SAVED BY GRACE

Ephesians 1:3-14

In Christian circles, we often hear people talk about grace, but do we understand what it means? Scripture uses this word in reference to God’s goodness and kindness, which is freely extended to those who are utterly undeserving—and that includes all of us.

God’s grace is the means of our salvation through Christ and the basis by which He sees us. By grace, we are …

Declared righteous. All of our guilt and shame have been removed, and Christ’s righteousness is credited to us as our own (2 Corinthians 5:21). Now we can live boldly for Jesus no matter who we once were.

Part of God’s family. A spiritual adoption has taken place so that we might become children of God and call Him Father (Eph. 1:5). Although the world may see us as insignificant, we should remember we’re children of the King.

Made co-heirs with Christ. Our inheritance is guaranteed and kept for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). We’ve been set free from the lure of materialism because we’re rich in the only way that matters (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Given new life. When we trust in the Savior, we are born again and receive a fresh start (2 Corinthians 5:17). The seal of this new life is the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit, who transforms us into the image of Christ and guarantees our future resurrection (Eph. 1:13-14).

Freed from the power of sin, Satan, and self. Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and live righteously in obedience to God (Titus 2:11-12).

From the beginning of salvation to our eternal future in heaven, we are covered by God’s unending grace.

Bible in One Year: John 17-19
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SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries

THE CONSEQUENCES OF IMPATIENCE

Luke 15:11-21
How serious is a lack of patience? We generally write it off as inconsequential. It’s often seen as a weakness rather than a sin—after all, it’s not as bad as adultery, theft, or murder. But have you ever considered what your impatience reveals about your attitude toward God?

When we demonstrate an inability to tolerate delay, we are telling the Lord, “I don’t trust Your timing; mine is better.” Can you see the seriousness of this attitude? Impatience is a display of pride because we are elevating our understanding above that of our all-knowing God.
The prodigal son’s journey toward disaster began with impatience. He wanted his inheritance immediately and was unwilling to wait. After taking matters into his own hands, he faced the following consequences:
He brought sorrow on his family. Likewise, our impatience hurts those we love.
He left the security of home. When we run ahead of God, we often leave behind the voices of reason and wisdom in our life.
He found himself in ruin. God’s blessing accompanies our obedience, so we stand to lose a great deal when we ignore His timing.
He felt unworthy. We don’t experience fellowship with the Lord when impatience keeps us outside of His will.

Although the prodigal son was welcomed home, he could never regain the inheritance he’d lost. We, too, must often live with painful consequences as a result of jumping ahead of God. Let’s remember it’s better to wait patiently until the Lord moves us forward.
Bible in One Year: Acts 10-1

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SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries

WHY WOULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN, GOD?

“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.” 1 Kings 19:3a (NIV)

There are three filters of truth through which I process life events:

  1. God is good.
  2. God is good to me.
  3. God is good at being God.

This is my starting place when looking at circumstances both wonderful and hurtful. These truths help me consider good things God might be doing, even with realities that don’t feel at all good. They bring me back to the goodness of God as the starting place for my continued trust in Him. These truths help settle my runaway fears and chaotic emotions when feelings beg me to question, Why would you let this happen, God?!

I’m not saying this is easy. I’ve had some really heartbreaking things happen in my life over the past couple of years. I had so many ideas of how my life should go, including notions of what a good God would and would not allow into my life.

I said I trusted God, but in reality, I think I trusted in the plan I thought God should follow. And when my life took shocking turns so far from my expectations, my soul shook. My peace evaporated. And everything in me wanted to run and hide and stop trusting God.

This is where we find Elijah in 1 Kings 19. If you’ve never read 1 Kings 18, I highly recommend it. It’s a chapter where we see God use Elijah to prove to the nation of Israel that He’s the one true God in a miraculous and powerful way. Elijah must have been on a high, seeing God do what he expected God to do. And in essence, Elijah looked good himself as the “prophet who won the showdown at Mount Carmel.”

But oh, how quickly things can change. How quickly Elijah’s absolute trust in God evaporates with one death threat from Queen Jezebel. First Kings 19:3a tells us, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”

The events taking place in 1 Kings 18 and then 1 Kings 19 are both spectacular and sobering. Spectacular as we see the Lord magnificently prove His supremacy and might to all of Israel. Sobering in that, in spite of God’s tremendous showing of power, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel are not overthrown, and Elijah ends up running for his life into hiding.

Why was Elijah fearful and in despair? I have a feeling his desperation came from the same soul-shaking place I mentioned earlier — unmet expectations. Elijah probably assumed Ahab and Jezebel’s unholy reign would come to an end after the mighty feat of the Lord. Yet, that was not the outcome, and in that place of unfulfilled expectation, fear ultimately crumbled faith.

Even though Elijah experienced the miracle on Mount Carmel, he still succumbs to the fear of persecution. Elijah flees into the wilderness, exposing the truth that even a great prophet like Elijah is still human and falls terribly short in terms of both faith and affection for the Lord.

Even so, the Lord deals graciously and gently with Elijah — drawing him close with a whisper and giving him instructions of what to do next.

God doesn’t fix things the way Elijah thinks they should be fixed, but He does lead him. And isn’t it interesting the Lord leads him back through the wilderness? (1 Kings 19:15) After all, that’s often where God takes His people to teach them His perspective that blooms into deeper faith.

The Lord gives Elijah a second chance to face the same struggles before he ran and hid, except this time with right perspective and faith.

Elijah sees God’s plan is good — even if it isn’t the way Elijah would have written it himself. And the same is true for us. God’s plans don’t have to match our plans for them to still be good.

What can we personally take away from studying these events in Elijah’s life?

Perspective is the key to trusting God. And so often the clarity we need to see things from God’s perspective happens in the wilderness experiences we all wish we could avoid.

Maybe the three truth-filters which helped me can help you in whatever life circumstances that seem unfair, unreasonable or hurtful beyond what you can bear. Let God whisper His truth that He is good. He is good to you. And He is good at being God.

Father God, I’m so thankful You don’t condemn me for my fears. Instead, You have given me the gift of Your perspective-shifting, lie-sifting, head-lifting Truth. Help me use Your Word to preach truth to my own soul when I start to doubt Your goodness. Teach me how to use it as the powerful and effective weapon it is when the enemy tries to convince me I have been forgotten and forsaken. Let it remind me that You see me, You love me, and I am safe — both in Your hands and in Your plans. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:

Psalm 56:3-4, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise — in God I trust and am not afraid.” (NIV)

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Proverbs 31 Ministries

NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our LORD.”

(Romans 8:38-39, KJV)

WORD:

People may come and go from your life, but God is always with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. His love goes way beyond any human love you have ever experienced. Human love may be conditional, but God’s love is supernatural; it’s unconditional and knows no limits. There’s nothing you can do to earn His love and nothing you can do to stop His love.

The Scripture tells us that His love is patient and kind. His love believes the best. His love redeems and restores you. No matter what you’ve been told or what you may think about yourself today, you are His most prized possession. There’s nothing that can separate you from His love! Remember, faith is activated by love. As you allow Him to flood you with His love, your faith will be ignited, and you’ll be empowered to live the abundant life He has for you!

PRAYER:

Father, thank You for loving me and setting me free. Thank You for working in my life and restoring the broken places. Everything I have I surrender to You. Fill me with Your perfect love in Jesus’ name. Amen

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Today’s Word

BE HIS EXAMPLE

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. — Matthew 5:16

Whether you realize it or not, you’re an example. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re too weak or inadequate to be one — there are people who look up to you and are watching to see how you live. And God wants you to be His representative to them.

Jesus came into this world as a Servant, humbly giving His life so that we would be reconciled to the Father. And God’s will is that we imitate what He did for us by serving others. We perform loving acts of service that meet the spiritual and practical needs of those around us so that they’ll grow closer to Him.

There are so many people around you in need today — not just physically or financially, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Everyone you meet needs someone to encourage him or her. Will you make time to reach out and show them the awesome, unconditional, sacrificial love of Christ? Remember, God sees everything you do in His name and will bless you for all you do in obedience to Him (Hebrews 6:10).

Jesus, show me where I can serve others with Your love and compassion. Work through me to draw others to Yourself. Amen.

My hope is in Jesus because He is worthy of my service.

See God

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. — Matthew 5:8

Do you want to see more of God’s work in your life and experience His presence in a more profound way? Would you like the capacity to perceive His protection and provision in your work, trials, relationships, and in every aspect of your existence? Jesus tells you the way: pursue purity.

When you purge your life of all the behaviors and attitudes that displease God, you clear your vision of the impediments that usually obscure His work in you. You receive a clearer understanding of how He’s behind every good gift you receive (James 1:17) and how He gives meaning to all your struggles (Romans 8:28). Without sin clouding your thinking and deadening your spiritual senses, you become more aware of how the Father is engineering all circumstances for your ultimate good.

So keep your heart pure by seeking and obeying the Lord. Invite the Holy Spirit to convict you through God’s Word and repent of sin as soon as you’re conscious of its presence. And in all things, do as He says. After all, obedience always brings blessing, and when the reward is seeing God, you’re receiving the ultimate desire of your soul. It’s certainly worthwhile!

Jesus, purify my heart and help me see You in every aspect of my life. Amen.

My hope is in Jesus because in Him is everything I need.

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Faith Gateway

 

FOUR WAYS GOD ANSWERS YOUR PRAYERS     

”You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:11-13 NLT).

God always answers every single prayer—just not always the way you want—and he does it in one of four ways.

When the request is not right, God says, “No.” Just like parents say “no” to their kids for a hundred good reasons, God doesn’t owe you an explanation every time he says “no” to your request.

When the timing is not right, God says, “Slow.” There’s a big difference between a delay and a denial. “No” and “not yet” are not the same thing, and learning and accepting the difference shows spiritual maturity.

When the request and timing are right, but you’re not right, God says, “Grow.” He wants to do something in your life before he answers your prayer because you’re not yet ready to handle the answer.

When the request is right and the timing’s right and you’re right, then God says, “Go.” God often gives us the green light to our prayers—and it’s a reason to celebrate!

Luke 11:11-13 says, “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (NLT).

God is never going to give you anything that is hurtful or bad for you. After all, if even imperfect parents know how to give good gifts to their kids, won’t God, who is good and perfect, do even more for you? He is ready to answer your prayer—in his own perfect time and way

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SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren

YOU HAVE TO KNOW GOD TO KNOW HOW TO TALK TO HIM

”For the Lord is always good. He is always loving and kind, and his faithfulness goes on and on to each succeeding generation” (Psalm 100:5 TLB).

Don’t you hate it when people call you on the phone and don’t identify themselves? They just jump right in as soon as you answer, assuming you know who it is. When you don’t know if it’s the pope or the pizza guy on the other end, it affects your conversation a lot. You don’t know what tone to use. You’re a little more guarded.

Even when you’re talking with someone in person, if you don’t know much about that person, you tend to be more formal. I can always tell when people I run into around town are a part of Saddleback Church because they’ll say, “Hey, Pastor Rick, how’s it going?” But when someone says, “Hello, Reverend Warren,” it’s clear they know who I am but not that much about me.

Proximity and relationship determine how you talk to somebody. What you know about somebody determines your conversation with that person. The same is true with God. Your understanding of what God is really like shapes everything else in your life, including your prayer life.

A lot of people have misconceptions about God. Some people think he’s a grumpy god, who’s cranky and upset all the time, and they think they can never please him. Some people picture the “crouching tiger” god, who is ready to pounce on them when they make the wrong move. Some people have the flaky father god, who’s moody and changes his mind continually about them.

Some people think of God as the cosmic cop, whose goal is just to make sure you keep the rules, or the dictator god, who’s never satisfied and always demanding more and more and more. And some people have what I call the Play-Doh god and just make him into any form they want.

Ever heard somebody say, “I like to think of God as . . .”? Well, I’m sorry, but it doesn’t really matter what you think God is like. It matters what the Bible says He is!

  1. Tozer wrote, “What comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you, because it affects everything else in your life.”

It’s important that you know the real God. If you have a misconception about him, then prayer is going to be a duty and drudgery. God doesn’t want you to pray out of guilt! He wants you to talk to him because you love him. And you will love him more as you get to know him better through his Word

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SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren.

WHEN COMFORT IS MY ENEMY

“God will strengthen you with his own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient.” Colossians 1:11 (NCV)

Certain. Comfortable. Predictable. These are all words I long to use to describe my life. I suspect you’d be okay with these being the defining terms of your life, as well. But what if the comfort and certainties we crave today are a deadly recipe for complacency that will draw our hearts further and further away from God?

There are many examples of this in the Bible, but let’s look at one tucked into Jeremiah: “Moab has been at rest from youth, like wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another — she has not gone into exile. So she tastes as she did, and her aroma is unchanged” (Jeremiah 48:11, NIV).

On the surface, it may seem like the nation of Moab has it good. They are comfortable. Life seems predictable. They’ve been at rest for a long time. They haven’t known what it’s like to get caught off-guard. To suffer. To endure hardships due to circumstances beyond their control. Life feels good, so it must be good. No disappointments. No difficulties. But this verse is very clear that this is not what’s best for them.

People left in a complacent place for too long become tainted like impure wine. Wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another, means it’s been sitting in comfort for so long that it has absorbed the aroma of complacency. Winemakers during Jeremiah’s time would pour wine from jar to jar for two reasons. First, so the wine wouldn’t absorb the flavor of the vessel. And second, to rid the wine of the dregs or sediment that would settle into the bottom and prevent the wine from being pure.

The Moabites were not jarred from their complacency. Therefore, their culture was saturated with satisfaction apart from the Lord, and their people were full of impurities. They had no need to draw upon the Lord’s strength, so their hearts were far from Him. The Moabites were lulled into a false sense of security. Without challenges and changes, people tend to grow increasingly distant from God and resistant to His ways. In the meantime, their neighbors, the Israelites, were forced to depend on God and learn to survive suffering, captivity, enslavement. The Israelites appear to be the ones not being “saved” from hardship by God. But if we look through the lens of what’s best in the long term, Israel was being strengthened by God for her eventual good.

Settling into complacency might seem to be comfortable for today, but in the long run we, like the Moabites, may suffer more if we go untouched by God for too long.

Make no mistake: Being lulled into a false sense of security is worse than going through the process of suffering.

Scripture reveals the eventual fate of the Moabites was one of complete ruin. (Isaiah 16:6-10) It would have been better for them to go through the Israelites’ experience. To go from vessel to vessel and experience suffering in doses that made them strong enough to handle suffering in even larger doses.

It’s like getting a colonoscopy or mammogram (neither of which are comfortable at the time) just to make sure you catch something wrong early, while treatment is possible. Or like getting a vaccine before going on a missions trip to a country where diseases are an everyday risk. It’s so much better to get a small exposure to the deadly disease to help build your immunity than be exposed and risk not having the necessary strength and immunities to fight it.

We must sip the suffering of today, so we don’t have to drown in the devastations of tomorrow.

To be poured into new vessels might seem uncomfortable, chaotic, and completely unfair while suffering in the moment, but God wants us to know we can trust Him in the midst of it. He’s helping us get rid of the dregs — weakness, fear, complacency, and the hopeless resignation that all of life is unfair. He’s on guard, looking to strengthen us for what He sees coming. And He is fulfilling the promise of Colossians 1:11, “God will strengthen you with his own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient.”

It’s a process that doesn’t usually feel good at the time, but God assures us it will be good in time.

Father God, thank You for reminding me that You’re more interested in preparing me than keeping me comfortable. I confess no part of me likes suffering. But I know I can trust Your heart for me. And that means I can trust You when You allow me to be poured into situations I would rather avoid. Keep shaping me. Keep strengthening me. I know the work You’re doing in me is good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:

James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV)

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Encouragement For Today

FIVE WAYS TO RELAX IN GOD’S GRACE

” Be careful that no one fails to receive God’s grace” (Hebrews 12:15 NCV).

How do you learn to “R.E.L.A.X.” in the liberating grace of God?

R—Realize nobody’s perfect.

Psalm 119:96 is a verse directed toward God, and it declares, “Nothing is perfect except your words” (TLB). What society tells you isn’t perfect. What popular opinion tells you isn’t perfect. What you learned growing up isn’t perfect. But God’s Word is perfect. When you get in the Bible and build your life on it, you will have a perfect foundation.

E—Enjoy God’s unconditional love.

The Bible says, “See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children—think of it—and we really are!” (1 John 3:1 TLB) When you become a follower of Christ, you’re not just a servant of God anymore. You are a child of the King. A servant is accepted on the basis of what he does; a child is accepted on the basis of who he is. A servant starts the day anxious and worried that her work will please her master; a child rests in the secure love of her family. A servant is accepted because of his workmanship; a child is accepted because of his relationship.

L—Let God handle things.

What do you do about the uncontrollable things in life? “Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). When you’re fishing and you cast a line, there comes a point where you have to take your finger off the button and let it go. Just like the essence of casting is letting go, to overcome perfectionism you have to let go and let God do his work.

A—Act in faith, not fear.

Remember how you got into God’s family in the first place. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” There’s no other way to get into heaven except by grace. You’ll never be good enough, and you can’t buy your way in. It’s a free gift from God.

X—Exchange your perfectionism for God’s peace.

Perfectionism destroys peace. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-29, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest . . . Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (The Message). What a deal!

You’re going to fail a lot in life. But you don’t have to worry about it if you’ve received God’s grace. In fact, there’s only one failure you ever need to worry about: “Be careful that no one fails to receive God’s grace” (Hebrews 12:15 NCV). Receive it right now, and then relax!

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren.

STOP TRYING TO BE PERFECT

” If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done” (Ecclesiastes 11:4 TLB).

When you learn how to relax in God’s liberating grace and break out of the prison of perfectionism, you will find a new level of joy and freedom in your life. Why? Because perfectionism is destructive to your life in several ways.

It defeats your initiative.

Have you ever had a project you haven’t been able to get started? You think, “One of these days I’m going to get around to it,” but you just can’t take that first step. One possible reason is perfectionism. You’re waiting for the perfect circumstance or timing, or you’re waiting until the kids get out of school, or you’re waiting until a certain amount of money comes in. When you set your standards so high, perfectionism causes paralysis, and you can’t get anything done.

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 11:4, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done” (TLB).

It damages your relationships.

Nobody likes being nagged or corrected all the time. It’s frustrating and irritating! The Bible says, “Love forgets mistakes; nagging about them parts the best of friends” (Proverbs 17:9 TLB). Perfectionism—the desire to always correct—damages relationships because it’s rooted in insecurity. Perfectionists who are harsh and demanding on other people are really harsh and demanding on themselves.

It destroys your happiness.

Ecclesiastes 7:16 says, “Don’t be too virtuous, and don’t be too wise. Why make yourself miserable?” (GW). This Scripture isn’t talking about genuine righteousness or real wisdom. It’s talking about perfectionism. You can transform any virtue into a vice by taking it to the extreme.

Your worst nag lives under your skin, because you are your own worst critic. (That’s true for all of us!) Since we tend to resent and even dislike people who nag us, if you’re always nagging yourself, what does that say about you? It says that you don’t like yourself. You think you’re not good enough. And you think reminding yourself what’s wrong with you is going to motivate you into doing the right thing. It’s not! That’s called perfectionism, and it causes you to constantly put yourself down.

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren.