A quality of grace

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. ~Romans 3:20-24 (ESV)

Holiness is a gift of grace. Its quality cannot be imitated or faked. If I try to act them out people will sense my inauthenticity, for these gifts come from walking intimately with God.

How can I cultivate such qualities of grace in my life? It would be nice if there were detailed directions written in a book, or a course that I could take that would guarantee to make me a saint. But, of course, it is not that simple. It is not just a matter of reading the right book, or participating in the perfect Bible study, it is a matter of values, of commitment, and more than anything else, of love~ love for the God who created me and who has called to me to follow Him.

Thank You for the gift of grace, O Lord. Help me to walk intimately this day with You. May my commitments and values reflect Your love in my life. May I show my love for You in how I love others. Amen.

Who I am

A father holds his child's hand: but what's his digit ratio?

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.~ Eph. 5:1-2 (ESV)

My identity as a beloved child of God embraces both who I am now and who I am becoming. I am infinitely loved by God who has blessed me with unique gifts. Through the gifts He has given me I am being renewed in His divine image that I am to bear back into the world. How I bear His message is unique to me.

My core identity, the one that exists despite the choices and mistakes that I have made in life, comes with particular gifts. Individual gifts and graces are an expression of God’s love to me and a confirmation of my belovedness. I am not like anyone else. I do not think, act or serve like anyone else. God’s love sets me wholly free to be myself and free to be for others the image of a loving God.

Heavenly Father, Thank You for walking hand in hand with me through life’s journey. Even when I detour from the path you would You would have me follow, I find You still with me. Thank You for Your whispers guiding me back. Help me to bear Your love to the world as my sacrifice of thanks. May my love for You grow ever stronger. Amen.

What’s in a name

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. ~1 John 3:2 (ESV)

What’s in a name? It is easy to see the names or labels we don’t like about ourselves. When I was ten and a teacher was waving my test paper and telling my mom that I was lazy for not spelling a word correctly that was at the top of the page, I interpreted the situation to mean that I was stupid. I didn’t “see” that the word was misspelled. The result of living with some things just not clicking has turned me into a very hard worker. That has at times come to benefit me. I have learned to work around the things that I cannot do. But the pain from moments like those can sometimes be a huge stumbling block when I find myself in new situations. It can cause stress when God calls me to go and do things out of my comfort zone and I worry about what all I won’t be able to “see”.

But then God reminds me that I am not seeing things correctly. That I need to see myself through His eyes. God does not see me as stupid. He sees that I am creative in my approach to problems. God does not see me as lazy. He understands when sometimes I don’t understand things. He is the One person who can see me so completely and still love me unconditionally. I am totally known by Him. God recognizes that I am not perfect. He loves me anyway. This total acceptance by Him leaves me in awe and wonder. How can someone see me as I am AND see me as all the possibilities I could be? I am not limited by what has come before me. I am not defined by what others say. I am a child of God. That is the name I claim today.

Dear God, thank You for making me a possibility. Thank You for believing in me when I couldn’t believe in myself. Walk with me this day and be the confidence I need to be Your hands and feet in this world. Turn my pain into sight. Fill the holes in my heart with Your love. Help me accept the things that You see as wonderful. Help me accept that I am uniquely Yours. Help me to hear when You say I am beautiful. Amen.

 

 

 

Faith to see yourself in God’s eyes

You are from God, little children, and you have defeated these people because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. ~1 John 4:4

It is so easy to judge ourselves by what others think of us. I often forget that my true value is through God’s eyes. My value is not from the people who surround me. If I base my significance on what others think I can be lifted up as high as the sky by their praise or I can find myself plummeting quickly be their disapproval. This creates such a roller-coaster effect on my emotions and is very dangerous to my well-being.

Instead I need to look in the Bible to find my self-worth. Who does the Bible say I am? If I look through the Bible I can find many references. One of my favorite verses on “who I am in Christ” comes from Romans 5:1 “Because of Christ and His redemption, I am completely forgiven and fully pleasing to God. I am totally accepted by God. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” My favorite part of that verse is that I am accepted by God, just as I am. No, I am not perfect. Whether I am at my best or at my worst I am still totally accepted by God. That is not always true of fellow humans. If I based my significance on others approval I begin to fear rejection. My fear of rejection can begin to control me and my self-worth. My dependence on others for value brings bondage and darkness.

God doesn’t want us living in darkness so He sent Jesus into the world to seek out those who find themselves in bondage. He came to speak truths to our heart about God’s love and acceptance. Taking this truth into our heart brings freedom and joy. I want to live in the light where freedom from bondage of what others think of me exists. I want joy in my life so I hold a simple truth in my heart, “I am a beloved child of God” (Gal 4:7). The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear (Psalm 27:1)

May I live securely in Your love and acceptance of me oh Lord. Help me this day to remember that my relationship with You is what matters above all others opinions. Hide deep in my heart Your truths of who I am through You. Amen.

So that my joy is complete

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God. Whoever loves someone who is a parent loves the child born to the parent. This is how we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep God’s commandments. This is the love of God: we keep God’s commandments. God’s commandments are not difficult, because everyone who is born from God defeats the world. And this is the victory that has defeated the world: our faith. Who defeats the world? Isn’t it the one who believes that Jesus is God’s Son? ~1 John 5:1-6(CEB)

“How do I know that I love God?” “How does God want me to live?” “How do I know that I belong to God?” 1 John 5:1-6 tells me, everyone who believes that Jesus is Christ has been born from God. God wants me to love all His children. I show my love of others and of God by keeping God’s commandments.

This isn’t the only scripture speaking to me of God’s love and how I should remain in His love. John 15:9-12 says “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.”

So I show my love of God by keeping His commandment (1John 5:2). What is His commandment? Love each other just as I have loved you (John 15:12). In verse 13 of John 15 Jesus tells His disciples “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” How much did Jesus love me? Jesus died on the cross so that I might live. Wow, and I am to show that much love to others? How do I die to self so that others might know Jesus’ love? One thing is time I give up to serve others, to I help the hungry, to minister to the lost. When I put self on a shelf even for a little while, I find myself in Christ’s love as I become his hands and feet to those around me. Verse 11 of John 15 tells us that Jesus has told us these things so that our joy might be complete.

Heavenly Father, I want to find myself in Your love this day. Help me set my own wants and desires aside when someone’s need is great. Give me eyes that I may see these needs. Give me a heart to love others as You would have me love. Amen.

We are family

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me ~Matt. 18:5 (ESV)

We all know the importance of a parent’s love. I was adopted by my father at 3 years of age. He holds a special place in my heart. He didn’t have to love me. Some would have considered me the unwanted baggage in a second marriage. But he didn’t. Not only did he love my mother, he loved me too. He is the only father I have ever known. God used him to fill the hole that my biological father left behind. Not only did my father love me but he also planted the seeds of knowledge that would help me to know that I am a beloved child of God.

God places people in our lives for us to share His love with. God makes families. Sometimes it might not be with the family you start life with. Sometimes we gather family members as we move though this world. John 18:14 says “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”

I am part of a large family. God has come to me through many mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers of faith.

Heavenly Father, thank You for not leaving me as an orphan. Thank You for those You have sent to be Your arms to hug me, Your feet to guide me, Your voice of confirmation and Your eyes of adoration. Help me to see those whom You have placed along my path for me to love for You. Fill me with Your love to the point that I overflow. Fill me so that I may love Your children. Amen.

 

 

To live a life of love

For those who want to love life and see good days should keep their tongue from evil speaking and their lips from speaking lies. ~1 Peter 3:10

The words we speak can be a blessing or a curse. Once words are unleashed they can never be retrieved. We can ask for forgiveness for the words we have said but we can never take them back. How differently would we live our lives if we thought about this fact before we ever said a word? If I thought ahead how hurtful my words might be before I say them would I ever say them in the first place? Often I think I would not. What is said out of anger or carelessness many times brings regrets and deep sorrows.

I want to live a life of love. I want to see good days. If this means that I need to slow down my own reaction to situations before I respond, if it means that I need to not take offense so quickly then I want to work harder on my part of the picture. I want to take that deep breath before I let words fly. I want to think about the reason the other person may have acted or said what they said. I want to be a solution not an aggravation to the problem.

I can think of a relationship or two that I have lost because I did not slow down and think ahead. Misunderstandings can have disastrous results. Some bridges can never be mended. I don’t want to live a life full of regrets or long for relationships that could have been different. I want to live and love as Jesus would have me do.

Heavenly Father, help me to guard my words. May the words that I speak be carefully thought through. May I be known as a reflection of your love even in the things that I say this day. Amen.

Joy in the moment

A joyful heart helps healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones ~Proverbs 17:22 (CEB)

Looking at the big picture can seem overwhelming sometimes. Too many times I forget to live in the moment. I see the bigger picture looming ahead of me and I don’t see my son’s little dances, don’t feel my daughter’s hugs or appreciate my husband sitting on the porch swing with me. I forget to smell the jasmine, to see my blooming flowers or my vegetable garden grow. I forget to laugh at my dog as she takes serious her task of chasing the rabbits. I forget to listen to the bird’s songs or listen as the wind rustles the leaves.

Seeing things piece by piece and searching for the joy in the moment helps to lighten my day. When I get to worrying about all the things that I have no power to fix at this moment, those things that are out of my control, I allow those things to steal the simple joys from my heart. Missing out on these simple things soon finds my spirit hurting.

God doesn’t want me to live with the weight of the world on my shoulders. He has put things in my path to help me enjoy life. He created flowers and bird songs for my enjoyment. He gave me my family for comfort and love. May I remember each day to appreciate all that he has blessed me with down to the simplest and smallest of details.

Heavenly Father, help me to remember to stop and smell the flowers, to hear the birds sing, to hug my family. May I not take any of these joys for granted. May they ever be fresh on my heart. Amen.

Simple things

So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith. ~Galatians 6:10 (CEB)

A smile and a kind word, I would say that this is my mother’s ministry. I grew up with my mother always smiling at those she met and giving a kind word. It seems like such a simple thing. It seems that it couldn’t really make a difference, but I have seen many eye light up when my mother smiles.

Often I forget that we are called even in the little things of life to serve Christ. If I put on God’s eyes and look around, His ears and listen, He is calling me to reach out every day even in the little things. Acknowledging a cashier and asking them about their day, holding open the door for someone, letting someone ahead of me in line who only has a couple of items, a smile, these are all things that I can do to serve Christ. Sometimes these “small things” can impact someone greatly. I will probably never know how my small actions may impact someone’s life this day but I am called to be Christ even in the small things that I do.

Lord may I not be so caught up with my own life that I forget to look out beyond myself. May I notice those around me with a smile and a kind word today. Amen.

My cross to bear

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? ~Matthew 16:24-26 (CEB)

“Jesus says, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him . . . take us his cross and follow me’ (Matt 16:24). He does not say, ‘Make a cross’ or ‘Look for a cross.’ Each of us has a cross to carry. There is no need to make one or look for one. The cross we have is hard enough for us! But are we willing to take it up, to accept it as our cross?

Maybe we can’t study, maybe we are handicapped, maybe we suffer from depression, maybe we experience conflict in our families, maybe we are victims of violence or abuse. We didn’t choose any of it, but these things are our crosses. We can ignore them, reject them, refuse them or hate them. But we can also take up these crosses and follow Jesus with them.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen

There are many things that I have gone through that I would not have chosen if I had been given the choice. There are many things that I wish I had realized what the consequences would be by what I had chosen. But I have enough years behind me now to see how God can take all of my life and use it for His glory. Not even my tears are wasted. That is the choice I have now. The choice to embrace all if it. The good and the bad and follow Jesus with them.

Heavenly Father, give me the strength I need this day to take up my cross and follow Jesus where ever He leads me. Help me to accept the cross I bear as mine. Help me to embrace it all and be whole. Amen.

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