Tag Archives: grace

God is looking for you

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When the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy.  Titus 3:4-5

 

According to Genesis 3:9, the first thing God asked Adam and Eve after they sinned was, “Where are you?”  Adam and Eve were hiding and had covered themselves with fig leaves.  They were now separated from their walks with God in the cool of the evening and were probably filled with shame.  But God called them out.  He went looking for them.

That’s what God does for all of us.  He’s that kind of God.  In John 1:38-39 Jesus did the same thing.  John the Baptist had just announced to his followers, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Andrew and John were there and it was their first meeting with Jesus.  Jesus asked them, “What are you seeking?”  They asked where He was staying and He said, “Come and you will see.”  Jesus invited them to get to know Him, and  He wanted to get to know them.

I must stay at your house todayYou might think that if it was you standing there, Jesus wouldn’t have invited you over.  Not you.  Check out Luke 19 and the story of Zacchaeus.  He was a tax collector, which was synonymous with crook and outcast.  Jesus was passing through Jericho and everyone wanted to see Him.  There was such a crowd that Zacchaeus had to climb a tree to get a view.  Out of the entire crowd of people, Jesus looked up to Zacchaeus, called him by name, and told Zacchaeus that He wanted to go to his house.  Zacchaeus was looking for Jesus and Jesus was looking for him.

Luke 19:10 sums it all up: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Our power verse says the same thing.  The goodness and kindness of God appeared in the form of Jesus and He saved us.  He came looking for us.  Do you suppose it was a coincidence in John 4 that Jesus just happened to run into the woman at the well?  I think Jesus went at that time and sent the disciples to town to look for food because He was looking for her.  In 2 Chronicles 16:9 it says that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro, looking to support those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.  I would say to those who are calling out to Him.  When we call out to God in our desperacy and loneliness, contempt and hunger, He finds us.  God sends someone to point you to Him.

Because of God’s goodness, kindness and mercy, He keeps calling to us, “Where are you?” when we sin and hide.  We might be hiding in work, in shopping, in partying, or in obscurity.  But God calls us out.  He doesn’t want us to be covered with fig leaves, our own way of taking care of the consequences of our sin.  He wants us to be covered by his provision, the blood of Jesus.  When we think God doesn’t see us, or know our name, or know what we’ve been through, He does.  And He picks us out of the crowd and announces, “I’m coming to your house, so get out of that tree.”

One more Biblical example.  Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples and he blew it when Jesus needed him the most.  Peter denied that he knew Jesus when Jesus was arrested and facing the kangaroo courts.  Peter said, “I don’t know Him.”  Now Jesus has risen and Peter has to face his denial.  Jesus didn’t wait for Peter to come to Him to fess up.  I’m guessing Peter didn’t even know how to fix it and wondered if Jesus could ever use such a coward.

Not so.  In John 21 we find the opposite.  Peter and the guys were out fishing, most likely wondering what their lives were going to look like now.  They see a guy on the shore and He says, “Cast the net on the right side,” and boom!  They catch 153 fish after getting blanked the whole night.  Peter was the first to shout, “It’s Jesus!”  Peter ran through the waist deep water to get to Him.  And there was a breakfast of fish waiting for them, their favorite.

Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him.  He asked three times.  It was through that dialogue that Jesus restored Peter and told him, “Feed my sheep.”  In other words, “I’ve got a plan for you.  I’m not benching you.  I love you.”

It’s the kindness, goodness and mercy of God at work in your life to enable you to call out to Him.  He’s calling out to you. He has saved you, and you can rejoice.  Not only that, but you can tell others. Psalm 40:9-10 reads, I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as You know, O Lord.  I have not hidden Your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness from the great congregation.

 

*Photo from the Brook Network


Do your prayers sound like this?

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And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to HIm.  Colossians 1:9-10a

Most of the time my prayers do not sound like  Paul’s prayers.  But when I really want to see someone grow in their Christian life, I borrow these words.  They really distill what we need to have to make it spiritually.  And when I’m stuck on how to pray for myself, I do the same.  Let’s take his prayer apart:

Being filled with the knowledge of God’s will.  According to quora.com, the average adult makes around 35,000 choices a day.  Just try to order a sandwich from “Subway” and you’ll notch about 30 choices.  It would be really nice to get a little note from God with our directions for the day.  Instead of getting that, we get the Holy Spirit who is always with us to guide us.  God, direct me today so I know I’m doing what You want me to do.

In all spiritual wisdom and understanding.   Just this last week I encountered a situation with a difficult parent where I needed God’s wisdom regarding how to respond to her bullying and berating.  I asked God for understanding what she really is angry at and how to stop butting heads with her.  God is not like a magic eight ball that gives immediate answers, but I trust that He will speak ideas into my heart and mind as I proceed.  Take your most difficult situation that is facing you and ask God for His wisdom and understanding.  

So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.  In the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” the character played by Tom Hanks, Captain Miller,  dies in his mission to save Private Ryan, the only son left in his family.  James Ryan went back to Normandy to Captain Miller’s grave.  Ryan stood by his grave and said, My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day, I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope it was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.” (From http://www.thesource4ym.com/movieclipdiscussions)

We don’t have to earn anything related to what Jesus has done for us.  That’s what grace is all about.  Private Ryan  felt a strong gratitude and had a  sense of purpose in life because of the sacrifice made for him.   We need to live our lives with a different purpose and sense of value because we know that Jesus  gave up His life for us.

Fully pleasing to Him.  If we do something that God instructs us to do, then we’ll be pleasing to Him.  That’s what obedience is.  If we don’t do something that we know God has commanded us not to do, the same is true.  If you want to please God, obey Him.  That’s what Samuel told King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold to obey is better than sacrifice.”

May you be filled with the knowledge of God’s will today,  along with gaining wisdom and understanding from His Holy Spirit who is at work in you.  May God direct your steps and give you ideas, creativity and skill that comes from Him.  May you walk differently because you belong to Jesus, being filled with gratitude because of His sacrifice for you.  And may you please God by being obedient to Him.   May you turn from sinful ways and delight in doing things God’s way.  


People pleasers vs. God pleasers

 

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For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.  Galatians 1:10

The following is a partial list from Vicki Champion (vickichampion.com) on characteristics of a chronic people pleaser:

  1. Automatically Says YES when they want to say NO.
  2. Experiences exhaustion from trying to be “perfect.”
  3. Thinks that if they “do” the right thing they will be “accepted” or “loved.”
  4. Fear risk or that they might be wrong.
  5. Bankrupts themselves because they feel undeserving.
  6. Says “I’m sorry” when no apology is necessary.
  7. Believe others’ happiness is their responsibility. 
  8. Chooses to be nice over being real.
  9. Never has enough time.
  10. Lives with irritability because of constant pressure.
  11. Tries to control everything for everyone with no regard for his or her self.
  12. Wonders why they get so little respect and everyone takes advantage of them.

Now let’s try a list of things that would characterize a God pleaser.

  1. Uses the Bible as their  guide, not what is popular or politically correct.
  2. Obeys God rather than men.
  3. Knows that they answer to God and looks to Him  wholeheartedly.   
  4. Makes it their aim to please God.
  5. Makes the most of their time, gaining wisdom from God and guidance from the Holy Spirit.  
  6. Puts God first.  
  7. Understands grace, meaning that they  don’t have to earn approval or work for their salvation.  What Jesus did was enough, so they walk in freedom.  
  8. Doesn’t worry about being liked and is willing to suffer for the sake of the Gospel.

That’s just the beginning of what it looks like to be a God pleaser.   I know people who are Christians that don’t have this figured out.  They are always busy with silly things  and don’t end up having enough time for church or Bible studies.  They do things because they think it wouldn’t look right if they didn’t, being more concerned about what others think than with praying and asking God what He thinks.  I don’t like being around them because I feel like they are trying to control me or that they have an agenda for me and I’m a pawn in that agenda.

There is a bondage connected to striving in the flesh to please others rather than God. Galatians 5:1 tells us that there is freedom in being a God pleaser, resting in His grace.  Paul wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  Be free!


God’s abundant grace that enables our obedience

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And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  2 Corinthians 9:8

This last summer I read a book by a Chinese man, Bob Fu called “God’s Double Agent.”  It’s a great story about his path to finding Jesus in the midst of communist China where this was not allowed politically.  He and his wife named their first daughter “Fengsheng de endian” which is abundant grace in Chinese.  Abundant means rich, plentiful, luxuriant and full of substance.  That name has stuck with me since.  To name a child ‘Abundant Grace’ is so awesome.

Paul wrote in Romans 1:5,We have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations.”  It was only by God’s grace that Paul became an apostle and was able to do the things he did.  One of the meanings of grace (besides it being an undeserved gift) is God’s enabling power that He gives to us to do what we are called to do.

It is also God’s enabling power to obey by faith, to have the kind of faith that leads to obedience.  If we do what we do in our own strength, we get the glory.  If we do what we’re called to do by God’s enabling power and grace, He gets the glory and we get the help.  And as Romans 1:5 states, we get God’s abundant grace to bring glory to God’s great name among all the nations.

Let’s break that down a little.  One of my all time favorite movies is “Chariots of Fire.”  In the movie Eric Liddle tells his sister in his lilting Scottish brogue,  “I know God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast.  And when I run I feel His pleasure.”  When Eric acted on the longings God gave to him, Eric glorified God.  God gives different people different longings.  When we obey those longings and walk in them, He gives us the grace to make what we do look easy.

For some, it is motherhood.  That is the longing of their heart and they do it incredibly well with the enabling grace that God provides.   But using motherhood as an example, it isn’t an end in itself.  According to Romans 1:5, God gives mothers the grace to be good mothers not to put their children on a throne and to be absorbed by endless soccer games and scrapbooking to chronicle their every day.  He does it to bring glory to His name through families, with the end of making His great name known among the nations.

Just how a family, a mother or an individual will bring God glory will be revealed by God as they  faithfully, obediently and Jesus-centeredly live out their lives.  And as we call on Him, He will pour out His abundant grace that enables us to be obedient and His abundant grace to overflow into others’ lives for the sake of God’s great name.

“Once more, never think that you can live to God by your own power or strength; but always look to and rely on Him for assistance, yea, for all strength and grace.” ~ David Brainerd, Missionary


Overflowing Grace

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And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  2 Corinthians 9:8

Paul is on the subject of his giving project that he was first commissioned with in Acts 11 when Agabus foretold that there would be a famine in Judea.  Acts 11:29-30 says, “So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.  And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.”  Wherever Paul established a church, he had them participate in this giving project.

It was a good opportunity to teach about principles of giving.  Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”  He was talking about sowing  money for the sake of the kingdom.  We can give money to others willingly and generously because that is exactly what God has done for us.  God wants to have you give more so He can give you more–both grace and money.

When we open up the floodgates of our giving, God opens up the floodgates of His grace.  This is not just so we will be content and stocked up, but so that we will be sufficient in Him to overflow to others.  We will abound in every good work.  If you hold on tight to your money, spending it on yourself, you won’t get to see the grace of God abound, or overflow, in your life.   But if you can begin to live a life of giving generously, you will see God’s grace multiply all over you.

It helps to have money to give.  Ephesians 4 describes what a repentant and transformed life looks like, and in verse 28 Paul simply states, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”  Of course we don’t want to get obsessed with having money and working too much, but what a great way to show that Jesus is Lord of your life: generously giving money and things that you have in the name of Jesus.

In 2 Cor. 9:10 Paul goes on to say that if you give, God will multiply your seed for sowing and that He will increase your harvest of righteousness.  Some people might wonder why they haven’t seen God use them in other people’s  lives, whether it is to lead someone to Christ or to mentor or some other way.  It may because they haven’t let go of their money for Jesus’ sake.  They might not even have a job because that hasn’t been the pattern of their life.  Perhaps it is time to become productive, wise and generous with  time and money.

When you catch the concept of being generous,  the overflowing grace of God will pour into your life.  You will see abundance as Luke 6:38 promises: “Give and it will be given to you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.  For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”  This is because God is able to make all grace abound to you so that you will have all sufficiency in all things.

*Photo from surpassing treasure.com


Adopted

 

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He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.  But to all who did receive Him, who believed in HIs name, He gave the right to become children of God.    John 1:11-12

Jesus came to us in the world to make salvation possible for us.  But His people the Jews,  as a whole, rejected Him.  They didn’t receive Him, which is a condition for saving  faith.  But to those who do receive and believe in Jesus, He gives us the right to become children of God.  

We aren’t automatically born into God’s family.  Ephesians 2 tells us that we follow the prince of the power of the air, who is Satan.  He is the spirit that is at work in us, the sons of disobedience.  Ephesians 2:3 reports that we are children of wrath by nature, like the rest of mankind.  But when we come to God in faith, receive Jesus and believe that He lived and died for us, we become God’s children.  So at funerals when the officiator announces, “We’re all children of God,” that isn’t true.  Only those who call on Jesus are children of God.

In John 3:16, some versions read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…”  That means that Jesus is the only one who is a son by right of being a true relative.  Everyone else who receives Jesus and believes in His saving work on the cross is given the right to become children.  

Another way of saying what happens for those who receive Jesus is that we are adopted.  Romans 8:15 announces, “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  When we belonged to Satan’s camp, we were slaves and were filled with fear.  We might not have understood or recognized our chains, but they were there.  Romans 6 tells us that sin was our master.

But now we can call God our Father.  1 John 3:1 says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are.”  It took love on God’s part to make this whole thing happen.  

So rejoice today that you who have believed in Jesus  are officially adopted into a huge family with a Father that has made you the object of His love, grace and kindness.