Grace: God Is Able

water-from-wellWhen I lived in the farming community of Hazelton, Kansas, I enjoyed the slow pace of life, and the many wonderful people I met there.  One of the few negatives was the water. Because it was so bad I carried a water jug in my truck, so I could fill it at an artesian well.

When I read 2 Corinthians 9:8, I think of that refreshing free-flowing well of cool water:

God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

Grace was a theme of emphasis with the Apostle Paul, and it’s one of the feel-good doctrines of the Bible that people like to discuss.

Grace is a small word, but its five letters contain truth of epic proportion; and, its spectrum is as colorful as the rainbow.  Consider a few of these:

  • Grace is available to help you grow as a Christian—2 Peter 3:18: Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.
  • If you have the can’t-do-blues, God provides empowering grace—2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
  • There is an extra portion of grace available to the humble—James 4:5-6: He gives grace to the humble.
  • You can confidently ask for it—Hebrews 4:16: Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

The most important aspect of grace and the one on which the preceding stand is saving grace—Romans 5:1-2: Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.

The grace that offers you peace with God, might be the missing peace that will solve your life’s puzzle.

Amazing Grace is a beloved hymn that was written by  John Newton, and he spoke of the power of grace: I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.

 

 

 

Leaders: Some Rise and Some Fall

 

thumbs upIf you take a causal walk down the self-help aisle of most book stores, you find shelves stocked full of books on leadership.  A common principle in many of these books is the need to study the lives of leaders.

To accomplish this, you can thumb through the pages of the Bible where you will discover a long list of leaders.  Some them are polished and practical; others are hopeless and hapless; but, the stories are fair a fair and balanced account that opens the door that reveals the skeletons in their closets.

Two of the better-known leaders are Saul and David.  Saul, the first king of Israel, could whip most anyone, but his ego got the best of him.  Samuel, the priest, issued a stern rebuke and no-holds-barred reprimand to King Saul: Now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee (I Samuel 13:14).

The man after God’s own heart was David, and he knew the key of his strength would be a dependence on God.  David said: You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me (Psalm 31:3).

Like David, we can and should, look to God for strength and guidance:

  • Psalm 5:8: Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before my face.
  • Psalm 25:5: Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.
  • Psalm 23:2-3: He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
  • Psalm 143:10: Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.

When you begin to trust in the goodness of God, you hear the rhythm and cadence of His voice and begin to walk in step with Him—He leads; you follow.

Solomon said, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Are you a King Saul who continually tried to prop himself up with his own wisdom; or, are you a David who found a life of blessings by trusting God and letting Him direct his paths?

Who has your ear? Whose voice are you hearing?  Which path in life are you walking? Are you following God’s lead?

There’s Something About Those Eyes

Smiling_Eyes

In one of my recent excursions through the pages of the Psalms, I noticed three verses that had a least one word in common. You can read them below, and see the word for yourself:

  • Psalm 119:37: Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way
  • Psalm 119:18: Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law
  • Psalm 19:8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

When I read these verses, I see the first two as prayers to help us reshape our focus and to gain a fresh perspective on life—to turn away from what’s wrong and to open up to what’s right.  The third verse is a recognition of what’s right, rejoicing, and radiating or enlightening.

There’s a fourth verse that also has the word eyes in it, and it’s one that’s reassuring:

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry (Ps.34:5).

This verse reminds us that God watches over us and that His ears are open to our prayers.  This verse gives confidence that:

  • In times of fear, we can still trust God: The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe (Proverbs 29:25).
  • When our world is crashing down on us, we can be confident that He is still present: Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us (Psalm 62:8).
  • When we can’t seem to shake our worries and anxieties, we can find peace in God: You will keep perfectly peaceful the one whose mind remains focused on you, because he remains in you. “Trust in the Lord forever for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.(Isaiah 26:3-4).
  • When we seem too weak to persevere, God is our refuge and strength: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore, we will not fear (Psalm 46).
  • When life seems full of roadblocks and detours, we can look to God for guidance: Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Let me know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You (Psalm 143:8).

Even though he and his fellow believers were suffering extreme persecution during the reign of the sadistic Nero, Peter said: God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you (I Peter 5:6-7).

Whenever you are tempted to give up, you have two choices: You can either throw-in the towel and quit, or you can toss your cares to God and let Him help carry your load.

Thoughts About Thinking

Thought-LeadershipSocial media has found an unwelcome guest in the form of fake news.  This strange bedfellow forces us to look beneath the bed sheets to validate the integrity of the stories being told—are they truth’s faithful companion or are they legends and lies?

These media hacks, have honed their presentation skills, and they offer tantalizing tidbits that activate the prey mentality and create a viral feeding frenzy.  The skeptical will deny the veracity of most everything they read, but the gullible will savage every story, hook, line, and sinker, like a hungry bass.

Skewing the facts and twisting the truth was also problem in the days of Isaiah, who said: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20).

Why are people so easily deceived? Leonardo da Vinci may have been a prophet when said the average person looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance, and talks without thinking.

We can’t afford to be intellectual coach potatoes and allow others to do our thinking for us.  John Ortberg has said: What repeatedly enters your mind and occupies your mind, eventually shapes your mind, and will ultimately express itself in what you do and who you become.

Ortberg’s words are based on the advice of the apostle Paul who instructed people to manage the mental messages that bounce around inside the head.  If we fail to capture and control these thoughts, the mind easily becomes an echo chamber of negativity.

I’ll close with a quote that has been attributed to Frank Outlaw: Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

Fact Two for Today

 

fact2Yesterday I posted an article that gave you a fact a day to concentrate on for each of day of the week.  The Tuesday fact is Small sparks can start big fires, so mind your manners and tame your tongue. The following steps will help you accomplish this:

Step 1: Recognize the power of this mouthy muscle.  James says the tongue:

  • Boasts great things
  • Is as destructive as fire
  • Is a world of unrighteousness
  • Pollutes the whole body,

Step 2: Rely on God for the strength you need:

  • James said the simple fact is this: no man can tame the tongue (3:8).
  • Philippians 4:13: I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me

Step 3: Realize that God hears every word you say:

  • Speak as though you are in God’s presence and talking face to face with Him.
  • Make the words of Psalm 19:14, your prayer: Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Step 4: Reevaluate your motives. Pause throughout the day to assess your conversations, and ask yourself:

  • Why did I say what I said (Proverbs 17:27)?
  • Have I used my words to build people up or to tear them down?
  • Have my words been healing or hurtful?
  • Has my conversation been more than just rank criticism and slander nitpicking and complaining (4:11; 5:9)?

Step 5: Retune your heart. The tongue is the index of the heart, and the words you speak reveal the true condition of your heart.  Your heart will never be pitch perfect until you begin to practice His principles:

  • Ask God to examine your heart and mind: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts (Psalm 139:23).
  • Fill your mouth with praise for God, so there’s no room for profanity.

As you think about the five steps above, keep in mind that God’s desire is for you to put away lying. to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:25; Psalm 15:2), and to be a person of true Christian character.

A Fact A Day

facts-hands-holding-letters-1500_largeMy post today is a simple list for the complex world in which we live.  Instead of hurriedly glancing at the list and moving on with your agenda for the day, I hope you will keep it in mind and take the time to consider each one again on its assigned day for the week ahead.

Fact 1 for Monday: Life is full of obstacles.

You will encounter many detours in your life’s pursuit—be resolute. Don’t allow detours and distractions to become attractions; remain focused on your goals

  • Philippians 3:13-14: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Fact 2 for Tuesday: Small sparks can start big fires, so mind your manners and tame your tongue.

  • James 1:26; 3:5: If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile . . . though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites

Fact 3 for Wednesday: Whatever grips your attention, grabs you.

  • James 1:1:14-15: Each one is tempted when he is lured, enticed, and trapped by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.

Fact 4 for Thursday: You may not be what you think you are, but what you think you are.

  • Colossians 3: 1-2: Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth

Fact 5 for Friday: The world may think you’re a zero, but God knows you’re a hero.

  • Judges 6:12: The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!

Fact 6 for Saturday: God has a plan and a purpose for you.

  • Genesis 50:15, 19-20: When Joseph’s brothers saw their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” But Joseph said to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”

Fact 7 for Sunday: It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

  • There are 86,400 seconds in a day and you can use them or abuse them.

I’ve only just a minute; 0nly sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it; didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,

But it’s up to me to use it.

I must suffer if I lose it; give an account if I abuse it,

Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.

~Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

I think this quote is a good conclusion to my list, so I’ll end with it: “Let us take things as we find them: let us not attempt to distort them into what they are not. We cannot make facts. All our wishing cannot change them. We must use them.” ~John Henry Cardinal Newman

Impossibly Possible

possibleLet me pose a question to you; a question that is tucked away in the prophetic works of the prophet Jeremiah: Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me (32:27)? Is there anything that God can’t do?

To most people who believe that God is omnipotent and that He is all powerful, the quick and easy answer is a resounding, “No!”

As you think about your answer, I offering the following:

  • God can’t get tired and His wisdom is never diminished: The Lord is an eternal God, the Creator of the whole earth. He does not get tired or weary; there is no limit to his wisdom. ~Isaiah 40:28
  • God can’t break a promise: My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of my lips. ~Psalm 89:34
  • God can’t remember the sins He chooses to forget: I am the one who blots out your rebellious deeds for my sake. ~Isaiah 43:25
  • God can’t lie to you: God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill? ~Number 23:19
  • God can forsake you: Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, he is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. ~Deuteronomy 31:6
  • God can’t forget you: Aren’t five sparrows sold for two cents? God doesn’t forget any of them. Even every hair on your head has been counted. Don’t be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows. ~Luke 12:6-7
  • God can’t stop loving you: I love you with an everlasting love, so I will continue to show you my kindness. ~Jeremiah 31:3

The next time you get down in the dumps, and feel as though God has abandoned you, I hope you’ll review this list and remember this final thought: Before you were ever aware of God or thought about loving Him, you were already the object of His love.