Abundant & undeserved

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“And if by grace, then is it no more of works;
otherwise grace is no more grace.”
(Romans 11:6)

The whole essence of grace is that it is undeserved. The moment we have to do something to make ourselves more acceptable to God, or the moment we have to have a certain feeling or attribute of character in order to be blessed by God, then grace is no more grace. Grace permits us to come (nay, demands that we come) as empty sinners to be blessed, empty of right feelings, good character, satisfactory record, with nothing to commend ourselves but our deep need, fully and frankly acknowledged. Then grace, being what it is, is drawn by that need to satisfy it, just as water is drawn to depth that it might fill it.

less5divider2This means that when at last we are content to find no merit nor procuring cause in ourselves, and are willing to admit the full extent of our sinfulness, then there is no limit to what God will do for the poor who look to Him in their nothingness. If what we receive from God is dependent, even to a small extent, on what we are or do, then the most we can expect is but an intermittent trickle of blessing. But if what we are to receive is to be measured by the grace of God quite apart from works, then there is only one word that adequately describes what He pours upon us, the word which is so often linked with grace in the New Testament, “abundance”!

Roy Hession
We Would See Jesus

Published in: on 08/27/2014 at 14:21  Leave a Comment  
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Fantasy and faith

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Someone says, “Listen, God doesn’t have time for your little problems. He is busy in the Middle East right now. He has bigger fish to fry. If you want something for yourself, you better get is the best way you can: buy this product and you will be important; wear these clothes and everyone will realize how distinguished you are; read this book and the knowledge will set you a cut about the crowd. Take care of yourself.”

less5divider2That sounds good, we begin to respond. And then we hear Paul’s indignant, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ.” Instinctively, immediately, we know that he is right. The only good news that will make a difference is that the living God personally addresses and mercifully forgives us. He sets things right at the center. This is what we need, what we want. We determine and we will not abandon the free life of the gospel and live in the fantasy dreams that others paint for us and then sell to us for a fee. We will live forgiven and in faith, not as a parasite on others, but creatively for others. We will not mope or cringe or whine. We will praise and venture and make.

–Eugene H. Peterson
Living the Message

Unscripted grace

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If Christianity is grace,
we don’t have
a push-button God.
Get ready for
an adventure.

–Tim Keller

Published in: on 05/29/2014 at 8:48  Leave a Comment  
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The soaring life of grace

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Giving is what we do best. It is the air into which we were born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth. Giving is the way the world is. He makes no exceptions for any of us. We are given away to our families, to our neighbors, to our friends, to our enemies—to the nations. Our life is for others. That is the way creation works. Some of us try desperately to hold on to ourselves, to live for ourselves. We look so bedraggled and pathetic doing it, hanging on to the dead branch of a bank account for dear life, afraid to risk ourselves on the untried wings of giving. We don’t think we can live generously because we have never tried. But the sooner we start the better, for we are going to have to give up our lives finally, and the longer we wait the less time we have for the soaring and swooping life of grace.

–Eugene Peterson
Running with the Horses

Whispering forgiveness

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This is the gospel of grace. A God, who out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross and died whispering forgiveness on us all.

–Brennan Manning
The Ragamuffin Gospel

The Offer and the Dance

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The gospel of Jesus is not the Gospel of a Demand but the Gospel of an Offer. Christ offers life to men: “He that drinketh of the waters that I shall give him shall never thirst”…

Of course, at the center of that offer is a demand—for repentance, for self-surrender, for following—but once the offer is accepted, the demand dances its way into a delight and is gone.

–E. Stanley Jones
Christ at the Round Table

When blessing runs wild

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When the camel you’re riding runs wild, nothing will stop it. You cling to its neck. You wrench at its beard and long lip. You cry into its soft ear for mercy. You threaten vengeance. Either you hurl yourself to death from its pitching back or you ride out its madness to the end. It was not I who ran off with my father’s blessing. It was my father’s blessing that ran off with me. Often since then I have cried for mercy with sand in my teeth…The blessing will take me where it will take me. It is beautiful and it is appalling. It races through the barren hills to an end of its own.

–Frederick Buechner
The Son of Laughter

Reckless generosity

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Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds.

The most extravagant sinners
of Jesus’s day receive his most
compassionate welcome.

Grace is a divine vulgarity that stands caution on its head. It refuses to play it safe and lay it up. Grace is recklessly generous, uncomfortably promiscuous. It doesn’t use sticks, carrots, or time cards. It doesn’t keep score. As Robert Capon puts it, “Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It’s not expensive. It’s not even cheap. It’s free.”

It refuses to be controlled by our innate sense of fairness, reciprocity, and evenhandedness. It defies logic. It has nothing to do with earning, merit, or deservedness. It is opposed to what is owed. It doesn’t expect a return on investments. It is a liberating contradiction between what we deserve and what we get. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver.

–Tullian Tchividjian
(emphasis added)

Image: http://nsirakov.com/

Amazing grace

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Grace means there is nothing we can to do make God love us more —no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciation, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less —no amount of racisim or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder.

Grace means that
God already loves us
as much as an infinite God
can possibly love.

–Philip Yancey
What’s So Amazing About Grace?

Wider and vaster

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Narrow is the gate
that leads to heaven,
and so shall it always be,
but wide are God’s mercies,
so much wider and vaster
and more appalling
than ever I knew.

–Leslie Leyland Fields

Unexpected favor

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Grace is . . . Love
favoring us when
we are not favorable,
loving us when
we were not lovable,
accepting us when
we are not acceptable,
redeeming us when,
by all the rules of the book,
we are not redeemable.

–E. Stanley Jones

He calls your name

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The devil knows
your name but calls you
by your sin.
God knows your sin
but calls you
by your name.

–Ricardo Sanchez

Published in: on 01/28/2014 at 7:24  Leave a Comment  
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The greater scandal

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Welcome everyone’s
differences and scandals
with the greater scandal
of grace.

–James Emery White

Published in: on 01/21/2014 at 7:11  Leave a Comment  
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Taking nothing for granted

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To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us–and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful man knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.

–Thomas Merton
Thoughts in Solitude

Image: Stephen Darbishire

 

The gift of grace

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After centuries of handling and mishandling, most religious words have become so shopworn nobody’s much interested anymore. Not so with grace, for some reason. Mysteriously, even derivatives like gracious and graceful still have some of the bloom left.

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Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.

A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?

A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do.

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The grace of God means something like: “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.”

There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can only be yours if you’ll reach out and take it.

Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.

–Frederick Buechner
Wishful Thinking

Image: Alan Ranger

Relying on grace

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True spirituality
consists in living
moment to moment
by the grace of
Jesus Christ.

–Francis Schaeffer
(1912 – 1984)

The gravity of grace

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Grace is
the gravity of God
grabbing us
and drawing us in
to God’s never
ending love.

–John Manz

Not a blessed thing

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Neither the lost coin nor the lost sheep was capable of any repentance at all. The entire cause of the recovery operation in both stories is the shepherd’s, or the woman’s determination to find the lost. Neither the lost sheep nor the lost coin does a blessed thing, except hang around in its lostness. On the strength of this parable, therefore, it is precisely our sins, and not our goodnesses, that most commend us to the grace of God.

–Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

Image:  James Tissot

The grace of life

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Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery it is.
In the boredom and pain of it no less
than in the excitement and gladness:
touch, taste, smell your way
to the holy and hidden heart of it
because in the last analysis
all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.

–Frederick Buechner
Now and Then

Just say thank you

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The life of grace
is simply believing
that Somebody Else
has made it all right, and
you just say thank you
and shut up.

–Robert Farrar Capon

Published in: on 11/01/2013 at 5:58  Leave a Comment  
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Fountain of rich grace

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Men are afraid to have good thoughts of God. They think it is a boldness to eye God as good, gracious, tender, kind, loving. I speak of saints. They can judge him hard, austere, severe, almost implacable, and fierce (the very worst affections of the very worst of men, and most hated by God). Is not this soul-deceit from Satan? Was it not his design from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God?

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Assure yourself, then, there is nothing more acceptable to the Father than for us to keep up our hearts unto him as the eternal fountain of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.

–John Owen
(1616 – 1683)

Image: Joseph Boltrukiewicz

No matter how far out to sea

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Why do we swim away from Him in our times of need? I believe it is because of the fact that we may not think He will forgive us. Maybe you believe that you have done too much. Maybe ran your bill up more than you can pay. But I’m here to tell you that no matter how far you have gone out to sea the Lord will not leave you. No matter how much you hurt the Him, He still loves you.

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If you are thinking right now that you can’t go to the Lord with something, think again. He went to the cross for us so He could be there when we need Him the most. Go to Him with what you need. Jesus is the lifeguard that will brave the currents and will go after you no matter how deep or how cold the water is.

–Tony Rhoda

The overflow of grace

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Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing “outside of” God Himself; when the Father, Son, and Spirit found eternal, absolute, and unimaginable blessing, pleasure, and joy in Their holy triunity — it was Their agreed purpose to create a world. That world would fall. But in unison — and at infinitely great cost — this glorious triune God planned to bring you (if you are a believer) grace and salvation.

–Sinclair Ferguson

Extravagant acceptance

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In light of our own profound need, brokenness, unsettledness, and immaturity, God is not with anxiety or anger fretting until we get our act together. He is not scowling waiting for us to “get fixed,” despising us until we arrive at an unattainable standard of perfection. We want to be “fixed” (and soon) in order to gain acceptance, whether from peers, leaders, God or ourself.

God wants to walk with us,
to know us, to be known by us,
to love us – right where we are.

And in the journey of walking with him in love, we will find ourselves transformed, not in order to be accepted, but transformed precisely by his extravagant acceptance, unremitting love and indescribable tenderness. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 –Richard Liantonio 

Unable to answer

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So far from being able
to answer for my sins,
I cannot even answer for
my righteousness!

–St. Bernard of Clairvaux
(1090 – 1153)

Published in: on 09/19/2013 at 4:15  Leave a Comment  
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Too good to be true

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If the first response
to the gospel we proclaim is
not that “it’s all too good to be true,”
it’s surely not the gospel
we are proclaiming.

–Jonathan Martin ‏

Photo: Jose Luis Mieza

The only punishable offence

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Bookkeeping is the only punishable offence in the kingdom of heaven. For in that happy state, the books are ignored forever, and there is only the Book of life. And in that book, nothing stands against you.

There are no debit entries
that can keep you out of the clutches
of the Love that will not let you go.

bookeepingThere is no minimum balance below which the grace that finagles all accounts will cancel your credit. And there is, of course, no need for you to show large amounts of black ink, because the only Auditor before whom you must finally stand is the Lamb — and he has gone deaf, dumb, and blind on the cross. The last may be first and the first last, but that’s only for the fun of making the point: everybody is on the payout queue and everybody gets full pay. Nobody is kicked out who wasn’t already in, the only bruised backsides belong to those who insist on butting themselves into outer darkness.

For if our world
could have been saved
by bookkeeping,
it would have been saved
by Moses, not Jesus.

The law was just fine. And God gave it a good thousand years or so to see if anyone could pass a test like that. But nobody did — when it became perfectly clear that there was “no one who was righteous, no even one” (Rom. 3:10; Ps. 14:1-3), that “both Jews and Gentiles alike were under the power of sin (Rom. 3:9) — God gave up on salvation by the books. He cancelled everybody’s records in the death of Jesus and rewarded us all, equally and fully, with a new creation in the resurrection of the dead.

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And therefore the only adverse judgment that falls on the world falls on those who take their stand on a life God cannot use rather than on the death he can. Only the winners lose, because only the losers can win: the reconciliation simply cannot work out any other way . . . the kingdom of heaven is for everybody; hell is reserved only for the idiots who insist on keeping nonexistent records in their heads.

Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment
(emphasis added)

It’s not for the living

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Grace . . . works
only on the untouchable,
the unpardonable,
and the unacceptable.
It works, in short,
by raising the dead,
not by rewarding the living.

–Robert Farrar Capon
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

The power of forgiving love

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Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favour can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this.

–Horatius Bonar
God’s Way of Holiness

Excessive grace

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It is a gift to be scandalized by Jesus.
When grace seems excessive
and love is absurd – we finally
are beginning to fathom the gospel.

–Jonathan Martin

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