Oops! Your Grace is Showing!

 “…For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace;” Hebrews 13:9 (KJV)

Grace is commonly defined as “unmerited favor.” We think of grace as an attribute God bestows upon us, when we are so less deserving of possessing it. So, that would most likely mean that grace is something given to us, right?

But, in this passage, the grace that is being spoken of, isn’t in the passive voice anymore. This kind of grace, which now resides in our hearts, is an active and recognizable expression. Once we’ve received the grace that God abundantly provides, we need to make sure it’s something which others see in us daily. It certainly pleases God–for He says, “it is a good thing.”

 I find it troubling that, at times, we, as Christians, fail to remember that the grace we have been given was unconditional, not based upon anything we did or said to earn it. In the flesh, we tend to “measure up” the individuals who have offended us and fail to exhibit grace. We might say we aren’t hurt by another’s words or actions, but our responses soon betray us. Bitterness and resentment can settle into place, limiting our service and usefulness to God. Our hearts turn cold and selective, not allowing the “establishment of grace” to be freely available to all. It certainly contradicts the character of Christ.

Is there someone you need to ask forgiveness of, knowing your behavior has been ungracious, possibly condemning? Is your grace partial or plentiful? Pray that God will help you maintain a heart which contains pure motives and kind deeds. And then, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ will be on display!

The Faith that Moves Mountains

Remember Superman? Although famous for his super-human strength, Superman had a weakness: kryptonite. Just one tiny fragment could render him weak and inactive! The “Man of Steel” had no hope of regaining his physical might, unless the rock was removed from his presence as soon as possible.

In contrast, spiritual strength draws upon an endless reserve of divine mineral! There is no limit to its capabilities or consequences. Deuteronomy 32:4 states, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are judgment.” God promises to be our security no matter what!  Our loved ones will disappoint us, sometimes more than we can bear. Friends may fail us, causing hurt and confusion.Yet, God remains steadfast in our souls, immovable and unchanging. His desires for us are always good….and dependable. We can always lean on Him, knowing “He is the Rock.”  

A firm foundation in Christ assures us victory, despite the odds and despite the opposition we face. You’ve heard the expression, “God can move mountains”, which refers to facing massive difficulties? That huge obstacle in your life is like a pebble in the hand of the Mountain-Maker! Have you trusted Him as Lord (and the Rock) of your life?

*Taken from “Is Your Fruit Sweet or Sour? A Teen Girl’s Guide to Christian Living,” written and published by Karen Finn (ISBN 9780984665709).

The Brevity of Life

Yesterday, I tried repeatedly to sit down and “blog”, but kept experiencing writers’ block. Strange, that doesn’t happen very often. Today, however, is a different story. Recent events have caused my thoughts to reflect inward; to once again, be reminded of the brevity of life.  

Late last night, I received news about the sudden, tragic death of a 19-year old young man our family had been acquainted with. It’s consumed my thoughts all day, stirring up deep emotions of empathy for his grieving loved ones.

On facebook, many friends and acquaintances are posting notes of condolences, expressing kindness, encouragement and prayerful support. Where does one turn in such a time of need? What can bring peace, strength or comfort to those who are in shock–listless and confused?  Our very best efforts to console seem so trivial and hopeless, no matter how much we try, no matter how sincere we are.

I’ve come to realize that it’s not our words that can ease the pain, but God’s Word. Below, I’ve listed verses which speak to the heart of those who are suffering and in need. God sees the heart of every man, woman and child, and is able to reach out and draw that one close into His loving arms. He is a mighty God Who saves us and loves us unconditionally. He promises to be with us always. And He promises abundant grace, peace and strength in our hour of despair.

God promises Strength

Psalm 46:1- “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Isaiah 41:10- “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

 

God promises Peace

Isaiah 26:3-4 – “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:”

Philippians 4:6- “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,  shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

God promises Grace

1 Corinthians 2:9- “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Hebrews 4:16- “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Our Wall of Defense

Mia at 6 weeks of age

Laborador Retrievers are notorious for wandering. We found that out with our first pet, a male yellow lab named Huckleberry. “Huck” certainly lived up to his namesake, the one made popular in Mark Twain’s classic.The minute we’d turn our backs, Huck would take off. Once, he trekked over six miles west of our home; another time, he slipped into a neighbor’s backyard and was found, treading water in their inground pool! He would never visit the same place twice.

I remember one occurrence, over the course of a holiday weekend, Huck didn’t return for a few days;we began to fear he was injured, possibly dead. Huck had an ID tag/license number, but since the offices were closed, if someone found him and attempted to reach the borough, the information wouldn’t be obtained until Monday. How grateful we were, when the township authorities contacted us and informed us that Huck had been found!

Flash forward to 2008. Huck had passed away (prematurely) from Lyme’s Disease in 2006, and our family found solace in adopting Abby, a chocolate Lab-mix. Two years later, a tiny black Lab/fur-ball, “Mia”, captured our hearts and joined us.

The pattern of roaming away from the homefront became a common dilemma once again. We decided to invest in an invisible fence for our property. It became the best decision we ever could have made! Not only did it protect our pets from venturing into danger, it gave us peace of mind, no need to be anxious about their whereabouts and activities. There were times when Abby or Mia would attempt to cross the barrier, but a high -powered frequency charge would remind them of their restrictions.

I saw similarities between the invisible fence and God’s Word. Let me explain the spiritual application I discovered…. The defining principles found in the Bible can be used as our protective border which “warn” us, sometimes even “shocking” us back to safety. However, there is a risk involved with choosing to ignore the signals and the red flags. When we cross over the limits, we may get lost in the adventure, miscalculate our direction and not find our way back to shelter. If we return, we are not usually in the same shape that we were prior to our getaway.

There is peace, sweet peace in the comfort of being “at home”, within the protective confines of God’s promises and provision. Praise God for His perfect wall of defense!

Fearless + Faithful = Future Blessings

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think…”

This portion of Ephesians 3:20 is such a golden nugget of truth, rock-solid in its promise of deliverance and devotion!

When it comes to facing our fears, we think we have God all figured out. We bring Him down to our level, and typically predict how we think He’ll work out a particular situation. Sure, we pray, but we usually anticipate the result and expect it all to work out to our liking. We grow impatient, sometimes rushing the process. In the end, we discover that God’s timing is perfect.

Why, then, are we surprised when God does an “exceeding abundantly” thing in our lives? I think it might be due to our lack of faith. The Bible tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. God is much bigger than we imagine, more capable than we can comprehend. What is promised to us is not always tangible, not even within our grasp! With faith, it is always manageable and totally magnificent!

Faith has a two-fold demension; it can represent your belief system, the convictions that are securely in place. However, faith is also the foundation of confidence one has for the future, choosing to drive fear away. It’s the quiet expectation of a sure blessing–without a due date on its arrival!

It’s not a matter of being faithful–it’s a matter of being faith-full. Are you?

No Ordinary Day

The tragic events of 9/11/01 will be brought to the forefront of our minds today, reminding us of the fragility of life.

Eleven years ago, ordinary Americans, going about their daily routines were jolted by the live coverage of the four hijacked airplanes and its resultant deadly crashes. Many of us couldn’t pull away from the television screen, disturbed by the unfolding circumstances.

It made no sense.

However, what I did see happen–which made a whole lot of sense–was our country’s resilient nature shining forth, uniting us together as “one nation, under God.” Countless prayer vigils were held, church attendance was up and many of our leaders in just about all walks of life (politics, education, corporate, etc.) were tolerant of religious expression, even encouraged it.  

Although mankind seems to be strong and independent, somewhat ignorant of a higher authority,there are times, like a 9/11 event, when God is welcomed. The questions, doubts and fears arise, making us question our faith and wonder “why”-even in the lives of those who are agnostic.

Only a Sovereign God has the answers. It is Him that we turn to in our grief and confusion for strength and comfort. He WILL NOT turn us away. His promises of peace, love and support are what we need to restore confidence and calmness. 

9/11 is no ordinary day.

It’s a grim reminder that God is the One in control of everything. Let’s live each day to the fullest, recognizing His blessings and benefits. Why not take a moment to pray for those who were affected by the events of this tragic day, and thank God for the goodness He has bestowed upon you thus far?

Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

SWEET OR SOUR?

When you are squeezed, what comes out of you? Are you quick to complain, or do you lash out in anger? Perhaps a discouraged heart dictates your mood the majority of the time. An irritable nature is difficult to control, whether it its ours or another’s!

It’s our sin nature that causes us to react wrongly. Sin blocks our communion with a Holy God, who sees all and knows all. Unless the barrier is eliminated, our ability to overcome any onset of disturbances is destined to fall short and fail utterly.

Isn’t it reassuring to know that we have a merciful, patient God who is able and willing to forgive us when we respond inappropirately? Let us bravely forsake the grumbline, let go of the resentments and focus on that which is positive and uplifting.

First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confess the sin that has kept you in bondage, and restore your relationship with God. Your responses will become much more sweeter!

* Used by permission; taken from Is Your Fruit Sweet or Sour? A Teen Girl’s Guide to Christian Living

Recipe for Success

We learn best where there is joy.        

I had been feeling somewhat discouraged with the responsibilites of teaching my kids at home. While searching for cyber-space support, I came across this anonymous phrase, posted on an educator’s blogsite. Bingo!

Was that what was missing? Joy? I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was the key to unlocking the drudgery and demands which had kept me chained up, figuratively-speaking. How conscientious had I been to include joy as part of our daily curriculum? I had gotten so  preoccupied on accomplishing the tasks at hand, that I had left the most important ingredient out of the recipe for success! 

Almost overnight, my attitude changed.Wanting my kids to “learn best” motivated me into action. My joy could–and would–be contagious! Allowing such a tiny little truth to direct my thinking and behavior proved beneficial–boosting confidence and generating tons of optimism.   

Is joy present in your life, in your classroom or office space? Whatever circumstance you face, desire to “learn best” and keep joy at your side!

The Power of a Preposition

Photo courtesy of Diane Ward

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”     2 Corinthians 5:17

Think of things that are new. New clothes. New car.New home. New creature. What?!?

The word creature makes me think of horror movies. But, in this context of Scripture, it is referring to something newly formed or created.The requirement to be newly formed, is to be “in Christ.” In is a powerful, little preposition! 

We can tell others of Christ, or lead others to Christ. We can even do things for Christ or through Christ. Yet, when we determine to be in Christ, we aren’t just getting a makeover, but a fresh start, a new beginning. Our future is bright with hope, knowing we will always be together with Christ!The Greek translates creature as an “original formation.” What promise is contained in this passage–promises of hope, restoration and purpose! All of that is ours to possess, once the foundation found in Christ has been poured upon our souls. The groundwork has begun. Everything from this point forward will have eternal value, knowing that this new life in Christ stands firm. That’s not so scary now, is it?