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Life in grace


2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

How do you like my tablecloth? It is probably one of my favorite fall tablecloths that I have. (The other one is the one with the foxes. So cute!)

I have heard grace defined so many times that I struggle to remember each one I have heard. The most popular definition is “unmerited favor of God”. But I have also heard it described as “God giving you what you do not deserve”. 

The term “grace” is also used to describe a person’s actions and behaviors. The word “grace” has been used in conversation in the place of prayer – “Would someone like to say grace?” Grace is also used as a name. 

But what should grace be in our life? And how in the world does it relate to this Bible verse? How is grace a way to live?

We do not deserve what God has given us in our life. We have blessings in abundance even on the hardest of days. We have the opportunity to spend eternity with Jesus despite our constant and devious desires to do things that are wrong. We do things out of duty rather than out of love. We moan and groan when things don’t go just as we had planned. We do not deserve what God has given us in our life.

Yet, He has given us the opportunity each and every day to put away the old things that may have gone on yesterday. Each day is a clean slate, a new opportunity. Each day should be seen as a challenge to truly put away all those old ways and truly become new. 

And grace plays a part in all of this. Grace is remembering what God has done for you and living your life in newness so that you might, in some small way, say thank you. You can’t earn grace. You can’t buy grace. You can’t construct grace. Grace is one of those beautiful gifts that you have to accept by faith. It just is. 

So this weekend, as you notice the chill in the air and see the newness of color in the leaves or just appreciate a slight decline in the temperature, remember grace. Remember the beautiful, free gift that it is and the fullness it has to offer you in your life. Live life in grace. 

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Problems vs. Burdens

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

What is a problem? I could not find the specific word “problem” in the Bible. They used different terminology than we use today. But from this verse you can get the gist of what problems were in Paul’s time. Paul experienced problems. He had some sort of “thorn in the flesh” that God would not allow to be taken from him. Some think it could have been blindness. I guess we may find out when we get to Heaven. But until then, let’s just look at problems in general. 

A problem can be defined as “In general, any question involving doubt or uncertainty, and requiring some operation, experiment or further evidence for its solution.” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary) Paul had a problem that he had to choose how he was going to respond it. He could whine and complain about it or he could choose to give God glory in and through it. He chose the later. And the reason is because God reminded him that when he (Paul) is weak, He (Jesus) is strong. God can use our weaknesses to show His strength. 

Problems are something that we encounter every day. Some may be long term problems and some may be spur of the moment problems. Either way, we have to choose how we are going to respond to them. Sometimes our spur of the moment problems become chronic. Why? Sometimes it is because we choose not respond to them properly the first time. They keep coming back. And we keep responding to them incorrectly. And that’s when a transformation happens – they become burdens. 

A burden is defined as “That which is borne with labor or difficulty; that which is grievous, wearisome or oppressive.” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary). When we choose not to give it over to Jesus to handle, when we think that we can handle this problem on our own, it becomes grievous and wearisome and oppressive. I am the first one in line for this issue. Problems are my specialty. For example, give me a knot in a rope or chain or something that is supposed to be straight and I can figure out a way to straighten it. I am a professional knot-getter-outer. Yep, that’s a word in my world. Sometimes I think I can do the same thing with problems. I think I can handle them all on my own. I’ll show them. I can do this. And then not too long afterwards, I find myself on my knees because the burden is too much, my heart is too heavy and my spirit is too weak. 

And that is when I turn around and see Jesus right there waiting to hear from me. That’s when He is standing there with arms open wide, ready to receive me right where I left Him. 

1 Peter 5:7 – “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

So let me encourage you today to make the right choice with your problems. Don’t let them become burdens. See them as problems and let Jesus help you solve them. Don’t try to go at it alone – that’s when the potential for a burden sets in. Jesus is ready and willing to walk with you through whatever comes across your path. 

The Alabaster Box

Mark 14:3 – “And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.”

Luke 7:37,38 – “And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”

John 12:2,3 – “There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.”

Ok, now let me explain why I have printed one account in three different places. 1. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” (2 Corinthians 13:1b) 2. I wanted you to see who the woman was. 3. I wanted you to see how much her Savior meant to her. 

Mary, Martha and Lazarus were some of Jesus’ closest friends while here on earth. When Lazarus died, Jesus cried. He cared so much for these three. And the feelings were reciprocated. They thought a lot of Jesus as well. So it wasn’t unusual for them to have the desire to do something special for Jesus after Lazarus’s ressurection. They prepared a meal. It was at someone else’s home, but nonetheless, they hosted it. 

And then Mary comes in with her alabaster box. Now, I want to share something with you about that box. The ointment inside that box cost about a year’s worth of wages. Think about that for a minute – would you take one year of your salary and buy something? This was probably part of her dowry or something like a life’s savings item. This was costly and this was precious to Mary. Yet, here we see her opening the box and pouring its contents on her Savior and then washing His feet with her tears and her hair – a very tender and precious moment to say the least. 

The point I want to make here is that Mary gave up something very precious to her. She surrendered something very close to her for the sake of her Savior. Jesus did not ask her to do this. Jesus did not require her to do this. Mary did this because she loved Jesus. She wanted to show her gratitude and appreciation for all that He had done for her and all He would do for her. 

We all have things in our life that are precious to us – our family, our home, our dreams, our jobs, our church –  I could go on forever. But what is Jesus laying upon your heart to turn over to Him? What is in your life that you consider more precious than Him? Now, don’t be fooled, we all have things that we set up before Christ.  We shouldn’t, but we do. Jesus isn’t going to require you to give up this thing. He isn’t going to scold or guilt you into surrendering it. But He does ask that you put Him first in all you do, in all you think and in all you care for.

Sometimes  surrendering this alabaster box is the hardest thing you will ever do. It is saying that you will give the box to Him to do with it what He chooses. You give up control of the box. This box that you have worked so hard for. This box that you have sacrificed so much for. This is the box He wants you to entrust to Him. This is the action that shows that you truly trust Him to take care of it all. 

So, friend, what’s in your box? 

Practicing flexibility

2 Corinthians 4:6-10 – “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”

It is hard to be flexible sometimes. We have our plan and we want to stick to it. But sometimes life happens and throws a monkey wrench in all that we have laid out to do.

My son came down sick yesterday. I should have known something was terribly wrong when he only at one of the three waffles he usually has for breakfast. All of my fears of him being sick were confirmed yesterday when he didn’t play in his soccer game. He LOVES soccer. We got him home and he had a fever of 100.5. Off to bed he went with no school in his future for today.

A sick child can really mess with your plans. Oh, I know, it’s not the “persecution” and “cast down” mentioned in these verses but it is important nonetheless. These verses do encourage us to be the light through all that comes along beside us. But it is hard to be the light when your plans take an unexpected turn. It is difficult not to feel troubled and perplexed. Yet these are the times when we are supposed to show the Light even brighter. That Light shines brighter when we trust Him completely with all the things that might be bothering us.

So today, princess, if your plans go all wacky, don’t become perplexed and troubled. Just put on your big girl undies and be flexible about it. Trust that God is bigger than an illness or an unexpected delay or a car break down or traffic or whatever comes between you and your plans for today.

Strength and weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9,10 – “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

As I have mentioned before, I work periodically in a nursing home. I love working with the elderly. They are so much fun and can tell some great stories. But they are in need of help. Not just help from me, but help from the Great Physician. Most of them suffer from some type of depression along with some type of dementia.

Remember those glasses I spoke about yesterday? I was thinking this morning, I don’t know if my heart could handle wearing those things at a place like the nursing home. So many are hurting. But that is where they need Jesus most.

Remember in John 5 about the man around the pool? He was paralyzed for 38 years when Jesus saw him. Just think about that for a minute. 38 years. For that long, he had been dragged or carried or something to this pool almost everyday, hoping for a miracle. But someone always beat him to it. (Go read the passage. You will get it.) Anyway, Jesus was determined to change this man’s life that day. He was ready to show His strength in this guy’s weakness.

Guess what? He is ready to do the same thing for you. Are you weak? Do you have physical ailments that keep you down? Do you have emotional ailments that limit your praise? What is making you weak?

Jesus is ready to take that weakness and show His strength. He is ready to do things through you to make your life unbelievable. But it requires that you believe. It requires that you accept Him as your Savior.

And maybe you have already taken that step. Well, Jesus is still in the healing business. He wants to hold you. He wants to comfort you. He wants to heal you. But it may require you to get rid of a specific sin in your life. It may require confession to Him regarding the barrier between you and Him.

Today, princess, let Him show the world His power in your weakness. You will be stronger than you have ever been.

Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3,4 – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

You know, sometimes when it rains, it pours. We have a family at our church, a big family, that has had a monsoon in their lives. First of all, one of their relatives who has been sick for years has passed away. Some of that family has spent countless hours in the car taking him to the VA to receive medical attention. Another member of their family, a little boy, has spent the last several days in the hospital with a rare strand of e-coli. He’s been super sick. Yet another member of the family is in the final stages of selling and moving out of a home in another state. All the members are actively involved in church and have multiple roles they fulfill. And that is just the side that I know personally.

But the one thing that they have going for them that is keeping them from drowning in the sea is Jesus. They seek Him and they follow Him and they trust Him. They aren’t perfect, none of us are. But they have a Comforter who cares. They have Him who can calm the seas. They have Him who holds them and strengthens them when they feel they cannot take one more step.

God never promised us a smooth sailing worry-free life. He never said that being saved was easy. In fact, He warned us that it is quite the opposite. But He did make the promise that He would never leave us nor forsake us. And He promised to comfort us. And when we are comforted, we are to comfort others. One way to do that is to pray. Prayer is a powerful tool that can heal anything, even a broken heart.

So today, princess, pray for comfort. We are all surrounded by hurting people. They need to see God’s love. They need to experience His comfort. So go ahead, give some away.

Personal Responsibilty

2 Corinthians 5:10 – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Personal responsibility. Where, o where, have you gone? It seems like everywhere you turn some one is blaming some one else for their problems. No one wants to stand up and say, “Yep! I messed up! Now I have to face the consequences.”

My husband and I have tried diligently to teach our children person responsibility. We want them to understand that you have to “cowboy(girl) up” and take it like a man(woman). You can’t go blaming your problems on some one else. O, there may be times when it is warranted, but 9 times out of 10, it’s you who the blame falls squarely on.

All too often in today’s society, people are reaching to lay the blame for their problems on some one else’s shoulders. Why do you think that is? In my opinion, it is a lot easier to blame some one else than to admit that you are wrong. Every one hates to be wrong. And no one wants to take on the consequences. They may hurt or cause me discomfort. And we can’t have that!

But the Bible teaches us that one day we will all stand alone before the judgement seat. We will not have the opportunity or the capability to blame what we have chosen to say or do on any one else but our self. Every word we have spoken or not spoken, every deed we have done or not done will be laid solely at our feet. I don’t know about you, but that makes my heart skip a beat. There are so many things I could and should do differently. I let “stuff” get in the way. And that will one day be laid at my feet to answer for.

Today, princess, let me encourage you to live a day that will have no regrets. That you will take upon you the personal responsibility that every believer has – to spread His love to a lost and dying world. Don’t try to blame some one else for your problems. Stand up and face them. Let God lead you through them and come out on the other side glorifying Him who brought you through.