The Grace of God

“The Will of God will never take you to where the Grace of God will not protect you.”
-Unknown

Truth be told, not sure why this quote caught my attention this morning as one that would get me back to writing a devotion. But it did. Maybe because in the big scheme of things there is in me, as there is in probably most people, the tension between serving God and the need for security. As well as the tension between God’s will and my own ability to discern what is my will and what is His.

The bottom line is our lives are full of uncertainties, full of questions and doubts. Our lives are also full of grace, and love, and strength. With peace, and confidence. And curiosity. A curiosity which at times will embolden us to step through a door we believe God is leading us.

I am reminded of the quote often associated with the martyr John Bradford –
“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

And also Psalm 124
A song of ascents. Of David.

If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
would have swept us away.
Praise be to the Lord,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

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Until God Is Ready

“When we read of the great Biblical leaders, we see that it was not uncommon for God to ask them to wait, not just a day or two, but for years, until God was ready for them to act.”
Gloria Gaither

Holding Me Back
Photo by Josef Ottosson

I am not putting myself into the category of being a “great Biblical leader” but reading these words this morning gave me cause to ponder. The “until God was ready” part caught my attention.

Without a doubt I have no idea or concept of God’s timing, other than knowing it is always right even though it may not look that way to me. The idea that God might not be ready sounds a bit alarming to me. My earthly concept of not being ready equates to not being prepared or of being caught of guard. These are two attributes I am not associating with my God…one who is omnipotent and omniscient.

God is always ready.

Which means either I’m not ready (which comes as no great surprise) or the situation into which God wants to send me is not ready. In my mind I want to be ready. The picture I have in my head, or at least the one I’d like to have, is I’m ready to go and tackle the world and God is holding me back by my shirt tail, waiting for just the right moment to unleash me on the world.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”
Proverbs 3:5-8

So, the question to be asked is “am I ready?” Am I doing the things I need to be doing so that God can use me when the situation arises? Am I in His Word? Am I in conversation with God by prayer? Have I surrounded myself with His earthly saints? Am I really ready to say “Here I am, Lord, send me” and trust in His him?

My life and yours are accumulations of experiences, knowledge, sensations, wants, desires, emotions and stored up energy. Everything is of value to God. God has used us, is using us, and God will use us is in the lives of others. Let us be ready. Let us “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”, Ephesians 6:10. And you know the exciting part? We don’t always know when we’re ready! Only God knows, and that’s a good thing.

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Those Were The Moments

What if “wanted to” or “felt like it” were taken off the table, and the only option was “had to”?

That was the question going through my mind as I woke up this morning. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to do with it, and I’m still not sure. But I sit here right now seeing how full my life is of “wanted to” and “felt like it”, and how many lives around me are filled with “have to”. People wrestling with cancer and illness. They don’t get a choice about chemo or other types of therapies. Families struggling to put food on the table don’t get a choice of what to have for dinner. Lives filled with things that have to be done…to survive…to help someone else or themselves  just get through a single day. How many of us know hearts and ears that are questioning the words from John 16:33?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Peace.

That’s were my eyes keep going back to as I read those words over and over again. So many lives around me are filled with anything put peace. Pain. Anger. Doubt. Numbness. Struggle. Hmm. That reminds me of a quote I heard last night on Jeopardy from Frederick Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Really? I look at a dear friend, wrestling with cancer, and I wonder where is the progress, Lord? Another friend and family making their way after the loss of a wife and mother. Their lives are filled with things they have to do. Lives filled with struggle, with trouble in one form or another. Then there is Jesus, telling me, you, them, “take heart!”. In the King James, the wording is “be of good cheer”. From The Message – “be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.” Really? How?

WOW! Ding, ding, ding, ding!

I’ve been thinking of the “have to” things as bad things, things I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Yet, and honestly, none of us like hearing this, it is the “have to” things that often bring us closest to Christ. It’s like those “have to” things are the camel going through the eye of the needle. I wish there were other ways. I wish Christ’s voice was as loud in my life when it is filled with “wanted to” and “felt like it.” Yet, when I have no other choice, Christ is still there, waiting patiently.

May there come a day, maybe not until our eternal lives, when we look back and rejoice at the “have to” moments. Those very moments when God felt distant, when we questioned God, were angry at God, doubted God…those moments are not lost. May the moments of our deepest sorrows and anger and doubt be the very ones from which we sing our greatest praise.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28

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Little Time Capsules

Faith Quote“Faith does not eliminate the questions. But faith knows where to take them.”
Elisabeth Elliot

This morning I got a link from Logos Bible Software that was 10 different quote graphics touching on faith. But there was one that stood out to me as I began to think on it. The quote above.

Now, the reason why the quote stuck with me is perhaps the interesting part, for me. To me the quote isn’t so much about MY questions, as it is about me being prepared with an answer. I have a HUGE responsibility. A HUGE opportunity.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
– 1 Peter 3:15-16

As I look back on my life, one which has been short by many measures, I have experienced things that uniquely prepare me to answer my reasons for hope. And the same is true of your life. And not a day goes by where God does not reveal even more reasons, more answers to questions that may be asked of my faith, of my walk with the Lord. Whether we walk through a day where the sun is shining, or the sky is dark and gray or even black (and I’m speaking metaphorically), God is still there, revealing His glory.

May you and I not be so quick to label the things which happen in our lives as “good” or “bad”. Let us not dismiss them as insignificant or too painful to share. These are events and emotions in our lives that are little time capsules, waiting for that moment when they are to be opened by someone who needs their contents. May we view our experiences in terms of how they can grow our faith AND the faith of those around us –

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
— Romans 8:28

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