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 stockpile of anything. Everything He has for us; grace, peace, wisdom, knowledge—it’s all given exactly at 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 (ESV)

What Does it Mean to Wait on the Lord?

Most of us don’t like waiting. We get impatient, restless, perhaps even anxious. We want our packages to arrive TODAY, which is why Amazon is offering same-day delivery now. We want our food quickly, so we use the drive-through, never even getting out of our car.

Is that how we also wait on the Lord?  Are we impatient and restless with Him too?

Abraham understood waiting.  He waited on the Lord to deliver on his promise of a son.  He must have struggled with impatience wondering if God was ever going to come through on his promise, while Abraham just kept getting older and older. Was God going to run out of time? Would Abraham die before God remembered His promise?

Do you ever feel like you’ve prayed and heard God’s answer and then even though you try to stay faithful and expectant, as the days, weeks, and perhaps years go by, you struggle more and more with waiting?  You try not to be impatient. You tell yourself, “all in God’s timing.”  But you still struggle. Why does it have to take so long?

I don’t know about you, but I write notes in my Bible.  The Bible I have now is falling apart from a decade of use.  I underline, write notes, and record dates when I feel God has spoken a particular verse into a season of my life.

Psalm 27:14, which says, Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord,” is a verse God has used over and over in my life.  I have five different dates written beside that verse that span a six-year period.  I can’t tell you what was going on when I wrote each date. It really doesn’t matter too much now. The point is that when I needed to hear from God, He was faithful to remind me what was important. He helped me redirect my attention to His faithfulness when I was faced with a difficult situation. 

Read that verse again. What sort of waiting is God asking you to do?  Can you take that verse for yourself and surrender your timing to God’s, believing that He has a perfect plan? Perhaps you can write today’s date beside it in your Bible and be reminded that God has not forgotten His promises to you.

And in the meantime, while you wait, you can follow this advice that I learned many years ago: Just keep doing what God last told you to do until He tells you otherwise.

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”Micah 7:7 (ESV)

God’s Plans for You Are Bigger Than the Answer to One Prayer

So you’ve prayed. You’ve believed God would answer. But now the time for the needed answer has passed. Didn’t God hear you?  Did He say no and you missed it?

Perhaps you expected God’s answer to go one way and now the opposite thing has happened. The thing you most dreaded has actually taken place. It’s unbelievable. How could God so totally miss what you needed?

We often have our own agendas in our heads when we begin to pray about a situation. We can set expectations about how we want our prayers answered. We can also put time constraints on God as if we know better than He does WHEN we need our answer. Then we get discouraged when the outcome doesn’t meet our deadlines.

So here’s my question.

Is today His only day to work?

 For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”Proverbs 19:21

 

How Long Has It Been Since You Prayed This Prayer?

Several years ago we had missionaries visit our church. They came to bring a report about what they’d been doing on the mission field where they serve. When asked what specific prayer we could be praying for them they had a quick answer.

You might imagine they asked that we pray for protection. Maybe they wanted us to pray for their finances or the current projects they were working to accomplish. But that’s not what they asked for.

Do you pray on a regular basis?  Do you ask God to meet your needs? There isn’t a thing wrong with that. He tells us to pray for what we need and he will provide for us.

Do you pray for the needs of your friends, your community and the events happening in the world? That’s good too. God tells us to pray for those around us.

While all of those prayers are absolutely in line with what God has said we should pray, there is another prayer that is perhaps even more important than any of those. And actually, if we prayed this prayer, we would be addressing all those other prayer needs at the same time.

What is this prayer? What did these missionaries ask for when the request was for specific, personal prayer? Without hesitation, they asked this.

“Pray that God will use my life.”

Period.  Nothing more.

How long has it been since you simply asked God to use your life? No restrictions, no directions about HOW He chooses to use it. Just the offering of your life for His service.

Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11 (NASB)

God, Mocked? Not Going to Happen

I remember occasions when I was a little girl when my brother and I did something we’d been told not to do. We somehow thought we’d get away with it.  Usually, there were consequences assigned to what we’d done. More often than not, the price we paid was being grounded. Sometimes we were told we’d have to spend an entire week of our summer inside instead of playing outside with our friends.  We were never happy about being caught and having this sentence passed down.

But we knew it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Our parents were pretty predictable in the way this went. We would be grounded, told we wouldn’t be outside for a whole week. But after about 2 days we somehow found favor and were miraculously released from our sentence early. Now you could call that inconsistent parenting or you could look at it as an example of grace and mercy. But the fact was, we had come to expect to be let off the hook early. In a sense, we were mocking our parents’ authority.

Galatians 6:7 says “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” While God is a God of mercy and His grace is amazing, He is also a just God who means what He says.

Mocking God is no small matter. We see many examples of scoffers in the world. Sometimes I read a headline in the news about someone spouting off toward God and I just cringe knowing that God will not ignore such actions.

But what of us? What of God’s children? Are we still in danger of becoming mockers? Or is it just the ungodly who wear that label? God warns us that their poison is contagious, for we are told not even to sit with them.

 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, – Psalm 1:1

As with my disregard for my parents’ rules as a child with no real fear of the consequences, perhaps we can get easily deceived into believing that we can expect God’s mercy no matter what we do and He will always rescue us from the consequences. But that is not the case.  Someday we will all stand before God.

Jesus calls us out when he says in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  Is this any different than being a mocker?  God knows our hearts, we are only deceiving ourselves.

 

 

Who Are You Allowing to Steal Your Joy?

I overheard a woman in a store complaining that someone else had done something that “ruined her day.”  That’s actually a pretty common thing for people to say these days.

So I have to ask myself, why is it that we allow other people to have so much power over us?  Allowing someone’s actions to have the ability to “ruin our day” is giving them way too much power.

We all have difficult people in our lives. We all have the same opportunity to choose how we will respond to them. It could be a neighbor, a coworker or even a family member who seems to always say the thing that pushes your buttons.  But how you respond is always your choice. No matter how much frustration they cause, no one has the power to control your response. YOU are the only one with that ability.

So who is the thief in your life?  If you named a particular person I have to tell you that you are mistaken. The real thief isn’t a person at all.

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

And 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

So you see, that situation that upset the woman I heard in the store was actually a trap. A trap that she fell into by her own choice. We have an enemy but it isn’t that person you struggle to get along with. It isn’t the things other people say or do that we should be concerned about.  There is an enemy and he has a plan. Our job is to be watchful and not take the bait.

So again I ask you, who are you allowing to steal your joy?

 

 

God’s Works Last Forever

There is so much truth in the book of Ecclesiastes. If we could remember just how brief this life is and try to pay more attention to the eternal consequences of our actions we would be so much better off. But of course, we don’t.  Instead, we tend to live for the moment and when it’s all so unsatisfying we wonder why. Then when we read something like Ecclesiastes we can become discouraged and be tempted to conclude “what’s the point?” just as Solomon did.

 That’s when it’s good to remember a few of the specific verses in the book that give us hope.

“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor – it is a gift of God. I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.” Eccl 3:12-14

God is in complete control! He will see it through until the end, and best of all? If we persevere we will receive the blessing.

Eccl 7:8 clearly reminds us, The end is better than the beginning!”

 

Who Can You Trust?

Have you ever had an experience like this?

Someone you trust promises they will do a specific thing. You believe them because you trust them. Then time moves on and what they said they would do doesn’t happen.  You begin to doubt their word. If you let it go further, you begin to doubt their character. You start asking questions like, “will they ever come through with their promise?” And maybe you even start second guessing whether they even care about you. Maybe you aren’t important to them after all. Maybe they aren’t even who you ever believed them to be.

Not many of us actually go to this extreme in our thought process but you can see how it could go even further than what I described. We have to admit that we DO allow our expectations of what people will or won’t do go off in the wrong direction sometimes.

Perhaps after you get all bent out of shape because you decide the person must not love you anymore and therefore never intends to fulfill their promises to you, they suddenly come through and you feel ridiculous about what you were thinking. It sounds like something out of a movie where the wife is completely convinced that her husband has been cheating on her because he’s late getting home. When he walks in the door to find a hysterical wife, he says he’s stopped to pick up flowers for her.  She feels ridiculous for worrying needlessly.

It all sounds comical but isn’t that what we do to God all the time?  When we ask Him for something we need and He makes us wait, we get impatient. Then we start wondering if He even heard us. Then if we aren’t careful we can begin to doubt that He even loves us. We allow doubt to creep in and cloud our thinking.

My pastor once said, ” Why do we believe our doubts and doubt our beliefs?”  That’s a great question. Why is it so easy to allow doubt to come in when we are waiting on God to answer our prayers?

Doubt was introduced in the Garden when the serpent said to Eve, “Indeed, has God said…?”  If we allow doubt to guide our thinking we will surely lose the battle.

So when we pray and we are waiting for God to answer, what do we do?  We’ve all heard the advice to “stand on God’s promises” but what does that mean?  It means making a decision to believe God is who He says He is. If His character is trustworthy then what He says is also to be trusted.  You will find His promises in His Word. He has given them to us in writing so there can be no misunderstanding.

Now when the devil comes and says, “indeed, did God say?”  we can go straight to God’s word and find out exactly what He said.

When the devil tempted Jesus to doubt God, Jesus went right to the word and quoted it back to the devil.

If it worked for Jesus it will work for us.  Try it.

 

We wait in hope for the Lord;

he is our help and our shield.

In him our hearts rejoice,

for we trust in his holy name.

May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,

even as we put our hope in you. – Psalm 33: 20-22

Seeds and Fire Ants

A while back, we drove across the  Sunshine Skyway Bridge between St. Petersburg and Bradenton, Florida. 174 feet above the water. I’ve been over that bridge many times but it’s still breathtaking.  A huge tanker was going under the bridge just as we were going over. I wished we could just stop and watch for a while but there’s no stopping on the bridge! I wonder how many people going over that bridge were miles away in their thoughts and didn’t even notice the spectacular view.

After crossing the bridge, we drove for a few more minutes and arrived at our destination, Dooley Groves.  We were on a mission to pick Honeybell tangelos.  When it was our turn to go out to the grove, the guide gave us baskets and some specific instructions. The most important being, “watch out for fire ants.”  The lanes between the trees were filled with fire ant hills and stepping on one would cause the ants to attack the closest foot or leg.  Several times we had to quickly brush ants from the pants and shoes of one of us who, focused on the bright orange fruit, neglected to watch where we were walking. Fortunately, there were no serious bites to contend with.

We picked enough to fill our baskets and headed back across the bridge.  We were eager to taste the fruits of our labors which we had been thinking about all the way home.  After peeling a softball-sized fruit, I had juice running down my arms.  I’m sure I’ve never eaten an orange so close to harvest before. But as I ate, I realized that it would require some concentration to fully enjoy this treat. If I didn’t pay attention, I could break a tooth.  LOTS of seeds–I found four in just one segment.  I took my time and savored the sweet flavor, but I was careful!

Afterwards I thought, could we have just gone to the grocery store and bought oranges (without seeds)  with much less hassle?  Of course. But the experience and the waiting and the effort it took to eat this delicious fruit made it even more special.  And the memories we made in the process will outlast the sweet flavor of the fruit.

I think sometimes we get in such a hurry to get to the next thing on our calendar or our to-do list that we miss the blessings God has for us if we’ll slow down and appreciate the moment. In a lot of ways, I believe God purposely puts fire ants and seeds in our path to cause us to slow down and pay attention.

Perhaps today you can look at the things in your path that seem like a hassle and think about why God may have put them there.  It might just be that a sweet blessing is there waiting for you to notice.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.Psalm 34:8

How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.Psalm 31:19

Who Determines Our Worth?

When was the last time you felt foolish… or embarrassed… or humiliated? Pick one. It probably hasn’t been that long ago. You may have felt shame as well.

All those labels try to attach themselves to us when we’ve done something, or been blamed for something that threatens our self-image.  Our self-esteem: something the world works very hard to build up and then tear down over and over.

You constantly hear the concept of self-esteem thrown around. “We need to build our child’s self-esteem.” Doesn’t that actually mean that we are trying to make our child see his identity as something he must maintain by himself?

This is never what the Father intended. We aren’t meant to have to work so hard to keep up an image of who we think we should be.  But back to those words again… embarrassed, humiliated, foolish… aren’t those just words that describe our feelings when our carefully designed self-image is threatened?

If we knew who we really were, would we be inclined to be so concerned about our image? If we recognized that we are heirs to the King would we be as sensitive about what people think? If we constantly evaluate life through the lens of self-esteem and reputation we miss the point.  Nothing… nothing we could ever say or do will make us more God’s child or less God’s child.

Our identity is secure. We are who HE says we are. The Father has determined our value and nothing can change it.  We are His and He determined that we were worth His Son’s blood. Perhaps we don’t need as much SELF-esteem as we think. We certainly don’t need to feel shame that we don’t measure up to someone else’s standard.

Psalm 71:1 says, “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed.”

We need to rejoice that we have been redeemed and that God calls us His beloved children. We have no need of anyone else’s opinion.

Are you secure in WHOSE you are?