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Unexpected Grace

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With all the current mudslinging going on in the political arena, it’s refreshing to post some inspiring news about people who touch our life and often go unmentioned.

One such person is my longtime friend, Charlie, a retired engineer and owner of every foodie appliance on the market not to mention being an expert gardening by Google guru. He enjoys sharing his infinite knowledge, (at least what I believe to be infinite), about making home-brewed beers, sauerkraut varietals, roasted coffee beans and a plethora of ways to smoke meats and cheeses…and so much more.

Charlie grew up in Louisville and relocated to Michigan after college. In that transition our friendship blossomed and he became what I describe as a friend in all seasons. I can consistently count on him to be there whenever there is a need. It’s an unearned, cherished friendship not taken for granted.

Recently Charlie attended an autumn dinner celebration at my home and brought a bountiful variety of sauerkraut for us to taste.  True to form, he shared his usual myriad of information about everything imaginable but it was what happened after dinner that captured my attention.

Olivia, my middle school granddaughter, needed help with math homework.  From the get-go I was useless. Poppy and her mamma threw up their hands even though both were math minor graduates. And then, there was Charlie. The engineer I knew to be a whiz at math, even by today’s new math standards.

My heart swelled with appreciation as I listened to Charlie patiently coach and instruct Olivia in how to solve each math problem. I was reminded why I chose him to be a lifelong friend. It was a moment that substantiated the benevolence of mankind if we take a moment to part the waters of our bigotry, hatred and animosity of our political differences.

With homework finished, a very tired Olivia headed home with a heart full of gratitude for someone who took time to touch her life in an unexpected way. It was just homework to us, but to my granddaughter, it was much more than that.  It was the unearned, cherished help from someone in a time of need. In that moment, I caught a glimpse of the unmerited grace that Christ shows us every day of our life. It may not be help with a math equation, but it is most definitely help with a life equation.

Today’s Prayer:

Thank you, God, for using Charlie to illustrate the true meaning of your grace in the most unexpected place and time. I pray that each of us takes time from our busy life to showcase those individuals that touch the lives of others and go unmentioned.

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Stuck in the Mud

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Sometimes in life we find ourselves in a mud pit spinning our wheels and getting nowhere.  No matter how much effort we put into moving forward in life and overcoming challenges we are stuck; we’re in a funk and can’t get to where we need to be or want to go.

I’ve been immobilized in mud many times for many reasons and there key questions to be asked when that happens.

  • Am I secretly coveting the life of someone else?

How we see another person’s life is one dimensional. We don’t know what’s going on in the shadows. It’s futile to desire the lifestyle, job, wealth or relationships of others. If you choose to do so, the only place you will go is the mud pit.

Looking from the outside paints a deceptive facade of what chaos, agony and personal pain this person may be suffering on the inside.

  • Am I waiting for someone or something to change life for me?

If that is your mindset, you will remain in the mud pit. Only you with God’s help can bring change. If you want to get moving again then shift your life into four-wheel drive. That requires you, not others, to assume responsibility for your emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.

What does that require?

  • Refuse to play the blame game. What has happened in the past is just that, the past. Your focus should be the future.
  • Switch it up and change your routine. A change of venue is a powerful tool to change your mindset and see life from a different perspective.
  • Stop making assumptions based on past experiences. Realize you are empowered to forge new experiences, change your course and choose your fate.

 

  • Have I invested in mud flaps?

If you are spinning your wheels in mud, you’re going to need some mud flaps to keep the backlash of those who have no interest in YOUR destination but are quick to offer opinions, judgment and their point of view. Mud flaps guard our vision from the dirt and debris that life throws our way. They keep us from being directionally challenged so we don’t end up in the mud pit.

I got mine for free by asking God. The set includes: Guidance of the Holy Spirit (guidance), the Word of God (intervention), Prayer (road-side assistance) and fellowship with other Christian believers (support). It’s a free-standing offer that I highly recommend.

  • Have I learned to say no?

Don’t be afraid to rearrange your priorities a bit and make “no” a more commonly used word in your vocabulary. The ability to say ‘no’ reflects you are in the driver’s seat of your life and empowers you to avoid the mud pits and navigate life according to God’s plan.

There are times that God deliberately places us in a mud pit to reform and transform us for a greater purpose. When we stop focusing on our circumstances (stop spinning our wheels) and focus on Him we find rest, encouragement and renewed passion.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
(Ps. 32:8)

If are currently in a stuck in the mud season of life, I encourage you to fully, completely, and absolutely surrender your own will and seek God’s. Let go of the lies, shame, worry, doubt, comparing yourself to others and take hold of your grace-filled pardon.

Dare to dance to the unique rhythm God has fashioned for your life and invest in mud flaps.

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Maybe Later

Pop-noworlaterups on electronic devices have become a way of life. From software updates to renewal notices to you left something in your online shopping cart…the list is endless. The alerts are always followed by the question: Now or Maybe Later?

I tend to go for the ‘Maybe Later’ option. Who has time in their busy life to stop and take care of something you can postpone until another time? The alerts continue to pop-up on a regular basis, some even ask in how many days or weeks I would like to receive a reminder. I pick some date in the distant future and move on with my life.

Did you know that Jesus sends pop-up alerts?

It could happen while reading God’s Word, during a devotional, a sermon heard, words spoken or the death of a loved one. It’s a warning that tugs at the soul to get things right with God before it’s too late.

“…Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2

We believe there is plenty of time to get things right with God and ample time to ask forgiveness and accept God’s generous plan of salvation for our life. And then, without warning, the pop-up offers expires; we die.

Every minute 105 people die worldwide and those statistics are only deaths that can be documented. If you’ve been choosing the ‘Maybe Later’ option for accepting Jesus into your life, you might want to reconsider. The offer expires at death and we all fully aware that death can happen at any time without warning.

Are you ready or have you been ignoring all the pop-up messages God is sending you?

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What’s Your Ticket to Heaven?

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All the love in the world cannot and will not get you into heaven. The world would like us to believe that church membership, love for humanity, devotion to humanitarian causes and good deeds will add points to gaining a ticket to heaven and eternal life.

WRONG! Sorry to burst your bubble, but only a personal relationship with Jesus will get you through the pearly gates. Oh how we like to envision that everyone who is ‘good’ and passes into the hereafter is heaven bound; but based on bible scriptures and the words of Jesus, it just isn’t true.

The enemy of this world, Satan, is a master of deceit and has convinced many that our ticket to heaven is by our good works. Our only way to eternal life comes only through our acceptance of God’s grace. Good deeds and efforts are meaningless to God if we haven’t put our faith in Jesus.

What is God’s grace?

God sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross and shed his blood in payment for our sin. It is that sacrifice alone and a soul stamped with the blood of Jesus that gains us entry into the gates of heaven.

“But we know that no one is made right with God by meeting the demands of the law. It is only through the faithfulness of Jesus the Anointed that salvation is even possible. This is why we put faith in Jesus the Anointed: so we will be put right with God. It’s His faithfulness—not works prescribed by the law—that puts us in right standing with God because no one will be acquitted and declared “right” for doing what the law demands.”  Galatians 2:16 (VOICE)

Say what? Let me clarify.

The above scripture and many others confirm this truth. Our good works are meaningless to God if we believe them to be a redemptive way to earn our way into heaven. Not happening!

It’s God’s grace and faithfulness, not our works that acquits us of our sin and gives us right standing before God. Grace is found in the death, burial and resurrection of His son, Jesus. Our acceptance of this grace is called salvation.

Faithfulness is an extension of God’s grace to continually work within our life to accomplish his purpose and goodwill. Only by doing HIS works for HIS purpose under HIS grace is anything we do counted righteous.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
Proverbs 19:21

I encourage everyone to do good works while living on earth. But if you are counting on your works to earn you a seat at the banquet table in heaven, think again.

The only way to get a ticket stamped for heaven is to accept Jesus as your savior and acknowledge that His blood sacrifice at the cross is your only redemption from sin.

Remember the thief next to Jesus on the cross?

In death he asked Jesus “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42) This thief had likely done nothing good in his lifetime, yet he was given admission into God’s kingdom by grace alone.

“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43

It’s hard for us to accept that there is nothing we can do now or ever to earn the grace of God. It goes against everything this world tells us. Yet, that’s the beauty of grace, it’s a gift.  We can’t buy, earn or barter with grace. Our only option is to accept it.

What will be stamped on your ticket at death?

Will it read Redeemed by God’s Grace or Redeemed by my own self-worth and good works? It’s probably a question you should ask yourself sooner than later. No one knows the time of their death but, today, as you read this post you have been given an opportunity to buy your ticket to heaven in advance, before it expires.

people are destined to die once and then face (God’s) judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

God’s judgment is based on your acceptance of His grace, on the salvation He offers through His son, Jesus. It’s simple, direct and without fanfare.

This simple prayer, if prayed in earnest, sums it all up:

Heavenly Father,

Make yourself real to me. Your Word says if I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead, I will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

I believe Jesus died on the cross for the sin that separates me from having direct communication with you. His blood paid for the redemption of my soul. I want my death ticket to be insured, non-refundable and stamped REDEEMED by the blood of the Lamb.

From this day forward, let my actions, words and deeds be counted as righteous in your sight.

Amen

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When God Lifts the Fog

fog

As the fog lifts from the lake this morning, I am reminded of how God lifts the fog from our life when we seek Him with all our heart.

What does ‘all our heart’ imply?

I believe it is a quest of the soul to discover the depth and breadth of God’s desire to lead us into a personal relationship with Him. It’s that simple. When we allow God to get intimate with our soul, He lifts the fog that hinders us from seeing the fullness of His redemptive powers.

What are His redemptive powers and how does that relate to our life?

In more ways than you might think or have considered.

Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross ransomed us from sin. It opened the floodgates of Heaven so we can stand reconciled before the throne of God. It means God is attentive to every aspect of our life because our soul has been given “sky priority” status and stamped with His seal of grace.

The heart (meaning soul) of mankind is inherently evil due to sin. Sin is our disobedience to God’s plan for us.  All the good deeds in the world will never make amends for that broken relationship. Thankfully, God’s love for us is beyond our comprehension. He gifted us redemption through the death of his Son Jesus on the cross.

It is through the blood Christ shed and His resurrection that we are given access to redemptive powers in our life. They are freely given to all mankind and the only requirement is to genuinely ask Jesus to become the ruler of our heart (soul).

What does that mean?

It means God’s truth must dwell within our heart and we give Jesus full rights to call our heart His home. If you want the fog lift, you must empty your heart of ‘you’ and pursue Jesus. Only then will the redemptive powers of God be operational in your life.

To love God with all our soul requires us to relinquish all ownership of self. It’s a process of realigning our understanding to God’s understanding. That’s not easy and it requires us to die to ‘self’ daily.

How do we die to self?

Prayer and ingesting God’s Word (the Bible) are the tools needed to lift the fog that surrounds our life. It sounds easy, yet harder than you think. The opposing force of darkness (Satan) seeks to engulf us in a mist of fog that prevents us from seeing the keeper of the lighthouse.

Our soul must be replenished and realigned from our understanding to God’s understanding. To lift our spiritual fog is an incremental process and one I struggle with daily. It requires effort, desire and time on my part, but when God lifts the fog, there are no regrets.

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CHANCE MEETING or DIVINELY APPOINTED?

God has Diviinely Appointed our LifeAre brief encounters with others a chance meeting or divinely appointed? Are there hallowed moments implanted in our path of life that intersect with others for a divine purpose; moments of which we are unaware, but God-ordained to intervene and change the fate of someone else? I believe the answer is YES!

He has an appointed time to every purpose under heaven. (Ecclesiastics 3:1)

The key word is Purpose

God has designed a perfect plan for our life but in disobedience we follow our own ways. In the process, we end up on a course God never intended for us to pursue. We live in an imperfect world where sin entices and lures certain areas of our life into dark alleys that lead us away from the individual, perfect plan God designed for us.

Every moment of our life is chaperoned by God and He uses chance meetings with others to redirect our steps. No matter how often we deviate from God’s plan, He takes action to divinely redirect our steps and put us back on course to fulfill His purpose.

Staying on Course

I’ve abandoned God’s perfect plan more times than I care to count. There have been marriages, jobs, moves, friendships and choices that required intervention and chance meetings with others to alter the direction I was headed.

There have also been chance meetings when God uses me to unknowingly incite a change of direction for someone who has fallen off course and needs to be reconciled with their God-given purpose.

Whether you are a believer in Christ, or not, everything that happens in your life has a purpose. From the beginning of time, everything is divinely orchestrated by God for a specific purpose; a purpose which only He knows. Unbelief and human efforts won’t change those chance meetings God ordains in an effort to point you in the direction of His saving grace.

Today’s Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for divinely appointing a purpose for my life even before I was conceived. The greatness of your love is unconceivable. You chaperone every moment of life to ensure I stay on the path you have individually designed for me; you desire to make all my ways perfect.

“It is God that girds me with strength, and makes my way perfect.”
Psalms 18:32

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What’s Your Nemesis?

chain breakerWe all have a nemesis in life; something that is very difficult to defeat or conquer. It could be anything from an addiction, to pride in our accomplishments, or shame about our failures.

We aren’t perfect, never will be and there’s nothing we can do about it apart from accepting the saving grace God imparted to us through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Whatever the source of your nemesis chances are good that it will eventually incite feelings of anguish, moments of regret and lead to destructive behavior. Yet, our nemesis can become a powerful tool with life changing results when placed in the hands of God.

Our faith deepens when we confess our weaknesses and genuinely seek repentance and willingly desire to change our ways to avoid a repeat of our current circumstances. As believers in Christ, we are continually learning to follow God’s ways and abandon our sinful nature.

Along the way we are pursued by and often fall prey to our nemesis. We conquer one only to find a surrogate nipping at our heels. Until our last breath, the process of ‘becoming’ like Christ is ongoing. Your nemesis today may not be your nemesis six months from now.

However, what doesn’t change is how God uses our shortcomings, failures and disobedience to reshape, disciple and create us into His likeness. The only requirement is a repentant heart, a desire to turn from sin and the willingness to seek restoration with God.

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Lord, my imperfections and moments of defeat are what draw me near to you. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to redeem me from the consequences of my sin and love me as the imperfect person that I am.

Break the chains of my nemesis to accomplish a divine purpose in my life as I lay it at the foot of the cross.
AMEN

He’s a Chain Breaker song lyrics by Zach Williams

 

If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles
If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies
If you’re trying to feel the same old holes inside
There’s a better life
There’s a better life

If you’ve got pain
He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost
He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving
He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you’ve got chains
He’s a chain breaker

We’ve all search for the light of day in the dead of night
We’ve all found ourselves worn out from the same old fight
We’ve all run to things we know just ain’t right
And there’s a better life
There’s a better life…