Outrageous Grace

Outrageous Grace

By Lee Strobel

“This is embarrassing,” my friend said to me over the phone.

“That’s okay,” I assured him. “Go ahead. You can tell me.”

He sighed. “Well, we found out our little girl shoplifted a book from the church bookstore. We were really surprised because she’s a good kid. Anyway, I was wondering whether you would help us out with something.”

Frankly, I was relieved the news wasn’t more serious. “Sure,” I said. “What can I do?”

“We’d like you to represent the church so she can come in and apologize,” he replied. “Maybe you could figure out some sort of restitution. We want to use this as a teaching moment.”

I agreed to help, but I have to admit I had an even bigger lesson in mind.

The next day, the parents and their eight-year-old daughter walked hesitantly into my office and sat down. The girl was so small, she was almost swallowed up by the chair. Her eyes were downcast; her mood was somber.

After I exchanged some pleasantries with her parents, I sat down on the edge of my desk so I was facing the girl. As gently as I could, I said to her, “Tell me what happened.”

She hesitated, her lower lip quivering. “Well,” she said as she started to sniffle, “I was in the bookstore after a service and I saw a book that I really wanted, but I didn’t have any money.” Now tears pooled in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. I handed her a tissue, which she used to dab her eyes before continuing.

“So I put the book under my coat and took it,” she blurted out, almost as if she wanted to expel the words as fast as she could so they wouldn’t linger. “I knew it was wrong. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I did it. And I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again. Honest.”

She was so contrite that it broke my heart. “I’m glad you’re willing to admit what you did and say you’re sorry,” I told her. “That’s very brave, and it’s the right thing to do.”

She nodded slightly.

“But,” I continued, “what do you think an appropriate punishment would be?”

She shrugged her shoulders. I knew from her parents that she had already thrown out the book to hide the evidence. I paused for a moment, then said, “I understand the book cost five dollars. I think it would be fair if you paid the bookstore five dollars, plus three times that amount, which would make the total twenty dollars. Do you think that would be fair?”

“Yes,” she murmured, though I could see fear — almost panic — in her eyes. Her mind was whirring. Where was she going to come up with twenty dollars? That’s a mountain of money for a little kid. She didn’t have the five dollars to buy the book in the first place, and suddenly her debt had spiraled completely out of sight.

At that moment, I got up and walked behind my desk. Sitting down, I pulled open the top drawer. The little girl’s eyes narrowed. She couldn’t figure out what I was doing. I pulled out my checkbook, picked up a pen, and wrote a check from my personal account for the full amount that she owed. I tore off the check and held it in my hand. Her mouth dropped open.

“I know there’s no way you can pay the penalty that you deserve,” I told her. “So I’m going to pay it for you. Do you know why I’d do that?”

Bewildered, she shook her head.

“Because I love you,” I told her. “Because I care about you. Because you’re important to me. And please remember this: that’s how Jesus feels about you too. Except even more.”

With that, I handed her the check, which she grabbed and clutched to her heart. She simply blossomed with a look of absolute relief and joy and wonder. She was almost giddy with gratitude. The same little girl who had slinked into the office under the weight of shame now left lighthearted and skipping.

I don’t know how God ultimately used that teaching moment in her life. But I do know this: once a person, even at a young age, experiences a taste of the kind of grace offered by Christ, it leaves an indelible mark on the soul. Who could resist being attracted by the forgiveness and unmerited favor extended by Jesus?

This is one of the greatest dimensions of the unexpected adventure. The message we convey isn’t based on condemnation or shame. We’re not offering people a life sentence of hard labor to try to somehow make themselves worthy of heaven. Instead, we have the privilege of telling people how they can find complete forgiveness as a free gift that was purchased when Jesus died as our substitute to pay for all of our wrongdoing — past, present, and future.

“Grace means there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more,” writes Philip Yancey in his classic book What’s So Amazing About Grace? “And grace means there’s nothing we can do to make God love us less. . . . Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.”

Wow! When I try to let that sink in, I’m just as overcome with gratitude as that little girl. At the same time I feel a renewed desire to let others know about this incredible message of redemption and reconciliation. After all, with good news like that, how could we possibly keep it to ourselves?


From Investigating Faith by Lee Strobel

My Lord is the Lifter of My Head 

My Lord is the Lifter
of My Head 

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the one who lifts my head.

─Psalm 3:3

For many years summer monsoon season has been a struggle for me. The combination of living at high altitude, plus the constantly fluctuating barometric pressure, used to keep me homebound and in bed. The way my body used to react to my migraines was to shut down, meaning that I slept most of the time. That was my before. As I write this, I still have migraines but the accompanying head pain is gone. Now I only know I have a migraine when my vision gets blurry and/or I have lots of nausea. This is my after.

The difference between before and after is that I have been undergoing special therapeutic treatments since January of this year. I am calling 2019 my year of healing because I truly believe that the Lord led me to this treatment because many people had been praying for me for many years.

While I was burdened with these daily migraines, I found it amazing that every time I went to sleep with a migraine I awoke feeling very hopeful that my migraine would be gone. And I did this over and over again, only to be surprised when I woke up to the same migraine I went to sleep with.

Why do I think this is amazing? Because instead of being disappointed when I awoke to the same pain time after time, I felt hopeful. I admit to a bit of discouragement, but I believe that God knows what I feel deep in my heart and soul, and since He is the “lifter of my head,” I believe He granted me the ability to praise Him with a joyful heart no matter how I was feeling.

I used to struggle with the why of my situation, wondering if it would ever end and why it had gone on for so long. Now there is a huge sense of peace within me because I know without a doubt that my Lord ─ my “shield” ─ was and is always with me to soothe and comfort me when I cry out to Him in pain. Even before I started the treatments that have eliminated my migraine pain, the frustration that at times consumed me is gone and has been replaced with “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Beloved, have you ever been in a situation when you have questioned why God has allowed it in your life? Do you wonder if it will ever end? Are you so mired in despair that you find you can’t even talk to God about it? 

In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness; 
for we do not know how to pray as we should, 

but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us 

with groanings too deep for words. 

─Romans 8:26

Now what does the Spirit ask for when he intercedes for us? There are three ways the text points to an answer for this question: 1) It says the Spirit asks for things that we don’t know we should ask for. Verse 26: “We do not know how to pray for what we ought.” 2) It says the Spirit asks for things that we don’t know to ask for because of our weakness. Verse 26: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” 3) It says the Spirit asks for things that are in accord with the will of God. Verse 27b: “The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”¹

Although my migraine head pain is gone, I am still living with the chronic pain and other symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The treatments are also relieving most of that pain, and now my overwhelming symptom is unrelenting fatigue that nothing helps, but I am anticipating a release from that too as I continue these treatments.

God knows everything about us, even our doubts, frustrations and anxieties. He is our ultimate Healer ─ physically, emotionally and mentally. He longs to hold us close to His heart and soothe our tears of frustration, disappointment and grief. Allow Him to do so! Let Him into your heart and share your deepest feelings with Him, because He is always available to listen to you and comfort you.

I continually hold on to this hope: that one day all of my pain and exhaustion will be gone and I will no longer have any tears because of the incredible joy and happiness of being in heaven with my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Only by abiding in Him can any kind of true joy and contentment be found.

And endurance develops strength of character,
and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

For we know how dearly God loves us,

because he has given us the Holy Spirit

to fill our hearts with his love. 

─Romans 5:4-5

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,

the Creator of the ends of the earth,

neither faints nor is weary.

His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,

and to those who have no might

He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary,

and the young men shall utterly fall,

but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
─Isaiah 40:28-31


¹John Piper, Desiring God

At Christ’s Table

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At Christ’s Table

Adapted from Till He Come by Charles Spurgeon

 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you,
as though some strange thing happened to you;

but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings,
that when His glory is revealed,
you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

If you are reproached for the name of Christ,
blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer,
or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian,
let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter,

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God;
and if it begins with us first,
what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 

Now
“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God
commit their souls to Him in doing good,
as to a faithful Creator.

—1 Peter 4:12-19

At the Last Supper, Christ brought all His disciples as table-companions, a prophecy that applies to all of His people forever. In heaven, there cannot be less of a privilege than on earth. It cannot be that believers will be degraded from what they have been below. The disciples were companions at Christ’s table here below, and they will still be table-companions in heaven above. Blessed is he that will eat bread in the kingdom of God. “Many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,” and the Lord Jesus will be at the head of the table (Matt. 8:11).

What will His table of joy be like? What will be His celebration when His reward is seated around Him and His triumph is all achieved? Whatever it is, you will share in it. For you poor, working woman, what a change to sit among princes and near to your Lord Jesus, with all your hard work and poverty ended forever. And you, sad child of suffering, will not have pain there, and you will be forever with the Lord. The joy of Christ will be your joy forever and ever! In the anticipation of the joy that will be yours, forget your current troubles. Rise above today’s difficulties, and if you cannot rejoice because of the present, rejoice for the future that will soon be yours.

Here is the way of salvation: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. To believe in Him is to trust Him; it is leaning on Him, resting on Him. Rest your whole weight on Christ in a spiritual sense. You have a load of sin; lean on Him, sin and all. You are unworthy, weak, and perhaps miserable. Cast on Him the weakness, the unworthiness, the misery and all. Take Him to be all in all to you, and when you have trusted Him, you will have become His follower. Go on by humility to be His disciple, by obedience to be His servant, by love to be His friend, and by communion to be His table-companion.

Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

Sharing today from GotQuestions?

Question: “Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?”

Answer: Yes, Jesus is the only way to heaven. Such an exclusive statement may confuse, surprise, or even offend, but it is true nonetheless. The Bible teaches that there is no other way to salvation than through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is not a way, as in one of many; He is the way, as in the one and only. No one, regardless of reputation, achievement, special knowledge, or personal holiness, can come to God the Father except through Jesus.

Jesus is the only way to heaven for several reasons. Jesus was “chosen by God” to be the Savior (1 Peter 2:4). Jesus is the only One to have come down from heaven and returned there (John 3:13). He is the only person to have lived a perfect human life (Hebrews 4:15). He is the only sacrifice for sin (1 John 2:2; Hebrews 10:26). He alone fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He is the only man to have conquered death forever (Hebrews 2:14–15). He is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the only man whom God has “exalted . . . to the highest place” (Philippians 2:9).

Read the rest here.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

Sharing today from Desiring God.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

By Scott Swain

God has promised his people supreme, unending, unshakeable happiness. Contrary to the claims of popular prosperity preachers, however, the supreme happiness God promises his people will not be realized in this life. Ours is a life characterized by sorrow in many ways. For now, we rejoice only in part.

There are two reasons for this. First, though the Father’s will to make us happy does not change, and though the Son’s work of securing our happiness is complete, the Spirit’s work of showing and bestowing happiness to us and upon us has only begun. By God’s triune mercy, we have been reconciled to the order of beatitude, what Augustine calls “the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God.”1 However, as Augustine goes on to tell us, ours is a happiness “we enjoy now with God by faith, and shall hereafter enjoy eternally with him by sight.”2

Second, having been reconciled to God’s order of beatitude, we have been brought into a state of conflict with the order of sin and misery, which wars against the happy God and the people who find their happiness in him. As William Perkins observes, “True happiness with God is ever joined, yea covered many times, with the cross in this world.”3 Our happiness has not yet fully arrived. Our happiness is not yet without opposition. For these two reasons, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) characterizes the happiness of the people whose God is the Lord as they make their pilgrimage to the happy land of the Trinity.4

Happy Now and Not Yet

In his Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ instructs pilgrims on the path to God’s eternal kingdom regarding the way of happiness.5 In contrast to “the error of all philosophers,” who locate happiness in “pleasure,” “wealth,” and “civil virtue,” God’s Wisdom incarnate sets out the “the nature and estate of true felicity.”6

Read the rest here.

Jesus, the Bright and Morning Star

Jesus, You’re Beautiful by Sara Groves is a lovely song of praise to Jesus that truly touches my heart. Its sweet lyrics are wonderful to sing and easy to remember.

As you listen to this song, thank God for Jesus our beautiful Bright and Morning Star:

12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me,
to give to every one according to his work.

13 
I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the Beginning and the End,
the First and the Last.”

14 Blessed are those who do His commandments,
that they may have the right to the tree of life,
and may enter through the gates into the city.

15 
But outside are dogs and sorcerers
and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters,
and whoever loves and practices a lie.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel
to testify to you these things in the churches.
I am the Root and the Offspring of David,
the Bright and Morning Star.”

17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”
And let him who hears say, “Come!”
And let him who thirsts come.
Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

—Revelation 22:12-17

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

The Road I Would Never Choose – Learning To Follow Wherever God Leads

This is an excellent article about a difficult subject from one of my favorite sites—Sarah Walton’s Set Apart.

THE ROAD I WOULD
NEVER CHOOSE —
LEARNING TO FOLLOW
WHEREVER GOD LEADS

By Sarah Walton

At some point in life, many of us find ourselves on a path that we would have never chosen. Once on that path, we are always faced with a choice. We can frantically search for a way out, or embrace the path God has chosen for us.

I have been on one of those undesirable paths for many years, with all its unexpected curves, unlit stretches, and life-changing directions. Even as I write this, I sit in an IV treatment room with a handful of others whom I would never have met had our lives not crossed on the weary road of chronic illness.

All of us in this room, though we have little else in common, share a similar desire to gain healing, as medications and nutrients are pumped into our bodies each day for several weeks. Though our stories and hopes are very different, we all long for something greater.

PAIN PAVED WITH PROMISE

Although the lives of these fellow sufferers run parallel to mine in our battle with chronic illness, at the same time, we are on completely separate paths that lead to different destinations. While both roads are filled with pain and uncertainty, by God’s grace, my own path is paved with promises of a glorious future beyond what I can see. Even more, my Savior is with me, guiding me and offering eternal treasures along the way.

Nevertheless, in the midst of hard trials, it can be hard to see beyond the pain and trust God’s purposes when all we see is darkness ahead. Therefore, as Christians, when we find ourselves on a road we would never have chosen, we need to remember these truths.

1. GOD HAS CHOSEN THIS FOR YOUR GOOD.

If you are following Christ, while it may not be a path you would’ve chosen, you can trust that he has chosen it for you (1 Corinthians 7:17). Left to ourselves, we would all choose a path of comfort and prosperity because our hearts are rebellious and our vision is short-term. If not for his grace, we would pursue only what our flesh desires, even at the cost of eternal life.

Read the rest here.


Last year I read Sarah Walton’s and Kristen Wetherell’s book Hope When it Hurts, and it has deeply impacted me. As someone who also lives with chronic illnesses, I so appreciated what they wrote from a Biblical perspective. I don’t think there is one page in this book that does not have my comments and/or underlines on it. The information about Hope When it Hurts and how you can purchase it is below.

hurts_medium.62ycfe4p32lgurjshoegogequhxiqninTo read more on the hope we have in suffering, you can purchase “Hope When It Hurts – 30 Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering” authored by Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell here or here.