Grace in Change

graceDo not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Ponder It.

  • How has your life changed recently?
  • How would you like your life to change?
  • How do you believe God wants your life to change?

Receive It. Grace is consistent throughout change. Grace doesn’t change, but our lives certainly change. Whether you are growing toward God or away from God, you are changing…and God is not. You can trust God’s grace to be available at any time in your life. We don’t always accept or acknowledge it. We don’t fully live out of grace. We can roll in the comfort of God’s grace in one situation, sure-footedly step out in grace in another situation, and extend the warm hand of God’s grace in yet another. But those aren’t the only situations in which we experience God’s grace. We struggle to see God’s grace when we think we’ve done something unforgiveable. We ignore God’s grace when we’re comfortable and don’t see our need for it. We trample on God’s grace when we take the wheel to drive through life on our own. Life changes, and we receive and give out God’s grace in different ways to different degrees. But the changes of our lives don’t affect the reality of God’s grace. His grace is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, because grace is who God is, and he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We have grace whether we acknowledge it or not. We have grace whether we live it out or not. We have grace because we have a relationship with God, and it’s a part of who God is. We limit the impact grace has in our lives because our preferences, attitudes, and rational thinking limit the reality of God’s grace. We sell grace short, because we are limited, and we rely on our own limited perspective. But grace doesn’t fall short. It is plentiful through all the changes of our lives despite what we think. We can believe God for his grace instead of just believing God’s grace exists.

Live It. Make a list of three areas in which your life has changed in the last three months. List three ways today is different than yesterday. Place both lists in your Bible after writing today’s date on them. Trust you’ll find them later and notice how God continues to teach and extend grace in the coming months. Give God the glory.

Grace in Relationships

graceLove the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second command is this: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” There are no commands more important than these. (Mark 12:30-31)

Ponder It.

  • With what relationship(s) do you currently struggle?
  • How do you need to extend God’s grace in a relationship?
  • How do you need to experience God’s grace in your relationship with him?

Receive It. God’s grace can be the foundation of our relationships. But our relationships are messy, because we’re messy. We don’t rely on God’s grace, because we’ve been hurt, and we struggle to extend grace to others. We’ve been offended, and we don’t trust God’s abundant grace to cover offenses. We say we trust God’s grace. We want to live it out. We want to reflect God’s grace, but do we really? Is there gossip, unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, or anger in your relationships? God’s grace can change that. God’s grace doesn’t just cover up those things. God’s grace removes it. God yanks up the deep roots of anything that gets in the way of grace. He tosses it all aside in a compost pile, because the very junk of our lives becomes the fertilizer that enriches our lives of today and tomorrow. God doesn’t let anything go to waste. We can’t pull it up ourselves and use our junk as fertilizer. We don’t have the insights to know how to accurately weed through everything. God does. He guides the process with his grace. His way is good. Our way is imperfect. God knows we’re limited. He created us. Our relationships require his grace. They won’t be productive without God’s grace. They will be destructive. Oh, they might look good. We might even impact each other in great ways, but if we don’t build relationships in God’s name, we are not as blessed as God desires. He wants us to live in abundant grace, including our relationships. That means we trust him to live abundant grace through us. Because of grace, we will forgive others and heal, we will notice people and sacrificially serve, and we will see all kinds of needs and generously give—not just of the time, energy, and resources that God gives us but of the grace only he can provide.

Live It. Extend grace today. The person who irritates and frustrates you? Ask God how he wants you to respond, then do it!

Grace in Loneliness

graceTurn to me and have mercy on me, because I am lonely and hurting. (Psalm 25:16)

Ponder It.

  • When have you experienced loneliness?
  • What is the difference between aloneness and loneliness?
  • How have you experience loneliness in busyness?

Receive It. Grace never leaves you alone. You might experience loneliness in your life, but God never intends for you to do life on your own. He created us for relationship. However, we experience lonely times. We feel alone. We feel isolated, which is different than actually being alone. The truth is we are never alone. Even when we are by ourselves, as followers of Christ, we are with God. He is with us. When we feel lonely, we can be comforted and reassured in his presence. We don’t need to ignore our feelings of isolation; in fact, we shouldn’t ignore those feelings, because what we keep in the dark will usually grow and infect us in all sorts of unhealthy ways. Instead, we can call out to God and tell him about our loneliness. He reassures us. He invests in us. He challenges us and convicts us. God’s presence isn’t always warm and fuzzy. Discipleship never is. It’s growth-producing and growth is often not comfortable. Rewarding? Yes. But comfortable? No.

God’s presence provides grace to us in the loneliness. Grace fills the spaces. We don’t know how the spaces got there, and we often try to fill the spaces with things that look appealing but end up being unsatisfying spiritual junk food. Only God can fill the gaps with his perfect provision of just what we need and what only he can provide. Whether you’re in the middle of a crowd when you experience loneliness or isolated away from others, you are not alone. Acknowledge God’s presence and accept his grace. Trust him to give you everything you need.

Live It. Make space today. Set aside one minute to sit completely by yourself in silence, if possible. Close your eyes and clear your mind. Try to think of nothing. Sweep it clean. Of course, it will be a struggle, but don’t give up. Keep cleaning for a full minute. At the end, you might not have swept every thought clean, but you’ll hopefully have more space than before. Ask God to fill it.

Grace in Activity

graceSo be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise, but live wisely. Use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times. So do not be foolish but learn what the Lord wants you to do. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Ponder It.

  • On a scale from one to ten, how busy would you rate your life to be?
  • What is something you have done recently that was obviously rooted in God’s guidance?
  • What is an area of your schedule or responsibilities that hasn’t recently been filtered through God’s hands?

Receive It. Grace can permeate your schedule, but God won’t crowd into spaces you haven’t created. If you imagine an appointment book, consider grace as the very pages of the book. Anything that you write on the pages is founded in grace. Everything is filtered through grace. Nothing can be separated from grace. But is that how we actually approach our schedules? Grace isn’t something to be handled lightly as a convenience. It’s not something we can block in a designated amount of time. It must be given priority in our lives, both long-term and short-term. We often run from one activity to another. And we’re often doing good things, but doing the good things isn’t good enough. Doing the good thing must be set aside and replaced by doing the God thing. Sometimes the two look very much the same, but our motivation can be different. We can do the good thing because we think it’s what God would want, but is it, really? Have we checked with him? Have we relied on him to guide us? Even doing something that is within his general will doesn’t mean it’s part of his specific will for us, because his specific will includes his guidance in timing. What requires our yes at one point may require our no at another point. God has no intention for us to do, do, do…even in his name. God intends for us to be, be, be, which includes doing but only when it is filtered through his name and the timing and guidance he gives. We access God’s grace through our relationship with God, which requires regular reliance on God. We must sacrifice our own assumptions and preferences, including in our schedules, to his will. As we do, his grace abounds in and through us.

Live It. Check your calendar or to do list for the next 24 hours. Have you intentionally filtered absolutely everything through his will? Ask him what needs to be removed, changed, or added.

Grace in Stillness

graceGod says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be praised in all the nations; I will be praised throughout the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Ponder It.

  • How often are you spiritually still?
  • How do you struggle with spiritual stillness?
  • What do you anticipate from God through spiritual stillness?

Receive It. Grace meets us where we are, but we don’t always meet it face-to-face. We skirt around it or walk over it because we’re too busy, or we fail to focus on it in the stillness. As we still ourselves, it seems obvious that we would experience God’s presence, but that’s only the case when we still ourselves in God’s presence. We must be intentional about the stillness of our lives. We often struggle with stillness, because we don’t seem to find the time to be still. We feel guilty because we’re not still often enough or long enough. We see the shortcomings of our stillness. Or sometimes, we’re too still. We refuse to move out of fear. We all need a slight nudge, whether it’s into stillness or out of the wrong kind of stillness.

When we enter stillness in the presence of God, we experience the consistency of his presence, but our experiences will be different. Because God engages in a relationship with us, he works in our lives in a variety of ways. Sometimes we are filled with his presence and grace over a season in our lives. Stillness doesn’t equate inactivity. We can be engaged with the activities of life but find a stillness deep within, where God gives us his peace and grace to sustain and fuel us. Stillness can also be a moment, when we close our eyes to our surroundings and open our hearts to be surrounded by God and his grace. We can be still when the chaos or noise of life surrounds us, and we can be still when nothing but the sights and sounds of nature surround us. Spiritual stillness begins in our hearts and consumes our minds. But spiritual stillness is always teeming with grace.

Live It. Practice being still during a noisy moment in your day. Whether the noise around you is in what you hear, what you see, or what you’re thinking, get still. Focus on God’s presence. Trust him to pour into you in the quiet place of your soul even among the noise of your surroundings. Thank him for his reliable provision despite your circumstances.

Grace in the Light

graceYou are the giver of life. Your light lets us enjoy life. (Psalm 36:9)

Ponder It.

  • How have you enjoyed God’s light in your life?
  • How does your perspective change as the quality and position of the light around you changes?
  • How does God’s light differ from lights of the world?

Receive It. Grace highlights truth in its light. Grace illuminates the truthfulness of any situation. We cling to what we think the truth of something is. We think we’ve done something that can’t be forgiven. We think someone else has offended us or someone else in an irreparable way. We think something we believed or assumed at one point in our lives is accurate and cannot be questioned. Grace says, “Take another look and look through the eyes of truth.”

Light is beautiful. It creates beautiful patterns in our lives. It illuminates the reality of a situation. Without it, we cannot see. And without accepting God’s grace, we cannot live it out. We try to prove ourselves, take control, and establish and maintain self-sufficiency. It’s not going to happen, because God is the source of proof, control, and sufficiency. God doesn’t just provide us with light; he is light. We don’t just find God in light. We find light in God. We experience God when we’re living in his light. The two can’t be separated. The same is true with grace. God’s grace cannot be separated from him. It’s who he is.

Live It. Stand in the light. Look around you and see how the light impacts what you see and how you see it. Change your perspective, turning your body or taking a step into or away from the light. Pay attention how the changes you make impact your perspective. The light doesn’t change. Your perspective changes based on where you are in relation to the light. Where you are in relation to the light always makes a difference in what you see and how you see it. Consider how your experience impacts your relationship with God and your commitment to seek and stay in his light.

To My Mom

Sometimes, I find something months before I want it to go live. This is one of those posts. You’re seeing it on Mothers Day, but I’m typing these words a few days before Christmas, several months earlier. I heard this song a couple months ago and made a note in my ongoing list of writing and blog ideas. So, I’m obviously not a mama’s boy, but despite that discrepancy, it speaks to how I feel about my mom. I love her. She’s provided for me. She’s loved me. She’s corrected and encouraged me. She’s let me see her imperfections, and she’s been a good role model. She’s let me grow up.

I love my mama. We have a bond that time and circumstances will not break.

Happy Mothers Day!