Grace in the Morning

graceThe Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning; Lord, your loyalty is great. I say to myself, “The Lord is mine, so I hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Ponder It.

  • How do you define God’s grace?
  • On a scale from one to ten, how fully do you live out of God’s grace every day?
  • What do you need today? What does God say about your need(s)?

Receive It. God’s grace gives you what you need to live. What do you need for today? Be careful. How you define what you need and how God defines what you need are likely different. We can become accustomed to assuming we have a right to something when we’re not promised by God to the same things we’re promised by the world. There’s a chasm between the two. Even when we claim the promises of God, we often live by the promises of the world, and we don’t like it when the promises of the world don’t pan out. The truth is…the world lies. God doesn’t. We can trust God’s promises, but we can’t trust the world’s. We don’t think God’s grace is sufficient because we don’t fully experience what God’s grace is. We try to fit it into a box of what we think it is. We want to believe God is big enough to take care of everything about us and our lives, but we also want to understand everything about what he’s doing. We want to micromanage, give our instruction, and rely on him to make the adjustments we most want. However, we can’t make God into what we want him to be. He can’t be both big enough to be sovereign yet small enough to be understood by those who he created. What we want and prefer doesn’t change who God is. God’s grace is sufficient, because God is sufficient. He is all we need, but we have to believe he is all we need in order to experience he is all we need. Today, he is everything you need. It might not be comfortable, easy, or burden-free, but you have what you need to deal with every moment and situation. Not in your own strength, but in his. Not in your own wisdom, but in his. Not in your own plan, but in his. Are you willing to fully yield to him and trust him for grace at the beginning of today, tomorrow, and every day?

Live It. How is God providing for your needs today? Keep a running list throughout the day, acknowledging each time God provides for you. Be sensitive to notice even those things you might not consider as needs and provision.

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.

Filter Your Assumptions

images (1)In order to connect accurately with people, we must filter our assumptions. Everything gets filtered through our backgrounds, personalities, and preferences. We try to make things fit in with what we already know. It’s how God made us, and it’s how we make sense of the world.

We encounter something new, and our brains compare it to what exists already. It’s like one of those childhood toys that has lots of shapes to be fit through matching holes. The circle will only fit the circle hole. The star will only fit the star hole. But we certainly try to fit it in all the holes until we figure out the right fit. We do the same with information. It’s called assimilation.

When something doesn’t fit, we have to make a new connection. It’s called accommodation. We have to accommodate for the new information we have. We need a new category or relationship within our mind.

When we’re not willing to put forth the effort accommodation requires, we’ll assimilate instead, limiting or ignoring the newness and the reality of the incoming information.

We make assumptions, and those assumptions can be good as they help us make sense of the world around us. However, when we become lackadaisical in our assumptions, unwilling to examine and accept the truthfulness of the situation, we respond incompletely and incorrectly. Sometimes, the only one hurt by our response is our self. We don’t fully experience and grow from the new information. We don’t create new connections, which can later impact incoming information that would have benefited from the previously created path.

Many times, we aren’t the only one hurt by our response. We impact others, because many of our interactions and experiences involve others. When we settle for assimilation information instead of considering and possibly accommodating information, we impact relationships. What can this look like in every day life?

  • As you’re talking with someone, she jumps on what she thought was your last word. You weren’t done, and what you wanted to share was important to you. She reminds you of your sibling who you felt never listened to you and didn’t respect you. You assume this person feels the same way about you and you emotionally retreat, unwilling to continue to engage in a relationship that won’t go anywhere. In reality, she might just be excited about what you said. She feels a connection and wants to continue talking.
  • You catch of glimpse of someone sitting across the table at a business meeting. She looks mad. You assume she doesn’t like the idea you shared a few minutes ago. You know you need her buy-in to make this work, so you start scrambling for a way to tweak your plans to meet her expectations. In reality, she might love the idea and is thinking through the ways she can move mountains to make it work. Her intense expression is about focus, not disapproval.
  • When your friend cancels for the third time in a row, you feel abandoned and ignored. You remember being hurt in friendships in the past. You wonder why you ever exposed yourself to the same potential hurt again. You wish the friend would just be honest and tell you she doesn’t want to hang out anymore instead of acting as if she cares. In reality, your friend really does care. She has a lot going on in her life, but she doesn’t want to burden you with the details. She has difficulty sharing. She’s avoiding you but it’s not because of you; it’s because of herself. She needs you more than ever.

Our assumptions come from what we’ve experienced before. Someone reminds us of our…mom, dad, boss, friend, co-worker, brother, sister, grandparent, neighbor, and so on…either positively and negatively, and we make a connection. If we test the similarity, and it proves to be true, we can let the connection help us respond in the future. But if we don’t test the similarity, and it proves to be a false assumption, and we’re unwilling to process the different information, we’ll miss out on the connection God wants us to make.

God teaches us through relationships. He teaches us about him, ourselves, and others. God is truth, and everything he does is based in truth. If we’re not seeking truth, even when it’s difficult, we’re not truly seeking God’s will. We don’t get to decide what’s true and what’s not based on our preferences and experiences. God does.

Don’t assume you know everything. Don’t assume you even know what you think you know. Filter it all through God’s perspective. He’ll reveal what you need to see and how you need to respond.

Make them ready for your service through your truth; your teaching is truth. (John 17:17)

Worth Keeping

keepTrust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

What do you need to set aside?

What do you need to keep?

How much space in your life is filled or available for God?

What does it mean to keep something? Perhaps hoarding comes to mind, people keeping what they don’t need to keep. The television shows on hoarding serve as a reminder to all of us not to keep what is unnecessary. We don’t need to keep every piece of paper, every paper sack, every piece of mail. We need to keep what is worth keeping. We shouldn’t fill our lives with the unnecessary.

We don’t define what is unnecessary or necessary. God does. He decides how to fill our lives. He decides where space should exist and how and with what it should be filled. He defines what we keep, and it comes out of our love for Him.

To keep something is to continue having or holding something, to not return, lose, sell, give away, or throw it away. Because we love God, we keep what He says in our grasps, on our minds, and in our hearts. We keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments. We don’t let go. We’re singled-minded. We set aside our understanding for His.

To keep something also means to continue in a specified state, condition, or position. When we keep our relationship with God, we keep changing, keep loving, keep seeking, keep obeying, keep trusting. It’s a continual relationship. No more checkboxes that you can accomplish and move on.

 

Anytime a reminder or notification pops up on your phone today, remember your constant relationship with God. Staying in a relationship with Him is like having a notification or reminder light up your phone every single second. It’s constant. Be thankful today.

When People Are Wrong

titleSometimes people will notice a difference in you as a Christian, but they won’t completely “get it.” Because they don’t understand or relate, they’ll describe it as it makes sense to them.

The king said to David, “I’ve heard that you have the spirit of the gods in you, and that you have insight, intelligence, and extraordinary wisdom.” (Daniel 5:14)

Well, close. Not exactly “the spirit of the gods.” A few verses later, Daniel gives credit to the Most High God. He doesn’t lecture the king or openly tell him he’s wrong. He maintains respect and dignity for the king while honoring God.

We don’t have to clash in harsh disagreement with people, even when we find error. We can be more patient and gracious than that. Sure, we want to correct people, but there are ways to convey truth without demeaning someone. After all, who pays attention to the content of what someone says when that person is slapping and berating them with words? Not me.

Have (and show) more respect – for yourself, others, and God.

Claim (Our Own) Truth

240_f_86747267_f0t60rxhbgndvifkhbunxs0jictzxkbdHow can you claim, “We are wise; the law of the Lord is with us”? In fact, the lying pen of scribes has produced falsehood. The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and snared. They have rejected the word of the Lordso what wisdom do they really have?…They have treated superficially the brokenness of My dear people, claiming, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:8-9,11)

We sometimes claim what we want to be true. If we claim it enough, it must be true, right?

Not even close.

Each of us has limited perspective. We have a foggy view of reality, moreso in some areas than others. We can share with one another, acknowledging that someone else’s view of a specific truth might be more clear than ours. But only God has crystal clear vision. Only He can truly fact check us. Only He can be completely trusted. We just have to be humble enough to learn – from Him and through others. We can’t get too caught up in our lack of understanding, while being willing to see our misunderstandings. We need to explore what we can and keep moving forward, because fog lifts.

 

Justice

cj_istock_000006259503largeThe Lord rises to argue the case and stands to judge the people. The Lord brings this charge…(Isaiah 3:13-14a)

God has multiple roles in justice, because He is justice. We most often declare God as judge. Often it’s not a positive declaration: “Don’t worry. God will ultimately judge him!” In essence, we’re already judging someone and declaring God will certainly agree and handle the person with as much harshness as we want.

Good thing we don’t always know how God deals with someone. He deals in both justice and grace, righteousness and compassion, judgment and mercy.

And He isn’t just the final judge. He brings charges and argues the case, too. Because ultimately, they’re His standards. We can make all the laws we want and hold people accountable according to them. There are consequences on earth, as there should be. God created us for eternity, and time on earth is part of it. But there is a broader perspective than what we see. And perhaps narrower in some ways.

We don’t understand it all, but we can pursue truth even in our areas of uncertainties. We can invite correction into our lives. We can seek wisdom, then live it out. We can trust Him – for today and eternity.