God’s Grace in Full Force

From Rick Warren – November 6, 2016

“Your circumstances cannot change the character of God. God’s grace is still in full force.”

Regardless of your circumstances and how you feel, hang on to God’s unchanging character. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1:12, “Now that the worst is over, we’re pleased we can report that we’ve come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world – and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn’t by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised” (MGS).

Your circumstances cannot change the character of God. God’s grace is still in full force. He is still for you, even when you don’t feel it.

Remind yourself what you know to be eternally true about God: he is good, he loves you, he is with you, he knows what you’re going through, he cares, and he has a good plan for your life.

Raymond Edman, one of Billy Graham’s mentors, once said, “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.”

So, what has God told you in the light that you now doubt in the dark? Why do you think you doubt God now? Remember, your circumstances cannot change the character of God.

I Am

Do you ever find yourself living in the past, or maybe in the future? I am a planner. I live by lists. I am constantly planning my next move.

Whether you tend to live in the past (nostalgic) or in the future (fantasy), neither really works. That is because God is the God of right now.

Helen Mallicoat has offered a timeless piece of literature that reminds us that God is the great “I AM.” She writes: “I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly my Lord was speaking. ‘My name is I AM,’ he said. Then he paused. I waited, and he continued. ‘When you live in the past, with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I WAS. When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I WILL BE. When you live in this moment, it is not hard. I am here. My name is I AM.'”

Where are you living today? Focus on the past and you will be bitter. Focus on today and you will be better. Forget the past. Don’t worry about the future. Live for today.

Walk your dog, watch a sunrise, call a friend, say a prayer. Remember, you will be talking to the great I AM.

“Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, the God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, what is his name? Then what shall I tell them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites. I AM has sent me to you'” (Exodus 3:13-14).

Advice from a Dad

Heinrich Bullinger was a good pastor and a better father. He was born in 1504 to a priest who, in his old age, embraced Reformation views, such as “the just shall live by faith.” Though it cost him his church, it gained him a son.

Young Heinrich fell in love with Martin Luther’s writings, Melanchthon’s books, and the study of the Bible. At the remarkably young age of 27, he was asked to take the place of slain Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli as pastor of the Grossmunster of Zurich. He ascended the pulpit there on December 23, 1531.

Bullinger continued Zwingli’s practice of preaching through books of the Bible, verse by verse. His home, like his Bible, was open from morning till night, and he freely distributed food, clothing, and money to the needy. His wisdom and influence spread across Euroope. No one was more affected than his son, Henry.

When Henry packed his bags for college, Heinrich gave him this piece of advice: “Fear God at all times, and remember that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

Great advice from a great man. And what worked for Henry will work for you.

James said, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).

Heart Transplant

A man who was having trouble went to the doctor to see what his options were. The doctor recommended a heart transplant. The man reluctantly agreed, and asked if there were any hearts immediately available, considering that money was no object.

“I do have three hearts,” said the doctor. “The first is from an 18-year-old kid, non-smoker, athletic, swimmer, with a great diet. He hit his head on the swimming pool and died. It’s $100,000.”

The man asked about the second heart.

“It’s from a marathon runner, 24 years old. Great condition, very strong. He got hit by a bus. It’s $150,000.”

“And what about the third heart?” asked the patient.

“The third heart is from a heavy drinker, cigar smoker, and steak-lover. Man was grossly overweight. This heart is $500,000.”

The patient asked, “Hey, why is that heart so expensive? He lived a terrible life!”

The doctor explained. “It’s true the man lived a hard life. But he was a lawyer, so his heart has never been used.”

Okay, that’s a bad joke! But here’s the point. It doesn’t matter how we live our lives unless we live them from the heart. If we make all our choices and plan all our futures only from the brain, we will miss the best part of life. Jesus said it is what comes from the heart that really matters (Mark 7).

So learn the lesson now. An unused heart is a terrible thing to waste.

Winnie the Pooh – An American Hero

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But you already knew that. Here’s what you didn’t know. This is the birthday of A. A. Milne, born in 1882. The youngest of three sons, Milne taught himself to read at age two. He began writing humorous pieces as a schoolboy and continued to do so at Cambridge, where he edited the undergraduate newspaper. In 1903, he left Cambridge and went to London to continue his writing. In 1913, he married Daphne, and two years later went to France to serve in World War I.

While in the military, he wrote three plays, one of which became a hit in 1919, Mr. Pim Passes By. This provided financial security for his family. In 1920, his only son was born – Christopher Robin. In 1925, the family bought the Cotchford Farm in Sussex. A nearby forest inspired the 44-year-old author to pen two volumes for his son, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six.

From that he gave birth to his most enduring character, one Winnie-the-Pooh. His adventures have been immortalized and repeated through the corridors of time. Winnie was my favorite character as a child. A. A. Milne brought me great joy, some forty years later, when I read his book over and over again.

I find a simple lesson from the writings of Mr. Milne. He was most profound when most simple. That’s how life usually works. It is not the complicated that gets us in trouble, but the simple. Billy Graham once mused, “There is much in the Bible that I don’t understand. But it is what I do understand that most troubles me.”

Life is meant to be simple. Obey God. Honor your spouse. Love your kids. Do what is right. Follow the Golden Rule, Great Command, and Great Commission. It’s not complicated. That’s why Jesus invited the youngest children to follow after him. Winnie-the-Pooh teaches us a most valuable lesson. Keep it simple. In the process . . . enjoy life.

Interesting Logic

A drill sergeant was yelling at a new recruit when he asked him, “Tell me what would happen if one of your ears got shot off?”

The recruit replied, “Well, sir, I wouldn’t be able to hear.”

Then the officer said, “And what if both of your ears were shot off?”

“Well, then I wouldn’t be able to see.”

The sergeant asked, “Why would you say that? Why would you lose your sight because both ears were shot off?”

The man said, “If both of my ears were shot off, my helmet would slide right down over my eyes!”

I appreciate the value of good eyesight. I was declared legally blind by the age of 12. That means my vision was worse than 20/200. By the age of 19, my degenerative eye disease had me at 20/2000. That means that what I could see at 20 feet, others can see across the solar system.

Eye surgery saved my sight. Now I’m back to a reasonable 20/100, which is correctable by wearing 3″ thick glasses! But at least I can see.

One day Jesus met a man who could not see. He healed the man, and his life was forever changed.

But there is another kind of sight the Scripture speaks of – spiritual sight. This is the ability to see God in all circumstances: a sunrise, blooming flower, baby’s laugh, and Astros victory in the World Series.

Do you have spiritual sight? Only God can give you that. By simple faith in his son, Jesus Christ, you will see things you have never seen before. Let God open your eyes today.

And do whatever you must to keep both ears.

The First Roller Coaster

On June 16, 1884, the first roller coaster opened in New York City’s Coney Island Amusement Park. It was LaMarcus Adna Thompson’s “Switchback Railway,” opening 133 years ago today.

This was the first roller coaster designed as an amusement park ride in America. It was designed by Mr. Thompson in 1881 and constructed in 1884. It appears Thompson based his design, at least in part, on the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway which was a coal-mining train that had started carrying passengers as a thrill ride in 1827.

For five cents, riders would climb a tower to board the large bench-like car and were pushed off to coast 600 feet down the track to another level. The car went just over six miles per hour. At the top of the other tower the vehicle was switched to a return track or “switched back” (hence the name).

This track design was soon replaced with an oval complete-circuit ride designed by Charles Alcoke and called the Serpentine Railway. In 1885, Phillip Hinkle developed a lift system which appeared in his ride called Gravity Pleasure. The Gravity Pleasure also featured cars in which passengers could face forward instead of in the awkward bench-like seats of the first two roller coasters.

Now, I’m not a fan of roller coasters. It’s not because I’m afraid of heights. I’m afraid of falling.

But roller coasters are a good example of the Christian life. Life ends where it started – with God. There are lots of crazy, unexpected turns, and there are often moments of sudden darkness, followed by light. Life is full of ups and downs. And once aboard the roller coaster of life, we are no longer in control.

That’s the other reason I don’t like roller coasters.

The Rushmore Report: The Tweakability Factor

What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you? Would you still do what you had planned to do for the next 24 hours? It’s dangerous to sum up grand truths in one statement, but I’m going to try. If a sentence or two could capture God’s desire for each of us, it might read like this: “God loves you the way you are, but he refused to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”

That’s good to know, right? You are tweakable. You aren’t stuck with today’s personality. Where did we get the idea that we can’t change? If our bodies malfunction, we seek help. Shouldn’t we do the same with our hearts and our attitudes? Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart like his. Can you imagine a better offer – than to be just like Jesus?

You can do it – if you embrace the tweakability factor.

About the Author

Max Lucado is a best-selling author and the senior pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio.