Category Archives: Daily Living

Stop Asking for God’s Grace

How do I react when I make a mistake, when I don’t do what I want to do and I do what I don’t want to do (Rom. 7:19-20), when I sin?

Hopefully, the immediate or near immediate reaction is remorse and repentance. Often that is the case. Often another human emotional response is guilt. Guilt can be good to an extent, if it leads to repentance and change.

If I’ve repented and changed, guilt no longer has a place. But what if it won’t let go? It could mean that there’s more the Holy Spirit is trying to show me. Or I could just be holding into the guilt because of shame or habit or some other reason. That’s no good.

It can be hard to let go of guilt, especially if my sin affects or harms others. If I lash out in anger at someone, I can ask God to forgive me, and He does. But I also have to ask that person to forgive me and then deal with the consequences of my actions. If it’s been a habitual problem, it can be even more difficult to lay down the guilt.

Recently, I was discussing with a local priest this issue of guilt robbing us of grace. How does a repeat offender (aka all humans), keep coming back and asking for more grace? His answer floored me.

He basically reminded me that, as a human, I’m never worthy of the grace and mercy that I need. I have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). But he also reminded me of the good news – I can never exhaust God’s grace and mercy. His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:23).

He gave, what was for me, life-changing advice: “Stop asking for God’s grace, and start cooperating with it.”

Stop asking for grace, and start cooperating with it. That one sentence changed my entire perspective. Why would I ask for something that’s already been given? The grace of God is a gift that was already given two millennia ago. It is free. It is for you and for me.

So what does it mean to cooperate with grace? I don’t know that I have a complete answer.

It seems that this cooperation begins with repentance. Then laying down guilt at the foot of the Cross and walking in a new freedom. It means laying that guilt down every time we’re tempted to pick it up again. It means finding ways to change and grow stronger in spirit to better resist the next temptation which tries to come between us and God. It means allowing the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and root out anything that exalts itself against Him.

That is what it means to me, but I’m more interested in what you think. How do you cooperate with God’s grace?

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I can’t do it

I can’t be holy. I can spend my whole life trying to be perfect by my standards, by the world’s standards, even by God’s standards. I will fail. Apart from Christ, I have no hope of salvation, no hope of glory, no hope of true success.

So to be holy, to follow the way of Christ, I have to turn my heart from what I can do. I must remove my focus from myself and my inability. I must look instead to Christ on the cross, Christ risen, Christ in me. Then, I have the only hope that matters, the only hope that is true.

This year my mantra has been the song, “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher. It perfectly captures my heart at at this moment in time. And it’s popularity suggests that it echoes the hearts of many Christians.

I especially like the second verse and the bridge:

V2: Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
 
Bridge: Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay

The theme of grace, freedom and holiness are tied into one thought. No matter where I go, what I do, how many times I fall, Jesus is my hope and stay.

I tend to be such a control freak that I don’t always realize that I’m doing something in my own strength instead of relying on Him. Until I hit the wall or fall on my face. But the more I make a habit of falling on Him, running to Him, looking to Him, the more I realize I need Him in every way, in every minute of every day.

Needing Christ doesn’t make us weak, for He is our strength. His grace is always bigger than our sin. His power is always greater than our need. His love is always enough.

I can’t be holy, but I can surrender to Him. It’s a daily choice, sometimes hourly or even by the minute – but I can choose to cooperate with His unending grace. I can choose to let Christ be Holiness in me.

If you don’t know it, check out the song:

 


Those who pray for you

This post is a bit different (and later) than usual. But recent events have had me thinking about the power of prayer. You and I may be small people in the grand scheme of things, but we can never know the full impact of our prayers for others. You may be the only person offering prayers for your neighbor. And those prayers can be all the difference in someone's life.

I once heard a story about a preacher. I don't remember which one, but I do remember the basic story. This preacher was in the hospital for a surgical procedure and had a spiritual dream. In the dream, he went to heaven and ended up in a room of crowns. Jesus was there to choose the crown for the preacher. There were all kinds, from simple earthen creations to ornate diadems.

After a few moments The Lord settled on two crowns. One was rather simple, made of silver with no gems or special decoration. The other was a beautiful crown of gold that was delicately carved, and laden with diamonds and other precious jewels. Jesus asked the preacher which crown he thought belonged to him.

The preacher was very famous and had led countless souls to The Lord. So he was eying the crown of gold and gems.

Before he could answer, Jesus handed him the simple crown. Trying to hide his disappointment, he thanked his Lord. Knowing the preacher's heart, Jesus asked what troubled him.

The preacher said, “Lord, I have preached Your Gospel all over the world and led countless souls to You. I am grateful to be received into your glory, but I must know – to whom does that beautiful gold crown belong?”

Jesus answered, “It belongs to your grandmother, the woman who never stopped praying for you.”

Wow! Even as just a dream or modern parable, that is a powerful thought. Think of the people who prayed for Billy Graham, Saint John Paul II, Mother Theresa, you, me. Don't ever minimize the power of prayer, either yours or others for you. The Bible says that the prayers of a righteous man avail much. So pray, and don't hesitate to ask others to pray for you.

For my part, I'm thankful for the faithful prayers of my mom, Cortney, Marie and countless others who's prayers have had and continue to make all the difference in my life.


Follow Me

After a period of Lenten reflection and solemnity, we are now in one of the most joyous seasons of the church year. We focus on our Risen Lord, and in a few weeks will celebrate Pentecost – the moment that the Holy Spirit came in power.

So how does this season relate to our quest for holiness. While Jesus walked this earth He told his disciples to be perfect as the Father is perfect. But they had the living example of perfection in their midst. How do we of the 21st century follow such a command?

The message that Jesus gave to his apostles was always: “Follow Me.” Those were among the first and last words He spoke to Peter.

At the end of the Gospel of John (Ch. 21), Jesus has a conversation with Peter where He asks three times if Peter loves Him. By the end, Peter is almost offended or hurt that Jesus continues to question His love and loyalty. Peter, who not so long ago, denied Christ three times. Peter, who just recently felt the sorrow of his own failure.

John's account of this event is insightful because at the end, Peter assures Jesus that He loves Him. Jesus gives a somewhat ominous warning that this love will take Peter to a place he doesn't want to go (his own death as a martyr). It gets interesting when Peter sees another apostle and essentially asks “What about him?”

I think the response Jesus gives Peter is the response He gives to us all, “Follow Me.” There's a bit more to it, Jesus basically tells Peter that it's not his concern what happens to anyone else. Peter's commission is to follow Jesus. Period.

Our commission, mine and yours, is the same. Follow Jesus.

It doesn't matter to you how He uses me, and it doesn't matter to me how He uses you. I pray, that for my friends, some of that will overlap and we can share in the joy of service to our Lord. But at the end of the day, at the end of my life, at the end of this world, what matters is: did I follow Him. Did I live a life that will cause Him to say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

That question is, or should be, the motivating force behind every action, every decision, every choice. Is it pleasing to my Savior?


In His Hands

Psalm 31 has long been one of my favorites. The first half of the first verse says it all.

In You, O Lord, I put my trust.

What if you began everyday with that thought? What if you faced every problem with that frame of mind? How would it change your perspective?

It changes mine…

…if I apply it. When I'm facing a particularly difficult problem, especially if it's something I've faced before or something that drags out for a period of time, it can be easy to forget to start with trust in Him, my Rock and my Fortress.

In our lives we deal with issues everyday. Sometimes it's just a little issue, sometimes it's a big mess. We routinely rely on our experience and understanding to figure out a solution. After a while, we can begin to take that for granted and give ourselves a pat on the back for being wise or good. I hope we are those things. Those are good things. But they don't negate our need for God's wisdom and counsel.

When I get too caught up in my ability to handle things, I can forget to put ALL my trust in Him. Not just my trust for spiritual things. Not just my trust for personal things or easy things or really hard things. My trust for ALL things.

When I get too caught up in my ability to handle things, I find myself at verse 22.

For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before Your eyes.

I run around crying out for God's help wondering why He's not listening or telling me what to do. When in reality, He's waiting or me to stop trying to do it all myself and remember where I began.

In You, O Lord, I put my trust.

When I find that place, then I can rejoice with the psalmist and say to myself and to you:

Be of good courage,
And He will strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord. (v.24)

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