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!

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.

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!

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.

It’s Only a Season

As we continue our study on seasons, today we look at the seasons in our life. Psalm 30:5 says, “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (NASB) The King James Version puts it this way, “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Whatever we are going through, it’s just a season, it will not be forever.

This is comforting, especially when we are going through difficult times. Those times will not last forever, it’s only a season. Each season is given for a reason. Is there something God wants us to learn? Is what we are going through given as an example for someone else who may go through the same thing? Maybe God is preparing us for something greater. Whatever the case, it’s a season.

As I stated in my last post, I went through a season of grief when my first husband passed away. The grief was for a season. That was a difficult season. I am now in another season, one of happiness and learning. I have a friend who has lost her job, one she would never have resigned from on her own, but God is taking her on a journey. She is in a new season, one where she is at the beginning of creating a ministry to women. As scary as it is for her, there is a certain amount of excitement and anticipation as she makes a ministry plan and she is at peace with where God is taking her. I am excited to see what God has in store for her and to see what road He will take her down.

As we look at today’s Scripture, the first thing that I see is, “For His anger is but for a moment.” There will be times of discipline. When we look at Scripture, we can see how God would become angry with the children of Israel. Time and again they would test His patience, become disobedient, rebellious children and the Bible says God’s anger was kindled against Israel. But that anger was not forever. Discipline was needed to draw them back. When they finally came to their senses and repented, God’s anger would diminish, and He would lovingly draw them back into His arms, gathering them into His family. The next thing I see in our Scripture is, “His favor is for a lifetime.” I like how the King James Version puts it, “in His favor is life.” God’s favor is with His children forever and that favor brings life! That’s a season also! He loves us so much that He wants to grant His favor upon us. He wants to shower us with those things that will help us to grow in our relationship with Him, things and people who can help us become more like Him.

Then, our Scripture says, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” We may be going through a desperate time of darkness, one where we can do nothing but let the tears flow. That season is so hard to go through. My husband calls those times, “Job’s Trials”. God loves us, even when we go through the darkness, and He never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5). If we can trust Him through the dark times, He promises us that it will end, and joy will come at the end of the trial. Often, this season seems so long, and it feels like it will never end, but the promise of joy coming at the end of the trial, is what keeps us holding on to Him. We must remind ourselves, “It’s Only a Season!”

As we experience the changing seasons in weather, we know that Fall will give way to Winter, Winter will melt into Spring, and Spring will change into Summer, and Summer returns to Fall. Each season is for a time, it will not be forever, the seasons are ever-changing from one to the other. So, when you go through something new, remind yourself, “It’s Only a Season!”

Changing Seasons

As we enter Fall, we are looking at a new season. Summer is fading, Fall is approaching, and Winter will soon be upon us. Seasons come and go with each passing year. For me, Fall and Winter are not my favorites. True, Fall is beautiful with all the different colors, but that means that Winter will be upon us and that means cold and snow…not my favorite thing to deal with. We enter different seasons in our lives also. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” (NASB) The King James Version puts it this way, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”

As we read Ecclesiastes, Solomon seems to be in a depressed mood, talking about how everything is just vanity. Then he sort of snaps out of it when he remembers that everything we experience comes under the watchful eye of God, our Father. As we read the third chapter, Solomon goes on to expound about the different seasons of our lives. As we enter different seasons in our lives, we must remember also, each season is under God’s careful care. There is a reason for each season in our lives that we face. Some seasons may be placed in our lives to help us grow and mature in our Christian walk with God. Some may be as an encouragement for others who may be going or will go through, the same thing. Learning how to navigate each season is what helps us grow.

As I went through the season of widowhood, I learned that grieving the loss of a spouse was different than grieving the death of my father. The grief was totally different. This year, my family is dealing with the death of my nephew, who died way too young, and that kind of grief is different from either of those other deaths. Through each of these situations, God is walking with us. Things have happened in my family as a result of my nephew’s death that causes my heart to rejoice! Family members have drawn close to the Lord, and I’m watching in amazement at how they are walking in peace, knowing God has them in the palm of His hand. They are drawing closer each day to Him, and being intentional in their Bible study, church attendance, and even beginning to witness. My heart is so grateful to God for taking them in His arms and helping them.

I am now remarried, and I’m finding that this season of marriage is different from my marriage with my first husband. I find I need to learn how to relate to someone who is so different, and there is a learning curve here. Even in this, God is walking with me, helping me to deal with each situation we face together as a couple. We are learning to appreciate each other more, accept the differences, and life is on a good path.

As each of us faces each new season in our lives, we must look to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) He has experienced every season we have, and He alone can help us through each experience.  (Hebrews 4:15) He knows what it is to experience loss, joy, financial difficulties, sadness, betrayal, and on and on. Everything we have gone through, He knows what it is like because He also went through those things. Therefore, we can trust Him to help us.

Seasons come and go, but we have this solid confidence…Jesus never changes, and He is our stability as we go through each season. As you face different seasons, remember, each season is for a purpose. Embrace each season with confidence, and know you are not alone!