Grace

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August 3

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

I met and talked with someone in the past who has much to be thankful for. This person, even though he/she may not know it, or can put words to it, is one who has seen God’s magnificent grace in action. Rescued from a past that included addiction, abuse, shame and other ugly things, this person is in ministry to help others be free and learn freedom in Christ.

Grace has been shown to this person in a special way and their life’s desire is to help others experience that same grace. That is as it should be. Shown grace; give grace. It is unmistakable: we have been given grace to be grace givers.

That comes with an important element: forgiveness. To see God’s grace in all its fullness and richness we must forgive ourselves. I think-and this is me speaking personally-this is one of the toughest things to do. We often find it easier to forgive others-and even tell them they need to forgive themselves- BUT then struggle to practice that in our own life. I often wonder about the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus told her He did not condemn her and go and sin no more. I’d love to know how she did. (Maybe my question will be answered when I see her in heaven).

Grace. Forgiveness. Two absolutely connected words. For me to someone else. For me to me. “Father, help me to receive Your grace and forgiveness and then show the same to others…as well as myself.”

July 6

Monday, July 6th, 2020

My reading from John MacArthur’s book One Perfect Life covered Jesus’ time on the cross (6 hours). Several events stand out to be:

  • His first words were “Father, forgive them…” Not a complaint or a cry of agony or of unfairness. Words of forgiveness.
  • The soldiers unwittingly fulfilled prophecy by gambling for His robe. Check out Psalm 22:18.
  • The chief priests didn’t like what Pilate wrote on the inscription he put on the cross.  He wrote “This is”; they wanted “He said He was.”  Answer: “What I have written I have written.”  Pilate-1/ Priests-0
  • Two robbers were crucified with Jesus. I’ve always wondered about the one.  Did he originally join in the antagonism? Did he see and hear Jesus and come to his senses? Did Jesus talk to him as He hung there? (Remember John 21:25). Did he know at one time and return? Answers I will will never know until I see the thief or Jesus.
  • The utter agony of Jesus the last 3 hours on the cross seen in His words: Forsaken. Thirsty. Finished (task completed). Giving up (committal to His Father).

All for me. Undeserved.  Not asked for. Unmerited. All for me. And you. Sinners. To the core. Unlovely, yet loved.

“Father, how can I say thanks enough? How can I find the words? They fail me. Accept my heartfelt gratitude for your undeserved love and mercy and grace.”

June 4

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

My apologies for not entering a devotion yesterday. We were in Ohio and conditions were not very conducive to meditation, journaling and then typing. For some of the thoughts I had yesterday, check out my post on my other blog here.  Now…for today:

There has always been one parable of Jesus that stuck out to me.  Maybe it was due to the fact that I didn’t understand it very well until someone took the time to explain and illustrate it. Now I relish it. Backstory first.

I grew up in a Christian home. My mother’s desire was to follow Jesus. She married a man who did not have that same desire for the long haul, but she tried to make it happen. My dad went to church but his passion was not hers. But I can remember that from an early age my heart sought God. As I got older, I learned there were those who didn’t think as I did. (Imagine that). But when you are young you just don’t think of eternity. As a pastor I saw people at different stages of their faith journey. And I saw those who rejected it. I used to reject death bed confessions as being legitimate because of my “baptism obsession.” But then I led someone to the Lord who (quite literally) was on his deathbed. He died within hours of his confession.

Enter the parable in Matthew 20:1-16 of the laborers who receive equal wages. One group had worked all day; another part of the day; another part of the day; and another like maybe the last hour or so. When it came time to pay them, they were all paid the same. Of course, those who had worked all day saw a major payday when those who worked only an hour or so were paid what they had agreed to. They were upset that those who worked a small portion of the day received the same as them. It was explained that they had agreed to a certain pay.

When it comes to eternity, whether someone is a “lifer” like me; or a young adult conversion; or a 40 something conversion; or a deathbed confession (like Dan), the reward of eternity in heaven is the same for all. I’m glad God makes no distinction of when. He only says, “Come.”

“Thank you, Father, for ‘equal opportunity.’ Thank you that no matter when a person comes he or she comes knowing you will accept him/her and give eternal life as a gift.”

May 1

Friday, May 1st, 2020

WOW! May 1 already! Time flies when you are having fun. Okay…onto the devotion.

I wish it wasn’t true. But it is. I’ve seen it. Been a victim of it. You’d think it would be limited to those outside Christ, to those outside the church, but it’s not. I was reminded of it today. Here’s what I’m talking about.  It is in this statement:

THE CHURCH IS THE ONLY ARMY THAT SHOOTS ITS OWN WOUNDED.

One of the characteristics of the Marines is “No man left behind.” Too bad many churches don’t have that philosophy. It would change our whole idea of target practice. Instead of shooting at our wounded our focus would be on our real enemies: gossip, division, jealousy, envy, vindictive speech, dissension, judgmentalism, and other sins which seem to get a free pass. But let someone stumble! Then it almost appears to be an all out feeding frenzy.

David knew that. Take a moment and read Psalm 109. Just the first 5 verses give you a glimpse of his predicament. But to get an even deeper description check out verses 16-20. What a sad psalm as David laments his treatment. Was David perfect? Of course not. But he was the victim of vicious attacks.

People need encouragement not attacks. Even if they have sinned royally. Do they need to repent? Yes! But that is God’s department. He did not make me judge, jury, and executioner.

“Father, may I be an encourager not a judge.  Help me to remember a hurting person needs a helping hand not an accusing finger.”

 

April 13

Monday, April 13th, 2020

I took last week off. No, I don’t mean from work. I don’t mean from my Quiet Time. I diverted my attention from where I had been reading about the life of Jesus to read about the last week of His life. It started with His ride into Jerusalem and culminated (not ended) with His resurrection. So this morning I was back where I left off. The Sermon on the Mount (SoM).

One of the most compelling passages in the teachings of Jesus and a standout in the SoM is the section that starts in 5:21 and goes until 5:48. I say compelling because it is here where Jesus lays out His approach. Let me explain. Each teaching begins with “You have heard” and follows up with “But I say to you.” Here you go:

  • 5:21- “You have heard you shall not murder…But I say to you…”
  • 5:27- “You have heard you shall not commit adultery…But I say to you…”
  • 5:31- “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces…But I say to you…”
  • 5:33- “You have heard you shall not swear falsely…But I say to you…”
  • 5:38- “You have heard an eye for an eye…But I say to you…”
  • 5:43- “You have heard to love your neighbor and hate your enemy…But I say to you…”

The point I see is Jesus was always taking it one step further. Whereas the Law taught “this;” Jesus taught “this.” His teaching was always counter to what had been taught in regards to limits. The Law required such-and-such but Jesus’  idea was to go beyond the letter of the Law and check the motive and the heart.

I believe He still expects the same today. We could live our lives in such a way that we keep the letter of the Law but miss the boat. We could possibly never see the love behind our actions, actions born out of a desire to follow  Him with His kind of heart. 

“Father, help me to see that life is more than keeping the Law. Love goes beyond the letter to the heart of it all.”

April 7

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

It is common when we are challenged to lash back. It might be in an attitude. It might be in words-spiteful, mean, caustic, sarcastic-you name the adjective. What if, instead of those kinds of adjectives-we chose words that were (for lack of a better one) winsome. Sort of like Jesus.

Here’s my thought. I began reading Scriptures yesterday that deal with Jesus’ last week-the Triumphant entry to His resurrection. Much of the Scripture involves challenges from the religious elite. One I read today is from Luke 19 and Mark 11. They ask Jesus about His authority, i.e. where did He get off teaching what He did? Jesus could have blasted them but instead he asked a question: “The baptism of John-was it from God or from men?” Consider what Jesus could have said and consider what He asked. Was that not a winsome question/answer? Talk about disarming! And look what it did to them!! It got them so flustered-it got their undies so in a bunch-they had no answer. “Neither will I tell you.”

Oh, but Jesus isn’t finished. He tells a parable with a question. A man had two sons… (See Mt.21:28-32). And if that wasn’t enough, He tells another parable of the landowner whose renters killed his servants and then his only son. (Mt.21:33-46)

Jesus’ words were so pointed, so disarming, they walked away. Verse 46 is telling: “And although they were seeking to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.”

Jesus’ words disarmed them. And, at least for now, defeated them. Imagine if we chose to use the same approach when challenged! Cooler heads could prevail. Loud mouths would be silenced. Heated situations defused.

“Father, help me to be a voice of reason and calm by my words and actions when things are seemingly out of control. Help me to ask winsome questions and use wise words.”

February 17

Monday, February 17th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Essential vs Nit-Picking.

There is an old adage that I learned in college and has been reinforced in me lately: “In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; but in all things, love.”

I read recently of two struggling churches in a small town who decided a merger was needed. They talked but it never happened. Why? They could not agree over a phrase in the Model Prayer. One wanted “Forgive us our debts” while the other wanted “Forgive us our trespasses.” Seriously? The local paper reported one church returned to their debts and the other went back to their trespasses.

I once read awhile ago about two churches in a small town on opposite street corners. One had the name “The Original Church of God” and the other had the name “The Original Church of God #2.” Again. Seriously?

There are certain essentials we must all agree on. God: Almighty; Creator of all; Omnipotent; Omniscient; Omnipresent.  Jesus: God’s only Son; Born of a virgin; Fully God/Fully man from birth. Savior of the world who died on a cross and rose physically from the grave. The Holy Spirit: third member of the Trinity; Christ in me, the hope of glory; purpose is to draw attention to Jesus not Himself. We are all sinners and need salvation. We are saved by grace through faith.  Jesus is returning someday. That is a scaled-down version.  Those are essentials.

Opinions are those things which are not related to salvation. Clothing. Music. Tattoos. Many others. Those things the Bible does not speak for or against directly. People pick fights over the silliest and often the stupidest things. Things that don’t and won’t amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things. “In opinions, liberty.”

But to split and leave a church or a friendship or to split over an opinion? To pout and whine and rally the troops over an opinion? “In all things, love.”

It is one thing to hold to the truths and major issues set forth in Scripture. It’s another thing to pick fights over every jot and tittle or personal preference. Maybe its time we look deeper inside our heart and see if we are one of those who majors in minors and minors in majors. Maybe it is time for us to revisit the words in Ephesians 4:1-3: “I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

“Father, help me not to be one who nit-picks. Help me to know what is true in Your Word-an essential. Help me to allow for different opinions. And in that, to always show love.”

January 8

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Left Behind: Worthy vs Temporary.

Am I that far off in saying that we all want to leave something behind for which we will be remembered? I don’t think so. We all (or most of us anyway) want to leave behind a legacy, a point of reference where if our name is mentioned people says, “Oh yeah. I remember (such and such) about him/her.”

In the media world, for example, actor Tom Hanks was recently honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award. In his craft, that may be the highest honor to be bestowed. Known for his body of work, he will now be known for another (higher) honor.

The Sports world has its honors also. Hall of Fame. MVP. Super Bowl champs. Stanley Cup. College football #1.

Music. Stage. Lifetime Achievement. The list is seemingly endless. People want to be remembered-hopefully for good and not for bad. Think Al Capone. Bonnie and Clyde. Elliott Ness. Billy the Kid. And others.

In the OT is the book and story of Job. I’m pretty sure we all know that story. Everything is taken away from him but his life, but Job still said, “I know my Redeemer lives.” When everything he loved was wiped out, Job’s response was, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (1:21)  When encouraged by his wife to curse God and die he said, “Shall we receive good and not evil from God?” (2:10)  (He also called her a foolish woman but we won’t go there! 🙂 ) In Job 19:32-24 he wished “his words were recorded, engraved in rock forever.” Funny thing is? They are. In the pages of THE BOOK.

What is it I want to be known for? Kindness? Generosity? Giver of grace? All the above. All are well and good. But the greatest? He was a Lover of Jesus. Yeah. I like that.

“Father, may the legacy I leave behind not be one of fleeting memories and temporary awards. May it be that I loved you first and foremost, above all, and that you were the reason I lived.”

 

January 7

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Change vs Stagnation.

At this writing I am 67 years old. Lord willing, I will stay that age for at least 10 more months. 🙂 A lot has happened in those 67 years. Times of unadulterated joy; times of unmitigated tears. Times of excitement; times of boredom. Times of closeness to God; times of distance from God. Times of warmth; times of stone coldness. You get the picture.  But there is one constant in all 67 years on this planet: C.H.A.N.G.E.

My philosophy has been either change or be stagnant; either show signs of life or signs of death. Some change is painful-it is required due to life’s circumstances. Some change is easy-it is crystal clear that a particular direction is the right one. But the constant is change.

There are some things that don’t change. God-His Word. Jesus-His love. The Spirit-His presence. The Bible-His standard. In all of those (and more) it is not them that change. It is me. The Apostle Paul was so grateful for the change brought about by God’s presence in his life. The older he got the more like his Master he became. From the initial rigid, rule-demanding Pharisee and killer of Christ-followers, he became the Apostle who wrote about God’s magnificent grace. Paul changed. From the persecutor to the one who was persecuted. Paul changed. As he got older and changed more, God’s unending grace became more and more evident.

Can I say that? Can you? Am I more grace-filled at 67 than I was at 60? At 55? I’d like to believe the answer is a resounding yes!! I have no problem answering that question when comparing 67 to 25 or 30 or 35 or 40. I hardly knew what grace was back then so there is no question. But I must still be changing and never stop.

“Father, keep changing me. Please help me to see stagnation is not a way to live. Allowing your change to be evident in my life is how I want to be.”

December 29-31

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

Three things Moses prayed for in Exodus 33: 12-21.

LORD, TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.

LORD, GUARANTEE YOUR PRESENCE.

LORD, SHOW ME YOUR GLORY.

Moses did not want to be adrift. He didn’t want to lead the people of Israel without the presence and promises of God. What a great challenge for 2020!

Jo & I leave today for Sandusky, Ohio.  Tomorrow her sister has a procedure on her eyes that she must have or things will not turn out well. But it is in Lorain, OH and Jo is totally unfamiliar with that part of the state and unsure of driving where she has not been. Neither have I but she feels more confident with me driving (okay so maybe just with me being along). We will return Tuesday.  I will be out of commission as well on both blogs.

I have a decision I need to make: whether to continue “Living in the Shadow” or not. I have been doing two blogs for two years now. I started this one as a devotional outlet for New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. I called it Be Transformed. I continued it by renaming it and just using it as a random devotional blog. I had several purposes. One, it kept me disciplined in having a daily Quiet Time. Two, and this will sound somewhat self-centered, I wanted to see if I could write and possibly transfer the daily devotions into a book form. The first, I accomplished. The second, I’m not sure about. What I do know is keeping two blogs going was, at times, time-consuming. It was stretching that is for sure. But what I hoped for (a consistent and growing readership) did not happen. So I’m faced with deciding what to do. I’d appreciate any input you might have…good or bad.

In the meantime, have a fantastic end of the year and a great start to 2020.