Friday, May 17, 2013

I started a more focused journey towards grace when I read.....

...... 2 Peter 1: 1-11 (Contemporary English Version)
(vs 1) "From Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ.  To everyone who shares with us in the privilege of believing that God our Savior Jesus Christ will do what is just and right and fair.  I pray that God will be kind to you and will let you live in perfect peace!  May you keep learning more and more about God and our Lord Jesus.  We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God.  It was all given to us to share in His wonderful goodness.  God made great and marvelous promises, so His nature would become part of us.  Then we could escape our evil desires and the corrupt influences of this world.
 (vs 5) Do your best to improve your faith by adding goodness, understanding, self control, patience, devotion to God, concern for others, and love. 
(vs 8)  If you keep growing in this way, it will show that what you know about our Lord Jesus Christ has made your lives useful and meaningful.  But if you don't grow, you are like someone who is nearsighted or blind, and you have forgotten that your past sins are forgiven.
 (vs 10) My friends, you must do all you can to show God really has chosen and selected you.  If you keep on doing this, you won't stumble and fall.  Then our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will give you a glorious welcome into His kingdom that will last forever."

These verses leaped off the pages to me when I first read them because of the plain, direct, challenging and seemingly personal shout out to me they were doing.  I especially noticed verses 5, 6 and 7 as a kind of "7 steps to growing your faith" prescription or direction that was tailor made for me.  I wanted to improve my faith.  I wanted to grow more godly.  I wanted to draw near to God so that He will draw near to me.

So, I bought a notebook to start writing in.  As I would read and make my way through this passage - I would go in depth and study words, I would reference a concordance, a Bible dictionary and a commentary to help me understand the words I was reading and where else they were used in the Bible.

I really didn't know what I was getting into - all I knew was this was what I needed to learn and incorporate into my life.

So, I got up early, opened my Bible, and with my empty notebook, a pen, Strong's concordance, a Bible Dictionary and a commentary on the New Testament, I started with verse 1: "Simon Peter, a bond servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ"  (NASB).

The first word that stuck out to me was faith: It comes from God.  Not just from God but because of God, because He is righteous.  Identifying that He is righteous doesn't take long for me to look at me - the opposite of righteous.  Without faith.  Without God there is no faith.  I need faith.  I want faith.  But I am reading here that I have been given that from God - His gift, to me. 

The verse says more than that though.....this faith come also from our Savior, Jesus Christ.  It's like a double whammy.  God, the eternal, heavenly being that is in heaven - whom man has not clearly seen.  But also from His Son, Jesus Christ - also God, but also man - He took on the form of a man and lived on this planet.

I think of God and I think of Jesus from what I read in the Bible and know, believe and sort of get to understand that He is just, right and holy.  Jesus demonstrated this in His years on earth.  As He walked, talked, listened, lived His life - there were people around who developed faith in Him. 

Jesus was then crucified, buried, but rose from the dead - seen again by hundreds of people amongst whom He told that He was going to prepare a place for them: heaven. 

His life was recorded and written of in the Bible and passed along to generations - we have that today and by reading it, believing it and trusting it - God gives us faith: in Him, in Jesus Christ.

But I then I saw the earlier part of the verse " those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours...".  Wait a minute, I have the same faith that Peter had, that the disciples had, that the early believers who saw Jesus all had.  Peter is writing the letter to people of whom some may have seen Jesus, but I'm sure there were many that didn't see Him.

I'm someone that hasn't seen Jesus.  Everyone else alive today has not seen the Jesus as He was when He walked on earth about 2000 years ago.  And yet, the faith given, by God, by Jesus - to those alive then to personally witness it - is the same faith given by God and Jesus to me today.

This faith is eternal, this faith is powerful, this faith is personal.  That is awesome to me.  I don't understand it, I don't get how it works, I just believe it.

I was started into this study, hooked already.  I wanted more......

Friday, May 10, 2013

Why Study Grace?

I so often feel like a failure and a loser.  I know that is not what God thinks of me.  However, I don't know that well enough and quite honestly I feel like I don't know God well enough.
So, a few months back I decided to start reading the Bible as much as I could, and then I started really studying it.  What does it mean?  What did it mean when it was written?  How can I learn and get to know God better?
As I read and studied, I started to write down what I was looking at.  It just helps me to do more than just read.  By engaging my brain and putting pen to paper I was thinking through things more.  It helped make more sense.  It also made what I was learnig more practical - and possible.
God became much more real to me.  The verse in James 4 that says "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" - that actually started to happen.  This happened not just in a studying / educational way - but in a relevant, personal way.
I like practical things.  Things that make sense because of the plan or directions that are lined out.  So, when I read certain passages of the Bible that spell out things like: In order to do this thing or become this person - do such and such, or pray in such and such a way.

As noted, I am recently divorced - without being too revealing, part of the reason why the divorce happened was my ignorance of what love is, what love means, what love requires, what love does.

So - I set out to find out what the Bible says about love.  It didn't take long to read and understand it boils down to 2 things: 1) Love God.  2) Love others. 

I was done being so ignorant and naive' when it comes to love.

Okay God, I asked - how do I do either, or both?  I am such a failure when it comes to loving God and loving others.  As I studied I saw the Bible equips us in such a way to make it possible to love.  Not only that - but God loves us.  God loves me.  He desires to have a relationship, a personal relationship with me and even though I am not capable of that because of my sin, my failures, my inconsistencies - He has made it possible through the saving and redeeming work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

As mentioned, I relate to practical instruction - so I was reading my Bible and came back to the books of 1st and 2nd Peter.  He is one practical dude having written on such a personal and practical level.  1st Peter ws awesome to read.  And then I came to 2nd Peter.  And that is where I will start the next post, because that is where I have been camped for about 2 months - it is changing my life.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Introduction to Grace

Who am I to write about Grace?  Honestly, I'm just a guy who was recently divorced who is looking for answers.  6 months ago I was coasting in life, not driven with a purpose, not looking to do anything much with my life.  I was just stagnant.

My life changed when my wife said she wanted to divorce me.  At first there was denial and disbelief on my part.  As much as I didn't want it to happen - it did.  It was finalized on March 20th, 2013 (Ironically, that was the first day of Spring).  I was divorced after 17 1/2 years of marriage.  We have 3 awesome kids who are still very much a part of my life - whom I am growing to love more and more each day.

I get to see them on weekends.  During the week I am alone in an apartment.  It's quiet, I don't have a TV or internet connection there - by choice.  I'm not very sociable so I spend many evenings alone there.  I go to bed early, I get up early.  So, I read a lot, I read God's word and study what it says and I am getting excited about what I am finding and learning.

About a month after my wife told me she wanted a divorce I figured out that my life was more than just stagnant.  It was wasting away.   I had come to know God and Jesus Christ when I was a teenager, throughout my life there were some fleeting times that I was purposed in seeking God - but far many more times it was all about me - just looking out for me.  In recent years I had become disinterested in God and His Word, not looking for or wanting anything more than a convenient relationship with Him.

But a funny thing happened when I lost what I knew was good (my family) and was now faced with a new life of loneliness and emptiness - I realized I was also lost from God.  It took a few weeks to see how crappy my life had become.  But I also realized God was right with me the whole time.  I was the one who was lost, or more like, not looking for Him.  He was waiting for me to come back to Him - and to experience His grace, like I never have before.

My life changed when I realized God's grace had never left me - I just wasn't wanting to experience it before.  Now, that is changing since realizing this awesome grace of God is alive and ongoing.  I have been overwhelmed by God's amazing grace at work in my life.

I am on a new, more purposed journey now.  I am studying God's word and learning a ton.  Some was familiar already, but mostly this is new.  And it is so good to learn.  To read.  To study.  To see at work.  I have so much further to go in my journey towards God's grace - but as I walk, I am finding things that are just too good to keep to myself.  I want to share them. 

I pray that this blog may be an encouragement to those who read it - to those who just want to know more about God's grace, to live in it and rejoice in it.  This blog is personal.  It's about what I have been studying and learning as I move towards God's grace.  It begins next post with my study of the usage of Grace in the Gospels of the New Testament.