cloud-covered, when even getting through one day at a time seems too great a task and you wonder if you can even manage one moment at a time, one heartbeat at a time—thank God for His assurance that sometimes faith as small as a mustard seed is faith enough to deal with a mountain of doubt.

On those cloudy days, thank God for another honest man in Scripture (Mark 9:24), much akin to Thomas, I think, who said, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief!”

On difficult days, maybe faith just means wordlessly making the same commitment Peter made when the crowds following Jesus (they liked free food and were hoping for more loaves and fishes) abandoned Him. When Jesus asked sadly, “What about you? Will you leave, too?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.”

On some days, in the midst of all we don’t understand, don’t like, and have a very hard time dealing with, maybe simply praying, “Lord, there’s no other game in town! You’re my only realistic hope, my only choice! Just help me through one moment at a time!”—is faith enough.

And pretty strong faith, at that.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Even the Rocks of Creation Praise the Creator’s Son

 

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, and for centuries many Christians have let that Sunday before Easter carry their minds back to the amazing scene of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before he would die.

Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey no one had ever ridden, a beast his disciples found just as he had said they would. Our Christmas cards invariably depict Mary, Jesus’ mother, riding a donkey to Bethlehem. It’s not unlikely, though no Gospel specifically says such. If it’s so, that alone would have been enough to ennoble the species. But now this! What a privileged beast!

As he approached the city, people began to spread their cloaks on the road and wave palm branches hailing the coming King.

As he came down the road from the Mount of Olives, the crowd began to burst into praise.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

The Pharisees, soured, joyless, and heart-atrophied by their toxic (and still all too popular) approach to religion, began to warn Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples. Shut them up!”

And Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

On Palm Sunday—and on every Sunday—I’d rather be a rock on the road praising the Savior than a Pharisee all knotted up in religious robes and with no one to praise.

The cynical poet Swinburne once wrote, “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean! / The world has grown grey with Thy breath.”

If Christ was the morose Son of a joyless God sent just to tell this world we are wrong and lost and that we’d better straighten up, but to do nothing to help us . . .

If the cross was just an unfortunate accident, a tragic historical footnote with no meaning instead of the event in which God himself accomplishes the work of salvation and does for us what we could never do for ourselves, I could well agree with the poet’s words. Good news? What good news?

If God was just a stern heavenly killjoy, a thin-lipped, overly strict, bloodless, joyless frustrated caricature of a “father” griping that his kids are more trouble than they’re worth and who’d really rather not bother with them . . .

If God had stopped with the tables of stone revealing his holy law and not gone on to send the Savior with the message, “God’s laws are real, and you often break them at great cost, but I have paid the price for your pardon and risen to heal and empower you to live lives under his mercy, led by his Spirit, and filled with his joy . . .”

If God had sent just the Law to be our Prosecutor and not the Son to be our Savior, Swinburne would be right.

But he’s not right.

And it would be a shame to let the rocks do all the praising.

 

 

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

     And may this be a sweet and meaningful Holy Week and blessed Easter for you and yours!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


“Unless You Become Like Little Children . . .”

“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So said the Lord Jesus to his disciples as he “called a little child to him.” No doubt, one of my favorite things about our Savior is that the children seemed to always flock to him. When his apostles tried to shoo the kids away, opining to their parents that the Lord was far too busy to mess with little folks, Jesus quickly disabused his disciples of that way-off-the-mark notion.

In fact, as he laid his hands on the children and blessed them, Jesus had those intriguing words for his followers: “Unless you become like little children . . .”

My back hurts, and I’m a little achy today. Not bad. Just a little. Some trampoline time, some rolling-around-on-the-floor time (thank the Lord our floors are carpet-covered and not bare!), some doing fun experiments sitting on the concrete (no carpet) in the garage time, some lift-them-up-and-hugging-them time, some crawling around in the living room sheet-constructed cave/castle time—all of these contribute to some soreness. But mostly, it all adds up to wonderful memories for grandparents and grandkids alike, a sweet recipe for one beautiful little word: joy.

Our deepest joys are usually best just experienced and accepted with deep gratitude to their Giver, but some reflection is also occasionally in order.

Why does time with the little folks so renew our souls even as it tests our backs? A million reasons, I’m sure, but . . .

Unconditional love. You learned about that holding your newborn children; you learn even more about it with their children. You for them and they for you. Just spending time together adds up to sheer delight. No strings. The upstretched arms of that little 18-month-old mouthing “PawPaw”? Worth more than gold! You can live for a month just on one smile, and a giggle will make it two.

Purity, simplicity, and trust. The littlest folks have no qualms about “asking” for what they need, be it bottle or “blanky” or diaper change or nap on your chest. What looks bad in adults and, may I say, completely pathetic in high-officed politicians—neediness and almost no impulse control—is not only okay in the littlest folks, it’s appropriate and shows their absolute trust in us. As God cares for us all, continually doing infinitely more for us than we can possibly know, we gladly provide for the little ones he’s put in our care.

Wonder and joy. Everything is new to them. Everything is beautiful. Everything is full of wonder. That grass beneath the trampoline is a magical forest filled with mythical creatures. Those Christmas lights are as beautiful as twinkling stars. And PawPaw is a noble and valiant unicorn (with wings) who doesn’t at all mind being christened Buttercup if the little folks are doing the naming.

Long after we’ve grown to adulthood, it’s one of God’s most beautiful surprises to use little folks to help us grow back into children and much more like the Son who so delights in them and us.

 

 

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

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


God’s Real Grace: It’s Not Fair!

 

vineyard

A surpassingly strange story it is, and enough to make a math or accounting major bite nails. I’m talking about Jesus’ Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16).

Here’s the story in a nutshell: It’s grape-harvest in Palestine. A vineyard owner goes out early to hire men to work in his vineyard, and he agrees to pay them a denarius, a normal day’s wage. They go to work.

At 9:00 a.m. he finds other men standing around in the marketplace and also hires them, promising to pay them a fair wage. At noon and at 3:00 he does the same thing. Finally, even at 5:00, he finds others standing around, and he hires them also.

When evening comes, he pays the workers, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first. To the workers he hired last, he gives a denarius, and so on down through the line. Every worker receives the same pay.

The workers who were hired first begin to complain that it isn’t fair, that the landowner has made the fellows who worked just one hour “equal to” those who have worked all day long in the hot sun. But the landowner replies that he paid exactly what he agreed to pay, and that he has every right to choose to as generous as he wishes with his own money and pay the men hired last as much as those hired first.

Jesus concludes, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Quite a story, and not so much a story about vineyard owners and workers as a story about grace.

You see, where real grace is found, you’ll find our gracious God.

“Religious” law may ask grudgingly, “I know I’m to love my neighbor. Who qualifies? And under its breath it mutters, “I’ll not love anyone I don’t have to.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “Who and how many times do I have to forgive?” and mutters with frosty breath blown out over a cold heart, “It’ll be a snowy day in Perdition when I forgive that one.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “How much do I have to give?” and under its breath mutter, “I’ll not give a penny more.”

Law may ask grudgingly, “How many times do I have to go to church?” and under its breath mutter, “I’ll go not one Sunday more.”

Those are not the kind of questions grace asks because they are not the kind of questions God asks. God loves, forgives, gives, walks with us, because our Father is the God of all grace. Do we deserve his gift? No! It is enough for him that we desperately need it. His loving us will never make black and white, bottom-line accounting sense. Legally, it will never add up or balance. Not even close.

Sadly, where you find real grace, you’ll also find, just as in this parable, grinchy grumblers who aim to get their salvation the old-fashioned way: they want to earn it. They are angered by a God who freely offers salvation to a thief on a cross or a prisoner at Huntsville with a needle in his arm but faith on his lips. That kind of grace just doesn’t add up! That God gives it always angers some.

May we be far too busy praising him and thanking him to ever listen to complaints from those who’ve not yet learned that to get what you deserve is hell.

 

 

      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.


“How to Triple Your Answers to Prayer”

 

prayer01

A “teaser” on the front of the little magazine touted an article inside: “How to Triple Your Answers to Prayer.” I’m wondering what might be prescribed.

Incantations? A caldron filled with a steaming potion featuring eye of newt, tongue of frog? Could I get more answers to prayer (answers that I like) if my technique was better or my recipe more precise? Is the bottom line the number of really “good” answers I get and catalog? I’m pretty sure I’d like the guy who said that any Christian who says to another believer undergoing pain, “If you had enough faith and prayed as you should, you wouldn’t hurt,” needs very badly to be hit over the head with a baseball bat to help him test his own theory.

I believe St. James when he writes that God’s people sometimes “don’t have” because they “don’t ask” or “ask wrongly.” A right attitude is important.

But the bottom line on prayer is nothing that can be quantified, measured, or cataloged. Thank God for heartwarming answers. But, most of all, thank God for the growing and soul-warming relationship that time in prayer builds between you and the Father who gave you life and wants to spend time with you, his child.

To a skeptic watching you bend the knee, you’re just talking to yourself. Prayer is worthless, he thinks, because he sees it producing no practical results. But to you, child of God, and to your Father, it is precious and would be no more precious if you could accurately catalog 143 direct “results.”

The same thing is true for the same reasons regarding our worship. In a society that values nothing unless it produces measurable results—the bigger, the better—why worship?

To get recharged spiritually.

To have fellowship with God’s people.

To be able to leave to serve.

To “fill up” so we can do all sorts of obviously beneficial stuff and carry on all sorts of programs, the kind that can be measured and look good in church flyers and bulletins.

Well, I’m all for those “results” and more. But we worship for one reason that overshadows any other and needs no defense: we worship to glorify the God who is absolutely worthy and deserving of all praise.

An old kind of pragmatic legalism says, “You can only be saved if you do enough to be worth saving.” A modern kind just as seductively says, “Your prayers and your worship are only worthwhile if they produce visible and measurable results.”

Both ideas are as wrong as they are, in the final analysis, cruel. Our prayers and worship are precious to God not because they’re so good at producing impressive results. They’re precious to God because we’re his precious children, completely loved and accepted by our Father already.

In that knowledge, we worship and pray. And living in that knowledge, we find that God has indeed provided “in advance” plenty of good works for us to do, some of which can probably be listed in a church bulletin, but lots of which don’t look particularly “religious” at all. But the marvelous fact remains: God loves and accepts us before we’re able to do a single one.

Our Father is amazingly impractical that way.

 

 

      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.


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

 

worshiping 01

“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.


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