Grace.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.” – John Newton

“[T]he greatest and best man in the world must say, By the grace of God I am what I am; but God says absolutely – and it is more than any creature, man or angel, can say – I am that I am.” – Matthew Henry

I became a Christian at age 6, responding to an invitation to give my life to the One who died for me at a Billy Graham crusade. I had grown up in a Christian home, with my dad serving as a pastor of small Baptist churches. Grace was clearly explained to me, and when I responded to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, I accepted His free gift of grace. Ashamedly, however, a few years later I had some unbiblical thoughts that until now I have not told anyone. I remember around the ages of 7 and 8 thinking, “I am probably God’s favorite person.” “I must have done something good for Him to save me.” It’s no surprise then that I took pride in my goodness, lived as if I was somehow perfect and looked down on others who I thought were not. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I truly grasped that I was a sinner and that any goodness in me was not because of me but because of Christ working in me.

Has that ever happened to you? Maybe not at first. Maybe you accepted Christ later in life and your life before was such a wreck that you never lost sight of the fact that any goodness in you was God’s grace at work in your life. But as time passed you no longer thought that grace was enough. You needed to do more, become a better person on your own to remain in God’s grace.

I believe grace is a simple yet profound concept that takes only a second to accept but a lifetime to understand.

Grace acknowledges that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23). If we were perfect, completely good in our human nature, we would not need grace. To receive grace implies that grace needed to be given.

Although we confess and believe this, sometimes we struggle with being consistent in our interpretation of Scripture. How? I have seen this happen when interpreting and applying God’s choosing of Abraham, for example. People ask, why would God only choose Abraham and his descendants as “His chosen people?” Isn’t that unfair or biased of God? So we answer this question by pointing to things about Abraham that would make God choose him. If we can say Abraham was just a good guy, then God doesn’t come out as unfair and biased (so we think). We thus title sermons or lessons in this way, “The kind of man (or person) God uses,” or “The three qualities God values.” We preach a good man whom we can follow, which results in applications that are works-driven and manipulative (if I do this then God has to do this).

This is why Paul says to Jews in his day who believed this, “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Rom. 4:1-3) A few verses later Paul further clarifies that this righteousness was a “righteousness of faith.” Faith is a response to grace, to God calling people to Himself. So even faith isn’t something that one can boast about!

Grace is cheapened when we have the perspective that we deserved it. I’ve noticed that when we start trying to examine the qualities of Abraham that made him the person God chose, we end up with this idea that Abraham deserved to be chosen. The reason the concept of grace is so powerful is because we do not deserve it. When we realize there’s no reason, nothing good that we have done, that even one fault, one sin is enough to make us underserving of a relationship with God, then we see the act of God in Jesus Christ on the cross for what it truly is – the greatest act of love and grace.

God is not unfair or biased in grace. He was just by paying for sins upon the cross, by taking the penalty of death so that those who accept His grace have already had their sins paid. And it is because “the wrath of God was satisfied” that He offers grace to you and to me.

So let’s remember:

1. Any goodness we have is because of the grace of God! Do not mistake your goodness as something apart from God’s grace.

2. When you preach or teach about Abraham or anyone else God used in Scripture, preach that the person did not deserve to be chosen but was chosen because of God’s grace! What followed from grace was faith and good works, not the other way around. Be consistent and careful in your interpretation of Scripture.

3. Remember that God’s grace keeps you in His grace. Yes, grace results in worship, righteousness, good works, and praise, but good works does not keep you in God’s grace. His grace is big enough to carry you until that day when you meet Him who set you free.

Blogging again

It’s been two years since I blogged, well almost two and a half to be precise. Why the absence you ask? Well, if you want to read the shortened version, you can go here to my about page. For those of you who like the longer versions, here’s what I’ve been doing, why I am back and what I hope to do.

My last post was January 23, 2010, less than two months before I married Dr. Osvaldo Padilla (affectionately known as Ozzie). As you can expect, I was distracted and busy between working at my job, preparing for marriage and planning a wedding. We married on March 13, 2010, at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Vestavia Hills (a suburb of Birmingham). He is the love of my life, and he has already and will continue to add a lot to my ministry in his support, encouragement and biblical knowledge.

March 13, 2010

My dad performed our ceremony, which was held in the Conference Center at Shades. We were blessed to be surrounded by family and closest friends.

A little over a month later, I went full-time as a news writer at The Alabama Baptist. About a month later, we bought and moved into a home. About a month after that, we found out we were pregnant.

The whirlwind of an adventure had started. I was very sick my first trimester, while holding down a full-time job and trying to “make” a new home. I was better my second trimester, but by the third I was sick again. So for nine months, I worked, came home, and slept – at least it felt that way.

Philip Joshua Padilla was born on April 7, 2011. Perhaps I will post on his birth at a later time. Sixteen months later, I can safely say that how he acted in the womb was a pretty good indication to his personality outside the womb. Philip is active, stubborn, strong-willed, sweet, strong and smart. How did I know all these things in the womb, you might ask. A mother just knows. He has been a wonderful blessing and addition to our family.

Philip's birth

Philip was born just after midnight on April 7, 2011. We were thankful that he was a healthy baby.

It took me a while to adjust to having a baby and staying at home. Before Philip was born, I had told my boss that I would be leaving to become a stay at home mom. When Philip was about three months old, I took a part-time job at Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) with WorldCrafts. I needed something outside the house and we needed a little extra income. It was a great job to have while I was adjusting and transitioning. I finished the job in December 2011, ready to focus on pursuing the ministry to which I felt God had called me to many years ago – writing, teaching and speaking. I knew it was a leap of faith, but I was ready.

I soon had a contract to write my first Bible study for WMU’s mymissionfulfilled. It took a lot of prayer, focus and time, but I finally finished it in July. Around the same time, I was also given another writing project, this one for The Alabama Baptist – a research package on human trafficking due this fall.

God also opened another door for ministry at my church, to help girls who feel called to full-time ministry prepare for that call. I will post more on this later. So here I am, ready to continue serving God via this blog. As you may have noticed, if you followed me before, my blog has a new name and new look. I switched from blogger to wordpress because I thought wordpress would better serve my needs as I move forward. My domain name and name of the blog has changed to my name so that it might be easier to find and to recognize as people (hopefully) read and use the things I am blessed to publish.

The great thing about a blog is that I can post things quite frequently – and it’s free to read! My prayer, as in everything I do, is that God would be glorified and His church strengthened.

And I promise not to wait another two and half years before posting again…