Putting God's Word into Practice…

More About Grace!

Thirteen years ago today, when the service ended with “I Surrender All,” God opened my eyes to see my desperate need for His grace, forgiveness and peace.  I barely refrained from running to the front of the church in surrender–really I was running into His open arms!  He gave me new life and set me free!

Sadly, as a follower of Jesus Christ, sometimes we slip into being rule followers instead of Christ followers–trying to make our own righteousness, forgetting that our righteousness is only from Jesus Christ and His grace.  Last night in our home Bible study, we were discussing Romans 6:8-14.  It ends this way: Since you are not under law but under grace.  Here are some signs to see if we have reverted to being under the law:

  1. Keeping the rules produces a self-righteous, critical, judgmental, prideful, falsely humble spirit.
  2. Being under the Law makes the Christian life feel like constant work, duty and striving.
  3. Failing to follow the rules results in guilt, shame and feeling like a failure.

Grace–surpassing grace–brings freedom and joy!

Some verses to meditate on:

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free!

2 Corinthians 9:14-15 While they long for you and pray for you, because of this surpassing grace of God upon you.  Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!

A quote I heard this morning by Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones:

“Our Christian life starts with Grace, continues in Grace and ends with Grace.”

Two songs for you to enjoy:

http://youtu.be/13_Py-6eRqI (I Am Set Free by All Sons and Daughters)

http://youtu.be/uaTXNxUXcn4 (I Surrender All by Jadon Lavik)

Praying that you will enjoy God’s surpassing grace today!

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Psalm 50 ~ Relationships Among God’s People

I’ve been reading through the Psalms this year in addition to the New Testament, but mainly blog about the New Testament.  However, this morning, I never left Psalm 50 and it’s warning and conviction.  In September I attended the True Woman conference in Indianapolis and joined the breakout session for pastor’s wives taught by Karen Waddles.  The following quote broke me regarding the attitude we take toward our brothers and sisters in Christ:

The difficult people…that I have difficulty with and that I’m angry with; I used to think that God was angry with them too, but guess what?  He loves them just as passionately as He loves me.  And His desire is that I would have His heart for them.  That I would know that everyone of them is precious in His sight; precious enough to die for; precious enough for Him to get out of the grave for.  Oh that I would have the same heart for (His people) that He has!

This can be people in our churches, our spouses, our children, our in-laws, our neighbors–whomever is a fellow follower of Jesus Christ!  Psalm 50 speaks to that.  Verses 19-21 says, “You give your mouth free rein for evil and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son.  These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself.  But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.”  In His mercy, God is warning us that we cannot assume that He is on our side against people–He is not like us!  He is not against the “difficult” people in my life, just like He is not against me when I am someone’s “difficult” person.  HE LOVES US ALL!

When we treat our brothers and sisters in the Lord poorly, especially in our speech, it causes God to give us the silent treatment!  It makes Him angry!  But He doesn’t stay silent–He justly judges our hearts.  Verses 3-4 says, “Our God comes: He does not keep silence; before Him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest.  He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge HIS PEOPLE.”

Here’s the interesting part!  What appeases the Lord’s righteous anger toward us for how we treat His people?  Offering Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving!  A sacrifice means to lay something down.  A sacrifice costs something.  So how can thanksgiving be a sacrifice?  We lay down our presumed rights, our selfish desires, our sinful thoughts towards others, our grudges, our critical spirit, our judgments in order to offer our thanks to God.  Thank Him for people–all His people!

Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!  The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me.

Psalm 50:22-23a.


2 Corinthians 9 ~ Surpassing Grace and Generosity

Verses 1-5. Paul said the Macedonians were ready, willing and zealous to give to others’ needs.  So much so, that he really did not even need to write to them about it.  Would my generosity be characterized by the word “zealous?” Do I need to be reminded to share with others?

Verses 6-9.  God bountifully sows grace in us so we can bountifully reap grace!  A harvest of grace results in complete contentment in ALL things, at ALL times and abundant fruitfulness in our good works toward others.  Our ability to be generous comes from God’s abundant grace to us.

Verses 10-15.  God is the only one who provides seeds to sow–therefore, all our sowing is impossible apart from Him.  He multiplies and increases what He gives to us–not for our comfort and hoarding, but for our increased generosity.  When we realize these two things, it frees us up to give cheerfully, generously, and bountifully.

Giving results in much thanksgiving to God and glory to Him!!!  I have several material examples of that in our lives.  1) When we got our taxes back last year we owed a debt we could not pay.  Our close friends, received more than they expected, so they took care of our tax need.  And then out of their readiness, willingness, and zeal they did it again the next year.  All praise to God who uses people to help us in our times of need. 2) This past winter my husband had to go to the emergency room and have a lot of tests run.  This cost was going to be more than we were prepared to handle.  When I called the hospital to see what our balance was, they lady told me it had been covered in full!  We couldn’t thank anyone except God–He received all the glory! 3) This summer, due to a strong storm, we had some roof and siding damage that was equal to our “wind, hail deductible.”  So we decided to pray and fix the roof without making a claim on our homeowner’s insurance.  Right before we got started, a check for $2,000 came in the mail from one of my husband’s family members who was overjoyed to help us.  I’m so thankful that God uses the generous hearts of others to meet our needs, and pray that we will always be able to help others when we have the means.

Our level of generosity displays our understanding of the gospel.  Because Christ held nothing back from us–He gave all–we should hold nothing back from others.  We have bountifully received His surpassing grace.  That is grace that goes above and beyond the need!  We need to bountifully steward His grace!  Our gratitude is directly linked to His indescribable, inexpressible give of grace!

In summary.  To give is to sow–sowing results in a harvest.  It always produces something for the planter to plant again and enough to share with others.  It also produces thankfulness.  No one creates seeds, but God.  So thankfulness must always be directed toward Him!

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2 Corinthians 8 ~ Excel in Generosity

Paul calls generous giving an “act of grace” in this chapter.  When we realize we’ve been given far more than we deserve, it frees us up to give generously.  Giving to the needs of others is a sign of genuine love. Giving also reflects the heart and life of Christ–who though He was rich, made Himself poor that we might be rich.  Giving to help others demonstrates true belonging to the family of God.  God uses us to meet each other’s needs.

Paul started this chapter by using the Macedonians as a supreme example.  He mentioned three things about the church in Macedonia:  1. They were under a severe test of affliction. 2. They were in extreme poverty. 3. They had an abundance of joy.  Because they were submitted to God, He gave them a great desire that led to an “overflow in a wealth of generosity” in spite of their circumstances.

And if that is not convicting enough for this morning, God used verses 10-11 to re-light a fire in my own heart.  

And in this matter, I give my judgment; this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it.  So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.

About a month ago, God laid it on my heart to give and offering of prayer to Him daily specifically at and for our church.  As the weeks have gone by, my desire is still there, but the “work” is not always getting done.  For the Corinthians, it said their work started over a year ago.  A year is a long commitment. It is easy to grow weary, forgetful or lose desire.  The verbs in these verses are rich–start, desire, finish.  Starting is easy; desiring is easy; completing and finishing well is not always easy.  Desire amounts to nothing without work.  A desire to pray is not a pleasing aroma to God; prayer is.

Oh, Lord, keep me faithful to fulfill the desire you placed in my heart.  I want to finish well! In Jesus’ name I ask, Amen.

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2 Corinthians 7:2-16 Godly Grief and Comfort

In the Beatitudes it says, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Mourning, sorrow, grief–they are all part of human life in a fallen world.  We grieve over many things–but do we grieve over our sin?  That kind of grief is promised to always be comforted.

Remember from 2 Corinthians 2:4 that Paul had written a bold and passionate letter to the church in Corinth.  It was not intended to cause them pain, but to demonstrate his abundant love for them.  Like the Lord, Paul’s kindness led them to repentance (Romans 2:4).  His anguish that they were going the wrong direction caused them to repent and turn back.  Paul didn’t control how they received the letter; God did.

Thankfully, they received the letter with humility.  They saw their sinful hearts, attitudes and actions, and it produced godly grief or godly sorrow that led them to repentance.

True salvation only comes to a repentant heart!  A repentant heart belongs to one who knows they need change–that the direction they are heading grieves them enough to turn around.

Salvation produces a life without regret!  I can attest to that!

Another key word in this text is, “comfort.”

Weariness, affliction, fighting, fear, and grief all cause a downcast spirit.  Verse 6 says, “BUT GOD who comforts the downcast…”

Do you feel downcast today–feeling weary and afflicted, tired of fighting, fatigued by fear, drained by your sinful condition? HOPE IN GOD–let the God of all Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) comfort you today.  Like Paul, it would comfort my heart to know that God has comforted you.

Oh, Lord!  You are perfect and loving.  Thank you for comforting us in our grief and affliction.  Thank you that you don’t ignore or condemn the downcast.  Let me be one who comforts others with Your comfort.  Let me be one who is comforted by You, and let me be one who is comforted by seeing you comfort others.  God, I ask that You will use these words to show someone the path to salvation today–the path to a life without regret.  Even if someone reads this who thinks they have salvation, but has never grieved over their sin, that you would show them today that true salvation is birthed from godly sorrow.  Bring them to a place of humility and brokenness before you–then sweep in with Your perfect comfort and sweet salvation.  This would overflow my heart with joy.  I ask all this in the powerful of Jesus, My Savior, Amen.

2 Corinthians 7:10a For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.

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2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 ~ Pure

Pure–sounds so refreshing!  Reminds us of mountain streams, or a day of sunshine, or the sweetness of seeing our child sleeping.  So why does purity in our lives and relationships sounds like bondage and boredom to us?

Paul wrote, “DO NOT BE UNEQUALLY YOKED WITH UNBELIEVERS,” not only as a direct command, but also as a gracious warning.  I have personally experienced and seen a hundred times over the devastating results of not adhering to this directive in dating and marriage, in business relationships and in close friendships.  When someone is a “believer” their body is the dwelling place of the Spirit of God.  Therefore, our spirit should naturally be at odds with one who does not have God living in them–an “unbeliever.”

Yoking is a common farming term.  It is when two animals have rope and wood placed around their necks in order to keep them working stronger and going in the same direction on a straight course.  They are in close proximity and working for the same end result.  Yoking two animals facing opposite directions will not work!  The end result is pain, discomfort and fruitless labor!

Paul went on to give five rhetorical questions to press the absurdness of a believer “yoking up” with an unbeliever.

  • What partnership does righteousness have with lawlessness?  They follow different codes of ethics.
  • What fellowship does light have with darkness?  They are impossible to keep separate. Although light illuminates darkness, darkness dims light.
  • What accord, or harmony, does Christ have with Belial?  The name for Satan mentioned here means “worthless,” “destroyer.”  Christ is the worthy Creator!  They can’t “make music” together!
  • What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  The things we have in common are limited.
  • What agreement does the temple of God have with idols?  It will be exhausting to attempt to worship the one and only God when the “partner” is worshiping lesser gods.

Spend a few minutes thinking about your closest relationships…ask God to give you direction on purifying your relationships.

2 Corinthians 7:1 says, “Since we have these promises {God dwells with the pure. He will be their God and they will be His people.  He welcomes them.  He will be a father to them. (6:16-18)}, dear friends, let us PURIFY OURSELVES from EVERYTHING that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting HOLINESS our of reverence for God!”

Our desire for holiness must override our misaligned relationships.  Our thirst for the presence of God in our lives, for Him to be our closest protector and provider, our hunger to experience His unconditional love, and a heart to receive His promises should cause us to want to purify our lives from EVERYTHING that makes our hearts unfit and unclean for their purpose; namely, housing our holy and perfect God.  He is worthy of nothing less!

Pure is refreshing!  Pure is freedom!  Pure is a fruitful life!

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2 Corinthians 5:16-6:13 ~ Today is the Day!

There is no new creations apart from Jesus Christ.  He alone is the creator of all things–He is the only one who makes all things new!  If we are followers of Jesus Christ, we ARE a new creation!  Isn’t that exciting!

We were living separated and at odds as enemies of God, BUT JESUS reconciles us to God.  He restores the broken relationship.  How do we have a relationship with God?  Through having our sins forgiven.  Jesus had never sinned, but He took on all of ours.  The penalty for our sins was paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross.  When we ask Him to–He grants pardon for them.  Forgiveness is free for us, but it cost Jesus a great price.

As followers of Jesus, we are entrusted to be His ambassadors (representatives) and messengers of this good news of reconciliation with God the Father through Jesus.  This job may be costly.  Just as an American ambassador was killed in Libya by enemy resistance, we too as ambassadors of Christ will have enemies, hardships, persecution, and deprivation.  We face it with the power of God and the Holy Spirit in patience and kindness, with love and truth, with the shield of faith and the sword of God’s Word, speaking freely with hearts wide open to ALL.  Our great affection and gratitude for Jesus and the joy of reconciliation makes us urgently declare to others–

  • Today is the day of salvation!
  • Today is the day to be made new!
  • Today is the day to be reconciled to God!

Open wide your heart and set your affections on Christ!

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2 Corinthians 5:11-15 ~ I Live For…

I did not make it very far today, before the hammer of the Holy Spirit came down on my heart.

In verse 14 Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ controls us…”  For that to be true in my life, I need to know what it looks like to be controlled by the love of Christ.  Thankfully, Paul went on to write about Jesus Christ sacrificially laying down His life for the sake of others.  That’s what love does!  Unfortunately, many times I don’t want to be controlled by that kind of love, I want to be controlled by my love for myself.

Paul went on in verse 15 to write: “and He (Christ) died for ALL, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”

  • If my son said, “I live for baseball,” but he was consistently found in front of the video game console every waking moment in spring and summer, I would be led to believe he lives for video games.
  • If I said Martha Stewart changed my life, one would not expect to come over and find my house disorderly and unkempt, a feast of TV dinners and a Ding Dong dessert prepared for guests.

Therefore if I say I live for Christ, I must no longer live for myself.  Living FOR Christ is living LIKE Christ!

A final illustration.  If I needed a heart transplant or my death was imminent, it would require the death of someone else for me to receive a healthy heart and new life.  I would feel grateful, indebted, and stop at nothing to show respect and appreciation for the one who made it possible.  Yet how often do I take for granted the death of Jesus that led to my new heart and life by living for myself.

Oh, Lord, let me be controlled by the love of Christ!  I do not want to live for me, but only always for You, my Savior!  Thank you for your example of a truly sacrificial life.  You didn’t play favorites and serve only those deemed worthy; You laid down your life for ALL.

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2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Desperate for Home!

Paul refers to our earthly body as a tent!  (Feels like that some days!)  If I lived in a tent, I would long for a real home.  One that holds up well in storms and cannot be blown about or collapse!  Our bodies are an earthly tent that houses our soul.  Our soul longs, even groans, for an eternal home.  However, here I am in this tent and I need to embrace it!  Paul said that while we are on earth, we need to walk by faith not by sight–faith that God has prepared for us a perfect, eternal body that will house our soul forever. We ought to always be of good courage.  Think about the timeline of our lives as a great battle.  Those who believe in Jesus Christ know that the battle ends in victory!  Knowing the ending, should help us to fight courageously while we are on earth.  Thirdly, we need to aim to please the Lord while we are here.

God has prepared us to receive eternal life and placed His Holy Spirit in us as a guarantee.  This should give us great confidence as we face our days.  It also gives us the desire to please the Lord.  We will ALL stand before the judgment seat and EACH will receive our due reward for good or penalty for evil done in this world.

Unfortunately, there is no one who is good and righteous apart from Jesus Christ (Psalm 14:1-3, Romans 3:10).  He, Himself, is our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21)!  When we humbly turn to Jesus knowing our spiritual poverty, He floods our lives with the riches of His grace (Ephesians 2:7) and we are sealed forever by the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts.  It is through the Spirit’s power that we do good works and are given the desire to please the Lord in our actions.

Verse 9 says, “So whether we are at home (Heaven) or away (Earth) we make it our aim to please him.”  If Jesus is not our Lord and we don’t make it our aim to please Him on Earth, why would we even want Heaven?  All of Heaven will be filled with people whose chief desire is to please God for eternity, only we won’t be encumbered with the snares of death, temptation, flesh, and evil.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful!  Doesn’t that make you desperate for home!

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2 Corinthians 1:12-2:4 ~ Humble Servant

In verse 12, Paul lists three characteristics of their ministry to the church in Corinth, that anyone in ministry would do well to recognize and emulate.

  1. Simplicity, or single-minded purpose.
  2. Godly sincerity
  3. By God’s grace

Humble servants of God discern that it is He who establishes, anoints, seals and gives His Holy Spirit to our hearts.  They realize that God plans the path and directs the heart.

Humble servants of God also experience affliction and anguish of heart because of abundant love for the church.  When a true minister of the gospel suffers anguish over the people in his care and addresses them in firmness and boldness it is not to cause them pain, but flows from a deep desire to see them live joy-filled, steadfast lives in Christ.  How we respond to that, shows whether we have a humble or arrogant heart.

Heavenly Father, I am thankful for a pastor who has Your heart, who humbly yet boldly proclaims Your truth, who loves the people that You have given to his care.  Please, Lord, keep him single-minded, sincere and operating in Your grace.  Keep him passionate and humble. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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