Responding With Grace

It’s not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us that really make a difference in our lives. Most of us encounter situations that afford great opportunities for offense, revenge, lashing out, and other expressions of anger and hurt. It happens as a husband, wife, father, mother or supervisor. It even happens simply driving down the road on a busy day. If I’m going to pursue God’s best in my life, It’s important that I learn how to respond in these situations.

Genesis 3:22-23 (ESV)
22  Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”
23  therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

God responded to Adam and Eve’s sin with grace. He immediately made room for repentance so that they would not be forever lost in their sin. He responded with grace so that his relationship with them could one day be restored.

How do I respond when someone sins against me? Is it with grace so that they might grow and learn or is it with condemnation? Do I respond to others as if I am a sinner myself saved by the grace of God who continues to grow through my mistakes? Do I immediately leave room for repentance and restoration or am I quick to judge and condemn others?

Father, forgive me for the times when I was quick to judge others in my own self-righteous attitude. Help me to respond to sin with grace and create opportunities for others to experience the love and forgiveness that you have shown me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!

Keep REACHING FORWARD for God’s best in your life! Have a great 2016!

What’s The Point of God’s Grace?

graceOur culture in America predominantly teaches us to live a performance-oriented life. We are rewarded for doing right and punished for doing wrong from the time that we start scooting around on the floor on our own . We enter school and the first thing we are handed is the school manual, which lays out all of the rules that we must abide by. We enter the working world and get promoted for performing well and reprimanded for performing poorly.

I’m a retired Army guy so I understand rules and performing to a given standard. In fact, I do well in a structured environment where the standards are clear. I’m not against rules or the expectation that we should live our lives as law-abiding citizens and serve with excellence by doing our best. There is certainly nothing wrong with performing at our best. Performance itself is not the matter in question, but the motive of the heart behind the performance.

I think one of the most difficult theological concepts to live out in our lives is God’s grace. It’s not necessarily that we lack understanding of God’s grace as much as we lack the application of His grace upon our lives. Most people who have genuinely put their faith in Christ know what it means to receive unmerited favor from God. I hear people say all the time, “I just don’t feel like I deserve the love and forgiveness that God has shown me.” I often respond, “you don’t, neither do I and that’s the point.”

The point of God’s grace is that we do not have to earn His favor!

In my work as a pastor, I often see an underlying motive resident in the hearts of Christians who have turned to God and put their faith in Christ. The underlying motive is that they must somehow live their lives in such a way that God will be pleased with them and bestow His favor upon them. In other words, many people receive salvation, but deep down they still don’t believe that they are 100% accepted and approved by God.

I read about this very same issue in the book of Galatians. They had begun to go back to the religious rituals (like circumcision and festivals) that they were bound to before they received Christ. The Apostle Paul addresses this issue head-on: “but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Gal 4:9).

We grow up living our lives in a way that will bring favor upon us by people in our world. The motive of our hearts is to earn favor, to be pleasing, and to be accepted. It’s not surprising that we carry this idea into our relationship with God. Don’t get me wrong, God does want our obedience and expects us to live a life of faith based on the principles in his word. However, he is not watching over your every move waiting to punish you for doing wrong or reward you for doing something great. He loves you and accepts you not because of what you do or don’t do, but because of what Jesus did and did not do. Let’s run it down:

1. Jesus lived as a man tempted in every way.

2. Jesus did not sin.

3. Jesus shed his innocent blood for the remission of our sins.

4. Jesus rose from the grave.

You and I can rest in the fact that we are accepted and loved because we were chosen by his grace and justified by his son. Now we are sons and daughters adopted into God’s family as children of his own. There is no need to turn back to the principle of this world that says performance = acceptance. Rest in his grace and enjoy your journey!

Why REST is more important than GOALS in 2013!

restThe title of this blog is a little misleading (on purpose to get your attention). This is the time of year that most leaders are talking about life reflection and goal-setting for 2013. I am no exception because I am a goal-oriented person that functions best when there is something in front of me that I need to accomplish. My goals range from daily, weekly, monthly, short-term (3 to 12 months) and long-term (3 to 5 years). I don’t waste my time thinking and planning beyond 5 years in terms of accomplishment because life is moving at too fast of a pace. I am also a strong believer in self-starters, self-discipline and self-motivation, which are all born out of self-respect (keep thinking…you’ll get it).

Why REST is more important than GOALS!

Having said that, I want to encourage fellow goal-setters and those who are high-achievers to find a higher purpose in 2013; a higher purpose that puts God at the center of everything in your life. Now most of you Christians are saying “yea, yea, God is always at the center of my life.” Please continue to read because I’m like you and I know how you are.

There is a higher calling from God that brings a peace to your soul that no goal can accomplish. That higher calling is a calling to REST.

  “… for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:10 ESV)

Learning what to REST “IN”!

Obviously, God is not saying kick up your feet and do nothing or be lazy and slothful. The point of this verse is not as much about what’s going on in our lives as it is about what’s going on in our soul. A higher calling than our goals is to learn what to REST IN.

  • REST IN the truth that you are accepted by God.
  • REST IN knowing God has shed his love abroad in your heart.
  • REST IN experiencing the incredible grace that God has poured out on your life.
  • REST IN the security of knowing you are called to be a child of God in his presence for eternity.
  • REST IN the joy of living in Christ.
  • REST IN knowing you are God’s pleasure! No need to impress Him. 

Learning what to REST “FROM”!

There is certainly much work to do in making disciples for the kingdom as well as personal accomplishments. However, let’s remember in 2013 that our goals don’t make US – we make our goals! As we do, let’s REST “IN” the grace of God and REST “FROM” the following…

  • REST from striving for God’s acceptance or favor.
  • REST from laboring to please others.
  • REST from achieving in order to feel worthy.
  • REST from accomplishment in order to be liked.
  • REST from trying to be popular.
  • REST from the desire to impress others.
  • REST from worrying that your legacy will be lost! (Trust God – Your legacy was His idea in the first place!)
  • REST from ___________ you fill in the blank!

Knowing what to REST “IN” and knowing what to REST “FROM” is the key to great success! REACH FORWARD in 2013 for God’s best in your life! But remember that His best in your life is Christ in you, not your efforts in this world! Set goals for your life in 2013, but don’t let them rule you; only God should fill that role. May you find the inner peace and joy in 2013 that empowers you to live free and make a way for others.

Comments welcome!

Has God been removed from our schools? Really?

WhereisGodI continue to hear and read comments [from professed Christians] about how God has been “removed” from our schools, our Government, the town square and even Christmas! In the wake of the terrible tragedy in Connecticut as well as other school shootings from the past, there are many who have come to the conclusion that God has been removed from our schools, which has resulted in the free reign of evil. There is no doubt that these travesties are evil and innocent people’s lives including children have been cut short on this earth. My heart is deeply saddened and burdened for the families and friends who mourn.

I am also deeply saddened by the number of well-meaning Christians who do not know the character and nature of the God whom they serve. I am appalled that some would think God is bullied around by a law, policy or political agenda. God’s presence is not dependent upon a plaque inscribed with the Ten Commandments or a prayer that’s said at the beginning of a meeting or class. God cannot be pushed around, cast out, or told what to do. We need to get back to the Word of God, engage our faith and stop speaking in error out of our emotions. Here’s the point:

There is no institution on earth that can control the presence or power of God!

God is omnipresent. God is everywhere, plain and simple. God is not so weak that people or governments can tell Him where to be and where not to be. God was here first. Institutions came from God, not the other way around (Rom 13:1).

Where is the presence of God?

  • He is near to all who call on him. (Ps. 145:18)
  • He is near to all who reach out for him. He is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:27)
  • He is where you are. (Ps. 139:9-10)
  • He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Heb 13:5)
  • He is in the valley of the shadow of death. (Ps. 23:4)
  • He is with you when you pass through the waters, the river, and the fire. (Is. 43:2-3)
  • He is present in times of trouble. (Ps. 46:1)
  • He is where two or three are gathered in his name. (Matt 18:20)
  • He is with us always. (Matt 28:20)

Moreover, the Scripture tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, not even angels or “rulers.” (Rom 8:38-39).

The notion that laws or policies enforced by institutions can determine the presence and power of God is ludicrous. The God of the Bible is not weak and limited by the will of man! He is all-powerful; all-knowing; and ever-present!

We don’t have all the answers when faced with situations like school shootings and other tragedies. However, let’s not forget the answers that we DO have. Let’s not minimize the grace and sovereignty of an all-mighty God! Let’s not put him in a box; rather, let’s allow him to rule and reign in our lives as we tell the world of his goodness.

Comments welcome!

How Are We To View God in the Face of Tragedy?

As I reflected on that dreadful day of September 11, 2001, I recalled the tons and tons of rubble that took months to remove. I’m quite sure there were a lot of dreams lost in that rubble. However, I am also convinced that many dreams were born. I heard one story of a young man who was only 14 years old at the time who has now devoted his life to serving our country. I heard another story of a man who changed his career goals and is now serving his community as a firefighter.

Many people ask questions during times like these, such as “where is God?” and “why does God allow these terrible things to happen to innocent people?” For the past week we have been fighting fires in Texas. Thousands of acres have been burned, hundreds of homes lost, and even loss of life.

How are we to view God in the face of tragedy?

When you don’t understand the mind of God, trust in the heart of God!

God will not always reveal the answers we seek, but He will ALWAYS reveal His heart!

We are fortunate that God has given us His written word so that we can discover His heart in the midst of His promises. We might not know why God allows certain things to happen can we can know His heart.

What do we know about the heart of God?

1. The very essence of God is love. (1 John 4:16)

2. The grace of God looks out for our best interest. (2 Cor 8:9)

3. God has compassion for our pain as His children. (Ps 103:13)

4. God is our Healer. (Ps 147:3)

God is not deaf to our cries or blind to our pain. Keep REACHING FORWARD for God’s best in your life!

He will never leave you nor forsake you!