Meditations | The God of Peace

The world has gone crazy, hasn’t it? We have mandates for a vaccine to just be able to work, people are being banned from their own countries and the world is holding its breath as tensions rise across the globe resulting in rioting. Our relationships are failing due to a lack of communication, distrust, and misplaced morals. Our health is faltering since hospitals are understaffed, too few beds for patients, and stressed out medical professionals. Poverty. Destruction. Peril. Everywhere you look bad news is inbound. 

What are we to do? It makes you just want to stay under the covers in fear. 

In the first century A.D the ancient Christians were under the same type of assault. Caesar Nero made the case that all Christians were to be rounded up and executed for, at least publicly, burning down Rome. During their trials, however, there wasn’t enough evidence to convict them of arson, so what did he do? According to Tacitus, a Roman historian, Nero accused them of “hating humanity”. Then they were slaughtered. They were crucified, they were beheaded, exiled, or burned at the stake. Nero would use them as garden lights while having parties for dignitaries. 

Paul was very aware of what was going on, he was sent to prison himself for preaching the gospel, as a proud Roman citizen Paul appealed directly to Caesar and during that time Nero (most likely under God’s grace) allowed Paul to leave. Paul knew the trials ahead for the Christians and would often write to the churches in epistles. These epistles were not only there to reprimand the churches, but also to encourage them in this difficult time. 

Phillipians 4 has some fantastic encouragement for Christians as we see our current world falling down around us and the governmental order changing. Paul knows the persecution that these Christians will go through and are going through as he went through it himself. He starts off his message with this “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.”(Phil 4:4) This is marked insanity, these people are about to be KILLED and Paul is telling them to rejoice? Then in Philippians 4:5, Paul tells them to be reasonable, they’re about to be hung, crucified and beheaded, but they are to be reasonable? Right after he tells them what to do in these times and this is what I really want to examine. In Phillipians 4:6-7 he tells them: 

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

So First of all he says, “The Lord is at hand”. He takes the words from the conversation between God and Jeremiah in Jeremiah 23 God asks Jeremiah a rhetorical question, “Am I only a God at hand and not a God far away?”(Jer 23:23), the God replies “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do I not fill the heavens and Earth?”(Jer 23:24). Paul tells us that the Lord is always here, he’s always with us. Christ never forsakes or leaves His own. As you read this right now, He is with you. 

So because He is always with us, what does Paul tell us? “Don’t be anxious about anything”! Christ, the God of creation is always with us, why would we be anxious? We have the ability to go to the very real Lord of this Earth in prayer to ask for ANYTHING. So he concludes this thought with “In Everything by prayer and supplication with THANKSGIVING make your requests be made known to God.” Paul has gone insane here, Not only does he tells us to stop being anxious, but he also tells us to be THANKFUL for whatever is making us anxious. 

I want to stop right here, why should we be thankful? Your spouse leaves you, your house burns down, whatever happens and what exactly in that very moment is there to be thankful for? You throw your fists up to the heavens and get angry. 

The very fact that you can still be angry should make you fall on your knees. God could have taken your life, He could have done a lot worse yet, He is in complete control. So even if you are angry, even if you are sad or depressed about life’s situation, you are still alive and you can thank God that He is still on His throne. 

And because you know He is there, because you know that He is on His throne, because you know whatever is causing you anxiety, is also reminding you that you are alive, as Christians, we have a blessed hope that God is always in control. That should put us in perfect peace. Indeed Paul writes that it is a peace that passes all understanding. 

See, the God of peace isn’t only the God of peace because that’s His attribute, He is the God of peace because He is always in control. He is a God at hand and far away, He always sees us and knows our hearts. And now because of our Savior in Heaven, we have a mediator who can relay our emotions in an earthly way to the Godhead. So our God can more personally affect each of our emotions differently to give us peace in our hearts and minds. 

Meditations | Independent Toddlers

No, I’m not starting a #Dadblog. I’m definitely not one of those types. So don’t worry your little heart, but I am going to talk about being a whiny, bratty, rotten toddler. And I’m going to accuse you of being that too. You have anxiety, you cry, you throw tantrums. You’re probably nothing more than a grown toddler.

Now think of that toward perfection, think of that toward our Father in Heaven. It’s funny because when we’re little-and I’ve mentioned this before-we look up to our parents for everything, including how to act. We instantly become embarrassed as a toddler when we see other children acting up or screaming in a store because that’s how we act sometimes. Now think about it like this, we’re in a stressful situation and maybe no one is helping. Our advice from our friends suck, our hypothetical partner isn’t helping and we’re a sobbing, angry, anxious mess.

Now, as a parent looking at a toddler doing this, we’re instantly annoyed to no end. Why can’t they just quit and realize it’s not that bad! Why can’t they just know this is for the best? Why….we ask. God asks the same thing, he wonders why we’re not listening, why we’ve blocked Him out in all of our anxiety and urge for control. He doesn’t understand why we can’t just give in and stop sobbing.

In the Bible we are told either by angels, by prophets or by God himself to “Fear not”. 365 times in the King James Version of the Bible is this phrase used or something like it.

In Genesis 15:1, God comes to Abram and tells him “Fear not, for I am your shield; your reward shall be very great”. Why would a non-personal, inauthentic, creator care so much about one man? Even though God chose him as his patriarch for a civilization, why would he care that much to reassure him of anything?

After the Israelites are established as a nomadic nation, God comes to Joshua, the chosen leader of the people and tells him multiple times to “not fear” within the same conversation! Joshua 1:9 starts off with “Have I not commanded you?”

Finally, we get to the most quoted part of scripture that we can look at concerning this, and at this point I think it’s amazing. Over thousands of years God told whoever He was speaking to, “Don’t be afraid”. It reminds me of helping a toddler on the monkey bars. We tell them don’t be afraid! I’ve got you! Just put your hand over hand on the bars and you’ll make it through. We even make feeble attempts to show them. No matter what we do, they still look at us in sheer terror. “Mom/Dad, I’m afraid”, “Mom/Dad, I can’t do this”, “Mom/Dad, will you hold me?”

In Isaiah 41:10 God tells the coastlands through Isaiah the prophet, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will Strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous righthand.” But this time, after thousands of years of saying this, He says something else in Isaiah 41: “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand…” Thats the kicker isn’t it?

We go and tell them on the monkey bars what to do, how to do it and we reassure them we aren’t going to let them fall. More often than not, what happens? We end up holding them across. God finally said, “you’re incapable of trusting in me as I want, so I’m going to make sure you know I’m there. I will walk with you and hold your hand through it.”

We as adults are nothing more than independent toddlers. We make the wrong choices, we disagree with what God explicitly tells us to do, and just like the Israelites we go after every shiny thing that comes along. What happens when bad things happen then? What happens when God chastises us? What happens when everything falls apart? We run to Him. We tell Him we’ve been bad, we tell Him we’ve screwed up, we tell Him the horrible rotten things about us, because He’s the only one that can make them stop.

As I’ve said before in prior posts, God always gives us an exodus. Even if we have to pay for our bad choices we know he is “Faithful and Just to forgive us of our sins”, it may not be that moment and it may not be a year later, but God will always make sure He holds our hands through it. Because you and I are far short of glorified adulthood in the eyes of God.

Meditations | A Light Burden

Today I thought we would do something a little different than we usually do. I thought we would perform a commentary on a certain aspect of scripture, almost like an expository sermon. I feel like we as Christians need to hear this message specifically, not because we don’t know it, but because we don’t actually practice it.

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Meditations | Forgiveness

Ah, the hardest part of our charge as Christians toward the world. It’s even harder than loving the world, even though these two go hand in hand. This thing, this forgiveness, is something that is often misunderstood and almost as misunderstood in Christianity as the word “love”. These two terms have taken a whole other meaning in our modern lexicon. 

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Meditations | Mercy

Much like Grace,which we have already gone over, Mercy is another word used often to describe God and His actions. Most people would describe mercy is “receipt of a favor or consequence which wasn’t deserved”, while I agree with that definition, I think we can come to a better conclusion!

I think as we go through this quick study, God’s grace (defined as: Someone in Authority bowing down happily to give a gift to someone in lowly stature, such as a peasant) and mercy will jump out of the page more for you and you will be surprised at how beautiful our God really is. 

Mercy in English comes from Anglo-French ‘Merci’, which means as ‘Pity or Thanks’ while Merci comes from the Latin Merced- which means ‘Paid Wages or reward’. The word in Greek is very similar, it is the word ‘Eleos’ (ἔλεος), which according to Strongs NT concordance means “mercy; kindness or good will toward the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them” 

I think we’re getting to the bottom of this but, we need more information. Our final source will come from the Hebrew word that is used in the Old Testament to describe God. Then, like we did with Grace, we’ll combine them and get a median definition. 

In the Hebrew, the most commonly used word to mean mercy is ‘racham’(רַחַם), which means compassion. I think something else interesting that we can add, is that this word also means ‘deep’ or ‘bowels’. So it means: something at the very center of someone’s being. 

So what have we understood as a full meaning of mercy? Mercy from a combination of all languages used from the original manuscripts and then our current language means simply “Compassionately pays the price due to the miserable and afflicted in an effort to relieve them”

Let’s break this new definition down. (Now you’re saying, this sounds just like the original definition only wordier) God not only continually pays the price or the wage due to us daily out of compassion simply to provide relief, but He also does this compassionately or literally ‘with passion’. As I said earlier that definition of ‘Deeply’ will come into play. He feels so strongly and cares so much about the miserable and the afflicted, which is all of humanity, that daily He passionately takes away our dues for our screwups. What wages would need to be paid for our sin? Paul tells us in Romans, “the wages of sin is death”. 

So if we have a gracious and merciful God what does that actually mean? In one sentence, we come to this conclusion. God happily and passionately bows down to provide favor in order to distribute relief to the poor and afflicted and pay the price due to their continual failures. That my friends, is what I wanted to write this whole time. 

You ask why my blog is named ‘Something Extraordinary’, that right there is the reason. An all-powerful God in Hellenistic thought would have ignored us and moved on to a different planet, in Egyptian thought He would have destroyed us or made us slaves, in Babylonian thought He would be sacrificing our children to appease him. 

But God, who is rich in mercy, joyfully and passionately sent His only Son to die on a cross for our sins in order to provide relief for the poor, afflicted, pitiable and woeful to pay one price for our failures: past, present, and future.

Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” 

And that, my friends, is Something Extraordinary. 

Meditations | The Infinite God

“The Lord said to Abram”

Genesis 12:1, CSB

This is a strange start to a meditation, and it’s a simplistic verse. You’re all asking me, why would you put THAT as the verse for today. Well, it is a very important verse, something that we need to look at in depth. This isn’t even a post about faith really, it’s much more than that. It’s a look at ourselves and how little we know about God and who He is. 

I want you to look at this verse, there is no context before this besides simply showing Abram’s lineage after Babbel. So there is no context, this just starts like it says above. How strange of a verse, right? 

God didn’t announce himself in this verse, nor did he introduce himself. He just started talking. Personally, I think God was trying a different way to reach His creation using this message since walking with them, flooding the earth and scrambling the languages didn’t work. Maybe He was trying a more diplomatic approach. 

Abram went along with what He said, and personally I would have to if I heard a disembodied voice promising to protect me if I followed His lead. Anyways, I’m off topic here, and I’m most likely going to do a series on this later down the line.

The most astonishing thing here is, simply, God never introduced himself. He never gave his name. 

Well, he gave it later on. His name is Yahweh. 

Nope.

That’s what WE call him, His creation. That’s not actually His name. See, it’s an attribute of him. Knowing how important names are, biblically and in modern times, one would think we would actually know His name. 

Yahweh comes from a shortened version of Exodus 3:14 “I am that I am”. He was basically telling Moses “I was, I am, and I will be. I am the constant.” This was later shortened down to Yahweh

The Biblical scholars will now say “His name is EL.” No, that’s not right either. El was taken from a Canaanite god (who ironically was depicted as a golden calf [catching on yet?]) and replaced in Hebrew to name God ‘God’ and also to use generally as the word god. 

The Israelites also took names from other gods around to attribute to their God. The living God, but that’s not the point.

The point of all this is simple, we are much too small and ignorant by nature to know God. If we have any presumption of who God is while we’re praying, if we happen to even imagine he’s something that He’s not, then are we really praying to the living God?

We don’t even know His name, we just understand some attributes about Him. The closest we are ever going to get to know God is through His son Christ Jesus.

This is why it’s so important to have a relationship with Jesus, to know our creator through His son. Solomon, one of the wisest men to have ever lived, wrote in Proverbs 9:10:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. 

That word fear could be translated as ‘awe’.Even the wisest man to ever live couldn’t even begin to contemplate who God is. We are to begin our journey of knowing God through awe. Once you take apart all the preconceived notions of who you think God ought to be, and start actually worshipping the living God who sent His son as redemption for sin, you will begin to understand him. 

Take time during prayer today to seek Him first. To see who this God actually is, because I guarantee that idea you have of him is finite. We all know our God is infinite. Once you remove that you will really begin to see our father for who He is. Maybe we don’t know His name, but His actions are much more profound.

Meditations | Lessons from Proverbs, all you need to succeed is God.

Quick update: I was supposed to post this yesterday; however, I’ve been busy, so I wanted to get this out the door today, and then tomorrow will be our current events analysis. Now, back to the show.

Ever see those insane Facebook ads? The ones promising you 4 Audiobooks and 3 maps to living your life where you’ll succeed? It’s nothing new. Snake oil salesmen have been doing it for hundreds of years. I think this is extremely funny, though, considering how much people want to “succeed” so badly, they think they can just pay for it.

I’m being serious, actually. These “courses” are EXPENSIVE; not only are they expensive, but they also upsell you every single time. Time and time again, they charge you to “get to that next step.” This one, in particular, costs $2000 a course, and that is only for one of their courses! This guy isn’t trying to get you to succeed in the stock market, though, or in business. No, you can get sued for that. This guy is trying to get someone to succeed “in life.” I find this extremely laughable.

For hundreds of years, we’ve had a book in the western world that promises success in life. It’s given by a Divine creator. Yet, the bookshelves all across the Nation’s bookstores are so sad. The titles they provide are “Live your best life,” “How to find happiness,” or “How to make friends and influence people.” These are ridiculous, but it’s a multi-million dollar industry.

The saddest part? I guarantee that the Bible is sitting in a lot of the homes not touched.

As I said, this isn’t something new, though. A man regarded for his wisdom throughout the ancient world, Solomon wrote extensively about this, if a man should trust these people, and how a man should act. Let’s look at a couple!

Proverbs 16:20b tells us:

“The one who trusts in the Lord will be happy.”

This is highly relevant in today’s society and crazy Facebook ads as well. If we know that we have an omnipotent creator in heaven that takes care of the birds daily (!), we can rest in his spirit. We don’t need to drop $2000 on courses.

Humility, the fear of the Lord, results in wealth, honor, and life.

Proverbs 22:4, CSB

If this is all we need, humility and respect in the sight of our king for a prosperous life, then why are Christians buying these things? All the way back to Adam, humans have thought they could do things themselves. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The world is at such a place that people will go to anyone or do anything to have happiness and prosperity in their life, whether to emulate Instagram photos or simply “feel” happiness. They will pay for books, doctors, and prescriptions to get there. When in reality, it’s been in the most widely circulated and often free book this whole time. I often wonder how much more sin is compounded by selling something that allows people to participate in their sin and validate it.

Fear the Lord, humble yourselves before him, and keep your eyes on the cross. God will be gracious to take care of you too. If you keep your eyes on Christ, He can keep his eyes on everything else for you.

From Abraham to Jesus | The Personality of God

Some quick housekeeping, and then we’ll get into it for today. As you might’ve been able to tell, yesterday’s post alluded to a new post in the “What is Love //” series being posted next Monday. I have an actual schedule now of posts after much deliberation and prayer. The new schedule is as follows: Mondays will be for Apologetics posts, Tuesdays and Thursdays will be for Study or Meditation, Wednesdays and Fridays are reserved for current events/culture analysis, and Saturdays are either resting days or for misguided thinking found in the wild of the internet.

Ok Let’s get into it for today.

There is a very well known passage that is often quoted among Christians that I wanted to take a look at.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 

“Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”

When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets[c] began to tear. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they had taken,  and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners.

“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people.”

Luke 5:4-10, CSB

We often look at that as one of Jesus’ first miracles and wonders among the people, but it goes along with how God often deals with Humans. I’ll show more. Let’s look at Abraham, specifically in Genesis.

Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.”

And he replied, “Here I am, my son.”

Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide[a] the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together.

 When they arrived at the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”

He replied, “Here I am.”

 Then he said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.” Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son.  And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said, “It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain.”

Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn,”this is the Lord’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son,  I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their enemies. And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command.”

Genesis 22: 7-18, CSB

This is another showing of the same type of idea as quoted from Luke above. God told someone to do something, and through their obedience, not only did they become blessed, but they also had a new mission in life to fulfill. God tested Abraham in the same way He allowed Adam to be tested. He wanted to see if this man chosen to be a patriarch would rise to the occasion and follow God’s lead.

Finally, ironically, I want to look at Jeremiah, where this blog post started out in my head. I love Jeremiah from a literary standpoint because, besides Exodus and Job, it is really the only other time we get to see God the Father’s personality shine. This final passage is humorous in a way and shows that we really are made in God’s image in the way He communicates with us.

Jeremiah was told during the siege of Jerusalem to go and buy a parcel of Land. This seems a bit ridiculous, even from a divine standpoint. Not only did Jeremiah do it, but he had the same response as above with Abraham and Peter. He trusted God and gave all praise to God for the seemingly ridiculous ask. However, while praying, he acknowledges God’s wisdom but in a way that questions what exactly He is up to.

Oh, Lord God! You yourself made the heavens and earth by your great power and with your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for you! 

Jeremiah 32:17, CSB

Jeremiah was called the “reluctant” prophet, and though He was always respectful and praised God, he often made it known to him that he didn’t quite get what He was doing. Much like Peter above, he would go on to say in that prayer quoted from Jeremiah the following:

Look! Siege ramps have come against the city to capture it, and the city, as a result of the sword, famine, and plague, has been handed over to the Chaldeans who are fighting against it. What you have spoken has happened. Look, you can see it! Yet you, Lord God, have said to me, ‘Purchase the field and call in witnesses’—even though the city has been handed over to the Chaldeans!”

Jeremiah 32: 24-25, CSB

Jeremiah is basically saying, “God, I know you’re all-powerful, but really, this doesn’t make any sense!” Kind of like Peter said above when trying to fish. Even though Peter didn’t understand Christ was the Messiah at the time, He still knew He was a very wise teacher and to anyone with intellect, what Christ asked him to do was bonkers.

However, and this is the best part out of the whole discussion with Jeremiah and God. God says in the next verse:

Look, I am the Lord, the God over every creature. Is anything too difficult for me?

Jeremiah 32: 27, CSB

He throws Jeremiah’s words right back at him. The answer, of course, is “no.” There is nothing too difficult for God. Later on, we will see because of Jeremiah’s obedience, he is treated extremely well by the Babylonians and is allowed to continue to live in Jerusalem when most people of importance were taken captive (and many times would be slaughtered).

What is the point of all this? That first quoted passage from Luke shows me one thing. That Jesus is God. Yes, Jesus lived a perfect life, died a perfect death, and was raised from the dead three days later. That doesn’t show me He is God. This simple discussion shows me He is God because he retains the personality of God. Even though Abraham, through Jeremiah, through Jesus himself, God shows he will always retain that upper hand and sometimes with a sarcastic smirk. It’s completely ok because that knowing smile is what a good father does. He believes in us and trusts that we will follow Him. He also knows that when we mess up (we will, whether by our own actions or due to mortal failings) that He will ALWAYS be right by us to catch us.

See, Christ wasn’t going to allow Peter to fail there; after all, He had plans for him. God has plans for all of us, and even though whatever we are going through doesn’t make sense or is just insane from a ground-level perspective, God has a way to work it out. And go ahead, ask him about it. He promises to show us “great and incomprehensible things that you do not know.” Just, as we’ve seen with the men listed, have faith and “In all your ways acknowledge Him.”

Meditations | GRACE

I love languages, we can learn so much about our own if we look into the past to see where the word came from. For example, while this is disputed in linguistic circles, the term “walrus” most likely came from two Dutch words. The first word is walvus or whale in English and the second ros or horse in English.

Literally the meaning of walrus is “Whale-Horse”.

I bet you didn’t know that. Now, when your family gathers for Memorial Day you can wow them with that fact AND direct them to your favorite faith blogger at the same time. ^_^

But we as Christians use a word that I’m sure most don’t even know the definition, let alone the root or etymology. This word is

GRACE

We sing about it, we quote scripture with it, we “say grace” before we eat. But…have you ever thought about what it means?

According to Webster’s dictionary, Grace means “Unmerited Favor”. While you all are saying duh to that, let’s look how far back we can get to see just how unmerited it can be.

The earliest known use of the word in Hebrew (from the Old Testament) comes in the form of CHEN, but its root word is the word CHANAN. This means particularly “Stooping down in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior” (Strongs 2603).

The Greek however, comes in the form of CHARIS (sound familiar?) which is our root for the word charity. The word CHARIS in Greek has the root of CHAIRO which means “Happy or Glad” (Strongs 5463).

So what can we get from all of this? What can we understand more from all of this?

Every time we are met with a blessing, a direct answer to prayer or a miracle, God is Happily extending his Favor in an act of servant leadership. The same way Christ washed the Apostle’s feet before the last supper.

Let’s dwell on this for just a bit, Mark 10:45 tells us “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you know that Christ was a servant on this Earth and we are to follow His example. But He was simply following the example His Father set beforehand. Our God and King in all His glory, is above all a servant leader.

The Apostle Paul tells us “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace [Favor], that we may receive mercy and find grace [Favor through God’s servant leadership] to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.

See, while everyone else in Greece and the ancient civilizations feared their gods with trembling, it is quite obvious through our own actions that we don’t fear the living God enough. This is most likely due to the fact that we are given grace and favor from an all powerful God who would rather be a servant than a dictator.

Humans are inherently selfish, and subconsciously we take advantage and take for granted every good thing we have. It’s no wonder God gets angry with us consistently.

So remember, the word “grace” has a very powerful meaning, and I hope by reading this we don’t forget it again.