Archives for posts with tag: grace

In this New Year, have you made resolutions?  Or maybe just “thought about” things you’d like to do differently?  Do you doubt you can or will accomplish these?

Come on, now, be honest!  DO you doubt yourself?

Well, guess what?  DOUBT is human!  It means you are part of the Human Race.  So rejoice!  If you thought you were superhuman–or are supposed to be in order to please God–have I got good news for YOU!

Growing up, I always had doubts that I was good enough, had done enough, would do enough, think enough, pray enough…yada, yada….to please God so He would always love me.

Finally, I came to truly understand Ephesians 2:8-9.   “For by grace you’re saved, through faith, and that’s not even from you; it’s a free gift from God, not of your works, or any man could boast about himself.”

Many of us have so many daily struggles with the stresses and temptations of the world we live and work in that we get to the point where we wonder if we really are a part of God’s family.  Even if we claim the name of Jesus Christ.  It’s at this point, when we’re holding onto that fraying knot, we need to grab and cling to God’s promises through His Word.

A pastor once said, “Noah may have fallen while IN the ark, but he never fell OUT of the ark; nor did God tell him to put pegs on the outside and hang on!”

AMEN!  Think of Noah and the ark as a good anchor for our thoughts at times of doubt.  God provided the instructions to build the ark, then provided the rain–and the floods came.  BUT GOD kept His promise of safety.  (By the way, sometime do a word study with your Bible and a concordance–available to you free on the Internet–on the word coupling “but God” and see what God does!)

God has given us instructions for OUR safety through life’s storms.  By trusting our life and eternal soul to Jesus Christ, we are saved eternally!  God keeps us safe throughout all time and brings us safely to shore in heaven through His promised Son.

THOUGHT FOR THIS DAY:  We can slip and fall, but God will always pick us up.

by Cindy Best

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Now that the holidays are over and the new year is underway (and the Iowa caucuses are done), things seem to be settling back down to the normal winter routine, although yesterday the weather was trying to persuade me that it is April, not January, with warm temperatures, clear blue skies, and soft breezes.  After seven cold and snowy winters, some extremely so, I thoroughly enjoyed this strange, gentle touch of spring.  I know winter will return (and it will still be dark by five o’clock), but I am reminded that spring isn’t really that far away, and new life will emerge as the days lengthen and the warm breezes return.

To me, January 1 has never felt like the beginning of a new year.  It’s sort of a let-down after Christmas.  The music has waned, the decorations and lights must come down and be packed away for another year, and, for many people, it’s back to the old diet after a season of indulging.  Instead, the back-to-school days feel more like the beginning of a new year, perhaps because nearly all my life I’ve been a student, a teacher, or a parent.  With a mixture of excitement and sadness, I’ve transitioned from the more carefree days of summer to the back-to-work mornings of autumn, which will soon roll into the cold, dark season of winter.  But a new school year seems full of possibilities, with things to learn, old friends to reconnect with and new friends to meet, and the busyness of classes, books, and extracurricular activities.

The Bible talks a lot about the new.  According to one source I checked, the word new appears 183 times in the New International Version.  From the beginning (Genesis), when He made a whole world from nothing, to the end (Revelation), when He declares, “I am making everything new!” God is always doing new things.  It’s sort of His trademark, isn’t it?  A creator can’t help making something new: it’s in the job description.  And for us, the most important new thing is our new life, God’s gift through His sacrifice on the cross.  The book of Lamentations tells us:  “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (chapter 3, verses 22-23).  We do not need to fear being overwhelmed by sin because God loves us too much to allow that.  His compassion and grace are fresh and new every day, ready to rescue us when we fall short of the perfection that He desires for us.  All of creation will be made new in the last days, but we can be remade whenever we confess our wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness:  God might tire of our sin, but He doesn’t tire of washing us clean and giving us yet another fresh start.

We are writing our life’s story as we move, moment by moment, through time.  Without God’s grace, our lives would be empty and our stories meaningless.  Thanks to a loving and compassionate God, we can be assured that each of us has a purpose, and when we reach the end of our story we can be confident that even in our imperfection, we matter to God.  But we are also characters in the great story that God Himself is writing.  We might be the narrator or protagonist in our own tale, but we don’t know our role in God’s greater story until the final page is turned.  Whatever our purpose is in this story of stories, we can be sure that we will be equipped and prepared to accomplish it because scripture tells us so:  “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).  We do not need to feel threatened by the new challenges the future presents because we are the children of a loving God, whose blessings are abundant and reliable and whose love is always and eternally new.

As a late-coming autumn swiftly transitions over to winter in central Iowa and the days become shorter, darker, and colder, I find myself sinking into a seasonal melancholy that always turns my attention to what I consider the deeper things in life.  Perhaps it is the loss of daylight and warmth that directs my thoughts to loss in general.  We have all experienced and survived the loss of a loved one, our own health, a friendship or other relationship, a job, a home, perhaps a dream we once had for ourselves.  As much as we would like to avoid it, we simply cannot.

It is natural for us, then, as individuals and even as a nation or world to divide our life’s timeline into Before and After.  Before and After 9/11.  The War.  The Economic Meltdown.  The Death of a Grandchild.  The Suicide of a Son.  The Miscarriage.  The Divorce.  The Betrayal.

Sometimes we get stuck in our memories of that Before life and are unable to embrace the After and move past our pain and grief and longing.  We don’t know how to accept the loss with grace.  Maybe we fear that if we do accept it, we will forget that person or devalue that friendship or feel bitter or guilty or ashamed.  The only way we can see to protect ourselves is to clutch the Before closely, because letting it go would mean emptying ourselves out and starting over with a new, blank-page After, and the thought of an empty self terrifies us.  We tell ourselves that suffering is part of life.  Better the pain we know than the pain we can only imagine.

For people of faith, getting stuck in the Before world can be a means of avoiding what Saint John of the Cross called a “dark night of the soul,” that necessary agony we must endure if we want to experience union with God.  Make no mistake, God does not cause our suffering; it is a byproduct of being human.  We all must endure hardship and tragedy, both physical and spiritual, as we struggle to overcome our attachments and grow in our relationship with God.  Our souls long to be reunited with the One who made us and loves us, but we also long to hold on to those we love, despite the impermanence of earthly bodies and other material things.  Letting them go is an act of faith and an expression of hope, a necessary loss.

Friedrich Nietzsche, a 19th century German philosopher famous for questioning nearly everything, said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”  Although this isn’t exactly Biblical, I think it’s usually true.  Without struggle, we cannot grow.  Several years ago my family had some trees planted in our yard.  The person who did the planting staked the young trees to protect them from the fierce Iowa winds as their roots took hold.  I wondered how long the stakes should stay in place, so I did some research.  Turns out you should remove them after no longer than one year, because the trees need resistance from the wind in order to send their roots deep into the ground.  Leaving them staked too long allows the roots, which are lazy without the challenge of wind, to grow in a shallow pattern, and once the stakes are removed the first big gust could just topple the tree.

We are like trees in that respect.  Although we don’t seek out tragedy, if we lean into it and fully embrace it we can allow God to use it to strengthen the roots of our faith by growing them deep into Him.  It is painful.  It is difficult.  It is often lonely.  But until we can honestly say, “Your grace is sufficient,” we will never know what wholeness, what union with God, is like.  We have to release the world Before and pursue with tears, with anger, with agony, and with joy the life After.  It’s the only life truly worth living.

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