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Archive for April, 2013

Webster’s dictionary indicates that “demonstrate” has three primary meanings:  to show clearly; to prove or make clear; and to prove the value of.  The Lord God and His Son, Jesus Christ, demonstrated our value when they completed the plan on the cross of Calvary that would assure we could live with them for all eternity. Demonstrations of grace can never be more powerful than the fact that God so loved and valued you and me that He willingly sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the cost of sin forever.  (John 3:16-17)

Romans 6:23 makes it clear the price of sin is death. Jesus paid that price for us, so we didn’t have to die.  We may face physical death here on earth, but, spiritually, we will immediately enter eternity and have the opportunity to spend forever with our Lord in Heaven if we accept that demonstration of grace so freely given.

It is a challenge for me to comprehend that demonstration of grace.  How about you?  I can appreciate the logic of Jesus Christ extending grace through His words (Luke 4:22) or the compassionate grace He extended to the crowds because they “were harassed and helpless” (Matt 9:36).  But, when I look at all the mistakes I have made, I am challenged to accept that God finds me valuable enough to demonstrate grace towards me. Even as I acknowledge reality, I still choose to trust the truth of Scripture, so I am assured that God demonstrated His grace by calling me into an intimate relationship filled with acceptance, unfailing love, and grace. In fact, Galatians 1:15 assures us that we do nothing but accept the offer—He will do the work of calling us to Himself.

So, what does that look like for me today?  What is my response to that call of grace?  Immediately, it seems evident that my first responsibility is to acknowledge and accept that demonstration of grace.  Considering how much He has demonstrated that grace toward me compels me to demonstrate that same kind of grace toward others— forgiveness, service, encouragement, support, and assistance are just a few of the ways that I can reach out today and demonstrate grace to those I come in contact with.

Oh, Lord God, open my eyes to see the numerous ways You demonstrate Your grace toward me.  Fill me with a willingness to demonstrate grace toward others and then open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to see those moments when I can demonstrate Your grace toward another today.  Thank You, Lord, for grace I cannot earn and can never be good enough to deserve, but because of who You are, I can feel and model Your grace today.  Amen.

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I must reluctantly confess to you that I am a bona fide control freak. Some might call me a perfectionist. I love my planner. I love checklists and label makers. I love my house to be organized and orderly. I love to have everything in its place. Simply put, I like things a certain way…usually my way. If things aren’t up to par, my family would likely attest to my irritability in those moments. Truth be told, my house, my children, and my life are never up to par, despite all my agonizing efforts. If this isn’t you, praise God. If this is you, you can relate to my struggle.

The fact of the matter is that this character trait, if one would call it that, can bring out the worst in me. When life seems to spiral out of control, as it often does, I find myself easily frustrated and angered. This innate desire for control is a sin, a sin stemming from my pride and self-centeredness. So, how do I let go? How do I relinquish my control for God’s control?

I know that my life is in God’s hands. I believe in His sovereign plan. In spite of this faith, I find myself wanting to take the reins, so to speak, wanting to keep my hand in it all. My desire for perfection and control, despite the reality that this is completely unattainable, hinder me from depending on my sovereign God wholly and fully. How can I be so foolish? When the clutter piles up and the chaos of life ensues, I have a choice: put my hope in God or get depressed. To quote the psalmist, “Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5, HCSB).

Putting my hope in my sovereign God, not in my own power and strength, however, is not as easy as it appears. From the book of Jeremiah, His words seem to speak directly to me, “Look, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:17, HCSB). In Psalms, the Word of God speaks of His sovereignty with such clarity, that I wonder why I even want control, “God – His way is perfect…” (Psalm 18:30, HCSB).

Yes, His way is perfect. His timing is perfect. His plan is perfect. His grace is perfect. I must let go and realize that He is all I need. So, I sneak to a quiet place in my home and offer a pleading prayer for His strength and His power. And when the quiet isn’t possible, with my hands full of dish soap or gripping the steering wheel, I lay my request for His control and His help at the throne of grace. Hebrews 4:16 encourages me, “Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time” (HCSB).

My house will never be sparkling from floor to ceiling, the bills and receipts will pile on the counter, and the incoherent chaos that comes with surprise visitors and busy children will wreak havoc on my desire for control. But, I thank God for these moments, for it is then that I turn to Him in prayer and become so vividly aware of His control and my human frailty. When I relinquish my control to the omnipotent God whose Son died to cover all my imperfections and prideful desires, I recognize His sovereign grace and relish the joy that comes in acknowledging His way and His presence.

Father God, I know that I don’t have it all together. I need You, Lord, to fill me with Your Holy Spirit today, to help me let go of things that clearly do not matter.  May Your way and Your desires for my life be my passion and my purpose.

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Oh, how our wonderful LORD GOD shows us compassionate grace!

Compassion even in the midst of anger…

Yet He, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; He restrained His anger often and did not stir up all His wrath. (Psalm 78:38, ESV)

Compassion even in the midst of our distrust…

They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. (Nehemiah 9:17, ESV)

Compassion even to those WE do not think are deserving …

And He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you My name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. (Exodus 33:19, ESV)

Compassion… it IS His Choice…and ours!

For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:15, ESV)

Compassion ~ sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Compassion ~ the right to forgive, even though others don’t understand.

Compassion ~ the heart to help others in need, even if it means others don’t understand.

Compassion ~ to look beyond, to open one’s heart, to understand, to give to another what God does for us all…every second…any second of every day!

Compassion ~ to love beyond mistakes, beyond heartache, and to reach beyond into the depths of life so deep that the vision of the other side is all that is seen, felt, or envisioned!

All that really matters is that we allow the grace of our God to be the compassionate grace that shines through us!

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I am pretty sure that there are days that I am the worst Christian on earth. It’s not that I am intentionally trying to exercise God’s patience, but I know that at times I do. I make up my mind that I will “do better next time.” Unfortunately, often when “next time” comes, my flesh takes over and my human will collapses because I have not fortified it with God’s strength. Time and time again, He showers me with His grace and forgiveness. His grace never runs out!  Romans 11:29 speaks to this: “God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded” (The Message). I’m so grateful that His grace is never too tired to help me up, brush me off, and cover me, so that God sees me as the beautiful and blameless child that He craves for me to be.

May the song “Unfailing Grace” by Enfield, encourage you today and remind you of God’s inexhaustible grace:

http://youtu.be/HEWEy21IVuE

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“Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.  In the day of my trouble, I will call out to You, for You will answer me.”

Psalm 86:6-7

What fight are you battling, what pain are you suffering, or what obstacle do you need to overcome? Who or what will you turn to for help?  What troubles are you concerned about today? Is it your finances, your marriage, family struggles, health issues, or the pressure of your job?  Life brings us difficulties that disturb us, to the point where we become so overwhelmed that the tension of our struggles worsens the intensity of what we are suffering, causing even more stress than we know how to handle.

King David certainly endured many of the same life challenges that you and I experience today.  He modeled for us the need to cry out to God in prayer for mercy.  He admitted that he was poor, needy, sinful, and helpless, but he also knew with certainty that when he called out to God, His deliverance was sure to follow.   David’s dependency on God reveals how much he trusted God to answer his plea for mercy, to give him protection while in the desert, to deliver him from his enemies, and to forgive his fallacies and shortcomings. He made no reservations about calling out to God in prayer for grace.

God invites His children to turn to Him for help in times of trouble, to make our plea to Him for mercy, and to depend on Him to hear us and answer our prayer. The psalmist made claims about how God will respond to our plea for grace. Pay close attention to what scripture says about what God will do when we call out to Him.

God listens“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry.” (Psalm 34:15)

God delivers“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17)

God vindicates“I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me.” (Psalm 57:2)

God delivers from affliction“For He will deliver the needy who cry out, and the afflicted who have no one to help.” (Psalms 72:12)

God comes to our rescue“Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.” (Psalms 142:6)

God saves“He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them.” (Psalm 145:19)

God comforts “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

Give your anxious heart over to God and He will take the heavy burden of your worries off your shoulders and turn your sorrows into joy.  God hears you and He is willing to come to your rescue and is able to deliver you from your troubles. However, if you have called out to Him and are still waiting for your answer, “Keep asking and it will be given to you.  Keep searching and you will find, keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

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“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

I John 5:4-5 (ESV)

Overcoming the world….what a changed impact upon one’s life! When faith reigns, the world has no hold; or, better said, when we let faith reign, the world has no hold!

However, that is where we implore the power of self-control! The Spirit of self-control! Each one of us must make a conscience decision in a moment of time: “Will my faith reign or will the circumstance of the world envelop my mind and capture my resolve?” God wants us to seek Him through believing faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior. Without this faith, grace is just an idea, just a name one uses for a child, or an uncertain hope for an uncertain outcome.

Now, back to our original statement: “Overcoming the world…what a changed impact upon one’s life!” What does “overcoming the world” mean? Let’s start with the meaning of “the world.” The world is where humans exist; it encompasses everything about us. Unfortunately, but always by the filtered action of our Mighty God, it is where evil exists as well. In the later aspect of “the world” it refers to the place where the temptation of sin, in any form, also co-exists. This is the meaning of “the world” in our verses today.

We humans cannot overcome the world ever without belief in the God-given gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the belief in the sacrifice He made for us on the cross. This belief is called faith; and, through this faith, we CAN overcome the world! As we overcome this world, we are changed…changed into the likeness of God. And, with this change…with this hope…with this faith, we have “Overcoming Grace.”

“Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24 (ESV)

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“All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.”

Romans 5:20-21 (The Message)

Many women, like me, have someone in their life that doesn’t exactly bring out our best qualities. Sound familiar? I refer to these people in my life as “button pushers.” You know the type; they know what will get you rattled and enjoy seeing you lose your cool.  I have lost my temper, held many grudges, and even wished certain people would buy a one-way ticket to a deserted island far away….

We do everything to avoid the conflict after being hurt.  We plan our routes different during the week so we don’t run into our offender. The hours and hours we spend just thinking about how hurt we are is mind-boggling.  You mean the earth hasn’t fallen off its axis because I got my feelings hurt??? I know it sounds ridiculous, but you know it is true. We avoid all eye contact and carefully pick what events we will attend and who we will sit with all to avoid  the one thing that will set us free from this bondage to hurt and pain…forgiving grace.

Sin allows us to feel justified in all these feelings. Our emotions take over and somewhere between marinating in our hurt and strategizing how to get even we forget what we were even mad about. Sin not only feeds my earthly flesh but also gives me misdirected anger that not only keeps the hurt alive but allows bitterness to creep in.  It is a vicious cycle that truly seems to have no end. That’s where we get it all wrong, there is an end…forgiving grace can step in and take a situation that is filled with hurt and wipe it clean.

I have had the opportunity to give forgiving grace; let’s just say it was powerful. But more importantly, I have been GIVEN forgiving grace and it was humbling. It exudes the true love of Christ; forgiveness with no strings attached.  In Romans 5:20 it says, “when it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.”  When we choose forgiving grace, we choose to love like Christ loves us. When we choose any other path in a conflict, we choose the ideals of the world. If you are in conflict today with someone, resolve it Christ’s way. You will never be disappointed.

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