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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sunset from the Weber's home, Mount Joy, PA
Sunset from our front yard brilliantly shining through my favorite distant tree, a huge black walnut.

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"Worthless Idols"

"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs" (Jonah 2:8).

I recently spoke to a friend who shared his testimony with me. He was raised in a very strict religious system characterized by lots of man-made rules. He was led to believe that it was in keeping these rules that he was pleasing God. As he approached adulthood his dad actually discouraged him from continuing in the church telling him, "It's just too hard, you'll just go to hell anyway."

For many years he lived in the ways of the world. He was living with a woman when a pastor befriended them. They began attending his church and had a personal conference with the pastor where he shared the gospel with them. As they walked out of his office in silence my friend tells me that at the very same time he and his girlfriend looked at each other and said, "Wow, we are sure sinners."  It was as though for the first time they actually stopped and, through the help of a dedicated believer, thoroughly evaluated the condition of their hearts.

The pastor properly identified their problem as sin and provided the solution of God's grace. They went on to accept this solution (God's salvation), chose to get married and since that time have been living for the Lord.

The Bill Gaither Vocal Band has a great song titled "Child, You're Forgiven" that has a powerful expression in it. "I've traded performance for amazing grace.  What a relief, I can't earn my way." 

Today we consider those who grew up in church and in religious homes and yet have an inferior understanding of grace.  They may be extra hard on themselves and judgmental toward others.  They may have difficulty accepting God's forgiveness and assurance of their personal salvation that leads to peace and the abundant life.

I'm not sure what kind of "worthless idols" Jonah was referring to in the daily text.  Likely he meant the physical objects of worship that we normally associate with idolatry in the Bible.  Incidentally, isn't this a remarkable verse that you wouldn't normally expect to find in Jonah!

However I believe religious performance is like a "worthless idol" that many cling to and thus "forfeit the grace that could be theirs." Do you identify with the expression in the song "what a relief, I can't earn my way?"  This leads to the relief of truly resting in the all sufficient grace of Jesus!  "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" (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Jerry Bridges notes, "God's grace does not supplement our good works. Instead His grace overcomes our bad works, which are our sins." Writer Erwin Lutzer observes, "when the mask of self-righteousness has been torn from us and we stand stripped of all our accustomed defenses, we are candidates for God's generous grace."

Good works are an outflow of God's amazing grace, not a replacement! Accept God's generous grace today and proclaim with the Palmist, "But with You there is forgiveness" (Psalm 130:4). 

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Father, as we experience Your amazing grace through Your forgiveness of our sins it compels us to also show compassion to others who have not yet applied Your grace to their lives.  As Jude writes, we are to "Be merciful to those who doubt;  snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh." In reaching out to others who are still living in sin we must not lower our standards, nor do we want to appear more righteous then them.  So give us the words along with a compassionate heart to reach the lost without losing our soul or lowering our standards, as we choose to love the sinner and hate the sin.  In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen.

Today's story is altogether true and I have my friend's permission to share it. I see him regularly in the course of my chaplain visits to a local company.  I clarified the astounding details with him; his dad's discouraging him from staying in the church since it was so hard with legalistic works righteousness always being the overriding theme of all he did and didn't do. I have invited him to our church to share his testimony and also sing some songs since he is a musician. Perhaps I will eventually be able to share it as an audio message!

Yellow pansy
We have a walkway with dry-laid brick. We have to regularly pull weeds out of the cracks all through the summer but will let this persistent pansy stay!

The most helpful book I have ever read on today's topic is "Transforming Grace" by Jerry Bridges.  While properly emphasizing God's grace Bridges' also expresses the need to live holy and obedient lives. "Our love for God, expressed through obedience to Him, is to be a response to His love, not a means of trying to earn it."

Transforming GraceTransforming Grace  By Jerry Bridges / NAV Press
Funny how the riches of God's grace seem to run out the moment we're saved! From then on, we tend to base our relationship with him on our accomplishments rather than on his unconditional acceptance. In "Transforming Grace" Bridges addresses the "performance treadmill" and what can happen when we forget how generous God's grace is. Come back to the love that's waiting for you, and learn to trust His grace every day. Ordering information

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Child, You're Forgiven"  Video  Gaither Vocal Band  This is the song referred to in today's message.  This song really has some thoughtful words that are the experience of many.

"Amazing Love"
 Video  Chris Tomlin

I'm forgiven, because You were forsaken.
I'm accepted, You were condemned.
I'm alive and well. Your Spirit is within me

Because You died and rose again.

"Grace Greater Than All Our Sin"  Video  This is one of our favorite hymns from our Bible College chapel days. In fact I still recall the hymn number (200) even though we haven't used that hymnal regularly in over twenty years!

Call 2 Fall logo
Regardless of what country you may live in we sure need a revival! On Sunday morning July 5 our church will participate in "Call2Fall", a nationwide prayer meeting. We encourage others to look into this, especially pastors here in America. Essentially this is a definite time during worship on Sunday, July 5th when we get on our knees and faces before the Lord in repentant prayer, pleading with God to reshape our lives, renew our land, and send times of refreshing (See 2 Chronicles 7:14; Acts 3:19).

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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