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Archive for June, 2013

On Monday we began a list of the riches we enjoy because of God’s G.R.A.C.E.–God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.

Or, as Matthew Henry defined God’s grace:  the free, undeserved goodness and favor of God to mankind.

And because our God loves us so very much, his grace is multi-faceted.  Thus far I’ve discovered forty-seven aspects of God’s grace.  On Monday I shared twenty-three; here are the remaining twenty-four.

24.  An unshakable KINGDOM, as a promised inheritance (James 2:5).

25.  Everlasting LOVING-KINDNESS that draws us to him (Jeremiah 31:3).

26.  Rich MERCY that spares us from what we really deserve (Ephesians 2:4-5).

27.  Wonderful NEWNESS of Life with Christ, who is our constant companion (Romans 6:4).

28.  Deep PEACE, because God’s children have nothing to fear (John 14:27).

29.  A positive PERSPECTIVE, to see good in the bleakest of circumstances (Philippians 1:12-18).

30.  A privileged POSITION as members of a royal priesthood, because through Christ we belong to God (1 Peter 2:9).

31.  God’s joyful PRESENCE, which makes our hearts glad (Psalm 21:6).

32.  Flourishing PROSPERITY of soul, because our confidence is in God, for his provision and protection (Psalm 128:1-2).

33.  Personalized PURPOSE, to fulfill a God-ordained plan (Jeremiah 29:11).

34.  Full QUALITY of Life, as a child of the King (John 10:10).

35.  An intimate RELATIONSHIP with Almighty God, like two good friends having dinner together (Revelation 3:20).

36.  Quiet REST, as we allow him to handle our worries and fears, heal our hurts, and relieve our guilt (Matthew 11:28-30).

37.  Generous REWARD for whatever good we do (Ephesians 6:8).

38.  Eternal SALVATION incredibly given to us as a free gift (Romans 6:23).

39.  Life-changing SATISFACTION, because God’s love and power are at work in us (Psalm 63:2-5).

40.  Firm SECURITY that God will never fail us (Lamentations 3:22).

41.  The all-sufficient STRENGTH of God to equip us for life’s challenges (2 Corinthians 12:9).

42.  An unending SUPPLY of everything we will ever need (Philippians 4:19).

43.  God’s abiding THOUGHTFULNESS of each of us, 24-7 (Psalm 139:17-18).

44.  The absolute TRUTH of his Word, with its reliable guidance and uplifting encouragement (Psalm 119:137-138).

45.  Lavish UNDERSTANDING because he knows our weaknesses (Ephesians 1:7-8, Romans 8:26).

46. Assured VICTORY over Satan, because of Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:57).

47.  Divine WISDOM to determine right actions from wrong (James 1:5).

No doubt this is just a partial list.  In fact, if you discover additional facets of God’s grace, I would love to hear from you.  We can make this discovery process a team effort!

But even as the list stands now, these varied and glorious gifts of God’s grace prove his sufficiency.  He is all we need (Isaiah 58:11).

https://i2.wp.com/www.creativeoutburst.com/images/Photo_Art/isaiah58-11.jpg

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Thank you, Father, for showering us with your grace–grace that blesses us far beyond comprehension.  You are indeed most worthy of our praise, because the greatness of your grace no one can fathom.

Art and photo credits:  www.lifehopeandtruth.com ; www.BreathOfLifeOnline.net ; www.dilshara.redbubble.com ; www.lift-up-jesus.blogspot.com ; www.creativeoutburst.com

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G.R.A.C.E. = God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.

Many of us are familiar with that definition of God’s grace, based on Ephesians 1:7-8.

I like Matthew Henry’s definition, too:

Grace is the free, undeserved goodness and favor of God to mankind.

But I’m left wondering:  What are those riches?  What does God’s goodness  look like?

The first undeserved favors we might think of include forgiveness, salvation, his peace and presence, guidance and joy.  But surely there are more.  How many more?  I began to keep a list.  It currently includes forty-seven aspects of grace.

Perhaps you’ll be awed and inspired as I was, contemplating the overwhelming riches that God supplies.  All because of the price Jesus paid for us at the cross.  Each one deserves careful thought, because each is a precious treasure.   I’ll share twenty-three of them today, and the rest on Thursday.  You’ll notice they’re organized in alphabetical order.  A hierarchy would have been impossible.

GOD’S GRACE INCLUDES:

1.  Unconditional ACCEPTANCE no matter what we’ve done (Luke 15:11-24).

2.  Confident ACCESS to God, to talk to him any time, day or night (Hebrews 4:16).

3.  Loving ADOPTION into his forever family (Ephesians 1:5).

4.  Faithful ATTENTION to our prayers (Psalm 6:9).

5.  Rich BLESSINGS to all who call upon him (Romans 10:12).

6. Attentive CARE through life’s ups and downs (1 Peter 5:7).

7.  Compassionate COMFORT when we’re afflicted (Isaiah 49:13).

8.  Trustworthy COUNSEL, offering guidance for the best way to live (Psalm 73:24).

9.  Promised DELIVERANCE on which to set our hope (2 Corinthians 1:10).

10. Strong EMPOWERMENT to do what he asks , which is always in our best interest (Acts 1:8).

11. Continual FAVOR as a child of the King (Proverbs 8:35).

12.  Augmented FELLOWSHIP with other Christians (1 John 1:7).

13. Complete FORGIVENESS for our sins (Hebrews 8:12).

14. Liberating FREEDOM from sin, death, worry, and fear (Romans 8:1-2).

15.  Satisfying FRUITFULNESS for a productive life (Philippians 1:10-11).

16. Special GIFTS of the Spirit, not for just a few stellar believers, but for everyone (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).

17. Glorious HEAVEN to look forward to, with a place for each of us (John 14:2-3).

18. Competent HELP that is always near (Psalm 115:11).

19. The powerful HOLY SPIRIT, who is constantly working for us and in us (John 16:13, Romans 8:26-27).

20. Enduring HOPE which renews our strength (Psalm 62:5; Isaiah 40:31).

21. Reliable INSIGHT into God’s Word and how we can apply it to everyday living (2 Timothy 1:7).

22.Overflowing JOY, independent of circumstances (Psalm 16:11).

23. Unfailing JUSTIFICATION, because the God of the universe has declared us “not guilty” (Romans 3:23-24).

THINK OF IT:

THINK OF IT:

At the moment each person invites Jesus into his or her life, all of these riches become instantly available.  Yet there are more.  I hope you’ll be looking forward to Thursday’s list.

(Art and Photo credits:  biblicallyshapedblogspot.com , wonders.wallpaperdave.com, gracefreak.dan.wordpress.com, barnabasonline.net, mintools.com/gifts-list.)

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“Oh, my goodness! It’s gorgeous!”

My husband, Steve, had just come through the door carrying a glorious display of orchids. He had been to the silent auction at church, a fund-raiser for the scholarship fund. I had stayed home, grounded by a cold.

“Karen donated this to the auction,” he explained. “I thought you’d like it. ‘Might make you feel better.”

Karen and her husband owned a nursery business. Each Sunday she created stunning floral arrangements for the altar of our church.

I took the shallow dish, and turned it slowly to enjoy the full circumference. Dark green leaves created a frame from which the slender stems rose. Fresh, pink and white blooms draped gracefully from those stems. And small, round buds promised more beauty to come.

But even as I was admiring Steve’s gift, I was already getting nervous. Plants do not do well in my care, unless they’re the hardy-type. I had never owned an orchid before. Too fragile for me.

So, a few days later when the cold cleared out of my head, I checked online for information on orchid care. Here’s what I learned: indirect sunlight, normal to warmer-than-normal household temperature, normal to higher-than-normal household humidity, water thoroughly only when surface of medium becomes dry.

I walked through the house, looking for the perfect spot of indirect sunlight. There wasn’t one. I ended up parking the plant on the floor of the foyer, the only place where it would receive consistent, indirect light. Actually, I need to clarify further: The perfect place was in the middle of the floor. The corners were too dark.

Can you picture it? A plant. Smack-dab in the middle of the entryway floor.

Watering was another issue. How much is thoroughly? I certainly didn’t know.

I could have called Karen; ‘just never got around to it.

But perhaps I decided it wasn’t necessary. The orchid seemed to flourish. Each day I would check it, to see if the fir bark medium was dry. When watering seemed called for, I’d add flowering plant food, just the way the instructions suggested. Oh, and I’d turn the plant, too, so it would grow evenly.

For six weeks I lovingly cared for that orchid. I was so proud of how healthy it remained.

Then it was time for me to visit my parents, brother, and his family out in Texas. I left careful instructions for Steve–written out–about watering, feeding, and turning the orchid.

Several days into my visit, during one of our phone conversations, Steve asked me about the orchid.

“So, what am I supposed to do?” he asked.

I wanted to say, “WHAT?! THE INSTRUCTIONS ARE ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER!  WE WENT OVER THEM BEFORE I LEFT!” (You can read that with a bit of a huff. I was feeling huffy.)

Instead, I breathed in some extra patience and started to explain.

He interrupted.

“Even if it’s silk?” he innocently inquired.  Then he went on to explain,  “I ran into Karen after church and told her the orchid was still looking great.  She said that was because it wasn’t real. They’ve expanded their business to include silk florals now.”

So much for my blooming horticultural skills.

I had been operating under a delusion, and  wasting time, effort, and concern on something that WASN’T. EVEN. REAL.

 

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Time has a way of slipping by. Days blur into years. Life comes to an end.

On that last day, will I be able to say I spent my time on real things of value?

Will I be able to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!…Come and share your master’s happiness (Matthew 25:21)?

 

      Oh, Lord, guide me to recognize those things that are important to you.  Turn me away from pursuits that have no real, eternal value.  I want my time and effort to be spent on worthwhile endeavors.  Life is too short to do otherwise. 

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Conventional wisdom teaches that we are in control of our own destinies, that hard work and perseverance will assure achievement of goals.  To a point that’s true.  Laziness and a lack of follow-through do not lead to success.

But.  Those truisms fail when disaster strikes.

Ask Job; he’ll tell you.  He was an extremely wealthy man.  In fact, he was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

Job also enjoyed a large, loving family.  His children liked each other so much they partied together.

Job was also a blameless and upright man—totally undeserving of what happened to him (Job 1:1-4).

He was stripped of everything.  All of his wealth.  All of his wonderful children.

Recent tornado victims know the magnitude of such horror. Home and all its contents, gone.  Family members, gone.  I can only imagine their emotional pain and heartache.

And what was Job’s reaction?

If you had asked me that question a couple of years ago, I would have answered that Job was incredibly accepting, that he did not blame God.  And those statements are true.

But there’s more:

“Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head” (1:20a).  OK, that makes sense.  Those were customs of the day for expressing grief.

And then do you know what Job did?

“He fell to the ground in worship” (v. 20b).

What?!  How can a person possibly worship at a time like that, when your whole world comes collapsing down around you?

All Job had left was his foundation—a foundation of faith in God.

Worship was his expression of that faith, declaring God’s worth to him—in spite of horrific calamity.  For Job, God was enough.

From Job we learn that true worship is not reliant upon circumstances.  We don’t have to be on top of the world to worship.  In fact, a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) is surely very precious in God’s view.

Second, true worship is not reliant upon emotions.  We don’t have to be filled with joy in order to worship.  We can worship God with our tears, expressing our trust in spite of the pain.

Job couldn’t rely on answers that would give meaning for his suffering.  God gave him none.  What Job did rely upon was God’s character:

  • “His wisdom is profound, his power is vast” (9:4a).
  • “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (9:10).
  • “If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty!  And if it is a matter of justice who will summon him?”  (9:19).
  • “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit” (10:12).
  • “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his (12:13).
  • “Can anyone teaching knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?” (21:22).

In the end, knowing God is more important than knowing answers.

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Heavenly Father, I shake my head in wonder as people of faith such as Job neither blame you nor give up on you in the face of calamity.  Instead, they rely upon you all the more tenaciously.  They worship, affirming that you are still their sovereign, loving God.  They testify of your strength and peace.  Thank you for being a God who comes alongside us with your wisdom and grace, especially when we’re hurting.  Thank you for powerful examples to follow, such as Job.

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She glides across the platform in confident strides.  One hand waves in sweeping arcs to the large audience. The crowd is clapping and cheering.

In the other hand, with confident ease, she holds the microphone.  And the smile—big and broad. Bright white teeth visible even from the balcony.

Able to sing like a nightingale and speak truth with conviction. Impacting thousands.

Now there is someone God is using in a powerful way, to make a significant contribution in the Kingdom of God. No doubt she’s highly valuable to God.

Does a little demon ever park on your shoulder and whisper, “So what’s your claim to fame? What are you doing that’s important? Your spot in the scheme of things is nothing compared to that shining star on the stage. You might as well face the truth: You are unimportant. The ship of Significance has passed you by.”

https://i1.wp.com/www.ghulmil.com/wp-content/uploads/superb-amazing-3d-old-ship-in-sea.jpg

Does that speech sound the least bit familiar? You’re not alone. Demons use those same lies on a lot of us. Evil spirits aren’t very creative, are they?

But here’s the truth of the matter:

Each of us is the workmanship of God (Ephesians 2:10). The Greek word sometimes has the connotation of “work of art.” You are a work of art—carefully designed and executed.

The verse goes on to explain we’ve been created to do good works. It does not say the same work. Diversity of personality, talent, and interest are necessary among the children of God in order that all his plans are accomplished.

He made each of us unique, to fulfill a personalized plan. Every now and then we see such a plan unfold so clearly, we know God engineered the circumstances. Sometimes it’s a unique set of talents or gifts that work together sublimely to meet a need.

Take, for example, the naturally talented writer, who happened to grow up in a bilingual home, and studied Christian Education in college. She was especially prepared by God to write Spanish curriculum for a Christian publishing company.

Other times the plan is much less obvious. That’s called walking by faith.

But rest assured you are valuable to God (Matthew  10:29-31).

Believe that he has prepared in advance good works for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).  Take joy and satisfaction from completing those good works.

It may not be walking across a stage with a microphone. It might mean walking across the kitchen with a rolling pin—to bake cookies for the neighbors.

That’s just a small thing, you say?

Think about this: What if God especially likes small things?

Personally, I’m fascinated by small things. Miniatures, doll houses, petit-point, babies!

Happy

Happy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scripture gives us indication that God loves small things, too.

Sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

Two little mites given by a widow (Mark 12:41-44).

Five small barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:1-13).

Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Let’s never again allow those little demons of abasement to put us down. God has promised: “I will bless those who fear the Lord—small and great alike” (Psalm 115:13, emphasis added).

You see, in God’s sight, we’re of equal worth.

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English: William Tyndale, Protestant reformer ...

English: William Tyndale, Protestant reformer and Bible translator. Portrait from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Česky: William Tyndale (portrét ve Foxeově Knize mučedníků) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us?”
–William Tyndale (1494-1536)

Perhaps you’ve heard of Tyndale Publishing, best known for The Living Bible?

Then perhaps you’ve heard of William Tyndale, after whom the company is named. He’s been called by some “the Father of the English Bible.” His passion was to get the Bible into the hands of the common man.

You see, several centuries before his time, the Church Council of Toulouse (in France, 1229) actually forbade the use of the Bible by ordinary people. The Pope and priests felt that the common man could not understand the Bible, that clergy were the only ones who could properly interpret scripture.

Actually, Tyndale was not the first person to translate the Bible into English. That honor belongs to John Wycliffe, who lived in the 1300s. He translated from Latin into pre-renaissance English.

But Gutenberg hadn’t invented the printing press yet. All copies of Wycliffe’s translation had to be written out by hand.

Tyndale was perfectly suited for the task God gave him. He was skilled in seven languages: ancient Hebrew, ancient Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, and English. By the time Tyndale was ready to pursue his dream, the printing press had been in use for almost seventy-five years. So Tyndale sought permission and financial backing from the bishop of London to translate the New Testament from the original Greek into post-renaissance English. Permission was denied.

That didn’t stop Tyndale. He traveled Europe, looking for a place to settle. Worms, Germany, a Lutheran city, became his home.

English: John Wycliffe in his study

English: John Wycliffe in his study (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t help but notice: German was not on his list of known languages. The right location may not have been a comfortable choice for Tyndale, but it was God’s choice.

By 1525, the New Testament in English was complete. Because of the printing press, several thousand pages could be produced in one day. In Wycliffe’s day, only a few pages could be hand-copied each day.

The newly-printed Bibles were smuggled into England in barrels, covered with cloth and articles for sale. Sometimes they were packed in bales that looked like cloth, or even hidden in sacks of flour.

It wasn’t long before the bishops and priests in England discovered that English Bibles were being sold. Officers of seaports were instructed to find and burn all copies.

Yet Bibles were still smuggled in.

A clever Catholic bishop of London decided he would buy all copies of the Bible that were being printed. He contacted a merchant in Germany to make arrangements. The bishop’s plan was to burn every Bible, once they arrived in England.

What that bishop didn’t know was: that merchant in Germany was a friend of Tyndale’s.

Yet the friend made a deal with the bishop anyway. Why? So he could give the proceeds from the bishop to Tyndale. More copies than ever were printed and sent to England. The bishop could not possibly buy every copy.

Imagine his shock when that bishop learned later it was his money, spent to keep English Bibles out of England, that actually paid for a veritable flood of Bibles into the country!

One might expect that Tyndale worked on to translate the Old Testament and lived well into old age, able to write and minister under God’s loving care. One would be wrong.

For nine years, Tyndale did escape authorities and was able to continue his work. But a man named Phillips, a frequent guest in Tyndale’s home, betrayed him. Tyndale was tried for heresy and condemned as a heretic. In 1536, he was strangled and then burned at the stake.

I’m tempted to ask, “Why, God? Tyndale was obedient to you. He left his home country, his friends, everything familiar. He worked so hard, ministered to others, and helped the poor. You miraculously blessed his work, and protected him for nine years. Yet in the middle of translating the Old Testament, Tyndale was arrested and martyred. Why, God?”

One commentator remarks: When God’s work for Tyndale was completed, God took Tyndale out of this life; and God gave his faithful servant the privilege of leaving this life through a martyr’s death (www.prca.org).

My perspective is so short-sighted. I tend to see death (martyrdom in particular) as tragic and distasteful. But from eternity’s point of view, “if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us?”

Heaven awaits!

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Thank you, Father, that there is no cause to fear suffering and death. You have promised to be with us, to give us the strength to endure, just as you did for William Tyndale. And then, after just a little while, you will take us to our real home of eternal bliss. Glory!

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Steve and I received a calendar for Christmas with a quote for each day. Sometimes the choice is quite meaningful, such as:

Babe Ruth, full-length portrait, standing, fac...

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way” – Babe Ruth.

We can actually find similar truth in scripture.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Sometimes, as I turn the calendar page to a new day, I have to wonder what the selection committee was thinking. See if you agree.

Sample #1:

“Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” (I won’t name the person who said that!)

Forgive me, but that makes no sense. Am I missing something? If so, please set me straight.

But here’s what makes sense to me:

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the Unite...

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes” — Winston Churchill.

Wise men also admit mistakes and correct them. When we don’t, we heap another mistake on top of the first: pride.  Ouch!

When we do admit and correct, we develop humility and maturity. And God values those traits (James 4:6, 1:4)

Sample #2:

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

Here’s what makes sense to me:

Although there is joy in the journey, it is not home. Our final home is heaven. I do not want to become enamored with the journey and lose sight of my home.

With Paul, I want to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Heaven

(Photo credit: irunandshoot)

Sample #3:

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”

Problem is, no matter how well we take care of ourselves, these bodies have expiration dates. But praise God our earthly bodies are not the only place to live!

In fact, for those of us who know Jesus, “to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). We’ll have new, spiritual bodies fit for heaven — strong and vibrant, with no expiration date.  Can you imagine?

Paul said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (v. 23).

Oh, yes.

Quadruple combination opened to the Book of Is...

Thank you, Father, for your Word that speaks reliable wisdom and truth—truth that guides, teaches, and protects. But I need your help to live by its truths. Remind me that only fools despise your wisdom (Proverbs 1:7).

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