GraceWaves Articles

Live With Joyful Confidence

"For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21 Paul was in prison when he wrote these remarkably optimistic words. He faced the very real possibility of execution, and while he indicated elsewhere in the letter his expectation of release he could not be sure. Even if he were to once again evade capital punishment his long and varied experience with prisons, shipwrecks, beatings, and general privation I’m sure he knew that, from a worldly point of view, his life was not going to end easily or comfortably. He did not care. All death meant to

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When God Feels Distant

“For through Him we both have the right of entry in one Spirit to the Father.” Eph. 2:18 Ephesians is Paul’s most lovely and soaring letter. He touches on themes of such grand and sweeping importance that even he gets caught up in the excitement. The longest sentences in all of Paul’s writings are in Ephesians. Two of his main themes are in the verse for this week’s GraceWaves. First we see unity. Paul was formerly a dedicated schismatic. For him the world consisted of two groups: the Jews and the Gentiles. To be fair from the other side, the

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The Wise Foolishness of Christianity

“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” 1 Cor. 1:27 I collect stories of how reluctant people come to believe in the existence of God, or at least acknowledge the tremendous value of faith. Let me share four with you. First, Dr. Anthony Flew (d. 2010) was a philosophy professor at Reading University in England, author of numerous works and also the world’s leading atheist. As recently as 2001 he reiterated that position in a paper entitled, “Sorry to Disappoint, but I’m Still

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The Antidote to Envy

“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” 1 Samuel 18:7 Saul was Israel’s first king. David would succeed him, but only in God’s timing. David served Saul faithfully, and never sought glory for himself. The verse above is a song or cheer from a group of women after David returned from an especially successful military encounter. David did not instigate it, but when Saul heard it, envy stirred in his heart. He soon tried to kill David, more than once. His reign ended in ignominy. You don’t have to be a king to compare yourself with others,

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The Difference in Christian Faith

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” John 3:16 “Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:39 These three verses summarize clearly and powerfully the uniqueness, attraction, and promise of your faith. Let’s look at each one individually, and then note how different this theology would have been to people in the first century. “In the beginning God created.” The Genesis creation story has nothing about wars among competing gods as in the Enuma Elish. The first

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Forgiving Yourself

Jesus said to him a third time, “Do you love me?’ And Peter said to Him, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:19 The scene for the verse is a stretch of shoreline on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus had prepared breakfast for the disciples. The time is several days to several weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, and after He had given them the gift of the Holy Spirit (20:22) to go out and share His story. We are also several days to several weeks after Peter denied

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Serving God Eternally

“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.” Isaiah 38:5 When Hezekiah was terminally ill, he prayed, and God responded by adding 15 years to his life. This prayer is natural and normal. We all would pray in this way and be grateful to God for any healing that He provides. However, we have a great advantage over Hezekiah. He feared “going down to the pit,” (Isa. 38:18), or Sheol, the hopeless place where

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Facing Fear With Faith

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2-3 A friend of mine once told me he struggled with fear. I had never suspected that about him, and, what’s more, I had never really thought about fear as a common, ongoing challenge. However, as I began to ask people if they struggled with

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When the Hurt Keeps Hurting

“Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6:28 Last week I wrote about the very real possibility that the people who have hurt you may be the ones through whom God brings healing. As Joseph was reconciled to his brothers, I have seen fractured relationships restored. Husband/wife, parent/child, friend/friend, etc. God has a remarkable way of bringing people around, working His grace into their lives, “softening” them, so that they come to a point where they ask for forgiveness or offer it where previously it was withheld. Whenever I have written about this topic I

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Harm and Healing from Those Closest

“So Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near to me, I pray you.’ . . .  And he kissed his brothers and wept upon them, and after that his brothers talked with him.” Genesis 45:4, 15 These words come from one of the most moving scenes in all of scripture. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. He had endured terrifying threats but had ascended to the right hand of Pharaoh. All the while his brothers thought him gone forever and probably dead. During a famine in Canaan, the brothers journeyed to Egypt for grain and probably were baffled by having

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Listening to Jesus

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 As I was traveling alone a few years ago I stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Tennessee for an evening breakfast. To pass the time while waiting for food I like to watch other people and try to guess where they are from, or where they are going. I watched an elderly man full of smiles talking to a little girl about 10 at the table next to me. I guessed they were on a special outing together and the Cracker Barrel was her chosen

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Blind Faith? No Such Thing

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go.” Hebrews 11:8 I ran across a familiar phrase this past week: blind faith, as in “some things you just have to accept on blind faith.” I do not believe a Christian ever faces a situation which must be accepted on blind faith. The closest example we have in the Bible of someone having to act on blind faith is Abraham. When God called him to leave Haran,

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Encouragement

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in all our affliction so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 The main purpose of GraceWaves is to encourage Christians by inviting them more deeply into God’s grace. My eye, therefore, naturally gravitates to passages that depict God’s grace being dispensed to struggling saints, and the Bible is full of such examples. This past week as I read 2 Corinthians I paused at the verses above. The

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A Little Faith Is All You Need

“And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’” Luke 17:6 We find this saying in two places in the Gospels, and in Luke it comes in response to a request from the disciples: “increase our faith.” We must look carefully at how this familiar teaching applies directly to this request. Who among us would not ask God to increase our faith? We treat faith like a vitamin. A little faith, the grain of a mustard

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The Relevance of Revelation

“At once I was in the Spirit, and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated upon the throne! And He who sat there appeared as jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald.” Revelation 4:2-3 Some of the fallout from yet another awkward end-of-the-world prediction is the question of the relevancy of the book of Revelation. Many people reduce it to a sideshow by attempting to equate it to WW II, Viet Nam, the latest Middle East dust-up, 9/11, etc. This has been going on since the first century and, in

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