A Question Of GRACE

With your prayers, we will begin a series this week on the subject of grace.  At this point I’m not sure how long the series will last or where God will lead us.   It is my prayer that these next few weeks will encourage and bless as I  post the words God is leading me to share with you.

I look forward to your continued input through the comments and surveys.  ~S



And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)


In the eighth chapter of John’s gospel we are given a story about a woman who was caught in adultery.

In the opening scene of this account we are introduced to a whole cast of characters each playing a very distinct role. First, we see the Pharisees, a bunch of religious men doing their religious thing . You can almost hear the hardness of their hearts as they throw the woman to the ground at Jesus’ feet. “Here Jesus, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. Moses said to stone her (which by the way is not true see Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22), what do you say we should to do with her?”

Can you relate to this scene? Has there ever been a time when you have “demanded justice” for some offense? Have you ever disguised God’s truth in a cloak of self-righteousness? Remember, we’re being honest. Speaking for myself, I know I have to plead guilty, as a matter of fact, I’m a repeat offender.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

So many victories were won for us at Calvary.  Through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection we have been set free from the penalty of our sin. There is one word that pretty much sums up all that Calvary accomplished – GRACE.

and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus   (Romans 3:24) 

GRACE the wonderful, unmerited favor of God

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (Ephesians 2:8)

GRACE that is greater than any sin we can commit.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (Romans 5:20)

GRACE that is adequate to meet all our needs.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  (2 Corinthians 9:8).

GRACE that is never exhausted

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace (John 1:16)

Our having received such grace, should we expect anything less of ourselves than to extend it freely to others? Isn’t that what Jesus is telling us in John 8?  To check ourselves first?   To remember that we are all sinners saved by His grace?  To give the same unlimited grace to others that He has given us?

and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:4)

Next time we’re inclined to cast stones, let’s ask ourselves – “who do I want to look like?

  • A Pharisee, with a rock in my hand?

OR

  • Jesus, with grace in my heart”?

This week’s survey gives you an opportunity to ask yourself that question right now.

~Sandra

Here’s what you had to say about last week’s question:

What “Parting Thought” speaks most to you?

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 38%
“Woman, behold, your son!” “Behold, your mother!” 25%
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 13%
“I thirst.” 13%
“It is finished.” 13%
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 0%
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” 0%

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Parting Thoughts

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  (Isaiah 53:5)


Consider today the final words of Jesus.  Think about all He suffered just before He spoke them.  In the garden, sweating blood as He anticipated the agony of what lay ahead.  The betrayal of His closest friends.  Merciless beatings, severe enough in and of themselves to have caused His death.  Scorn from those, who just days earlier, had honored and praised Him as their king.  The humiliation of being mocked, spit upon, and stripped naked. The torture of being nailed to a cross.

At no other time in recorded scripture do we see Jesus’ humanity so evidently revealed.  In the final hours at Calvary, Jesus, Who is fully God, became fully man.  The One who knew no sin, became the embodiment of sin; of all the horror of the cross, I believe this was the greatest.

 

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  

       “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

“Woman, behold, your son!”  “Behold, your mother!”

At His height of suffering, Jesus prayed for the ones who drove the nails into His feet and hands.  In the midst of His agony, He offered eternal assurance to a repentant man.  He ignored His own horrific pain, to insure His Mother would be cared for.

 

It was only after He had seen to the needs of others that He turned His attention to His own suffering.

 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

“I thirst.”

Are there any of us who have not, at some time in our lives, called out to God “why have you abandoned me”?  Haven’t we all been through a dry season and longed for a drink, just a sip, to refresh our parched spirits?

 

Jesus’ pleas were heard. His prayers were answered.  And so are ours for Jesus declared, once and for all…

   “It is finished”

Nothing more to be done.  Nothing else required.  The demands were fulfilled.

 

Final words, final assurance. 

               “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” 

In this final statement, we have God’s ultimate promise and our ultimate hope.  Jesus’ words confirm that He has defeated death.

 

Seven statements from the cross. Parting thoughts.  Thoughts of you and me.

In Jesus’ last words, we have the entire gospel message.  The message of forgiveness, eternal life, love for one another, His righteousness imparted to us, hope for eternity.  It is the message that for Jesus died for; it is the message that we must live for.  Knowing He did all this for us, how can we do less for Him?

~Sandra


Last week we asked: What “land” do you need healing for?  Here is what you had to say.

Spiritual 40%
Relationship 20%
Other – Specify below 20%
Financial 10%
Other: 10%
Physical Health 0%
Other Answers Votes
Family changes 1

Please share in this week’s survey concerning “Parting Thoughts”.

(Update results will be displayed when you submit your response)

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Heal My Land

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)


 I wanted to write a devotion this month about spring.  I wanted to talk about how the season of spring is about new life, new beginnings.  Those are the things I wanted to write about, but the right words wouldn’t come. Instead, I have been moved to write to you about healing.  As I look around, I see so much sickness;  sickness of the body and of the soul.  The enemy seems to be having a field day not only in the world at large, but in the lives of the children of God as well.

I have read and recited 2 Chronicles 7:14 many times. Each year on the National Day Of Prayer, I turn to this verse as a reminder of God’s promise.  I have always looked at this verse in light of the healing of a nation, and indeed, it is relevant to our country and our world.  But, until just now, I have never given much thought to how this promise might extend to each of our lives.

I invite you to take a few moments and  look out over your “land”.  Where do you need healing?  Your marriage, your children, your job, your finances?  Is there an addiction, a physical illness, an emotional struggle, a broken heart?

The LORD has given us very specific instruction on what we are to do.  (You  will want to give special  attention to the order of God’s instruction, it’s important).

  • Submit  The first step to healing is submission, humbling ourselves before God.  Now, that’s a hard one; being submissive to the authority of another, even when it’s God, goes against our grain because we want to be in control.  Of course, if we remind ourselves that doing it our own way is how we got to this point in the first place, submitting shouldn’t be so difficult.  As we humble ourselves before the Lord, as we bow low in His presence, the healing will begin and we will find relief as the weight of our burden is lifted.

 

  •  Pray  Next we must seek God’s face.  So often, our prayers are a  laundry list of our needs – “Here’s what’s wrong God, this is what I want and this is how I want you to do it.” Sound familiar?  The Hebrew word for seek is bâqash (baw-kash’).  It means to search out, to beg, to plead. Seeking the face of God is not some nice little meek, gentle petition we offer up on the off-chance that God might find favor with us. To seek God’s face is to beg Him to show us His mind, His will, His desires, His way.  Seeking God’s face is what Jacob did in Genesis 32 when he wrestled with God and would not let go until God blessed him – and the blessing was given.  Jabez was seeking the face of God in 1 Chronicles 4:10 when he cried out to Him “enlarge my border, be with me and keep me from harm” – and God granted his request. The blind man of Luke 18:38 was seeking the face of God when he would not be silenced, but continued to cry out to Jesus for mercy – and Jesus heard him and healed him.
They kept on wrestling until the man said, “Let go of me! It’s almost daylight.” “You can’t go until you bless me,” Jacob replied. (Genesis 32:26)
  •  Repent  Finally, we must repent.  Notice, the scripture doesn’t say “tell God you’re sorry”.  True repentance isn’t simply a matter of apologizing. Repentance is turning back, laying down; it is a broken heart caused by our sin against a loving God.  It’s all well and good to say I’m sorry, but repentance requires change, otherwise all you have are words that mean nothing.

Our having done these things, what does God promise?  He promises He will hear us, forgive us, and heal us. He will restore us and make us whole.  The healing may take some time, complete healing always does, A wound must heal from the inside out.  Imagine you have a cut on your finger. After a few days, the cut may seem to be well ,but if you were to peel back the scab you would see that  the wound underneath is still red and raw. You wouldn’t say “guess this is never going to get well, I  might as well cut my finger off”,  you would continue to nurse the cut until it was completely healed.   That’s how it is with the wounds in our lives.  We must allow God to heal them from the inside out, layer by layer restoring the damaged tissue.

Whatever in your land needs healing, put your trust in God.  Ask Him to be your Jehova  Rapha – The Lord Who heals.

to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:18)

Maybe I was wrong, maybe this is a story of spring after all.   Spring is about new life, new beginnings, and isn’t that what God promises us throughout His word?

~Sandra


Last Week you were asked to tell us about your “Trouble With Prayer”.   Here’s what you had to say…

Answer Percent
Wandering mind 57%
What to pray 14%
Praying for your own needs 14%
Other: 14%
Other Answer Votes
Making Time 1

Please share in this week’s survey “Heal My Land”.

(Survey results will be displayed when you submit your response)

 


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The Trouble With Prayer

 “Let my words and my thoughts be pleasing to you, LORD, because you are my mighty rock and my protector.  (Psalms 19:14)


For the past ten years or so I’ve had the privilege of sharing with hundreds of women through small group bible study, conferences, retreats, etc.  In our many discussions, the subject of prayer almost always comes up.  You might be surprised to learn (or maybe not) how many women say they have trouble praying.  Among the reasons given, there are three that stand out in my mind as the most common.

 

Trouble #1 – “I’m not sure what I should or shouldn’t pray for” (or similarly)  “I don’t know what to say”.

This is not a new problem.  In Luke 11 Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked Him to teach them to pray.  Jesus answered them by giving  them (and us) a model, a guide for effective prayer.  Praying and personalizing the words Jesus left for us, in what is referred to as The Lord’s Prayer, can be a wonderful way of releasing our spirit and drawing us into a time of prayer.

“My Father in heaven, holy is Your Name.  Let Your kingdom come.  Give me what I need for today.  Forgive me my sins and help me to forgive others.  Keep me from giving in to temptation…”

Another path to prayer, when you don’t know what to pray, are the Psalms.  Recorded in this amazing book we see David cry out to God.  We see him sing praises to God.   We see him pour out his soul in times of joy, fear, repentance, sorrow, pain, weakness, brokenness.  The Bible tells us that David was “a man after God’s own heart” and isn’t that, after all, what we want for ourselves?

God has given us His word for our instruction and edification.  What greater act of worship can there be than to speak His own words back to Him?  When we pray God’s word, we are aligning our thoughts with His; we are saying “God, I agree with You.  I submit myself to Your will.”

“I praise you, LORD, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind “. (Psalms 16:7)

 

Trouble #2 – “It doesn’t feel right to pray for myself”.

When we pray for ourselves I think we somehow feel we are being selfish, or lacking in humility.  That is not what scripture teaches.  Look in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 17.  In these passages Jesus pleads for Himself, He asks the Father to intervene, to deliver Him. Do we really think He would desire any less for us?  God is our Abba Father, our Daddy.  What greater joy is there to the heart of a Father than to have His child come to Him and make his needs known?

saying “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
 
 

Trouble #3 – “My mind wanders”.

 This is probably the struggle that I hear the most.  In case you’ve missed it, as I did for many years, prayer is one of the weapons in our spiritual arsenal (see Ephesians 6:18).  Knowing that, it stands to reason that Satan will do anything and everything to keep us from it.   We have the power to stand firm against his attacks, all we have to do is call on the name of Jesus.  A passage that I often claim, is 2 Corinthians 10:5-6

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”

A great way I’ve found to rid the mind of distractions and bring it back to a place of worship is by singing a hymn of praise.  It doesn’t matter if you can sing or not, God loves it when we lift up our voices in praise to Him.  When we do, He returns our worship with His glory and fills us with His Spirit.

and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God. (2 Chronicles 5:13-14)

 

We know that prayer is an essential part of the Christian walk.  More than that, it is a gift from God - a gift that entitles us to come into the presence of a Holy God with the assurance that He will listen to us.   I believe if we could fully comprehend and exercise the power of our prayers, we would get so excited that we would not be able to contain ourselves.

 

 ~Sandra

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THE SURVEY SAYS:

Last week we asked what keeps you from having Quite Time.  Here are the results:

Answers

    Percent

Gaming 25%
Television 17%
Time on phone 17%
Other (Specify) 17%
Other: 17%
Social Networking (FB, Twitter, etc.) 8%

Other Answers

Cleaning house 1
Removing all thoughts so my mind is open to what God has to say to me 1

Please share in this week’s survey your “Trouble With Prayer”.

(Update results will be displayed when you submit your response)

 

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Quiet Time

 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Mat 14:23a   

 

The practice of Quiet Time seems to be a struggle for many of us.  Some women have told me that they aren’t sure what to do with their QT but more often they say that there simply isn’t any time to be had.  It’s true that in our very busy lives it can seem impossible to find time to “steal away” and be alone with God.

Please consider:  the busier you are, the more you need quiet time. Even if you’re only able to spend a little time each day, use it – some is better than none.  Think of it as an investment in your spiritual health.

There’s no “magic formula” for a rewarding Quiet Time,  we all work differently.   There are however some practices that can help us make the most of whatever time we have.

  • Make your QT a priority. Remember, we’re talking about your spiritual fitness.  Your quiet time should be a “must do” not merely a “want to do”.
  • Set aside a specific time. Think of your quiet time as an appointment with God.
  • Have a special place.  Find a place where you will be comfortable and least likely to be disturbed.
  • Have your materials handy.   You will definitely need your bible; your QT should always include a scripture reading and prayer.  If you have the time consider adding a devotional reading, starting a journal, or working on a bible study.
  • Don’t multi-task. I’ve had women tell me they have their quiet time while they’re doing other things such as cooking, laundry, showering. Doing chores can certainly be a great time to talk to God but remember, we’re looking for a time to listen to God, to allow His Spirit to speak to our spirit.
  “Be still and know that I am God”  Psalms 46:10
  •  Above all, turn off your cell phone. We have come to think that the world will come to an end if we ignore a call or don’t instantly respond to a text message - it won’t.
 
One last comment from me then I’ll hush and let y’all talk. Don’t get discouraged.  Things may not go just right at first. You may need to try different times, locations, or practices before you find what works best for you.  That’s OK.  Once you begin to experience the peace and spiritual renewal that comes from your daily retreat, believe me, you going wonder how you ever got by without it.
-Sandra

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Some Points to Ponder:
Do you have a regular quiet time?
How do you spend your quiet time?
Would you like to have a quiet time but not sure where to start?
 
  Survey results will be published with next week’s post

Is there a topic you would like to discuss?  Let me know – SandraBivensSmith@gmail.com
 

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Let’s get started!

Sandy Smith

When I retired last August I just knew that my creative juices would begin to flow and I would do great and wonderful things - like finish the book I’ve been trying to write for more than a year.  After 7 months my “aha moment” still hadn’t come and to tell you the truth, I was about ready to give up.  Then, last week, there was somewhat of a break-through.  I pulled out the draft, got cozy with my laptop and began to write.  I was able to produce about 7 pages before I fizzled out.  (That was early in the week and I haven’t written a word since but I refuse to get discouraged).  I know there is a book in me somewhere that’s  just waiting to get itself on paper.

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