Tag Archive | grace

The Problem with Grace

Sun Rays“Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, deep, deep within yourselves.” Philippians 4:23 (The Message)

Grace is difficult to grasp.

Even in a world that says we are free-to-be, there are rules upon rules upon rules.

Sentiments of, “Don’t judge me,” mixed with policies of zero tolerance. Love your neighbor to their face, but public bashing on social media is acceptable.

Some of you may scoff at it and say you don’t agree, but I’m thinking the clerk at the store, the co-worker in the next cubicle, the lady on the bus, the bully at school – they are each your neighbor. Have you read your posts about them? I’ve read mine and it’s not pretty.

God is stripping down the walls of my heart. He’s removing the old habits and thinking. He’s reshaping my heart because it must operate in a whole new way. I’m getting an extreme makeover, but I don’t get time to separate from life until it’s over. And it’s not a quick process finished in one week. At times it’s freeing and others it’s painful.

I’ve been reading and studying the Gospel of Matthew, really digging into the heart conditions that contribute to our sin versus those that solidify a foundation of love, along with the reasons we just won’t let go of our own way of thinking, our own way of relating to others. I admit I have a hard heart at times.

How does grace and truth come together in a way that doesn’t seem too naive to the troubles of sin nor too harsh about our need to do the “right” thing? Everyone has an opinion about what is right. I ALWAYS have an opinion. I try to save it until someone asks, but that doesn’t always work. There are times when I just need to speak.

What does mercy and justice really look like in certain situations with certain people? Everyone wants the other person to get what they deserve: get caught, be sentenced, pay their debt, but each of us wants mercy: understanding, a second chance (or unlimited chances), and someone to let us off the hook. I definitely don’t want to be caught and try to slide by. I want to pretend it never happened…and then I sit in my mistakes.

How do I let go of the rules that I can check and check off each time I want to know if something is good or right and instead, trust and follow completely the One who is only good? I want to know where He will lead me. I want to know what to expect. If I can’t see it, conceptualize what will happen, I struggle moving forward in obedience.

There are people in my life who have hurt me, yet I love them. I don’t spend much time with them, yet I care what happens to them. All this happens at a distance. So what does it really look like to love them up close when they don’t think they did anything wrong? In this, I keep God at a distance sometimes in my shame.

How do I live in this world, hating the sin, loving the sinner; recognizing there is good and there is evil while forgiving what others don’t understand or even what they do? How do I accept that they believe what they believe and will do what they do without having to agree, condone or go along with them? I don’t want to be accused, hated or rejected for what I believe.

Grace is so beyond how we live, how we think and what we hear.

Grace is a free gift, but we’ve been taught nothing in life is free. Everything has a cost.

And Jesus paid it.

Grace and truth came through Jesus. Jesus shows compassion because He understands our struggles and our need. He is kind because He sees beyond our mistakes. He is generous because He gives knowing we can’t pay Him back. He is gentle never forcing Himself on anyone. He is good because He lifts us out of the pit and places us on a firm foundation. And He is love because He restores us completely and there is freedom.

In order to even begin to understand Grace, you must first know Who it really is and trust Him, letting Him have complete control.

I’ve found the only problem with grace is me.

Something to Consider…

What does God’s grace mean to you?

How willing are you to offer grace, forgiveness, and mercy to others?

What struggles and heart conditions keep you from freely living in God’s grace? If you feel you do, how would you explain it to someone else?

Cleansed Once and For All

???????????????????????????????“Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin…Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:2, 7 (NLT)

About two years ago, my husband and I decided to take on a minor makeover. The bathroom our daughters shared was in need of some repair. Moisture had condensed in the ceiling fan vent and dripped through damaging the ceiling. We had it repaired, but the new paint caused the old paint to peel making it look like there were upside down meringue whips covering half of the ceiling. At one point, water had run over the edge of the tub causing the paint to peel near the baseboard. In addition, the bathroom décor was not as appropriate for my daughters who were now young ladies and no longer little girls. A good cleaning, repairing and decorating were in order.

We took a long weekend to thoroughly clean the room, remove any cracked and broken materials, repair damaged spots, paint the entire room ceiling to floor and finally bring in new décor. It looked like an entirely different room when we were finished!

Both of our daughters were out-of-town during this process. One came home and was thrilled at how nice it looked. She noticed just how clean it was compared to when she left and decided she didn’t want to let it to get dirty again. In her resolve, she now cleans regularly. She treats it with the care it deserves.

It’s funny how once something gets dirty it’s so easy to let it stay dirty. The work we put into cleaning it just won’t last so we don’t waste our time.

Thank God, Jesus sees us differently.

When Jesus comes to us, we are a mess. He sees not just the shallow, maybe deep layer of dirt that covers us, but He sees beneath the surface. He sees the cracked and broken places in our hearts, the damaged material we’ve become. Some of it’s out of neglect, some has been caused by others, but either way, He knows we need a makeover.

And He doesn’t just point out our need; He takes on the project Himself. He will do the work we so desperately need in our lives.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

I love that the very first thing He does is cleanse us from our sin – the filth and grime we sit in day after day. At times it’s so easy to believe we will never change, so we don’t. But Jesus changes us immediately when He thoroughly cleanses us of all unrighteousness.

Next, He gets to the nitty-gritty of the specific repairs of which we are in need. I wish it could all be taken care of in a long weekend, but it will be an ongoing process of repair and maintenance. Sometimes it will be painful as He strips and peels away the things that seem safe and feel comfortable, but are really hurting us as well as others.

The interesting thing about a Jesus makeover is that He is able to make complete what is not yet complete.

He doesn’t wait for all the work to be done before He gives us our new décor. We receive that as soon as we say, “Yes” to His invitation of a new life. We are a completely new person right off the bat even though the work continues.

So how do we keep ourselves “clean” while He is still repairing and working on our broken parts?

We choose to seek Him out daily asking Him to show us and clean us of anything not of Him. We refuse to go back to old habits, behaviors and attitudes with which He has already dealt. We allow Him to continue His work knowing all we need to do is be in agreement with Him.

In Him, we are free to respond in His righteousness to the world around us. We are cleansed and given a new identity, one many won’t recognize. Will you treat yourself with the care you deserve? Will you respond to His loving care for you?

Something to Consider…

Do you believe you are really a new creation with a new identity in Christ? Accept His forgiveness and be willing to see yourself through His eyes.

In what ways are you in need of a cleaning? Acknowledge them to Jesus. He is faithful to cleanse and repair you from top to bottom.

Do you have a difficult time maintaining the work He has already done? Remember, He doesn’t leave or give up; He is always there continuing His work in your life. Follow His lead knowing He and you are worth the effort.

Be Intentional!

FSE019“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

I have not always been a fan of the female gender. And yes, I do belong to this category.

Backbiting, jealousy, gossip, envy, manipulative and down-right malicious behavior is how I would have described many of my relationships with girls growing up. I would usually have one or two really good friends, but at some point they would end; occasionally because someone moved, but usually because of a rift or a drift. Something about the relationship seemed difficult to maintain so it was easier to let it go. While it takes two to make a relationship work, I admit I owned much of the issue.

But God is good and as I had the privilege and honor of raising two beautiful daughters who He entrusted to my care, I learned more about the female mind, character and heart than I thought I would ever care to know. Wanting for them more than I ever knew I could have, my desire has been to teach them how to be confident in who they are as daughters of the King of kings, precious treasures not because the world has deemed them such, but because Jesus paid the ultimate price for them. They are valuable…as is each woman, man and child in this world.

I now spend more time with more women than I thought possible. Between social activities, retreats, studies, and volunteering, I have met and fallen in love with the nature of women as created by God and seen through His eyes and heart. We are made in His image and it is His nature we long to imitate as we learn who we truly are in Him.

There is a group of women who meet at my home weekly to support, strengthen and encourage each other. This past Tuesday, our group met and talked about the different seasons of life we are each experiencing. We are in different stages of marriage, ages of children, career experiences and because of these different stages, God is working in each of us in different ways, teaching us what we need for our current or next season. At the same time, He is teaching each of us to be intentional with our time and other resources as well as in our relationships.

As we serve God, we serve others in His name and to His glory. God’s gifts in us and to us are not just for us personally. They are to be used to reach the world for Him.

We are intentional about serving each other in our group through helping with child care so more women can attend and be encouraged. We are intentional about truly getting to know each other, trusting each other and caring for each other in practical ways. We also pray for each other regularly.

We are intentional about serving our community through our church partnership with a local public school. They have a number of ways individuals and groups can volunteer and maybe someday become mentors for kids who need as many positive adult role models in their lives as they can get…just as each of our children need. Our group is taking on the task of at-home projects for the teachers and staff. Since we often have children with us, we can continue to meet, grow in our relationships with each other and God, while at the same time meeting a need in our community.

We also have the desire to be in intentional in our relationships with family members, friends, co-workers, etc. – whomever God places in our path. As we step out in faith to acknowledge and love others in our lives, we pray God would use these opportunities for His love to be made known through us.

Life gets crazy and at times, maybe too often, time runs short. But, all that will matter at the end of the day is how we loved God and loved others. We choose to be intentional in all we do.

Something to Consider…

What season of life are you in? What is God teaching you about Himself, yourself and others in this season?

How can you be intentional in this season to invest in and grow relationships based on how Jesus loves? What gifts has He given you to use so others can know His love and grace through you?

Fight or Flight…or Die? (Part 4)

This is the final post in this four-part series.

field water“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3

This has been a long and painful journey for me, but victory in Jesus is my reward!

The fight or flight mode is about survival. God has wired our minds and bodies in such a way that we can make reasonable decisions and respond so that we can have the best chance to survive. Do I believe I am strong enough to come out on top if a battle should ensue? Or do I believe I can outrun my enemy? In either situation, if I am wrong, I die. At least, that’s the way it works on Wild Kingdom.

My desire to be loved, appreciated, thought of or at least, acknowledged by this world is wearisome. There is always someone else to please and something else to prove. I have never found real pleasure in praise, but rather relief in no punishment. I thought staying out of trouble was good enough. As long as I wasn’t causing problems, God and others would be good with me.

But the truth is God doesn’t want me going along to get along or just existing. He wants me living, thriving, and loving. And love is risky business. We might get hurt. We might be rejected.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” Luke 6:27-28, 32

I thank God that my bout with anger didn’t last long before He showed me how I needed to love and serve those under my authority, taking control of what I could and giving up to Him control of what I couldn’t. And again, God met me where I was and showed me how I couldn’t ignore or deny my responsibility to love others through difficult situations. Even people who I do not consider an enemy will mistreat me or hurt me at various times. How should I choose to respond? Too often, this is the sentiment proclaimed in society: “Run far from those who cause you problems! Get them out of your life! You don’t deserve their treatment and they don’t deserve your kindness!”

Well, that may be true, but it’s not good…and it’s not love. God says we are to love, do good, bless and pray not just for those who do the same for us, but for those who hurt us as well.

At the heart of deciding not to fight and not to run is surrender. “I give!” I had to acknowledge that I am not perfect, I would not please everyone, and I could not do everything. In relying on myself, I denied the power of Christ in my life. In looking to others to save and protect me, I had taken my eyes off the one who had already saved, sealed and delivered me. He has already overcome the world!

God has called me beyond my comfort zone, beyond the safety of my own little world where keeping the peace was more important than speaking the truth. All this time, God was working in me, transforming me into someone new. Hidden in Christ’s perfect love, I have no need to fear. I have died to Him so no one can take my life. I answer to Him so no other approval is needed. No more fighting, no more running, no more hiding. I have surrendered; I can rest.

Something to Consider…

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.’” Luke 10:41-42a

Surrender doesn’t mean compromising your standards, values or principles which are founded on God’s truths; it means fighting for the right things with a humble heart of compassion, mercy and grace. Don’t waste your time fighting for things that have no real value. Pick your battles wisely, boldly fighting for and standing on His truth.

Surrender also doesn’t mean we run from our problems and give up; it means we run to Jesus and invite Him to be the solution. In what areas of your life do you know you need to move forward? In what ways can you be strong and courageous each day, taking one step, choosing one thing you can do to make progress following His lead?

In Christ, we have all we need to live and die without fear, walking in His perfect love!

Fight or Flight? (Part 1)

 IMG_1655This is my story…well, at least one of them. This is what came from years of trying to deal with, manage and hide the truth. I am not perfect, but I have gained ground and found freedom. I hope by sharing my story someone else will gain ground, find freedom and have hope as well.

I was recently at the doctor with one of my daughters. I was listening to the doctor and her carry on a conversation about the nervous system. She had recently covered all of this in her high school biology class and was completely engaged in the conversation about all the different systems and what they control.

I, on the other hand, could barely listen without feeling like I was going to pass out. That was until I heard the part about the sympathetic nervous system which brings about the “fight or flight” response.

I have been plagued with anxiety since the early 2000’s. From approximately 2002 to 2007, I didn’t really understand the occasional attack that would send me into a panic. There had to be a physical problem for this feeling so I would go to the doctor to get various issues checked never considering the anxiety itself was the problem.

In 2005, depression was added to the mix. It wasn’t until 2007 that I finally went to a counselor after an anxiety attack landed me in the emergency room. We talked through all of the situations that came to mind with my angst and all of the situations that led to my thinking a certain way about myself and others. During this time I found ways to deal with and manage my anxiety. I also discovered the tale-tell signs of an attack.

Most attacks at the time began with anger. And not just a little anger. I would get really angry. At times, I felt rage in the situation. I told my husband once that it felt like it wasn’t really me. This happened in situations where I felt I had authority. I was ready for a fight.

At other times, my mind would race with worry. The thoughts flew at me and my mind ran circles trying to avoid the barrage. In those situations where I felt I had no authority, I would have a worrisome fear. Flight: getting as far away from the situation as I could was the answer.

“But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah 4:4

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27

In both situations, my anger and fear were over things in which I felt I had no control. Neither response was appropriate and the weight of the guilt was overwhelming.

The truth is there are many situations and circumstances in my life in which I have no control. The idea that I could not change where I was and that I had limited options on how to survive threw me into a fight or flight response.

The truth is in Jesus I don’t need to go to extremes in my response to problems. Jesus is helping me turn anger into a solution and worry into peace. In my next few posts, I’ll go into more detail on just how that has been possible for me.

Something to Consider…

How do you react in difficult situations? Do you tend to strike out with a fight mentality? Or do you retreat escaping in flight, ignoring the situation or denying the problem?

This may not be an extreme issue for you, but you may find you have hot buttons that when pressed set you in one direction or the other. How does your ability to control the situation influence your response?

Ask God to show you the truth of the situation. Choose to be open to what He has to say.

Growing Pains

Light Streaming Through the Crown of a Tree

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.” Ephesians 4:15 (The Message)

When my children were younger, I was constantly measuring their growth: height, weight, and abilities. Can she crawl, sit or walk? Does she respond to her name? Does she stack the blocks or just consider them a no-calorie snack? If their mental attributes along with their physical attributes don’t change, they aren’t growing in a complete manner.

Growth can be a challenge. All growth is the result of action and we must be diligent and intentional about the type of actions we take. Even a baby doesn’t just grow. If they are not receiving enough food, they won’t grow physically or mentally and if deprived of food for a long enough period will die.

Spiritual growth is the same. I’ve known a few people who really wanted to grow or at least thought they did. What it seems they may have wanted more was to continue doing what they had always done, but somehow manage to have peace and feel good about it. But nothing that grows stays the same. There will be changes. To ignore or deny the truth of what is needed for growth will only bring about death. The truth of Jesus is the source of eternal life.

Spiritual growth begins with knowing the truth about Jesus. You hear about Him, ask questions, learn some more and eventually have enough information to make a decision about what the truth of Jesus means to you and for you. If you are not seeking to know the truth, if you are not asking questions of people who know the truth, you will not grow in your understanding of who Jesus really is and you will have no reason to move forward in a relationship with Him. The problem with this is that everything else you consider about Him will be false. Just like eating protein will add muscle and eating sugar will add fat, growing in the knowledge and truth of Jesus will lead you to eternal life while ignoring or denying the truth of Jesus will lead to eternal separation from God. False teachings will lead to a false understanding which in turn will feed you with empty calories which will not sustain.

One of the growing pains involved with knowing the truth of Jesus is that we soon realize there are things we like, think or do that are not actually good for us. They seem good because they make us feel good and give us some enjoyment, at least for the moment. We don’t want to give it up because we don’t really want to believe it’s bad. Maybe it’s easier than changing. We operate out of our feelings rather than facts. We live for what seems good rather than what is truly good.

When my daughter was three years old, we could tell she wasn’t eating well. We pulled out our Dr. Spock baby book and did some research. We wanted to know answers and the truth about what might be causing this problem and what we could do about it. We learned too much sugar would ruin her appetite. Right away we knew the problem: apple juice. She loved apple juice! But the juice was hurting her, not helping her even though she enjoyed it. We promptly removed the apple juice from her diet and replaced it with water or milk only. For three days she cried! Each day was a little better until rather than cry over not getting apple juice, she asked for milk. Her eating improved and she chose milk over almost every other beverage for most of her childhood.

But those three days were painful. She wanted what she wanted and was willing to forsake the good thing for the enjoyable thing…until she realized the good thing was better.

Something to Consider…

Do you struggle believing the entire Bible is true? Does it contradict what you’ve been told is true? Is it difficult to understand how God’s ways are better than your ways, how they are truly the best way?

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—” 2 Peter 2:2 (ESV)

Don’t settle for good enough. Don’t settle for empty satisfaction. God in his goodness sent His Son, Jesus Christ so we would know His grace and truth. You have the opportunity to choose the better thing. The growing pains of faith are real, but the truth of Jesus is better than any lie the world would have you believe. Seek to know and understand His truth and discover the real source of all you need to be able to change and grow up into all He created you to be!

Love Never Fails

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Love ListWe’ve had some trouble in our family as of late, a bit of poking and prodding, provoking and pushing of buttons. We pass it on to our friends and others we come in contact with whether we realize it or not. They notice our attitude, look, tone and body language, making judgments on the state of our hearts and minds. They don’t mean to be judgmental; they just don’t know how close they want to get to us in our current state. And they have good reason to want to keep their distance. Our demeanor could rub off on them. They could feel the rough sting of our indifference toward them. We are so caught up in how we feel, it doesn’t really matter to us how we make others feel.

God is not indifferent. His heart longs for each child He has created to know His great love. Jesus came to make His love known in this world. He truly cares what we believe about His love for us and what face we put on our relationship with Him. How will His love through us rub off on those we are around? What does His love look like? What does His love convey? What does His love do?

My daughter’s favorite section of Scripture is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I read this section and decided to take it apart. On one side of my paper I listed everything it said love is. On the other, everything love is not. I decided to type it out and hang it on our refrigerator at home where we could all see it.

Love: Love:
Is patient Does not envy
Is kind Does not boast
Rejoices in truth Is not proud
Always protects Does not dishonor others
Always trusts Is not self-seeking
Always hopes Is not easily angered
Always perseveres Keeps no record or wrongs
Never Fails Does not delight in evil

Everything we do will fall on one side or the other of love. God is love so everything love is, God does in love. And everything love is, we can also do in His love. I’ve already found myself recalling these two lists and recognizing when I’m on the wrong side – the “is not”, “does not”, don’t do side. God has helped me reconsider my attitude and bring it into alignment with who He is and what He does. In this practice, I’ve been more at peace with letting go of issues rather than holding them over the other person.

Something to Consider…

When you think of God’s character, which side of the list do you gravitate towards? Do you think God is patient and kind or do you think He is easily angered, keeping track of everything you’ve done wrong?

When you think of those closest to you, how do you see yourself in this list? Do you protect and rejoice with them or do you compare and think they deserve the bad things that happen?

God offers His love freely to those who come to Him through Jesus. Embrace His love, choose to rejoice in His truth and let His love change how you love today.

Be Honest with God

California Poppies and Gazanias“You have looked deep into my heart, Lord, and you know all about me.” Psalm 139:1 (CEV)

I didn’t grow up going to church, but when I became an adult I had a growing interest. If Jesus was really God, I wanted to know more. Although my fiancé had not been active in his church for a number of years, we decided to go to the same one in which he had been confirmed.

I spent years going to church, sometimes understanding the message, most of the time not. Even so, it felt good and right to be there so we continued. I had no idea how God was using this time to speak to me and my husband. We couldn’t comprehend how our lives were slowly changing, growing and yielding to Him.

This went on for approximately 16 years. Over time, God was working things out in His way, in His time. We had become more active in our church and knew He was active in our lives. I thought I had come to a place where His grace was received, forgiveness accepted and love embraced.

And then one day, as I was riding home from church, an incident from my past crossed my mind. I realized that as I thought about it this incident, I had turned my head down and away closing my eyes.

I was trying to hide from God. I didn’t want Him to know what I was thinking, what had happened, what I had done.

I felt ashamed and ugly, not worthy of God’s view. Not worthy of the grace, forgiveness and love I had been cherishing all these years.

But here’s the thing about God: He already knows where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and what’s been done to me. When I try to hide the truth from God, I only distance myself from Him. I appear to have it all together on the outside while on the inside I’m continuing to live apart from Him.

God doesn’t just know my past, He knows your past as well. He also knows what you’re going through right now, as well as what you will experience in the future. He knows every thought and every desire. We have an entire life to live here before we reach heaven and He wants to be part of it.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

When we are honest with God about our hurts, mistakes, and desires, He will help us let go, move on and move into all He has for us here in this place and at this time. When we are honest, we make our hearts available and open to a real relationship with Him. We are willing to hear His answer and receive His blessings.

Something to Consider…

Have you allowed God into the hurting places in your life? As you do, He will heal your wounds and mend your heart.

Have you confessed your mistakes to God, intentional or unintentional? He will forgive your sins and show you how to move forward in His right ways.

Have you shared with Him the deepest desires of your heart? He’s the one who has put them there. He will work them out in accordance with His best for you.

Merry Christmas to All!

Image“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11 (NIV)

I recently wrapped up a Christmas study (no pun intended) with a few dear friends titled Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason. It’s not about the advent season specifically, although it is about hope, preparation, joy, love, and most importantly, Christ himself.

At Christmas, we celebrate God’s promise being fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah. He will be a Savior for all people throughout the entire world. While we don’t have to do anything to be saved except accept the gift of Jesus as the truth, we get to be part of His love, truth and grace at work in this world.

The last night of the study ended with a discussion about forgiveness; the absolute complete forgiveness and reconciliation of those who will believe to the one true and living God while we were still sinners. Before we recognized our need for a Savior. Before we acknowledged need of forgiveness. Before we knew we were far from God.

God has forgiven each of us and views us through the lens of Jesus when we accept Him into our heart. God longs for all of His children to know His love and put their trust in Him.

As we go out into this world this Christmas, I challenge you to look beyond the attitudes, words and actions of another and see the child God longs to love and live with for all eternity. As a child of God, you have the ability to make Him known in this world. Is there another, better gift for you to give this Christmas?

Something to Consider…

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” John 1:17-18 (NIV)

Truth seems to be an easier concept than grace when it comes to spreading the Good News in this world. Truth is what we know, or should I say Who we know, grace is what we offer. How do you freely offer grace to those who hurt you or don’t even realize they’ve wronged you?

As it is so easy and common to complain about others who make life difficult, how can you radiate the joy, peace, love and patience of Jesus?

We can be put off and irritated with the wishing of “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings”. Instead, take time to pray for those who do not yet know the love of God through His Son, Jesus Christ?

There is nothing that separates two people like a grudge. God’s plan through Jesus is to reconcile the world to Himself. How can the willingness of your heart to forgive not only bring you closer to Jesus, but show others the truth of His grace for them?

May God’s peace and joy be your gift this Christmas! May His truth and grace be your gift to others!

If you find encouragement in this message, please share with others. Blessings to you today!

Slow to Anger, Rich in Love

“But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15

I’ve been reading and re-reading this verse and others like it this past week. It doesn’t seem to be an overly complex verse and yet it is so deep, so loving and so profound. I am not always slow to anger. It is who I want to be, yet I am continually challenged.

Anger comes from a feeling of injury and is often accompanied by a desire to seek revenge. We have been wronged and we need to be right. Even in my “pet peeves”, I want the other person to feel my pain (irritation, frustration and inconvenience might be more accurate) because then they will understand and stop doing what bothers me. I want them to care about me.

When the Bible talks about God being slow to anger, it is often accompanied by other traits such as compassionate and gracious, abounding in love and faithfulness, and ready to forgive. God is slow to anger because of who He is, not because of who we are, what we’ve done or what we deserve. God is not slow to anger because He wants us to care about Him, but because He cares about us.

Of course, God does want us to care, He does long for us to love Him and be in relationship with Him; but who He is does not depend on who we are.

God is compassionate – He offers empathy and understanding. Jesus lived this life and understands every trial, temptation and trouble that comes our way.

God is gracious – He is kind, merciful and generous. God knows our weaknesses. Our situations, circumstances and choices change when we rely on Him rather than on ourselves; when we receive the Grace He so generously gives.

God is love – He abounds in love. God so loved that He gave His one and only Son. Love sums up everything He does and says. When we do what He does and say what He says, His love fills us to overflowing.

God is faithful– He is believable, trustworthy and reliable. He never leads us astray and His promises are always true. Being slow to anger does not mean there are no consequences for our actions. His warnings are as true as His promises.

God is ready to forgive – He waits for us to come to Him. He has provided a way that cannot be changed, challenged or revoked.

God is slow to anger – He is patient with each of us wanting none to perish. Out of His love and faithfulness, compassion and grace, He has made a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to Him.

Something to Consider…

God could make us prove ourselves worthy, trying to climb the ladder to get to Him. He could be angry every time we miss the mark. Instead, He lets us stop, admit our failings, and meet Him at the foot of the cross.

As you consider God’s compassionate, gracious, loving, faithful and forgiving character, which of these traits do you want to understand and exhibit more in your own life? How can your patience with others grow and deepen your relationship with God?

Ask Him to show you how you can make a difference in the lives of those around you when you are slow to anger and rich in His love.