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 – Debt Free

Today we are looking at Colossians 2:13 – 14, “And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.” (CSB) As we continue to look at our identity in Christ, I find it amazing that we are debt-free because of Jesus! Jesus paid the penalty for our sins! He looked at us with love and told the Father, “I’ll pay for it!”

Being debt-free is an amazing feeling. A few years ago, I experienced that when we were able to pay off the mortgage on our house because of an inheritance I received when my mother passed away! Having no house payments is awesome! I also have a car that is fully paid for…how cool is that? It’s nice not to have bills looming over our heads. It gives me a feeling of freedom!

Those of us who have asked Jesus to be our Lord and Master and accepted Him as our Savior, have that same feeling! We are debt-free! We owed a debt of sin that we could never pay, but Jesus stepped up and took our place and paid that debt. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (KJV) Every person who has ever been born, or ever will be born, has been born into sin. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (KJV) That means we are debt-free! We no longer have the penalty of death hanging over our heads.

Our sin separated us from God. But God loved us so much that He made a way to make a bridge between us and Him. John 3:16 says, “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) Sometimes it is hard for me to understand that kind of love. Jesus gave up everything to come to earth and live a sinless life so that He could be the sacrifice for our sins. God poured out His grace upon us so that He could have a relationship with us. He loves us that much!

Jesus invites us to ask Him to take up residence in our hearts. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (KJV) He wants a relationship with us, and as we discovered in our last post, He wants to be our friend.

There is a song that we haven’t sung in our church for a long time that expresses how much we owe Him. The lyrics say, “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay, I needed someone to take my sins away. And now I sing a brand-new song, Amazing Grace! Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay!” Our identity is in Jesus paying the price for us, and we are debt-free!

He Calls Me Friend

For the last almost two weeks I have been down with the flu. It’s been rough, still have this horrible cough, but I feel better. It’s put me out of commission, and I haven’t been able to get to church or be on the Worship Team because of it. What has been nice is hearing from church friends who have inquired on how I was doing, saying they missed me and were hoping to see me soon. I have been one who hasn’t had a lot of close friends, in fact, I have only one best friend besides my sister, and she’s been a friend since we were kids. I have never seemed to be able to be the popular one who had a lot of friends gathered around. In today’s Bible Journaling, we find out that we have One who is our Friend, and He never leaves us. In John 15:15 we read, “I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father.” (CSB)

As I was working on my Bible Journaling page, I thought back over the friendship I have with my best friend. We have done some neat and some silly things in the past. Once we both got married, we kind of lost touch with each other, but every time we got together, it was like we had never been apart. We just picked up where we left off. When she came to visit me when I lived in Montana, I remember being so excited that she was coming, and when she showed up at my work, I jumped up from my desk and threw my arms around her and gave her a big hug, and tears came to her eyes. I was a little surprised I guess, but I felt the same way. It had been so long since I had seen her, I was just over the top with excitement. Last year we went to Wisconsin and visited her and her hubby, and we had a blast! That friendship has lasted for 60 years and is still so special.

It is so awesome having a close friend like that. They know you inside and out and accept you with all your frailty, bumps, bruises, and missteps. Did you know, Jesus is just like that? Proverbs 18:24 tells us that God is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He never leaves or forsakes, (Hebrews 13:5), He puts us in His inner circle! We matter to Him! Isaiah 43:1 says, “But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’” (NIV)

I love how He listens to me, no matter if I’m complaining about circumstances, or if I’m singing to the top of my lungs! He cries over my hurts, He rejoices over my victories, He guides me when I go astray, He holds me accountable when I mess up, He doesn’t judge, and still, through it all, He loves me and calls me “Friend.” He never fails, He doesn’t desert me when I’m going through a rough road, He wraps me up in His arms and comforts me when life is just too much. These are the marks of a true friend.

For those who don’t know what it is like to have Jesus as their friend, it’s very simple. Jesus is calling us to friendship. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (KJV) When we ask Jesus to come into our hearts, forgive us of our sins, and accept His free gift of salvation, we become a friend of His. He comes to live inside of us to be our Lord, Master, Savior, and Friend! We then begin a life journey with our Best Friend. I often have said that since becoming a Believer, life has been an adventure! Jesus has taken me places I never dreamed I would be. He always has the best in mind for me, and if you ask Him to, He will forgive you of your sins, make you one of His, be your Best Friend, and show you His best for you.

Write the Vision

As we begin a new year, we are talking about having a vision. Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run.” (NASB) The King James Version says, “And the Lord answered me, and said, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” Writing our vision down is the first step in accomplishing the goals we set before ourselves. I must admit, I’m not good at making goals or writing down visions.

I have dreams just like anyone else but setting goals has always been a hard thing for me. My thinking is, “God’s going to do what He wants to do anyway, my making goals isn’t going to change what He does.” However, I’m beginning to see that by writing down a vision and setting goals is the first step in accomplishing the dreams I have.

For instance, my purpose in beginning this blog is to reach people with Jesus’ love and leading them to know Him by accepting Him as Lord and Savior. That is my vision! My heart’s desire is to see people come to Jesus, asking for His forgiveness, and endeavoring to live for Him so that others will know Him also. One of those tools in accomplishing that vision is my use of Bible Journaling.

I admit that I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but God knows that, and what I do in my Bible Journaling is an expression of what He points out to me from the Scripture, and He’s ok with what I do.

Another tool is expressing in words what He is speaking to me, hence the blog. My thoughts written here are a pouring out of what He wants me to learn or what He wants me to hold on to and to share with others.

I believe that God has called me to this as a ministry. I’m not concerned with how many likes I get or how many followers I have. My primary focus is being obedient to what God has called me to do, and I leave the results up to Him. It’s nice when I get a new follower; I am grateful that I have made an impact on someone through my blog. I keep in mind that Scripture says not to despise small beginnings, (Zechariah 4:10) because God rejoices in seeing the beginning of something sprout and grow, whether it be a ministry He is calling us to, or whether it is a goal we have that is lined up with His will.

Writing the vision down puts it in black and white, it is in front of our eyes, something to look at from time to time as a reminder of the direction we want to go. Writing goals are steps to accomplish that vision. Periodically we need to take account of where we are in achieving the vision and goals we have set; it gives us a measuring stick as to how well we are doing.

Today, I encourage you to sit down and think about what vision you have for this year. What do you want to see come to fruition? Where would you like to be in comparison to where you are now? Pray about the vision you have set, ask God if this is where He is leading you to, and ask for His help in reaching your goal for this year. Write down the vision!

Jesus – Our Peace

It’s the day after Christmas and we can all breathe. The presents have been opened and we’ve had time with family, all is right with the world…or for most it is. However, for some, there is turmoil, pain, loneliness, grief, and a total disconnect from the world. There is no sense of peace. All around are tidings of “Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men” yet for some, there is no peace. Even though today’s Bible Journaling verse isn’t considered a Christmas verse, it echoes what the Christmas story says, that Jesus is our Peace! Ephesians 2:14 says, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” To put this verse into perspective we must look at it in the context of the verses around it.

The Apostle Paul is talking to the Ephesians about their problems between Jewish and Gentile Believers. The Jews were trying to encumber the Gentiles with Jewish laws like circumcision. Paul is telling them all that once they have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, there is no difference, hence in our verse, he mentions the breaking down of the barrier or dividing wall between them. Notice, Paul says that Jesus is our peace! When He died on the cross for our sins the barrier between Jew, Gentile, God, and Man was torn down. Jesus is the avenue we take to reach God regardless of who we are or where we’ve been.

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be called the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) We can find the peace we seek through Jesus Christ and a relationship with Him. Despite the circumstances, we encounter we can have peace. He is the provider of peace…peace internally and Eternally! The world is in chaos. All around us, there is turmoil…wars, shootings, and discord of every kind surround us. But even though all around us is a mess, we can live in total peace.

When we allow Jesus access to our heart, He brings us His peace! When He lives in us, His very nature is living in us. He IS peace! Even though in our lives we are in circumstances that have us in an upheaval, we can have His peace, with the assurance that He has everything under His control. We may go through something that leaves us wondering “why” or in a time of such despair that there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. At Christmas time, those who experience this find it so difficult to find that peace. It is at this time of year that we see so many suicides.

The answer to so much pain is so simple! Accept Jesus as Savior, ask Him to forgive you of your sin, acknowledge Him as Lord, Savior, and Master of your life, believe that He was born of a virgin, lived on this earth, teaching and preaching about His Father, God, that He died on a cross for your sins, was buried, and rose again three days later to conquer sin, death, and the grave, and is now seated in Heaven at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to get His children. Thank Him for your salvation and endeavor to live for Him. Repentance is making a 180 degree turn from where you are headed and heading in a new direction. Allow Him to bring you the peace that only He can give you. He can then be YOUR peace!