4 Steps to Learning How to Rest Effectively in God

Rest Effectively

Rest for some people comes naturally. For me, however, learning how to rest effectively has been a struggle. God gives rest to the weary. It is a gift I am only just beginning to understand and receive.

My father would often admonish me to slow down, saying, “You always lean into the wind!” Obviously, even as a child I erred toward quick movement and constant action.

How about you? Are you like many people who fall exhausted into bed each night after high pressure days? Do you, like others, rise from a night’s sleep without feeling refreshed? Have you learned how to rest effectively? More importantly, do you know how to rest in God? True rest encompasses spiritual, physical, and emotional elements. Only then will we find the powerful secret of rest.

“It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.”
Psalm 127:2

Peace and Rest

Step 1 — Discern When to Work and When to Rest

Psalms 127 describes me — overworked and anxious! God instructs us to work. Most people possess a desire to accomplish, to better ourselves and things around us. A good day of productive labor gives a sense of satisfaction, but God knows we need a healthy balance. He instructs us to work for six days, followed by a Sabbath rest.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . “
Exodus 20:8-10

In some seasons of life, this may seem near impossible. How does a young mother not work to care for her children? Shift work or being on continuous call doesn’t afford flexibility to designate a consistent day for sabbath rest each week.

Rest from Work

God created us and remembers we are “made from dust” (Psalm 103:14). He knows continuous work will cause us to implode! Between work shifts and serving in ministry, I, too, struggle to eek out a sabbath rest. Then what?

For people whose employment runs from nine-to-five o’clock five days a week, schedules may require very little adaptation for a sabbath rest. For many others, diligence to prioritize where and how to spend precious time becomes essential. One day a week (Saturday, Sunday, or any other day) to pull away from responsibility and work will increase one’s ability to enjoy refreshing, sustaining rest.

The first step in learning how to rest effectively comes with giving God permission to reset our focus away from work. Through sabbath rest, we give our bodies and minds a break from routine pressures.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
Jeremiah 31:25

Step 2 — Get Away With God

Jesus faced similar pressures when He walked this earth. Many times, He invited His disciples to leave the crowds for time to rest with Him. He understands the unending demands of responsibility.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'”
Mark 6:31

For me, just beginning each day fresh with God helps to set my pace and give me perspective. Finishing the day with Him, settles my heart and mind. My “quiet place” with God includes Bible reading and meditation on His Word, prayer, and worship. It also includes being still within to hear His gentle whispers in my heart — sometimes affirming, sometimes convicting, often giving direction.

The “quiet place” of rest might include going for a walk in nature, allowing Him to reset the rhythms of life. God often nudges our thoughts toward Him during these times. He seeks opportunity to simply “be with” us. Every thriving relationship requires uninterrupted time together, including our relationship with God.

Somehow, in the midst of time with Him, we find rest. This simple step helps to train us to rest effectively in Him.

Step 3 — Trust God is Good

Training ourselves to draw away from work and near to God sets the foundation of trusting Him with all the other “burdens” and pressures we pick up and carry. I worry over family, concern myself about the future, and feel anxious over the uncertainty of our times. Trust! Easy to say; hard to do!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

The secret for true rest comes in trusting God — trusting He is always good to me and those I love. Doubting God’s goodness lies at the core of my struggle to rest in Him.

So I work more, try harder, and attempt to control everything possible. I wear out, play out, and burn out. “Get away with me and you will recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest,” sounds too good to be true.

Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it!” Instead, I resist Him, going my direction, doing things my way, and expecting Him to watch how I do everything! It usually ends in misguided effort, ultimate failure, and guaranteed fatigue. But as I learn how to trust and rest effectively in God, I walk more with Him, work better beside Him and through Him, while watching closely how He works. How peaceful and easy everything becomes, while trusting His ways and co-operating with the Holy Spirit.

Step 4 — Discovering God’s Grace

As an unaccomplished musician, I remember well the hours upon hours spent leaning over the ivory keys of an upright grand piano. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it sure helps. From childhood into adulthood, hours turned into weeks, and week into years of practice and concentrated effort.

“The unforced rhythms of grace” play a different tune, however. Paint swirled upon a canvas by a skilled artist yields fluently to the flow of the brush. Clay upon the potter’s wheel offers no resistance to the will of trained hands. As we fully rest in God’s plan, we learn to flow freely in the unforced rhythms of His grace and love. Here we find sweet rest. Here we recover abundant life, living freely and lightly.

Artist Painting

In “the unforced rhythms of grace” — where soul, body, and spirit find refuge and rest — guilt holds no sway.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power if made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

Learning how to rest effectively in God partners with grace. How peaceful the heart becomes when we acknowledge we don’t need all the answers. Success does not depend on our ability, strength, power, resources, or wisdom. It depends on God. As we rest in Him, He works through us all the more.

Learning How to Rest Effectively

Life, for all of us, continuously changes. We no sooner learn the rhythm of one season when suddenly we face another. Sometimes changes shift slowly. Often, they come like violent upheavals. My husband and I are learning again to rest effectively in God. In Him alone, we find rest in transition and change.

Learning suggests an ongoing process — a process of internal change and transformation. Learning also suggests a Teacher faithfully guiding the steps of that journey.

“O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.”
Psalm 71:17

David, once a shepherd and then a king, wrote,

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside quiet water, he refreshes my soul.”
Psalm 23:1-2

Sheep Resting

Sometimes God, our Shepherd, makes us lie down. Usually, when we have forgotten to rest.

May I invite you to come with me as together we learn how to rest effectively. Let us allow God, our Good Shepherd, to give us times of rest “in green pastures” and “beside quiet waters”. Through rest may we recover our lives, living freely and lightly, and may we experience the “unforced rhythms of grace.”

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Give Thanks to the Lord, For He is Good

Give Thanks to the Lord

The Bible exhorts us to give thanks to the Lord, because God is good. He demonstrates His unwavering goodness throughout all generations. The truth of God’s goodness resonates through the pages of the Bible. Do you know beyond doubt the goodness of God? Is that knowledge a fixed reality of your faith?

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good his love endures forever.”
Psalm 107:1

When we become discouraged by circumstances, doubt because of unanswered prayer, or become disappointed by outcomes, we may question and even deny God’s goodness. The wounds of life become festering sores into which the deceiver plants his lies regarding God’s enduring goodness. “If God really is good, He wouldn’t allow war, famine, plague, divorce, abuse, bankruptcy, hell, and numerous other maladies ” he rants.

Truthfully though, God’s goodness reaches humanity through both His mercy and His grace.

Father and child

Doubt

Satan’s ploy to lure Adam and Eve away from God’s perfect design sprung from establishing doubt in their minds toward God’s goodness.Every aspect of earth’s degeneration resulted. At the very core of our own questions lie the same seeds of the enemy’s power to deceive us into believing God is not good.

God created humanity to live in eternal, unbroken fellowship and communion with Him. He desires limitless time to express His limitless love to each of us. Despite people’s rebellion, He sent His perfect and holy Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem and restore that relationship.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
‘His love endures forever.’
Let the house of Aaron say:
‘His love endures forever.’
Let those who fear the LORD say:
‘His love endures forever.’ “
Psalm 118:1-4

God created Hell for satan’s eternal confinement, and where rebellious angels will join him. But He created Heaven for unending communion with people, made in His likeness and image, who love and honor Him.

Father and daughter

God leaves the choice of our eternal direction to each of us. Though the option and resulting consequences appear staggering to our human reasoning, God, in His goodness, could do nothing less. Perfect love never forces itself on another; perfect love invites willing participation. With God’s love flows His grace.

“The truth of God’s grace humbles a man without degrading him and exalts a man without inflating him.”
– Kris Vallotton

Grace

God’s goodness and grace interweave like golden strands throughout humanity. Grace is love extended towards the undeserving — including us. By grace, God gives us nothing less than Himself!

We find one of the most encouraging Scriptures about grace in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” The Christian life involves process, the process of being daily changed from what we used to be into what we will one day become — perfect re-presentations of Jesus Christ. Every step in that process involves God’s goodness expressed through grace. Spiritual growth occurs as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say, ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”
Titus 2:11-12

Father and child walking

“(God) has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”
2 Timothy 1:9

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His grace proves sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8

Partnered with grace, we find mercy.

Mercy

Mercy involves both the withholding of judgment and the provision of compassion, gentleness, and forbearance. According to the Old Testament mercy meant to “stoop in kindness to an inferior, to have pity upon, and to show compassion.” The Bible interchanges the words mercy and lovingkindness for the same word chesed in Hebrew and charis in Greek. Mercy represents “a sure love that will not let go.”

I read recently that the word mercy in English comes from the Greek word, eleos. Eleos originates from the word for olive oil, often used as a soothing agent for bruises and wounds. One poured the oil onto the wound and massaged it in, soothing and comforting the injured part (Fr. Anthony M Coniaris). Mercy demonstrates God’s goodness and compassion toward those who are suffering.

Father and child

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

Too often, we only associate God’s mercy with withheld judgment. Here are but a few Scriptures connecting God’s goodness and mercy:

  • “Answer me, LORD, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me.” Psalm 69:16
  • “The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:9
  • “For the LORD is good, His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100:5
  • “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6
  • ” . . . The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth . . . “Exodus 34:6

Goodness

The knowledge of God’s unfailing goodness establishes a rock-solid foundation withstanding times of trouble. No one speaks so succinctly as Tozer on how important this understanding is.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us . . . Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God . . . The most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.”
– A.W. Tozer
Father fishing with daughter

Does our mental image of God align with His Word? Do we see Him as One who is altogether loving, gracious, merciful and good? If not, we will tremble with the times. David, who experienced more than his fair share of difficulties, said,

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.”
Psalm 27:13

Oh, how I know what quivering faith feels and looks like! Nothing short of God’s grace and mercy, entwined in His eternal goodness kept me on track. The sure foundation of the Word holds fast.

“”Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor or your majesty . . . I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works . . . I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”
Psalm 145:3-7

God’s abundant goodness merits acclaim as much as His mighty acts, glorious splendor, wonderful works, and great deeds.

Give Thanks to the Lord

May we pull aside from our daily struggles and exhausting activities long enough to give thanks to the Lord. May we, even if only for a few moments, ponder God’s goodness, grace, and mercy. As we do, hope will rise, faith will take root, and a calm assurance will wash away doubt. God is eternally good! May we echo the psalmist, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!”

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”
Psalm 107:8-9

We become recipients of whatever we thank God for. As we thank Him for His goodness, He promises to satisfy our longing and fill our hungry souls with His goodness. May you be filled and renewed today, as you think about God’s abundant goodness.

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What is Truth? Know The Truth: Speak What is True

Know Truth! Speak Truth!

Do you know The Truth? During the tribunal, Pilate asked Jesus a probing question, a question posed untold times since, “What is truth?” Pilate, like so many of us, found it difficult to acknowledge the Truth, even when he came face to face with it.

Jesus had just made a remarkable statement,

” ‘ . . . In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’ “
John 18:37

The Bible not only contains truth, but is the word of truth. Only two types of people inhabit earth, those who choose to listen to the Word and those who don’t, won’t or can’t. We all live and work in a world futile in its attempt to avoid, deny or run from truth. John also wrote,

They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”
1John 4:5-6

Question Mark

John divides people into “we” and “they,” depending on the strongest influence — “the Spirit of truth” or “the spirit of falsehood” and error. I only have to look within myself to recognize these two realms warring against each other. They battle for my thoughts, influence my talk, and determine my actions.

Know The Truth

Far more than a conceptual notion, truth is a Person! John records a series of astonishing statements Jesus made,

” . . . I am the way and the truth and the life . . .”
John 14:6

“I AM!” Jesus said, “I AM truth — the truth, ultimate truth, absolute truth!” The world of the first century matches our own, with political powers forcing domination, religious cultures fighting for their platform of voice, ordinary people wondering who to believe. Daily, we scratch our heads, trying to discern truth for deception.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
John 14:16-17

Thinker

Jesus Christ is the capital “I AM” of truth, and the Holy Spirit the capital “Spirit” of truth. For anyone wondering what truth looks, sounds, and feels like, we need look to only One Person! Just as Jesus told Pilate that He came to “testify to the truth,” the Holy Spirit, within us, bears witness to that truth.

Not only is it possible to know the Truth, the Truth, through the Spirit dwells within us — testifying about and guiding us into real truth. How reassuring! Swirls of uncertainty and confusion never overtake us.

” When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father — the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father — he will testify about me . . . But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth . . .”
John 15:26-27: 16:13

We live free from fear, without doubting our ability to discern wisely. Through the Holy Spirit, truth becomes a living reality.

Grace and Truth

Deception and lies masquerade as truth. The spirit of error twists and disguises lies to make them look appealing and favorable.

Rather than welcome it, we often fear exposure by truth. But truth partners with grace — grace piled upon grace! Fear originates with the law. Grace flows through truth.

Problem

“Out of (Jesus’) fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
John 1:16,17

Jesus came to us “full of grace and truth.” Deception imprisons those who follow its taunts. Truth unlocks the gates!

” . . . If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31,32

To know the Truth, is to know Jesus — the One who speaks and imparts liberating truth, setting us free from every lying accusation of the enemy. Truth always sets us free!

I’ve witnessed this reality time and time again, as one captive after another experienced the freedom from chains of addictions, death prisons of defeat and bars of self-harm. Only God holds the keys of such liberating truth.

No wonder our adversary wants to keep us from knowing Jesus. Oh, the power we gain when we know the Truth.

The Benefits

James declares we are born through “the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (1:18). John says, the Truth sanctifies, purifies, consecrates and separates us unto Him (17:17). Paul tells the Ephesian church that truth multiplies truth, along with an abundance of goodness and righteousness (5:9).

If that was all, it would be enough for me, but it isn’t! The benefits of knowing truth exceed all expectations.

In writing to Timothy, Paul identifies the church as a “buttress of truth!” A buttress forms a supporting defense, strengthening and reinforcing a building. God declares us, His kids, as pillars and buttresses of truth. What a high calling and divine purpose!

Solution

Truth leads us into God’s Presence (Psalm 43:3 ESV), opening the ear of God to our prayers and petitions.

“The LORD is near to all who call on him to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

Truth becomes a belt, securing and protecting every core aspect of a believer (Ephesians 6:14). A warrior’s belt held weapons readily accessible for battle, freeing one’s hands for combat.

Truth also activates our worship, because

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and truth.”
John 4:24

What blessing is ours when we know the Truth.

Rejoice in Truth

Can you feel it? As you hear these verses again, with the implications of truth becoming increasingly real, do you sense an attitude of rejoicing rising within you? I do! God’s Word doesn’t just recite truth, it is truth (Psalm 119:160) We chorus the voice of the psalmist,

Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth.”
Psalm 86:11

The Cross

Then we will boldly, and with great grace, speak God’s truth in love. In fact, without truth, love becomes impotent (1John3:18). When we know the Truth, it infiltrates our hearts, infusing our words and conduct, penetrating our thoughts (Philippians 4:8).

“Love . . . rejoices with the truth.”
1 Corinthians 13:6

Every perversity and wickedness aims its weapons at truth, suppressing and denying it. The church of Jesus Christ amplifies it by representing the beauty, dignity and power of truth to a confused world.

Let’s get excited!

“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
1John 5:20

What is truth? Truth is our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. May we not be like Pilate, staring intently into His face and yet missing the opportunity to know Him.

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Healing by the Pool: What is Crooked Cannot be Straightened

Solomon said, “What is crooked cannot be straightened.” Jesus proved Solomon’s point with the miracle at the Pool of Bethesda. Miracles will always remain mysterious — perhaps none more so than the healing by the pool.

This pool bore no resemblance to pictures in resort promotions. This pool neared the Sheep Gate where sellers brought sheep, washing (probably in this pool), marketing and selling them for sacrifices at the temple. Sheep aren’t clean! Here human and animal smells and sounds mingled, swelling in volume during the Jewish festivals.

This pool, protectively surrounded by five covered colonnades, became a place of hope for many. Why?

Bent Eyelet

“Here a great number of disabled people used to lie
the blind, the lame, the paralyzed —
and they waited for the moving of the waters.
From time to time an angel of the Lord
would come down and stir up the waters.
The first one into the pool after each such disturbance
would be cured of whatever disease they had.”
John 5:3-5

Mercy and Grace

Bethesda means “kindness or mercy.” The number “five” represents “grace.” At the place called mercy and grace, the disabled, blind, lame, and paralyzed came hoping to find mercy and grace, where with mercy and grace God’s angel descended, making mercy and grace visible to all.

How many? How many waited and hoped? I can hardly imagine the sight, the weight of despair pressing against the odds of just maybe being the next one healed. It’s hard to maintain faith when disappointment comes often.

Bent Nail

I, too, am one who is crooked and cannot be straightened, in disabled condition. No, not outwardly, but inwardly. Disabled applies both morally and physically. Like them, I shelter under the colonnade of mercy and kindness, hoping and waiting. I, who am too often spiritually blind, unable to walk the Christian walk with strength, wait — paralyzed by my moral failures, unable to advance further.

They wait — hoping for an angel they can’t see, while missing the Messiah who stands among them.

Jesus Sees

Most people preferred to enter the grand city another way — a cleaner, quieter way. Jesus chooses this way. Here in the midst of the noise, the pain, the struggle, He comes. His eyes focus on one man.

What makes this man special that Jesus notices him above the massive throng? What make this man worthy of receiving?

Nothing!

“When Jesus saw him lying there and
learned that he had been in this condition for a long time,
he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ “
John 5:6

Rusty Bend Metal

Jesus asks questions so we will see and understand; He already knows the answer. The man’s response seems honest enough. But is it?

” ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied,
‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.
While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’
John 5:7

The answer to Jesus’ question should be, “yes,” or “no.” He, like me, choses to blame other people’s negligence for his present circumstance. For thirty-eight years, he suffered. For thirty-eight years, he depended on others., hoping someone would get him out of his predicament.

It’s all too easy to grow comfortable, even in our dysfunction, our disability, blindness, lameness and paralysis. Too easy to excuse or justify our “crooked and cannot be straightened” condition.

Cannot be Straightened

“What is crooked cannot be straightened,
what is lacking cannot be counted.”
Ecclesiastes 1:15

I’m told that when metal becomes bent, it cannot be straightened. It might look straight, and even function like it has been straightened, but bending causes the molecular structure to change, weakening the metal forever. Only one option remains for restoration — the complete remelting and remolding of the metal.

Casting Metal

In spite of the man’s moral and physical inadequacies, Jesus still comes with mercy and grace.

“Then Jesus said to him,
Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ “
John 5:8

Miraculously, the man does! In taking responsibility for himself, he obeys Jesus and walks away almost whole. Almost? Yes, almost!

A Matter of Heart

“Later Jesus found him
at the temple and said to him,
‘See, you are made well again.
Stop sinning or something
worse may happen to you.’ “
John 5:14

Jesus sought this man out again, and “found him.” More critical than a physical healing, Jesus desired a heart change for this man.

What was the sin he committed “at the temple,” in church? We aren’t told details; perhaps, because God wants us to see our own reflection here.

How great has Jesus extended mercy and grace to us, at the Sheep Gate, in our messiest condition? How often has He sought us, challenging our wayward thoughts and actions? Or offered warning or reprimand? How often has He asked for our devotion? How often have we refused?

“The man went away and told the Jewish leaders
that it was Jesus who had made him well.”
John 5:15

With body whole and heart hardened, the healed man turns traitor and reports Jesus to those who wish Him dead. We all either turn toward or away. There’s no in between!

We would hope for a better response — perhaps gratitude, worship or reverence.

The Melting

Without the melting of hearts toward Jesus, we, too, will be forever bent, left in a weakened, volatile state. Without the melting of my heart, I cannot be straightened. No one can!

Oh, how imperative the constant cry of my heart, “Melt me, Lord! Make me new! Remove the “churchy” appearance of looking good, surface healings and half-hearted walking. Lord, I desire the full deal, the real deal, the melting, remaking, painful, messy, recreating. Don’t let me settle for second best, almost complete, when the greatest miracle stands before me — a pure and upright heart.”

Pure Gold

The healing at the pool comes as a tragic reminder of humanities failure to recognize Christ Jesus in the face of His great mercy and grace. He comes to find us, to seek us out, again and again, welcoming all to come to Him wholly and fully.

How many more worthy were among the disabled throng that day? How many little children needed a miracle? Was there none at the pool deserving of mercy? No! No one is worthy; none deserve His blessing.

The essence of mercy reaches to the unworthy and undeserving. Jesus chose the least worthy to display His love and grace, then and now.

Oh, the hope for us all! The hope in knowing God hears our pathetic cry and changes hearts. It’s Who He is! It’s what He does — how He loves.

Only in Him will that which cannot be straightened be made completely new and whole.

The Kingdom of God – Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Why would Paul include righteousness, peace and joy as the key ingredients in the kingdom of God? What sets these three qualities above all others? Why are these components indispensable?

“For the kingdom of God
is not a matter of eating and drinking,
but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
because anyone who serves Christ in this way
is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”
Romans 14:17,18

I confess to having more questions than answers. However, one thing appears certain, righteousness, peace and joy create the fertile soil from which they each thrive, co-existing for their mutual benefit.

Righteousness

Recently, I’ve had more than one conversation surrounding the frustration we can feel regarding righteousness. (Or perhaps the lack of it.) Why does it seem to be too easy to do the things we would or should not do, while at the same time difficult to do the things we truly want to do? Oops! That’s another question!

Before the initial sin, humanity could freely choose to obey God and maintain close relationship with Him without feeling pulled and tugged in other directions. Since that time however, our propensity bends continually toward disobedience and rebellion. For every son and daughter since Adam and Eve, we now need to make a deliberate choice for righteousness — to walk in innocence and freedom. Without this focused attention, we automatically default to sin and error.

Just a few verses earlier Paul despaired of the same frustration I experience, “Who can possible help us?” he asks. Then immediately he gives the answer,

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me
through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:25

There’s hope! Righteousness means to be faultless, innocent, and guiltless or observing divine laws. Only God fits this description. In light of His holiness, we all end up far short.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

God solved the problem in Jesus. Through covenant relationship with Him, God counts us as righteous. Because of Jesus, righteousness now becomes the hallmark of all other relationships as well.

Peace

Through the liberty of Jesus Christ, we are no longer forced to continue in negative patterns. He came to deliver us from the stronghold of sin. With righteousness in place, we can start growing upward and onward. Maturity and development in any area isn’t always easy, but possible through Christ.

“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”
Isaiah 32:17

The apple tree in my yard doesn’t have to work at producing apples; it simply bears what it is genetically designed to produce. The fruit of righteousness however does take work, or at least active involvement. “Fruit” here is an activity or byproduct of action taken.

Isaiah says with certainty, the byproduct of righteousness “will be” peace. Peace effects us inside and out, giving us a sense of undisturbed quietness, complete safety and absolute security.

When I’ve violated God’s standards, I’m immediately robbed of peace and void of internal quietness and confidence. In Christ, however, I am able to be restored again to right relationship with God, producing “fruit” naturally.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

Peace works its way outward spreading to others with enough fruit to share!

Joy

It’s hard to believe that someone like me, whose life was marked by depression and anxiety for decades, could experience such complete joy. But it’s true! Perhaps more than any other quality, joy marks my life . Because of what Jesus Christ has done in me, I easily share the overflow of joy with others.

“Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul,
produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ
in the word and in the world.”
– John Piper

When we begin to walk in right relationship with God, living at peace with ourselves and others, we possess an ability to see the world in a new light. God enables us to view His Word and the world around us from kingdom perspective.

In a sense, God gives us spiritual contact lens, that allow us to see those we encounter here on earth from His viewpoint. At the same time, we are able to maintain clear focus on Him. Righteousness, peace and joy retrains our minds to see with His vision.

Paul prayed,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

Righteousness produces more and more. This time in the form of overflowing, bubbling over and abounding hope.

Kingdom of God

Listen to how the Message Bible phrases our original verses:

“God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone; pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.”
Romans 14:17-18

The kingdom of God isn’t so much about what we do, but what God does in us. He “sets it right, puts it together and completes it with joy.” He does it all!  What we need to do is rest in the process, co-operating with the Holy Spirit, while He does the heavy lifting.

 

We have only one part to play — “single-minded” service. By keeping our eyes on God, all the pressure falls off of us. No matter how old we become, how mature in the faith, or how seasoned in the Scriptures, we constantly depend on Him to lead, equip and enable me.

Though we try our best to please God in every way, our own efforts matter little. Through righteousness, peace and joy we automatically become pleasing to God and valuable to others.

Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Righteousness, peace and joy are byproducts of living wholly for Christ. Through my vain efforts to try to do and be, I actually hinder the natural flow of God’s design.

God has planted us firmly. The Holy Spirit washes us continually with the Word, watering us deep to the roots. We rest in His finished work producing the fruit of the heavenly kingdom to which we belong.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Don’t ignore the last sentence. “Against such there is no law.” We no longer have to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or the law pointing out right and wrong, like our first ancestors did. Because of God’s grace, we eat freely and fully from the tree of life where righteousness, peace and joy thrive.

No wonder Paul declared these three ingredients as essential in the kingdom of God. This is how God sets our lives right, puts them together, and completes them with joy.

 

Greater Things than These – The God of Greater and Greater

God exceeds all expectation. What if greater things than ever before are coming our way? Greater than anything experienced to this point in history. The bible reveals sufficient evidence to cause us to believe that what lays ahead is far better than anything in preceding times.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me
will do the works I have been doing,
and they will do even greater things than these,
because I am going to the Father.”
John 14:12

The disciples witnessed Jesus perform many miracles, heal the sick, raise the dead, calm storms, cast out demons and feed multitudes.  He taught scripture with indisputable authority, confounding His strongest opponents. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, His followers continued to teach and perform supernatural miracles. They were ordinary men doing extra-ordinary works through the Holy Spirit.

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John
and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men,
they were astonished and they took note
that these men had been with Jesus.”
Acts 4:13

The only explanation for the supernatural works of God moving through natural man was they “had been with Jesus.”

Glory to Glory

The Kingdom of God refuses to remain stagnant. In fact, “The Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing in spite of great opposition. (Matthew 11:12) Everything originating through God contains the seed of reproductivity and increase.

Entering the Presence of God caused Moses’ face to radiate with God’s glory. All who looked at him were overcome with fear and awe. Paul tells the Corinthian church even greater glory is coming.

“And we all with unveiled face,
beholding the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image
from one degree of glory to another.
For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18

Far greater things — expressions of God’s glory — awaits us. Why? Because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.

Strength to Strength

One of my favourite psalms talks about the people of God triumphing over adversity as they continue to pursue His face. Even in the Valley of Baka (Valley of Weeping), they leave behind places of refreshing for others who have found the journey difficult.

“They go from strength to strength,
until each appears before God is Zion.”
Psalm 84:7

Only God provides us with that kind of momentum, ever-increasing levels of spiritual strength. capable of propelling us to finish well. Listen closely to these words,

“He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
…walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40: 29-31

Although my running days are over, walking is one of my favorite pass times — especially when I can stroll outside the city limits. The truth is, however, these frail bodies have a propensity to wear out and fail us. We all face varying degrees of personal limitation.

Yet, God gives His people a capacity to exceed any natural boundaries. He gave Elijah the ability to outrun a horse and chariot (1Kings 18:46). Moses endured two back-to-back forty day fasts — something humanly impossible. Samson with supernatural strength wrestled a stone palace to the ground with one mighty push. The feats of David’s top warriors (2 Samuel 23) remain unparalleled in history.

But even in our mundane day-to-day activities, for “those who hope” in their God, He grants us the capability of exceeding normal limits. Though my personal examples don’t compare with these biblical counterparts, I have experienced times when beyond a doubt, God, and God alone, carried me through.

Faith to Faith

After Jesus had established His ministry in the surrounding territory, He returned to His hometown.

“And he did not do many miracles there
because of their lack of faith.”
Matthew 13:58

On another occasion, He was astonished by a centurion’s “great faith” — a faith greater than anyone else in Israel! (Matthew 8:10) The disciples asked Jesus to “increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)

“For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God
is revealed from faith to faith,
as it is written,
‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”
Romans 1:17

The Good News of the Gospel awakens within believers an increasing progression of faith. The kind of faith that expands and deepens to even greater faith. Paul commended both the Corinthians and the Thessalonians for their faith that was “growing and growing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Their ever increasing faith became evident in the increase of love displayed toward each other.

Latter Is Better

I enjoy reading about the great revivals that have awakened and transformed the church over the generations. Faith sparking reading to be sure! However, even these remarkable revivalist were aware that what they experienced did not yet measure up to what is yet to come.

Whatever supernatural God encounters mankind has witnessed in the past pales in comparison to what is ahead!

“This is what the LORD Almighty says:
‘In a little while … I will fill this house with glory,’
says the LORD Almighty.
‘The silver and the gold is mine,’
declares the LORD Almighty.
‘The glory of this present house
will be greater than the glory of the former house,’
says the LORD Almighty.’…”
Haggai 2:6-9

The Lord God Almighty continues to be the God of greater and greater things. Our difficulty is

visualizing beyond former paradigms.
believing past the natural,
receiving God’s truth as infallible,
and responding to Holy Spirit incentives.

Isaiah declares

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it…”
Isaiah 43:18-19

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.”
Isaiah 44:3-4

As much as I am inspired by past revivals, they are but a foreshadow of what is ahead — a taste test of the main course to come. God promises such a mighty outpouring of His Spirit that the world cannot fathom. All things are possible for the “LORD Almighty!” 

Greater Things

I pray for an increased, faith-filled expectation for more. The world, my own flesh and the devil creates a gravitational pull that attempts to ground all such heavenly vision. As God begins to pour out Holy Spirit in greater measure, these counter forces work to diminish the effects of God’s live giving flow.

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
William Carey

God is prepared to pour out far more than even our greatest expectation. This greater glory will require even greater faith to lay hold of the promised out-pouring. Greater strength, wisdom and sensitivity will be needed to steward well what God is about to do.

“I also pray that you will understand
the incredible greatness of God’s power
for us who believe him.
This is the same mighty power
that raised Christ from the dead and
seated him in the place of honor
at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 1:19-20

Let’s get ready! Greater things are coming!

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Isaiah 49 – Displaying God’s Splendour

When everything else fades, God’s splendour shines brightest. God demonstrates His ability to clearly reveal Himself in every season of our lives, even the painful ones.

In these times, God’s presence is most evident. Even in the darkest, most lonely and broken times of personal trial and weakness, God’s splendour becomes visible.

His magnificence and grandeur,
patience and love,
wisdom and strength,
richness, glory and beauty
are clearly displayed through frailty.

As Christians, the lives we live are not for ourselves, but rather for Him and for others. 

Before Birth

“Listen to me, you islands;
hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the LORD called me;
from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.”
Isaiah 49:1

Before I saw, knew, reverenced or honoured God, long before disobedience, failure and rebellion entered the picture, God knew me and had a plan for my life — a good plan. The same is true for every single one of us. How can we define such watchful care, other than absolutely amazing?

God's plan for our life is always good!

My dual name came from both of my grandmothers: Mary and Ann. To carry their names is a true honour.

Grandma Mary’s stature didn’t reach five feet, but none dare challenge her! Familiar with hard times, she raised her family, managed a farm, wore a wide smile, and always found room at her table for others in spite of her own need.

Grandma Ann passed away from cancer far too young. Her siblings told me about her hard work ethic, devotion to God, perseverance, tenacity, and deep love for others. 

My parents were determined that I carry both names equally, foregoing any need for a middle name. I am thankful! In some ways, my name has been prophetic! “Mary” means “bitter”; “Ann” means “grace”.

Like most other people, I have seen hardship that could have easily turned into bitterness. Yet my life continues to be marked with God’s passionate grace.

In fact, God’s grace is having the final say in multiple ways. I am but one small example.

Be assured! God has spoken your name just as clearly as Isaiah’s. He writes His “grace” over every portion of your life as well.

A Sharpened Sword for His Splendour

“He made my mouth like a sharpened sword…”
Isaiah 49:2

Have you ever watched a blade being sharpened? It takes something abrasive to sharpen a good knife, axe, or sword. A sharp edge makes these tools suitable for their task. Many times I have witnessed a blade edge being placed against the grinding wheel. A blaze of flashing hot sparks fly as rough edges become smooth.

A mouth like a sharpened sword.

The painful seasons, we all wish to avoid, sharpen us for greater purposes. God uses the struggling, “how much longer”, barely enduring times to prepare us. Here hearts change! On the other side of these difficulties, proclamation of His goodness rises. In brokenness and surrender, we look up discovering God is present.

“…in the shadow of His hand He hid me.”

The darkest shadow is always the closest to any object. When it seems God is the farthest away, the opposite is actually true. “In the shadow”, we find unparalleled revelation of His glory. “In the shadow”, God demonstrates how closely His hand covers and protects.

Hidden “in the shadow” of His mighty hand fears dissipate and insecurities melt away. “In the shadow” is safety! God is present “in the shadow” — intimately present!

A Polished Arrow

As children, my older brother and I would fashion our own bows and arrows from fresh cut willow sticks and remnants of used baler twine. Nothing high calibre in our childhood play!

God does things differently!

A polished arrow!

God calls us His arrows. He makes us with precision, taking time to design each one of us from His best stalk! The perfect feathers with the finest point! When He has formed us to perfection, He conceals us!

What? Conceal us?

“…he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.”
Isaiah 49:2

You would think after all His hard work He would be ready to show us off, put us into action, launch us into ministry, or in some way display His immaculate workmanship. Nope!

Now perfectly ready, He puts us into His quiver. It is God, our Maker, who determines when He will take us out, how He will set us in the bow, what direction He will send us, and the distance He will propel us.

It is our responsibility to rest, waiting patiently for His timing and direction.

A Servant for His Splendour

Quiver waiting isn’t idle! Quiver waiters serve in the midst of waiting.

“A single day in your courts is better
than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper
in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.”
Psalm 84:10

It is better to be a gatekeeper!

David, the author of this psalm, caught the vision! He lived many places during his lifetime: in the tent of his father, on the countryside among sheep, in caves running from the enemy, on the battlefield, and in a king’s palace. Yet he said, “The best place of all is with God, serving Him and His people.”

Why? So God gets the glory — the splendour!

In our simplest offering of service, whatever that is, others must see the greatness, glory and splendour of our God. If people only see us, we are blocking their view of the Magnificent One!

“He said to me,
“You are my servant, Israel,
in whom I will display my splendour.”
Isaiah 49:3

In our weakness, He shows His strength. Out of our poverty flows His abundance. In our brokenness, His tender compassion rises. God reveals His greatness in our littleness. As we willingly surrender to His call, God displays His splendour and majesty, glory and beauty, magnificence and brilliance.

“I pray you learn to know and trust your God now.
Say “God I am willing that You should make me willing.” 
If there is anything holding you back,
or any sacrifice you are afraid of making,
come to God now, and prove how gracious your God is.”
– Andrew Murray

Surrender doesn’t come naturally! Yielded in the hand of the Author of life, surrendered to His movement, defies stubborn self-will. 

“Lord, I am willing, make me willing!” 

For God’s Splendour

As we recognize God’s watch over our lives from eternity past to eternity future, we can come to no other conclusion than He is good. Each one of our lives truly is marked by His grace.

Grace has the final word!

It is better to be a gatekeeper!

As we focus on God and surrender to His will and ways, we begin to demonstrate His power to use our little for His glory revealing His splendour to those around us.

We each have a story uniquely written. Humbly and willingly share yours at every opportunity. Let us live to display His splendour!

**********

Further Reading:

Fireflies and Lightning Bugs – Let Your Light Shine!

Give Praise to the Lord, Proclaim His Name

 

 

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Addiction – Hidden Secrets – Flying with the Dragon

Hidden Secrets - Flying with the Dragon

Addiction doesn’t come in single file; it contains multiple elements!  As a result, the life-sucking tentacles of addiction sink deep and hold fiercely. Nonetheless, addictions can be broken.

I see the devastation of addictions on individuals and their families on a weekly basis. The visibly obvious comes in the form of chemical addictions to alcohol or drugs. With increasing regularity however, it is those entangled in the bondage of sexual addiction who sit before me with downward gaze.

Conservative figures record 48% of women and 78% of men battle this dragon. It is a battle originating from hell’s deepest recesses.

Marriage

Addictions create a threefold cord that is difficult to break over the mind, the body and the soul.

Difficult?
Yes!
Impossible?
No!

I have been on this battle ground with sexual addiction in my home, family, church and community for decades. It is a battle worth fighting! It is a battle worth winning!

[bctt tweet=”It is a battle worth fighting! It is a battle worth winning!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

A Parable

In a faraway kingdom a quest was in progress to capture the great dragon that was attacking villages by night with fiery fierceness. The King’s own son was sent out to find and subdue the dragon.

Dragon Hunter

When all alone, the prince came upon the sleeping beast. The prince found it difficult to envision this placid creature as the man-slayer the King described.

The dragon spoke first, “I’m not as fierce as the King has said. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite! I am the one to set you free. Come for one flight with me and I will show you.”

The prince was uncertain and confused. He knew he should be more cautious than he was now feeling.

“Sit upon my back and I will take you to unbelievable places. I will give you your heart’s desire.”

The prince instinctively knew he should not trust the beast. “Just one ride would not hurt!”

The prince dismounted his faithful stead and slipped himself between the spines of the dragons back. One swoop of the dragon’s powerful wings lifted them into the night. Upward they went with exhilarating speed. The dragon was true to his word. Never had the prince experienced such things.

As the prince entered the gates of his city, shame cloaked him. “Why was I so easily deceived? I, a prince, have befriended the enemy?”

Silenced by shame, the prince hid himself. Yet, he thought often of the excitement of the ride. Soon he sought out the dragon. Another ride…another night…then another…and another…

On the way into the city by the moonlight he noticed his hands were beginning to form scales. Quickly he covered them with his gloves concealing how much he was becoming like the deadly dragon.

Addiction Exposed

Each night their journey would take them into more and more grotesque places. The prince rode secure upon the dragon as it breathed its fire into homes and villages. Blood stained the princes armor – the blood of his Father’s people!

Under cover of darkness, the prince attempted to slink back into the city. A crowd of angry villagers surrounded him, “He was there! He was riding on the dragon when it destroyed our homes!”

The King approached his son, “Is it true? Were you with the dragon?”

Shame

The prince’s secret could no longer be hidden. “Yes, Father,” was his hollow response.

He was sure the King would enforce the punishment he deserved – life for life. On his knees he waited for his Father’s angry blow. With the hand of mercy his Father touched his shoulder, removing the cloak covering the ugly spines growing on the prince’s back.

“My son,” the Father spoke tenderly.

Looking around, the Father asked, “Who else has ridden the dragon?”

To the prince’s surprise his older brother slowly stepped forward, then his young sister. One by one, many villagers came and bowed mournfully before the King. Few had escaped the dragon’s subtle lure.

[bctt tweet=”Few had escaped the dragon’s subtle lure.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Princes and Princesses

In a culture like ours with tolerance and acceptance of sexual perversion, the dragon is constantly fed.  As with any addiction a little taste draws one into ever deepening levels of attraction and bondage.

Apart from the grace of God the noose of addiction destroys completely!

Noose of Addiction

The dragon of addiction is overcome through truth and a community of supporters.  Don’t try to fight alone! Fight to win gaining victory over mind, body, and soul!

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible –
and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”
Ephesians 6:13

It is amazing to watch how those who have overcome “become a light” of help, hope and strength to others in the battle. A necessary but painful part of recovery is coming clean – letting God’s light shine into the secret place. There is no easy way. It will be difficult.

All of us also lived among them at one time,
gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following
its desires and thoughts.”
Ephesians 2:3

“All” is an inclusive word. None of us have room to boast. We each have our own battlegrounds. We all deserve the full weight of punishment for our personal sins. Yet, God has made us for better as His princes and princesses.

First Steps

There is good news!

“But because of his great love for us,
God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions –
…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith –
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2: 4-10

God’s love and mercy extends to all! To overcome will take work done through His grace alone.

The first step is honesty and transparency. Begin with a visit to a pastor or addictions counselor. There is an army willing to step into the battle with you. You will need to become accountable to others to help you through the process.

Accountability and Freedom

There are no quick fixes. It has taken you years to get to where you are. It will also take years to completely overcome.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us…”
Ephesians 3:20

Your freedom awaits!

__________

Parable taken from “Pure Desire – How One Man’s Triumph Can Help Others Break Free

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Lost to Found! Death to Life! The Prodigal is Coming Home!

Prodigal

I have memories of getting lost in the back woods and coulees of the Qu’Appelle Valley. Many hours were spent exploring and forging new trails where only deer, fox, rabbits, and the like occupy. At times I would be lost and not even know it! In my wandering, I would eventually arrive back at a familiar place and could find my way.

[bctt tweet=”At times I would be lost and not even know it!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Lost

It is one thing to be unknowingly lost, but quite another to come to the place where you realize how lost you are.

Lost Puppy

Jesus relates a parable of just such a young man. In his immaturity, he prematurely asks and receives more than his share of father’s estate. Off he goes as far away as the cash in his pocket will take him. He leaves more than his father’s home. He discards family values and faith.

Only when he is entirely broken and destitute does he finally see how lost he is. At the bottom of his self-made pit, he looks up, “My father is my only hope!”

 “When he came to his senses, he said,
‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare,
and here I am starving to death!

 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

 I am no longer worthy to be called your son;
make me like one of your hired servants.’

 So he got up and went to his father.
Luke 15: 17-20

Found

Heavier than the stench of the pig pen was the shame and guilt that cloaked him. Each step home was a painful reminder of how he had drifted. Words of repentance could no longer be silenced!

Pig Pen

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

We have no idea how long the father had been watching and waiting; we do know he never forgot or gave up. Compassion never ends! Love never fails!

The day dawned! The day long waited for was now!

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”
Luke 15:21

The son starts his well-rehearsed confession, but never gets to finish it. He is home more than willing to be a servant forever! “Let me work! Let me labour! Don’t call me a son! I’ve gone too far! It has been too long! I’ve done too much! I’m not worthy!”

Father’s Heart

Son-ship has nothing to do with being worthy; it is has everything to do with relationship! My sons are my sons! There is nothing they could do to change that! My DNA is in them. They are loved beyond measure for no other reason  more than being sons. Even if they choose to forget, I cannot and will not forget.

Father Son

“But the father said to his servants,
‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.
Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again;
he was lost and is found.
’ So they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:22-24

Just as he is, the son is welcome. Brokenness of sin, stains or life, cannot stop the Father’s lavish love. Love covers!

The part we see is only the beginning. The relationship once severed now completely renewed. Once lost, now found! The dead is alive! Every day forward would be a reminder of restoration.

Lost at Home

The second son, though faithful to the core, lived with a father he never knew. The character and nature of his father was completely hidden from him.

Stubborn

He saw his father as demanding, stingy, and hard. Neither did he comprehend his own need for grace and forgiveness. The father did not wait for his oldest’s attitude to adjust; he went immediate to him.

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in.
So his father went out and pleaded with him.

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.
But we had to celebrate and be glad,
because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again;
he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15 :28-32

Too often we are not dissimilar to the older son. We settle for working and doing, rather than resting in the shadow of the Father’s love and acceptance. The Father simply wants us to be a son or daughter.

[bctt tweet=”We settle for working and doing, rather than resting.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

We can be in the right place doing all the right things and yet be lost – separated from the Father’s love and character. Prodigals are not always easy to identify. Yet, the Father loves completely and generously, inviting each of us home.

Just like me for so many years, one can be lost and not even knowing it!

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The Grace of God – The River of God’s Grace is Wide!

The golden thread of grace flows through scripture like a river wide and deep, sometimes gently moving, often in a torrent. All touched by the river live!

“God saved you by his grace when you believed.
And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”
Ephesians 2:8

A wise man reminded me that people “in the ditch” will argue contentiously. When it comes to grace, there has been much ditch walking and arguing.

One shouts, “It is the Holy Spirit who convicts and deals with sin. Stand back! Let the Him move!”

Responses stream in opposition, “We have an opportunity to show grace, while dealing with sin.”

Grace Along the Road

Neither ditch walker is willing to extend tangible grace to the other. The more we platform on a topic, it is usually an indication we ourselves are struggling in that area! God must be wanting to go deeper in my understanding of grace at this moment.

Sadly and with regret I remember that I have participated in such argumentative behaviour, dividing and wounding relationships.  I have had much to learn about grace over the years; much more remains to master.

Grace defenders often stand on Matthew 7:1-5. The passage actually speaks of judging rather than grace;

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged,
and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in  your brother’s eye
and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
How can  you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” 

The essence of the argument beside the road of grace, isn’t grace. Rather, it is a fear of judgment.

Plank

A plank is nothing to take lightly! A plank in the eye would be clearly visible to others and completely blinding to one possessing it. Rough and unfinished, it quickly inflicts splinters on anyone who would come close enough to touch it.

Plank Wood

The number of “planks” pulled from these eyes of mine is innumerable. Some have been so enormous it has taken a troop of brave comrades to remove them with and for me.

Jesus clearly commands each of us to take full responsibility for our “stuff”, our planks!

 “…first take the plank out of your own eye…”

Whatever I have in my life that is

hindering my vision,
damaging my relationships,
potentially hurting others,
discrediting my witness,
or discolouring my integrity
I must get rid of it!

Jesus doesn’t stop there!

Sawdust

Sawdust

Sawdust is not clearly visible. Yet the damage of sawdust can be severe! Not only will it produce irritation, tearing and inflammation of the mucous membranes, sawdust can also cause infection potentially progressing to the brain.

Unlike my planks that have taken a team of heavy lifters to remove, dealing with sawdust requires close contact.

By using a mirror or even magnifying glass, in good lighting, one must look on every surface and behind the eyelids themselves. Drenching the eye with exorbitant amounts of water may be necessary. For someone to help me, they need to get into my face and look intently for any offensive particle, before removing it with clear vision, a steady hand and great care.

God’s Grace

Grace is necessary in the removal of both plank and dust. I need God’s grace working in me and through others to remove the planks from my life. God’s grace is also necessary to remove tiny but painful things. Large or small, in me or others, both can and will cause irreparable damage unless removed.

Jesus invites us all to the way of grace. United we make an unbeatable team! Because our gifts are different, grace also will flow differently through each of us.

In the Holy Spirit, some demonstrate grace by praying, supporting, blessing, and encouraging the frail along the way. Others, through the Spirit, are vital in getting into comfort zones and shining the light on truth, while gently and with wisdom stepping into lives at a level many would dare never enter.

Grace Team

On God’s team, grace flows freely through each one, creating a safe atmosphere of hope and promise for those around us. It is a rainbow of diversity in action that only God could have initiated. His grace allows us to appreciate every diverse form.

In Progress

John Newton said, “I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I wish to be. I am not what I hope to be. But by the grace of God, I am not what I was.” He wrote the infamous hymn:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.”

God's Grace

“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.
No, I worked harder than all of them–
yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
I Corinthians 15:10

God’s grace is actively at work, transforming lives and destinies. What joy to watch and be involved in this work of His doing!

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Further Reading: Grace Notes – The Extras that Matter! Supporting the Melody!

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