Tag Archives: Faith

The Wonderful Grace Of Jesus

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The blind man’s earnest cries

Jesus gives grace to the blind man.

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy upon me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.’ Mark 10:47–48

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 8:4–15

The world will try to make a crying sinner hold his peace. The world will tell him that he is crying out about something that does not matter, for the book is not true, there is no God, no heaven, no hell, no hereafter. But if God has set you crying, sinner, I know you will not be stopped with that; you will cry yet the more exceedingly, ‘Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.’ Then the world will try pleasure; you will be invited to the theatre, you will be attracted from one ballroom to another; but if the Lord put the cry in your mouth, the intense anguish of your spirit will not be satisfied by the sound of music nor by the shouts of them that make merry. Perhaps the world will call you a fool to be vexed about such things; you are melancholy and have got the mopes. They will tell you that you will soon go where many others have gone—to Bedlam; but if once God has made you cry, you will not be stopped by a fool’s laughter; the agonizing prayer will go up in secret, ‘Have mercy on me.’ Perhaps the world will try its cares. You will be called into more business; you will get a prosperity which will not make your soul prosper; and so it will be hoped by Satan that you will forget Christ, in accumulated wealth and growing cares. But if this be such a cry as I hope it is, poor anxious sinner, you will not be stopped by that. Then the world will affect to look down upon you with pity. Poor creature, you are being misled, when you are being led to Christ and to heaven. They will say you have become the dupe of some fanatic, when, in truth, you are now coming to your senses, and estimating eternal things at their proper value.

God’s Grace Is Mind-Blowing

By; Phillip Holmes, desiringgod.com

Part of how we view God’s grace is often birthed out of our experience with each other. Whether it’s a parent, relative, or our general view of mankind, our experience with sinful and broken people affect our view of our holy and righteous God. We’re unacquainted with grace, mercy, and truth that’s untainted by sin. Humanly speaking, though we’ve experienced grace, we’ve never met a person that embodied grace perfectly.

As I reflected on how we love and show grace, two things stood out to me about man and our motivation to forgive:

  • Natural man is motivated to be gracious because man is aware (to some extent) that he’s just as guilty as the person in need of grace.
  • Natural man forgives others because he often only knows a small piece of all the other person is actually guilty of.

I’m sure there are more human motivations for showing grace, but from these two alone we discover two factors that play enormous parts in our ability to forgive — our own sin and ignorance.

Mind-Blowing Grace

As I began to process this, I was blown away. God is neither motivated by his own sinfulness nor enabled by his ignorance. He is a holy and righteous God, completely void of sin and full of goodness and love. He’s never made a mistake and can do anything but fail. He is perfect in all his ways. If he were a doctor, he’d never lose a patient. If he were a lawyer, he’d never lose a case. There is no moral compass that could measure how upright and blameless he is.

Nevertheless, when we, his sinful and rebellious prodigal children, spit in his face, wallow in our sin, and grieve his Spirit, he calls us to repentance with open and loving arms saying, “Come home, child.”

He’s not ignorant of all the ways we’ve sinned against him. He knows everything we’ve ever done and is able to stomach it. His knowledge of who we really are will never hinder his love for us. He’s even aware of the evil behind our righteous deeds. The intimacy by which the Lord knows us but is able to lovingly embrace us as his children is supernatural. God’s grace is mind-blowing. Every time I think of this reality, I’m brought to tears because I serve a God whose love and grace baffle me.

Knowing God’s Grace Through the Scriptures

Throughout the Scriptures, the message of this grace is proclaimed. Our God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6–7). This grace is distinct to the Christian faith. No other religion emphasizes divine grace the way the Bible does.

This is why reading the Bible and communing with God is essential to Christian flourishing. The less we read and pray the Bible, the more blemished our view of God becomes. If you want the grace of God to blow your mind again, read your Bibles.


Unexpected Grace

“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” Romans 5:20 (NLT)

He appeared out of nowhere. Blue lights burst on right about the time I laid eyes on his intimidating, unmarked SUV.

Immediately I checked the speedometer. It confirmed what the officer knew: I was speeding. A sinking feeling knotted my stomach as I prepared to receive the punishment for my inadvertent disobedience of the traffic laws.

I watched in my rear view mirror as the police car crept up behind me. With driver’s license and registration in hand, my fingers tapped in irritation on the steering wheel. My scowl deepened as I impatiently waited for the policeman to walk to my window. “Ma’am, I stopped you for speeding. Driver’s license and registration please.”

Then it happened. The unexpected. The unwarranted. The undeserved.

The policeman glanced into my car and checked out my passengers (including my three deer-in-the-headlights kids in the back seat). Then he startled us all by blurting out a big ol’ Southern “Hey!” to my husband, calling him by name.

Apparently they had grown up in church together and proceeded to spend a couple of friendly minutes reacquainting. He handed back my license and registration and gave me a smile. “Slow it down please, and have a good day.”

We sat stunned and breathed a collective sigh of relief as I drove away – slowly, I might add.

I had not paid attention to the guidelines set forth. My guilt was obvious, and I had no excuse. I deserved to suffer the consequences, but instead I was given grace.

Grace is undeserved favor or pardon. We can’t earn it or buy it. It’s something the giver bestows out of the goodness and love in their heart. The Bible tells countless stories of people who received grace, including prostitutes, unfaithful marriage partners, deceivers, thieves, liars and more. Their sins deserved a punishment, but when they asked God for forgiveness, His grace wiped their guilt away. They were treated as pardoned offenders – just as I was.

In today’s key verse, Paul is reminding the people of Corinth that despite their sin, God is good, and the Giver of grace. It serves as a reminder that God not only offers grace – He offers it in abundance. The more we need, the more we get.

Although God hates sin because it separates us from Him and ushers pain into our lives, His grace is available no matter how big our offense may be. And when we receive the pardon that was paid through the sacrifice of His Son, and begin a relationship with Jesus Christ, we receive grace, forgiveness and mercy.

As much as I appreciated the grace extended to me from the officer that day, it paled in comparison to God’s grace. You see, the officer’s grace was one of kindness, but not one of redemptive love. It was a grace of compassion, but not the life-saving grace Jesus gives.

The truth is, I deserved a speeding ticket that day but grace was given. In the same way, although we deserve punishment for sin, God’s forgiveness and favor are offered anyway… through the gift of His unexpected, unwarranted and undeserved grace.


Jesus, I Need Your Grace

Jesus, I Need Your Grace

That Difficult Person

Dear Jesus, I need Your help. Someone is making my life difficult. I have tried to be kind and patient — You know I have, Lord. But there have been times when I’ve lost my temper — You know that too. I’ve said unkind things and thought even worse things.

Our relationship needs healing; it needs You.

Jesus, show me what to do. I pray for You to step in and make this right. Teach me, Lord. How would You handle this person? Please take away these feelings of anger and hurt and replace them with grace and love.

“Seventy times seven”: That’s what You said to Peter when he asked how many times he should forgive the one who sinned against him. Am I capable of forgiving that many times? Oh, but how many times have You forgiven me?

Soften my heart, Lord, and help me forgive as You have forgiven me.

If anyone can mend this relationship, Jesus, it is You. Guide my every word and every action with Your perfect love. I need You, Jesus. We need You.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. — Romans 12:18

At some point in your life, you’ll encounter a difficult person — someone who, no matter what you do, makes your life miserable. When you run into such a person, call on Jesus. He understands and will know just how to help. As you think about that difficult person, ask yourself if you’ve contributed to the strain. Are there things for which you need to seek forgiveness? Come up with at least one thing you can do to bless that person’s life — and then do it.

Loving Everyone

Dear Jesus,  Sometimes it’s really hard to love people, especially when You ask me to love those who hate You and do evil things. I know You love them, but I struggle to follow Your example. Please show me how can I hate the evil while still loving those who hate You.

Jesus, when You were beaten, mocked, and crucified, You could have rained down wrath from Heaven, but You didn’t. Instead, You asked God to forgive Your enemies because they didn’t know what they were doing. That is pure love. Fill me with that kind of love.

Jesus, You are always in my heart, guiding me and leading me to be more like You. And for that reason, I must pray for those who hate You and do evil things. I don’t love what they do, Lord — but I want them to know You. Please, Lord Jesus, open their eyes to see You and their hearts to accept You. They need You so much… and so, Lord, do I.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” — Matthew 5:43-44

Love doesn’t mean that you accept acts of hatred and evil, but love does require that you pray for those most in need of salvation. Consider Paul. He didn’t begin life as a disciple of Christ; in fact, there was a time when Paul — then known as Saul — hated Christ. Read Acts 9:1-19 to discover how he changed. How might you be an Ananias to a Saul in your life?

Heaven On My Mind

John 14

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”


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Heaven on My Mind

By: Belinda elliott, 1.cbn.com

I had already gone to sleep when the phone rang. My dad’s voice was shaky as he let me know that my grandmother had lost her battle with cancer. It was a phone call that I’d been expecting, but one that I was still not prepared for.

During the four-hour drive from my college campus the next morning, I recalled the many happy summers spent at my Granny Wanda’s house. Not your typical grandmother, her energy usually rivaled my own.

The memories played through my mind as if they had taken place only yesterday. I could see my granny splashing and playing in the lake alongside me, hooting hysterically outside the monkey cages at our local zoo, and spinning around and around with me on the Tilt-A-Whirl until it made us both sick. (We had to make the ride’s operator stop it to let us off, but we laughed about it all the way home!)

I knew that she was in Heaven and no longer suffering from the disease that had so quickly ravaged her body, but I wasn’t ready to let her go. I felt that God took her away too soon.

Why is it so difficult for us to say goodbye? I think it is because maybe we don’t view death as God does. We see death as an end, and it saddens us to lose the ones we love. But from our Heavenly Father’s view, death is only the beginning – the beginning of eternal life with Him in paradise where we were created to be. Heaven is a place we should be excited about!

To us, death is tragic and many of us fear it. But perhaps to God, dying is the reward for a life well-lived, rather than something to be dreaded. The earthly death of a Christian merely serves to usher us into what God has created for all believers – an eternal home with Him where we will no longer suffer the injustices, trials, illnesses, and disappointments of this world.

The apostle Paul seemed to understand this. In his letter to the Philippians, he expressed his anxious anticipation of eternal life with Christ. He felt torn between wanting to serve the Lord on earth, and wanting to go to Heaven. He describes life with Christ as the more pleasing option.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” Philippians 1:21-24

Like Paul, if we are still here, it means God still has work for us to do. But our time on earth was never meant to be permanent. We are to work for the Lord while we are here, telling others about Him so that they too can have eternal life. But we are also to remember the glorious inheritance that God has waiting for us.

When we live our lives this way, keeping Heaven and God’s eternal purposes for us in mind, we see death from a new perspective.

That doesn’t mean that we won’t be sad when we lose loved ones. But we can praise God that, even in our grief, we do not mourn as those who have no hope. As Christians, we have been promised that the end of our lives on earth is not really the end. The day is coming when death and sadness will be no more.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4


When I See You In Heaven

JANUARY 21, 2015

” … He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” Revelation 21:4-5a (NASB)

I could feel the slow rhythm of his heartbeat as I laid my head against his chest. Tears quietly rolled down my face as I held back the sobs that were begging to burst forth from underneath my heart.

Closing my eyes, I remembered being 5 years old again with my daddy holding me on his broad, strong shoulders the day he took me to the zoo. So long ago. Such sweet memories. And, yet, my heart was breaking.

Lord, not yet. Please. I’m not ready to say goodbye. I still have so much to say. I want it to be meaningful. I want Dad to know how much I love him. Not yet, Lord, not yet.

As I curled up closer, like that 5-year-old little girl so long ago, I could hear his shallow breathing. Gently I cradled his hand into mine.

Thank you, Lord, that Dad’s not in pain. When it’s time, please take him peacefully. But, not yet, Lord, not yet.

The clock ticks. The moments pass. The memories linger.

And it is time.

Having to say goodbye to my dad that day was one of the hardest experiences of my life. It had only been 15 short months since my mom passed away, and the idea of losing him, too, was more than I could bear.

No longer could I hear his voice say, “I love you.” No longer could I call him and ask for his advice. No longer could I see his smile or feel his hand holding mine.

No longer.

This month marks the 2-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and my mom. I miss them so much. I long to be with them again.

But even in the midst of “no longer” here on earth, there is a ray of hope that shines within me. A knowing. A promise that I will one day see my parents again.

I find comfort in knowing there is a real place that has been created by God and prepared by Jesus for each of us, if we accept His invitation. An extraordinary place of astounding wonder. Greater than we can fully understand or imagine. A place called heaven.

As I awake to another day on earth of “no longer,” I anchor my heart in the assurance of what Jesus said in John 14:2, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you” (NASB).

In those moments when the memories return and the sadness resurfaces, I find comfort and even joy for my parents as I reflect on the promise of today’s key verse. For in heaven, there is no mourning, crying, pain or death. All things are made new.

If you’re like me, and you’re missing someone special today. Someone you long to see again. To hold their hand, to capture their smile or to simply say, “I love you.” And, yet, the realization of “no longer” looms in the reality of each day that you live without them …

Can I encourage you with the truth? If your loved one accepted God’s invitation, then they are not dead but are living in heaven. In that extraordinary place, of astounding wonder, where pain and sorrow can never linger.

They’re experiencing joy and peace like they’ve never known as they celebrate the splendor of their eternal home.

And there is hope, comfort and assurance for you today that if you accept God’s invitation you too will see them again one day.


Citizens of Heaven

By; Scott Hoezee, reframemedia.com


Scripture Reading — Philippians 3:17-21

Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who . . . will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. — Philippians 3:20-21

C.S. Lewis observed that if you aim to be successful only on earth, you may never get to heaven even as the things of earth slip away. But if you aim for the things of heaven, not only will the Lord graciously bring you there; he will also make your life on earth something wonderful. So if you aim only for earth, you get nothing. But if you aim for heaven, you get everything—life to the full.

This is Paul’s point too as he rounds out Philippians 3. We all are citizens of one country or another here on earth. But believers in Christ have a far more important status as citizens of heaven. All of our other identities fall in line under our heavenly citizenship.

Paul pointed this out for the Philippians because then—and now—there are all kinds of ­influences that distract us from giving God’s kingdom first place in our lives. We receive messages like this every day: live for the moment, go for the gusto, do whatever feels right, look out for number one. All this, Paul claims, makes people enemies of the cross. It all amounts to self-centered living and reflects none of Christ’s selflessness. But if we live as Christ’s people, then one day we will be made like Jesus, ­arrayed in all the glory of God’s kingdom!


God’s Chosen Servants

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God’s Chosen Servants

By: Ken Barnes, 1.cbn.com


“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; …” (1 Corinthians 1:26 NASB)

We all want to be significant, and we are all important in the eyes of our Creator. The problem is we often seek our worth through the eyes of man. God uses ordinary people with hearts inclined toward His.

One Sunday, I was asked to speak at a small church near my home in Virginia. A man greeted me upon arrival at the Church who then let me into the building. In small churches, you often have a pastor who does the preaching and the teaching and then an elder or deacon who does everything else. I sat down at the back of the church to review my sermon notes.

The man busily went about making the coffee and setting out the snacks. He then took a small broom and a dustpan and proceeded to sweep up between the rows of chairs set up for the service.

As I watched this man, a question came into my mind. Lord, who is more valuable today for this service, him or me?

As I pondered this thought, the answer became clear to me. Neither. We had equal value just a different function.

I asked the Lord a second question. Lord, who is most pleasing to you?

The answer to the second question came quicker than the first. The one who does their part of the service with the greatest amount of love in their heart for God.

Sometimes we confuse value and function. We do not get value from what we do; we bring value to our work. Each individual has intrinsic value before God. Billy Graham and Pat Robertson have a greater function in the Body of Christ than I do. Therefore, in some areas, they have the greater privilege. Jesus gave Peter, James, and John greater access to Himself, not because he valued them more, but that they would have a more significant role in the Kingdom of God. He loved all his disciples equally.

We often make the mistake of trying to win the Lord’s approval by how we perform before man. People pleasers never end up as God pleasers. This is an exercise in futility. We don’t need to strive for what we already have.

What does impress the Lord? It’s not the height or even the breadth of our task, but the depth of our love motivating us to serve that catches the eye of the Father. It is not how we serve, but why, that gets His attention. Is it done out of a motivation of love?

Those who serve around a church in roles that do not bring a lot of public applause just may be God’s heroes. Remember there are not many wise, mighty, or noble.

The next time you walk past one setting up chairs in your Church without taking notice, you may have missed an opportunity to interact with one of God’s chosen servants.

That day, when I spoke in that Church, the most honored servant may not have been the one in the pulpit but the one sweeping the floor.


Your Special Assignment

by Inspiration Ministries

He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. – Ephesians 4:16 NLT

Flavius Ricimer was not considered eligible for leadership in Rome. After all, he was a pagan, a man with the wrong background. Although hardly known today, he became one of the most powerful men of his time. In fact, he became known as the “kingmaker” of the Western Roman Empire.

After becoming a general in the Roman army, his support became critical for elevating others to positions of power. From time to time, Ricimer’s position was threatened, but he managed to survive and even maintain his position of influence until he died on this day in 472 AD.

His life reminds us of important Biblical principles about Christians’ lives today. Each person has a unique place in the body of Christ. Some are called to positions of greater visibility and prominence. But more are called to serve behind the scenes. Some become well known; many will remain relatively obscure.

However, in God’s sight, each person is equally special.

The key for believers is to surrender their lives to God, to let Him chart their course, and to be faithful to fulfill the assignments that He has given them. This is true whether or not they receive praise or attention. We can be confident that God knows the truth.

Today, surrender your life anew to Him. Seek to be faithful in whatever position He calls you, whether or not anyone else ever knows.


God Has No Grandchildren

AUGUST 16, 2019

“… He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job’s regular practice.” Job 1:5b (NLT)

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Exactly one minute ago, my eldest son was learning to drive — according to Mom-Time, that is. Now here we are, cruising the back roads of Surreal-ville, as my third son has found his way behind a wheel. These are the moments when I sigh in solidarity with Dr. Seuss: How did it get so late so soon?

Oh, how far the Lord and I have come.

When I first started surrendering a driver to the roads, any notion of relaxation before my child returned was a fancy of futility. I longed for bygone days when I could see my children’s faces in the rearview mirror as I drove them everywhere their sweet feet needed to go.

But once upon an ordinary Thursday while awaiting my son’s return (in full-on anxious mom mode — and why didn’t he text me when he got there, anyway?), the Lord interrupted my nerves, etching a tender truth on my peace-parched heart.

Sweet Daughter, His whisper cut through the noise, it’s not you who’s been protecting them. From the swaddled womb to the steering wheel, all along it’s been Me.

And in the newfound calm of that moment, tears and chains began to fall.

While I’d tried to control their safety with my worry (Lord, forgive me), He’d been holding their lives in His palm, giving His angels charge over these children of mine … children of His.

That day, God granted wings to my worry-worn soul, shattering longstanding chains that bound my psyche to the lie that panic provides protection.

You see, I’d mistakenly tried to supplant God as watchman over my household. The more I labored, stressed and feared — in vain — to build a safe house for my people via the hollow frame of worry, the more frantic I became. My heart held fear so tightly that it couldn’t grasp freedom. And in my frenzy, I overlooked the truth that these children of mine were born of His vision long before they were born of my body.

Dear friend, can you relate? Do you also struggle with fear clothed in protection’s innocence?

Will she get a spot on the team? Will his heart be broken? Will she make a friend? Will another driver pull out in front of him? Will the diagnosis scar her? Will he accept Jesus as his Savior? Will she tune in to the heartbeat of God?

Whether it’s a son or daughter, niece or nephew, neighbor or student — many are the cares of a nurturing heart.

Lately, I’m inspired by Job’s approach to his concerns for his children, “… He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job’s regular practice” (Job 1:5b)Job understood his greatest influence was in a posture of prayer. And I’m reminded that this, too, is my place of surrender.

Because the truth and the grace of it all is, our fear offers our loved ones exactly no amount of protection. Peace cannot be found in the sound of their tires pulling into the drive, in their making perfect choices or in the pseudo-control of my worries. Satisfaction never stays, for life is fluid, so there’s always another fear to “worship.”

The relief we crave seeps in as we surrender fear and control, trading them for prayer, freedom, and the peace of knowing the children in our lives are the handiwork of their heavenly Father’s heart.

God has no grandchildren — only children who’ve trusted Him as their Savior to guide and direct their lives. He alone knit them and knows them, and has kept them under His faithful watch since He set them down in our spheres of influence.

Oh, that our trust would make itself at home in faith, not fear: His power draws depths our anxiety can’t access.

God Wants You To Know Him

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6 Simple Steps To Building A Relationship With God

“How do I build a relationship with God?” is a question I’m often asked, and it’s tempting to make the process more complicated than it needs to be. This post is revised and updated from its first appearance in 2014.

“Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a  kind of infection.  If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into the thing that has them…They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are  close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry.”  ~ C.S. Lewis

Don’t make it complicated!

If you have a desire to build a relationship with God, that is the essential first step. That sets your intention and focus. The rest is a matter of taking regular baby steps towards God and being open to what happens.

A dear friend of mine used to say, “If you want to shoot ducks, you have to go where the ducks are.” I’d suggest this is saying the same thing that C.S. Lewis expresses much more eloquently in the quote at the top of this post. If you want to build a relationship with God, you have to go, metaphorically, to where God is and place yourself in His presence. Only in that way can you receive the gifts He wants to give you.

God is always present but never pushy

God is not going to knock you over to get closer to you. We have the freedom to invite Him into our lives or not. You’re not likely to wake up one morning with the certain feeling that you’ve become friends with God (though that could happen). Like human relationships, it usually takes an investment of time and attention and caring, and it’s up to you to take the initiative of moving closer to God—of placing yourself in His presence and just abiding there. It’s rarely dramatic. You might not even feel anything at all at first. But when you do this over and over again, the emotion and belief will follow, and you’ll begin to trust He is with you and is guiding you.

Apply the KISS principle

Don’t make this hard – the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) comes to mind. Think of building a relationship with God just as you would a relationship with anyone else. Suppose you wanted to get to know a certain person better. The way you would do that is the way you can approach your relationship with God:

  1. Take the time to touch bases with God, acknowledging and giving thanks for His presence.
  2. Invite Him to come close — to sit with you at your heart’s kitchen table and just hang out.
  3. Talk:  Some days this will feel like pouring out your heart. Other days, it will be casual chit-chat. Occasionally, all you’ll be able to manage is, “Here I am, Lord. Please be with me.” Between friends, it’s all good.
  4. Listen: Remember to make it a two-way conversation and expect to hear from God, just as you would from a trusted friend. God wants you to know how much He loves you. He wants to offer support and guidance to you. If you don’t take the time to listen, you won’t hear His “still, small voice.” For me, this communication from God comes in any of various forms: thoughts, feelings, music, reading, nature, other people, or circumstances. Sometimes I only recognize God’s voice in retrospect.
  5. Make contact throughout your day. Being in touch with God doesn’t have to be only during times of meditation or prayer. It can be while you’re on the run, when you’re in the midst of activities, or when you have a moment’s break. Malcolm Boyd wrote a wonderful book back in the sixties whose theme is still relevant today: Are You Running With Me, Jesus?
  6. Take action when you hear God’s voice. If you feel God is guiding you or telling you something, take action on it as soon as possible. The insight you receive may only show you where to take the next step, but once you’ve taken that step, the following step will appear in front of you. Even though there is electrical power in your house, the light doesn’t turn on until you have flipped the switch to harness that power. God’s power is waiting for you to remember to flip the switch.


You Can Improve Your Relationship with God

Pastor, Boroughbridge, England

Can you improve your relationship with God? People are often unsure how to respond. The promises of grace suggest one answer; the experience of life often suggest another. In the confusion, we often do nothing. We stagnate.

But there is a way forward. Can you improve your relationship with God? Yes. Let’s turn for help to the seventeenth-century Puritan John Owen. In his classic book Communion with God, Owen says,

Our communion with God consists in his communication of himself to us, with our return to him of that which he requires and accepts, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him. (Works, Vol. 2, 8–9, modernized)

Note how Owen makes a distinction between “union” and “communion.” In the gospel, through faith, we have union with God in Christ. From start to finish this union is God’s gracious work toward us. But this union leads to communion with God — a genuine, two-way relationship of give-and-take in which our involvement matters.

This provides us with a great incentive and a great assurance:

The great incentive is this: If we respond to the circumstances of our lives with faith, if we resist the lies of temptation, if we make use of the means of grace, then we will have greater joy in Christ — our communion with God will improve.

The great assurance is this: Whenever we sin and fail, we can fall back on divine grace. If we have true union with God, it is not affected by the ebbs and flows of our battle with sin. The union forms the great foundation of our lives.

You Can’t Improve the Union

This simple distinction between union and communion helps us resolve a common problem. When we want to stress God’s grace to us in Christ, we often say that nothing can make our relationship with God stronger or weaker than it is. We cannot make God love us any more than he does already. After all, God first loved us when we were deep in sin (Romans 5:8). He didn’t love us because of any beauty or goodness within us. Can you improve your relationship with God? In this sense — the union sense — the answer must surely be no. For we are loved in the Son (Ephesians 1:4–6), and we cannot be more loved than the Son. God’s love is not contingent on our actions.

One of the tests we sometimes use to check whether a person has really grasped the grace of God is to pose two scenarios.

Scenario One: One day a person has a great morning devotional time in the word. By midday they have shared their faith with three unbelievers. In the evening they go to the church prayer meeting.

Scenario Two: Another day, the same person gets up late and misses their morning devotions. At work they join in ungodly banter and duck opportunities to share their faith along the way. They feel too tired to attend the evening prayer meeting at church, yet manage to summon up the energy to have a blazing argument with their spouse. At night they turn to God in prayer.

Test question: Is God more likely to hear their prayer in scenario one? Is he less likely to receive them and accept them in scenario two?

The correct answer, of course, is, no. For we do not draw near to God in prayer on the basis of our works. We draw near to the throne of grace through the blood of God’s Son. And the blood of Christ does not require our good works in order to work more effectively for us. The person in scenario two has just as much access to God as the person in scenario one. They can come with as much confidence, if they come in Christ’s name.

Can you improve your union with God through Christ? No.

You Can Improve Communion

But we know by experience — and the Bible — that what we do does make a difference in our relationship with God. If I spend devotional time with him in the morning, then I typically find I’m less susceptible to temptation and more aware of God’s presence. It’s not an exact correlation, but there seems to be a cause-and-effect connection. In the same kind of way, I know from experience that when I sin, prayer seems harder, church involvement more of a burden, joy in Christ more remote. The apostle Peter does say that what we do and say can hinder our prayers (1 Peter 3:7). Does what I do affect my relationship with God? The answer seems to be yes.

Owen’s distinction between union and communion makes all the difference. Owen says we do have a genuine two-way relationship with God: He spends much of his book Communion with God explaining ways God relates (or “communicates”) to us and how we respond (or “return”) to him. There is a real giving and receiving. There is loving and being loved. There is delighting and being delighted in. God gives real and specific life, hope, freedom, and forgiveness, and we respond with real faith, love, and worship.

Can you improve your communion-based relationship with God? Yes.

Saved to Enjoy God

Salvation is not just about having our sins forgiven and escaping God’s judgment. God doesn’t simply save us from sin and death; he saves us forsomething. Owen says Christ’s “great undertaking in his life, death, resurrection, ascension, being a mediator between God and us . . . [is] to bring us an enjoyment of God” (Works, Vol. 2, 78). Our relationship with God is not simply an objective fact. It is also a subjective experience. Faith in Christ brings us into a real, two-way relationship of joy with the triune God.

What we do makes a real difference in our experience of this relationship. We can enjoy the relationship, or neglect it. We can pursue God, or avoid him. We can find joy in God, or look for joy in the empty treasures of this world. Our actions make a difference.

But as Owen helps us understand, our communion with God flows “from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him.” Our union with God was initiated by the Father in election, secured by the Son at Calvary, and is applied by the Spirit in regeneration. It is all of grace. We don’t create this relationship, we can’t improve it, and we can’t break it. It rests on God’s electing love and the finished work of Christ. We are secure in him.

If today you feel far from God, do not despair. Like a swimmer in the waves of the sea, reach down by faith and feel the solid ground of your union with God beneath your feet. It will always be there. And then redouble your efforts to pursue the joy of communion with God.


What’s the “More” God Wants for You?

MARCH 26, 2018

“God can do anything, you know — far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (MSG)

What are the deepest longings of your heart — the “more” you want in your life that you’re afraid to voice out loud?

Over the years, I’ve learned to trust God with the secret desires of my soul. And I can testify to God’s faithfulness when it comes to giving me more of His vision, His presence and His calling, all for a purpose bigger than mine.

Have you ever stopped to wonder what God’s response would be to your heart’s cry for more?

I believe the Savior of the universe would bend down in the most caring of manners and say, “More what? And how much more? My supply is unending. My mercy is limitless. My grace is more than you need.”

The more God wants for your life is beyond comprehension. Our key verse today, Ephesians 3:20‑21, tells us, “God can do anything, you know — far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

It changed my thinking and my life when I realized the power of this truth: God can do anything.And not just a little bit more than we dream of. Far more.

So what are your craziest ideas, deepest longings and grandest plans — the things you’ve barely allowed your soul to imagine? Because even those grand plans aren’t enough. All of heaven is looking down upon you, shaking their heads and saying, “Is that all? Is that all she wants? Is that all he can dream up?”

Allow me to stretch your thinking, because we serve the ultimate Big Thinker. No plans of yours even compare to God’s. The amazing truth is, God can take every limitation that’s been put on your life — by you or by others — and expand your heart and purpose in a way that’s way bigger, wayhigher, way more effective than anything you could imagine. You can never out-dream God.

Jesus Brings Joy To Your Heart

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What Makes Me Happy?

Author: Kay Camenisch, 1.cbn.com


I had mixed emotions about going to see my mother. She was 93-years-old and had not recognized me for years. It was becoming increasingly difficult to converse with her. She never initiated conversation and rarely responded. Much of the time it seemed she didn’t even hear what I said. I prayed as we traveled that God would somehow let us connect—and that we could be a blessing to her.

The visit was very discouraging. Mother was totally flat. Nothing ignited a spark or brought a response. I looked at my husband asking with my eyes, “What do we do?” I began to question whether or not it was worth the six-hour trip to Atlanta.

Suddenly I remembered a question from someone at church, so I asked, “Mother, are you happy?”

She seemed to be considering the question, but it took her a long time to answer. Finally, in a monotone voice she said, “I haven’t considered that. What does it take to make happy?”

I said, “That’s a good question!” Wow, what does it mean for someone with advanced Alzheimer’s to be happy? After some thought, I added, “I guess happiness means contentment. Are you content?”

We waited so long that I wondered if she remembered the question. She kept moving her lips into and out of her mouth as if priming a pump. I considered repeating the question, or even changing the subject.

Then, suddenly she broke the silence. In a deadpan voice she said, “Yes, I’m content. You could say I have contentment.” Though void of emotion, her words rang true. You could tell she understood, and that she meant it.

The Lord answered my prayer. He let me connect with my mother. He also spoke to me through her. Her question stuck. What does it take to make happy?

We spend a lot of time and energy pursuing happiness. We act as if it is owed us.  Even adults make major decisions with happiness as their only goal. In fact, in the United States’ Declaration of Independence, we claim a right to the pursuit of happiness. But how many people consider, “What does it take to make happy?”

Too often, we search for happiness in things dictated by society—in possessions, success, prestige, or fun (entertainment, immorality, food, drinking, or drugs). We think we’ll be happy if we can get what we want. We pursue happiness in temporal fulfillment of personal desires.

Mother’s question was profound, but a better one might be, “What does God say it takes to make happiness?” I checked it out. The primary words in the Bible for happy —in Old and New Testament—are often translated blessed. It seems that happiness is the same as, or comes from, being blessed. In other words, genuine happiness comes from God’s hand.

Many verses paint a very different picture from the self-centered happiness that we pursue. For example:

“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves” (Job 5:17, NASB).
“Happy is he who is gracious to the poor” (Prov 14:21, NASB).
“Happy is he who keeps the law” (Prov 29:18, NASB).
“Behold, we count those blessed who endured” (James 5:11, NASB).
“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed” (1 Pet 4:14, NASB)

Mother always was good at asking the right question. It seems that true happiness is closely related to our relationship with God and receiving something through His hands—even if that something is reproof, or being reviled for His name.

God must have led me in my contentment-response to Mother’s question. Happiness and contentment are closely related. We may seek happiness through personal temporal gain, but God says,

“Godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment”  (1 Tim. 6:6, NASB).

I don’t know if my mother was blessed by my visit, but she blessed me. I’m happy that my godly mother influences me toward the LORD—even when her mind is compromised by Alzheimer’s.

What does it take to make happy?

“He whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he” (Prov. 16:20, KJV).


Finding the Happy Ending to Our Sad Story

“Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!” Psalm 34:3 (ESV)

As I made my way across the room to my friend, her eyes widened and then fell to the floor in dismay. Although I was breaking my usual church routine by attending youth group with my son, I was confused as to why she seemed uncomfortable with my presence.

We chatted with the other youth leaders for a while before they drifted off to talk to others. Hesitantly, she asked me why I had come. I explained how curious I was about the workings of the group. I was there to get a sample of what my son would experience as a new member. With a quiver in her voice, she asked, “Did you know I’m the guest speaker today?”

I hadn’t known that she would be sharing, but suddenly I understood why she might not want me there. The topic was abortion, and my friend, the guest speaker, was telling her story for the very first time about the abortion she had chosen years before.

“I’m so afraid you’ll think less of me after you hear my story,” she confessed, her eyes filling with tears.

Stunned and saddened, I gathered my amazing, godly friend in my arms and whispered, “I love you. I could never think less of you.”

She wiped away her tears, walked to the front and started the program with the kids. By the time she finished speaking, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

Even though this part of her story had gone untold for decades, we all knew her current story. This was a woman who sparkled with joy and shared Jesus’ love everywhere she went. His light shone out of her and drew others irresistibly into relationship with Him. The beginning of her story about the abortion was sad, but the end of her story stood gloriously in front of us.

When she stepped down from the stage and back into the audience, I made a beeline for her, and blurted out the thought that overwhelmed me. “Not only do I not think less of you because of your story,” I said, “It has magnified God for me!”

King David more eloquently expressed how her story made me feel. He too was overwhelmed by the character and work of God:

“Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep” (Psalm 36:5-6a, NIV).

God fills the expanses. His love is limitless. His power exceeds anything I can imagine. It’s that power that changes us and brings good into even the saddest of stories.

Knowing how God had transformed my friend didn’t actually make God bigger; I just saw more of Him revealed. From knowing her story, I know other truths as well – truths about who God is and how He operates. I know God is real. I know He is at work in us. I know He can change a life and redeem a sad story into one that inspires others. I know that God is BIG.

How do we magnify the Lord together? We transparently share the stories of His work in our lives. Your life isn’t perfect. Neither is mine! But when He uses our stories for the healing and growth of others, that’s part of the redeeming of our sad stories. When we share our own imperfections instead of hiding them, it’s a chance to shine a spotlight on our hero, Jesus, the One who has healed our wounded places and changed the ashes of our sins into the beauty of a godly woman.


True Happiness

by Inspiration Ministries

“Happy (blessed, fortunate, prosperous, to be envied) are the people whose God is the Lord!” – Psalm 144:15 Amplified Bible

The Declaration of Independence of the United States boldly claims that each person is “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This pursuit of happiness is a driving force for many people. But the question continually is asked, what does it take to be happy? They wonder, “How can I be happy?”

A recent poll revealed that only a third of Americans are very happy. What makes the difference? One main factor was being “religious.” Those considered religious are more likely to be very happy than those who don’t consider themselves religious. And those who attend religious services regularly are more likely to be very happy than those who don’t.

These conclusions point us toward Biblical truths. But there we see that real change does not result just from being “religious” but making Jesus our Lord. Having a personal relationship with God. Being filled with the Spirit.

Many people make this quest difficult. But the Bible says it really is simple: Those “whose God is the Lord” are “happy, blessed, fortunate, prosperous, and to be envied.” This is a consistent message throughout the Bible.

We are happy when we find God’s wisdom and gain His understanding (Proverbs 3:13). We are happy when we show mercy to the poor (Proverbs 14:21), trust Him (Proverbs 16:20), fear Him (Proverbs 28:14), and keep His laws (Proverbs 29:18). We are happy as we worship Him and walkin the light of His presence (Psalm 89:15).

The world promises many paths to happiness. But Believers know that true happiness is found only in God. This results in a lasting joy, and a countenance that shows the difference He makes. With Him in our lives, we are blessed, fortunate, prosperous, and to be envied.

What are you doing to find happiness?

Understanding Biblical Forgiveness

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Understanding Biblical Forgiveness

Wisdom from Sharon Jaynes

It doesn’t take very long for a couple to figure out that marriage isn’t a continuously fun and easy ride, a big bundle of happy days tied up with a sparkly bow of hugs and kisses. It’s often the sandpaper of chafing personalities, unmet expectations, and hurt feelings that rub us the wrong way and leave us feeling rather raw.

Being able to forgive past offenses and let go of past hurts is an essential component for growing a strong marriage and maintaining an intimate relationship that lasts a lifetime.

On the other hand, unforgiveness blocks intimacy on an emotional and physical level. The Gottman Institute, a research-based relationship organization, noted, “The capacity to seek and grant forgiveness is one of the most significant factors contributing to marital satisfaction and a lifetime of love.”1 Without forgiveness, we will never be able to have a healthy thriving marriage. We can live in the same house, eat the same meals, take the same trips, and raise the same children, but without forgiveness we will live just short of true intimacy of the heart, never quite free to be soul naked and unashamed.

Forgiveness, when we look at it from the Greek perspective with the word aphiemi, means “to let go from one’s power, possession, to let go free, let escape.2

Biblical forgiveness means cutting someone loose.

This word picture is one in which the unforgiven is roped to the back of the unforgiving. When we refuse to forgive, we bind ourselves to what we hate. When we forgive, we cut the person loose from our backs and set ourselves free as well.

Forgiveness can also be seen in terms of canceling a debt. In the Old Testament, when someone paid a debt, a notice of the debt paid in full was nailed to the lender’s door. That is what Jesus did when He was nailed to the Cross — our debt was paid in full and nailed to Heaven’s door. When you forgive your husband, you cancel his debt, which he never could’ve paid back anyway. Forgiveness is no longer holding the offense against the offender.

I recently received an email from a woman who was still bitter over a statement her husband made to her cousin ten years ago. She and her husband were preparing to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary, and she was dreading it because of his careless words a decade before. She wrote, “Please pray that God mends this title [sic] piece of my heart that has fallen to the ground.”

The word title was a typo — she meant to type little. To me, it was telling. Friend, we can allow our husbands’ little shortcomings to become the title of our story, or we can forgive and write a new storyline. Not only does forgiveness change the title of your story, it changes the ending as well. So, how exactly can we consciously pursue forgiveness?

The first step to forgiveness is prayer.

The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). I hope your husband is never your enemy, but there may be days you feel like he is. So let’s follow God’s instruction and start by praying for him. It may not turn your husband’s hardened heart to putty in your hands, but it will melt the hardness of resentment in your own. I’ve seen this happen time and time again in my own heart. It’s difficult to stay mad at someone when you’re praying for him.

How many times are we to forgive? Peter asked Jesus that same question.

‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ — Matthew 18:21-22

This doesn’t mean on the 491st offense we can choose not to forgive. Jesus was saying that there was no limit. But what about those big offenses? You know the ones I’m talking about. That is a good question. Pornography, alcoholism, drug abuse, and a host of other addictions must be addressed and dealt with for any marriage to survive and thrive. No one is doing their spouses any favors by allowing such destructive behavior to continue. To ignore such issues is enabling sin to continue and poisoning the marriage with the arsenic of apathy or fear.

God’s call for us to forgive does not mean that a woman should stay with a man who is abusive or sexually unfaithful. Separation is sometimes the best course of action. The wife needs to make sure that she is safe. A wife can separate from her husband, pray for her marriage, and continue to trust God to bring healing and restoration.

So, yes, there are bigger issues that we do need to address as they come up, sometimes seeking professional help, but this does not mean forgiveness is on hold.


Morning and Night

by Inspiration Ministries

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. – Hebrews 12:14 NLT

It had been a particularly complex time in England, marked by civil war. Even believers like Jeremy Taylor faced ongoing challenges. Born in Cambridge, England, on this day in 1613, he had distinguished himself as a student and later a professor at Oxford University before eventually moving to Ireland.

The crises of his times helped drive him deeper in faith. He expressed insights through his devotional writings, particularly in a book he wrote about holy living. Here, he encouraged believers to realize that a key to successful living was how we start and end each day.

He encouraged readers, “When you awake, accustom yourself to think first upon God.” Then at night, “Let Him close thine eyes.” This focus is essential for healthful sleep and preparation to make life fruitful and balanced.

He influenced readers to avoid idleness and to be diligent. They were to be careful about the people they associated with, and always to look for opportunities to fill “spaces of time” in prayer, reading, and doing works of charity. They were to avoid sin and bad habits, develop the gifts God had given them, learn to “know the worth of time, and the manner how well to improve a day.”

Remember the importance of spending time with God, particularly in the morning and at night each day. He can give you peace for any challenge. Trust Him to help you make wise decisions.


The Power of Forgiveness


October 11, 2016 • Christopher Hunt

At some point in our lives, we’ve all had to forgive someone. A negligent barb hit its mark and now replays in our minds, scraping open the scabs. Perhaps it’s a deeper wound caused by someone’s abuse, abandonment, or assault. The ache of these injuries can linger for years, decades, even a lifetime. Forgiving someone can be one of the most difficult things to do in your life. Yet, it’s through forgiveness that God heals our deepest wounds, and frees us from our prisons of anger, hate, self-pity, and self-contempt. But, what does forgiveness really look like?

God has guided me through a long journey of forgiveness. Not usually one to hold a grudge, it still surprises me how frequently I find myself nursing one anyway. Once, more than 25 years ago, I was on watch in the Navy, and another young sailor—a friend, I thought—looked me in the eye and said, “Hunt, you’re such a loser.” Even though I immediately rejected his unprovoked pronouncement, the episode replays in my mind to this day. His sincerity drew blood. I still think of retorts that I might have employed to bite back. To be free of this incident, I really need to forgive that guy. But how?

Forgive as the Lord forgave you

Forgiveness is at the crux of our Christian faith. Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:46-47Matthew 26:28). In turn, God commands that we forgive those who sin against us: “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13c ESV). When his disciple, Peter, asked him how many times he should forgive, Jesus essentially answered, forgive and keep on forgiving—“seventy-seven times,” a figurative number suggesting continuing renewal.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turns up the heat on forgiveness with these red-letter words: “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:15 NIV).” This sounds harsh, and some people stumble over it, fearing they might lose their salvation if they do not forgive. Yet, it’s wholly consistent with Jesus’ teaching. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). If I’m forgiven by God, then who am I to refuse to forgive someone else? (Matthew 18:21-35) The book of James puts teeth on this. My faith in God’s forgiving grace must bear fruit in deeds: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17).

But, in our day-to-day lives, what does it mean to forgive? Do I pretend it didn’t hurt when that sailor called me a loser? What about when something really bad happens?

How do I forgive as I have been forgiven?

The most painful period of my life occurred after my wife of seven years suddenly announced that she didn’t want to be married or be a mother anymore. Not long after, she was gone and I was raising two very small children on my own. Angry about her abandonment of the children, I did little to process the pain caused by her disavowal of her promise to stay with me for life. To this day, more than 15 years later, I can get very upset when I think about what happened and how it has affected my kids. In those dark days, I could not imagine forgiving her for what she had done, not for a minute.

But God used that terrible time to kick the legs out from under my pride. For years I had been doing my own thing, almost completely ignoring God. As my world crumbled, like that prodigal son wandering in a far-off country, I knew I had to return to my Father. Hurt and angry, I didn’t want to talk much about forgiveness, and I had no idea what it looked like in this situation.

Thankfully, the Lord is a patient teacher.

God taught me a key lesson about forgiveness through a very long, sleepless night. I wrestled with him about what I believed—dreaded, rather—that he was telling me to do: to offer my ex-wife a second chance. The divorce had been final for months, and there had never been so much as a flicker of hope for reconciliation. And he wanted me to give her another chance? I didn’t fall asleep until I said, “Okay, God, I’ll do it!”

The next day, I called my ex-wife. With trepidation, I confessed my sins and offered her a fresh start—not without condition, but with genuine willingness to rebuild what had been broken. As it happened, she did not respond positively.

Why did God have me lay it all on the line with her again? I wouldn’t understand for a long time after, but he was laying a foundation for forgiveness. In making that call, I acknowledged that terrible damage had been done to me and my children; I accepted my own responsibility for the divorce and my need for forgiveness; and I gave up my claim to victimhood and retribution. Through that incredibly uncomfortable encounter, God showed me my ex-wife’s brokenness in light of my own; that she too was made in his image and in need of grace.

I did not forgive all in a day; and even now, years later, I have to forgive my ex-wife again each time my family experiences some lingering consequence from her actions. But, I forgive in light of my own forgiveness; as I have been forgiven, so also must I forgive. As a child of God, a disciple of Jesus Christ, I have been forgiven so much. How then can I bear good fruit in Christ if I am unwilling to forgive? Thank God for his grace through Jesus.

So, what about that sailor who told me to my face that I was a “loser” all those years ago? I recognize now that he might have been looking in the mirror when he said those words to me. Not caring much for himself, he lashed out at someone else. The wound I suffered was real, but the one who inflicted it on me was every bit as broken and in need of grace as me. I forgive him and pray that he too receives the grace of Jesus.

God Is In Control

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I Want Control

“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 (ESV)

My husband held open the door of our hotel room and cheerfully asked, “Ready?”

I stopped short. “You’re not wearing that sweatshirt again, are you?” I asked, wrinkling my nose. Then I learned that the sweatshirt was all he’d brought.

“You’ve worn it for two days!” I groaned, sniffing him as we stepped into the hallway.

We were headed to meet our daughter for lunch for the first time on her college campus. What if we met her friends? What if she introduced us to a professor? What if we snapped a photo? I wanted us to both look nice, and that sweatshirt was not what I had in mind.

I mentally clicked through our options. We had 20 minutes, and the drive to campus only took five. “OK, here’s what we’ll do,” I said, sliding into the passenger seat. “Pull into the store, and I’ll go buy you something to wear.”

“No,” he said.

No?” I asked incredulously. “You look ridiculous! You cannot wear that!

“Shannon, this sweatshirt is fine,” he said calmly, turning the key.

I did not agree.

In moments like this, my heart always calls to me with logic, clear and strong: “You’ve got to do something! Right now!” With one eye on the future and where this all might lead, I feel compelled to manage all the contingencies. I’m convinced it’s all up to me to take control and make things turn out right.

But I’m finding that life as a Control Girl is not only exhausting, it’s also counterproductive.

When I clamp down and grip tighter, I only create conflict and distance, not the peace, security and joy I envision. The more controlling I get, the more miserable we all become. This car ride was no exception.

I pleaded and criticized and nagged, but my husband was undeterred. He thought his sweatshirt looked fine. My inner Control Girl thought the world was going to end.

When I try to control what I cannot, I lose control of the one thing I can — myself. I become frantic, angry and obsessive, and I trigger the worst in others. This is particularly true in marriage. I want control, but he wants respect.

My husband perceives my efforts to control him as disrespect. He knows I wouldn’t nag, criticize or challenge other people I respect. I wouldn’t roll my eyes if they wore a sweatshirt.

I agree wholeheartedly with Ephesians 5:33, which says, “Let the wife see that she respects her husband” (ESV). I just don’t always see my controlling behavior as disrespectful. But my husband does. And God does, too. He invites me to walk in a new direction.

Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Oh how I wanted to gratify my flesh that day! I wanted to keep bringing up the sweatshirt, nagging my husband and rolling my eyes. But thankfully, even more, I wanted to walk by the Spirit — which meant respecting my husband’s choice instead of trying to control him.

Surrendering control to God is not the same as doing nothing. When you “do nothing,” you might count to 10 or scroll through Instagram, but these distractions won’t transform you. Surrendering to God will.

Surrender is some of the most uphill, heart-rate-spiking, grueling work of my entire Christian life. It involves gathering up all my hopes, dreams, fears and objections and spilling them out before God, saying, “You’re in control. Which means I don’t have to be.”

Each time I do this — whether over a sweatshirt or something with far higher stakes — I take one more step with the Spirit. Each time I say no to me and yes to God, He uses my surrender to transform me.

I’ve seen how my Control Girl behavior can destroy an afternoon. I know the erosive effect it has on my relationships and on me. But on that sunny day over lunch with my daughter, her friends and my sweatshirt-clad husband, I experienced the peace, security and joy that comes only from placing control where it belongs — in God’s hands.

Surrendering to God might not change my situation, but it will — one sweatshirt at a time — change me.


God Is in Control


Romans 8:28-29

Nothing that happens is beyond God’s control. Ultimately, whatever comes into our life is either sent by our Father or permitted by Him, and that which does not enter is withheld according to His will. But believers sometimes get so caught up in the moment that they forget about the Lord’s omnipotence. Then when life is challenging or uncomfortable, the temptation is to react against whatever seems to be causing them trouble. Fired? Blame the boss. Single? Blame the opposite sex.

To illustrate this idea, think about a child who must swallow a nasty-tasting antibiotic. In a fit of frustration, he slaps away the bottle from his mother’s hand, even though the container is only a “secondary agent.” Mom is the one who dispenses the medicine, but since he cannot slap her, he turns his irritation against the vessel.

When we “slap away the bottle,” we take out our anger and resentment on the vessel the Lord is using, instead of accepting that His will is at work. God does assure us He’s working out the details of life in a way that will ultimately benefit us, but we can’t assume this means everything will turn out to our liking.

Sometimes it’s easier to turn our wrath against an earthly agent than to be honest with our heavenly Father about frustration over our circumstances. But the Lord welcomes honesty. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul cried out to Him in anguish (Matt. 26:392 Corinthians 12:7-9). If we recognize that God is in control and guiding our future for good, then we will not stay discouraged for long.


God Is in Control Even When Your Plans Stall


“Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing” (Romans 4:17b NLT).

There are certain dead-end words in life, including “cancer,” “divorce,” “bankruptcy,” “infertility,” and “unemployment.”

How do you know when you’re at a dead end? You know it when things get out of your control and you can’t do anything about it.

When you’re stuck and waiting for deliverance, you need to remember what God can do. The situation may be out of your control, but it’s not out of God’s control. When you face a dead end, don’t focus on what you can’t do.Focus instead on what God can do.

Romans 4:17b says, “Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing” (NLT).

Here are two things God does that you can’t do: He can give life to the dead, and he can create something out of nothing. If God can give life to a dead man, he can give life to a dead career. He can bring life to that dead marriage. He can bring life to that dead dream. He can bring life to that financial dead end.

It wasn’t just positive thinking that helped Abraham. Positive thinking works fine in situations you can control. But positive thinking is not faith. They are two very different things.

In situations that are out of your control, positive thinking is worthless. It’s just wishful thinking. It doesn’t change the situation. When you face things that are out of your control, you need something more than a positive mental attitude. You need faith in God, because he can control it when you can’t. Most of life is beyond your control, so you need faith far more than you need positive thinking.

Jesus says in Luke 18:27, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (NIV). God specializes in the impossible. It’s called a miracle, and he can do it in your life! He is ready to turn your dead end into deliverance.


Trusting God for the Future

by Inspiration Ministries

“Then Elisha said, ‘Hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord: “Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.”’” 2 Kings 7:1 NKJV

Many were filled with panic and worry. Fear spread throughout Israel. The army of Aram was besieging the land. Food was running out and there was a “great famine.” Cornered by difficult conditions, the king blamed Elisha.

But Elisha was not afraid. In fact, He was confident in God. So confident that he declared specifically what would happen in the future. What he prophesied didn’t seem likely. But he had heard from God, and knew that His Word was true, even giving advice to others based on this confidence.

This is the kind of confidence all of us need to have in God. We can find ourselves worrying about the economy, relationships, health, or events in the world. But the Bible teaches us that God already knows the future. That, if we trust Him, we can have peace. That He is ready to take away our burdens, meet our needs, and direct our steps.

This kind of confidence is available to all who know God intimately and trust Him. In the midst of any situation, He offers us His peace. His wisdom. And His Word tells us that He knows that future, and that we can trust Him.

What issues are you facing? Do you find your heart and mind filled with fear and worry? Or are you totally trusting in God?

Commit your needs to Him, no matter how serious they might seem, or how helpless you might feel. Don’t be besieged with worry, doubt, or fear. Seek to know Him more intimately. Read His Word with more intensity. Seek to be more sensitive to His Spirit. And trust Him, for today, and the future.

Give Thanks To God Always

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By: Charles Spurgeon

“For He has looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from Heaven did the LORD behold the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to loose those that are appointed to death; to declare the name of the LORD in Zion,and His praise in Jerusalem; when the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.”Psalm 102:19-22.

I SUPPOSE the first sense of this passage would be just this. Israel had been carried away captive and only the poorest of the people had been left in the land. Jerusalem was a heap. Zion had been plowed with the plow of desolation. The whole country was, compared with its former state, like a desert. But in due time, God, who had peculiar favor towards His people, though He had sorely smitten them, would look down upon them. From the height of His sanctuary in Heaven, He would look down upon the ruins of His sanctuary on earth. From His heavenly city above, He would look down upon His earthly city below. And as He looked and listened, He would be attracted by the moans of His people, and especially of some who were appointed to death, or, as the margin renders it, “the children of death.” Upon these He would look with tender pity and, in due time He would so come to the deliverance of His scattered people, Israel, and bring them back to their own land and work for them such wonderful mercy that, ever afterwards that deliverance would be spoken of with praise and thanksgiving! Even in the last days when all nations shall serve the Lord, the memory of this deliverance shall not be forgotten! Still shall it be the theme of joyous song and the subject of holy contemplation, just as when Israel was in Egypt, the Lord heard their groaning and with a high hand and a stretched-out arm brought them up out of the land of bondage–and ever afterwards among the sweetest patriotic songs of the nation was the one which Moses and Miriam sang on the further shore of the Red Sea–“Sing you to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea.” And all along Jewish history, whatever of her songs there may have been, that one has never gone into oblivion. And even in Heaven, itself, “they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” So that the deliverance promised here to Israel was to be as noteworthy as that which was given at the Red Sea and it was to be forever kept in memory by the Lord’s chosen people!

Now I am going to leave the more immediate sense of our text, yet still give you its meaning. It has been said that if a great crystal is broken into the smallest fragments, each piece will still be crystallized in the same form and, in like manner, the dealings of God with His Church, as a whole, will be found to be of the same kind as His dealings with the various parts of His Church and also with individuals. And in dealing with individuals, each separate act of God will have about it the same attributes and be of the same character as His dealings on a large scale with the whole of His people. So, if we break down the great Truth of the text, which is like a mass of bread, into small crumbs so that each one of the Lord’s children may have a portion, it will still be bread! The Truth of God will be the same as we try to bring it home to individual experience–and that we shall now try to do. May the eternal Spirit, the Comforter, help us in the doing of it!



 Express Gratitude

By: Rachel Dawson,   crosswalk.com

A few years ago, I started a gratitude journal. It was tiny, fit in my pocket, and I took it with me everywhere. Throughout the day, I would take a few seconds to jot down little things I was grateful for, with the aim of getting to 1,000. It was such a simple practice, but it started to make such a big impact on my life and my attitude.

These little notes became little prayers to God throughout the day, each one expressing thankfulness for the many blessings he was showering on me. Some were significant and deeply meaningful, like a powerful prayer from a close friend or a breakthrough in a dark season, but some were as small as a smile from a stranger or a butterfly landing nearby. All helped me pause and praise God.

Here’s my advice to us all: Just try to slow down a little today. Keep your eyes open. Look around you, look up, look into the eyes of the people you pass, look at the grass growing or the flowers blooming or the autumn leaves falling. Take time to notice and appreciate the beauty of the world around you, and take a few extra minutes to write it all down. You’ll be surprised how gratitude can change your whole perspective on life and give you reason upon reason to praise the Creator of it all.

“O Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”  Ps. 95:1-3

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Ps. 100:4-5

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.” Ps. 118:29

“I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Ps. 9:1

“I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” Ps. 7:17.

A Prayer for a Heart of Thanksgiving

Lord, teach me to offer you a heart of thanksgiving and praise in all my daily experiences of life. Teach me to be joyful always, to pray continually and to give thanks in all my circumstances. I accept them as Your will for my life (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). I long to bring pleasure to Your heart daily. Break the power of the enemy in my life. Defeat Him through my sacrifice of praise. Change my outlook and attitude into one of joyful contentment with my present circumstances. I thank You for… [Name a difficult circumstance in your life presently and thank God for it.] Amen.

A Prayer for a Thankful Heart

Jesus, I want to be like You who obeyed the Father without complaint. You embraced the chains of humanity when You walked this earth. Convict me whenever I complain or compare myself with others. Give me Your attitude of humility and thankful acceptance. I want to be like the Apostle Paul who learned contentment in every circumstance. I choose to continually offer You a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that give praise to Your name (Hebrews 13:15). I long to bring a smile to Your face. Teach me the power of a thankful heart. I know that Your truth dwells in a thankful heart.



Grace and Gratitude


Paul’s epistle to the Romans sheds light on what we mean when we say that grace is unmerit. In 1:18–3:20, the Apostle explains that on the final day, for the first time in our lives, we will be judged in total perfection, in total fairness, in absolute righteousness. Thus, every mouth will be stopped when we stand before the tribunal of God. This should provoke fear in the hearts of fallen people, as condemnation is the only possible sentence for sinful men and women: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23).

But those who trust in Christ Jesus have hope, for if we are in Him by faith, we have been “justified freely by His grace.” Note that justification is accomplished not by obligation, but freely through grace on account of the redemption purchased by Jesus alone. There’s no room for boasting, for we are justified not by our works but by grace alone through faith alone. Paul goes on to cite Abraham as the preeminent example of one who was justified by faith alone and therefore free from God’s sentence of condemnation. If the basis for Abraham’s salvation, his justification, was something that Abraham did—some good deed, some meritorious service that he performed, some obligation that he performed—if it were on the basis of works, Paul says, he would have had something about which to boast. But Abraham had no such merit. All he had was faith, and that faith itself was a gift: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (4:3; see Eph. 2:8–10).

Romans 4:4–8 is a key passage here:

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

That’s grace. Paul couldn’t say it any other way. To him who works, it’s debt; if you merit something, it means that someone is obligated to pay you. If I hire you as an employee and promise to pay you one hundred dollars if you work eight hours, I must pay you for working the eight hours. I’m not doing you a favor or giving you grace. You’ve earned your pay. You’ve fulfilled the contract, and I’m morally obliged to give you your wages.

With respect to the Lord, we are debtors who cannot pay. That’s why the Bible speaks of redemption in economic language—we were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). Only someone else—Christ—can pay our debt. That’s grace. It’s not our good works that secure our rescue but only the works of Christ. It’s His merit, not ours. We don’t merit anything. He grants us His merit by grace, and we receive it only by faith. The essence of grace is its voluntary free bestowal. As soon as it’s a requirement, it’s no longer grace.

Grace should never cease to amaze us. God has an absolute, pure, holy standard of justice. That’s why we cling with all our might to the merit of Jesus Christ. He alone has the merit to satisfy the demands of God’s justice, and He gives it freely to us. We haven’t merited it. There’s nothing in us that elicits the Lord’s favor that leads to our justification. It’s pure grace.

And the more we understand what God has done for us as sinners, the more willing we are to do whatever He requires. The great teachers of the church say the first point of genuine sanctification is an increasing awareness of our own sinfulness. With that comes, at the same time, an increasing awareness of God’s grace. And with that, again, increasing love and increasing willingness to obey Him.

When we truly understand grace—when we see that God only owes us wrath but has provided Christ’s merit to cover our demerit—then everything changes. The Christian motivation for ethics is not merely to obey some abstract law or a list of rules; rather, our response is provoked by gratitude. Jesus understood that when He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” If I may have the liberty to paraphrase: “Keep My commandments not because you want to be just, but because you love Me.” A true understanding of grace—of God’s unmerited favor—always provokes a life of gratitude and obedience.