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 Forgiveness

graceForgive us for our sins, because we forgive everyone who has done wrong to us. (Luke 11:4)

Ponder It.

  • When have you struggled to extend forgiveness to someone?
  • When have you struggled to receive forgiveness from someone?
  • How completely do you accept God’s forgiveness of you?

Receive It. Grace is sufficient for forgiveness. In fact, true forgiveness cannot be given without God’s grace. Forgiveness is not easy. It’s easier in some circumstances than others, but it’s definitely not a simple process. It’s not the same in every situation. There will be times when someone says “I’m sorry,” and you can easily say, “No problem!” Other times you might hold onto the hurt for years. Someone might not actually say he or she is sorry. You might wait, expecting an apology and expecting to be able to forgive once the apology is given, but if you can’t forgive without the apology, you likely can’t fully forgive with the apology. Your forgiveness isn’t reliant on someone’s guilt and offering of forgiveness. People often want justice and can’t imagine getting it without something tangible. God’s forgiveness doesn’t require justice. If it did, none of us would be forgiven. God’s way of forgiving is undeserved. Even when we know someone doesn’t deserve our forgiveness, we have to extend it when we’re living by God’s will. We forgive because of who God is. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t learn lessons from what has happened in the past. It doesn’t mean you never think about it again. It doesn’t mean whatever is forgiven has no impact on your life. There are still consequences. Forgiveness simply places the situation in God’s hands. It’s the act of saying to God, “I yield this to you and trust you in guiding me how to deal with it. Use it to draw me close to you.” Forgiveness is more about your relationship with God than the worldly justice you crave.

Live It. Say “I forgive” to someone today. It can be someone in your past or present. It can be verbal or written. You might need to say it to God because you no longer have contact with the person or don’t know how to reach her/him. It might be for something small or something big. It might be for a small piece of a larger issue or the big issue itself. Start somewhere. Start today.

God’s Role. Our Role.

psalms_33_20_22_by_boughtbybloodme-d7ubuoxWe wait for Yahweh; He is our help and shield. For our hearts rejoice in Him because we trust in His holy name. May Your faithful love rest on us, Yahweh, for we put our hope in You. (Psalm 33:20-22)

God: helps. shields. loves. We: wait. rejoice. trust. hope.

How often do we overlook our own responsibilities and take on God’s?

Watcher of Mankind

As I read through Job, I paused at Job 7 and wrote in my margin, “And the whining drones on…” It irritated me a bit.

97980584_wideIsn’t mankind consigned to forced labor on earth?
Are not his days like those of a hired hand?
Like a slave he longs for shade; like a hired man he waits for his pay.
So I have been made to inherit months of futility, and troubled nights have been assigned to me.
When I lie down I think: When will I get up?
But the evening drags on endlessly, and I toss and turn until dawn.
My flesh is clothed with maggots and encrusted with dirt. My skin forms scab and then oozes.

My days pass more swiftly than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is but a breath. My eye will never again see anything good.
The eye of anyone who looks on me will no longer see me.
Your eyes will look for me, but I will be gone.
As a cloud fades away and vanishes, so the one who goes down to Sheol will never rise again.
He will never return to his house; his hometown will no longer remember him.

Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I the sea or a sea monster, that You keep me under guard?
When I say: My bed will comfort me, and my couch will ease my complaint,
then You frighten me with dreams, and terrify me with visions,
so that I prefer strangling—death rather than life in this body.
I give up! I will not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. What is man, that You think so highly of him
and pay so much attention to him?
You inspect him every morning, and put him to the test every moment.
Will You ever look away from me, or leave me alone long enough to swallow?
If I have sinned, what have I done to You, Watcher of mankind?
Why have You made me Your target, so that I have become a burden to You?
Why not forgive my sin and pardon my transgression?
For soon I will lie down in the grave. You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone.

God is reduced to “watcher of mankind,” as if He is not interested or invested in us? Ugh.

Or so I thought.

As I read it again, it gave me a bit of comfort. Not that I want to justify my whining. In fact, it was so ingrained in me as I grew up that whining wasn’t acceptable or worth any time spent on it, whining doesn’t even stay in my mind for long, let alone escape from my mouth very often. But I’ve done my fair share of whining with God. I might not identify it as whining, but when I honestly take a look at myself and my conversations with Him, I can see it through the years. Hopefully, less and less, but still there.

And I’m not sorry, either for my own or for the inclusion of Job 7. I certainly don’t want to drone on and on with no forward movement of faith. I suppose there are two kinds of whining: productive and unproductive. Unproductive whining doesn’t get you anywhere but stuck. It’s “poor me” with little or no acknowledgement that anything, including ourselves, will change. It’s the kind of whining I don’t want to tolerate in myself or others for long, because it digs a pit for us to camp in and feel sorry for ourselves. Productive whining is different. Sometimes we need to talk through our “woe is me” as a reality check of the way things really are…with hope, a new sunrise, and a dependable God.

Maybe calling God “watcher of mankind” isn’t as bad as I thought. (In another translation, He is called “preserver of man.”) It is still acknowledging Him with some sort of authority. Maybe we all go through times when we can’t quite grasp who He is, not because He has changed but because of our circumstances. Maybe we need to work through where we are and where He is and how the two fit together, because we’re uncertain. Maybe there’s a bit of whiny involved, because we don’t like the uncertainty.

Maybe whining is the clue we need that we’re uncertain, need to wrestle a bit, and trust God enough to show us a glimpse of who He is for our tomorrows, not just our today.

“How long will you go on saying these things? Your words are a blast of wind.” (Job 8:1)

No Turning Back

jul11_finalSo they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:4)

When things get frightening or discouraging, we often blame who we’re following and decide we know who would be a better leader. We convince ourselves the only right reaction must be to turn in an opposite direction or return to where we once were. We’re unwilling to consider what pieces in our situations  could help us, what we need to struggle through to grow, and how we can partner with people around us even when it’s challenging.

We don’t have to like our situations but it’s important to honor God through them.

In the above verse, people’s fears and lack of understanding blinded them to God’s leading and provision so much that they wanted to return to Egypt, where they we so desperate to escape slavery. They wanted to return to a familiar situation, no matter how bad it was, instead of trusting God and growing through an uncertain situation.

We need to be willing to push through our fear and discouragement. Otherwise, we’ll miss out on what’s right in front of us.

The Filter of Faith

7caad49122d45e8963f450a4d604f5eeWe can make some outlandish claims about the ease of faith. But the truth is just because we follow Jesus doesn’t mean our lives are neat and tidy. We still have struggles and challenges. Our situations don’t magically change just because we have faith in Jesus. Anyone who claims that Jesus made everything in his or her life better and took away all pain, concerns, anxiety, needs, and more isn’t being honest–with you or themselves.

But Jesus gives us a filter of hope. Same situations but we face them differently. We look at them differently, considering the possibilities and bearing a heavy but slightly relieved load. Life is still difficult. We still hurt. We grieve. We struggle. We wonder. But we do all those things with hope…that we can have peace even when life seems chaotic, that Jesus assures us even in our uncertainties. We do not and cannot fully understand the future, let alone the present, but we can trust the One who does.

When All You Have Is Enough

28983400348009a2312d7f61db01556eAll you have to give is more than enough…when your all is for God.

He makes up the difference when you offer what you have completely for Him. It becomes His to use in whatever way He knows is best. It might not end up perfect. In fact, it rarely will. But it will always be better than what we offer on our own, because God adds and multiplies, stretches and ripples. He weaves and purposes in ways we can rarely see or understand. If we only offer what we have when we understand, we do not trust God as fully as we can, as fully as He desires.

When we do, there is a peace in the uncertainty, comfort in the struggle, purpose in the fragments.

Take all that you have, put it in your hand, and hold it open, inviting God to take what He wants to use, give what He knows you need, and set aside what is only taking up space in your life.