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!

Is Change a What or a Who?

imagesHow often do you demand, expect, or desire organizational change?

Consider the following:

What does the national government need to “get it right”?

What are the top changes the church should make?

What are the major changes you want to see at your workplace or grocery store or in the healthcare, education, or public aid systems?

It’s easier for us to demand organizational change than to accept personal change. We can identify issues that need to be addressed and resolved. We’re great armchair quarterbacks. But how do we respond when God announces,

“I interrupt this game you’re dreaming about to bring you back to reality. You’re trying to play everyone else’s game, and you’re missing out on your own. You need to be willing to change instead of just talking about change.”

Ouch.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” I think God would tweak it a bit: “You must be the change God wants to see in the world.” In essence, you need to listen and respond to God and the way he’s changing you. You’re not the only one on his radar; he’s able to be everywhere all the time. He’s got the details covered. That means he can change the world. He could change organizations. But God’s way of changing works through people. He’s passionate about people he creates and wants an intimate relationship with them. If you desire change, he wants you to experience change.

Change is an investment. It can be a foolish investment or a wise investment. God wants to show you what wise investment is. He wants you to engage in investments that yield significant growth. The growth and change isn’t always what you define as the best or most preferred growth and change, but if it’s God’s way, it’s the best way.

Are you going to get stuck in the quagmire of expecting change outside you in order to meet you where you are, or are you willing to let God examine where you are and take you to another place, impacting not only your own life but those you connect with along the way?

“I am the true vine; my Father is the gardener.He cuts off every branch of mine that does not produce fruit. And he trims and cleans every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.You are already clean because of the words I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce much fruit. But without me they can do nothing. If any do not remain in me, they are like a branch that is thrown away and then dies. People pick up dead branches, throw them into the fire, and burn them. If you remain in me and follow my teachings, you can ask anything you want, and it will be given to you. You should produce much fruit and show that you are my followers, which brings glory to my Father. I loved you as the Father loved me. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:1-9)

This Can’t Be Right

14657310_1460833877264039_930398364757535582_n-300x149Then they said to Him, “John’s disciples fast often and say prayers, and those of the Pharisees do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” (Luke 5:13)

We often question out of our expectations and experiences, as if certain things can’t change. We see differences and proclaim, “Well, this can’t be right, because it’s not what I know to be true or normal.” But what if our ideas and expectations need to be tweaked?

They often do.

Just because someone or something doesn’t fit our cookie cutter molds doesn’t mean we should reject them. We can listen, learn, and when appropriate, change. Sometimes we accommodate what we learn into our existing ideas and practices, and the two meld together. Other times, we set aside what we encounter but not before learning from and wrestling with it. But when we simply reject things without filtering, either quickly or over time, it through truth, we miss out. Just because we don’t like something or it makes us uncomfortable is not a good reason to toss it aside.

Instead, we can search for truth among what we encounter, what we experience, and what we expect. And we can let that truth change us into who God wants us to become…instead of changing ourselves into what we most want.

Patterns of Life

veniceDo not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

What healthy pattern is in your life right now?

What pattern do you need to tear out of your life?

How can tearing yourself away renew and transform you?

 

When we follow the patterns of this world, we anticipate what will happen by our own logic or patterns of experiences. We dread, expect, or claim what will happen. Conforming creates patterns. Sometimes, we need to tear ourselves away.

All patterns aren’t bad. Patterns can be positive and constructive. When we place standing stones to mark our experiences with and trust in God, the patterns that remind us how He has provided and guided in the past point into the future. We can trust He will provide and guide again…and again and again and again. However, we often cannot predict the specific direction.

When we are transformed, it becomes less about us and more about God. We acknowledge we don’t know the future and trust Him to prepare us for the situations ahead.

Preparation comes through transformation.

We’re not prepared today for what we’ll face tomorrow. We’re prepared to face today. And today mandates our full attention and participation in order to receive the preparation, the transformation, we need for tomorrow.

Prepare something today. It can be simple. Bake a cake or cookies. Make a simple craft or photo collage. What items or materials need to change through the process in order to complete what you’re making? How do you experience transformation in the process? Consider what this reminds you about the way God transforms you.

Believe It Or Not

6d232b852524b43cdf9ce75a50260be8Look at the nations and observe—be utterly astounded! For something is taking place in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it. (Habakkuk 1:5, HCSB)

When I first glanced at this, I thought “Isn’t this the case?” I thought of all the junk that goes on in our world today. It’s nothing new. Nations and people have had issues and struggles pretty much since forever. And we’re not going to solve it all.

But setting this aside for a moment, I glanced at the verse again.

You see, Habakkuk isn’t groaning about all the junk in the world. That’s not what is astounding. Another translation says, “Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—You would not believe if you were told.” (NASB)

The reason for the astonishment and wonder isn’t negative, it’s positive! And what we can’t believe isn’t what people are doing but what God is doing.

Well, that changes things.

Sometimes we need to look at something again. Look at people again. Look at a situation again. Look at God again.

Snapshot Moments, Video Life

240_F_16248506_F05h1oUKwBIIm8dsgrii07O3wIByUZxa.jpgIf someone showed you snapshots of my life, you’d assume a variety of things about me.

I’m not talking about the actual photographs stored in boxes and computers. I’m talking about moments of my life that might seem like isolated incidences…until studied in a photo.

Has anyone said to you, “Remember the time you…,” then they proceed to bring up one of those not-so-proud-of-it-so-why-d0-you-have-to-remember moments? Our families are good at it.

But we all change. We need to take videos, not snapshots.

Sure, snapshots are good for fun, silly, even bittersweet memories, but for capturing our lives, we need to be willing to consider a series of snapshots over time. We need to string moments and situations together. We need to refuse to keep someone in a time capsule, when they’ve clearly grown up.

 

Give people room and grace. See how they change. Acknowledge growth to encourage more – in both yourself and others.