Archives for category: Pathway of Grace

beginwiththeendinmindLook to Romans 8: 28 – 30 and the first summation of God’s way of grace I ever observed. The end of all God’s work is for those whom God has called to be glorified.  What does that mean? The Apostle Paul describes it in verse 39 as being unable to be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Lord’s Prayer describes being glorified as being delivered from evil. (Matthew 6: 13) The path of blessing describes it as receiving peace. (Numbers 6: 26)

As far as the afterlife is concerned, it is as if we are already there. Psalm 23 describes it as dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23: 6)

Putting on the armor of God has us wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6: 17) The picture of us matches the picture of Jesus in Revelation 1: 16, “out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”  Is it any wonder now we are to be called the children of light? “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5: 8)

Begin with the end in mind. Repent. Align yourself with the Lord. Completely surrender to God’s call upon your life in Jesus Christ. Your life from this day forward is for God’s purpose.  God has a new prognosis for the outcome of our lives: “whoever believes in him (Jesus) shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3: 16)

All of God’s precious promises, the first of which is the Holy Spirit, begin to shape our lives. The Word of God instructs us how to be the handiwork of God, our lives shaped and orchestrated to conform to Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2: 10) Then, as we cooperatively make use of all of God’s means of grace, God calls us again.  This time there’s a ministry into which God is sending us.

We represent the Lord as witnesses and ambassadors. We do not push our own agenda or look for some earthly cause to which we associate. The hand of God is upon us. The influence of the kingdom flows into everything we do and God looks to our activity and it is well pleasing in God’s sight. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing it.

Finally, we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High”, we “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”. (Psalm 91: 1) When we love the Lord, the Lord says, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him” (Psalm 91: 14 – 15)

Another way of translating, ‘honor’ is ‘make glorious’. Yes, that is the end of God’s work in us. Let’s begin with that end in mind.

cycleofhopeWhen we get the PUSH we need to reach for our goals, we still need to be aware of the nature of the journey. We bump into something unexpected along the way and suddenly we’re not quite sure about our goals or the certainty of reaching them. This is why I want to lay out the cycle of hope the Apostle Paul shares in Romans, chapter 5: 1 – 5.

  1. The cycle begins with us standing in grace, rejoicing that our goals and our future can be aligned with God’s purpose for us. We begin rejoicing, acknowledging that reaching for our goal is another way of reaching for the glory of God.
  2. The second part of the cycle is tribulation. Reaching goals is hard work. Our faith is going to be tested and tried. The whole point of setting and reaching goals is to exchange our old life for the new life to which God is calling us. There is going to be friction between the old, status quo and what we’re reaching for.
  3. The third step in the cycle is patience. There is a reason why we have to build up our faith to follow the pathway of grace and to pursue our goals. There is a new burden of expectation that we are bearing, as well as the drag of inertia. At every stage of the journey, don’t stop. Tribulation is to be expected. The need for patience is to be expected. Keep on reaching for the prize.
  4. Eventually, you realize you are gaining a new experience. You begin to see some proof of progress. The scale shows some of the pounds have come off. You can tell your skill level is improving.
  5. Experience renews our hope. Our inspiration at this point of the journey is Christ crucified and his willing commitment to endure the cross for the joy set before him. At this point, we know the repetition of the steps necessary for success do not rise from our initial weakness and need for change. No, our hope now rises because we sense the strength into which we are developing.
  6. This hope elevates us to embrace the once far off goal. We rejoice again as we near and reach our goal. We love this process of transformation and now look for that next right thing that will enable us to more closely identify ourselves with Jesus Christ.

The cycle of hope is a recurring cycle as we and God work together for a miraculous life transformation.

What is that one goal right now if sought and reached would bring glory to the Lord?

What step in the cycle has been the obstacle/barrier most difficult for you to overcome in the past? How could you address that using one of the means of accountability we spoke about day before yesterday?

How does finding out all of us go through the same kind of struggle/cycle to reach our goals help you?


onethingWhen God first calls us, Romans 8: 28 tells us we are called to live according to His purpose. Most just want to be energetic in their love for the Lord (and that’s important) but our will has a short shelf life. To achieve the calling of being energetic and entrepreneurial in our love, we have to undergo a shift from trying to empower ourselves to being empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that teaches and discloses and provides the energy for living according to God’s purpose in our lives.

The way of grace 1) Begins in repentance, 2) Believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, then 3) Builds up that most holy faith through prayer in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1: 20-21) Notice, to keep ourselves in the love of God, there has to be more than just our energy in play.

Think for a minute on the words of Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in their blog, 3 Commitments that Lead to Extraordinary Results. “It’s the difference in mindset between ‘get it done’ and ‘get it done effectively,’ and it’s important because the ‘E’ approach will bring us to our limits very quickly. We all have natural ceilings on our ability, time and energy, and when we try to push through relying just on our natural tendency, we end up burning out or bumping up against challenges we can’t solve.

Shifting to the ‘P’ approach helps us take a step back, prioritize and think outside of our normal boxes to find innovative, effective solutions that take us to the next level.”

The next level in the pathway of grace is the place of 4) Blessing, then 5) Bringing Life, then 6) Breakthrough. If you are to reach those levels of mature service to the Lord, your mindset needs to shift from self-empowerment to Spirit-empowered.

Left to our own energy, it is almost inevitable that we will fall back into the way of sin. We will 1) Betray and fall short of our calling. We will get locked into a blind, 2) Biased way of doing things. When that doesn’t hold up we will move to 3) Blame and when our energy runs out short of fulfilling our purpose we will become 4) Bitter and get stuck replicating our own limitations.

• Are there any indicators in your life right now that you need to move from “E” to “P”, from self-energizing yourself to being empowered by the Holy Spirit?

• Have you put in a child-like request to the Father to give you a fresh experience of being soaked by the Spirit?

• Can you imagine yourself having received the Gatorade® shower of grace and being carried across the field as the winner and victor God wants you to be?

• Have you committed yourself to keeping God’s call and purpose being what continues to move you forward rather than the level of energy you have available at the moment?

masteryAs I grew up on the farm, we learned many things. The number one lesson we learned was if you want to develop a skill, follow someone who has already mastered that skill. The second point of that lesson is follow someone who believes you can master that skill. In other words, don’t take piano lessons from someone who can only play chopsticks. But, equally as important, don’t take lessons from someone who believes that your greatest level of performance will be chopsticks.

How were we taught this lesson? In countless ways. We were taught to master ourselves in simple games of Mother May I and Red Light, Green Light. We had a game we played with a ball on the front porch that went from simple coordination to performing a complex set of movements involving twisting and jumping off the porch, while catching the ball as it bounced back off the wall, while still ending up upright and in a ready position when you landed on the ground (with the ball in your hand, of course).

I don’t know who came up with these things to do. All I know is, if you learned to do something, whatever it was, you were expected to improve and speed up over time.

When we were young and went to the country store in the evening, we were expected to watch the card games and observe how each person played. Eventually, we would get to play at home and sharpen our skill.

All the while, whatever we were learning or making choices about, we heard our parents say, “whatever you decide will be good.” This basic belief was repeated and affirmed over and over again.

This is the way God calls us to follow Him. In the beginning of our disciple’s journey we are commanded to repent, to align ourselves with the Master of Life. We are also called to believe and trust in the God who is for us, who believes we can become holy as He is Holy.

The Apostle asks, “What shall we say in response to this?…  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”(Romans 8: 32 – 33)

Have you committed yourself to the One who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life?” Have you confidence the Lord has confidence in you?

Have you committed yourself to mastery? In The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, they list committing yourself to mastery as the first of the Three Commitments that Lead to Extraordinary Results. In this blog post, they are echoing the pathway of grace and I’ll share in the next couple of days how the other two commitments reflect the path, too.

Until then, ask yourself a One Thing kind of question, ‘What’s the ONE Thing for which I can commit myself to mastery that by pursuing, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?’

P. S. I highly recommend you read the book, The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

pridequoteThe seed of sin holds its own destruction. When it first flowers you may not see it. In the beginning of sin, there is only the betrayal, the small failure, the falling short of victory. We feel the dis-appointment. We hopefully are conscious and aware that we have missed the mark. But, we’ve been told, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” So, one sin begets two; begets a thousand.

We got locked into a self-serving, sin-perpetuating biased way of doing things. At first, the dis-appointment nudged us towards introspection and evaluation. Now, it moves us to look for someone to blame.

True self-improvement will always pull us back towards humility and truly starting over. Sin with all its bitterness will simply demand repetition or recruitment of a crowd that agrees with us.

Pretty soon, a battle is being fought, sides have to be chosen.  Alignment to a path with those committed to breakthrough becomes impossible for us. Why? Because, we are no longer committed to breakthrough and newness of life. We are now committed to putting off and forestalling our breakdown and downfall.  This translates into a commitment to destroy anything or anyone who will once again expose our dis-appointment.

To what are we appointed? The Bible says, we  are all appointed to death and after that the judgement. (Hebrews 9: 27) But, what if that judgement had already been borne by someone else? Indeed, it has been. “so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Hebrews 9: 28)

For those, who await a different outcome, it is not too late for you. Today, if you will hear God’s voice, the offer of grace stands.  Yes, you are appointed to death but come before the Lord in humility and repentance and let that death be a death to self, a confession of your sin, and a turning to the Lord that uproots you from the life you’ve lived up til now and roots you and grafts you into God’s kingdom.

Yes, you will still be fighting a battle but this one will begin in humility.

succeedThe two calls God places upon our life are to serve as a propellant to our soul, moving us forward into newness of life. Therefore, all improvements, reformations, resolutions, and habit-changing challenges are to be governed by one call or the other.

Every work of grace will either align us more closely and intimately to loving God through Jesus Christ or appoint us more clearly to the Spirit led work of loving our neighbor.

Do not give in to despair for the God who is for you is also interceding on your behalf. Do not lose heart or quit if your will is short-lived. It always has been and always will be. The glory of a Christian is that our will is tied to a will beyond our own. When Isaiah the prophet promises strength to those who wait upon the Lord, he is using a word that means being braided or bound inextricably to the Lord. In this way, it is not our will but God’s that is being done.

Don’t grow frustrated with temporary setbacks, especially those involving your own self improvement or maturity. When these moments occur, don’t put on a cloak of frustration and bitterness but instead clothe yourself in humility. Submit yourself to those who have already overcome what you’re working to achieve.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5: 5 – 10)

If at first you don’t succeed with yourself, give yourself again to the Restorer of your soul. Make it your purpose and priority to have your life defined by the calls God has placed upon you.  Enlarge your hope. Refocus your faith. Repent again. Otherwise, you may fall prey to the temptation Eric Hoffer in True Believer talks about: “A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.”

Again I say to you, (and remind myself) if at first you don’t succeed with yourself, don’t try the world; go with God!

payattention“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mark 3: 13 – 15)

This is the most concise summation of the two calls God makes upon us. The first is the call to come to Jesus and be with him. The second call is to be sent by him to share the word and power of the gospel.

One calls us to be aligned with Jesus. The second calls us to act as an ambassador under the authority of Jesus.  One call command us to be saved by grace through faith. The second call commands us to serve by faith to share the grace of Jesus with others.

Romans 8: 28 – 30 describes these two calls: one has God orchestrating everything together for our good; the second has God organizing and ordering our steps together by His Spirit for the good of others.

The first call commands us to repent and believe in Jesus. The second calls us to represent and to bless others.

The first call is heralded out to all as a mandate from God, because “now (God) commands all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17: 30) The second call is delivered more discreetly and directly to our heart as we are given our personal assignment to forgive, to help, to demonstrate compassion, and to extend the comfort and mercy of the Lord.

If you are trying to fulfill the second call apart from being a response to answering the first call, you are likely to be perpetuating the good works you like to do instead of what God is asking of you.  God will not ask you to be a witness for him without you first receiving the sign and seal of being with him – the Holy Spirit. As Jean Holmes said, “You’ve got to have a with-ness before you have a witness.”

You have to pay attention to how both calls of God are being fulfilled in your life. Most Christians have forgotten or have never learned how to emphasize the priority of answering the first call before you try to fulfill the second one.  Some will try to tell you that you can come to realize the first through your efforts at following the second.

A whole generation (millennials) have been taught if you find a place to belong among serving people, you will eventually realize you have a place of belonging with God. But, in practical and pastoral terms, I’ve seen very little evidence where putting the cart before the horse gets you very far. What I’ve noticed most often when we try to switch the order of these two calls is we end up fooling ourselves and frustrating ourselves from ever experiencing the reality of a Spirit-filled faith experience with Jesus.

So, I ask you to pay attention and ask yourself these two questions. Have I responded to the call of Jesus to come to him and be with him? Secondly, do I now live each day, sent into it by Jesus?


“And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5: 15)