Tag Archives: grace

Can We Cause God To Change His Mind?

Hezekiah and Moses Plead with God for a Different Outcome

Can We Cause God To Change His Mind?In Isaiah we read about King Hezekiah. The king is sick, and Isaiah comes to him with a dire message from God. Through Isaiah, God tells Hezekiah to put his affairs in order because his illness is fatal. Death looms.

Though few of us would welcome death, knowing when our end would occur might bring about a certain appreciation. This would give us an opportunity to say our goodbyes and get our estate organized for our heirs.

Hezekiah Prays and Cries to God

But Hezekiah doesn’t give God a heartfelt, or even a respectful, “Thanks for the heads up.” Instead the king cries bitter tears and reminds God—as if God needed reminding—of his lifetime of faithfulness, devotion, and good living.

Guess what happens next?

God hears Hezekiah’s prayers and sees his tears. God changes his mind. Instead of sticking to the plan that the king’s end is near, God pledges to give him another fifteen years of life (Isaiah 38:1-5).

Moses Also Seeks God’s Favor

However, long before the reign of King Hezekiah, Moses and God have another interesting exchange. When God’s chosen people decide to worship a golden calf instead of him, God has enough. He says he’ll destroy his people and start over with Moses to make a new nation.

If this happened to me, I’d bow my head in false humility and say something like, “As you wish.” But not Moses. Instead he tries to talk God out of it. Moses fights for the nation of Israel even though they don’t deserve it. God listens to Moses’s reasoning and he relents from destroying his people as he had planned (Exodus 32:9-14). God wants to do good things for us, and sometimes all we need to do is ask. Click To Tweet

God wants to do good things for us, and sometimes all we need to do is ask.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 37-38, and today’s post is on Isaiah 38:1-5.]

Our Relationship with God is Not Transactional

Regardless of our behavior, God’s love for us is unconditional

When we do something nice for someone, we often expect something nice in return. And when they do something kind for us, we desire to reciprocate. It’s human nature. And if someone is mean to us, our first impulse is to respond to them likewise.

We can think of this as “equivalent retaliation,” more commonly known as tit-for-tat. In legal terms this concept of reciprocity goes by quid pro quo or “a favor for a favor.”God's love is unconditional.

We apply this notion to our interactions with others and to our interactions with God. When we do good, we expect him to return the favor and do good things for us. We may even think he owes us for the way we worship him, study his word, or help others. Surely our acts of righteousness will garner his attention and produce a positive response from him.

However, when we mess up—which I too often do—our expectations of God go away. We don’t think he owes us anything. In fact, we know we deserve punishment.

Yet both these perspectives reveal that we think our relationship with God is transactional. That when we do good for him, we deserve good from him. And when we do bad things, he will ignore us or punish us. This, however, is a human mindset, not God’s character.Our relationship with God is not transactional; his love is unconditional. Click To Tweet

The truth is that there’s nothing we can do to cause him to love us any more. And there’s nothing we can do to cause him to love us any less. God’s deep love for us is unshakable. He loves us regardless of what we do, be it good or bad.

We call this undeserved love from God grace (getting good things we don’t deserve) and mercy (not getting the bad things we do deserve). God is not a tit-for-tat supernatural being. He’s not a quid pro quo type of god.

The God of the Bible is perfect, and he loves us perfectly. Our relationship with him is not transactional; his love is unconditional. Praise God.

Does It Ever Seem Like God Hates You?

What we may perceive as a lack of love may actually be the embodiment of it

Does It Ever Seem Like God Hates You?In the book of Revelation, John shares a grand vision with an epic scope, far reaching and future focused. But before we get to that, God has some first-century messages for seven area churches. Three of these messages appear in the third chapter.

In John’s supernatural dream, amid the seventh message to the seventh church, the one in Laodicea, Jesus says “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent,” (Revelation 3:19, NIV).

We know Jesus and his Father are all about love. They love us. That’s why they made a way for us to hang out with them forever. Love sent Jesus to earth. Love sacrificed him for us. Love ushers us into heaven.

When I think of God’s love, I think of his mercy (not getting the bad things we do deserve) and his grace (getting the good things we don’t deserve). I like grace and mercy.

However, two things I don’t think about when I consider God’s love are rebuke and discipline. Yuck. Yet correction is part of love, too. Parents, discipline their children to keep them safe and healthy and to prepare them for adulthood.

So discipline, from both God and our parents, is a good thing. It’s an act of love.When God disciplines us, it’s because he loves us. Click To Tweet

When God rebukes and disciplines us, it’s because he loves us, not because he hates us, has given up on us, or is ignoring us. Correction is one way he expresses his love to us.

How should we respond to his discipline?

Jesus explains that, too. With all sincerity (earnestness) we need to change our ways (repent).

I think this might be one way we can show God we love him.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 3, and today’s post is on Revelation 3:19.]


Why We Shouldn’t Take God’s Grace for Granted

We dishonor God by persisting in sin because we assume his grace will cover it

Why We Shouldn’t Take God’s Grace for GrantedA highschool friend heard about the doctrine of eternal security—which some people shorten to the more accessible mantra of “once saved, always saved”—and latched onto it. She reasoned this creed allowed her to act any way she wanted, that she and God were in a good place in their relationship, and her behavior didn’t matter anymore.

In short she took this as a license to sin.

She thought she had her get-into-heaven card, and that was all she cared about. She disconnected her reality on earth from her future in eternity.

Though she rightly embraced God’s grace, she incorrectly assumed it came with endless abundance. This didn’t feel right to me. Surely she overreached and grabbed onto an unwise conclusion. I tried to talk her down from her extreme position, but she wouldn’t listen.

Instead she clung to her steadfast belief that nothing she did from that point forward would have any bearing on her spiritual future. After all, she had said the prayer, so she was in. I wish I had read Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians. I wish I had known about the sixth chapter.The deeper the sin, the greater God’s grace. Click To Tweet

In it Paul addresses this topic of sin and grace. The deeper the sin, the greater God’s grace. This is true. Yet some go too far and claim our ongoing sin serves to elevate God’s grace.

Paul says, “No way!”

When we follow Jesus we turn our back on our wrong behaviors (Romans 6:1-2).

I wish I had known that to tell my friend.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Romans 6, and today’s post is on Romans 6:1-2.]


Does God Ever Loose His Patience?

Nahum offers some harsh words to the city of Nineveh about their future

Does God Ever Loose His Patience?The book of Nahum, a short three-chapter prophecy, centers on the city of Nineveh. If this city sounds familiar, if might be from the book of Jonah when God sends his prophet there to prophesy its destruction. After hearing Jonah’s blunt, half-hearted message of doom, all of Nineveh, from its king to its people, repents, and God gives them a reprieve. Jonah becomes mad and complains about this to God, almost criticizing his mercy.

Later the prophet Nahum resumes the predictions of doom on the people of Nineveh. In fact the entire book of Nahum focuses on Nineveh. It ends with the ominous words, “Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal,” (Nahum 3:19). There is no hope. There is no call to repent or make amends for their errors. The verdict is final with no chance for appeal.

Though we tend to see God as full of grace and mercy, of forgiveness and second chances, his patience is not limitless. When it comes to the city of Nineveh and all the evil it represents, God has had enough. Their sins are lethal, with no option for restoration. This time there is no repentance; this time there is no second chance. History records its destruction.We cannot fully know God or understand his ways. Click To Tweet

If this view of God makes you uncomfortable, as it does me, recall that we cannot fully know God or understand his ways. We want to rightly bask in his love, but we must not lose sight of the need to also fear him. Nahum and the city of Nineveh remind us of this other side to God’s sovereignty.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Nahum 1-3, and today’s post is on Nahum 3:19.]


Where Do You Stand on the Judgement Versus Mercy Debate?

If you’ve been reading along in our New Testament reading plan, you’ve just finished the book of Titus and will wrap up your Bible reading for the year with the short book of Philemon. Congratulations for finishing! (Next year let’s read the entire Bible together. Look for posts here each Tuesday that align with the reading plan.)

Where Do You Stand on the Judgement Versus Mercy Debate?The book of Philemon is actually a letter Paul writes to Philemon. In it Paul advocates for mercy instead of judgement for their mutual colleague, Onesimus. Onesimus deserves a stern dose of justice for running away, but Paul pleads for mercy instead.

This sounds a lot like Jesus and us. Our misdeeds demand judgement but Jesus offers mercy to everyone, but only those who follow Jesus can actually receive his mercy and grace. God’s Law demands justice, but his love gives grace. Jesus makes the difference.

The Bible doesn’t say if Philemon extends Onesimus the mercy he doesn’t deserve or demands the justice that he does, but I think Philemon sets aside judgement and justice to present mercy and grace – just like Jesus does for us.

Thank God for Jesus, for mercy, and for grace!

What do you think Philemon did after reading Paul’s letter? How would you have treated Onesimus? God’s Law demands justice, but his love gives grace. Jesus makes the difference. Click To Tweet


Can an Actionless Faith Save You?

Can an Actionless Faith Save You?There are some people who try to earn their way into heaven. They do good and obey God’s commands – at least most of them anyway. They work hard their entire life to get God’s attention. Surely when their time comes, God will throw open the doors to heaven. With a wide smile and a gracious gesture he will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” But he could say, “Go away, I don’t know you.” They’re really not sure. They hope they’ve been good enough, but doubt lingers.

Others laugh at this approach. They say you can’t earn your way into heaven. Eternal life is a gift, given in grace and received by faith. They say a little prayer and figure it’s all good. They have their get-out-of-hell card. Since heaven is a present, they continue living a life unchanged. They set God aside and live for themselves.

Is faith alone enough to save them? Maybe it is and maybe it’s not. James writes that it’s through our actions – that is, our good deeds – that we confirm our faith.We are saved by God’s grace through faith, andthen we prove it by showing his love to others. Click To Tweet

Yes, we are saved by God’s grace through our faith, but then we prove it by showing his love to others through our actions. We need to have faith and then we need to do good deeds. Both are required.

What do you think about faith and doing good deeds? Do you agree with James?

[Matthew 25:19-23, Matthew 25:12, Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:1-2, James 2:14-17]



Do You Excel at the Grace of Giving?

There is a curious phrase in the Bible: “grace of giving.” It occurs only in Paul’s second letter to his friends at the church in Corinth. Without it appearing elsewhere in the Bible, there are no other verses we can use to grasp a better understanding of this curious phrase.

In considering it, the “grace of giving” could imply we are to give graciously. The opposite is to give begrudgingly, and that’s not good. A gift given resentfully is hardly a gift at all. Gracious giving is the goal.

Alternately, “grace of giving” could suggest generosity. We give what others need and then give more. Or we give what we can and then make sacrifices to give more. We give “above and beyond” expectations. This, too, may be the grace of giving.

While there is value in both these considerations, I think there is an even better one. God gives his grace to us; we should give a bit of that grace to others. This could be money, or it could be kindness, tolerance, acceptance, or any number of the amazing gifts God has given us, his undeserving followers.

Regardless of how we understand the phrase “grace of giving” and what it precisely means, the key is to give. We are to give to others.

[2 Corinthians 8:7]

A Fresh Start: It’s Time to Plant, Water, Nurture, and Prune

A friend recently shared how much she was enjoying spring, of seeing flowers bloom and once dormant grass turn green. I connected with her joy, warmed by the thought of spring and the new life it represents. I was happy for her, but then I grew somber. I have no green grass in my yard to celebrate: no new life, just the brown of dirt.

A Fresh Start: It's Time to Plant, Water, Nurture, and PruneThough this gave me pause, it quickly reminded me of opportunity. My yard represents a blank canvas, a chance to create something new. It offers a fresh start. Soon grass seed will be sown and after that, flowers and bushes and trees will make their appearance. The brown of potential will give way to the color of life. My yard will come alive, and I expect it will one day look delightful.

I wonder if God considers us the same way, as people of potential, as soil awaiting transformation. In God’s eyes our past is forgiven and forgotten, our present offers potential, and our future beckons with the hope of something wonderful and amazing to behold.

However, the outcome is not assured. Just as I need to plant and water to transform my dreary brown yard into a pleasant lawn, so too, we need to let God work in us: to plant and water, to nurture and grow, and, yes, to periodically prune. Then we can grow, becoming much more than who we are today.

God offers us a new beginning. May we open ourselves to his design for us, accepting his plan for our lives. May we allow him to grow us into something new and wonderful to behold.

God offers us a fresh start, beginning today; don’t miss out.

[This is from the April 2015 issue of Peter DeHaan‘s newsletter. Sign up to receive the complete newsletter each month via email.]

Jude Warns Against Ungodly Men in the Church

The book of Jude in the Bible is a short letter that is tucked in the back, just before Revelation. Add to this the fact that it is a bit confusing with obscure references. Plus, Jude meanders his way through his message with many distracting examples and illustrations. Given all this, it is little wonder that the writing of Jude is largely ignored.Jude Warns Against Ungodly Men in the Church

Removing Jude’s supporting text, his essential message is to watch out for ungodly people in the church. Their profile is that they…

  • pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord (v 4).
  • pollute their own bodies, reject authority, and heap abuse on celestial beings (v 8).
    slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them (v 10).
  • are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves (v 12).
  • are grumblers and fault finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage (v 16).
  • are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit (v 19).

Do you know anyone who acts like this?  Then watch out.  Do you ever act like this? Then take corrective action.