God’s Grace is Sufficient

God’s grace is a mystery. How can He continuously offer undeserved grace to us? How can He give us chance after chance to get it right and love us when we fail over and over?

God gives grace for the moment. One moment at a time. He doesn’t give us a stockpile of grace to use at our convenience or at our leisure. He gives it as we need it and only He knows when that is.

For that matter, He doesn’t give us a stock pile of anything. Everything He has for us; grace, peace, wisdom, knowledge…it’s all given exactly in the moment we need it and never before. We can’t save it up for future use. If we did that, we would find ourselves depending on our own ability to ration out the supply as we felt we needed it. We would stop being dependent on God.

Sometimes we think God has  left us or forgotten us but He cannot do that. When we ask for forgiveness, He forgets our sin but He has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. He is always with us.

There’s an old song that says “Your Grace is sufficient for me. Your strength is made perfect, when I am weak. All that I cling to I lay at your feet. Your grace is sufficient for me.”

It is in that place of surrender that God’s grace is enough. He can only fill an empty vessel. When you lay all the things you are depending on for your strength at his feet, he can fill you with his perfect strength. And there you will find peace as well.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Are You Willing to go Wherever?

Bird on Fence

At the end of the 9th chapter of Luke there is a short bit of dialog between Jesus and his followers.

“And as they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” 60 But he said, “Permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 (NASB)

Continue reading “Are You Willing to go Wherever?”

The Third Watch

Courtesy Flickr - hosullivanIn the scriptures, there are references to the third watch. Most scholars believe this is the time between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning. The time most of us are asleep. That is unless we happen to be wide awake. Sometimes sleep is evasive.

I used to have trouble sleeping. I’d wake in the night and the silence in my usually noisy household would be overwhelming. As I lay there trying to do all the things that are supposed to help sleep ( I never actually resorted to counting sheep) I would become more and more anxious and the quiet would become heavier and heavier. I’d think of all sorts of things that only increased the anxiety.

And if I had one long sleepless night, I would find myself dreading the next night. What if it’s the same? What if I am awake again for hours, all alone? The more I would dread it the more likely it was to happen again.

I tried reading, I tried watching a movie, I tried writing. Those things were all fine activities, that I should have been doing in the daytime, not when the rest of the household was in pleasant slumber while I counted the minutes until sunrise. And none of those things helped me sleep.

Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place. I went to God’s Word. I laid my anxiety before Him and asked him for wisdom and for peace.

Here is what he gave me.

Psalm 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.

Proverbs 3:24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Do I still have sleepless nights sometimes? Yes. But now I know that if I am awake, God knows it. He has promised me sweet sleep so eventually I will sleep. In the meantime, I read my Bible and thank the Lord for His promises. I also pray for others who might be awake and anxious as I used to be. Now I believe that if I am awake, I might as well put that time to good use. I use it to pray not only for those who might also have anxious nights but also for anyone God brings to mind. I am not distracted in those moments and I can pray with purpose.

If you are troubled by sleeplessness, spend some time meditating on the verses above. Maybe even commit them to memory. And join me in praying for others who sometimes struggle in the third watch.

What Does it Mean to Really Follow Christ?

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/Today I was thinking about this question. What does it mean to really  follow Christ? Of course it means that we have made that life-changing decision to ask Him to be Lord of our lives. But when we agree to that, we may not fully understand that it means Lord of everything. Every. Thing.

So really, following Christ isn’t just saying yes to Him. It’s saying no to the world over and over and over.  Every time we say no to something the world offers we are saying yes to Jesus again. We are reaffirming our commitment to follow Him.

It’s a daily, moment by moment, kind of thing.

The decision to follow Christ is really a collection of daily choices made one decision at a time. Forever.

Each One is Unique

The scriptures are full of examples showing us that God was intentional in making each of us a unique creation. Just look at the folks in the Bible stories. They are all very different. Each one was created for a specific purpose that God planned in advance.

Sometimes it’s easy to be caught up in the comparison game where we look at others and wonder why we weren’t made more like them. We are not just tempted to look at the outward appearance; we also compare talents and abilities. We might be tempted to ask God why he didn’t make us smarter, more outgoing, more organized, less sensitive, more confident, slimmer, taller… the list goes on and on.

We’ve heard the verses in Psalm 139 often. We may even have them committed to memory. Verse 16 says “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God had our future designed for us before we were fully formed. He knew exactly what he created us to do.

Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God already knew what Jeremiah was going to do before he was even created. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah was designed for a special purpose and God was thinking about that purpose when he was creating Jeremiah. Much like a craftsman knows what his project will be used for even as he’s cutting the wood. He doesn’t just cut all the wood the same way. Each project has specific dimensions that are required depending on the final purpose of the finished project.

Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we too have a specific purpose. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

I believe Dr. Seuss had an understanding of this truth and put it so simply when he said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

When God was finished making you, He was pleased with what He had done. He sat back and smiled at his creation. He loves who you are!

Striving for Perfection

When was the last time you felt like you were getting it right? When did you last feel like you were on track, accomplishing what you needed to, making the right decisions, making no mistakes?

It’s could be that it’s been a while. And when you aren’t getting it right the critics are unrelenting.  But I’ll bet your worst critic isn’t your spouse or your best friend or your neighbor or even your mother. I suspect that the person who is hardest on you when you mess up….is you.

God isn’t critical of you. He knows you are going to make mistakes. He knows you are not perfect. So why do you expect it of yourself? He extends grace to us in all circumstances. He doesn’t expect us to earn it. He knows we can do nothing of ourselves to be worthy of His grace.

So why do we keep expecting ourselves to be perfect when there is only One who is perfect? We can strive to become more Christ-like but it’s the greatest of arrogance to imagine that we will ever arrive at perfection this side of Heaven.

So maybe the better goal is to give all we have and be content with the outcome. After all, Christ came to complete us and if we did it all by ourselves we wouldn’t need Him. I don’t know about you , but I need Him desperately. Every day. Every moment.

I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to be willing to be changed. And to rest in His grace in the process.

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

The Pause that Refreshes

The Pause That Refreshes

In 1929 the Coca-Cola Company developed an ad campaign around the slogan “The Pause That Refreshes.” Of course, they were talking about drinking an ice cold Coke. We look for opportunities to take a few moments to stop and recharge. It’s a healthy habit, to allow your body to recover from the physical and mental stresses of life. Continue reading “The Pause that Refreshes”

A Heart of Stone

I saw something disturbing today.  I took my youngest son to the grocery store with me and when we parked in the parking lot there was a vehicle next to ours that had words written on the hood. I couldn’t read the words clearly but as I got out of my van I saw small hangers with children’s clothing inside the window. There was at least one small child in the back seat. As we walked away from the van my son turned to look at more words written on the rear of the vehicle. He turned to me and said, “Mom, did you see that? That says ‘homeless family. hungry, can you help us'”

My first thought was one of compassion. But I must confess, the next thought was to wonder if it was for real or some kind of an angle.  I am a victim of the culture I live in and I have become suspicious of people who would take advantage of those who are too trusting or gullible.  Obviously the adult who was driving was inside the store. As we entered the store I walked around getting our groceries and wondering which person was the one.

By the time we got back out to our van the vehicle was gone.

All day long I’ve thought about that family. What if they really are homeless? What if I could have helped? Did God want me to help? I didn’t even ask Him. I just went about my own business. I have thanked God several times today for all the ways He provides for us. I’ve thanked Him for giving us a home and food to eat. But it all seems shallow some how. Do I just say “Thank You Lord” while people around me are hungry and have no place to sleep?

How will I ever learn to pay attention to what’s going on around me? How will I know when God wants me to act if I don’t ask?

My prayer is that God would do what he told Ezekiel. That He would take my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. One that would feel  greater compassion for those in need. And that I would see God’s children through His eyes and not my own.

God’s Promises

God’s provision is not based on our productivity.

God’s love is not based on our loyalty.

God’s protection is not based on our performance.

God’s compassion is not based on our commitment.

God’s mercy is not based on our merits.

God’s peace is not based on our position.

God’s promises are not earned by our behavior. Sometimes He requires our obedience but that’s not the same thing as performance or merit. God sees our potential and not our failures. We cannot be disqualified from receiving God’s promises if our hearts are truly His.  We don’t have to earn His love, compassion or peace by measuring up to some standard.  He loved us first, before we had a single opportunity to prove our loyalty or commitment and His peace can be received anywhere, anytime. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more than He already does.