Grace Over Grace

“Here comes another….”, before she could finish the word wave another large and powerful wave washed over her and her brother. The red flag warning on the beach meant that a barrage of large waves would be washing into shore non-stop. The kids screamed in excitement as the waves swept over them and before they could get their footing another would arrive. Just as the waves washed over the children playing at the beach, so it is with God’s grace!

John 1:16 says, “Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness.” Like waves constantly washing over us, God’s grace sweeps over us again and again and again and again. If that seems repetitive and somewhat overstated, then my mission was accomplished. Rest in the promise of God’s word that the Lord’s love is never failing and because of that we are not consumed or destroyed by our sins but instead, we receive grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Why is it that we have been given this amazing grace? What have we done to earn or deserve this grace over grace? Our answer is incredibly hard to believe in this world of transactional and conditional love and forgiveness. The reality is that we have down nothing to be worthy of, or deserve this gift of new mercies every day. As we see in our text from John 1:16, it is “out of HIS fullness” that we receive that undeserved grace. It is in God’s whole, complete, and perfect love that grace pours over us!

It is God’s fullness, not our worthiness, which makes the repentant heart restored by a loving God. The world may have space for condemnation, shame, and see those who fall short unworthy of forgiveness, but God sees His children through the lens of Jesus Christ. God’s fullness means that when He sees His children fall short of His expectations and cry out with a repentant heart, He only has room in His heart for grace and forgiveness.

So I encourage you today, if you have become discouraged in your walk with the Lord because of your lack of perfection, wade into His sea of grace. Let the waves of love and forgiveness crash over you again and again. Just the moment you think you have done too much or gone too far, the next large and powerful wave of grace washes over you. Wave after wave. Grace after grace.

Resting In His Grace,

Joe Ward

Is It Time?

“The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly.” ~ Isaiah 60:22

Without fail I know we have all asked questions to the Lord over and over again regarding timing. When is it right to act on something we are contemplating? When is it prudent to justify moving forward with something in our lives that we are struggling with? When? When? When? We all feel this question and know we need to seek His answer. Sometimes though it’s very difficult when we don’t hear the answer we want or the one we expect. It’s never easy being told to wait, and yet that is the reality of the Lord’s timing. Sometimes the answer is “wait” and sometimes it’s “yes” or “no”.

I have pled with the Lord so many times asking for circumstances to work out “how I thought they should” or “when they should.” I’m not saying that wasn’t the will of God for me to ask, but I do know that within His answer it was not in His timing. The timing of the Lord is perfect. I’m the worst at understanding this sometimes, but I do know it to be true.

To understand this timing we must also be in connection with Him. When we truly adhere to His will and are connected with God we can start to see this much more clearly. It is at this point that we are able to have peace about the decisions and timeline we are given from the Lord. However, we must first take our flesh out of the decision and know that His perfect nature is never more present than within the timing He sees and allows to unfold in our lives. He has such a beautiful plan unfolding for each one of us, but it will always occur according to His way and not our own. As this scripture tells us, He will build us up from what we are and will do it swiftly.

I saw this recently and felt it was exactly what I was trying to convey in all of this.

“What if the circumstances you’re asking God to change are the very circumstances God is using to change you?” ~ Unknown source.

~ Kenny Stahl

 

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Just Shut Up, and Let God Be God

Agonizing Over Apathy

I’ve been in student ministry for a few years now. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that commitment to an event is not really that important…at least that’s what it seems like from a student’s perspective. Often, my colleagues and I find ourselves burning the midnight oil in an effort to bolster student interest in painstakingly planned events. This lack of interest can, if unchecked, cause grown men to weep like infants who need a nap. The apathy that exists can be infuriating. However, I know it’s not exclusive to student ministry, adult ministry, or even just ministry in general. What do we need to do to get out of the funk?

Love ’em Anyway

The best thing that you or I can do, is love them anyway. I’m in the middle of the next to last day before our community Disciple Now weekend, and I projected my group to be about 50 strong, and as of Tuesday, we had 18 signed up. I have spent a ton of time mulling over how to create excitement and tow these kids out of the pool of apathy they’re in. The answer to this scenario isn’t in having tons of flashy stuff, smoke and mirrors, or the like. The answer is in maintaining, building, and cultivating relationships with these kids so they will see the value in what we’re offering.

No Competition

If we’re honest, we know that when it comes to popularity, we can’t compete for students’ attention or affection. That is actually okay. Jesus never promoted that following Him would be popular or full of affection from the world. He did tell us, however, to go and make disciples as we live life alongside those people.

Bottom Line – It’s not a numbers game

When it comes down to it, sometimes we valuate ministry by the number of attenders we have each week. I swore up and down I’d never do that in ministry. I don’t typically do that on a week to week basis, but when it comes to planning an event…argh! The pressure exists to have as many students as possible come on a trip, attend a retreat or camp, or show up at a local event. That pressure comes from the desire to be “the best” in town. Ask any minister, and if they’re honest, the biggest struggle is attendance anxiety. What we need to remember, however, is that when we’re serving the Lord, building relationships, and reaching outside of our church walls for the Lord, those who need to be there, will be there. Simple as that. If you’ve been faithful to what God has called you to do, then the number of empty seats is irrelevant.

Continue reaching out for those who you know need Jesus. Go outside your comfort zone to find them, even if it means it’s right next door instead of on foreign soil.

Jesus calls us to go, as we go, and make disciples, teach disciples. In doing so, we’ll make disciple-makers. It might be a lonely road, but we’re called to travel it in faith.

Oh, and as of publication of this post tonight, our group sits at 32 students for the weekend. Apparently, they figured out that it’s going to be a ton of fun!

A Shield For Bad Days

 

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:7

So frequently, in this broken and imperfect world, our hearts feel downcast. In small ways on blue days, or in deep sorrow or depression, our hearts can feel the weight of sin, loss, or lies. The devil likes to remind us that we are broken, imperfect, and unworthy. Satan likes to dredge up the past, whisper untruths, and yell obscenities in our faces. He will remind us of all that we’ve lost and instill fear for all that we could yet lose.

But God doesn’t want us to live in fear, hopelessness, or despair. How do we live in this world, see what we see, hear what we hear, do what we do, and not let life drag us down?

Psalm 28:7 reminds us that it is THE LORD who is our very strength and shield. He will protect us, guard us, and give us strength. But for a shield to protect us, we must take up the shield and carry it before us. To unmask the lies of Satan, we must hold high the truths of God’s word.

  • – The truth is that we are broken, but we are mended by the master potter.
  • – The truth is that we are selfish, but we are learning to love others by the best teacher there is.
  • – The truth is that we will make mistakes, but we will learn from them, and we can find forgiveness through them.
  • – The truth is that we will experience loss and sadness, but that God will provide for us and meet our needs.
  • – The truth is that we will see effects of sin all throughout the world around us, but there is One who brings healing.
  • – The truth is that God will  be our shield when we put Him before us, and Satan has no claim on us–He WILL lose this battle.

Whatever lies Satan may throw at you today, or whatever heartaches you may endure, find your truth, your shield of protection, and your strength, in the almighty, all powerful, all sufficient Lord. In every seemingly hopeless situation, there is a life preserver of Truth to cling to.

What is your truth today?

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“Mom! Look at the size of that house!”

“Mom! Look at the size of that house! Those people must be S-O-O rich!” my kids squealed as we drove through an exclusive neighborhood. “Look at those fancy cars!” they continued. My mind raced…Right in this moment, how can I get them to see that these worldly possessions are not important?

“You know kids,” I started, “having the money to buy big houses and expensive cars isn’t important. Don’t be impressed just because someone appears rich. What if those people don’t use any of their money to help others? Being greedy with your money goes against what we believe as Christians.” They didn’t respond, so I prayed the lesson was heard.

I have found, however, that the lesson was heard loud and clear. While watching TV recently, one of the kids said, “Look at the size of that house!” To which another answered, “Yeah…but do you think they use some of their money to help others?”

This past week, I was happy to read 1 Timothy 6: 17-18, as it supported the lesson we are trying to teach our children:

Teach those who are rich in this world to be not proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.

I wonder how much better off our world would be if we all followed Paul’s advice to Timothy? Wouldn’t that be the best testimony of Christianity–Christians willingly helping others in need?

I’m challenged by these verses, and I hope you are too! I pray that God shows us areas in our lives where we can be more generous to those in need.

~ Jill Power

Count Your Blessings

You guys, I was really sick this weekend and didn’t write a devotional. I wrote one just now, and it was really close to one that got written yesterday, because I wasn’t reading them either so I have to save that one for another time. I was that sick. Which brings me to this devotional.

I was really sick last year, too. And my sons describe it as “the time I tried to keep from yelling as I taught them how to make cereal for themselves.” It was miserable. And difficult.
But I tell you that to tell you this. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22).

This is not a love letter to my wife, though it easily could be. Nor is it a slap in the face against the single man and woman. You have an entire apostle advocating for you. This is a reminder to never take the blessings that God does give you for granted. This is a reminder to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). My kids were a blessing for making their own cereal. My wife was a blessing for taking such great care of them and me and continues to be. It’s a blessing to eat more than crackers and dry toast, y’all.

My prayer for you this week is just that. Find the blessings. Count them. Find the positive. It’ll surprise you. And if you were raised southern baptist, I dare you to get the hymn that is in your head out of it for the rest of the day.

Whoever Turns A Sinner

Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. ~ James 5:20

This has always been an interesting scripture to me. I firmly believe that we need to always be encouraging to our brothers and sisters in Christ and point them to the Word. In today’s society, people through around #dontjudgeme like it’s scriptural. When in reality, it isn’t. The Word says that we’ll be judged as we judge. We can’t judge someone’s heart.

If we weren’t supposed to judge people, then Paul sure made all sorts of sins calling out the churches that he wrote to. If we weren’t supposed to point out sin, we wouldn’t have needed to know about the fruits of the spirit to identify those who are in Christ.

It’s our responsibility, as believers, to point people to Christ no matter the condition of their heart. We need to be encouraging everyone around us to draw closer to Jesus with our entire being.

Help a sinner turn away from their sins. Share the gospel!

 

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The Battle Is Already Won

 

12 Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him. ~2 Samuel 10:12

The Lord goes before us in every battle and knows all aspects of the conflict and the scope, in which it is fought. What makes us not only successful but a great soldier is trusting him with the outcome of the battle. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times this was true in my experience overseas serving in both Iraq and Afganistan. I have seen death and hardship during my time on this earth. More than any man should bear witness. Yet in every battle, the Lord was there, and here I am while many others are not. The plans for all were already set in motion long before we stepped foot on the battleground.

Knowing that our days are numbered (Job 14:5), helps me to realize the importance of following the Great Commission by Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). My present walk with the Lord has sparked so many changes in my life. I am eager to share the Gospel message fearlessly with all because I try to want the same thing as God – that no man should perish (2 Peter 3:9). I know God goes before me into this spiritual battle that we are all part.

Are you of good courage? Are you courageous before other believers? Get into the battle – we know it’s already won, but we need to do our best to lead those on the losing side to follow Jesus and be victorious with us.

Understanding Sacrifice

As a mother of two boys, ages one and four, I have learned a little bit about the meaning of sacrifice. I have learned that for your children you will sacrifice sleep, time for yourself, career aspirations, time with your significant other, and sometimes it’s just the rest of your sandwich.

However, to truly understand the most important sacrifice in our lives, we need to look to the cross. “The cross meant to kill is my victory.” All of us as parents are willing to sacrifice things that used to be important in our lives for our children. We put our children first and their needs first. But who among us as parents would be willing or able to sacrifice our child for another, another that is sinful, selfish, and truly doesn’t deserve it. I know I would not be able to. But our God who loves us in spite of our weaknesses, in spite of our sins, in spite of our mistakes, made the biggest sacrifice in the world. He gave his child’s life in order to save ours.

So in the day-to-day life when we are feeling alone, insecure, like we have to face this world’s battles and struggles on our own, we need to look to the cross. In John 3 16-18 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

God loves us so much He would sacrifice his only son, his child. So a God that is willing to sacrifice that much for us is not going to let us go through our day-to-day struggles and worries alone. So when you feel alone I challenge you to just be still and just be held in the comfort that God is always with you. His plan far surpasses yours. He has way more in store for you than your plan could ever get you. Just as you love your children and would sacrifice anything for them, He loves us and has already made the biggest sacrifice in order to save us. So when you face the day-to-day struggles and worries of this life just “throw your hands up and your worries down”, remember that ” the cross meant to kill is our victory”, and give it to God.

~ Ashlie Moore, Member at Pathway Church

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Do You Feel God?

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel- which means “God with us.”
~ Matthew 1:23
First of all, what a beautiful name our Savior was given and even more so the meaning. Knowing that before He was born and came to walk the Earth as a man His name alone told us He would be with us. I certainly don’t think this meaning applied to just the fact that He would be on Earth with us, but that He is always with us.

I think that as believers we would all agree that God is everywhere. I can’t imagine any Christian or follower doubting His Word and that he is omnipresent. God truly is everywhere even just taking into account how vast and amazing the universe He created truly is. I suppose the concern I have at times, and assume others do also, is that even though I know this- do I always feel this presence in my life?

I feel that this truth is directly connected with how we live our lives and the choices we make. I don’t just mean the choices of living according to His Word, but also in choosing to spend time in Him. When I neglect my time with God I can never feel close or near to Him. I know the truth that He is there, but I have to take that next step to show Him I am there also. If I want to feel Him then I need to make myself accessible to hearing him and His wonderful presence.

~ Kenny Stahl

 

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