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What is Grace?

Romans 5:15, 18, 20 (NLT)
For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.  Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and a new life for everyone.  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.  (see the MSG translation below)

Grace has been a theme in my devotions lately.  What is grace?  How do you define grace?  Not the ‘good posture and flowing movements’ sort of grace.  What is God’s grace?

Here’s my favorite definition:  Grace is the undeserved love of God.  It is God’s love for us that can’t be earned or repaid.  It’s a gift offered freely without strings attached.  An undeserved gift.

I feel as though we’ve lost the significance of God’s grace.  We so often hear how much God loves us (and He does!), that we forget that He doesn’t have to.  We aren’t entitled to His love.  We haven’t been good enough for Him.  We have nothing to offer except our gratitude and reciprocal love. 

God doesn’t have to love us.  But He does.  God loves us so much that He became one of us and suffered excruciating physical and emotional pain to guarantee our place in His eternal presence.  God could have given up on the human race long ago when time and time again we failed to trust Him.  But He didn’t.  He continues to beckon us into a personal and trusting relationship.

Do you recognize God’s grace?  Do you appreciate it?

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Excerpts Romans 5:15-20 (MSG)
The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence.  If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?

Here it is in a nutshell:  Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it.  But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life!

All that passing laws against sin did was to produce more lawbreakers.  But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace.    When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.

Our Privilege

1:28-30 (NLT)
be intimidated in any way by your enemies. 
For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but
also the privilege of suffering for Him. 
We are in this struggle together.
It is absolutely a privilege to be
called a child of God.  I am so grateful
for forgiveness, second chances and the life I share with Him.
But really?  Is suffering for Jesus really a privilege?
How can we adjust our thinking to
make this true?
Who is the enemy?
What are our struggles as Christians
in the United States?
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Adjust the Focus

12:2 (NLT)
do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects
our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting
him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside
God’s throne.
We move toward whatever we focus on.  If you think about what someone else can do
rather than what you can do, you feel slighted. 
If you dwell on your wish list of ‘toys’, you don’t enjoy what you
already have.  If you keep telling
yourself  not to eat the M&Ms on the counter, you eventually eat them (at
least I do).
So how do we follow Jesus’
example?  By knowing Him through prayer
and scripture, then using that scripture as guard rails to stay on track.  By viewing the details of life through His
lense.  By journeying with spiritual
friends and Christian community.  By
focusing on the positive and letting the rest fade away.
How can you adjust your focus to
move closer to Jesus?
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to comment privately, you can email me at [email protected]

The Best Example

1:7-8 (NLT)
is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood
of his Son and forgave our sins.  He has
showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
It’s one thing to be pleasant in the
checkout lane and another to sacrifice your son.  Yes, that’s a big jump.  It’s the difference between my friendly
nature and God’s rich kindness and grace. 
God, of course, is the ultimate example to follow.  No, God doesn’t want us to kill our
babies!  So how do we follow Jesus’
example of sacrifice?
John the Baptist, who was well known
and had many disciples, told his followers that he was merely preparing the way
for someone better than himself.  So the
local celebrity of the time said “I am filled with joy at [Jesus’]
success.  He must become greater and
greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 7:29-30)  In other words, it’s not about me.  I do what I do for something greater.
Couldn’t we all stand to be a little
more selfless.  Not self-ish. 
Self-less.  Other centered.  Do something on another’s behalf for which
you gain nothing.  Better yet, give in a
way that makes you a little uncomfortable or costs you.  The big picture
is all about God and pointing others to Him. 
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Following the Example

4:39 (NLT)
everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an
encouragement to those who hear them.
I was paid the sweetest compliment
yesterday.  The cashier at the Walmart in
Chattanooga and I chatted about my visit to the area, my lack of a Boston
accent and the proper way to pronounce ‘oil’. 
As I signed for my purchase he said “you’re rather pleasant.”  Was that a compliment or a jab at
Bostonians?  I took it as a compliment.  My kids would say it’s the Alger Way.  My parents embarrassed us as teenagers by making
strangers into friends everywhere.  I’m just
following tradition.
The gentleman continued by explaining
that he used to just think those things, but has begun saying them to
people.  He said “you never know what
that might do for a person.”  I agreed
that we should never miss an opportunity to lift someone up.
How ‘bout we all lift someone up
today?  (I’m acquiring a bit of a
Southern twang after 5 days here.)
How has someone’s words made an
impact on your spirit?
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top of this email then comment at the bottom of the blog.  If you’d like
to comment privately, you can email me at [email protected]

An Example to Follow

John 13:14-15 (NLT)
And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have
washed your feet, you ought to wash each others’ feet.  I have given you an example to follow.  Do as I have done to you.
Do you know this verse?  Did you kinda skim through it?  Me too, the first time.  It’s easy to do.  Then I was challenged to think about it,
which is how I challenge you today.
Think about Jesus at this point in his ministry.  Three years on the road.  Where did he sleep and eat?  He was followed by crowds and scorned by
Jewish leaders – teaching, healing, ruffling feathers, preparing the disciples,
walking.  Seeking privacy to be alone
with his Father.  As Jesus speaks these
words, he knows his torture and death are imminent.  What do you imagine Jesus is feeling?  Success? 
Exhaustion?  Frustration?  Dread? 
Have you ever come to a point in your life when you
are just DONE, but it’s not over?  I
imagine Jesus was there.  So what did
Jesus do?  He served.  He bent down and washed the feet of the
friends who would run away in fear, the man who would repeatedly deny even
knowing him, the feet of the man who would kiss his cheek and seal his fate.  He humbled himself and continued to serve.
Jesus says “I have given you an example to
follow.  Do as I have done.”  What do you do with that?
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Why Do You Follow Jesus?

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the
Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything
you could imagine.  For just as the
heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my
thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Why do you follow Jesus?  Pause a moment and think about your answer.
Consider this scenario.  What if we Christians have it all wrong?  What if we stand before the throne after
death and instead of Jesus, it is Satan who decides our eternal destiny –
heaven or hell?  If Satan offered heaven
if you worship him or hell if you believe in Jesus, which would you choose?  Would you follow Jesus into hell?

Marked With Blood

Exodus 12:13 (NLT)
But the blood on your doorposts will serve
as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I
will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the
land of Egypt.
Confession:  I’ve
been pretty unfocused this Lenten season. 
I usually spend very intentional time with God during Lent.  While I’ve been reading scripture, I haven’t
made time to ponder or blog.  With two
weeks until Easter I am trying to prioritize.
Do you recognize this verse from the Old
Testament?  It precedes the final plague
that God inflicts on Egypt before the Pharaoh finally frees the Jews from
slavery and Moses leads them through the parted sea into the wilderness.  This plague killed the first born of every
household except those who had the blood of the sacrificial lamb or goat
marking their doorposts.  This is the root
of the Jewish celebration of Passover. 
It is also a very important foundation for Christians, particularly
during Holy Week.
What does marking your doorpost with the blood of a
spotless lamb have to do with Holy Week? 
Hint:  Jesus, The Last Supper, blood,
death, life…..
Apart from Jesus we are dead.  Only through His blood, poured out for our
sins, do we receive abundant life.  Do
you realize that God doesn’t have to love us? 
We don’t deserve His love, nor are we entitled to it.  God chooses to love us.  He offers to spare us from death if we mark
ourselves with the blood of Jesus by believing.

A Sure Thing

John 10:9-10 (NLT)
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find
pasture.  The thief comes only to steal
and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the
Pastor Karen gave an excellent
message Sunday about Jesus the gate.  It
followed closely behind an excellent question by one of our confirmation students:  How can we be sure Christianity is the way to
heaven?  What about other religions?
We don’t like to exclude
anyone.  We don’t like it when Jesus says
the path to heaven is narrow and hard.  We
ignore when Jesus says the only way to the Father is through Him.  We want all good people to get to
heaven.  Our God is a big God and perhaps
He has a plan for everyone, but that’s not a sure thing.  
However, we know for sure that we
can live eternally in God’s presence by believing and following Jesus.  Jesus is the way.  Better yet, this scripture says Jesus came to
give fullness of life right now in this life when we serve Him and live according
to His teaching.  Why mess with a sure
What about other religions?  I can’t know. 
I’m not the judge.  What I do know
is that my life is filled with peace, joy, love and confident hope because of
my relationship with Jesus and I pray that you will experience this fullness

Second Guessing

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your
own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths
Two days ago, I shared how God
answered my request for a fresh God-incidence I could use for my confirmation
retreat devotion.  Since then I’ve been
wondering if it’s the right story to share with my ninth graders.  It doesn’t seem as compelling as the chain of
coincidences that led to this blog.
Then I catch myself.  Why am I questioning God?  Why am I second guessing His clear answer to
prayer?   How could I ask for a God-incidence and then
ignore His reply?  I frequently encourage
others to trust God.  Why am I resisting?  Do I proudly think my idea is better?  How silly!
I received two ‘messages’ confirming
God’s hand in this, including this quote from Philip Yancey posted on Facebook
this morning.  There’s a reason God wants
me to use this illustration.  It will reach
one of these kids in a unique way.  I
know it.  I will trust.
“I have learned that faith means trusting
in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” – Philip Yancey

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Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts.  If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.
Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts. If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.

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