Sufficient Grace

Amid the chaos we are experiencing now, it is easy to find ourselves wondering how we are ever going to get through this. Many times, we go through trials and it just seems like it is never-ending, and we just can’t make it through. Today’s Scripture gives us a solid rock upon which to stand. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (NASB) The King James Version says, “He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me.”

For a little background on this passage, the Apostle Paul is writing to the Corinthians at this point and telling them that God gave him a vision, and in his vision, he was taken to Heaven but was told not to talk about what he saw there. Then he says that a messenger from Satan came to torment him so that he would not boast because he was able to see Heaven. That form of torment came as a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Now we don’t know what his thorn in the flesh was, and it really doesn’t matter, but Paul tells us that he asked God three times to take it away, and God told Paul no and that His grace was sufficient. That thorn was given to Paul to keep him humble and not exalt himself over others.

Thorns can come in many forms, physical, financial, relationally, any number of things can be a thorn. Currently, our world is experiencing a thorn in the flesh with this Coronavirus pandemic. Notice, Paul said that Satan brought the thorn…not God. The same is with this current crisis. Now, God may have allowed it, just as with Paul, but God didn’t send it.

Personally, we each have thorns with which we deal. For me, it seems to be finances and pain in my back and knees. The pain in my back from Scoliosis, Osteoporosis, and Arthritis, seems to be the more intense thorn. Like Paul, I have asked God to heal my back numerous times, and yet I still must deal with it. But today’s verse tells me that God’s grace is sufficient for me, and so because of God’s grace I can endure the pain. I may never know the reason why I need to deal with this thorn, but I know one thing for a fact, God’s grace gives me power in the middle of my weakness.

Paul goes on to say in verse 10, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NASB) Through God’s grace, we can withstand any weakness or difficulty.

One of the worst trials I experienced was when my first husband had 2 strokes and was sick for seven years and then passed away. Looking back, I can see where I became stronger because of it. God never left me, He held me, He walked me “through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4 KJV) and gave me the strength to put one foot in front of the other. I have a better understanding now of what a relationship with Him is like. Maybe your thorn is a relationship situation. It could be that God has allowed this so that you will lean on Him and seek Him to find solutions or find that your relationship with Him is more important. Maybe you are distressed and fearful because of the pandemic. It could be that God is wanting you to learn to trust Him completely and not fear. God can take anything that Satan throws at us and use it for our good. (Romans 8:28) Thorns can be a good thing in our lives, even though it doesn’t seem so. Just remember, God’s grace is sufficient!

Favored Because of Grace

As we continue looking at grace, today’s Scripture is from Psalm 5:12, “For it is You who blesses the righteous man O Lord, You surround him with favor as a shield.” (NASB) The King James Version says this, “For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.” We have learned that grace is unmerited favor. God releases His favor upon us because of His great love for us.

I love the idea of God’s favor encompassing us with favor like a shield. He surrounds us with His grace, with His favor. How awesome! What is so cool is that He shows no favoritism but shares His grace freely to everyone who asks Jesus to be their Savior and Lord. As we learned last time, we become a part of God’s family, and as such, He showers upon us His love, His grace, His favor. He doesn’t have favorites, for God tells us that He is not a respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34) He looks at each one of us equally through the precious blood of Jesus. His love is the same for each of us.

It is so reassuring to know that God showers His grace and favor upon us, giving us what we need when we need it. He craves time with us so that He can love us and talk with us. He wants us to get to know Him intimately. When we seek Him out through Bible study and prayer, it’s like we are the only important person to Him at that very moment. I love times, especially when I am troubled about something when in my mind I can go to Him, crawl upon the lap of my Abba Father, and tell Him the struggles, and He wraps His arms around me and says, “It’s ok. I’m here, I’ve got this!” My life verse is Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of Grace, that we might obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (KJV) In my mind I see my Abba sitting not on some cold, pretentious throne, but in a big overstuffed chair and He holds out His arms to me bidding me to come and sit in His lap. He wraps His arms around me, and we have the most awesome time together, and He calls me daughter. When I am in despair, He lets me cry on His shoulder and He tells me that everything will be alright.

Our verse today also tells us that God blesses us. Sometimes it is difficult to think of the blessings God has given us when life seems to be coming at us from all directions. But we must stop a moment and think of all the good things God has given us. First and foremost, should be our salvation! What an awesome gift to us! We have eternal life through Jesus Christ! He has also granted us the love of our families, food on our tables, the beautiful world in which we live, and we could go on. When we become discouraged, we should take a few minutes to “Count Your Blessings” as the old hymn says. Sometimes, I think we forget how much God has given us. We need to also remember the times He has kept us from something that could bring us harm. That is a blessing also!

God’s grace surrounds us as we walk this pathway He has planned out for us. He knows everything from the beginning to the end. We can rest in the knowledge that He will extend His grace to us in every situation and we do not have to worry or be afraid. Nothing that happens to us comes to Him by any surprise. He loves us and wants to shower His favor upon us daily. Take time today to thank Him for His unfailing love and grace. Remember the blessings He has given. What a great stress reliever in this time of uncertainty…God’s grace! It will carry us through!

Justified by God’s Grace

Today as we continue to look at grace, we look at Romans 3:23-24, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” (NASB) Remember, we said that grace was unmerited favor. Another word in our verse that many may not know the meaning of is justification. Another way to think of it is, “just as if I had never sinned.” When God looks at us through the blood of Jesus Christ, He doesn’t see our sin He sees Jesus’ sacrificial blood. He sees us as pure and holy before Him.

Sin has a penalty…death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Justification and God’s grace takes care of the penalty of sin for us when we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior and live inside of us. When I was younger, I was studying to be an LPN. I had a rotation in my schooling where I had to work on the floor of a psychiatric hospital. We had one patient who walked the floor mumbling the first part of Romans 6:23 over and over. She was obsessed with the idea that she had sinned and deserved death. Another student, who was also a Christian, and I tried to help her remember that there was a second part to that verse, that Jesus had paid the price for her sin. I firmly believe that our patient was a Believer, but Satan had distorted her mind so badly that all he let her remember was that she was a sinner and it completely destroyed her. She didn’t have the assurance that God’s grace had justified her and that she was a child of God.

Many walk this earth with that same fear. They know that they have sinned, and they don’t have the assurance of knowing that if they only would ask Jesus to save them that they would be justified in God’s eyes because of His grace over them. Satan takes advantage of that and he keeps people in bondage, gripped in fear that there is no hope for them.

Our current crisis is a case in point. People are running around in fear that they will die from this virus, and many most likely don’t have a relationship with God. They don’t know that God will grant favor upon them when they put their full faith and trust in Him. They don’t know that He will place a hedge of protection around them, they don’t know that He loves them so much that He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 KJV) God’s grace is evident in the way He is so patient with us. He calls to us time and again, asking us to repent and turn back to Him. He beckons us lovingly desiring us to have a relationship with Him.

What happens when we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord? We are forgiven of our sins, past, present, and future. We are made a part of God’s family and we become heirs of God. Romans 8:16-17 says, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (KJV) We are children of God, and God extends His grace to us every single day. When we fall short and sin (and we will because we are human) and then confess our sins, He forgives us. (1 John 1:9) We are assured that God’s grace covers us daily. As we walk the pathway He has planned for us we find that we are changed, circumstances change, our outlook changes, all for the better. We are free from the fear of sin’s penalty and we can rest in the assurance that God’s grace holds us.

Grace – The Root of our Spiritual Race

We are beginning a study on God’s Grace and we begin with Acts 20:24, “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” (NASB) The World English Bible says, “But these things don’t count; nor do I hold my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to fully testify to the Good News of the grace of God.” The Apostle Paul was on his way to Jerusalem and he was uncertain what would happen to him. The Jewish leaders of the synagogue were seeking to end his life because he was preaching that Jesus was the Messiah and the way to salvation. So, at this point, he knew there was a great possibility that his life would end.

Paul talks about running the race with joy and with a purpose. His purpose was to testify to God’s grace. To understand what he was preaching, we need to understand what grace is. Simply put, grace is unmerited favor. We receive good when we don’t deserve it. The Bible says that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 KJV) It also says that there is a penalty for our sin. (Romans 6:23) God’s grace extends to us in that what we deserve is death, but God sent His Son, Jesus, to take the penalty for our sin so that we would not have to pay that penalty. That’s GRACE!

This life we live is, as Paul puts it, a race. The goal is to run in a way that gives glory and honor to God, ministering to a lost and dying world, telling them of Jesus’ love and sacrifice, and finishing that race with honor so that we can hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

God gives us grace every day. Because we are human and we sin, God extends His grace to us when we repent and ask for His forgiveness. The thing is, often we fail to give grace to ourselves. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist to some extent. I notice it more when I’m doing my Bible Journaling or writing. I tend to be detail-oriented and when I mess something up, I get angry with myself. If you hear me mumbling to myself, it’s usually because I’m saying, “Dummy, what did you do that for?” I guess I’m way harder on myself than God is. He recognizes that I’m going to make mistakes and sin, and yet I am not condemned or given harsh treatment. Like a loving Father, He says, “Ok, you messed up. Pick yourself up and try again until you get it right. It’s not the end of the world.”

This is the message the Apostle Paul was tasked with delivering. That was his ministry. God places each one of us on this earth for a purpose. We each have a ministry. It may not be an organized ministry such as a church, Christian broadcasting station, etc. But each one of us has a ministry, and God’s grace is the basis for what we do for Jesus. It is the foundation of our salvation. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) We can build a strong foundation for our life because of God’s grace. 1 Corinthians 3:10 says, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.” (NASB) That ties into the idea of running a race and running it well. As we build upon that foundation of God’s grace, we allow that grace from God to flow out to others as well by telling them about how much Jesus loves them, exhibiting God-honoring behavior and speech, and by loving them as God loves them.

Our Identity as a Citizen of Heaven

Today’s Bible Journaling takes us to Ephesians 2:19-20, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners; but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” (KJV) With all the craziness going on right now, it is good for us to remember that this is not our home, we are just travelers going through on the way to our Home. Those who call Jesus their Lord, Savior, and Master have no need for fear in troubled times. Our citizenship is not here, it is in Heaven.

Does that mean we have to wait to experience the benefits of that citizenship? No, as Believers, we already are experiencing some of the advantages of being a citizen of Heaven. As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that one of those benefits was the peace I have in the middle of storms. I don’t have to be fearful of what happens to me here on earth. I know that whatever happens, my life is not over, I will live forever in a beautiful place where there is no pain, sickness, or sadness, where there is peace. I will be home!

As attached as we become to this earth, we need to remember that we are only sojourners. We are travelers on a long trip, and we are on our way home. My husband and I just had a three-week vacation recently, and we really had a great time! Were there difficulties? Yes, bad weather and long hours driving, but we did not become overwhelmed by those troubles. We were able to enjoy our vacation despite bad weather and being tired from driving far distances. When we were headed home, we were looking forward to being home, even though we were thoroughly enjoying our time away. We had peace in the face of the hardships, and yet we were anxious to get home.

As Believers, we also look forward to going to our Heavenly Home, whether that be in death or by way of the Rapture. And yet, we can still reap the benefits of Heaven right here on earth. I have already mentioned peace. Other rewards include knowing that we do not walk alone, God is always with us. He promises to “never leave or forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5) He walks this journey with us. We are part of God’s family (John 1:12) and as such, we reap the benefits given to a family. We can experience His incredible love for us and the rewards and blessings He showers upon us. We don’t have to wait to experience those things, we can have them now.

As a citizen of Heaven, I can experience God’s protection. In 2 Samuel 22:3 we read, “The God of my rock; in Him will I trust: He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my Saviour; thou savest me from violence.” (KJV) I don’t need to fear sickness, danger, or attacks from the enemy, God is my shield, my refuge, my fortress! That is a benefit of Heaven I can have right now.

Another benefit of Heaven we can experience now is freedom. We live under the law of Grace; we do not need to be burdened by trying to live up to a set of laws that are impossible to keep. Because of our love for Him we willingly live a life of holiness in obedience to His will for us. How awesome to be able to bask in the light of Heaven’s blessings as a citizen! In uncertain times we can rest in the knowledge that our future is secured. We can thrive in our identity as a citizen of Heaven and live a life of peace, joy, and security in our Father’s arms.

Christmas Hope

As we continue to look at Christmas, today we look at the hope that Christmas brings to us. Isaiah 9:6 is a familiar passage for us. It has been spoken in countless church Christmas programs by shining little faces acting out the Christmas story. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (KJV) Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah some 700 years before it was fulfilled. The Jewish people had hope that God was going to step into their lives and rescue them.

Jews today are still looking for the Messiah. What they don’t realize is, He already has come. Two thousand years ago He came in a way they weren’t expecting, and so they missed it. They are still in hope of seeing the Messiah come, they look for His coming. As Born-Again Believers, we have seen that Hope realized in our lives. Jesus came to earth as a baby born in a stable to common people. He didn’t come as a King. The Jews were looking for a grand entrance with lots of fanfare. Jesus came quietly, in a small town, with no fanfare except for a chorus of angels telling of His birth to lowly shepherds on a country hill looking after their sheep.

He lived a simple life, preached to those who would hear about what His purpose for being there was, showing them how to live, who God was, who HE was, and then fulfilled His purpose by becoming a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the whole world. He came to be the Savior of the world and provide the hope of eternal salvation for everyone. That hope is still available today.

Jesus invites each one of us to tap into that hope by accepting His free gift of salvation. He loves us so much that He wants us to become part of His family. He wants to provide for us, not just physical or financial things, but He wants to provide eternal life, He wants to provide to us eternal blessings.

That is the greatest hope we can ever have! The hope of eternal salvation! The hope of having a Friend who is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), the hope of walking with Him daily, the hope of a love greater than we could ever imagine, the hope that our lives will be full of joy, peace, and grace. These things can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Life in this world is hard, that’s a fact. However, Jesus can help us in those times when it seems life is smacking us down. He can give us hope that He knows what’s going on, hope that this will not last forever and that He has a plan for our lives, and it’s a good plan (Jeremiah 29:11). When we feel as if we can’t take one more step, He will carry us.

He will provide blessings that will overwhelm us. In those times, He will rejoice with us. The joy of His presence, of experiencing His blessings, of finding the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) is one of the greatest gifts He gives us. Jesus is God’s gift to us! How we love Him for providing such an amazing gift! That is the Christmas Hope we have.

If you haven’t asked Jesus to be your Savior, ask Him to come into your heart and life, confess your sins, and make a conscious decision to live for Him. You will find it is the best decision you will ever make. You will then have that Hope!

A Thankful Heart

For the past week or so, I’ve not been posting because I had cataract surgery on my right eye, and I need to let it heal. Today I decided to try Bible Journaling, and I’m finding that I may need to wait a while longer. I will be having the other done in a week, so I may be out of service for a couple more weeks or so. With that said, I need to finish our devotion to how we can be the light, and we will be working on being grateful for this month. I want to try and incorporate both of those thoughts this month somehow.

For today though, we will look at I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We need to have grateful hearts. There are so many things for which we can give God praise and thanks. Even during times of distress, there are things for which we can be grateful. As I was doing my Bible Journaling page, I listed a few things for which I am thankful that God has given me. I am so grateful for my husband. He came at the right time in my life. He ended a time of darkness in my life. God knew I needed him then, and He blessed me with another wonderful man of God! I have been so blessed to have two husbands who were/are in ministry with a heart after God. The time between them was a period of grief and darkness, but as our verse tells us today, we are to rejoice always…even in the darkness.

I am also thankful for the talent He has given me in music. I am so grateful to be able to be part of the Worship Team at my church. I find it a blessing to express my gratefulness, love, and devotion to Him through my singing and playing. I can use the talent He has given me for His glory.

Most of all I am thankful for His salvation. His grace is above and beyond anything I can even imagine. He loved me before I loved Him! He sought me out and drew me to Himself because He wanted a relationship with me. As I look at my Bible Journaling page, it kind of looks like a bit of a mess, but then I remember, He takes my mess and makes it something beautiful and for that, He gets the glory!

Our verse says we also are to pray unceasingly! Now, that doesn’t mean that we are in constant prayer, unable to do anything but pray. No, we are to be in an attitude of prayer daily. Our thoughts should be in a conversation with our Lord and Master throughout the day. In that way, we keep our relationship with God strong. It helps us to hear His voice, we become familiar to His still, small, voice even when constant chaos and noise is around us. As we listen to His leading and we spend time with Him, as we’ve been discussing, we can then allow His light to shine in and through us, drawing others to Him. As we go about our day doing the things we must do, our attitude should be that of being in contact with Him, seeking His will and asking what would give Him glory and honor.

Our verse today also goes on to say that we are to give thanks in everything! That includes times when nothing is going right. My husband is teaching me to praise God even when we don’t get what we prayed for, or when things are falling apart. He daily says, “Thank you God for this difficulty. I don’t understand why things went this way, but I give you praise for it anyway.” He is an example of giving thanks in everything. I admire him for being the example I need to see. I’m not one to say thank you for hard times, for the most part, and I need to learn how to honestly say thank you at that moment. What I notice about our verse is, it is God’s will for us to be thankful even in times of distress.

Even though this is the time of year that we are more conscious about being grateful, it is not just at Thanksgiving that we are to be thankful, it is for every day of our lives. When we show gratitude, it also allows God’s light to shine out to a dark world that needs to see a clear pathway to salvation and life.