Greatness By Grace

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13 ESV

The disciples of Jesus, Peter and John were both fisherman by trade and they came from a small city that had little economic or cultural significance.

Paul, although theologically trained, was a tent maker.
Matthew was a tax collector.
Onesimus was a run away slave.
Cornelius was a soldier.
Rahab was a prostitute.
Moses was a murderer.
David was a conspiring adulterer.

The list goes on and on. Yet, all of these experienced a sense of Kingdom greatness because of grace.

Peter and John tell others what they have seen, heard and experienced . . . they are confident, not condemning. They are not only identified as being with Jesus . . . they are impacted, influenced and inspired by Jesus.

This brand of authenticity, boldness and courage becomes the new “ABC’s” of following God. It isn’t education . . . it’s experience with Jesus. It isn’t a position, it is His presence. It isn’t sitting at the feet of an educator, it’s sitting at the feet of The Master Teacher.

These “uneducated, common men” astonish the traditionalists of the day because they accept the truth of Jesus.

Jesus Changes. Paul writes to the Christ-followers in Corinth, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Cor 5:17 NLT) We are no longer in chains, we change. We are free from our past and penalties of sin. We are given a promise and peace through our pain and problems. Jesus says, “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” (John 8:36 NLT) Roy T. Bennett writes, “Never let hard lessons harden your heart; the hard lessons of life are meant to make you better, not bitter.”

Jesus Challenges. A life changed by Jesus challenges the culture . . . with compassion, not condemnation. It’s triumph, not timidity. It’s hope, not hopelessness. We are light to the darkness and salt to the tasteless. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminds us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matt 5:15-16 NLT). Light illuminates the way. Salt infuses flavor so others can “taste and see that The Lord is good”. (Ps 34:8)

Sunday Adelaja, Founder and Senior Pastor of Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations, in Kiev, Ukraine, writes, “Living in the Glory of God’s presence is to extend his domain of love”

Instead of a fisherman, tent maker, or tax collector, you may be an executive, small business owner, salesman, educator, barista, stay-at-home mom, coach, virtual employee or service provider. We all experience Kingdom greatness and grace . . . not because of prominence, position, power or paycheck . . . but, because we have been in the presence of our God.

This is a day of tender boldness, of truthful bravery and of letting others know that you have truly been with Jesus.

He defines each of us as a destiny maker . . . by changing us and challenging us.

Sometimes You Have To Look Behind The Curtain

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20 ESV

Trusting God is sometimes hard . . . trusting people who are “God’s messengers” in our lives . . . that reaches to a different level of difficulty.

Joseph lived a life of which great novels and award winning movies are made. He was the favorite younger son of a large family. He was honored by his earthly father and his Heavenly Father. Hated by his brothers, they faked his death and sold him into slavery. Even as a slave, he distinguished himself as a leader, rising to a place of prominence and then being falsely accused of sexual misconduct. He was given insight from God, rose to another position of power and became one of the greatest leaders of one of the powerful nations in history.

In the children’s literary classic of the 1900’s, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy and Toto encounter the Wizard. After stalling to fulfill his promises, Toto pulls back a curtain and exposes the Wizard as a middle-aged man operating machinery and speaking into a microphone. Admitting to being a humbug, he insists that he is a good man but a bad wizard. Looking behind the curtain revealed the real story.

In Joseph’s story, God is revealed as a “behind the scenes” Divine Chess Player moving pieces that strategically bring about His ultimate plan.  As a Sovereign multi-tasker, His insight, influence and impact transcend time. His omniscient perception has been, is and will always be.

God’s Good Plan. By today’s standards, Joseph is a victim. The actions of his brothers and enemies are unfair and unfounded. Their deceptive reactions deliver disastrous results. Joseph’s brothers devise evil against him while God designs and directs the evil for good. As Joseph places his trust in God, his perspective changes from a victim to a victor. Paul reminds us, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Rom 8:28 NLT). In our lack of patience and limited perception, its easy to lose confidence in God’s plan. Our failure to trace God’s moving hand requires our faith to trust His heart. Elizabeth Elliott writes, “Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.” God always has a plan for His people.

God’s Guiding Presence. God’s omniscient perception is always complimented by his omnipresence . . . He is with you . . . always. George Washington writes, “Providence has at all times been my only dependence, for all other resources seemed to have failed us.” Moses reassures the Israelites, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deut 31:8 NLT) The Sovereign Savior has been with you in your yesterday, is with you in your today and will be with you in your tomorrow. The writer of Hebrews reminds us of God’s promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5 ESV)

God’s Greater Purpose. Joseph’s pain, as well as his prominence are all part of God’s plan for deliverance and destiny. He depends on God’s grace and determines God’s greater good. Joseph perceives God’s broader purpose, “He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Gen 50:20 NLT) Young writes, “This is how you foil the works of evil, growing in grace through the very adversity that was meant to harm you.” Paul tells us, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Phil 1:6 NLT). God is working in ways that we cannot see to do things that we cannot do.

C. S. Lewis writes, “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain, but without stain.”

In our struggles and suffering, God has a good and greater purpose . . . and He guides us with His presence.

Others may devise evil . . . God has destined good. Just take a look behind the curtain.

Time To Recharge

I will fully satisfy the needs of those who are weary and fully refresh the souls of those who are faint.
Jeremiah 31:25 NET
Weary?  Worn out?  Whipped?
We are always on the go . . . always working . . . always connecting.  We give the nod to the novel notion that we are masters of our own lives.  We redefine busyness as blessing . . . when in reality it becomes a burden.
Our Creator knows the chaos that we create.  Returning to Him refocuses life.  Resting in Him results in a replenished life.  Surrendering the demands of our schedule to sit at His feet means we find solace, strength and stamina.
Request To Rest.  Too often, we define our status by the demands on our schedule.  Seemingly, the more we do, the more we are needed.  We want to get away, but we can’t pry ourselves from the perceived priorities of life.  There is no better way to “get away” than to get with God.  He longs for us to escape the trials and turmoil of our days by embracing Him.  Jesus understands our rigors of responsibility and He responds with a request, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28 NET).  We come to Him and He gives rest.
Reason To Rest.  The pressures of each day should push us to God’s presence, not away.  The psalmist cries out, “And I say, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” (Ps 55:6 ESV)  God designs us to “recycle”, not run all the time.  Our batteries need to recharge.  After Jesus and His disciples met the needs of many, He knew it was time to retreat.  Mark writes, “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 NIV).  Charles Spurgeon writes, “Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength . . . It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.”
Results Of Rest.  The prophet Jeremiah is crystal clear in his commentary . . . God fully satisfies and fully refreshes.  Isaiah tells us “the Lord gives you rest from your pain, torment, and the hard labor you were forced to do.” (Is 14:3 HCSB)  When we reside in our Redeemer’s rest, we realize completely renewal, restoration and replenishment.  Jesus says, “Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:29 NET)
S.D. Gordon writes, “If there be anything that can render the soul calm, dissipate its scruples and dispel its fears, sweeten its sufferings by the anointing of love, impart strength to all its actions, and spread abroad the joy of the Holy Spirit in its countenance and words, it is this simple and childlike repose in the arms of God.”
It’s okay to step away from the pressure and sit in His presence.
Your God is waiting with outstretched arms, willing to give you a respite and wanting you to find rest . . . run to Him, let Him rescue you and be renewed in His embrace.

Redefining A Heavy Load To Carry

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT

In every challenge, we are provided with a choice . . . believe in the process or be burdened with the problem.

There’s an old adage attributed to Coach Knute Rockne, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

The daily grind often produces a debilitating grief. But, those who endure will engage . . . the promise of everlasting hope gives us everyday help.

The apostle writes, “. . . And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” (‭‭2 Cor‬ ‭4:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬) Paul provides roadsigns to guide us on this potential and promising journey.

Our Resolve. “That is why we never give up.” Paul’s conviction is to never concede. Often, our defeat is birthed in our denial that the Divine will deliver us. Don’t give up. Franklin D. Roosevelt says, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” The apostle reminds us, “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” (2 Chron 15:7 NIV) Perseverance with purpose from above is powerful.

Our Renewal. Renewal and refreshment lead to our replenishment. These bodies wear down and wear out, yet our minds are made new and our spirits are sustained. Isaiah tells us, “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, they will walk and not be faint.” (Is 40:31 NIV)

Our Reason. In the time frame of eternity, our trials are tiny and temporary. Paul reminds us, “For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” (2 Cor 4:17 NET). Any grief is our gain with a result of God’s grace and growing glory. Peter encourages us, “And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Pet 5:10 NET)

Our Recognition. Perspective is the ability to peer into God’s plan and trust in God’s purpose. Paul describes it as recognizing the eternal triumph over the everyday trial. Our seeing impacts our being. Churchill says, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” An eternal optimist sees all opportunities and obstacles from God’s observatory . . . hope and promise from a heavenly perspective.

When you feel like giving up, get up. 
When you feel like groaning, be grateful. 
When you can’t see with your eyes, see with His.

Allow God’s determination to drive you, deliver you and define you for your good and His glory.

Fear Is A Big Trap

Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting The Lord means safety. Proverbs 29:25 NLT

Augustine writes, “Fear is the response of the human heart when it’s one thing is threatened.”

Solomon is credited with being one of the wisest and wealthiest who ever lived. Yet, the threats to his treasured things created terror. He fought his own fears . . . fear of failure, fear of people, fear of loss, fear of loneliness. With insight, Solomon provides a solutionary strategy for the snares that surround us.

There Is Protection In Our Fears. Fear is a subtle snare of our enemy. It traps us with terror that will tear the very fiber of our faith. Solomon finds security and safety in his Sovereign. The psalmist reminds us that trust is the key, “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” (Psalms 56:3 NLT) A. B. Simpson writes, “Fear is born of Satan, and if we would only take time to think a moment we would see that everything Satan says is founded upon a falsehood. Every fear is distrust, and trust is the remedy for fear.”

There Is Peace In Our Fears. God calls us to calm. Proverbs reminds us, “But all who listen to Me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.” (Prov 1:33 NLT) England’s most prominent 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon writes, “Whether the fear arise from without or within, from past, present, or future, from temporals, or spirituals, from men or devils, let us maintain faith, and we shall soon recover courage.” God commits His calm and courage in the confusion of our chaos. Jesus tells us, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)

There Is Promise In Our Fears. Paul reminds us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Tim 1:7 NLT). Fear cannot thrive where faith is alive. To survive in our fears, we must surrender to faith. God’s word is true, tested and tried . . . He has not given us fear, but favor.  First century disciple John encourages us, “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4:18 NLT) We rest in His promise, in His passion and in His rock-solid, always powerful hands that never let go.

We share the same struggles as Solomon. Learning for his experiences allows us to live in his example. John Bunyan reminds us of our remedy, “Let it rain, let it blow, let it thunder, let it lightning, a Christian must still believe. ‘At what time,’ said the good man, ‘I am afraid, I will trust in thee.'”

Shirley Caesar writes the following encouraging lyrics;

“When the world that I’ve been
Living in collapses at my feet.
And when my life is all tattered and torn.
Though I’m wind-swept, I’ve been battered
I’m gonna cling unto His cross.
I’ll find peace in the midst of the storm.”

“There is peace in the midst of the storm-tossed life.
There is an Anchor, there is a rock to build my faith upon.
Jesus Christ is my vessel so I fear no alarm.
He gives me peace in the midst of the storm.”

Fight your fears with faith and turn your terrors with trust.

He is the Peace in the midst of your storm.

My Eraser Isn’t Big Enough

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT
Line them all up and I’ve made more mistakes than had milestones.  
We all mess up.  It may be out of ignorance, incompetence, inattention, indifference, inability or even intentionally . . . for what ever the reason . . . we all make mistakes.
All mistakes have consequences.  We hope that we receive grace and mercy from community. Yet, we have the ability and availability to rest in the Grace-giver and Mercy-mover.  Solomon gives us a simple and proactive formula for our stupidity and errors in judgement.
Our Conviction.  Too many times we trust more in our own insightful whims, than in God’s inspirational wisdom.  We need to trust ALL in Him with ALL our heart.  It is complete conviction.  The psalmist writes, “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.” (Ps 37:5 NLT).   Depending primarily on our own insights only leads to perpetuating instability.  The book of Proverbs reminds us, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”  (Prov 28:26 ESV)
Our Consent.  Another translation reads, “in all your ways, acknowledge Him . . .”.  It’s recognizing that we have limited reasoning, response or resource on our own . . . He has and is all that we need.  Our approach can often lead to anxiety, apathy or abandonment.  In our Prince of Peace, there is no anxiety.  With our Wonderful Counselor, there is no apathy.  With our Everlasting Father, there is no abandonment.  Prayer becomes our confession of conceding to our Creator. Paul writes, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6 ESV)
Our Confidence.  Resting and relying on God’s complete and absolute guidance grounds us in His amazing grace.  Paul reminds us, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Rom 8:28 NLT). It’s not a “think so” . . . or “hope so” . . . it’s a “know so”.  There is no doubt in God’s decisive directing.  Solomon tells us that “He will show you which path to take”.  God’s direction becomes our delight and our deliverance.
Bottom line . . . we are all going to make some bad choices, stupid mistakes or have errors in judgement.   Famed UCLA basketball coach and mentor of young men, John Wooden reminds us, ” If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
Even in those dark and uncertain times, we have the conviction that He can be trusted, we consent to follow His direction, and we have confidence that He will guide.
Trust and seek . . . God will direct and deliver.
So, to all of us who mess-up everyday . . . we have a Help and we have a Hope.