Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grace [in place of] Grace


“Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” ~ John 1:16

Have you ever sat by a stream for hours, mesmerized by its constant movement?

It doesn’t sit stagnant.  It’s constantly flowing.
It never runs out.

There’s always new water to fill the place where the “old” has already been. 





Amy Carmichael says that’s what grace is like. 

“Grace for grace” means “grace [in place of] grace.” 
Grace in place of grace that was there before. 

Like a constantly flowing stream that never empties, grace never runs out.

Tomorrow comes, and new grace takes the place of the grace we needed yesterday.
As that grace is no longer needed, new grace arrives to take its place.
Always around the corner is new grace.
  
“Grace for Grace.”

Our need for grace seems to chase us sometimes.

Why are frustrations allowed to remain? 
Why must we endure day after day the ever-present hopeless needs that can’t seem to ever go away?
Why can’t they just go away . . . .?

Maybe a better question is . . . . Why do we try to escape our need for grace?

Our Father allows the need for grace to keep us in His grip.  
To keep us touched by grace.
To keep us realizing that grace will always be there.

A constantly flowing supply that never runs out. 
Always there.

And always around the corner.

“Grace [in place of] Grace.”

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Perfect Christmas Gift

I’m so thankful we have Christmas to celebrate.
Once a year, we take time to remember that Jesus came.

But year after year, He is portrayed as simply a helpless baby. 
Always in a manger.
Or held in Mary’s arms.
Sometimes Santa Claus joins the manger scene.

His "picture" is on the front of cards, ornaments, and posters.

But always. . . a helpless baby.

I’m thankful He came as a baby. 
He became a man, so He could bleed.  And He bled on the cross for my sin.

I’m thankful He didn’t come as a full-grown man, indifferent to the fact that we go through stages in life and live a day-to-day existence.  He came as a baby, so He could experience what we experience.

But He wasn’t just a helpless baby.

He was everything you and I need and desire . . . the “Perfect Gift.”

The prophecy of Isaiah tells us Who He really is (Isa. 9:6):

Wonderful
A Wonder.
Beyond our understanding.
We can only stand back and be amazed.

He was both God AND man.
He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor.
He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death.
He died for us, while we were yet sinners.

We can only “wonder” at all He is and all He did for us.

Counselor
The Preeminent Counselor.
The “only wise God.”
No one is wiser than He is.

Since the beginning, mankind has had a desperate need for wisdom.
So, God promised to give us a Counselor.
One Whose counsel planned salvation.
One Whose counsel you and I can seek on a daily basis,

The Mighty God
God Himself.
Qualified to be our Savior and powerful enough to save.
Ready to meet our needs.

The Everlasting Father
The Life-giver.
The “Father of what is Everlasting.”
“Whoever believes on Me,” Jesus said, “HAS everlasting life.”
It can ONLY be found through Him.

The Prince of Peace
True Peace.
To know Him is to know the Greatest Peace.
Jesus told His disciples before He went to the Cross, “Peace I leave with you. MY peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives. . .”
True peace is ONLY found through Him.

God’s Son was not just a baby laid in a manger.  He was everything God knew we needed and desire.

The Perfect Gift.

A Gift only God could have given.

We have only the Lord to be grateful to that we have Christmas to celebrate.

(Click here to listen to "Thanksgiving for Christmas")

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful For . . .


In preparation for Thanksgiving Day (and by the reminder of a friend), I’ve resumed my gift-counting.

Here are a few. . . .
#199 – A night off when exhausted
#200 – Smile-laden e-mails
#201 – The joy of rejoicing with another who is rejoicing
#202 – The encouragement of a friend to “Keep thanking!”
#203 – Pureness in an impure world
#204 – The words. . . . “The Lord reigns.” 
#205 – Patience in action
#206 – Cuts that heal
#207 – Hard things that leave us touched by grace
  

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
"By him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." ~ Hebrews 13:15

(Please leave a comment and let me know what you’re thankful for this year!) 


Saturday, November 12, 2011

For a Season

I love this time of year.  
Fall never seems to stay long enough.



But like three favorite words in Scripture, it’s only here “for a season.”

“For a season.”
That’s how long the Bible promises our trials and testings will last. (1 Peter 1:6)

They have a beginning. 
They have an end. 
They serve their purpose. 
And they’re always headed for change.

Just like we can’t make Fall stay longer or Summer come too soon, 
our various trials have their appointed times.

But one more promise is also our hope:
He makes all things “beautiful in HIS time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 KJV)


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Never Thirsty

This week, our Bible Study was on the “Woman at the Well.” 
I debated about telling her story all over again here on my blog.   
But I suspect the story is familiar. 

A Jewish man and a Samaritan woman breaking all kinds of century-old traditions by engaging in conversation.  He, the Messiah, talking to an outcast woman of Samaria.  She, thirsty for something she couldn’t put her finger on. 

Jesus came to the well tired and thirsty for water.  But He met this woman and knew she had a thirst she didn’t properly understand.  She had tried to find satisfaction in all the wrong places.  He pointed that out to her and offered her “living water.”

I’ve never been able to get a clear definition for my own mind as to what “living water” is all about. I’ve heard Christ is the “living water.”  Salvation is the “living water.” 

Scripture explains that the Spirit of Christ is “living water.”  (John 7:37-39)

Christ is the Fountain.
His Spirit within us as believers is our constant supply.   
Our constant Source of satisfaction. 

Jesus said when we drink of Him (believe on Him), we will “never thirst.”

So. . . .
Why do we go to other places to find satisfaction?
Why do we live unfulfilled lives?
What makes us constantly search for contentment?
Why are we thirsty for more?

Maybe we haven’t learned what this woman learned.  

Jesus gave her living water, which became like a well within her from which she could constantly drink.  Others would disappoint her.  Other things in life would never be completely fulfilling.  But it wouldn’t matter anymore.  The sufficiency of Christ was enough for her now.  Something she could constantly draw from and “never thirst.”

She left her waterpot.  She left all the things that never completely satisfied.  And she went away with something that can never be taken from any person who has truly believed on Christ.  A well of water “springing up into everlasting life.”

We don’t have to be thirsty.  We don’t have to wait until “forever” to be satisfied. 
If we come to Him alone for satisfaction, His promise is. . . we will “never thirst.”

Every moment, we have a constant Source of strength and refreshment available to us – His Spirit to draw from.  Nothing will EVER be so satisfying.

Draw from Him today.
He will never leave you thirsty for something else.


(Click here to listen.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Very Little Things

“Trust God in the little things;
and also in the VERY little things.” – George Mueller

Imagine (if possible) . . . . 

Existing before anything else did.

Speaking galaxies into being.

Knowing the end from the beginning.

Loving and remembering people who hate and forget you.

Reaching out your arm of salvation to those same individuals.

Planning an eternal existence for your loved ones that can't even be fathomed.

Writing those loved ones on the palm of your hand.

Never withdrawing your eyes from those who love you in return.

Being able to bear any burden.

Of any weight.

Of any size.

That is our God. . .Who says numerous times in His Word:

"Trust."

"Trust Me."

"Trust Me with all your heart."

What is "living by faith" but keeping our eyes on the greatness of our God and leaving our "little things" in His capable hands?

He dwells "in the high and holy place."  Yes.

But ". . . with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit." (Isaiah 57:15)

He wants us to trust Him in the "little things."

And also in the "VERY little things."

Monday, October 10, 2011

What Makes Faith . . . "Great"?


Did you know that Jesus described the faith of others as “great” only two times in His ministry?
Out of the numerous encounters He had with people on this earth, there were only two occasions. 
Only two individuals.
Only twice did He find “great faith.”

Jesus described faith as “little” MANY times. 

But what makes faith. . . "great"?

Jesus found a woman with “great faith” in the Gentile region of Tyre and Sidon. 
She had heard of Jesus.  And she heard He was there.  Her daughter was possessed by a demon.  Jesus was the only One Who could help her . . . that’s what she believed.

So she came to Him and pleaded for mercy.
He didn’t answer a word.

She asked again and kept asking.
Jesus told the disciples that He was sent to the Jews only.

She fell at His feet and worshiped Him.  She begged Jesus to help her.
He re-emphasized her unworthiness.

But her prayer couldn’t be stopped. 
In her humility, she agreed with His assessment. 
She was like a dog under the master’s table.   
But she wasn’t hoping for a handout, but for a crumb.

That’s all she wanted.  A crumb.
She believed that even a crumb of the abundance of Christ would be sufficient.

“Then Jesus answered.”

“’O woman, great is thy faith.’”

·         It was Humble.
She asked for mercy, realizing she was undeserving.
And she humbly asked for a crumb.

·         It was Tried.
She received silence and opposition from where she least expected it.
And her faith was strengthened.

·         It was Steadfast.
She kept on believing.
Her faith stood firm.

·         It was Persistent.
She kept asking and never stopped.
Nothing could stop her from pleading with the only One would could meet her need. 

But what did these qualities of “great faith” prove?
They proved she believed He was great enough to answer.

In fact, every quality of “great faith” has behind it the confidence that He is able.
That He is enough.

And, ultimately, THAT’S what made this woman’s faith . . . “great.”

Hudson Taylor received amazing answers to prayer throughout his life. 
But this is what he said about “great faith”:  “It is not great faith you need, but faith in a great God.”

Hudson Taylor believed God was great enough to answer his prayers.

This woman believed Jesus could cast the demon out of her daughter.

And that’s exactly what He did.

But He didn't go with her and speak to the demon. 
He simply told this woman that it was done, and it was done: 
“Go thy way, the demon is gone out of thy daughter.”

And she went.

·         Great faith believes what it can’t see.  It believes His Word.

Two individuals believed Jesus was able to do exceeding, abundantly above what they asked for or even thought He would do.

This woman and the Roman centurion were told to go their way and simply believe that what they had asked for had been accomplished.  

And both individuals were the only ones who received their answers long-distance.
The “very hour” Jesus had said it was done.

They were trusted to believe the impossible.  Because they believed He could do the impossible.

They simply believed He was great enough.

And THAT’S what “great faith” looks like.

It’s not the size of our faith, but WHO our faith is in that makes it . . . “great faith.”


(Click here to listen to more about “The Syrophoenician Woman”.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lesson from the Vaux's Swifts


Ever spent an evening waiting for sunset so you could watch thousands of birds dive into a chimney?

That was me.  A friend.  And over 2,000 eager birdwatchers gathered to watch this spectacular event.

 The Vaux’s Swifts are in town.

They’re headed South.  
      (Do they really know that’s where they’re going?)

They always stop in Portland first.  
      (How do they know to do that?)

They stay for just one month.  
      (Who tells them it's September 30th?)


And they just happen to prefer sleeping in the Chapman Elementary School chimney while they’re here.

Thousands of swifts in one chimney.
The same chimney year after year.
For just one month.

But before they sleep, they gather from the miles they’ve traveled throughout the day, swirl around in groups waiting their turn, and then dive into the chimney in one funnel-like swoop.  


 It’s spectacular!
(Pictures don't do it justice!)
Better than a fireworks show.

And everyone claps.

But I wondered. . . .who were they praising?
And was it really necessary?

The Vaux’s Swifts were already doing a pretty good job of it.

Praising their Maker by being who He made them to be.
By doing what He created them to do.
Allowing themselves to be guided by His unseen Hand.
Following His appointed path for them.
Headed in the direction they were assigned.

And, along the way, their life of praise caused many bystanders to stop in their tracks.

And look up.