GOD, THE GRAND INITIATOR

O, To Grace How Great A Debtor

How do we define Grace?

Grace is God’s favor—unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor toward mankind; His divine influence on the heart.

 

How Precious Did That Grace Appear

When did God’s grace toward mankind come into place?

Peter wrote that we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, Who was foreordained before the foundation of the world to die and be raised from the dead that we might be born again (1 Peter 1:18-23). From eternity past, the purpose and plan of redemption and salvation from sin was in place. Before the first man became a sinner, before the creation of the world, the penalty had been paid, in God’s plan, before there was a charge.

When Adam and Eve sinned, their response was to hide from each other: they covered themselves (Genesis 3:7).
And they hid from God (Genesis 3:8).

What was God’s response?
He called out to them (Genesis 3:9).

 

God Is The Grand Initiator
Before there was sin, He initiated the plan of redemption and salvation from sin.
When sin occurred, God initiated contact with the sinners, questioned out their confessions (Genesis 3:11-13), then initiated the blood sacrifice that covered their sin and clothed their bodies (Genesis 3:21).

He loved and sent His Son for Initiator blog

The Divine Influence

Jesus stated that He came to call sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13).
Paul wrote to Timothy that Christ came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
To the Romans, Paul wrote that God showed His love to us in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

 

God is The Grand Initiator.  The whole premise of the Gospel, indeed, the whole of the Word of God reveals that God came down to man. That God calls out to each one of us. Grace—God’s unmerited favor poured out on sinful mankind.

Jesus said, “No one can come to Me except the Father draw him” (John 6:44, 45).
He also stated, “No one comes to the Father but by Me (John 14:6b).
And we know that the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8).
The Trinity is deeply involved in drawing us into salvation. God initiating our right relationship with Him.

 

Why do we love God?
Because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Initiation! The Holy Spirit sheds His love into our hearts that we may love Him in return (Romans 5:5).

 

How can we believe?
Without faith it is impossible to please God. So God initiates our faith in Him: God has dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12:3).
The writer of Hebrews titles Jesus the Author—the Initiator—and the Finisher of our faith (12:2).
And He has initiated the means of growing our faith in Him through the hearing of His Word (Romans 10:17).

All good gifts come from our heavenly Father (James 1:17).
Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive?”
The answer to that question is “Nothing.”
The Living, Initiating God has given us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).

And that good work that He has initiated in us through salvation? He will finish it; of that we can be confident (Philippians 1:6). Hallelujah!

 

Does prayer start with us, or with God?

God invited Jeremiah to pray. “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not” (33:3).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs us to “ask, and it shall be given” (Matthew 7:7).
God told David: “Seek My face” (Psalm 27:8).
Paul tells us, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Jesus said, “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
And on and on, again and again, we’re encouraged and commanded to pray, to ask of God Who supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:19).

 

It is God Who Initiates our praying to Him

A saint of long ago penned this:
I Am the Ground of thy beseeching. First, it is My will thou shalt have it. After, I make thee to will it, and after that I make thee to beseech it and thou beseechest it. How should it then be that thou shouldst not have thy beseeching?

After I fought my way through to understanding that, my soul has since clung to the truth and victory it champions.

 

Come Boldly, and Find Grace To Help

We’re told that the Holy Spirit helps us pray, interceding for us (Romans 8:26).
Jesus also intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25).
And God hears this intercession in our behalf because it is His will (Romans 8:27).
The Trinity is at work when we pray! Talk about powerful prayer Partners!
Should we not then have our beseeching?!

And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will—His initiating—He hears us; And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him (1 John 5:14&15).

When God initiates a prayer within you, obey and pray and hold on—don’t give up. You are about to see God, the Great Initiator, at work!

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THE FACE OF GOD

Faces can tell you a lot about people, can’t they?

     You’ve seen happy faces, and sad faces.
     Sweet faces, and sour faces.
     Soft faces, and hard faces.
     Smooth faces, and lined faces.
     Lovely faces, and faces only a mother could love.
     You can see warmth in a face, and a cold face.
     You can read thoughts in a face, or struggle to read a “poker face.”

God’s Word tells us about God’s face—wonderful thought!

 

The Lord’s Face Shines

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace (Numbers 6:24-26).

This ancient blessing sets a foundation for interpreting other Scriptures that speak of God’s face.

When God’s face shines on us, the effect is that we’re blessed and kept—it is a result of His graciousness, His favor, toward us.
When He lifts up, or turns His countenance—His face—upon us, we have peace.
We have blessing and peace, and we’re kept by God’s favor when His face is toward us.

 

His Face Obscured

When saints in the Scriptures walked through difficulties, they felt that God was hiding His face from them.

David asked, “How long will you hide Your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).
Job wondered, “When He hides His face, who can then behold Him?” (Job 34:29).

But David also states that the Lord does not hide His face from the afflicted (Psalm 22:24). When we go through affliction, correction, or refining, we may feel that He hides His face from us, but our faith must hold onto the promise that He does not turn from us. Indeed we are strongly encouraged by the promise that His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him (2 Chronicles 16:9). For this to be so, His face is toward His people. Our suffering does not cause God to turn His face, His favor, from His children.

 

One Thing Causes God To Hide His Face

I Will Hide My Face

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face (the favor) of the Lord is against them that do evil (1 Peter 3:12).

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save: neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face (His favor) from you, that He will not hear (Isaiah 59:1&2).

I will hide My face…I will surely hide My face…for all the evils they have wrought (Deuteronomy 31: 17&18).

I will hide My face from them…for they are…children in whom is no faith (Deuteronomy 32:20).

God stated that because His people had forgotten Him and turned to idols, “I will show them the back, and not the face (Jeremiah 18: 15&17).

Ezekiel reveals that God’s fury comes up in His face (38:18).

The Revelation tells us that, at the last, those who persist in their evil ways will plead, to no avail, to be hidden from His face of wrath (6:15-17).

 

Of Purer Eyes

One of the most heart-rending, gut-wrenching verses in the Bible shows us that sin is always behind God’s back, and therefore, His face (His favor) is not toward the one in sin.
On the cross, Jesus cried out to His Father, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).
The answer is found in Paul’s writings: “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

 

Turn, and Live

God revealed His great “love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). His great mercy is extended to us as He pleads with us: “Seek My face” (Psalm 27:8).

 

Thy Face, Lord, Will I Seek

Sin hides God’s face from us, but when we repent, seek His face, and turn from our sins, He hears and forgives (2 Chronicles 7:14).
David prays with fascinating words: “Hide Your face from my sins” (Psalm 51:9).
Isaiah writes, “Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back” (38:17).

When we repent and seek His face, our sins are behind Him, and His face, His favor, is toward us—blessing us, keeping us, and giving us peace!

 

After This Manner, Pray

Jeremiah gives prayer instruction: “Pour out thine heart…before the face of the Lord” (Lamentations 2:19). For our loved ones, the saints, the lost—we are privileged to intercede in their behalf that He be gracious and give them peace.

praying woman

With Daniel, we can plead before God: “Cause Thy face to shine upon Thy sanctuary” (9:17), and uphold in prayer the work of the Church and its ministries for His blessing.

 

The Face of the Master

Paul wrote that the glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
And in the Revelation (22:4), we are promised that we shall see His face!

 

Look Full In His Wonderful Face

Is your testimony, along with the Psalmist (17:15), “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness”?

Angels behold the face of the Father (Matthew 18:10), and one day, our “love-inflamed desire to look on His face” will be granted.

Until that blessed day, “Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually” (1 Chronicles 16:11).

photo credit

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A MAN TO RIDE THE RIVER WITH

What’s Your Mental Image Of Jesus?

In your mind, what do you see when you think of Jesus?  Is He a Man worth following?  Do you picture a gentle guy with kids all around…a Mister Rogers type?  A male Mother Teresa going about doing good, touching lepers?  A fellow so sweet, warm, and fuzzy that the Church leaders must have been crazy to see Him as a threat and have Him killed?  A bit of a nonconformist wandering the roads of Israel who really couldn’t have fought his way out of a paper bag?

To The Death

Jesus states without equivocation that if we’re going to follow Him we must die to self, take up our cross, submit to Him in obedient, consistent Christian living, and expect to suffer persecution for our godly lives (Luke 9:23-25; 14:25-27; John 14:15; 2 Timothy 3:12).  He’s not just requiring a lot of us; He’s requiring our ALL.  But is He worth our ALL? Is there anything about Jesus that makes a real man or woman want to say, “I’ll follow THAT Man to the death”?  Let’s look into some of His life encounters to answer those questions.

  • During forty days of fasting and temptation in the wilds of Israel, Jesus faced Satan’s all-out attack that culminated with Satan calling for Jesus’ worship (Luke 4:1-14). The Scripture tells us Satan left that battlefield defeated, and Jesus left in the power of the Spirit.
  • One of the consistent issues of battle between Jesus and the Pharisees was His persistent healing on the Sabbath.  He healed the diseased and disabled and delivered the demon-possessed on the Sabbath Day in the synagogues, on the streets, at the temple, and during dinner in a chief Pharisee’s home (Luke 4: 31-35; John 9; 5: 1-8; Luke 14: 1-4; 6:6-11).  He challenged them on their own turf, and Luke states that He literally drove them insane!
  • With the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus was kind, but He pointed out her sin (John 4: 1-42).
  • When the adulterous woman was thrown at His feet, He addressed the sin in the hearts and lives of her accusers, and then told her plainly to go, and sin no more (John 8:1-12). 
  • With Nicodemus, He spoke as one Jewish gentleman to another, but He didn’t hesitate to point out that Nicodemus was a spiritual leader who lacked spiritual knowledge (John 3: 1-21).
  • Jesus wept with Martha and Mary, then proclaimed Himself the Resurrection and the Life—and called Lazarus back from four days dead (John 11:1-45).
  • He loved the rich young ruler, but He put His finger on the one thing that he wasn’t willing to give up to follow Jesus (Luke 18:18-23).

Meeting The Master

Jesus did hold children in His arms (Luke 18:15-17).  He did heal the sick and diseased (Mark 1:34).  He did make the hearts of men burn within as He talked with them on the road (Luke 24:13-35).   He did go about doing good (John 10:32).

Jesus was meek and lowly, but He wasn’t weak (Matthew 11:28-30).   

He commanded and controlled the forces of nature itself (Mark 4:36-41).

He had power over demons and disease and death (Mark 5:1-43).

He labeled the Pharisees hypocrites to their faces (Matthew 23), and called King Herod a fox (Luke 13:31&32).

He cleared the temple with a whip (John 2:13-17).

He told the Jews they were children of the devil (John 8:44).

He wasn’t afraid to speak the truth, because it is the truth which sets men and women        free (John 8:32).

Joshua knew Jesus as the Captain of the host of the Lord, and worshiped Him (Joshua 5:13-15).

The three Hebrews, and King Nebuchadnezzar, knew Jesus as the fourth Man in the fire (Daniel 3).

Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and counted all things as loss that he might gain Christ (Acts 9:1-20; Philippians 3:4-11).

To The Death–And Life!  

Jesus knows all about cross-bearing. He bore His cross and became sin Who knew no sin, that through His death He might destroy the works of Satan and deliver us, who, through fear of death were subject to bondage, that we might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life (John 19:17; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14&15).  And He states:

I Am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I Am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death (the Revelation 1:18).

               

  A Man To Ride The River With

 Many years ago I read this phrase in a Louis L’Amour book: “…a man to ride the river with.”  This was a man you could trust and count on—whatever you faced.  Isaiah quotes the Lord as saying, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers….” (43:2). Jesus is a Man to ride the river with.

Not Safe, But Good

In the Revelation, one of the elders calls Jesus The Lion of the tribe of Judah (5:5). 

In the story of The Chronicles of Narnia, the children are told of Aslan, the Lion.  “Is He safe?” they ask.  “Safe? Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course He isn’t safe. But He’s good.”

Worth Your All

Whatever your daily cross, Jesus is worth following.  He is The Lion of the tribe of Judah, and He has the keys of hell and death.  He’s the Man to ride your rivers with.  He is worth your ALL.

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