Tag Archives: Grace

Saving Grace… for Later

My pastor recently introduced me to the S.O.A.P. Bible study method and, as I’m enjoying it quite a bit, I thought I’d share some of what the Lord’s been teaching me. Hope you enjoy!

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Scripture

Titus 2:11-12

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”

Observe

God’s grace is what enables us to deny ungodliness. It just ‘appeared’; He chose to give it freely and not in response to anything we’ve done. It’s all Him. He is the one who gives us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure. We can’t do anything in our own strength, we can’t even want to follow Him without Him putting that desire into our hearts first.

Application

I don’t rely on God’s grace. I don’t fall back on it, or revel in it, or seek more of it. Deep down, I feel like His grace is too basic, like it’s only for new believers, baby-Christians. It’s sort of the starter kit, something to get us headed off in the right direction. So I would have to back-slide pretty far to need grace. After all, I’ve been a Christian all my life. I’ve read the Bible all the way through, several times. I don’t need to go back to milky doctrines like grace. I only need it if I fail, so I’m going to try to get along without it. Plus, what if, heaven forbid, I really did need it one day and I’d used up my limited supply? What if I become dependent on it and the source runs out on me?!
Oh. Brother. Grace is the central doctrine to the Christian faith and none of us will ever get to the place where we no longer need it, least of all me. Grace isn’t the like training wheels on a bike; it’s the main wheels, and the bike frame, and the peddles, and the handle-bar… and the helmet… and the ground… and gravity… and…. You get the picture.

How sad that instead of enjoying one of, if not the greatest (*insert theological semantics here*), gifts I have or ever will receive, I try to keep it stored away for a really rainy day and get along without it. Trying to live a victorious Christian life without grace is like trying to run a marathon while holding your breath: it’s just not going to happen.

Prayer

Father, please forgive me for my pride and faithlessness. I don’t want to need Your grace in case one day You decide to withhold it. I want to be my own ‘Plan B.’ Please forgive me and please give me the faith to trust in – to revel in – Your amazing grace. Help me to accept this gift and let it work in my heart, so that I can deny worldliness and sin. Please let your grace tear down my idols of self-reliance and flood in to replace them. In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

Do you enjoy grace or are you trying to take the ‘training wheels’ off?

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Good Gifts

 

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I think that sometimes people can have a misconception of the term ‘good gifts’ as used in the Bible. When we look at what society terms ‘the good life’ and look at the lives that many Christians lead, there can be cause for some confusion.

I’m reading through Isaiah right now and right in the midst of all the terrifying prophesies of doom and destruction, I came across Is.30:18a:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.

It is such a beautiful reminder of God’s infinitely gracious heart. Even though His children have rebelled against Him time after time and refused to repent, He still longs to forgive them and show them His mercy and goodness.

A major aspect of the Gospel message is that God is offering forgiveness; an escape from judgment and assurance of heaven.

But I think a commonly held opinion here on earth is that if we repent and start living ‘good Christian lives,’ then God is obliged to stop ‘punishing’ us and start ‘rewarding’ us in the here and now. What we can fail to realize is that God is reward enough.

Verses like this one can be misconstrued to mean that God wants to give us prosperity here on earth. And while that is certainly true at times (I am by no means trying to deliver a ‘vow of poverty’ message), those earthly rewards should not be the be all and end all.

God loves us and will give us what He knows is best for us. Like a father refusing his child a cookie before dinner, God will not give us things that will harm us, draw us away from Him, or work contrary to His kingdom plans.

The beautiful thing about God is that He is all sufficient. The grace and compassion He offers us is so far and away more than we could ever need or ask for and is so inexhaustible. God really is enough.

All the shinies here are on earth that seem just out of reach to us can lead us to the very wrong, yet still hurtful, conclusion that God is holding out on us. We start to think that He must be punishing us for a sin, or even be taking things away out of cruelty. The end result is that we are left feeling beaten up and poorly cared for.

But God wants to satisfy us. He wants us to find our all-in-all in Him. He desires – even commands – that we live lives full of peace and joy and love. God wants you to be happy but He wants you to find that happiness in Him. Because the world does not satisfy, and it’s weak version of happiness has no staying power.True contentment can only be found in the love of Jesus.

Today, as I look around me, it’s easy to begin compiling a mental ‘wish list’ that I could start praying for. The list can become long and overwhelming very quickly, and I’m often left feeling alone and neglected. Sound familiar?

I want to start focusing more on the Giver than on His gifts. The blessing God offers me of just being His child is more than enough to sustain my short life on earth, regardless of trials and tribulations. The fact that the Almighty Creator of the Universe longs for me to call Him Daddy is all the blessing and gift I could ever need.


Will the Real Victims Please Stand Up

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There’s a word that’s popping up a lot lately, especially in church. It often prompts controversial discussion, leaving most people feeling angry and/or scared.

That word? ‘Rights.’ Particularly ‘Christian,’ ‘religious,’ and ‘American’ rights.

It can’t be denied that the political climate of our country is changing and that freedoms we once enjoyed are being threatened. In reaction to this, the church has become a political force and Christians everywhere are being urged to stand up and defend their rights.

Trouble is, I honestly don’t see anything in the Scriptures about fighting for our rights. In fact, in 1 Peter 2:17, I found what seems to me to be the direct opposite:

‘Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.’

That doesn’t sound very much like the current Christian agenda. But, we are living in a different culture with different sins. Surly, if Peter were to see our president today, he wouldn’t tell us to honor a man who is so clearly against our Christian values. Right?

Only, Peter wrote this letter to the Roman provinces in Asia. And the king at that time? Nero.

And I looked into it, the word honor as used here in the Greek basically means honor. Does that mean we obey the laws of the land if that requires disobeying the laws of God? Of course not. Does that mean we stop gossiping and complaining about the government and pray for them instead…?

If honoring a king you don’t agree with is hard, how much more so people whom you interact with every day. ‘Honor all people.’ Well, it does say all. Does that mean that we defend actions that are clearly sinful according to God’s definition? Of course not. Does it mean we stop trying to save people in our own strength by manipulating them into repentance and simply share the Gospel with them instead…?

We’ve lost ourselves to a screaming match with culture.  Social media is lifting up sin as heroic and empowering while the church is condemning its practitioners to the pits of hell. Meanwhile, what we’re failing to realize is that we are fighting the wounded.

When did we get so caught up in ‘rights’ that we forgot to preach the Gospel? When did we forget that we laid down our rights to fair treatment at the foot of the cross?

Christ died to take our rights away from us, because our inalienable birthright is eternal punishment for our sins.

Do we really want to fight for our rights, for what we deserve?

But then, what about defending the Scriptures, and God’s laws? I read an article recently that said we have to defend the sanctity of marriage from the government because it’s a God-ordained institution. The implication here being that the Supreme Court’s decision supersedes God’s opinion, that if the Federal Government of America calls it a marriage, then God is forced to acknowledge it as such. That’s just silly.

We defend the Scriptures by living by them and by allowing God to exhibit His glory and love in our lives. We need to be wary of distractions; Jesus didn’t get mixed up in politics, nor did the apostles. Instead, the early church did what it was mandated to do: spread the Gospel.

By doing that, they turned the world upside down.

That’s all we have to do. Instead, we Christians are playing the persecution card, cloaking ourselves in victim-hood. But we are the ones with full access to God. We are the ones who have tasted of His love and forgiveness. We are the ones looking forward to eternity in paradise with Him.

We aren’t the victims. The people we’re fighting are. That makes us the bullies.

We are so eager to save a dying world for God that we condemn the homosexual, conveniently forgetting that he’s the one who isn’t enjoying God’s best for his life. We shout hate at the pregnant teenager as if killing her unborn child won’t scar her for life. We gossip about and pray against politicians who’ve traded their morality for the perception of power.

That can’t be right. They are the ones who are truly suffering in their sins. They’re the ones who will be hurt by their choices. Why are we offended? Why are we hurt? Why are we fighting for our rights? And most importantly, why aren’t we loving these people instead?

Let’s bring the focus away from political agendas and back to Jesus and His saving power, instead of trying to save people our way. Instead of defending our rights, let’s defend the Gospel with our lives by displaying it in our lives and show a dying world what the Savior can do.


My Daddy’s Throne

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Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Heb. 4:16

I don’t know about you, but I can’t ever read past this verse. It stops me in my tracks every time. I get to that point in the page and my jaw dust drops, I shake my head, and I try one more time to wrap my mind around it.

In the movie Anna and the King, there’s a scene where the king is sitting on his throne, granting audience to his subjects. There are rules and regulations to be obeyed in the throne room. For example, no one’s head is permitted to be higher than the king’s. Disobedience to these rules could result in execution, so they are followed faithfully by the subjects kneeling at the king’s feet.

Then, in the middle of all the pomp and circumstance, the king’s little daughter comes running in, completely heedless of the rituals and expectations. She rushes past all the bowing and the fawning, climbs right up the throne’s steps, and whispers in her daddy’s ear. She needs her daddy and knows that as his favorite, as his princess, she can approach him boldly. Sure enough, he sweeps her up in his arms and leaves everything to solve her problem.

I love this scene. It’s a beautiful picture of the grace God has extended to each of us. We are His favorite ones and He has allowed us the privilege of unrestricted access to Him. Whenever we need our Daddy, we can go to Him.

As I read this verse and this scene flashed through my mind, I was literally brought to my knees by the thought of how unworthy I am. I was simply awed that He should show me grace.

Then, as is often helpful to do, I took myself out of the equation and rethought it:

That He should show grace.

It blows my mind. See, we were created to glorify God; we exist to exalt Him. But He doesn’t need to show mercy to show His greatness. He didn’t even have to give us a concept of mercy.

Mercy requires holiness because there has to be a standard, a comparison to mercy. But holiness doesn’t require mercy.

In the movie, the king was considered great simply because he was the king. He had been born to rule the people and their respect and reverence for him was part of his birthright.

As creator of the universe, God is glorious because He is God, not because He is merciful (though His mercy certainly is glorious). He could have chosen to bring us to our knees before Him out of fear and awe alone.

Instead, He has chosen to reveal His glory in our lives through kindness. He uses mercy and grace to show His greatness when He could just use might and wrath.     

Why would He do that? Why would He even choose to create love and mercy and grace?

And how could I possibly use those gifts, use that privilege, to enter into His courts with anything other than thanksgiving?

I shudder to think of all the times I’ve come before Him with a selfish and greedy heart, self-justified and set on having my way, stomping my foot at Him as if He owed me. Where did I ever find the gall to behave like that?

And still, He chooses to glorify Himself in my life, to show Himself kind and faithful in my circumstances.

I don’t know why. I can’t even make it to the why, not when I’m so enamored by the fact that He does.

As I said, the realization that God’s love for me is His choice, not my right, brought me to my knees. Then that same love pulled me into His lap.

I know there will still be days when I bring complaints and arguments before my King instead of the praise He’s due. But by His grace, I pray to be more mindful in the future of what an unfathomable honor it is to come boldly before His throne.


The Solution to Envy

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I’ve received such exciting news: I’m going to be an aunt! Again! Yippee!! =D

My little brother and his beautiful bride are expecting their first baby in December (a baby girl to be named after me. Or at least, she would be named after me if my name were the name they’d actually chosen.)

I’m so excited for them =D

And I’m so proud of my brother. He’s joined the Air Force, is working hard at fighting fires, is planning a career in paramedics, married the love of his life, just bought his first house, and now he’s a father. Wow, what a year he’s had!

But there’s a teensy problem, an ugly truth: I’m kind of, a little bit, sorta… jealous. Of course I love my brother and of course I’m happy for him… but, a new house? A beautiful baby? I’ve been asking God for those for a long time. Not to mention, I had to wait six years longer than he did for a Godly spouse.

So, yeah, I’ve had to battle some jealously. But honestly, that’s nothing new for me. Because when I went to the baseball game the other night, I counted six smiling, pregnant women. And when I was watching house-hunting shows on TV, I saw people buying some lovely homes. And when I went to the bookstore, I saw rows and rows of published authors who are reaching millions of people with their messages.

Through all of it, my human, little heart has been whimpering, “Why them and not me, Lord?”

We’ve all asked that question, haven’t we? Maybe you only ask it every now and then, but for me… well, I’ve indulged and now I host a pity-party on a near daily basis.

The worst part is that envy is isolating: Jealousy will make you feel that you are the only one on the planet whose dreams aren’t coming true. The only woman who isn’t pregnant, the only 30-something year old who doesn’t own a house, the only girl at the Bible study who doesn’t have a boyfriend, the only husband whose wife doesn’t respect him, the only employee who was passed over for a promotion, etc.

And that’s when the enemy really strikes. All of a sudden, the lie hits and hits hard: “It’s not fair; they got more than me.”

But that is a lie, and here’s how I know. A few days ago, I read Heb. 13:5:

‘Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”’

Whenever I’m trying to claw my way out of the envy pit, I use more comparisons: I think of people who have it worse than I do, or I think about the problems the people I’m envying have. I don’t think about how much I have in knowing and being known by Jesus. That’s why this verse hit me so hard.

I realized, Jesus really is all that matters, in this world and the next. In the end, it’s all about Him.

I know, we all learned this on day one of Sunday school, but here’s my point: if it’s all about Jesus, then there is no reason to be jealous. Everything is equal, everything is fair, no one got more, no one got less.

Why?

Because you can have as much Jesus as you want.

God is not a respecter of persons and, while He has different paths for each of us with different blessings and challenges, He’s given us each the same Holy Spirit. He sent the same Jesus to die for our sins. We each have the same level of access to the Father, to the creator of Heaven and Earth.

What more do we need?

One of the most popular verses in connection to jealously is Jesus’ rebuke to Peter in John 21:22;

‘Jesus said to him,… “what is that to you? You follow Me!”’

I believe there are two ways to take Jesus’ words here. The first (the way I’ve always understood it) is as a rebuke, a reminder of Who’s in charge. But I think the second interpretation is a reminder of the privilege we’ve all been given.

We are the adopted children of God. We get to sit as His table, stand before His throne. We get to follow Jesus.

He lets us follow Him.

So what’s it to us if others get things we too would like? We’re following Jesus. The Son of God Who died for our sins, Who loved us before we were even conceived, Who breathed out the stars so we wouldn’t have to be afraid of the dark, Who counts our footsteps and catches our tears. That Jesus.

He’s letting us follow Him.

How does that reality not consume our thoughts until there’s no room left for jealousy?

I believe it can if we let it, if we fight for it. I believe Jesus wants that reality – the reality of our inheritance as His coheirs – to overwhelm us and change us and satisfy us. I believe He wants us to sing to Him of our contentment.

So I’m redirecting my focus and my praise. I’m God’s daughter, everything else is just sprinkles.

And sweetheart brothers with beautiful new baby girls are some of the most wonderful sprinkles there are =)


Earning Grace

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A little while ago, I wrote about the trouble I have accepting love. One point I didn’t really touch on was accepting grace. When I refer to grace, I mean the unmerited favor of God. Keyword: ‘unmerited.’

It scares me that I didn’t earn grace. If I had, then I would be able to sit here, secure in the knowledge that I had brought something to pass and therefore have control over it. It’s difficult to explain how my mind works (even to myself) but basically, I feel like if I had earned grace, then I would have control over maintaining possession of it.

As it is, grace was a free gift to me. It is mine to keep but I’m left feeling like there’s some other secret half of a contract I have to fulfill. It makes no sense in my mind that I (of all people) would have received such an unfathomable gift for free. So my human reasoning has informed me that I did, in fact, do something to earn it.

But rather that fulfilling my end of some bargain, I feel like God must have seen something good in me and the grace He gave me is more like an investment. The danger with this conclusion is the understanding that if I don’t live up to expectations then the grace will be withdrawn.

This thought pattern is a lie from satan, and I don’t think mine is the only ear he’s whispering it in. The entire concept of modern day ‘religion’ is based on the notion that we have to perform set standards in order to keep our grace. If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, He will naturally develop fruit in your life. But this fruit is not good enough for most of us; we need to feel we have produced something in our own power.

The Galatians had a similar problem and Paul had some choice words to say about it. In Gal.2:21 he writes,

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

He goes on to say,

“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by obeying the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?… Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Gal. 3:2-3,5)

Very clearly, grace is a free gift, one wielded by faith, not by works. It must, because there is no way in our human capacity that we could ever follow the law to the extent that we earn our own righteousness.

That is why Gen. 15:6 says, “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”

“But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Gal.4:9)

The answer to the second question is, ‘Yes! I do!’ I feel more secure in my enslavement because there I have the illusion of control. If I’m a slave then it is by my own power that I am saved, or so my deceitful heart tells me.

I know I’ve said it before but I’m finding more and more of my problems run back to the same core issue: I need to trust Jesus. It’s scary relying on Him to continue to give me un-earned grace. It’s scary to feel like the power and control are in His hands rather than mine.

But it doesn’t matter how scary it is, it remains a solid fact that I cannot change. The only thing that’s good in me is Jesus. And I rely on Him completely. I cannot take my next breath without Him. I have no grace without Him. There is no love apart from Him.  Therefore, what other option do I have but to trust Him?

Gal.4:6 reassures that,

“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

The name ‘Abba’ most closely matches our word for ‘daddy.’ Thinking I can reach God in my own strength is a dangerous notion that has fed my actions for far too long. It is a fantasy, one that is hindering my relationship with my Daddy. I’m claiming the truth that I can do nothing to earn grace and that I can trust my Daddy for an unending supply of it.


Laughs for a Friday

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Congratulations everyone! It’s Friday! We’re nearly there! To commemorate this special occasion, I’ve decided to try my hand at a humorous post and share a few jokes with you:

A man dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates and says, ‘Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.’
‘Okay,’ the man says, ‘I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.’
‘That’s wonderful,’ says St. Peter, ‘that’s worth two points!’
‘Two points?!’ he says. ‘Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.’
‘Terrific!’ says St. Peter. ‘That’s certainly worth a point.’
‘One point!?!! I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.’
‘Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,’ he says.
‘Two points!?!!’ Exasperated, the man cries. ‘At this rate the only way I’ll get into heaven is by the grace of God!’
‘Bingo! 100 points! Come on in!’

I thought that was great when I heard it because it is so true. So often we fall into the mindset that we have to earn our salvation when there is no way we possibly can. Only through God’s grace and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross can we hope to enter into eternal life.

Here’s another one:

In the wake of a bad storm, a small town experiences major flooding and the townspeople are evacuated. One man, however, instead of leaving, climbs onto the roof of his house, sits down, and waits. After a few minutes, a neighbor comes by on his boat and urges the man to climb on and escape to safety.

“No thank you,” the man says. “God will save me.”

So the neighbor sails away. Time passes and the flood waters rise. A rescue boat soon notices the man on his roof and immediately speeds towards him. The rescue worker orders the man into the boat.

“No thank you,” the man says. “God will save me.”

After a few more efforts to convince the man to leave with him, the rescue worker leaves to search for other flood victims. More time passes and the water rises so high that the man is forced to stand up. Just then, a helicopter appears over head and a man with a megaphone informs the man on the roof that they are sending someone down on a rope to rescue him.

“No thank you,” the man shouts to the helicopter. “God will save me.”

Unable to persuade him to accept their help, the helicopter leaves. It takes only a few more minutes for the water to rise above the man’s head. He is soon swept away in the flood waters and drowns.

When he gets to heaven, he sees God and asks him, “What happened?! Why didn’t You save me?!”

The Lord replies, “What do you mean? I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

Another truth. Sometimes we can get so set in our heads on the exact way we think God is going to act in our lives that we miss the work He is actually doing. I usually have a nice little plan in mind for how I want things to work and if things are not going according to plan, then I get confused and wonder where God is. I soon discover that He is right there, working in my life in ways I didn’t expect. I run the risk of missing His displays of power and love for me when I demand that He work only in the ways I think are best.

And here’s one more;

A little boy walked around the corner, tripped over a towel, and tumbled head over heels down the stairs. Thankfully, at just that moment, his father crossed in front of the bottom of the stairs and was able to catch his son. The boy was justifiably shaken, but suffered no real harm.

“Aren’t you glad God had me here to catch you?” his father asked him.

In tears, the boy replies, “Why didn’t He just move the towel?!”

That one is actually a quote from the son of my church’s music pastor. I love kids; they ask such thought provoking questions.

I hope one of those made you smile and I pray you have a blessed weekend!

What’s your favorite joke?


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