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 the Night

graceGod once said, “Let the light shine out of the darkness!” This is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts by letting us know the glory of God that is in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Ponder It.

  • How have you experienced God’s grace in the darkness of your life?
  • Where and when have you been spiritually stuck?
  • How does God’s grace impact the authenticity of your life?

Receive It. God’s grace meets you where you are. God makes a way where there seems to be no way. He brings light into the darkness. He reveals the truth…when we invite him to do so. Sometimes God illuminates our lives, and we don’t see what he’s revealing to us, because we refuse to look. We keep our eyes tightly shut, refusing to see the truthfulness of what’s around us. We would never admit to wanting to remain in the dark, but it becomes a habit. It’s comfortable. Our eyes have adjusted to the darkness, and we don’t feel the need for additional light. Sometimes God doesn’t illuminate our lives because we refuse to move toward him. We settle into a corner of the darkness and wonder why we can’t see. Our fear, anger, frustration, sadness, or other emotion overrides our desire to see beyond where we are. We feel stuck, so we stay stuck instead of using it as a motivation to move. Then there are the times God illuminates our lives and we sigh in relief, have an a-ha moment, or exclaim in excitement over what misunderstanding or misinterpretation is revealed. Where we could once see only a small piece of the puzzle and made extensive assumptions about the bigger picture, we now see more of the bigger picture and reorient our perspective based on our newly acquired knowledge. God’s grace filters everything through truthfulness. God’s grace is authentic. There is no deception in God’s grace. It will not trick you. It will not toy with you. It will meet you where you are and pour into you through the next steps of your journey. It will seep into the darkness around you, even where you didn’t know darkness existed. Darkness might seem uncertain and overwhelming, but God’s grace is invasive. Where you experience God’s grace, you will be nourished.

Live It. Turn on a flashlight and shine it around you. If it’s light where you are, you won’t notice it much. You might take it for granted or think it’s unnecessary. But there is some degree of darkness around you. Shine your light into it and consider the places in your life in need of light and grace.

Grace in the Routine

gracePeople, trust God all the time. Tell him all your problems, because God is our protection.  (Psalm 62:8)

Ponder It.

  • What parts of your daily routine would you not want to do without?
  • What would you like to incorporate more into your routine?
  • What is God’s perspective of your routine?

Receive It. God’s grace is reliable. God is trustworthy and anything that is of God is trustworthy. God cannot be anything other than trustworthy because it is his character. Grace is God’s, and we can rely on it. Our trust in and reliance on God’s grace often waxes and wanes, but it’s not because grace itself shifts. It’s because we are unreliable. We bend. We move. We stand still. We run. We walk. We sit. We hide. We seek. But God’s is unfailing. God’s grace is unfailing and unchanging.

The most reliable parts of our lives turn into our routines. We brush our teeth at a certain time, we set aside certain times to sleep, we take medications throughout our routines, go to work, eat meals, and so on, all on a schedule. Yes, we’re usually flexible in our routines, but there are common threads that work throughout our days. We can quickly take our routines for granted, assuming we’ll be able to sleep at night, assuming we have a consistent job, assuming nothing major will come along to rock our world and disrupt our routine in overwhelming, long-lasting ways. But really, our routines can and will differ. Your routine of today is not the same as your routine of 10 years ago, 20 years ago, or 30 years ago.

God’s grace is unchanging. You can rely on the routine of God’s grace. God will not pull his grace out from under you. In fact, God wants you to not only stand firmly on his grace but also be wrapped in and covered by his grace. God wants his grace to permeate every area of your life so that you respond out of his grace.

Live It. Consider what constitutes your routine. How can you see God’s grace working throughout your routine? Acknowledge God’s grace and apply it throughout your routine. If you have trouble focusing on God’s grace throughout the day, consider humming or singing Amazing Grace throughout your “routine” moments.

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.