A Fresh Perspective of Grace

Umbrellas, when they work effectively, can keep you from experiencing the heaviest of the rainfall. One of the challenges with using an umbrella is it can taint your perspective in the midst of a storm.

Sometimes you need to put away the cumbersomeness of the umbrella before you can experience the fresh perspective that comes through the downpour.

It’s all about perspective when it comes to a life lived for Christ. When we hold others accountable to reflect Christ and then they fail us, we often judge them. When we fail to hold ourselves accountable; we are more apt give ourselves a pass. This causes strife in the body and confusion in those who do not share the faith.

Jesus called us to a life of grace and mercy and we are good at giving ourselves that gift. Shouldn’t we also extend that grace to others as He did? ‪

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15 ESV).

I’m far from perfect, but I ask the Lord to remind me to shower others with grace. I want to experience His grace in my life. Take some time today to experience God’s grace personally and also reach out to others who probably need some grace in their own lives too!

“Let the rain kiss you.

Let the rain beat upon your head

with silver liquid drops.

Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”

~Langston Hughes

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A Promise to Pass Safely Through

I lived just hours from the Tahlequah River in Oklahoma, one of my favorite summer adventures with aunts, uncles and cousins. One year  Grandpa and Grandma went with us. Grandma had never learned to swim was extremely fearful of the water. I remember her putting those big, full, orange life jackets around her neck, arms and legs as she joked with us. She was quite a site to see.

There were summers when we got very little rain and we had toScan_20150619 (16) drag our canoe across the rough, pebbled, shallow places in the river. Other years the water rushed dangerously fast. Every once in a while someone would capsize and others on the river would stop and help.

The first year my husband and I were married, we camped on the river with another couple and with plans to canoe the following day. In the early hours of the morning, an unexpected storm blew through our camp. The water was so heavy, the tent collapsed. It was cold and miserable.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, (Isaiah 43:2-3 AMP).

The next morning we gathered what was left of our campsite, packed up and made our way to the river to spend the day in the warm sun, canoeing. The sudden rain caused the river to rise substantially, and the water rushed past at a faster speed than any of us had experienced. Halfway down the river, we came upon a father with his young son.

They were trapped in the rushing water.

I remember the concern on the father’s face, and the fear on the little boy’s face. Then the relief and thankfulness after my husband and his best friend freed them from the tree branches and pulled them safely back to the bank.

There are seasons with little rain and our life ebbs and flows gently. Then a great storm comes along—sometimes in the middle of the night while you’re camping—and turns everything in your life upside down. Your first response might be to panic as the water rises to overtake you, but rest assured, the Lord your Savior, promises to be with you. He promises the waters will not overwhelm you and you will pass safely through as you hold tight to Him.

“If life is a river, then pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, or actively following Him, we automatically begin to be swept downstream.”

Francis Chan

Let Your Spirit Lead

God created you in His likeness— for your spirit to rule your mind, will, and emotions and to direct your body in what is right in unison and agreement with Him.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command, their relationship with God was severed. They were created in His image — for their spirit to lead their thoughts and actions. Their desire to go their own way led to the death of their spirits and caused them to depend on physical knowledge. Their physical senses told them what to feel and think. The physical and natural became dominant over the spirit.

Before we accept Christ, our spirits are in that fallen-from-grace darkness, the same condition of Adam and Eve’s hearts after the fall. Our spiritual senses sit in darkness allowing our physical senses to interpret our lives for us.

When we accept the sacrifice Jesus made to bring us back to God, His life and light immediately illuminate our spirits.

Our revived spirits are ready to go to work; however, our physical senses have told us how to respond to everything around us for so long that we are conflicted by old habits and new abilities. That’s why Paul reminds us that we are new creatures. The old person—ruled by the physical world—dies, and we become alive in Christ to forever be led by our spirit man.[1]

Although there are good people in the earth, the world we live in today has become extremely hostile and full of hate. The world exhibits the very nature of the god of this world, Satan. He opposes God, and wants to destroy the object of his hate—or we could say he opposes God’s love.

God’s design is to bring every man, woman and child back into fellowship with Him. As the ultimate Father, He doesn’t want to be separated from us. He loves us—no matter what!

[1] 2 Corinthians 5:17

All Because of Love

It’s been a journey for me, but over the years I have come to truly believe God is a good Father. From a very young age (maybe two years old) I’ve been aware of God’s presence in my life. He was always my friend. And I’ve come to trust that no matter what I do (or don’t do), He never changes. He is dependable, trustworthy and always responds to me with an abundant, overflowing, immeasurable love.

In Romans 5:8, God reveals His faith in action: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Our Heavenly Father’s love is not an emotion, but a decision. Perhaps the very first decision God made about us was to love his creation (you and me) unconditionally.

Everything He’s done from the beginning of time is all because of love.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.[1]

He had faith that His creation (you and me) would return to fellowship with Him. God’s love produces goodness. Everything good originates from love. Everything bad is a distorted, twisted form of love. Because of His love for us, by faith, He gave Jesus.

God’s desire for relationship caused Him to create man, and that same desire continues to draw us to Him by His love working in us. I am so thankful He pursued me and never gave up.

First John 4:8 says, He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. It’s who and what He is. It’s His makeup—His essence— His character. So we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.[2]

Thank God He is conforming us into His image and likeness.

When we make a decision to accept Jesus, we choose by faith to accept Him, and what He’s done for us. Why should love be any different? We love God by our very act of faith—believing that He exists and accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We love God by accepting that He is a good God and wants the very best for us. This takes faith. And loving others takes a daily practice to choose to love no matter what.

As you choose to love others with God’s supernatural, unconditional love, what changes do you believe God for in your relationship with others? And in your relationship with him?

 

Let Tears Sooth the Broken Places

One fabulous revelation that has occurred to me over time is everyone—EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US—has stuff. The enemy of your soul desires to mess you up, isolate and immobilize you. He starts looking for a way to “damage” your heart from the moment you’re born. It can come from the death of a loved one, words from a mean teacher or classmate, or even a misunderstanding of unmet expectations. Whatever it is, we have hurts, pains, scars and debilitating wounds. Sometimes they are visible, but most of the time they are emotional—hidden deep inside and protected—where only a few really know what has skewed your perspective of life.

“Tears spoke what I couldn’t.”

My deep wounds started with the loss of my first family when my parents divorced, and it fractured my perspective on life. Thankfully, my husband believed in our marriage and trusted God to repair the breach. Healing can take time, but more importantly, it usually takes hard work on our part. (I went through grief recovery, and it was so powerful for me that I became a grief recovery specialist.)

Tears are one of the wonderful ways we can move toward healing. Like me, you probably spent nights crying out to God—crying until you ran out of tears. Other times, His presence brought me to my knees and tears poured silently. I may not have had the words, but through the washing of my soul, the tears spoke what I couldn’t.

The language of my tears comforted my heart and soothed the broken places in my life. They refreshed me and made me new. My tears gave me the strength I needed to let go, forgive and move on. They opened me up to receive love from God and others.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  John 6:63 nkjv

Are you in one of those difficult places now? He will help you recover. As you let go and allow your tears to express what your heart needs to say, God can wash away the places in your life that you thought were completely ruined, and help you begin again.  I pray you will open your heart and let your tears speak to Him today.

"Pay close attention to your tears. 
What you weep over has to do with your destiny.” 
- Lou Engle

Give Him Thanks for His Unfailing Love

#5 of 5 Ways to Step into God’s Rest

Psalm 100:5 says, For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.[1] ALWAYS.

I can’t imagine where I would be today without the unfailing love of God active and constant in my life, and yet, I so often fail to thank Him for it. On many occasions, I am terribly guilty of taking His love for me for granted. Instead of a selfless focus, I choose a selfish focus—and that robs me of a deeper relationship with Him and the daily opportunities to choose to step into His rest.

Which brings us to the fifth way to experience God’s rest:

  1. Give Him thanks for his unfailing love.

Psalm 119:90 says, Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.[2]

David—a man after God’s own heart—learned to step into God’s rest. He struggled to stay in that rest throughout His life, but he always came back to thankfulness for God’s love. He could step into God’s rest and give Him those thoughts and concerns trusting He would do all He promised.

We can enter his rest because he loves us. His love never fails. No matter what choices we make or what direction we go—He continually and affectionately loves us. There is nothing we can do (or not do) to cause him to NOT love us.

What has God’s love promised you? What are you thankful for? What does it take for you to step into God’s rest?

[1] ESV

[2] ESV

Sarah’s Story Part 3 – The End to the Beginning

Throughout Sarah’s story, there are many challenges. At one point, there was a famine in the land, so Abraham and his family went to Egypt to live during the famine. While they were there, Abraham told Sarah to say she was his sister because she was so beautiful, he feared they would kill him. Pharaoh wanted to take her as his wife.

Pharaoh treated Abram well because of Sarah and gave him livestock and servants. As a result of Sarah joining Pharaoh’s harem, his household came down with a serious disease. Pharaoh asked Abraham why he lied, returned Sarah to him and commanded them to leave with everything Pharaoh had given them.[1]

In the second instance while they stayed in Gerar, Abraham told those who inquired, “She is my sister,” (which was a half-truth; she was his half-sister before she became his wife).[2] King Abimelech took her to the palace. God closed up the womb of every woman in the king’s household because of Sarah. God appeared to King Abimelech in a dream and told him he had taken in a married woman.

After calling together his leadership and informing them of the situation, he called Abraham before him and confronted him. Abraham confessed what he had done, and the king replied by giving him livestock and servants, and returning Sarah to him. He told them they could live anywhere they’d like in his land. He spoke specifically to Sarah saying, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all[a] who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.”[3]

Can you imagine how Sarah may have felt? Perhaps she was angry or even resented Abraham for putting her in these two very awkward positions? It seems Sarah followed her husband’s lead intentionally or submissively. Instead of trusting God to work out his fear of death by the hand of a king he assumed to be wicked, he tried to figure it out on his own with a half-truth, putting Sarah in a difficult and dangerous situation. In spite of doing things their own way in this situation, God faithfully protected her and returned her to her husband.

Can you see your own life in Sarah’s story? God knows your end from the beginning as well. He tells your story from the perspective of all He created you to be. He’s not worried about where you’ve been or what you’ve done. Yes, like Sarah, you may have consequences to some of the choices you’ve made, but that doesn’t stop God from delivering on the promises He has given you!

[1] Genesis 12:10-20

[2] Genesis 20:12 NIV

[3] Genesis 20:16 ESV