Author: Jan Grace

As an ordained minister for over 30 years, I have pastored two churches and have spent time on staff as a worship leader. I have been married to Phyllis, the wife of my youth, for over 45 years and we live near Des Moines, Iowa. We have a son and daughter-in-law, along with 2 grand cats. My wife and I attend Lifehouse Community Church in Urbandale, Iowa. I've published 10 books, all available at jangrace.org

A Deceptive Spirit of Unity

I believe there’s a dangerously deceptive spirit of unity being advanced throughout the world. It’s not that I think unity is wrong. It’s even something God loves. He wants us to be kind and join with others for a common good, whether we see eye to eye with them or not. American, Chinese, European or any other nationality, it doesn’t matter. There’s much we can do together.

But there’s a difference between humanitarianism and humanism. As it was years ago at the Tower of Babel when mankind defied God and decided to do life completely contrary to God’s commands, so it is today. Of course, this is just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Society likes to boast about all man has accomplished. I applaud all the great and wonderful inventors and inventions of the past and present. I enjoy my home, vehicle, electronic devices, and life in general. I feel I’m a very blessed man, thanks in part, to those who had a vision and passion to do what others couldn’t do, and see things others didn’t see.

That’s all well and good.

The problem is, and here’s where the deception comes into play, mankind, no matter how united we become, cannot overcome our biggest flaw. We cannot think our way out of the spiritual dilemma we are in. We cannot become so unified we rid ourselves of our accountability to God. We will never find the perfect miracle drug to rid the world of physical death, either. The result of Adam’s original transgression can only be eradicated God’s way.

Whether or not one believes in original sin or God or the Bible, truth will never be overcome by deception. And no matter how wise man thinks he is, compared to the Fount of Wisdom, he is nothing. At best, the wisdom of man is foolishness to God.

The world is somewhat focused on the latest pandemic, and the unity rhetoric is in full swing. “Let’s join all our resources together and defeat this virus. We can outsmart this thing. We can do anything we set our mind to. We can because we are!”

I hope something is developed. I want to see the world get better and people all over the globe live in peace. I really do.

But until we truly humble ourselves before our Creator God and acknowledge we are nothing but frail pieces of flesh and bone without Him, the extent of our efforts will only prolong the inevitable. We’ll make a show of our abilities, we’ll praise and laud one another’s efforts, and shout into every microphone we can find. “We did it. We did it without God, faith, or prayer.” However, in spite of our best efforts, we’ll still come up short.

Mankind’s boasting doesn’t make them any smarter, nor does it help them rise to a higher plane of existence. Just the opposite. Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools.

Just ask ol’ Nimrod and his Babel buddies. When they were just on the verge of attaining their lofty goal, they found themselves totally filled with a spirit of confusion.

And without God that’s exactly where this world is headed.

Tough Times Aren’t Necessarily Bad Times

A well known Psalm, probably the best known of all the 150 Psalms, is the 23rd Psalm.

Here are the first three verses.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3 ESV

I share this for a couple of reasons. First, it’s very comforting for a person to remember the Lord is watching over them, as a shepherd watches over his sheep. 

Second, and my primary reason, is a truth about still waters. Still, quiet, waters during times such as the world is experiencing right now.

Tough times. Hard to deal with times. So many uncertainties. Multitudes of voices proclaiming contradictory messages. Economic crises, health issues, social restrictions…

Like I said, tough times.

But tough times, if I understand the scriptures, aren’t necessarily bad times.

Bad times, to me anyway, are times when nothing good happens. No redeeming quality can be seen during the time or afterwards. But it is not a bad time if something of eternal value can be accomplished in us, through us, or around us during the times we’re feeling overwhelmed.

On the other hand, tough times have more to do with some sort of change, inconvenience, disruption, disappointment, or trying to deal with things way beyond our ability to control.

Kind of like today. 

But what if we changed our outlook, and instead of bemoaning these tough times we began to embrace them? I mean, what if we took the down time most people are experiencing and ask ourselves a couple of “what if” questions?

Questions like, “What can I learn about myself during these crazy times?” “Since I can’t change my circumstance, how can I use this opportunity to better myself both spiritually and emotionally?”

Here’s where Psalm 23 comes in. 

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Notice, there seems to be a progression, or steps God takes in our lives, where He brings us from initially acknowledging the Lord as our Shepherd to where we can actually walk in His “paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.”

Jesus said it a different way.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:1,2,4 – 15:8 ESV

In this passage, Jesus calls Himself the true vine. The vine each of His “branches” are connected to. 

Now look what happens to each and every branch. Did you see it? They get pruned.

Cut. 

I’d call that a tough time, wouldn’t you?

Why the cutting? So each branch becomes as fruitful as it was created to be. To be the perfect expression of the vine. To be able to bring glory to the true vine.

Remember, the Father is glorified when we, the branches, bear much fruit.

Or, as David said, when we walk “in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.”

Tough times, times when we’re more or less forced to slow down (or maybe even shut down), can be part of the “pruning” process.

David told us the Lord made him to lie down in green pastures. No walking, no running in place, no activity. Next, there are still waters. I believe the picture he’s painting is that of a place to lie down right in front of the still waters.

Have you ever been next to a pond or lake early in the morning? Typically that’s the time when the water is the calmest.

Have you ever stood on the bank and looked into the water and seen your reflection? When the water is calm, or still, that’s when you can see what you truly look like. 

It’s kind of like looking into the mirror of God’s Word. (James 1)

Unless we see our true self, unless we acknowledge our true condition, accepting the image for what it truly is, we can never grow to become our best self. 

And the Father will not receive the glory due Him.

I realize tough times are, well, tough. But why not make this time count? Why not embrace this time as a God given opportunity? An opportunity to grow in His word, to learn to recognize His voice better, and an opportunity to set aside any sin or habit that may be holding you back from your God given destiny.

Tough times are times when we see what we’re truly made of. And if we’ll be honest with ourselves and God, we’ll then discover tough times lead into tremendously fruitful times. 

And that’s good.

A Prayer For Our Leaders

Father God, in the Name of Jesus, I give you thanks and praise for those you’ve placed in authority throughout this great land.


I pray, first of all, for the President and all of his cabinet and advisors, for all senators and representatives, governors, and law enforcement. Any person who has a position of authority. Give to them wisdom and discernment so they will know how to lead this nation in a godly and dignified way. May they be surrounded by men and women who love you and your kingdom. May they hear your voice and have the courage to always do the right thing, regardless.


Protect them from any physical, mental, or spiritual attack. Let every weapon formed against them be squashed. May each lie spoken in secret be exposed and let truth prevail.


Father, give to our leaders the ability to lead in a righteous manner. May the spirit of wisdom and revelation fill their hearts and minds. Influence and inspire them today, and may they know their labor is not in vain. Anoint their thoughts with your peace, and may they rise above the opinions, accusations, and threats of any enemy, both foreign and domestic, to govern in a way that pleases you.


I pray for unity among our leaders. Not so much that they’d agree with each other on every issue, but rather set aside their personal opinions and ambitions for the greater good. That you would be glorified throughout the land.


As in the days of old, when Jonah preached to the great city of Nineveh and the king of the land led the nation in true repentance to God, may it be so today throughout this great nation. May the spirit of repentance and supplication prevail in the land.


And may this be a time like no other in history, a time of revival and great deliverance.


Lord, heal our land.


I pray also for all those in spiritual authority. May they have your heart as their closest advisor, and may they also have close companions that will love them and help watch over them in truth and love.


Keep them from the evil one. May discouragement be far from them and remind them often their labor is not in vain.


Help them to lead your church with wisdom from on high and divine insight. Open your word to each person who is called to preach. Raise up warriors who will stand in the face of adversity and opposition to boldly proclaim your will.


Anoint, O God, mighty prophets who will discern the signs of the times and bring clarity to the chaos that’s running amok.


You have invited us, saint and sinner alike, to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Well, this land needs mercy and grace.


Thank you for hearing my cry.


1 Timothy 2:1-4; Romans 13:1-5; Ephesians 1:17-21; Ephesians 3:15-19; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:3-4; Proverbs 24:3-4; Nehemiah 1

I Could’ve Quit Too Soon

It’s been 26 years since I almost quit too soon. I thought about that today while driving to an out of town ministry opportunity. It’s been 26 years since I contemplated driving my van into a telephone pole at 70 miles an hour.

Really, you say? Why would someone like me ever think of taking your life?

Because I thought my life was ruined. And it was all my fault.

You see, due to my sins, my addictions, my secret life, I had thrown away my marriage of 21 years, my son who was 14 at the time and long time friends. I’d also been removed from the church my wife and I had pioneered and pastored for 10 years.

I almost quit too soon.

Since that day my marriage, family, friends and ministry have been restored. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t something that took place overnight; but it happened. And I’ve lived to see some incredible things take place; things I would have missed if I had quit too soon.

I remember talking with my counselor during this terrible time. I had told him what I had been thinking while driving in the country on old highway 6. He got right in my face (something he did quite often those days) and reminded me that even though I had lost my “ministry”, and probably was going to lose my wife, I still had a responsibility to be a dad to our son, and a person God could depend on.

At that point I couldn’t see how anyone, including God, would want anything to do with a jerk like myself.

But I didn’t quit because God and others wouldn’t let me quit.

They kept reminding me of God’s truth.

Truth such as, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV) 

And, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29 ESV)

Eventually I began to see a glimmer of hope. God was doing miracles in my life. He was restoring my life and bringing His glory into view. Beyond my wildest dreams, He was showing Himself as more than enough for every part of my life.

Including all my failures.

Like I said before, I almost quit too soon.

Too soon to see my marriage restored. Too soon to see my son graduate from high school, eventually marry a wonderful woman, and just 11 months ago have a beautiful son. 

Wow. I could’ve quit before all of that.

But thank God I didn’t.

How about you? Has life become such a burden you feel you can’t take any more? Is your life out of control and you think you’ve hurt too many people? Do you see suicide as the best solution?

Don’t quit too soon.

There is more to living than what you’re experiencing at this moment. There is help available, though you may not see it yet.

And some day, like me, you will look back on this tough thing you’re engulfed in, give a sigh of relief and say…

“I could’ve quit too soon.”

Scared!

Are you scared?

Scared to look outside?

Inside?

Scared to live? To die?

Scared of what you’re seeing, hearing…scared of never seeing or hearing anything at all?

Are you scared?

Living is impossible for those who are scared… dying is unthinkable, unimaginable…

Are you scared of all the uncertainties in your mind, your heart?

What if your choices are wrong?

What if your actions are on display to some higher power?

What if there’s a truth you’ve never embraced?

What if you never hear of it?

And what if you hear it but either ignore or reject it?

Does that scare you?

Do you want to do more than you’re doing, love more than you’re loving, and risk more than you’re risking?

What if you fail at everything good, but succeed at everything bad?

What if…just what if you could be free of all your fears? Of being scared?

You can…

To those who’ve been scared, whether a little or a lot, the Eternal One, the Creator of all, Truth Himself declares:

“Though your troubles are bigger than life, and you feel there’s no reason to live but are afraid to die, you do not need to live this way any longer.

“Fear needn’t control your life because perfect love casts out fear…and I am Perfect Love.

“I am with you in your troubles, your heartaches, your times of doubting, your seasons of grief. I will bring you joy in sorrow, peace in chaos, hope in despair.

“I’m as close as you’ll allow me to be.

“I have faced all of your fears; everything that causes you to be scared I have overcome.

“I faced them all on Golgatha’s hill.

“I was wounded for your transgressions, your fears, your life.

“I did it all for you, so you could truly live, without fear or shame, forever…

“With Me.

“Scared? Call upon Me and watch Me deliver you from all your fears.”

“I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4 NKJV)

“For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.“ (Romans 10:13 NKJV)

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18 NKJV)

The Leech

I went fishing recently and for the first time ever I used leeches for bait.

Fifty plus years of fishing and finally I became a man: I touched a leech.

Gross.

However, they were what the fish wanted for breakfast so they worked well.

I couldn’t help but think about leeches, comparing them to some people I’ve known through the years.

Which brought my thoughts to this scripture:

“A leech has twin daughters named “Gimme” and “Gimme more.” (Proverbs 30:15 MSG)

I wondered for a long time about the above verse, you know the part about the twin daughters. But after handling them all day I decided to do a little research.  I discovered leeches have two mouths!

Incredible!

Which really made me think of some people.

Leeches. Takers. Sucking the very life out of the thing they attach themselves to. They don’t have anything to give. They hang around (and on) for one purpose. They want to take all they can and then, once they have their fill, fall off and go away.

Just the opposite of how we were created by God to act.

God is a giver, an extremely generous giver. And every child of God, every new creation in Christ, has that same generous spirit residing in their spirit. In fact, we must go against our new nature to be selfish and self centered.

How generous are you? Does God have your wallet as well as you heart? Does He have the last word on what you do with your life; how you use your time, treasure, and talents?

Can He whisper to your heart, “Give such and such to so and so”, and you promptly obey? Or does He have to pry each of your fingers away from your possessions before you’ll ever consider giving your stuff away?

Are you a taker or a giver?

Are you a leech?

“The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” (Proverbs 11:24 – 11:25 MSG)

“Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back – given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” (Luke 6:37 MSG)

Leeches are good for fish bait. But God has a much better life for those who are givers, and not takers.

“Generosity begets generosity…”

And stinginess leads to death.

Engage the Gift

Lately I have been in a funk, giving excuse after excuse for why I’ve neglected so many important things.

Of course, the excuses seemed valid and I really was busy. New job, new help, etc.

But the truth is I had set aside one of the most important things my life.

The Gift.

What do I mean when I say “The Gift”?

I mean that special something, that calling if you will, that a person receives from God (yes, and He has something for everyone on this planet) to share with those around them.

So what have I been neglecting? Mainly writing, though there’s much more to it than just sitting down and writing four or five hundred words. I’ve neglected the whole seeking God part which has affected my desire to engage the gift.

But that is coming to a screeching halt!

Since the gifts and callings of God don’t change, and He doesn’t take back what He once gave, it’s up to me to engage the gift.

And because He expects me to use what He has given, I must write.

Or be found guilty of neglecting something so precious as a gift handpicked by God for me.

Okay, enough about me. What about you?

Don’t say you’re too busy. That dog won’t hunt.

Don’t say you’ve never received a gift from God; you may not have realized what it is but it’s there, nonetheless.

When I started getting quiet (stopped filling my time with work and play) and began to let God’s voice become clear in my spirit, the next step became obvious-engage the gift.

I believe the same will be true for you.

Whatever gift you have, if not stirred up and used as God designed, will eventually become weak and invisible. And others will possibly miss out on something no one should ever be deprived of-that special touch from God because you were obedient in stirring up the gift.

So what do you say? Have you received a gift from God, say, the gift of comfort? Then use what you’ve received to comfort others.

Have you received the gift of hospitality? Well? Then quit trying to be a loner.

Don’t neglect the gift.

Engage the gift. You, God, and people around you will be glad you did.

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:8 – 4:11 ESV)

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6 – 12:8 ESV)

Thanks for reading. I’d like to hear your thoughts about your gift (s) and how you’re using them. Please respond  in the comments section.

Right Around The Corner

Life is funny at times. So unpredictable, with sudden attacks which seem to come out of nowhere.

You’re walking through life, minding your own business, when all of a sudden you turn a corner and come face to face with a life altering experience.

Right around the corner, completely unexpected, something or someone hits you upside your head and knocks you for a loop.

Know what I mean?

Here’s a truth we must know and embrace; right around the corner (unseen at the present time) lurks the potential for a life changing experience.

That’s why we must live prepared for anything.

How is it possible?

Look at Jesus’ example.

“And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able. ” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me. ” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. ” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes. ” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again. ” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead. ” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer. ““ (Mark 9:14-29 ESV)

Some versions add “and fasting.”

Jesus had just been on the mountain with three of His disciples. The other nine were hanging out waiting for Him to return. I’m not sure what they were supposed to be doing, but apparently they weren’t prepared for what was right around the corner.

They had been given authority to cast out demons (Mark 6). They had experienced the power and authority they had in Jesus’ Name.

But they weren’t prepared. They failed when life appeared right before their eyes.

Which is why they asked Jesus, “Why didn’t it work this time?”

The answer Jesus gave wasn’t a formula only for casting out demons. He was sharing with them a foundational principle.

“This is how you prepare for things right around the corner.”

How?

By staying close to the Father through regular prayer, worship, reading and studying God’s Word.

Jesus didn’t ask the boy’s father to wait three days while He fasted and prayed. No, He lived prepared, ready to face any emergency, by continually staying in fellowship with His Father.

After all, His Father (and yours) knows what is lurking right around the corner.

Amen.

An Undivided Heart

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 ESV)

A simple, powerful prayer of King David, after he had committed adultery and murder.

Of course, none of us are so wicked or evil as David was. Right?

Well…

Anyway, this verse has been on my heart lately. Especially the “renew a right spirit” part.

I probably should remind you, even though the Psalm was written by King David, it was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

It was inspired so you and I could benefit from the same power, grace, and mercy King David received from the Lord.

It was inspired, i.e. the Holy Spirit gave David the words to write and sing, so generations to follow could be victorious over the wiles of the evil one.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Okay, back to David’s prayer in Psalm 51.

“Create in me a clean heart…” A clean heart is the pure, undefiled, and untainted center of our being. Our very mind, will, emotions. The seat of our affections.

David knew without purity he’d never be able to withstand the onslaught of ungodly influences coming at him every day.

Nor can we.

And the only way our heart can become truly clean is through the work accomplished by God in the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

David looked ahead in time, by faith, and trusted in God’s promised work. We can look back and have faith in God’s accomplished work.

Faith for a clean heart.

The rest of Psalm 51:10 says, “and renew a right spirit within me.” The word, “renew”, means “to repair” or “rebuild”. The idea of reconstructing something that had, in some way, been broken, busted, or demolished seems to be the thought.

It’s very hard to walk victoriously, in faith with God, when you can’t catch your breath. “Spirit”, used in this passage, is from the Hebrew word “ruach” which means, among other things, “breath”. Though, as it’s used throughout the Old Testament, it can mean the innermost part of a person.

So David prayed, “rebuild, repair, and reconstruct a right (meaning fixed, established, single, steadfast, prepared, settled, and arranged) spirit with me.”

In other words, “Lord, please do something new in me. Help keep my innermost being wholly fixed on Your Kingdom, Your plans and purposes, Your way of doing things, and not my own selfish pursuits. Help my spirit, my heart, be undivided where You are concerned. Settle my heart in righteousness and true holiness, that You alone may receive the glory due You.”

At least that’s the way I’m seeing it.

And praying it.

How about you?

Valentine’s Day Hypocrite

Christmas aside, I believe we’re coming up on the most hypocritical day of the year.

Valentine’s Day.

A day when billions of dollars are spent on flowers, cards, candy, nice restaurants, movies, champagne, hotel rooms, etc…

All just to say “I love you”, and, “You’re very special to me.”

Am I advocating that everyone just forget the tradition and go about their evening with hotdogs and stale candy bars?

Nope. But I am saying that it’s hypocritical to act like you’re all lovey dovey on February 14th, when the rest of the year you’re a selfish jerk (or jerkette).

I learned something a good while ago, and here it is: flowers, candy, special notes, and the like will not automatically erase random acts of meanness.

Not sure what a hypocrite is?

Hypocrite is defined as a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.

So a Valentine’s Day Hypocrite is a person who says all the nice things on the 14th but is selfish the rest of the year.

True love is best described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and John 15:13.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4 – 13:8 ESV)

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 ESV)

I especially like the part that says, “Love never ends.” I take it to mean, “Love can’t be stopped.”

Regardless of the pressures, trials and struggles that every marriage faces at one time or another, those who choose to really love (and express that love by being kind to each other and putting their spouse above themselves) will have the sweetest, most rewarding life throughout the year.

And their love CAN’T be stopped!

Hypocrites always have to wonder if their box of candy will “doing the trick”.

Those who’ve decided to love all year long will find even a stale candy bar tastes great.

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