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.

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 with Enemies

graceIf you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends. (Matthew 5:46-47)

Ponder It.

  • How do you define “enemy”?
  • What enemies have you had throughout your life?
  • Who would God say your enemies are?

Receive It. God gives us sufficient grace to extend to enemies. Enemies is an interested term. Sometimes we struggle to identify who our enemies are. We can’t imagine anyone really being an enemy; after all, doesn’t God call us to love everyone and hate no one, and if we slap on the label of enemy, isn’t that a non-Christian thing to do? The quick answer? No. Enemies are real, and they are biblical. We have enemies. God himself has enemies. Refusing to acknowledge we have enemies is like sticking our heads in the sand. Even when we identify our enemies, we can make critical errors in judgment. We often identify our enemies as someone who has done something to us that we don’t like. Getting our label of enemy is a burden the person brought upon herself because of what she did. It was her choice…or so we say as we blame. But blaming someone doesn’t make someone an enemy. Assuming someone’s motives doesn’t make someone an enemy. None of us have ever seen a motive, so we’re wise not to spend much time trying to mind-read what another’s motives are. Plus, enemies really aren’t for us to define. We’re not the center of reality and the crux of all justice. If we base the definition of enemy on ourselves, we’ll err. It’s God who determines the reality of our enemies. If we are for God, our enemies are his enemies. Our enemies are those who are against him, and we can’t actually tell who that is all the time. We can make assumptions, but he has a better perspective. He sees people’s motives and knows their hearts. He knows the outcome. And he knows how he wants us to respond. When we let God determine our enemies, we also need to follow his lead in our responses. He knows the boundaries we need and the commitments he wants. He knows when we’re to stand up, sit down, speak up, shut up, and pray. Trust him.

Live It. Pray for an enemy today. Don’t be content with a quick obligatory prayer. As you wholeheartedly pray for an enemy, God will begin to work in and through you in surprising ways.

Are You a Building Block or a Stumbling Block?

miami_package_feelthehealdetoxCome to the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that lives. The people of the world did not want this stone, but he was the stone God chose, and he was precious. You also are like living stones, so let yourselves be used to build a spiritual temple—to be holy priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God. He will accept those sacrifices through Jesus Christ. The Scripture says: “I will put a stone in the ground in Jerusalem. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” This stone is worth much to you who believe. But to the people who do not believe, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:4-7)

In these verses, Peter is encouraging believers to be like the stones used to build a holy temple for God. In order for the building blocks to do what they needed to do to fit together with other building blocks, they needed to be carved, molded, and placed together. In order for believers to fulfill individual and collective purpose for God, we must be willing to let God shape us and place us where he wants us to be. That means we don’t decide who we sit alongside. We don’t decide our exact shape. We don’t decide how we serve within the building. We don’t get to decide how pretty our rough edges are or how smooth is smooth enough. God does all that. It’s not about us; it’s about God’s building. It’s about unity. However, in order to come together to make what God intends to make, each piece has to be worked on and fitted together. Each has to be yielding in order for the building to be sound and holy.

We have another option other than yielding. Instead of being building blocks, we can be stumbling blocks. When we don’t allow God to shape us into the right shape for the right fit into the building, we will become displaced. We’ll fall to a place we’re not intended to be and create a stumbling hazard for those around us.

You get to choose which you’ll be, so ask yourself, “Am I a building block, or am I a stumbling block?” Avoid quickly giving the Sunday School answer. Think about specific situations you’ve been involved in recently. Of course, we all want to believe we’re building blocks. We want to believe we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do, but are we…really? Have we checked with him before we’ve proceeded, or have we moved forward in the direction that makes sense, responding first, then asking him to bless the process once we’re in motion? The popular adage “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” isn’t a biblical principle.

In order to fit well within a body of believers, you must invite God to shape you in order to fit where he intends you to fit. You don’t decide where you fit, then reason through why you’re such a good fit. You don’t decide you were made for such a time as this. God decides the time and place. He decides the process. You seek. You trust. You obey. You can certainly be stubborn about it, but when you don’t allow him to place you where you’re supposed to fit, you’re not just impacting yourself and your purpose. You’re impacting the body of Christ.

So, are you a building block or a stumbling block?

I beg you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with each other and not be split into groups. I beg that you be completely joined together by having the same kind of thinking and the same purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Hope in God’s Promises

images (3).jpgWe have hope because of who God is. No matter what is going on in your life, your relationships, and your community of faith, you can trust God is working. He is fulfilling his promises. Of course, our hearts and our willingness to obey are involved in the fruit we will see, but God’s will is God’s will, and God’s promises are his promises. He will stay true to his word no matter what we choose, because he can’t be anything other than true to his word. He is fully and sovereignly authentic, consistent, and reliable.

We have disappointments. Our lives aren’t perfect as we see them. We struggle. We feel lonely. We think we’re insignificant or not enough. Or we think we’re more than we are, and our pride gets in the way. We look at God’s promises and wonder where on earth he is and why is he not saying what he said he would do! Sometimes we misunderstand God’s promises, but most of the time, we’re trying impose our own limited understanding or our assumptions and preferences onto God’s promises. He doesn’t promise we’ll understand everything. He promises to be who he says he is and do what he says he will do.

Remember, God has an eternal perspective. He’s not bound by time, and he’s not bound by the confines of life on earth. As Priscilla Shirer said in a simulcast event, “Exactly what God says is exactly what God means. We need to take God at his word.”

We have hope because of who God is, who he says we are, and what he says he will do. Need a reminder? Here are just a few from Psalm 119.

Lord, you gave your orders to be obeyed completely. (Psalm 119:4)

Lord, you should be praised. Teach me your demands. (Psalm 119:12)

Lord, teach me your demands, and I will keep them until the end. (Psalm 119:33)

Lord, show me your love, and save me as you have promised. (Psalm 119:41)

Lord, I remember you at night, and I will obey your teachings. (Psalm 119:55)

Lord, you are my share in life; I have promised to obey your words. (Psalm 119:57)

Lord, your love fills the earth. Teach me your demands. (Psalm 119:64)

Lord, I know that your laws are right and that it was right for you to punish me. (Psalm 1119:75)

Lord, your word is everlasting; it continues forever in heaven. (Psalm 119:89)

Lord, accept my willing praise and teach me your laws. (Psalm 119:108)

Lord, it is time for you to do something, because people have disobeyed your teachings. (Psalm 119:126)

Lord, you do what is right, and your laws are fair. (Psalm 119:137)

Lord, I call to you with all my heart. Answer me, and I will keep your demands. (Psalm 119:145)

Lord, you are very kind; give me life by your laws. (Psalm 119:156)

God doesn’t give you insignificant, uncommitted lip service through his promises. He lives them out to completion. How are you responding? Can he depend on your trust and obedience?

No Matter What

artworks-000047241810-pwfc5v-t500x500But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts? (Matthew 9:4)

This might seem like an unsettling Scripture, but to me, it’s comforting. It reminds me that God knows my thoughts. And it challenges me, too, that He knows my thoughts!

No matter what you’re going through, no matter what you’re thinking about, God is well aware, and He’s interested. He always wants more and better for you. You can trust Him to guide. Let Him filter everything in your life, including your thoughts. You might be challenged, but you won’t be disappointed.