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 Baggage

graceIf anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Ponder It.

  • How is your past negatively impacting your present?
  • How is your past positively impacting your present?
  • What piece of baggage do you most want to leave behind?

Receive It. Our past doesn’t change, but the way we view it and use it changes – thankfully. The change doesn’t automatically happen. We can cling to the past so tightly that it seems the same or even worse than it did when we experienced it. We can also misconstrue it in a way that unrealistically paints a beautiful picture over something hideous. Neither is helpful when we respond out of our own desires and preferences. God alone is the redecorator of our lives. He determines what needs to be tossed aside, recycled, reused or handed down to someone else. Baggage is not always a bad thing. Our experiences of yesterday prepared us for today. We don’t see the benefit in every situation. Some situations are simply filled with pain. We might never see the benefit, but if we can’t see God using it in our lives, we don’t need to carry it with us on a daily basis. Just because something is in our past doesn’t mean it needs to become the filters through which we experience everything. Only God needs to serve as our filter. When we let him sift everything, he brings to the surface what is necessary for a particular day, situation, season or relationship. Unless God can use it, we don’t need to regularly access it. It’s part of our baggage, but it’s in storage until God unpacks it and says, “I’m going to use this to grow you or someone else. Don’t worry. I’ll help you work through it, and when we’re done, I’ll repack it.” We can’t ignore or lug the weight of our pasts. Let’s let God decide the perfect timing of packing, unpacking, repacking, and purging.

Live It. As you pick up your purse today, ask God to reveal to you what needs to be packed for your day. Carry no more and no less.

Grace in Preparation

graceHe waited with patience so that he could make known his rich glory to the people who receive his mercy. He has prepared these people to have his glory. (Romans 9:23)

Ponder It.

  • How often do you rearrange furniture?
  • What are three words to describe your organization style?
  • What is God prompting you to move in or out of your life right now?

Receive It. God gives us everything we need to experience the joy he intends for us, but we must be willing to rearrange our lives for him. When we prepare to host a slumber party or lots of company, we often rearrange furniture. We move aside the couch and chairs to maximize floor space for sleeping bags or video games. We set up folding or picnic tables to accommodate extra people. We rearrange the food in the refrigerator to store the additional goodies we’ve prepared or others are bringing.

In our daily lives, we need to move aside some things in preparation for what’s coming. We need to prepare. God isn’t silent about the preparation he intends for us to make. The issue isn’t lack of instruction—even though we often make that rationalization—but lack of attention and trust. We want to know the “why” of what we’re doing when God is giving us clear instruction of the “what.” He wants us to be obedient. He doesn’t need us to be all-knowing; he has that role covered. When we’re focused on the “why” instead of the “what,” we’re not focused on the right insight, so we think we’re missing out. Because our eyes aren’t honed on the proper focus, we think God isn’t giving us what we want, let alone what we need. We’re mistaken. God never leaves us uninstructed.

We might not understand why God is telling us to rid our lives of something, plant seeds of something new in our lives, or reprioritize responsibilities and relationships, but we don’t have to know the “why.” God wants us to respond in obedience. And really, isn’t trusting God by responding in obedience enough of a “why”?

Live It. Get rid of something today. Give it away. Move something today. Get out of your comfort zone. Plant a seed today. Meet someone new. Invest in a relationship. Apply for a new job. Explore an unfamiliar area of Scripture. Set aside your plans for God’s.

Receiving the Baton

post-12Elisha picked up the mantle that had fallen off Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle Elijah had dropped and struck the waters. “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” he asked. He struck the waters himself, and they parted to the right and the left, and Elisha crossed over. (2 Kings 2:13-14)

We actively receive. We participate in the passing of the baton. Sometimes, we might just want or expect to receive, but grasping what someone offers takes willing participation and preparation. We might stubbornly refuse because the passing of the baton isn’t done the way we want or in the timing we want. We may get too much or not enough recognition in the process. We might feel underprepared. We might not have much respect for the person we follow, or we might have so much respect for him or her that we are overwhelmed with the responsibility. But none of that cancels our responsibility to receive. We have to be ready and willing to do what it takes to pick up and put on what God intends in His timing.

What is He asking you to pick up (and put down) today? He’s prepared you. Trust Him through the process. Respond in faith.

Is It Summer? Here’s What You Should Do.

ceceda543aa011e3826c22000aa80387_8We all go through seasons, and they aren’t just seasons in a nature cycle. We have spiritual and emotional seasons, too. Summer is beautiful. It feels as if we are blooming. We can take a deep breath and enjoy, savoring our surroundings.

But spiritual summers don’t last forever. We might want to lazily soak in the warmth and sun, because it feels good, but we need to be intentional about how we spend our summers.

It’s what happens in the spiritual summers in our lives that prepare us for the spiritual winters. When things are dreary, depressing, and overwhelming, when we’re disoriented and dragging, not sure we’ll make it through, it’s difficult to see the sunshine and claim the truth of the situation and truth about God. How we prepare carries us through the tough times. God nourishes and prepares us, not to make us happy to greet the dark days and not to make things easy but to make them bearable.

If we waste our preparation time, we make the difficult times more difficult. When truth is planted firmly in our minds and hearts, we can recall them when everything seems shaken and displaced, even if we can only recall glimpses among the chaos.

God doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of rescue in tough times. He wants to provide for you and reveal Himself to you in every single season and moment of your life.

Resting for the Right Reasons

acea8a39e819137bbe06ac5e74f4fb55So the heavens and the earth and everything in them were completed. By the seventh day God completed His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from His work of creation. (Genesis 2:1-3)

God didn’t need rest because He was exhausted. He rested because His work was complete.

On the other hand, we cry out for rest and fall into a heap of exhaustion when we just can’t fit another event, responsibility, or stressor into our lives. We’ve had it, so we declare, “Enough is enough! I’m getting some rest!”

Resting God’s way requires us to approach our responsibilities differently, especially our definition of “complete.” If we wait until everything is done just the way we want it to be done, crossing every single thing off our to-do lists, there’s no hope for rest.

That’s not the example God sets. He didn’t create the world, then rest because everything was done. He stayed engaged with creation. He continued to take action. He continued to work and stay involved even after He rested. Absolutely everything was not done. He did what needed to get done to complete what was essential for that time frame. Then He rested, then He continued.

His rest of completion was a pause. It was a celebration of the past and a preparation for the future.

We need rest like that. We need rejuvenating pauses that invite us to celebrate the past, even if we can only find glimpses of growth and progress, as well as prepare for the future, even if it looks daunting or we have no idea what is next.

God does. And He is in the pause. He is in our rest.

How Immediate Is Your Response in Faith?

“Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (Matthew 4:19-22)

Immediately? Really? That’s impressive, but I don’t think it’s the norm. Of course, we should follow the disciples’ examples and strive for such an immediate response, but do we, really? Their response was in the context of first steps of faith in following Jesus, but their example floods the journey of faith for us. How promptly do we respond to Jesus on a daily basis, across a variety of situations in our lives? Be honest with yourself. An important piece of following is preparation. If we’re not continually placing ourselves under God’s authority, we certainly won’t respond well or immediately when He prompts us. We take more time to mull over the options and try to determine the best path for us. Sure, we may call it “discernment,” but sometimes we just want to put that godly label on our own pro/con list. We want to rationalize through something. God created our rational minds, so He wants us to use them, but we can also distort what God has given us and let those very gifts get in the way. What gets in the way of your immediate response to God?

Today’s post is excerpted from Susan Lawrence’s recent release, Pure Submission: Turning What You Think About Submission Right Side Up. Order your copy today.