A Celebration of Grace

“Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. Mark 15:32

At times I have difficulty grasping the depths of God’s love.

While His own people spit at Him and mocked Him, Jesus silently bore the weight of a cross and stumbled up the hill to Calvary. There, angry soldiers pounded nails into His hands and feet, pinning Him to that cross. The ground beneath Him stained crimson by the blood of earth’s Creator, at last Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

It might be easy for us to blame the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. But the truth is, you and I put Jesus there as much as they did. Our sin nailed Him to that cross.

These words from Sidewalk Prophets’ song, You Love Me Anyway, pierce my heart each time I hear them.

I am the thorn in Your crown, but You love me anyway

I am the sweat from Your brow, but You love me anyway

I am the nail in Your wrist, but You love me anyway

I am Judas’ kiss, but You love me anyway

I am a blessed recipient of God’s grace, dear one, of His incomprehensible love. For 26 years I rejected my Lord and King while pretending to love Him. Yet still He welcomed me with open arms the moment I finally opened my heart to Him.

Words cannot express my gratitude over His pursuit of this prodigal. He intersected my life, pierced my blindness with His glorious truth, and inscribed His Word upon my heart. I am eternally grateful.

History records another recipient of grace whose life—and death—offers irrefutable hope of redemption through faith in the Son of God. The story of the crucified thief who joined Jesus in paradise unravels any theory that Jesus welcomes us based on the good we’ve done. Even the thief declared of himself,

“We are punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man [Jesus] has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:41

 I’d like to shift our focus to his next words, however.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Luke 23:42

Perhaps you have never considered this thought before: How did he know? How did the thief know that Jesus would, indeed, come into a kingdom?

His eyes witnessed the same things Jesus’ Disciples saw that sent them running in fear, believing it was over. Jesus hung battered and broken, struggling for His next breath and nearing His last. Death loomed immanently, yet the thief knew that Jesus would one day reign as King, and he entrusted his life to His care.

“…remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

How did the thief know what even the Disciples could not yet understand?

I’d like to suggest that our friend the thief had an encounter with glory. God sent His Spirit to open his eyes and enable him to see. In John 6:65, Jesus said,

“. . . I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

Our opening Scripture today reveals that as our thief first hung on the cross beside Jesus, he did not recognize Him as the Son of God. He joined the crowd and the other thief hurling insults at the King of Kings.

Jesus performed no visible miracle from the cross to change his opinion. He only heard His fervent prayers to the Father and listened to Jesus speak of forgiveness. But as the thief heard the words of Christ, God pierced his darkness with the light of truth, allowing a once blind man to see that Jesus was everything He claimed to be. He suddenly knew that death would not hold this King of the Jews. And with a repentant heart, our thief emerged alone from the crowd in defense of Jesus, abandoning the hateful mockers to proclaim His coming kingdom. All doubt erased, this man stood certain of what his earthly eyes could not see.

 “ . . . blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29


Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

Have you had your encounter with glory, dear one? Do you know beyond reason and doubt that Jesus’ kingdom is coming? Or are you still trying to convince yourself based on what others have told you?

You can know, beloved. Jesus longs to reveal Himself to you, to invade your darkness with His truth-baring light. All He requires of you is a seeking heart. He’ll do the rest.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14

The forgiven thief possessed the only thing he needed to draw God to him that day. He had a repentant heart that sought the truth, so God faithfully showed up to reveal it in time for him to enter into paradise. Then our thief made the choice to believe.

And what of the rest of the angry mob? Why couldn’t they see what the thief saw?

Well, it’s like Jesus said. Some people simply prefer the darkness (John 3:19).

Distress Call

In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Psalm 18:6

It’s the unexpected things that send us reeling. Extraordinary circumstances that reach into an ordinary day and make it anything but.

Like when a few hives decide they won’t respond to Benadryl. Or steroid shots. Or IV antihistamines.

And you watch those few hives cover every ounce of your child and set his skin on fire. And he develops a fever. And he swells so much it takes two nurses and two technicians thirty minutes to find a place on his body where they can insert a needle to draw blood.

And you hear a doctor say words like, “He may have Steven Johnson’s Syndrome, which is very rare but very aggressive. If that’s what this is, we’ll be sending him out to Hopkins or Hershey.”

When a mother hears words like that, tears burn and threaten to fall. But they don’t. At least not right away. Because those eyes need to look into the eyes of her son and let him know it will be okay.

But when she slips into an empty room in the ER and shuts the door, that’s another story. There strength crumbles, and she gasps for oxygen.

At least that’s what I did. I cried out to my heavenly Father, begging for His breath.

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

God has such beautiful ways of providing, dear one.

Like sending a friend and prayer partner to wrap me in her arms and let me know I am loved. And that I wasn’t fighting for my child alone.

She held my hands in that ER prayer closet and together we ran to the throne of grace. Hearts merged and tears fell while prayers reached heaven on behalf of my son.

And heaven moved.

My heavenly Father answered with an amazing sense of peace. I felt it wash over me and settle. Fear had no place in that room. Only power. Love. And a mind at peace.

I told the destroyer he would not have my son. And he didn’t.

Few things shake a parent like watching a child suffer. We work hard to prevent it. And when it comes, we’d do anything to bring it to an end.

But that isn’t what God did, beloved.

God surrendered Jesus—His only begotten Son—to suffering. Why? So that He could redeem ours.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. Isaiah 53:10 NIV

Unfathomable. Ridiculous. True.

God chose suffering for Jesus. Willingly. His love for us compelled Him. His love for Jesus didn’t stop Him.

He knew it would not end in death. No. Jesus’ suffering would result in glory.


And ours.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for that unimaginable choice. Because Jesus’ suffering released the power of resurrection life.

For you. For me. For my son.

And regardless of how things appear or even how they play out in this life, death can’t win.

Because Jesus already won.

And sometimes we get to witness His resurrection power right here in the midst of our suffering. Like when doctors can’t explain what’s happening, but you know. Because you ran to the throne of grace and watched heaven win.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Seated in the Temple

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. Psalm 62:2

God has a way of shaking things up so that only He and His Word remain. And when the dust settles, many who thought they’d be standing will find themselves scattered among the rubble.

A great shaking looms on the horizon, dear one. In fact it has already begun.

“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” Hebrews 12:26-27

God is about to reveal the danger of trusting in created things.

This isn’t the first time He’s done this. When Jesus walked the earth He spoke some words that sent the religious folk reeling. In fact, they used those words to accuse Him at His trial.

“This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” Matthew 26:61

Mark 14:58 offers another detail.

“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”

Sounds like a shaking to me. God was about to destroy the temple they revered. A temple built with sweat and tears. A temple made with hands.

But why would God destroy His own dwelling place? In order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.

 The people needed to understand that God’s power didn’t rest in a building. It rests with Him.

The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:20-22

When Jesus conquered death through the cross, He changed the location of God’s earthly temple. God would no longer dwell in a building. Instead He would dwell within man.

Paul makes that pretty clear in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

He confirms it again in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Beloved, you and I are the new temple of God. Faith in Jesus Christ made us one with Him. We are His body. His Spirit dwells within us, sealing us as His own. And we are to honor Him, consecrating His temple for holy use.

But scripture offers a chilling warning when we realize that “we are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16). 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 speaks of the things that will take place before the coming Day of the Lord.

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

We live in days of rebellion, dear one. Even the church rebels against God’s Word. And the lawless serpent, who exalts himself and opposes Truth, has already seated himself in God’s temple. He rules the throne of our hearts, governing our actions through unquenched desires of our flesh—flesh that Jesus died and rose to conquer.

We can’t allow him to remain in God’s sanctuary, beloved. Our enemy must be cast out of the temple. (Matthew 21:12)

Your holy people held possession for a little while; our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary. We have become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name. Isaiah 63:18-19

Forgive us, Father, for giving the enemy ground he does not deserve—Your ground. Ground you purchased with Your Son’s blood. Ground you freely offer us in a gift of lavish grace. Ground we claim simply by drawing near to You and believing Your Word.

We must return to the Lord our God and remove every unholy influence from the temple. If we don’t, we will fall to Satan’s deceptions when the man of lawlessness rises in power,

…with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10

Only loving the truth will save us, dear one. Loving our Savior and loving His Word.

Don’t let your love for either grow cold or you will find yourself shaken. Return to your God of love while the invitation still stands.

Cultivating the Seed

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:29 NKJV

Life begins with a seed.

In case you’re wondering where seed comes from, “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11).

God speaks and establishes all things by His Word. Every seed spoken into existence by God carries unlimited potential, holding within it everything necessary to explode into life.

The seed itself is good. Perfect. Lacking nothing.

But the seed will not emerge as life on this earth without encountering two other elements God ordained to cultivate and release its potential.

Curious? Let me show you.

When God created this earth we call home, He determined that every living thing upon it—all plants, animals, and people—would emerge from seed and carry seed to reproduce. For now, we’ll focus on the green stuff.

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. Genesis 1:11-13

Marvel at the beauty of God’s way: Life begets life. In God’s plan, living things always give birth to new life. Life flows and continues eternally. And God saw that it was good.

I love God’s declaration in verse 11, proving the creative power of His Word. And it was so.

Now I want to show you something interesting in Genesis 2:5-7.

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Emphasis mine)

Do you see what I see, dear one?

God spoke all vegetation and seed bearing plants into existence on the third day. And it was so. On the 6th day, God created man, When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up (verse 5).

You may be wondering the same thing that occurred to me. If God had spoken all plant life into existence—and it was so… and God saw that it was good—why was the earth still barren when God made man? Where were all the plants and shrubs?

Listen carefully, dear one.

Our inability to see something with our eyes doesn’t make it any less so.

God’s Word carries creative power. Whatever God speaks is as good as done. Accomplished. Established… in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).

But God desires to see what He established in the heavenly realms revealed on earth’s surface. And the glimpse Genesis 2 gives us into God’s ways at creation also reveals the way He works in our lives today.

God sited two reasons why the earth had not sprouted its vegetation.

  1. The Lord had not caused it to rain
  2. There was no man to work the ground


Apparently our triune God established that life springing up on earth’s surface would emerge through a partnership of three things: seed, water, and a person to work the ground.

We’ve already established that the seed is God’s Word. Perfect. Life-giving. Ready to create.

But Genesis 2 reveals that the fruit of that seed will not show up on earth’s surface without a human vessel to cultivate the soil and living water to open the seed, releasing the life within it.

Jesus said in John 15:8,

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

We spend a lot of time wearily striving to produce fruit. But fruit isn’t manufactured, beloved. It’s grown through the one true Vine.

We can't manufacture fruit. It’s grown through the one true Vine. Click To Tweet

And fruit grows when a human being receives God’s seed—His Word—into a fertile human heart. Our job is simply to soften the ground, cultivating the soil by removing anything that hinders the growth process.

We must dig out anything that blocks belief.

Because when that seed is met with belief in the human heart, the Spirit within it sets the river of life flowing (John 7:38). He waters the seed with Living Water, releasing the power within the seed so that it springs up on earth’s surface.

What already existed—was so—becomes visible. Faith leads to sight.

And the fruit that has surfaced benefits everyone who comes in contact with it, scattering new seed.

So life flows, continuing eternally.

And lasts.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” John 15:16