Grace Stoppers

   

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-23‬ HCSB)

      For the last six weeks, a friend and I have been studying the fruit of the Spirit together. We began with an overview of the Book of Galatians and a few a couple of weeks began to study each of the listed fruit, one per week. This weeks fruit: Patience; oh yes,I heard those groans! If only I had a dollar for everyone who has ever told me “Don’t pray for patience; you’ll get it, but it won’t be fun or pretty in the meantime.”! I would be sitting somewhere warm on a sunny beach enjoying the roar of the ocean and the sun beating down on my face as I write instead of looking out at glistening trees, a cold but gentle wind blowing, and a misty rain gently watering them. Oh how I miss the warm sunshine! 

      Hopefully that provided a little recovery time from the shock of that much dreaded word, patience. We are learning through studying this particular fruit that there are two types of patience mentioned in the New Testament. One is patience through circumstances and the other is patience with people. Patience with people is the type of peace referred to in the fruit of the Spirit. Interestingly, though we are studying this fruit, we first tackled the patience with circumstances and learned that hope is the key to having patience when facing difficult situations; hope coming from the Greek word elpis, meaning hope-the desire of some good with the expectation of getting it. That’s pretty straight forward. As long as we have hope, we tend to be able to press through the less than enjoyable aspects that we sometimes face. Without hope, we find it much more challenging!

     The second patience, patience with people can get much more complex, especially in those closest relationships. Hope may be important in these relationships but perhaps mercy is even more important when we endeavor to grow in patience with the people in our circles of influence and with people in general. Mercy or compassion can be a powerful tool especially when it comes to having patience with people. 

      Just an example from my own life: many years ago, my husband and I were having breakfast in a local restaurant. A customer comes in and is seated across from out table. From the very beginning, nothing went right in her opinion and everyone within a ten table radius was aware. People were getting up and leaving be cause of the scene. We had a birds eye view and could not help but hear as things escalated.  This young waitress did not deserve the treatment she was receiving. As we continued to witness this spectacle, I pointed out to my husband that even if she was performing poorly it was no way to treat her. Maybe she broke up with her boyfriend/spouse, had a sick child, a family member sick or dying. We have no idea what people are dealing with in their lives! We went to the register to pay and Kevin gave me his keys. Then he addressed the manager and explained that we had observed everything and the server had done nothing to deserve what was happening. He then asked me to wait in the car (which I did though it was a hard request to follow).  He said he then said a quick prayer and with the same compassion and mercy I had expressed for the server; he approached this lady sitting with her two adult daughters.  He was very respectful and asked if he could join them for a moment. Then my sweet husband who looked about eighteen with his ‘baby face’, proceeded to ask her with great respect if she’d ever considered that the young server might be struggling with some kind of life trauma or tragedy or had spent the night up with a small child that was sick and sleepless? (We knew this one well as young parents ourselves!)  Kevin said her daughters looked so relived and this lady’s whole countenance changed. They all thanked him and he started out to the car. I met him at the door where the manager thanked him…it had been a while and I must admit I was a little concerned and I decided I needed to check on him.

     In the end, mercy, compassion and patience triumphs! We may not always see results right away and it is possible we may not see results at all. Nevertheless, it is a seed that is well worth sowing! (Lord, please give me the grace and wisdom to remember this life lesson!) Why?  Because even if it does not touch the person benefiting from it, others see. Even if it doesn’t touch the lives of observers, it changes us! It is a sure way to teach us to be more Christ-like by walking in the Spirit and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit; an intentional though momentary choice to live beyond that moment, beyond our circumstances and beyond our own little world in a place where grace flows freely.

      Grace flows freely where love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control abound.  Why Grace Stoppers then? There are also those things which clog and even stop the flow of grace. Let’s list just a few:

  • Hate, joylessness, discord, impatience, meanness, doubt, harshness, selfishness
  • Anger
  • Unforgiveness
  • Hopelessness 
  • Bitterness
  • Jealousy

Help us, oh Father God, to lay these down! Help us to walk by the Spirit, in the fruit of the Spirit 

and in the Mighty name of Jesus!



 Praying you are blessed with His grace, His peace and Fruit that remains!

 

 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.”(‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-23‬ MSG)

Resolved

     Tonight, as I reflect on this past year with each of its highs and lows, each joy and sorrow experienced, and yes each pain and each delight; my heart is determined and even resolved to move from 2014 into 2015 with great expectation! Maybe my scripture verse for this next year will be…“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭43‬:‭18-19‬ NIV)

     Some would ask why forget? Well first of all, you can not truly experience the highs, joys and delights in life to the full unless you have also experienced lesser things that are dull, less exciting and perhaps even painful. Perhaps an example is called for here. My husband loves banana pudding, you know the homemade kind from scratch. So, about 2-3 times a year I will make him one and I believe He could eat the entire pudding if others were not around. Now, suppose I decided to make it weekly or even daily. After a time, no longer would it be an anticipated treat. Eventually, it would get old and at some point in time, I’m willing to bet it might actually become a chore to even think about spooning another bite into his mouth. There is much to be said for anticipation and only enjoying this delicious treat a few times a year builds anticipation and enhances the enjoyment. It prevents it from becoming commonplace and just another dull recipe that is over done and under appreciated.   

     Secondly, we are human and let’s be honest; many of us tend to spend too much time rehearsing and focusing on the negative and painful rather than the positive and joyful. This can lead us to places that are not good for us or beneficial to us therefore in many cases it just doesn’t prove in our best interest to remember the past. Focusing too much on the past can also distort our vision of the present and future. It can quench our hope and give fuel to any doubts we may have. Hopefully you’ve never experienced going through such a rough patch in life that you have wondered if this is all there is or if it is even possible that life will ever be any different. Yet many times it is during times such as these that God displays His goodness, faithfulness, grace and love in our lives. Not because He is not needed all the time in our lives but because we tend not to see our need for Him in the good times. 

     Unresolved issues with the past can also rob us of much future joy. It can cause us to not trust others and even not trust ourselves.  It can keep us at arms length from those we may care the most about; it can cause us to build walls of protection that over time can become chambers of isolation that seek to imprison us. 

     So today, on the cusp of a New Year I am resolved to not dwell on the past. I am resolved to remember His goodness, His faithfulness, His mercy and His grace. I am resolved to remember the times He has ran to my rescue in times of trouble or pain and remember the delights I have experienced in my relationship with Him. I am resolved to Let it Go where lesser things are concerned and focus once again on 2015 and the years to come with expectation. I am resolved to be alert to His movement in my life; to choose life and blessing;to choose love and forgiveness; to choose mercy and grace! Will I succeed or fail? Yes, for I am human. The past will try to sneak up on us and sneak in to remind us of it’s presence but there is a greater Presence and in Him we can be more than overcomers! 

Goodbye, 2014! Hello, 2015!!

Have a Happy and Blessed 2015! 

 May it be filled with grace and peace!!

 

 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (‭Isaiah‬ ‭43‬:‭2-3‬ NIV)

 

 

Resolved- Adjective- firm in purpose or intent; determined. Verb-to come to an ernest decision about; determine to do something; to settle, determine, or state in a formal vote or formal expression of opinion or intention, as of a deliberative assembly; to deal with (a question, a matter of uncertainty, etc.) conclusively; settle; solve:to resolve the question before the board. (Dictionary.com)

Scandalous Grace

Today we celebrate that there was No victory in the death of Jesus Christ though the religious leaders and Satan thought there was. Death’s sting was extinguished forever! Why? Because He was victorious over death once and for all! He is risen and alive forever!

In an incomprehensible act of love, mercy and grace, God’s beloved Son left all that was His to become like us. He not only experienced all the trials and sorrows we do, but He walked through them…never bogged down in them! His was the victory as He faced each one, stood firm, strong and sinless; always trusting His Father and His God! He faced the most painful death counting it joy because He understood what it was purchasing for all,of us if we only have the faith to believe!

 

 

Jesus forever changed the way we are able to interact with our Father God, Creator of the Universe!

So I will stand! Arms high and heart abandoned…in Awe of Jesus and gratitude to God!

 

 

I don’t know about you but I owe it all to Him! So grateful for God’s inexhaustible mercy, love and grace!  He is risen indeed!

 

 

Happy Easter! May His love, grace and peace be abundantly yours this day and every day!

 

 

Days of Grace-Day 35

Grace for the Present; An Inheritance for the Future

We have looked at many facets of grace. Today we are looking at the book of Titus. Titus 2:11 tells us that when God’s grace appears it brings salvation to all people and it teaches us to live a godly life; it brings with it self-control and the ability to live upright lives.  Paul puts it this way when he writes to Titus:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people who are truly His, who are eager to do good. So communicate these things with the sort of exhortation or rebuke that carries full authority. Don’t let anyone look down on you. Titus 2:11-15

What a gracious gift. We have been given the gift of salvation, the power to live the way God asks us to live with pure hearts, right motives, and self-controlled lives.  His motive is for our good, our freedom and God’s glory to prepare for Himself a people who are truly His own. Wait, that is not all…

But “when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,  He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of His mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit,  whom He poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior.  And so, since we have been justified by His gracewe become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.” Titus 3: 4-7

Through Jesus Christ we are made sons and daughters of The Most High and we are also made heirs! Heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life. joint heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) Part of our inheritance is forgiveness and eternal life. Sometimes that is as far as we get, never realizing the fullness of what our inheritance is.  When we believe, the Word says we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, as a guarantee of our Inheritance.

And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)—when you believed in Christ—you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, Who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.”  (Ephesians 1:13-14)

David said this about inheritance, “Lord, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I will praise the Lord who counsels me — even at night my conscience instructs me. I keep the Lord in mind always. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely.” (Psalms 16:5-9 HCSB)

Paul said, I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens — (Ephesians 1:17-20 HCSB)

Peter tells us this, “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5 HCSB)

The grace of God provides what we need for life here through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit working in and through our lives. His grace has provided for our future and our eternal future storing up for us an inheritance in heaven. He has provided all we need to live godly, upright lives; given us access to every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm; equipped us with faith, hope, mercy and love. He also gave us His greatest gift, His Son!  Blessed indeed are those who believe! Galatians 3:29 tells us if we belong to Christ then we are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. In Genesis 15:1, the word of The Lord came to Abraham in a vision and said, “fear not, Abraham. I am your shield and exceedingly great reward.”  My prayer today is that our faith increase, our knowledge of His great grace abound in our lives and that we are witness to the many ways His grace flows in our lives. May He be our shield and our very great reward…to His praise and glory!

Days of Grace-Day 32

Our stop along the grace walk today will give some glimpses into God’s love and His kindness toward us following up on our look at Psalm 139. In Ephesians 2:10, we are told “For we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.”(Ephesians 2:10 NET)  This goes right along with the psalm. We each have been specially designed by the Creator of the universe on purpose and for a purpose. It is no coincidence when, where, how and why we come into the world, yet because we have freedom of choice, we may or may not fulfill our originally intended destiny.  The Message puts it this way…

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose His temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on His own, with no help from us! Then He picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where He wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (Ephesians 2:1-10 MSG)

What a great message. In Ephesians 1 we were told in verse three that we were blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. We have seen that we have been designed masterfully for a purpose and that God has gone to great lengths to do all that is necessary for us to have right standing with Him. Our job is to trust Him. One of the best gift’s we can give ourselves is to get to know this God we believe in. How? Studying His character throughout the Word, looking at how He interacts with His people. Looking at His character by how He interacts with the patriarchs, Israelites and people in the New Testament can be very eye-opening! Throughout history, God has used ordinary, normal, common, and flawed people to accomplish extraordinary feats. Timid Gideon becomes a mighty warrior. Young David becomes a giant killer, then a mighty warrior and King. Orphan Hadassah becomes the courageous Queen Esther and sabotages evil Haman’s plot. Rejected, Joseph enters as a slave into Egypt and in time becomes second in command and is able to take in the brothers who rejected him during the famine in their homeland. Moses who fled to the desert, goes back to Egypt 40 years later to lead around two million of his people to freedom. The list could go on. When we take a deeper look at the stories, we see they were all flawed people who messed up at times just as we do. Many of them questioned God, asked for signs; some lied. God knows better than anyone that we’re human and we fail. In fact that is why He made provision through Jesus. If we look carefully, we will see God is not just a just God waiting to dole out punishment; but we will see He is holy, extraordinarily patient, kind, merciful, forgiving, impartial, generous, compassionate and so much more. Psalm 113:13-15 says:

Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.  For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.”

God knows our weaknesses, strengths, and our humanity. Nothing about us is a surprise and not only that; no circumstance we ever find ourselves a part of takes Him by surprise. He has an answer for every question and a solution for every problem. Because He loves us immensely, He wants us to trust Him, seek Him, surrender our lives in exchange for the best life we could imagine. He has done all the work for us; now, He asks for our trust. Our problem is we shy away from trusting someone we do know.  We have to choose to get to know Him through His Word and then for some of us, one baby step at a time. For others, one giant leap of faith. Either way, it is worth more than we can ever imagine!

 Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]– To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it). (Ephesians 3:20, 21 AMP)

Days of Grace-Day 31

     Greetings, we have made it to day thirty-one. When I first heard that “Still small voice” say focus on grace for the next forty-five days until Resurrection Sunday, my first response was okay. My next thought was forty-five days focused on such a small word, can this be done? The word seems small at first glance, but the topic is huge. It flows like an enormous river from cover to cover throughout the Bible. I am beginning to view this word grace like a diamond. I am finding it expensive, rare, priceless, multifaceted and quite exquisitely beautiful.  I am finding that true grace, like a diamond is formed in us when we are under pressure, subjected to high temperatures, and finally are shaped and faceted by the precision and work of the Master.

     Psalm 139 tells us that God knit us together in our mother’s womb.  It continues by saying that He made all of the delicate and inner workings of our body. In all of our complexity, He masterfully designed each of us.  He was witness to the uniting and dividing of each cell as our lives came together in that secluded place.  This same Psalm tells us He knew us before we were born and that each and every day of our life was recorded before we breathed a single one.  Precious are Your thoughts toward me it says; more than the grains of sand! (Psalms 139:13-18) I find that incredible!! The Creator of the Universe and everything in it knows me that personally…He knew everything I would ever do, think or say before I lived the first day. He saw my humanity, knew that I would mess-up, make mistakes; sometimes big ones. Still in His love, mercy, grace and sovereignty; He gave me life. God did this for everyone of us from the greatest to the least. He did this for you! God has a plan and purpose for every human and yet He loved us enough allow us to have free-will to choose. How He longs for us to choose Him.

Ephesians 1:2-8 says: May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give yougrace and peace. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”  (New Living Translation)

     When we chose a life with Jesus, God has already made provision by His grace for us. This passage tells us that we already have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. We are no longer just God’s creation, we have become His children and heirs. As if that were not enough, it tells us that it gave Him great pleasure to do this! 

     It is very  interesting to me that over the years, I have heard many teachers, preachers, and pastors talk about ancient adoption. One thing they all pointed out has been that in ancient times when a child was adopted it was permanent. It was not something that could be undone, taken back or reversed. A parent could ‘disown’ their blood related child but could never do that with a child they choose to adopt. I have done a little research on it also that seems to confirm its validity. What an amazing gift is ours when we choose to follow God’s plan. We are not only forgiven, redeemed, and placed in right standing. We become sons and daughters. We are heirs. We are showered with kindness, wisdom and understanding. Yet many times we are not even aware of who we have become in Christ.  It is almost like we gain this huge inheritance yet we are completely unaware of what is now ours and continue to settle for living in all our old ways rather that believing that we are who He says we are.  I am certainly not suggesting that we should think more highly of ourselves because of this grace He has given us, rather I am suggesting that we understand how our Father sees us, the value He places on us and with that proper perspective we can live more victorious and fruitful lives serving Him and others.

Days of Grace-Day 20

      Grace, defined as unmerited favor by some; a gift of something we did not earn or deserve others will say. A little surfing the net, here are a few of the definitions I found:

  •       Beauty of Form
  •       Good Will
  •       Favor rendered by one who need not do so; indulgence
  •       To give beauty, excellence or charm to
  •       Divine love, protection; freely given
  •       Excellence or power granted by God
  •       Effortless movement
  •       A condition of protection or sanctification by the favor of God
  •       Reprieve, pardon
  •       Mercy

      It has been twenty days since I felt challenged in my spirit to study this word grace.  Many people of faith observe Lent each year. Lent is a forty day period leading up to Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb.  According to About.com Christianity, it is a time of “fasting, repentance,  moderation, and spiritual discipline” that is observed by some but not all Christians. I was not very familiar with Lent though I had heard numerous friends over the years talk about giving something up for Lent or fasting.  Being curious, as it approached and I was around their conversations, I studied the concept. As I said earlier, I felt a still small challenge to focus each day on Grace. As it happened, when I looked at the calendar it was Ash Wednesday, which is the traditional starting day. I counted the days and determined it would be forty-five days and then Easter. So here we are on Day 20.  So far it has been an interesting journey for me and hopefully for those who have been walking it with me via this blog.

      Today’s grace verse comes from Acts 11: 23. On day 18 and 19 we looked at Stephen. After his trial and sentence, he was killed and persecution broke out among the followers of Christ’s teachings. Despite persecution, the church grew in strength and number. There also arose some confusion about the differences between the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers that were coming into their fellowship. Peter had a vision in chapter 10. Actually, he had it three different times.  Peter was perplexed and just after the last vision, some men came looking for him. They had been sent to Peter by a man named Cornelius so that they could request that he come to Cornelius’ home. Cornelius was a God-fearing centurion and a gentile (those who were not of the Jewish nation).  Peter accepted his invitation and went to him; there Peter told Cornelius and all his household and people about Jesus.  The Holy Spirit moved in power and they all believed and received the Holy Spirit. Next they were all baptized and this was the beginning of the gospel going out to the gentile nations.  Their cultural difference is what began the confusion previously mentioned. Questions over whether or not they were free to just follow Jesus or would have to conform to the Jewish traditions as well were the topic. Peter returns to Jerusalem and hears about the questions and concerns. Peter tells them all about his visions and all that had happened while he was with Cornelius. He told them how the Holy Spirit had moved in power and how they had received the Holy Spirit and then requested to be baptized right away. Peter said to the Jewish believers, “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”  When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:17-18  This ended the confusion and questions from within  for now but the persecution from outside continued. The believers were now scattering because of the persecution of the church. Some scattered to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.  Others went to Cyprus and Cyrene speaking to the gentiles (Greeks) preaching the gospel of Jesus.

Acts 11:21-23  (NAS) “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch.  Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.”

      Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, the obedience of Jesus,  and  gracious hand of His  Father; salvation, freedom, healing and deliverance was not just for the Jewish people but for all people. Secondly, due to the persecution many went out from Jerusalem into different areas spreading the word, remaining faithful to God and bringing many people to the realization of what was available by living a life for Christ. Once again we see the Grace of God abounding in His people lives even in the middle of trials and struggles. Stephen paid a high price but he graduated into God’s presence. Persecution came and caused chaos and havoc, yet if we look closely… We have seen examples of good will, Peter going to Cornelius. Possibly, that would even be considered indulgence; favor rendered by one who need not do so…but God. We see divine love and protection as people leave their home and are scattered. We also see excellence, power granted by God in the movement of the Holy Spirit. There is good will, mercy and reprieve handed to Cornelius’ household and to all the gentile people. We see God’s grace extended, His kingdom expanded and His glory revealed to all people and it is marvelous in our sight!

Grace and peace to you!

Days of Grace-Day 16

Grace and peace to you! I hope you are blessed with sunshine on this first day of spring.  It is beautiful here but still pretty chilly. Today we will be exploring the first chapter of John as we continue our grace journey. It is my prayer that you are enjoying observing all the different ways grace manifests in people, their lives and in their different circumstances as we have walked through the scriptures. Because of grace, God did not completely wipe out the earth; we saw a family taken out before a city was destroyed; God continued with the Israelites because one man, Moses, found God’s favor; we saw Gideon hiding out become the mighty warrior that God knew he could be; we have seen the redemption and restoration in Ruth and Naomi’s life; and we have seen a barren woman’s greatest desire realized just in our first six days together. What a difference a little grace can make in our lives! Today, we will look in the book of John.

John starts from verse one with the powerful declaration: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:1-5 NASB. Before telling Jesus life purpose and story, John wants to make His deity and who He was clear making sure his readers know that Jesus was at God’s side when the world was created; when the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters in Genesis 1:2, Jesus was there! It says He was the Word (logos- spoken word uttered by a living voice), the Word was with God, and He was God.

Let’s peek at today’s passage. John 1:14-18 tells us:  “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14-18 NASB)

Four times in today’s passage we see the word grace (Charis) and in two times it is pared with the word truth. For anyone joining us for the first time, here is a link defining this Greek word Charis:

http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/charis.html.

First, Jesus is described as being full of grace and truth. Jesus came full of grace and truth and of His fullness, the fullness of who He was(grace and truth); we have all received  grace upon grace. Moses gave the law, but grace and truth are realized through Jesus. Alrighty, so what exactly does that mean to us, or for us? I really can not say, but I can explain what it means in my heart and to me personally. Jesus came to earth carrying that which brought joy, delight, good will, loving-kindness, favor, and merciful kindness of God to us and truth. His purpose was to restore all that was lost or stolen in the Garden of Eden at the fall of man. Enmity came between mankind and God when Adam and Eve disobeyed. There was a division, a separation, sin entered because of man’s disobedience and mankind could no longer coexist with God’s Holiness. Did God stop loving mankind? No! It was His desire to be in relationship with man. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, we still struggled keeping them all. Israel was given additional laws, not to punish or hinder their fun, but for their protection. Things that were for their best interest for having a blessed and satisfying life. Yet, man struggled with obedience.

Jesus came to earth to bridge the gap between God and mankind. It had been God’s plan from the beginning. He came and fulfilled every single bit of the law, something we could not accomplish.  He came because of the loving-kindness, mercy, favor and compassion of His Father, to bridge the gap; to do what we humans could not, to restore that which had been lost at the fall of man and due to the sin of man throughout the ages. He set the example of living a sinless life full of grace and goodwill. Jesus also set an example of love and speaking the truth in love. He was gentle yet firm with people as He taught them the way to walk. Because He loved, He corrected and taught. He did so in a loving way, always direct but only getting harsh with those who were religious leaders; who knew the law and the prophets; expected the people to follow but thought themselves above it. Jesus lived in a manner that completely pleased the Father, knowing at the end of His time here on earth that He would be betrayed, beaten and killed for our sin, sickness, shame, and deliverance.  This gracious man came from His gracious Father to walk a perfect path to the cross. He took for us all our iniquity and traded His life for ours; His right standing for our failures. It cost Him everything and us nothing! That is grace! Then He arose defeating the last of our enemies, death and the grave. Grace accomplished the work, it is done.  Grace is available to us and freely given. We are free to choose Grace or reject it. Jesus is Grace and when we choose Him, our lives are transformed, never the same!

 

Days of Grace-Day 15

     Today’s scripture portion comes after Jesus earthly ministry was in full swing. At first glance, I was very curious where we were going to find Charis in this one because it is one of the most challenging teachings of Jesus for most people. In most of our scriptures it has been pretty obvious and easy to find.  For context, we will start a few verses before our main verse.  Let’s take a look.

      “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Luke 6:27-36 HCSB)

      Ok, be honest, do you bristle just a little at this one? I love that Jesus takes a time out right in the middle of the thought He is expressing to explain His thinking. He tells us to love our enemies, by the way the Greek word for love here is agapao. If loving your enemy seems hard, imagine when in it’s fullness it means: to welcome; to entertain; to be fond of; to love dearly. Many describe it as the God kind of love; others use the term unconditional as it’s definition. Agapao is a love that costs us something.  It is a love that gives, one that sacrifices. It is the same word used for love in the great commandment that Jesus gives us: 

     “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Matt. 22:36-40 (NET)

     Jesus challenges us to love everyone, even our enemies. He asks us to love them; pray for them. The word enemies in this passage means exactly what it does to us in our English language, just to clarify, it means:  hateful; odious; hating; hostile; opposing another or in our example one who treats us in these ways. Not only are we told to love our enemy, we are supposed to go the extra mile. “If they ask for our coat, do not hold back our shirt”… If they smack us on one side of our face, turn the other… Jesus said in our scripture for today, “if you love those who love you, what credit (Charis) is that?” Likewise, He asked if we lend to those who we know will pay back, “what credit (Charis) is that? His point is what? Anyone can be nice to those who are nice to them; love those who love them; and be generous to those who treat them generously but it takes a special person to be used; abused; or taken advantage of and continue to show love. It takes great strength and character to continue to love someone and be respectful towards them when they have said or done unkind things, have taken advantage or perhaps betrayed you. To respond lovingly, in spitein spite of being mistreated is very counter culture especially in America in 2014! In our humanness we may ask, “why should we continue to care after they ________?” (You fill in the blank)  

      It takes extraordinary grace, strong character and an even stronger will to put the incident behind you and continue to show love. Jesus modeled exactly that kind of love, character and grace for us on His journey to the cross. He loved when we/they mocked Him, He loved despite the beatings, betrayal, and abuse. He pleaded, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do!”  The obvious question, “what credit is that?”.  It was credited to Him as righteousness. It accomplished His mission. It made a way for us to have right relationship with our Heavenly Father through the righteousness of Jesus Christ if we will only believe and follow Him.  It made it possible to be empowered by the Holy Spirit of God to live a life of love, mercy, compassion and grace that is like a magnet making others wonder why and how we are so different than most.  The challenge is: will we? 

Preaching to myself! Grace to you my friends!

Days of Grace-Day 11

     We  have now spent ten days focusing of the Grace of God. I don’t know about you, but His grace never ceases to amaze me! Sometimes it seems to show up at the very last possible moment, just when you think you can not make it another day or another step. Other times it comes suddenly and unexpectedly. Sometimes it comes before you even realize you need it; or right in the midst of something; then He reminds you… remember, I have already made provision for that.  I don’t know about  you, but sometimes for me grace can be as simple as a glimpse of a rainbow that brings a big smile to my face and child-like joy and wonder in the middle of an ordinary or complicated day. “Why is that grace?” you might ask. These are just a few examples of things I just delight in: a rainbow; a beautiful cardinal or blue bird that lands on the rail of my back deck unexpectedly while I am studying or writing; a child’s laughter or children running and playing; a beautiful sunrise or sunset; a beautiful blue sky filled with fluffy clouds that form all kinds of shapes gently blowing over my head. Again, “why?” You see, I am one of those people (you might know one or be one,too) whose mind runs constantly full speed ahead and  rarely slows down or  takes a rest from thinking. Seriously the wheels are always turning! Even in my sleep, I have vivid dreams. It is always nice to get unexpectedly surprised by one of these grace moments when the glory of God shows up and my mind just takes a few moments to pause and relish in the moment of glory rather than rushing around and missing them. His glory is  all around us if we just take the time to notice!

     The scripture for grace today is a prophetic word from Zechariah found in chapter twelve. It is a prophecy for a future time. Commentators aren’t completely in agreement or completely convinced when it will take place but let’s look at it anyway and then we’ll talk about it just a little.

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced ; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.  “In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.  “The land will mourn, every family by itself ; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves. Zechariah 12:10-14

     I don’t know about you but the Spirit of grace and supplication seems to refer clearly to the Holy Spirit because He is the one Who draws into belief in Jesus, the One they pierced. This gives us a good indication that the prophecy takes place in the future and after the time of Christ’s birth, death, burial and resurrection. Other than that, it could be hard to pin point. Many believe that this referred to the time in AD 70 when the Romans sieged Jerusalem and the second temple of the Jewish people was destroyed. Still others believe that it is a future event, and some believe it is a double prophecy depicting both.

     Since our focus is on grace and the Spirit of grace (Chen, meaning grace, favor, charm, elegance and acceptance) and supplication ( Tachanuwn, meaning supplication, supplication for favor with God or man); I think we can say for certain that this prophecy would take place after Christ’s return to Father God’s right hand and after the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given to all believers in Christ. AD 70 seems like a definite fulfilling of this prophecy, because there certainly was great mourning in the land over the loss of their homeland and the loss of their temple. Will we once again see it fulfilled, in our lifetime or the future? Who can say but our gracious God.

     This I do know, both from personal experience and based on the history we have traced over the last week and a half: God has this and He will provide His people every ounce of grace and mercy needed if there is yet another fulfilling to come!  His grace is sufficient for everyone; His love is unending; His mercy endures forever; and He is enough for any and every situation that we face in our life! Skeptical? Just give Him a try! He is who He says He is! He is faithful even when we doubt Him and when we are not faithful. His promises are true even when they are not in our timing and His timing is always right on time because He sees things from a much bigger perspective than we do. In every trial, difficulty or loss that I have experienced in my life, He has proven this true. It may have taken more time for me to see it than I would have liked, but never-the-less it is true!

Grace and blessings to you, my friend! Until next time…