Gracious Grace

Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself.

Grace has been highlighted in my life of late. Maybe you’ve noticed it too. Maybe you have not and need to. Either way, I wanted to touch on it because it seems so many times it is misunderstood. I know I have took it wrong a great deal in my life.

Grace, by it’s very nature, is free. It cannot be bought or earned. If there is payment in any way, it is no longer Grace.

Do not mistake the fact that Grace being free was free. It was paid for in some fashion. It always is. But never by the one receiving it.

Grace can be stubbed. For it to truly do it’s greatest work (whether from a fellow human or from God) it must flow through us unto others. “Paying It Forward” is not a new concept.

Grace will cost the giver. God paid for it with His Son. What will your cost be to give it to others?

You cannot give Salvation to others. That comes from God alone. But you can give Grace.

You should always buckle up with a seat belt and Grace when driving.

Once you have children, you will experience the joy of giving Grace.

Many will tell you that Grace has been cheapened by those who purport “hyper-grace.” Putting Grace to every part of their life. God’s Grace was given at the beginning. Before you sinned. Before I sinned. It existed already. A level offered to all who needed it. There is no such thing as hyper-grace. Man cannot attain the level of Grace God gives. But he will complain because the “workers” who came late in the day received that which he’d spent the day trying to earn. (Matthew 20:1-6)

Grace says “I love you anyway,” to the murderer. The rapist. The thief. The liar. The bully. The homosexual. The average Joe. The Muslim. The devil worshiper. The taxi driver. The dock worker. The actor. The superstar. The lazy son-in-law. The brilliant CEO. The greatest of sinners and the righteous preacher.

Grace does not judge. It does not lie or feign a happy outlook, but it does not judge. First, and above all, it loves. It extends the good which was given it. It does not pay evil for evil. Grace is a decision of leniency despite the guilt.

Grace does not cause shame, but will hide the one shamed. Grace will take the blame to keep another from suffering. Grace sees the guilty through eyes of understanding and tenderness.

Grace is a man experiencing the results of his own decisions, yet being able to smile. A long time captive, hugging and praying with their captor. Grace is a mother forgiving the one who took her own away from her.

Grace is one of the greatest gifts God ever gave to mankind. And it was given thousands of years ago in a garden where disobedience and sin first came to be. Since that time, it has grown through man, but the level that God gave then is still the same. Far beyond what we can imagine.

Romans 3: 21-24 via The Message:
“But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.”

The Word of God. This is Grace!

Matt

John 3:16 – The Great Scriptures I

It’s not enough to believe in God. Remember, the devil believes in God and there is absolutely no chance he will ever be saved.

The Bible is full of magnificent and beautiful words. What makes them so amazing is not them alone, but how they are pieced together. Written by the Greatest Writer of all time: God Himself.

As we wander through the Words of God, certain parts tend to jump out. These are verses and passages that bring love, promise, hope, mercy, and more gifts to light. There are stories, poetry, prophecies, and so much we cannot count it all. Bits and pieces of scripture that show God to us in ways we might not otherwise ever see. Yes, our relationship with God is personal. He is able to love on me specifically. To love on you specifically. And because of that, we have an intimate and genuinely spiritual connection to God Almighty. But knowing all that He has done for the world in scripture encourages and strengthens that hope that we have come to live in.

So I want to explore some of those “special” passages and verses that are foundational to our relationship with Him. As before, I plan to cover this in several blogs. Hopefully, I will. As you may have noticed, I have several times began a series and never completed it. With the full intentions of returning to those. I may yet. Who knows? But we will try to move forward regularly with this one. In fact, if you’d like to have me explore a specific verse or passage, click here and let me know. Or just add a comment below.

The first verse that I wish to discuss is, quite possibly, the most well known scripture in the entire Bible. John 3:16. We find Jesus has been visited at night by a Pharisee. A teacher of the Old Testament. He seems to believe in Jesus, but doesn’t want to be seen by others. A fear of reprisal. His name is Nicodemus. During their conversation, which covers a myriad of important topics, Jesus utters the words that not only give millions hope, but prophesy’s His own demise upon the cross.

As I usually do, I will post it here in the New King James Version. The “essence of the message” transcends a version. Please do not get hung up on the version.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

There is a very important reason that this is so well known. It is foundational to the entire Gospel. In fact, it IS the Gospel. The Good News. That God loves us that much. If you have children, it might be easier to relate. Giving your beloved child up for the sake of someone else. It would be much easier to give ourselves. But He, God, gave His own Son. His only Son!

To call this scripture the Cornerstone verse of the Bible might, in some opinions, be a stretch, but of all the Bible, the story of mankind and his desperate need for, yet fight against, true love, none quotes the way God is better than this.

Mankind was not long on the planet before he spurned the love of God and found his “own way.” A way that led us to death, destruction, disease, hatred, pain, and sufferings of all kinds. This scripture pushes all the horrors of our existence aside and says, “There is a better way. God made a better way. True Love made a better way.”

God doesn’t demand that we be perfect. He loves us. He is not expecting us to be anything super powerful and amazing. He loves us.

Another way we might say this verse in our more “modern lingo” would be this:

“God, our Creator, loved us humans so much that He was willing to trade our eternal separation from Himself for the life of His son. All we need to do is to believe in Him.”

It’s really that last part that throws people off. God loves us so much that He went to great lengths to save us. All we need to do is believe in Him. Translations might vary a little bit, but the reality is that we have to believe in Him.

I have had many people who say, “I believe in God. I believe in Jesus.” Then live a life that doesn’t coincide with the life that the Bible teaches us to do. You might point out at this moment that I just said He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. This is not a contradiction.

While it is very true that God is not expecting us to be perfect, He is expecting us to follow His word. And His Word not only says that He sent His Son to save us, but it also tells us to “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

It’s not enough to believe in God. Remember, the devil believes in God and there is absolutely no chance he will ever be saved. Believe here, in this passage, means to “follow” Jesus. To try to be like Him.

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “God loves you right where you are at. It’s just that He loves you too much to leave you there.” If you are out hiking and you are being led by a guide, a smart person will follow that guide, step by step, to avoid becoming lost or hurt. That is what it means to follow Christ. To believe in Christ. To be a Christian.

So, God loves you far above any other person in existence. So much so that He was willing to let His only Child, His Son Jesus, go and be beaten, spit on, laughed at, stabbed, whipped, mocked, pierced, hung in the open air on a sticky, nasty, splintery, blood encrusted (He was not likely to be the first one hung on that cross – it was a regular way that the Romans killed people guilty of crimes), wooden cross. If you ever wanted a visual for what took place the day that Jesus died, the movie “Risen” depicts it well. There was nothing gentle or easy about it. It was ugly and horrible.

But He’d rather accept that than have us apart from Him. Forever.

Much of the ramifications of this verse are truly difficult to take in. Again, I invite you to ask questions. I am no scholar, but I will find an answer for you.

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Interview With A Zombie

(GPNews-Jerusalem) Having established a recent discovery based upon rather sketchy and unprecedented events, one of our key analysts and top column reporters was able to garner an interview with one of the so-called Ezekiel Zombies. Presented here, in its entirety, is the word-for-word interview that Uri Freidhof conducted with Manny Zussman, the only member of the massive group of walking dead that has accepted an invitation to interview.

(Uri Friedhof – 6/10/18(BC)) I was recently afforded the opportunity to experience what most would call a fabricated vision at best. Truth be told, I personally would have never believed it to be true. But I stand nearly convinced by the individual I came to know as Manny Zussman. As many others, I had heard the stories surrounding the Prophet Ezekiel’s visions and purpatories. After much research and hunting for facts and sorting the various bits of information from the ridiculous urban legends and stories, I was able to meet with the sole volunteer that has come forward to tell his story. One that might seem beyond reality. Here is how our conversation went:

Freidhof: Where are you from?

Zussman: Israel. A small village outside of Jerusalem.

Freidhof: What did you do for a living?

Zussman: I was an Israeli soldier. A patriot. Actually, I’m still a soldier since I died as one. I love my country! GO IDF!

Freidhof: You died as a soldier?

Zussman: Yeah. Weird, huh?

Freidhof: But you are standing here before me (snicker).

Zussman: Yeah, I can’t really explain it. It just happened. I thought I was done.

Freidhof: There is a rumor going around that you and all those who are part of this are actually just zombies. Any truth to that?

Zussman: What’s a zombie?

Freidhof: Umm. The undead?

Zussman: Okay. Then yes. But then, you’re undead as well. I mean, wouldn’t that mean…

Freidhof: Moving on. Can you explain what happened?

Zussman: You mean in the valley of dry bones?

Freidhof: Well, it is the purpose of this interview.

Zussman: Right. Okay. Well, you see, we were dead.

Freidhof: We?

Zussman: Well, yeah. I wasn’t alone. There were hundreds of us. Maybe even thousands. We were dead.

Freidhof: What was that like?

Zussman: Being dead? Well, kind of… You know, I can’t really remember. Since I was dead. Your senses kind of stop working. I know it started out as quite painful.

Freidhof: Really? What was painful about it?

Zussman: Well, the sword.

Freidhof: The sword? What sword?

Zussman: THE sword.

Freidhof: Okay. Can you elaborate on THE sword and why it was painful?

Zussman: Well, yeah. It was inside me. That’s how I died. Wow, it hurt. A lot.

Freidhof: I see. Well, can we focus on the part that you were dead?

Zussman: Yeah, sure. So I was dead. I really don’t remember much about it. But it happened some time back. I mean, I’ve heard stories. And the guy that is king wasn’t king last I remember.

Freidhof: Can you explain more about the “stories”?

Zussman: Yeah, they called that place the “Valley of the Dry Bones.” I’m guessing because it was full of the dry bones.

Freidhof: What dry bones?

Zussman: OUR dry bones. My bones. My fellow soldier’s bones. We were dead. Remember?

Freidhof: Right. And what came next?

Zussman: Well, a couple hundred years of being dead. I mean, I’m guessing the whole buzzards picking us clean thing and all that.

Freidhof: Do you feel you have been mistreated by the vulture community?

Zussman: Did you just say that?

Freidhof: Never mind. Let’s move on. So you have been dead for many years. Maybe even a hundred or more. Yet you are standing here talking to me. How should I react to that?

Zussman: Hey, you were the one that wanted to talk about this, not I.

Freidhof: Me.

Zussman: What?

Freidhof: Me.

Zussman: What about you?

Freidhof: The proper term would be “me.” “You were the one that wanted to talk about this, not me.”

Zussman: Huh?

Freidhof: Okay, never mind.

Zussman: Sorry, not picking up on you there. Been dead for a while and still trying to get my senses back.

Freidhof: Right. Okay, you’re telling your story. Can you elaborate on how this all came about? How did it start?

Zussman: Yeah. Started out when I was about 16. King David sent out men to recruit soldiers. I love king David. What a warrior. I was honored to serve. So I lied about my age and…

Freidhof: I meant how this whole thing with becoming a zombie and everything.

Zussman: Zombie. You use that word again. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Freidhof: Really? You just quoted…

Zussman: I’m not a zombie.

Freidhof: But it means undead. I thought that was established.

Zussman: Right. Forgot that. I guess we’re all sort of zombies then.

Freidhof: Well, I don’t consider myself a zombie.

Zussman: Then you’re not undead. Which, I think, means you’re dead. You should have that looked at. Might be terminal (snicker).

Freidhof: Yes, well. Once again, moving on.

Zussman: Okay.

Freidhof: So, you were killed in battle?

Zussman: Correct.

Freidhof: Which one?

Zussman: The one I died in.

Freidhof: Yeah. Which one?

Zussman: The one I died in.

Freidhof: Which battle was it?

Zussman: The one I died in?

Freidhof: Yes.

Zussman: Not sure. I imagine it took place in the Valley of Dry Bones. I can’t imagine them moving us all to that place to let us rot in the sun. Probably somewhere nearby.

Freidhof: Can you explain what happened the day you were… Resurrected?

Zussman: The details are foggy.

Freidhof: Foggy?

Zussman: Yeah. Not clear. Foggy.

Freidhof: Okay, just tells us what you know.

Zussman: I opened my eyes and could see. Which I knew right away something was different because I was a skeleton and we have no eyes.

Freidhof: You had no eyes?

Zussman: Yeah, skeletons can’t see anything. They have no eyes. Surely you knew that, right?

Freidhof: Of course. I just never thought about it.

Zussman: Yeah, well, granted I had a few years to contemplate it.

Freidhof: So, you can suddenly see?

Zussman: Yeah. I felt whole. Above us was a bright light.

Freidhof: Us?

Zussman: Oh yeah. Every single one in the valley stood upright.

Freidhof: The bones?

Zussman: All gone. Nothing but whole people. Flesh and muscles and all that stuff in place. Pretty crazy.

Freidhof: And what did that feel like?

Zussman: Well, at first, it was amazing. Then I realized I was quite chilly.

Freidhof: It was cold?

Zussman: Not really. It’s just that when Ezekiel called us back to life, he gave us tendons, muscles, organ, EYEBALLS, flesh, and so on. But he forgot to call back our clothes. I was embarrassed. But only for a moment. Turned out none of us had a stitch on.

Freidhof: What did you do?

Zussman: Well, we emptied Wal-Mart in a matter of minutes.

Freidhof: So, you took all the clothes?

Zussman: No. I mean we emptied it. A thousand naked guys running into the store. Scares people. They all ran out. Emptied the place. Including the greeter. It was a sight to see. Now that we had eyes.

Freidhof: Can we get back to the experience of being re-born?

Zussman: Re-born? That’s a great way to put it. Yeah. Quite an experience.

I felt like something had changed though. Not just re-born, but like there was something new inside of me. That the breath that was in my lungs was stronger than before. Greater. More powerful.

Freidhof: So, in a way, re-born better than before?

Zussman: Yes. With greater purpose. To do something I could never do before. Like the Great Power that had given us new life had a plan for us that was beyond what any mortal could do.

Freidhof: How do you feel now?

Zussman: Like I wish everyone could experience what I have experienced.

Freidhof: Well that would require us all to die.

Zussman: I know. I mean, that is truly how it is. Call me a zombie, the undead, the living, the whatever! But in my life, before all of this, I have never felt so alive. So excited. So powerful. So blessed.

Freidhof: What do you attribute for that feeling.

Zussman: Haha. Not a “what”, but a “Who.”

Freidhof: Who?

Zussman: When Ezekiel pronounced breath in us, we came alive. It was God’s breath. I have God’s breath in me. Do you have any idea how that feels?

Freidhof: No. I can’t say I do.

Zussman: Well then, I guess there’s something to be said about being a zombie after all!

 

At that point Mr. Zussman walked away, laughing and dancing. An odd encounter to be sure.

Uri Freidhof

 

The thief has come to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  John 10:10

*Based very roughly upon Ezekiel 37
**Photo courtesy of Z3News.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On This Day

– We are free to do as we please in America because soldiers died to give that to us. We are free inside to truly live because Jesus died to give that to us. –

Oddly enough, through notifications that stream into my phone on a regular basis, and despite not having much going on here, the number of people connected to my blog has sharply increased. I am grateful that there are a regular new members, but, in all honesty, I feel slightly suspicious. Still, welcome aboard. I pray God’s grace will find your heart receptive and that something said here will draw you closer to Him.

Yesterday was Memorial Day. I had intended to write something before, but life is often simply too full. And my priorities are God and family. Then somewhere in the mix, writing.

Yesterday was a covering of magnificent blue skies, happy sounds, delicious smells, wonderful conversations, and grateful hearts. We barbecued, mixed salads, held hands, hugged, picked up rocks, fed goats, wondered around the farm, and just generally enjoyed the day.

My grand kids arrived. Richelle, Beca, Cassi and Kellyn. All quite mobile and ready for the span of the farm. Shortly thereafter, Rowan arrived. My youngest grand daughter. Oh and they brought their parents with them, too! The family came. With just a few key personnel missing. And missed they were!

The food was great, everyone had plenty. We have a new mother in the herd and she and her twins were a lot of fun. The kids swung on the tree swings. They played in the playhouse. They squirted one another with squirt guns. They played in the grass. We sat and laughed as they did their thing.

We discussed meat cooking ideas and recipes. We planned the BBQ on the 4th of July. We talked about God’s wonder. How blue the sky was and how beautiful the land was. A day that will remain upon my memory, likely, until I reach that next place.

The kids played without worry. We spoke as we pleased. We ate as much as we wanted. We enjoyed being able to enjoy.

Memorial Day is set in place for that very thing. We might spend the entire day having fun and completely forget what the holiday is about. We shouldn’t, of course. But we can.

I imagine in my mind the tall fields around us. The acres of grass and trees. In the distance, unseen by the mortal eye, stand soldiers. Men, women, young, old. Olive drab, khaki, green camo, desert camo, class A, B – dress blues and civvies. All decorated up and some with nothing more than bare collars. Weapons varying from flintlocks to full auto M-16s. Some with swords and some with just a survival knife in their hands. They look over at the kids at play. They smile. Then they look up at the parents gathered around the table with their feast before them. “Keep at it. We have your back. Enjoy this day, it’s what we intended it to be.”

We must never forget. But there’s a grace that is leveled at us for that. There is nothing wrong with completely enjoying the time we have together. Just remember why we can.

Long before our brave soldiers fought for our freedom, Someone paid that very same price. And that freedom He brought that day trickled down to and infilled a Nation of Freedom Lovers. We are free to do as we please in America because soldiers died to give that to us. We are free inside to truly live because Jesus died to give that to us.

It’s yet another beautiful day. That has been given to us. Enjoy!

Matt

Updates & Blessings

We love for ulterior motives. Sometimes those motive are good. But every relationship starts out, in some fashion, for selfish reasons.

Bless You!!!

It has been sometime since I wrote anything in here. I appreciate those of you who have stuck around to see what’s next. So, this blog will be mostly an update and then I will polish it off with a short word that I think we all need to hear.

God has been doing many, many things. Saturday will be 5 weeks that Nancy and I have been married. I still have no idea how I managed to catch such an amazing woman. God. That’s the only answer to that question. He has been pouring out on us so much lately that I have almost no words to describe it! He is indeed a good God!

Books:

As you know Crazy Amazing Love: 31 Pieces of Love is out there and can be purchased for $8.35 on Amazon. Why the odd price? Because that is what Amazon charges. I do not charge anything. This book and the entire series will always be at cost. In fact if a person asks me directly, I will send them a copy for free. Signed (for whatever that is worth). Click here for more info and here to go directly to the book on Amazon.

My first novel, Ketchwood: Curse of the Everstone, is a story of a man and his children who find themselves in a world trapped in the middle ages. He learns the value of his kids, his friends, and what it takes to be a dad. Sometimes, we fight dragons to prove our love. In his case, literally. Click here to get more information on Ketchwood. It is also on Amazon here.

There are currently several books that are in the works. The next to be published is called “Hutch.” A detective of the Los Angeles Police Department ends up dumped in the mountains of Alaska. He fights off everything from wolves to a rather desperate rabbit to survive.

Then the first “sequel” to Crazy Amazing Love comes out. 31 Pieces of Joy. Like the first, this will be available on Amazon and at the least cost possible.

The book I am currently somewhere around half-way through is called “Blaqwatch.” Two 12 year old boys happen upon a car accident and discover the only occupant has a few last words. Of which lead these two into the adventure of their life. One that might be responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

And then there are three on the “billet.” Next to be written after Blaqwatch is “My King.” Then we’ll be working on “Crazy Amazing Love: 31 Pieces of Faith.” And last on the “current” list is “The Solomon Files.” Lots to be written. Now you know why I have such a hard time getting a blog done!

Blessings

It is without a doubt that God loves me. The Word of God says it repeatedly. In fact, it says that God is Love. It is His nature to love us.

We love for ulterior motives. Sometimes those motive are good. But every relationship starts out, in some fashion, for selfish reasons. Something we can gain from it. You might not agree, but have you ever began a relationship with someone simply for their benefit? In some way, we benefit. Even if it is knowing we have done something good. That relationship might turn into something that benefits the other entirely. But it’s hard to honestly say any of my relationships ever began with that other person in mind 100%.

Unless you are Jesus.

He really does reach out to us solely for our benefit. He doesn’t work any other way. That love comes across in many ways. And contrary to some who think we are meant to always be impoverished, He blesses us in the flesh and with physical “things.” It’s not the focus, of course, but it is true that He does do that.

I have found that as I “count my blessings”, I find that He is really there for me. I’m not rolling in the dough, but much has been given to me. Not because I have earned it, but because He loves to bless.

I think one of the biggest keys to living in God’s blessings is to acknowledge those blessings. Before you close your day, stop and think of three things you are thankful for. Acknowledge them. There are many blessings we are unaware of because we experience them and then forget them. Make sure that when you are blessed to remember and give a thank You for it.

In a passage where Paul reminds us to be wise, he concludes with these words:

“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

Sounds like thankfulness is part of wisdom. And who wants to be dumb?

-Matt

The Kingdom of God I

The written word has many, many uses. On this blog, we mostly focus on the Love of God. That particular subject comes in many forms. One of them being teaching. Now I do not propose to be any kind of great teacher, and, usually, if I am teaching anything it is because God is teaching me something and I am simply passing it along. That, ultimately, is what the Crazy Amazing Love Books are based upon. It is also one of the reasons I do not charge for the books. Which, incidentally, the first manuscript for 31 Pieces of Joy is almost completed.

One of the great subjects of Christianity is the “Kingdom of God.” I felt led to explore this subject and realized it would likely take a number of blogs to do so. This is not he beginning of a book, so the coverage will be kind of brief. At least that is the plan for now.

The first place in scripture (NKJV) where we find the exact phrase “Kingdom of God” is in Matthew 6:33:

“But seek the Kingdom of God first and all these things will be added to you.”

The New Testament is the only Testament it is used as such. There are Old Testament references that we will likely get to eventually.

The concept of a “kingdom”, however, did not show up suddenly. In the Old Testament (OT), a kingdom was a very prevalent thing. Very common. It was not too much different than what we see as a kingdom now. Of course, the Children of Israel had one themselves. The people told the Judge/Prophet Samuel they wanted to be like other countries and have a king. So, God granted their request by placing Saul as their first king. Something they eventually regretted.

But we are trying to focus here on what the Kingdom of God is. A kingdom consists of many people in leadership. The proverbial buck stopping at the throne. The Kingdom of God is no different. God/Jesus sits upon the Throne and many layers of authority fall out from there. Yes, we are all the same in God’s eyes. But He does indeed place people in authority over us within the Kingdom. And we are foolish to assume otherwise.

As we go into this vast subject, we will explore a lot of areas. We’ll discuss how the Kingdom is, and has been around for a long time. How that it was declared to exist during the time of Christ and how it is even more so here now, and how we are and are not, a part of it.

The Kingdom has principles, methods, ways, mentalities, and structures. Kingdom members think differently. The King reigns supreme. Yet, He personally knows all of His subjects. Of course, that’s not what He calls us!

While we will explore many of the parallels to a physical kingdom, we will also gain understanding of the parts of God’s Kingdom that is not like the kingdoms here on Earth.

Okay? No guarantees on when these lesson/blogs will post. But this will be fun and enlightening!

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