Finding Grace When We Aren’t Enough

10-14-19 When Not Enough
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
 
The day of the swim meet our hearts pumped wildly. The “giants in the land” were better prepared. They’d been swimming from the womb and my kids started in middle school. Before the race, my son noticed the coach slipping five dollars to one of his teammates, urging him to win. I couldn’t believe it. So, I promised my son five dollars if he beat that kid. Yep. One of those moms.
 
When my kids excelled, my momma’s heart burst with pride and I cried. But those moments when they were sprawled out on the floor screaming in the middle of aisle nine? Not so much.
 
The early years were marked with mayhem as I grabbed a hold of the Bible like it was a white surrender flag. Cheerios stuffed here and there, noses running everywhere, loaded diapers about to flare. I was just grateful we survived.
 
Poured out, still, there was that familiar ache burning inwardly with the thought I dared not mention—what if I’m not enough?
 
I used to say with a hint of pride that I home educated. Four kids in college and one in high school, they all love Jesus, but they have all had their slip-ups just like their momma. Now I realize that whether they succeed or not, it’s not mine to own.
 
I wasn’t enough. I never was.
 
Somehow, I got off track and thought parenting was about me. What I could produce.
 
In reality, somewhere in the middle of surviving and thriving is the space where God’s grace fills our best and makes it enough.
 
Yes, friend, you and I aren’t enough. We give it our best and God takes care of the rest.
 
Paul wasn’t afraid to admit he wasn’t enough. In fact, he boasted about it. A former persecutor of God’s people, he became their leader. Talk about regret. But when he fell short of God’s grace, he learned some secrets—humility and reliance on God were his strength, not his own abilities:
 
2 Corinthians 12:9
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
 
Boasting about my weaknesses? I had spent so much time hiding them. But Paul reveals that we have access to power, strength and grace when we are willing to admit we aren’t enough.
 
Power
When we aren’t enough, we access Christ’s power through that admission.
 
Strength
When we aren’t enough, Christ is our strength.
 
Grace
When we aren’t enough, we remember that we never were. But God is. And He has called us by His never-ending grace all for His glory, not ours.
 
That day at the swim meet my son tied for first. The five dollars was a little competitive, perhaps, but now I know it wasn’t winning that mattered most. It was simply giving our best to God, all for His glory.

Healer of our Broken Hearts

jesus-came-to-take-away

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Jesus came to free us from the burden of sin and to heal us from the effect of it, as well.

Scriptures of the Day:

Isaiah 53:4-5

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Psalm 147:3

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Psalm 41:2-3

“The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 3 The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.”

Psalm 30:2

“O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.”

Life hurts sometimes. In our most painful moments we can hurt emotionally and physically and wonder if God sees. Broken, we come before our God and King Who is a Master at fixing broken people. He made us and knows more than anyone what we need to be whole again – Himself.

Healing is needed for many reasons. Some need God to touch them spiritually, some need help emotionally and others need a physical healing. In all of these, God sovereignly uses our infirmity for good, even though it might seem pointless at the time.

I know well what it means to be sick, diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases.  I also know what it is to be healed and what it is to not be.  In all these occasions, I praise His Name.  He is my Jehovah Rapha, (The Lord our Healer).  He heals our hearts from emotional pain, our bodies from physical pain, whether it be on this earth or ultimately in Heaven, and our souls from the pain of sin.

Healing is sometimes a difficult subject to discuss.  Some Christians believe that God always heals, some believe He does not.  Either way, all who are in Christ are healed spiritually for eternity, which is the most significant healing there could ever be.

We are all destined to perish on this earth, and sickness is often one of the vessels which might bring us to eternal bliss with our Creator.  Our bodies were not designed to live forever and our limit is 120 years.  This is not Heaven.  We cannot avoid the fact that we all have an end, but the sting has been removed!  Praise His Holy Name!

Sometimes the most difficult thing to heal is our broken hearts.  The effects of sin are profound and can leave one limping through life, but Jesus came to not only take away the burden of sin, but the effects of it, as well.  The scar of sin may long be remembered, but its crippling effect can be changed into a divine tool of healing instead.  That’s our gift this Christmas and for all of life – Christ our Healer.

Lord, thank You for healing us and for the hope of a complete healing in Heaven with You.  Help us to be content and worship You in whatever thorn you have permitted into our lives, knowing full well that our future hope with You is to be completely restored!

The Mediator of Salvation

you-will-not-get-what-you-truly-deserve-if-youre-too-attached-to-the-things-youre-supposedto-let-go-of

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Jesus intercedes for us as one who walked in the flesh among us – our compassionate mediator.

Scriptures of the Day:

Hebrews 9:15, 24

15 And so he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the eternal inheritance he has promised, since he died to set them free from the violations committed under the first covenant.  24  For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands – the representation of the true sanctuarybut into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us. 25 And he did not enter to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with blood that is not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice.

1 Timothy 2:5-6

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.”

Job 16:19-21

19 Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. 20 My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; 21 and he contends with God on behalf of man as a man pleads for his friend.  

Countless are the feats Christ accomplished in coming in the flesh.  Each facet of His work on earth becomes more precious to me, when I consider them!  Having endured through a painful court process, the word, mediator has a special significance to me.  Sometimes in life we feel there is no hope, no end to our turmoil.  When we feel like no one is on our side, Christ is our compassionate Mediator.

We can never underestimate the one Who owns the thousand cattle on a hill, Who is completely knowledgeable of all things, and by the way, is on our side if we are His.  Even more amazing, He is on all sides, surveying and working all things together.  His purpose is that all might know and believe and He uses everything to draw us nearer to Him.

I have a funny image in my head now – of someone playing multiple roles vicariously.  An airline representative checks in your baggage and sells you a ticket.  The same individual guides you onto the plane.  Now if this person said they were the pilot, I might rethink hopping on that flight.  We might have various roles simultaneously, too – I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee, worship leader . . . the list goes on and on.

Some roles I do better than others, and sometimes juggling all I have to be and do is hard. But Christ accomplishes multiple roles perfectly.  He is the Righteous Judge with Whom we will one day answer, our Savior, LORD, Comforter, Healer, the Mediator defending us, who ultimately paid our sin debt, too. The list of Who He is never ends.

When Christ came as the bridge between man and God and ascended to Heaven after completing His work on earth, He did not abdicate His role as mediator.  He still intercedes for His children and does so as one who walked in the flesh among us – He is a compassionate mediator.  This Christmas may we reflect on Christ, our Mediator.  Without His willingly choosing to represent us before our Father, Almighty God, we could not have fellowship with Him.

Lord, thank you for coming not just as a perfect babe, but as a peacemaker, mediating our relationship with God.  Only You could fulfill that role.

The Naked Truth

a-warm-note-to-say-2

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

If we play it safe, no one gets saved. If He played it safe, we would not have been saved.

Scripture of the Day:

John 7:3

“So Jesus’ brothers advised him, “Leave here and go to Judea so your disciples may see your miracles that you are performing. 4 For no one who seeks to make a reputation for himself does anything in secret. If you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.”

Provocative title, I know. So was the lavish demonstration of love shown by our God who came. Naked. To a people who would reject Him. Truth incarnate, the Word became flesh.

Why would He choose to reveal Himself in such a vulnerable way? He left Heaven and crossed every barrier to show Himself in such a raw, transparent way.

It’s tough to be transparent, much less to offer ourselves for others to potentially reject. When He was on the cusp of His ministry, He had to choose again to show Himself to the world. The world. Harsh, judgmental, sinful – why show Himself to an ungrateful people? To strangers?

The LORD asked me this question as I pondered how open I am supposed to be to the world – do I friend complete strangers on social media? What about enemies? Jesus did. He knew they were trying to kill Him and knew they spoke against Him. Still He went.

He gave Himself away, radically, dangerously – on a cross so that His people would be saved. How do we, too, radically demonstrate such a zeal for the lost to know this salvation?

The world does not want us to just tell them about Jesus. It wants – it needs – real people who share their real weaknesses of their flesh, and who demonstrate a radical love for their God and His people. But sometimes the rhythm of life itself or our fears keep us from the mission Christ started and asks us to finish.

We tend to create an environment of safety, impenetrable by those who would harm us. Christ chases such people. Safety is one of those things we need to be cognizant of in this crazy, sin-sick world, but safety can be an excuse that keeps us from the hurting. Sure, we need to walk in wisdom, but with so many people needing hope, do we cherish our comfort zone more than their souls? If we play it safe, no one gets saved. If He played it safe, we would not have been saved.

The Real Miracle of Christmas

christ-came-in-the-flesh-as-a-baby-and-christ-still-comes-today

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Christ came in the flesh as a baby and Christ still comes today – manifest in our flesh as we yield our lives to Him.

Scriptures of the Day:

John 1:1-5

1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. 2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 5 And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.”

Hebrews 2:14

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil.”

Movies abound today about the “magic” of Christmas.  Somewhere a child inside hopes it really is true that someone esoterically posing as Santa is the real deal.  Not so much.  But there is One Who really does know when we are sleeping and awake – One Who truly does provide for our needs and watches over us.  He certainly knows whether we have been good or bad and keeps a thorough record of it in His Book of Life.  Even more amazing, when we truly do deserve a boatload of lumps of coal, He gives us eternal life – freely.

But sometimes the miracle of Christmas can get lost in the simple fact that it is a well known story that has been told and retold and we forget just how amazing a reality the miracle of Christ’s birth is and what Christ accomplished in His birth.

Mankind was condemned to a fallen world, no thanks to Adam and Eve (well, we all would have done the same thing).  But right there in that moment, God knew we needed a Savior.

In His sovereignty He planned to come and Himself crush the head of our mortal enemy.  He did it as a baby.  Talk about the enemy being whipped.  

This baby was born miraculously, fulfilling prophecies, fulfilling perfectly the genealogy of Christ, born of a virgin.  A miracle indeed.  Holy.  Righteous.  Fully God and fully man.  How amazing.  Much more amazing to me than reindeer flying through the air – just sayin’. And this same Christ is now revealed through us, His people.

So if we are struggling to get that Christmas “spirit”, perhaps what we need is a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes it is in the simplicity of stepping out of our ordinary routine to give that we have that “Christmas feeling”. How is God leading us now to give during this season? How can we help others around us? Christ modeled what it meant to serve by giving His all. May we do the same.

The miracle of Jesus is not confined to one day. We can search for opportunities to give and serve others not just when we feel celebratory or the calendar dictates the moment.  The miracle of Jesus lives on in the hearts of those who choose to accept Him.

Christ came in the flesh as a baby and Christ still comes today – manifest in our flesh as we yield our lives to Him.

What a miracle this is – Christ in us. When we operate in a manner just like our Father did – giving of Himself, we have the greatest joy, and it is a miracle indeed that He uses us at all.

Merry Christmas, all.  Be a part of the miracle in someone’s life this Christmas.

Lord, thank you for the miracle of Your birth.  I stand in awe of You.  Fill us with the wonder of what You did and Who You are.  Love you!

The Ruling Baby King

colorfulparties-co

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Instead of conquering us and ruling over us ruthlessly, God conquered our hearts and saved us.

Scripture of the Day:

Isaiah 9: 6-7

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Don’t be fooled – this King baby will reign.  Despite the enemy’s attempts to destroy Him, God’s plan stood firm.  Despite a supposed defeat by ultimately being crucified, He rose from the dead and is coming again, only this time to reign.  For spectators of a movie, this story is difficult to watch – the injustice of the wicked seemingly destroying the Holy One and His plan; the Almighty God coming in perceived weakness.

The Jewish people were looking for their King to come and rule – now – not in the future. But God’s ways are not our ways. In His wisdom, God came as a babe so we could understand His salvation more than a God far away.  Instead of conquering us and ruling over us ruthlessly, He conquered our hearts and saved us.  He is our LORD, our Wonderful Counselor, to Whom we can come daily and moment by moment.  His rule is righteous and just.  His rule trumps every other ruler or government in this world.

In those moments when the wise men, shepherds and onlookers gazed upon God as a babe, how filled with wonder they must have been.  How humbled to see their Creator coming in such a form.  The most hardened heart was surely softened by such a gift.  May we have this same awe in reflecting on our Jesus, coming as a babe to rule our hearts.

Lord, You are all-wise, all-knowing, Almighty God!  Holy and humble, perfect One!  I worship You and thank You for ruling in my heart and opening my eyes to see.

The Gift of Acceptance from the Unbiased Baby Jesus

The only One who can set the standard for acceptance in all of life set it, fulfilled it and offered us.png
Inspirational Thought of the Day:
We could never meet someone’s definition well enough to be perfectly accepted by them, but we don’t have to.
Scripture of the Day:

1 My brothers and sistersdo not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. But if you show prejudice, you are committing sin and are convicted by the lawas violators.  

John 7:41

Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He?
Deep in our heart of hearts we long for acceptance, to know we are cherished. The familiar feeling of rejection stings as we clamor to meet the constantly shifting standards in our relevant world. Or not. Those two words bring peace to my soul as I know I could never meet anyone’s standards well enough to be perfectly accepted by them, but I don’t have to.
The only One who could set the standard for acceptance in all of life 
set it, fulfilled it and offered us acceptance that never ends.

With the current climate astir with racial accusations, the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ entrance to this world filled my mind.  Christ confused those Who thought He would come to just a certain race in just a certain way.  Jesus is not a snob. No, He came as a poor infant Jew to Galilee and Nazareth and confounded the supposed wisdom of this world.  He gave value and spoke with women, even letting them discover His resurrection first.  He demonstrated compassion to those of a different race and treated all as equals.

So many prejudices exist and have since the world began.  Gender, age, financial status, education, color of skin, culture, anything that can define one as unique can also be fodder for bias.  Not so with God.  He loves how each one of us is different, and it is beautiful in His eyes.  Christ came to abolish our sickening racism, prejudice, and preferences to show us what it means to truly love unconditionally.  His unbiased acceptance is absolutely amazing when we consider He had every right to look down on us.

Ethnic purity is not a new term.  The Samaritans were persecuted for not being a pure race, yet Jesus viewed them no differently than any other race or people.  It is, in fact, laughable and ridiculous that we should view any race as superior to another when we all consider that we came from Adam.

Why are we still so ignorant?  We should be able to learn from the atrocities that history has to offer, but instead we reinvent the insipid racism in a new fashion and repeat the same sins as our predecessors.  Perhaps it is insecurity – each person, each family, each race wants to be the best?  In reality, we are all chief of sinners, in need of a desperate Savior. Or it could be jealousy.  God did choose the Jewish people as His own, but then He shared this salvation with all.

If we are honest, we will admit we have all had moments of prejudice in some fashion; pride in which we thought we were better than another.  There is still hope.  We can turn the tide where we live.  Jesus came to set us free from discrimination, too.  May we look to the infant Savior this Christmas and how He grew in wisdom, always demonstrating loving kindness to all.  The irony is that Christ was sometimes the hardest on the Pharisees – may we not think too highly of ourselves, our denomination, our color, our culture, or anything else that is a part of who we are – and may we simply accept others as we were accepted.

LORD, thank You for accepting all Who would call on Your Name for Salvation.  Help us, God, to stop labeling and judging one another and to love as You did.

Do You Know Him?

god-does-not-make-us-choose-him-but-our-holy-god-bids-the-unholy-to-come-drawing-us-near-with-his-forgiveness-and-mercy

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God does not make us choose Him, but our Holy God bids the unholy to come, drawing us near with His forgiveness and mercy.

Scripture of the Day:

Luke 4:34

“Ha!  Leave us alone, Jesus the Nazarene!  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are – the Holy One of God.”

Such a small statement, and yet so profound.  Even the demons knew who Jesus was and shuddered – but that knowledge did not equate to salvation for them.  When confronted with the God of this universe this evil spirit did not want to be in His presence.  Evil cannot be in the presence of God without being consumed or having atonement for sin.  Fear and rejection of God was the only choice for this demon.  How do we respond to seeing this gift of God? Are we fearful, do we think He wants to harm us, like the demons, or do we recognize the gift of His goodness, embrace His acceptance and come to know Him?

When my kids were little, they would try and sneak a look at the gifts before I wrapped them.  As they got older, they might resort to peeling back the tape just enough to catch a glimpse, or to shaking the item to gauge what it was.  They could not wait to see what gifts were given to them.  It is that yearning that I want to keep fervent in my heart, when I think of seeing Jesus when He returns and when I meditate on what it must have been like to gaze at the King of kings as a baby.  A precious gift, bundled in swaddling clothes was the redemption of all mankind – if we accepted the gift.

Now all these years later we know what a gift that first Christmas was.  We can know that Jesus is God, but that is not the same as knowing Him.  Sin brings fear of sure condemnation, but perfect love casts out all fear.  When confronted with our sin by a Holy God, we have a choice – to bow down and worship Him, confessing our sins and receiving mercy, or to pridefully pretend we do not need His salvation.

Our Holy God does not make us know Him, but came to an unholy people as an infant to bid us to come and know Him, drawing us near with His forgiveness and mercy.

He established His law that we might see our need of Him, and He set the expectations for how we were to live for His glory. He wants us to know Him and how very much He loves us, for this is what we were made for. This Christmas, even though the story has been heard so many times, we can still with anticipation come to learn more of our living Savior and know Him more.  He truly is the gift that keeps on giving, long after other gifts have faded.

Lord, help us to understand what You accomplished when You came to this earth.  May we know You and not just know about you.

Worshipful Wednesday: Our Prince of Peace

search-for-peace-and-you-will-not-find-it-but-search-for-god-and-you-will-find-peace

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Search for peace, and you will not find it, but search for God and you will find peace.

Scripture of the Day:

Luke 2:13-14

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Peace. Just the word itself calms my soul. Tumult, troubles and protests are breaking out in multiple cities across our country and zealots threaten to wipe Jewish and Christian folk alike off the face of the earth.  How can we say peace?  Because He said it. In the verse above He gives it to those who are pleasing to God.

A serene scene by a still lake; a porch swing overlooking a sunny day; children laughing and playing, snow quietly falling on tree limbs.  An elderly couple walking hand in hand. All of these images evoke the idea of peace to me.  But stones create ripples in the water, sunny days give way to wilder weather, snow melts and we all eventually fade away.  Peace is not lasting as prescribed by the world, anyway.

No, Christ alone is our peace – our Prince of peace. We who have accepted the free gift of Jesus can have peace – not as the world gives, but as God can give.  A peace that brings security and hope, which are not dependent upon circumstances or emotions. Busy times, hard times, Christmas preparations, hardship, persecution – none of these things can rob us of peace unless we let them.  Right now, where you are at, quiet your mind and heart and focus on what Christ came to bring – peace to our souls. Reading His love letter to us brings a peace that no counsel on this earth ever could.

From the time he came as a baby, peacefully in the midst of chaos, to His ultimate sacrifice on the cross, Christ accomplished peace with God for us who were far away from Him.  Not perfect comfort on this earth, but complete peace.  Many will cry out for peace in this world, thinking that a leader or a country could bring lasting peace, but they will never achieve it.  True peace is only found in a relationship with God.  Search for peace, and you will not find it, but search for God and you will find peace.

Peace to you all this Christmas season.

Lord, quiet our souls and help us to rest in You at all times.  

Truthful Tuesday: It Only Takes One

www-denisepass-com

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The road of faithfulness is often a lonely road, but when it is paved with the love of God, our destination and hope are certain.

Scripture of the Day:

Ecclesiastes 9:18-10:1

“Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner can destroy much that is good.”  10:1 “One dead fly makes the perfumer’s ointment give off a rancid stench, so a little folly can outweigh much wisdom.”

It always astounds me that it can only take one dissenter to bring about chaos and destroy something good.  A small percentage of a population can speak louder and change what the majority voted on.  How is this able to happen?  Passion.  Activism.  Devotion.  Leadership . . . and pressing on despite it not being popular.

We admire when people accomplish great things when the odds are against them, but much more admirable are deeds done in righteousness than the wicked prevailing.  A liberal agenda will not bring about the freedom its followers desire, but they still passionately fight for what they believe is right.  Now more than ever the righteous must not let their voices be silenced.  Our nation needs us more now than ever.  It will not be popular to hold ground and try to turn the tide back, but it is possible.  Your voice matters.  Make it count for righteousness.  It only takes one to begin to make a change.

Only One could pay for the sin debt of all mankind.  He was not popular, but He knew His mission and completed it, despite much opposition.  He changed this world forever – not just for a generation.  This Christmas may we remember what Christ did for us and all mankind.  May we all honor God with our lives and affect this society for His glory.  It only takes one.  Shine brightly in this generation – there is no other voice just like yours – it is needed now.

Christ showed us what living for One looks like. Only one road leads to life with our Savior and this narrow road is often fraught with trials on every side. The road of faithfulness is often a lonely road, but when it is paved with the love of God, our destination and hope are certain.

The song, “This Little Child” by Scott Wesley Brown, written in the late 70’s is so very fitting in our times.  I end today’s post with lyrics contained within the second verse:

“And over half the world is starving While our banner of decency is torn;
Debating over disarmament, Killing children before they’re born.
And fools who march to win the right to justify their sin.
Oh ev’ry nation that has fallen Has fallen from within
Yet in the midst of this darkness There is a hope a light that burns
This little child the King of kings Some day will return.”

Hear and see the lyrics to the complete song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riSAYsLTQBs

Lord, help us to shine for You brighter and brighter.  May we not cover or hide the light You have placed in us and boldly stand for truth and for Your glory.