- Celebrates a new day of life
- Revels in the gifts of color, symmetry, and design at its best
- Brags on the creative ability of a Divine Hand
- Washes the night of its darkness.
Why do I like sunrises better than sunsets? [Read more…]
Why do I like sunrises better than sunsets? [Read more…]
What does light help you do?
We’re now into our fifth session in the book of Ephesians. Today, we’ll look at Ephesians 4:17-5:20. It’s a long passage, full of instructions of how a believer is to live a different kind of lifestyle. In fact, a lifestyle that is as different as light from dark, night from day.
Anyone who has experienced cataracts knows what it’s like to have clouded vision. Have you had cataracts removed? You weren’t so aware of how your vision was deteriorating until you had surgery. Then, once the cataracts were removed, remember how clear everything looked?
I was born with cataracts in a day when doctors didn’t think cataracts could be safely removed from a baby’s eyes. Through eight childhood surgeries, doctors stirred up and broke the cataracts into pieces, believing the cataracts would dissolve on their own. The pieces didn’t; in fact, they remained in my eye, blocking my ability to see clearly. When I had surgery in 2015, the doctor removed the debris and widened my pupil, allowing light to connect with my optic nerve. More light gave me the ability to see more clearly.
How does light help you see more clearly? [Read more…]
Most days are predictable, mundane, routine. I know what I’m doing and I make it happen. Other days, I feel like I’m trudging into a deep fog, slogging through mud, and trying to avoid the obstacles. Everything goes wrong and nothing comes easy. Do you ever have one of those days?
And then there are those marvelous days where I’m equally out of control but every turn seems to be exactly where God wants me to be. It’s like being on Aladdin’s magic carpet, yet it is the winds of God’s spirit the carry me to places He wants me to see. Each of his planned stops is timed more perfectly than a fine Swiss watch piece.
The word grace can mean many things in our English language, definitions that can distract us from the core of its content rich meaning. Even to Christ followers, grace has become as common as communion cups. We’ve consigned it the simplistic explanation that it is a gift from God. It’s so much more than that. It’s an undeserved gift. I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind. Why would the God of the Universe want to give someone like me something I don’t deserve?
In order to wrap our brains around that and try to teach children and new Christians about this wondrous thing, we’ve invented simplified acronyms about this Amazing Grace.
Have you heard this one?
Very true and very concise. It’s what I call a nutshell definition. It’s so well coined that I can rattle it off without stopping to think about what it really means.
Max Lucado says in his book, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine observes that we’ve come to accept a wimpy kind of grace, Ole’ Max nailed that “greater than we imagine” part. Grace is more than a one-time gift even though that in itself would have been awesome and undeserved. Instead, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is only the beginning of grace. An important beginning. A crucial beginning. God, in His love for us, chose to make Amazing Grace much more. A gift that keeps on giving. Something that becomes richer, fuller, and more beautiful the further we go in our Christian walk.
Christ’s death and resurrection blasted open the door to a Heaven-sized bundle of blessings that any allegiance to an outward law code could attain. Yes, acceptance of God’s gift of salvation will bring you to eternity with your Lord. But grace has a lot of work to do within you before you reach Heaven’s gates.
Here’s six things that grace can do for you.
It frees you from having to live a perfectly perfect life before God allows you to live in His inner circle. It frees you from the penalty of sin and the emotional tangle of its entrapment. As Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (Jn 8:36).”
Are you overloaded with guilt from past sin? Afraid you can’t forget? Afraid others won’t forget. According to Jesus, it’s over. He has removed your sin from you as far as the east is from the west, and that’s an awfully long way. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” God’s forgiveness greets you every morning. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, day after day.
Jesus could have just died on the cross, rose from the dead, prepared heaven, and called it good. Instead, in his lavish love and mercy for us, He gives us so much every day that, let’s be honest, we do not deserve. Not one bit. We’re sinners, remember? Every one of us. We’ve rejected Him. We’ve tried to take charge of our own lives. Even after agreeing to follow Him, we’re prone to dally in the ditches and get sidetracked by rabbit trails. Our actions blare that we don’t trust God enough to get us through this thing called life. We whine and complain about the silliest of things, things that would rival the Israelites’ complaints in the desert.
Yet, every morning we awake to a new set of grace-gifts. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Those three are easy and what we commonly think of when we hear the word grace. God doesn’t stop there.
You aren’t just forgiven so you can go back and make the same mistakes again. Nor does God leave you to “try harder” but fall on your face in failure. Throughout the rest of your life, God works with you to change you into His likeness. He gives you the resources to make your life better. The best gift of all is a new heart, a clean heart.
Lucado calls this a spiritual heart transplant. I call it WOW! Ezekiel 11:19 says, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” Do you know someone whose life radically turned around when they became a Christian? Point proven. That’s what grace does. Grace gives you a brand-new set of motivations. You no longer do what is right, good, and beneficial because you have to. You do it because you want to. God’s grace fuels you to move forward toward right living.
This is the one that I have a tough time wrapping my brain around. It’s amazing that God blesses me, wants to walk with me, and is crazy in love with me. Beyond that, He chooses to live inside me through His Spirit, to incorporate His spiritual DNA into mine. Some believe this indwelling of the Holy Spirit gives them the power and freedom to worship God at a new level. Forgive me, but that is oh so pea-sized limiting. God’s partnership with us is so much more.
Because grace dwells within me, I don’t have to try to live a God-pleasing life by my own strength. God isn’t just helping me live righteously; He’s living that righteous life through me. Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “Not I but Christ who lives within me.” Lucado says, “God expects us to change then gives us the power to pull it off.”
Why did God choose to do it that way? His glory shines through the sin-cracks of my life in such a way that others see Him in me and desire to draw closer to His grace. Anything I do for Him and because of Him is through Him, not through my own limited effort. How do we live by grace and not by merit? Ah ha! Here it is. We live by grace because grace lives inside us.
We’re given a power that transforms our lives to represent His righteousness. We’re also empowered through grace-gifts unique to each believer that enables us to reach God-sized dreams.
God calls us to do an impossible task. He asks us to tell the gospel message to all nations using gifts He will give us. No one is packaged quite like you. You have a highly specialized task that only you can do and you’ve been given a designer toolbox with your name on it. Check out Romans 12:6-8. Don’t stress too much on which of twelve or fourteen spiritual gifts is yours. The point of these verse is that you use what God has given you in the best way you can for His glory.
When you give in to God’s gift for you, the best parade in all the world will march right down the street of your life blaring God’s grace and glory to anyone who is watching and listening. Won’t that be amazing?
How has God’s grace benefited you today? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.