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.

God’s Provision for Your Vision

As we continue looking at the vision God has placed in our hearts, today we want to look at God’s provision for our vision. When God places a vision in us, He provides a way for that vision to be accomplished. One example of this is found in Exodus 36:5. God has asked the people to build a tabernacle for Him. Moses relayed to the children of Israel that God commanded that an offering to be taken up to build the tabernacle. In our Scripture today, we see the result. “And they said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform.” (NASB) The workers were receiving much more than was needed and they asked Moses to tell the people to stop bringing their gifts. God provided the needed resources, financial and material, to complete the task.

Provision is often thought of in terms of money, but that isn’t always the way God provides for us. Sometimes He provides the opportunity to step out in faith to do what He has placed in our hearts. Sometimes He provides the inspiration, or maybe a little push in the direction He wants us to go to take that first step.

For me, my vision is to reach people for Jesus. Writing a blog wasn’t something I had ever thought about until a pastor prophesied over me that I would reach many people with my writing. I started to journal for myself. No one else saw what I wrote, it was between me and God. Then a friend of mine suggested I start a blog. I didn’t know the first thing about it. I met someone who had a blog and I saw what he wrote and how it worked, and God put a spark in my heart that this was the direction He wanted me to go. He provided me the motivation to take that first step. One of my friends had a blog on WordPress, and I looked at their format and decided to use WordPress for my blog. Not long after that, I began to see posts all over the place for Bible Journaling. At first, I was unsure about using art in my Bible to express what God was saying, but then I began to see that using Bible Journaling was another tool to reach people for Christ. I began to incorporate the Journaling entries in with my blog and at this point, my blog page has garnered about 40 viewers just from WordPress alone. I have another 200 or so from Facebook that read my blog. I know it is a small beginning, but I am not discouraged. The Bible says not to despise small beginnings. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT) We need to start somewhere, and humble beginnings can bring great harvest if we allow it to happen.

God also provides people, as in the case of our verse today. The congregation needed to step up and give their money, material, time, talents, and other resources to complete the tabernacle. Sometimes we need others to assist us in accomplishing our vision. Maybe our vision is a business, workers are needed when the business begins to expand, and God will bring them to us so that the business will succeed.

God provides a platform and opportunity for us to complete the vision, as in my case. He also will provide ideas to help us move forward in accomplishing the vision. Whatever is needed for us to be successful in making the vision come to completion, God will provide for us. One name of God is Jehovah Jireh, The Lord will provide! Today, as we look to God for our vision, ask Him to provide what is needed to accomplish that vision.

Don’t Be Afraid to Step Out

As we look at having a vision, sometimes we can be paralyzed in fear before we even begin to work toward accomplishing that vision. In today’s Bible Journaling verse, we find that fear can stop us before we start. Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (NASB) As a little background, Moses had died, and Joshua was now the leader of the Israelites. They were standing at the banks of the Jordan River about to cross into the Promised Land. God is encouraging Joshua not to be afraid to lead the people and cross over the Jordan. Why should he not be afraid? God tells Joshua, “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

When we start out to reach the goal of accomplishing the vision God has placed in front of us, fear can arise in us. Fear comes from the enemy, not from the Lord. Satan sits on our shoulder and tells us all the reasons why we can’t, why the mission will fail, others will think badly of us, and on and on it goes. These are all lies straight from the pit of Hell. We have nothing to be afraid of because God is with us. He has placed the vision in our hearts, and He will be the one to help us to achieve the goals set before us to see the vision come to pass. The Bible tells us 365 times, “Fear not!” That’s one verse for every day!

I truly believe that fear is the most damaging to Believers. It stops us in our tracks! We don’t move forward, we stand still, and if we are standing still, we aren’t growing, we are dying, we are stagnating in our walk with the Lord. The vision dies before it begins.

So, how do we conquer the fear that grips us and keeps us from the vision God has given us? Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (KJV) Our first action should be to pray! As we begin to experience fear of even stepping out to accomplish the vision, we need to pray and ask God to help us, to take away the fear. Sometimes that means to pray with every step.

We conquer fear by exercising our faith. Faith that God will help us, faith that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13 KJV) As we begin to experience faith rising in us, we can step out in faith and “Let Your Faith Be Bigger Than Your Fear!” This phrase has surfaced within the past few years and I love it! It reminds me that my faith in God and what He can do is bigger than any fear that may well up in my soul. God speaks to us and reminds us that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

God is our biggest cheerleader and He wants to see us accomplish the vision He has placed in us. The vision, whether it may be for a godly home and marriage, a ministry to reach the lost, or begin a new business, whatever it may be, is something He wants to see us be successful in and will bring glory to His name. As He is given glory, we become the light for others to see Jesus. We become witnesses of what He can do in a surrendered life and we become that sweet fragrance to the world that God loves them, and He can change their lives and put a vision in them as well.

Today, step out toward the vision, let others see how God is working in your life, and accomplish that which He has destined 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 is the Light – Reflect It

As we continue our study on Jesus being the light, our Bible Journaling verse today is John 8:12, “Then spake Jesus unto them saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’” (KJV) When we think of light, the first thing we think of is how light illuminates, it shows hidden things, it drives out darkness, it exposes things not seen in the dark.

Spiritually, when we come to ask Jesus to be our Savior, He exposes our sin. We know we are imperfect against His perfection. We are walking in darkness. Once we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, He shines His light in us. We become the vessel for His light to shine through. Jesus also says that when we follow Him, we will walk in the light. Jesus illuminates the pathway He has prepared for us. As we walk with Jesus and bask in His light, He also wants us to be a light to others around us. We are to be the vessel through which His light shines so that others will see and be drawn to Him.

I don’t often start a conversation with someone about Jesus. I’ve witnessed to people when the conversation turned to “religion” and then had the opportunity to share with them how Jesus has affected my life. I knew someone who was kind of the “in your face” type of person when they were witnessing. It was offensive to a lot of people. It made them want to avoid that person. I tend to witness by the way I live my life. I want to reflect that light that Jesus is shining in me. I want people to see that there is something different in me and ask me what it is that makes me different. I am currently in discussions periodically with a friend I’ve known for many years who doesn’t want to hear anything about God. He once let me know in no uncertain terms that he was offended by the fact that I was a Christian. The funny thing about it is, I had not said anything to him about being a Believer, yet he knew I was. When he sees me share something on Facebook about Jesus, he will usually make a comment and then we will have a thread that will go back and forth for several posts. I keep praying he will come to know Jesus, and that something I have said or shared will hit him in a way that he finally comes to know the peace, joy, love, and eternal life I’ve found by asking Jesus to be my Savior.

When we reflect the light of Jesus in our lives, those who are unbelievers, walking in the darkness of sin, notice it. They see the peace Jesus gives. They see the steadfastness we have even in difficult circumstances. They see not just happiness, but true joy in our lives. I Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (ESV) When we allow Jesus to shine through us and we reflect His light, people will notice. Jesus also told us that our lives should be such that others see Jesus so that He is given glory. Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (ESV)

Reflecting the light of Jesus in our lives gives Him glory. He is given the honor He is due, and it gives Him an opportunity to speak to the lives of those around us through the reflection of His light in us. We are the vessel through which He shines. We need to be intentional about allowing His light to shine through us. Today, be the light in someone’s life that will draw them to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.