God is Gracious

What does the graciousness of God mean to you?

The word gracious means to show kindness to those who are inferior, and to be filled with compassion. Grace is defined as unmerited favor. These words are a perfect description of who God is and how He has acted and continues to act towards us.

God’s grace towards us is a result of His unconditional love. Our Heavenly Father loves us, His children, as a parent does their own child. A parent desires the best for their child, and the Lord desires His best for us.

The Lord shows us His grace through His gift of redemption to us. He offers us forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Lord has demonstrated His grace throughout the Bible.

In the Old Testament, we learn this about our God and His graciousness:

Joel 2:13 “And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and compassionate. Slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness, And relenting of evil.”

Joel is telling the people don’t just tear our clothes in grief, but tear your hearts. Your sin should make you that sad. He wants the people to recognize what they have left when they turned their back on God. He is speaking to us too, we also turn our backs on the Lord and we also need to repent.

Psalm 145:8 “The Lord is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in loving-kindness.”

Psalm 116:5 “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.”

The Psalmists in these two Psalms is describing the God each one has come to know.

Isaiah 30:15 “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you, For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.”

Isaiah is explaining to the Israelites, who have been very rebellious, that although God hates their evil ways, He is actually waiting to be gracious and compassionate to them. God loves His people that much. God desires so much to show us compassion and grace, He waits while we walk the path of sin, He waits for us to turn back to Him so He can demonstrate His love to us. His heart longs to do that. Can we even comprehend a love such as this?

In the New Testament, we find:

Romans 5:1-2 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” 

Paul explains in Romans that we have justification through our faith, we have been declared just or righteous, we, who believe, have been acquitted. And because of that we are no longer at war with God as we had been when we lived in sinfulness. But, now we stand in grace and can boast of the hope we have in this amazing grace. We have been declared right before God. God knows that we still sin, but he has robed us in Christ’s righteousness. 

Ephesians 2:8-10 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good words, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Paul goes on to explain that none of this is about us, it is nothing that we have done, it is all God’s gift to us. We cannot take credit for any of it.

Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,”

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He came to earth for all of us, we all are in need of a Savior. He came to seek and save those lost in a sinful life, That describes mankind. He came to bring hope to sinners.

We recently celebrated Easter or sometimes called Resurrection Sunday by believers.

 We celebrate this holiday because:

  • Through faith in Him we have the hope of heaven.
  • Through faith in Him we have Eternal life.
  • Through faith in Him we have access to God (our Heavenly Father).
  • Through faith in Him we have forgiveness of sins.

Grace, Grace, God’s Grace, greater than all our sins. All of these are ours through faith in Jesus. Do you want to learn more about God’s grace? My posts for the month of May will center around the grace of God, topics such as the sufficiency of His grace, the equality we find at the foot of the cross, and the throne of grace that He invites us to. I also want to dig into some illustrations of His grace found in Scripture.

Our hope rests in the grace that Jesus has bought for us on the cross through His death and resurrection. Do you have that hope? I look forward to sharing with you about all we have through Jesus. Let’s find refreshment for our souls in God’s word, in His Truths, and in His promises. Without His grace we are left in the hopelessness of our sinful state.

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The Plan of Love

God, in His amazing omniscience knew, before the foundations of the earth were laid, that man would fall into sin. Therefore, He prepared in advance a plan for man to be reconciled.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

1 Peter 1:19-21 “but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake, Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead, and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”

Jesus came to this earth for the purpose of fulfilling the plan of salvation. He knew the plight of man apart from receiving the hope that He brings through His death and resurrection. And He humbled Himself and died on the cross. He paid the price for our sin. God raised Jesus from the dead.

Jesus died so that our relationship with God, the Father, could be restored and so that we can receive the gift of eternal life which is given freely if we believe.

This plan of salvation is the reality of God’s will and it shows the fullness of His grace, mercy, and love for us, His created children.

We can find pleasure in the joys of springtime, in the beauty of the changing seasons, and in the new birth we see. We can savor the sweetness of chocolate bunnies and fruity jelly beans, but Easter is the time to celebrate the hope we have in Jesus. On Resurrection Sunday we acknowledge and remember what Jesus did for us. We glorify Him with praise and thanksgiving for being our Savior, for granting us forgiveness, for robing us in His righteousness, and for giving us eternal life.

Jesus

Tortured

Nailpierced

Sweating

Bloody

Broken.

He cried out,

“Forgive them.”

Still loving,

He died.

Buried in

A borrowed tomb,

Three days passed.

He rose

Giving new life

As promised.

If you believe

Then repent

And be forgiven.

Be assured

Of eternal salvation

With Christ Jesus

In heaven.

Alleluia! Amen.

We must only believe. Jesus paid the price. He did it all. All praise and glory to His holy name.

May your Easter be blessed as you share the hope with those you love.

Love

Where is love in your life? How do you get the love you need? These are questions I had to ask myself as I read Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way.

The love we receive from the Lord and the reality of how He demonstrated His love is all wrapped up in two words: unconditional and sacrificial. It has been said that our hearts have a God-sized hole within and that until we come to know Him we search a million places to find something to fill the emptiness inside.

I guess that is why it made so much sense to me when I read this in The Broken Way, “…everyone is always asking only for one thing- will you love me?” I thought, “yes, that’s true.” I know in my own mind and heart that it is what I desire. I also know that I keep my need for love mostly hidden. It is not something that I easily want to admit to or am vulnerable to share. I believe that this is true of most people, I think that we often try to hide our neediness.

People want love, acceptance, and belonging. We search for these throughout life. We desperately want the emptiness within filled. And we try to fill it with so many things. We grasp at the air.

So, where can we get our love-tanks filled?  The surest way is in coming to the King of Kings to be filled. He is available, generous, and gracious. He demonstrated His amazing love in sacrificing Jesus, His only Son, on the cross for us. He loves us that much. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

When we come to know that nothing else can satisfy, nothing else can fill that void, when we finally come to the realization of our need for God, we must cry out in the desperation of a beggar. He is the one Who is able to fill our hearts.

Once we have the joy of knowing Jesus and His sacrificial love, we find our own hearts filling with love as we feel His presence in our lives, as we learn to know His comfort, His peace, His hope, and His faithfulness.

But we also can lose sight of this. Unless we keep feeding on His Word and receive His nurturing in our relationship with Him, we can grow hungry and needy again. And, I believe until we reach heaven we will always feel a certain emptiness.

Recognizing my own desire to be loved, being made aware of this again through reading Ann’s book, helped me to think in a new way about others. It made me to see people as needy, needy for love. And it doesn’t matter who they are, what financial tax bracket they are in, what they look like, we all struggle with emptiness. We all need love. People especially need love from us as believers. As believers we can be filled moment-by-moment in our relationship with the Lord.

People need the love that says, I see your sad eyes, I see your homelessness, I hear your hopeless words; all of these are a cry for different ways to be loved. Maybe a word of encouragement, maybe an invitation to conversation or lunch, maybe an offer of prayer.

Ann says the following about love:

“…it is always sacrifice for someone” (p. 104) and it is “the willingness to be interrupted … the willingness to be broken into” (p. 177).

Love, a sacrifice, a being broken into, a being interrupted. Love takes time and effort, giving and responding and willingness to risk being hurt.

God sacrificed, God gives love and He wants to live through us, we are the conduit of His love to others.

Next time you are feeling lonely or empty, reach out with love to another, it will change the way you feel. It is too easy to throw a pity party in wallowing in our own loneliness, when all we have to do is reach out. Next time you feel resentful or frustrated, remember Jesus sacrifice on the cross. Let His love fill your heart and readjust your attitude so you might respond with love. Everyone is looking to be loved. Maybe it is your child, your aging parent, your neighbor, your bossy co-worker, maybe it’s the tired clerk at the store, or the pregnant waitress or the overworked tax accountant. They all want love. Thinking about this changes everything. Most of all hopefully it changes the way we live our lives.

How will you let love change you? How will knowing people’s need for love change the way you live and respond?

Take time to consider these questions. It may mean a softer answer, a helping hand, a bigger tip, a listening ear, or maybe just going out of your way sacrificing your time for another. Whatever it is, give love, show love, and live love. It really can change everything, but most of all it can change our very own hearts.

 

Hope’s Anchor

Hebrews 6:19-20 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

The hope one can have through Jesus is secure and can be trusted. It truly is an anchor for us as believers in Christ Jesus.

Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection gives me assurance of eternal life. Believing in Jesus, that He died, was buried, and was raised from the dead is my only hope for salvation. Jesus is my only hope for all of life. It is an anchor assuring me of all the Lord has for me. The future He has promised me is a sure thing.

Where is your hope anchored?

  • This life on earth hold for us very, very few sure things. It is often said that taxes and death are the only sure things on earth. But Jesus is our sure hope of knowing God as our Heavenly Father.                                                                                   John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life . No one comes to the Father except through me…”
  • This life on earth is often full of trouble, full of pain, and full of discouragement day in and day out. It is easy to lose hope unless it is anchored in the Truth of God and His Word.                               John 16:33 tells us these words of Jesus,“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
  • This life on earth often leaves us feeling abandoned, insecure, helpless, just floundering, not sure of anything. But in the midst of all of this, if you are a believer, you can have this anchor, hope in the sovereign God of the universe. Believers are anchored to God in faith. He is God, all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, and fully present. He is with us. He holds us in His love.                                               Isaiah 54:10 says ‘For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord”
  • This life on earth is often filled with expectations and obligations. We feel pressured to please and perform. We feel pressured to earn all we can the prestige, the bonuses, the accolades. Sometimes we even think we can earn our way to heaven, but that is not true. Jesus did that work for us on the cross. Our hope is anchored in Jesus, we can do nothing to make God love us more. So, the pressures off, we can know the peace of having the Lord’s grace in our lives.                                                                         Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

Jesus is our all in all. There is much uncertainty as we move forward in 2017 but take heart, one thing is sure, as believers, we have this great hope anchored in Jesus. Praise God for the hope that is ours.  

 

 

 

Five Simple Lessons from the Christmas Tree

What can you learn from a Christmas tree? I find that the Christmas tree has much to teach us, simple reminders that truly keep Christ in Christmas. 

First of all, the Christmas tree is shaped like an arrow pointing to heaven. This is a good reminder for us to keep an eternal perspective. Stress can takeover when we become obsessed with the here and now. We fuss and fret and forget what really matters is Jesus birth. He is the reason for the season. So look up and remember.

The glimmering lights on the tree can help us remember to shine for Jesus. We are called to be lights in a dark world. There are lights of every color available for your tree, bright, beautiful, and blinking. Use your own unique personality and giftedness to brighten others lives this Christmas season. 

Then, there are all of those special ornaments carefully placed on the tree. Ornaments on a tree are like blessings in our lives, both adorn our lives with beauty. Whether you decorate with a theme in mind or just have a menagerie of trimmings, what really makes the ornaments themselves special often is the meaning connected to each one. Somehow even a tarnished ornament has beauty if it reminds you of a loved one that has gone to be with Jesus, or makes you think of a friend that you seldom see. Take time to remember, count the blessings in your life. Gratitude leads to joy. Decorate your heart with a thankful spirit and let the inner joy that fills you bring beauty to each moment of this season.

The Christmas tree is often topped with a glittery star or an angel. The star in the sky in the Christmas story led the shepherds to find Jesus. And the angels told the shepherds of the glory of the baby born.  This Christmas lead others to see Jesus by demonstrating Christlikeness. Sometimes the holiday seasons are the most difficult seasons to live out His love in our lives. When you see a star remember where it led the shepherds, and choose to do likewise.

The gifts under the tree capture so much of our time and attention. Let each gift remind you that God gave us the gift of Jesus the Savior of the world. He came to earth for the purpose of giving us the free gift of salvation, eternal life. What He has given is the one thing every human needs more than anything else on this earth. Is there a special way that you can share about the true Gift of Christmas this year?

Christmas, it is all about Jesus, we are just so easily distracted by all the hustle and bustle. This year remember all of the ways that can help you keep your focus on the real Reason for all of our Joy and Hope at Christmas!

See the sidebar for the places I Iink up with sometimes.

The Season of Hope

Hope…isn’t it exactly what we all need for this life here on earth?

The typical idea of hope is “to wish for, to expect, but without certainty of the fulfillment, to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire”     (definition from Bible.org).

During the next few weeks you may hear your children saying, “I hope I get…” as they look forward to opening the gifts under the tree at Christmas.

During the next few weeks you may hear yourself saying, “I hope these weeks leading up to Christmas aren’t as busy as last year. I really hope to enjoy this season and not feel so overwhelmed.”

During the next few weeks you may hear your spouse saying, “I really hope that I get that bonus check to pay for all the food and gifts we’re intending to purchase.”

During the next few weeks you may hear your parent saying, “I really hope you kids will be able to be home for Christmas, last year we weren’t able to spend it together and it just wasn’t the same.”

We all are hoping for something, something that will satisfy our heart and bring us joy.

Our hope is a wish, a desire, an expectancy with much uncertainty about it.

The biblical usage of hope according to the words translated from Hebrew and Greek has an indication of certainty. When you read the word hope in Scripture it means  “a strong and confident expectation”   (definition from Bible.org).

There is a certain hope, a sure thing, a strong and confident expectation, one thing that we can count on, it is the Hope we have in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Christmas is the season of hope as we remember His birth, the fulfillment of a promise from long ago.

Isaiah 6:9 promises, “For unto us a child is born, Unto us a Son is given;  And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Luke 2:11 reveals the promise fulfilled 700 years later, “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you, he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

The focus of all hope must be in Jesus, He is the only True Hope we have for all of life.

  • Jesus is our hope for peace in heart and mind.Peace I leave with you: my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
  • Jesus is our hope for salvation and eternal life in heaven. “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
  • Jesus is our hope because He is God. Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated “God with us.”
  • Jesus is our hope because He is love. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.” John 13:34     “As the Father has loved me, so I love you. Abide in my love.” (Jesus speaking) John 15:9
  • Jesus is our hope because He is faithful. He will never fail us.   “Jesus Christ our faithful witness.”  Revelation 1:5           “God is faithful who has called us into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:9

This season seek to put your hope in Jesus Christ alone.

Thank the Lord for He is Good! – Psalm 118

Psalm 118 gives us three main subject areas that we can give thanks and praise to the Lord for.

  1. We can thank Him for His faithful love to us.
  2. We can thank Him for His help in our lives.
  3. We can thank Him for His Son, Jesus.                

Give thanks to God for His faithful love.

The psalmist begins this psalm by calling on various people and people groups to give thanks for God’s faithful love. Each of us has known God to touch our lives with His faithful, unfailing love in different ways.

How has the Lord demonstrated His faithful love to you? 

I recognize His love to me in His patience with me throughout life. I am only beginning to recognize certain areas of failure in my life because of my need to control. I have been so blinded to that. It is in realizing this I can see how faltering my trust in the Lord is. Yet, He has patiently stayed by my side, revealing truths to me little by little, and leading me in understanding the sin exposed so that I may repent. His faithful love for me doesn’t fail.

I recognize His unfailing love for me in His protection over me each day. He has protected me during my many trips, through recent years, to my parents as I helped my mom take care of my dad who suffered with Alzheimer’s. And since Dad went home to be with the Lord, those trips continue as I help my mom. The Lord has protected me on my trips by keeping me from hitting deer, keeping me from being involved in accidents, and by keeping me safe in poor weather-related driving conditions.

I recognize His faithful love for me in His provision. The Lord has blessed me with so much in the way of material goods, but also with a sweet husband, very special friendships, dear family members, and a warm, loving church family.

I recognize His faithful love to me in the many prayers He has answered for me. Keeping a prayer journal is a wonderful way to record the Lord’s faithful love in answering prayer. It is so faith-building to see how He works in our lives!

Give thanks to the Lord for His help.

The Lord has helped me in learning more of Who He is. He has led me in understanding His Word. He has helped me to know Him continually more personally and intimately. He has helped me in dealing with difficult relationships and in growing in learning how to love as He loves. He has helped me by placing key people in my life to walk with me and encourage me at various times in life. All of these ways He has demonstrated help plus in so many other ways that I have not listed!

How has the Lord helped you in your life?

Feed on His faithfulness, look for His loving presence, and rejoice in His work on your behalf because it demonstrates His personal knowledge of you and your life. It is so amazing when you take time to think about it.

Give thanks to the Lord for Jesus.

Our hearts should be filled with unending gratitude for Jesus, our Savior. He died a cruel death on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and God raised Him from the dead, all for the purpose of removing our sin. God’s wondrous plan of salvation freely is given to all who believe. How can we ever stop saying thank you?

The psalmist tells us in verse 22 (NLT), “I thank you for answering my prayer and saving me.”

The Lord our God deserves thanks and praise for so much, so much that we so easily take for granted. Take some time to read Psalm 118 and join the Psalmist in his praise and thanksgiving to Him.