Sunday, April 25, 2010


But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever! Amen.
2 Peter 3:18 (NIV)

I'm an audible thinker and a visual learner. I love to talk out ideas; and when it comes to grasping abstract thoughts, I learn better when I can visualize a concept. Such is the case with the notion of "grace."

Zondervan's Bible Dictionary defines the Greek word translated as "grace" as, "The concept of kindness given to someone who doesn't deserve it: hence, undeserved favor, especially that kind or degree of favor bestowed on sinners through Jesus Christ.

God's grace is amazing, unlimited, lavish, and actively demonstrated in the death of Jesus on the cross. He forgives sins, restores lives, and pours out countless blessings that are neither deserved nor expected. (Ephesians 2:8-9) No disagreements about His grace.

I wrestle, however, with what it looks like to personally grow in the grace of Jesus Christ. Expressed in an acrostic as God's Riches At Christ's Expense, the essence of GRACE appears one-sided. Like a gift, it's unearned and given freely with no expectation of receiving something in return.

The trouble with grace is that it can be misunderstood. It can be taken advantage of by those who think they are entitled to benefits they have not earned. Grace can be wrongly regarded as a safety net for those who are planning on doing wrong and asking for forgiveness later.

The good thing about grace is that it can bring out the best in us.

Extending grace became very real to me in our most recent move. The logistics of our relocation required that we put our household goods in storage for a seven-week period. At a minimum, delivering the shipment involved coordinating the schedules of real estate agents, title companies, mortgage lenders, utility services, moving van drivers, packers, and third party contractors; not to mention my husband's work calendar. Sensing my anxiety, the coordinator responsible for our move repeatedly assured me she would personally manage our move, care for our belongings, and coordinate the delivery details. When all was said and done, however, our scheduled one-day unload turned into a muddled three-day marathon.

In "My Utmost for His Highest," Oswald Chambers writes, "The grace you had yesterday will not be sufficient for today. Grace is the overflowing favor of God, and you can always count on it being available to draw upon as needed...Let circumstances take you where they will, but keep drawing on the grace of God in whatever condition you may find yourself."

In the midst of my exhaustion, disappointment and frustration, grace had an amazing way of covering mistakes and turning our delivery fiasco into a holy place. Rightly used, grace is a "miracle attitude" that comes from God and enables us to give one another undeserved kindness without suspending personal accountability.

To whom can you extend the gift of grace, my friend? Is it your husband who has angered you? A child who has disappointed you? Has a friend deserted you, a co-worker betrayed you, or a stranger inconvenienced you? Grace find good in everything, even failures.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, April 19, 2010

Empty net

It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you."
John 21:1b-2 (NIV)

The setting is by the Sea of Tiberias, which is probably the official Roman name for the Sea of Galilee, the area's popular name. The event involves the third, visible appearance of the Risen Christ to His disciples.

We're not told how or why the disciples came to be back in their home region of Galilee after the events of the Passover week in Jerusalem. For three years, these men walked with the "headliner." In recent days, however, they hid behind locked doors in fear of the Jewish leaders. They didn't seem to have a clear purpose in mind in spite of Jesus' commissioning in John 20:21-23.

Some scholars suggest based on Peter's comment that he bailed on his calling to "fish for men" and had gone back to his old career of fishing for fish. Considering recent events, Peter's attitude may have been partly the result of discouragement over his threefold denial of Jesus during the trials. Perhaps the fishing trip was out of economic necessity. Whatever the reason, it's interesting to note that when the seven men picked up their old profession, they caught nothing after fishing all night.

Life doesn't always turn out the way we think it should. Quite frankly, sometimes the trouble with life is that it is so daily. Things don't go the way we expect. We become buried by feelings of disappointment. Discouragement threatens to drag us away from God's call for our life. Some of God's best people struggled with the same thing.

Reading through the Gospels, it becomes quite clear that more than anything, Jesus cares about people. He came to our planet because people needed what only He could bring to us. And, as you probably know. He went to the extremes of self-sacrifice to prove how committed He was to meeting our needs.

Jesus showed up on the beach of the Sea of Galilee and called Peter back to His side.Whether you're struggling through a season of disappointment, a time of uncertainty, or the memory of personal failure is still fresh in your mind, my friend, listen. He's calling you back to Him.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Monday, April 12, 2010

Keeping the happily in ever after

Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, "I'll work for you [Laban] seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel."
Genesis 29:18 (NIV)

Someday my prince will come; someday I'll find my love,
And how thrilling that moment will be
When the prince of my dreams comes to me.
He'll whisper "I love you" and steal a kiss or two.
Though he's far away, I'll find my love someday,
Someday when my dreams come true.

Someday I'll find my love, someone to call my own,
And I'll know her the moment we meet,
For my heart will start skipping a beat.
Someday we'll say and do things we've been longing to.
Though she's far away, I'll find my love someday,
Someday when my dreams comes true.*

Aaahhh. Every little girl's dream--someday her prince will come. They'll fall in love. Wedding bells will ring. He'll whisk her away to his castle and together they'll live happily ever after. I met my prince 29 years ago on April 10. We were married May 1, one year later.

Bob is a loving, faithful husband and an affectionate, devoted father. He is a generous provider and a kindhearted friend. When it comes to working around the house, he's great at "ripping up" things. More importantly, he's absolutely fantastic at putting them back together in better than original condition!

When we entered into our covenant relationship, I doubt that either of us appreciated the kind of spiral that would lead our original commitment to a deeper, richer love. It's something that has developed during the years and involved grace, which has shown itself in forgiveness, that has led to serving each other.

Not surprising, when we think about service in marriage, it's often how another person should serve us. Service is usually linked to power. If someone is serving me, then I have power over that person; if I serve another, he has power over me. But that is the opposite of how service growing out of grace should look.

Love and grace lead to serving the other person rather than being served. We don't use power over another person but use power on behalf of another. As a result, mutual submission leads to a wife and a husband who empower one another to be what God wants each one to be.

In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote, "Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord...Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." (Ephesians 5:21-33) If anything in this concept seems like weakness, this is precisely what Jesus has done for us. He serves His church by dying for it and living for it.

Marriage for anyone can be challenging at times, no matter how much in love you are. Bob and I have had our ups and downs and we'll experience more in the years to come. The plain and simple truth is, however, I'd marry that guy all over again if I could! And, that would be thrilling indeed.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

*Someday My Prince Will Come
Words & Music by Larry Morey & Frank Churchill

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The silent hours

Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
John 19:42 (NIV)

Taking palm branches, the great crowd went out to meet Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Five days later following a string of betrayal, arrest, denials, trials, beatings and crucifixion, Jesus' dead, battered and bloody body was taken down from the cross. Without pomp or ceremony, His body was laid in a cold, silent tomb.

I remember like it was yesterday walking away from my daddy's gravesite following his funeral service. The immediate silence weighed heavily on my mother, brothers, sisters and me. In our individual memories, we grappled with the earthly finality marked by our father's death. With God's Word, however, we have the benefit of knowing that when Jesus died on the cross, it didn't end there. I've often thought about some of those who were close to Jesus during the days leading up to His death. What did they experience during the "silent hours" that His body lay in the grave?

There was the little-known man named Malchus, the servant of the high priest. A participant in the arrest of the itinerant preacher, Malchus lost his right ear at the hand of Peter and was miraculously healed by the hand of the alleged criminal he came to arrest. Shocked by the attack, surprised by the healing, did Malchus struggle with the idea that a company of soldiers was ordered, under the cover of night, to arrest a man who would defend and heal an enemy?

What about the centurion in charge of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? According to Bible scholar William Barclay, "The centurions were the finest men in the Roman army." A seasoned veteran who had watched men die, this army officer no doubt had supervised many crucifixions. Yet, this event was different. He witnessed Jesus' response to the injustice that He endured at the hands of His own countrymen, as well as His response to the torture that the centurion and his men inflicted upon Him. He saw the dignity with which Jesus responded to the lynch mob, the mercy He showed toward the people and, finally, creation's response to the Creator's sin-bearing act.

A man of means and a member of the council that had condemned Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea was too afraid to publicly identify with Christ when the Savior was alive. But then he does the unthinkable; he identifies with Him in His death. Joseph goes to Pilate, claims the "criminal's" body, and performs a task both horrible and lovely. Just the physical struggle of removing the Savior's beaten and bloody body would have been a gruesome task. Did Joseph carry the sorrow of regret about what, humanly speaking, might have been had he declared his allegiance to the Savior sooner? Too late for regret, it wasn't too late to care. As he prepared the body of Jesus for burial, Joseph's secret fears gave way to a very public demonstration of love and devotion.

Then there were the women who stood in faithful devotion by the cross of Jesus. Considered no better than possessions and undervalued by their ancient world, Jesus treated these women of Galilee with uncommon honor and dignity, with kindness and care. What emotional roller coaster of feelings did they experience as they waited out of the silent hours in order to return to the tomb to complete the burial process?

We observe on Maundy Thursday in the Lord's Supper Jesus' command to remember. On Good Friday, we recall with heartache Jesus' suffering as He took our sins and died on the cross. We joyfully celebrate on Easter Sunday His victory over sin, death and the devil. Dear friend, during the silent in-between hours as His body lay in the tomb, it is my desire that my heart, and yours, be stirred to devotion as we consider the marvelous healing, overwhelming mercy and grace-filled care that is ours through our Savior's suffering, death and resurrection.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following