Have you ever failed God by sinning? Did you feel like you let Him and yourself down? If you’re human, then the answer is yes. When we sin, we feel that same shame that Adam and Eve felt in the Garden of Eden. We want to hide ourselves, and cut ourselves off from God for a while. We tend to punish ourselves and beat ourselves up when we mess up. I know that i do all of these things when I sin. Then, a voice reminds me about grace.
Grace is one of those things that the human brain has a hard time understanding. Our whole lives we’ve been conditioned to get punished when we do something wrong. When someone else doesn’t punish us for doing wrong, we tend to punish ourselves mentally. But grace doesn’t do that. It comes and offers God’s unmerited favor of salvation and the covering of sin for free. It’s foreign to how our mind works, but we are called to live by grace through faith.
When Paul was on one of his missionary journeys, a town asked him to speak in the synagogue. Some accepted this grace, and others rejected it. They were used to having to pay for their own sins, and couldn’t accept that someone else had. To those who did accept it, Paul encouraged them. In Acts 13:43 it says, “The apostles spoke to them and encouraged them to keep on living in the grace of God” (GNT). That’s a great word for you and I today too. Keep on living in the grace of God.
The next time you sin or fail God, thank God for His grace, seek forgiveness and ask Him to help you to turn from it. No matter how many times you fail God, His grace will always be sufficient. No matter how bad you sin, the blood of Jesus is strong enough to wash it white as snow. Quit beating yourself up and cutting yourself off from God. Accept what Jesus did for you and keep on living in the grace of God.
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I’ve got a friend who, when he sees people with a sour face, likes to say, “Smile! God’s in a good mood.” It usually takes them a second to hear what he said, then they laugh or smile. Many of us think of God as this angry, Old Testament figure who is sitting up in Heaven speaking in old English and is looking for someone to smite. As a result, we try to live a smite free life that makes us miserable.
If God is always angry, why did He give us the gift of His Son? I can tell you that when I’m upset or angry with someone, giving them a life changing gift is not an idea floating around in my head. In the Old Testament, we had a pact with God where we would do our part to keep the relationship open through sacrifice, but we constantly fell short. That did make God angry and upset. How do you feel when someone breaks a promise to you? No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t do it.
Out of love, God decided to establish a New Covenant between us. One where when we fall short on our end, Jesus makes up the difference. His birth was also the birth of grace. It announced that God would make a way to reestablish the relationship between He and us. His desire has always been that we would know Him, and go to live with Him for eternity. To take the burden off of us trying to keep our part, He sent Jesus.
John 3:16-17 says, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (NLT). Smile! That’s good news. This Christmas, celebrate the birth of grace into our world. Live your life in response to God’s love for you rather than out of the fear of being smitten.
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Were you ever taught, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? I was. My parents were trying to teach me a few lessons, including that not everything that comes into your mind needs to be said. They were building filters in at an early age. I know people who don’t have any filters. He things they say are almost comical, if they weren’t so sad. They are often saying the truth, but not in a way that gets heard.
When I’m developing a relationship with someone, one of the first conversations I have with them is about the truth. I let them know that if they ask me a question, I’m going to tell them the truth, whether they want to hear it or not. I also will try to give them that truth in love because as Warren Wiersbe said, “The truth without love is brutality.” I’ve found that the brutal truth is just like not having a filter.
So why do we watch what we say? As James 3:6 says, the tongue can be a world of evil. Even though it’s a small member of our body, it can destroy relationships that have taken a lifetime to build. James 3:5 says, “Just think of how large a forest can be set on fire with a tiny spark” (GNT). He was reminding us of how small words from a small member of our body can burn down things that have taken years to build.
I believe he was also teaching us to watch what we say so that we will get along with others. James concludes the chapter by saying, “You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor” (MSG). We are to be developing healthy community, and the way to that is learning to control what we say, and how we say it. If you’re not sure what needs to be said or how it needs to be said, ask God for wisdom. A well placed word brings life rather than destruction.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
In my job, I work with both management and their employees. Something I see more and more often is employees who take very little responsibility in situations and shift the blame to leadership. If something goes wrong, it’s management’s fault. They don’t take the initiative to repair the situation themselves. They offer malicious obedience so that when they fail, they have a scapegoat. Maybe you’ve seen this too. This is a problem in our churches too, and all of us are guilty of doing it. When things aren’t being done the way we think they should be done, we blame the pastor or leadership instead of doing things ourselves.
One of the most memorable stories in the Bible that captures this attitude comes from Exodus 17. The children of Israel had left Egypt and were wandering in the desert. They were hot and thirsty. Instead of looking to resolve the problem, they complained and blamed Moses. They said, “Why did YOU bring us out of Egypt? To kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (GNB) They took no responsibility themselves. Ultimately, God spoke to Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water would come out of it. God did it as a favor to Moses rather than as a reward to the people.
In the following verses of that chapter, we see the characteristics we should display instead. While there in the desert, they were attacked by the Amalekites. Moses commanded Joshua to get some men to go fight. He then went with Aaron and Hur to the top of a hill to watch the battle while holding his staff in the air. While his arms were up, the Israelites prevailed; when his arms were down, they began to lose. The problem was that holding up the staff for a long period became tiring, and soon he could no longer hold up his arms.
Instead of complaining about leadership’s responsibility in the battle, Aaron and Hur found a rock for Moses to sit on. They then held his arms up for him as long as was needed until the Israelites had won. They recognized it wasn’t Moses’ job alone to lead the battle. They saw what needed to be done, without being asked, and they did it for their nation. In doing so, they provide for us a great example of how our lives should be. We can choose to be complainers, or we can choose to be uplifters. We can either blame, or we can be the solution. It’s up to each one of us to do our part in the church so that the body as a whole is successful. Will you be a complainer or will you be an uplifter?
Hurricane Harvey did a number on Houston. It dumped over 40 inches of rain in just a few days, which stranded many people. It’s been incredible to watch all the people with boats locally and from afar coming to rescue people who were trapped in their homes and cars by the rising waters. The news would show people standing on their roofs, or hanging out their windows, waving white flags indicating they wanted to be rescued. Thousands of lives have been saved through the generosity of others.
As I’ve watched it happen, I can’t help but draw a parallel between it and the spiritual application. Because sin entered the world, every one of us needs to be spiritually rescued. We are all stranded and in need of being taken out of the rising waters. All it takes is for us to raise the white flag of surrender, and Christ will come to our rescue. Some look to be rescued at the first sin of the rising water, and others will stay put and never raise that flag hoping to wait it out.
I saw a man on the local news last night being taken to a shelter. He said, “All these people are crying over their lost possessions, but I look at it as a fresh start. I get a second chance to wipe the slate clean and be who I could have been.” For those of us being rescued, it should be the same way. Our old life has passed away in the flood of sin, and Jesus has given us a new life. He has given us the opportunity to be who we were created to be. We shouldn’t lament the life we once had that was in need of being rescued.
Jeremiah 17:14 says, “Lord, heal me and I will be completely well; rescue me and I will be perfectly safe. You are the one I praise!” (GNT) If you have been rescued, your spirit is healed and safe. If you’re still in your old house, don’t wait until it’s too late to raise the white flag. Jesus is looking for you, hoping to rescue you so He can give you new life. Call out to Him. Ask Him to rescue you and to give you a new life, and help will be there immediately. We all need to be rescued, but we have to want to be rescued first.