Category Archives: Grace

Real Life in Christ

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Since you have been raised to new life with Christ,
set your sights on the realities of heaven,
where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power.

Let heaven fill your thoughts.
Do not think only about things down here on earth.

For you died when Christ died,
and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.

And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world,
you will share in all His glory.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you.

Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires.
Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry.

God’s terrible anger will come upon those who do such things.

You used to do them when your life was still part of this world.

But now is the time to get rid of
anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.

Don’t lie to each other,
for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds.

In its place you have clothed yourselves
with a brand–new nature that is continually being renewed
as you learn more and more about Christ,
who created this new nature within you.

In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile,
circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free.
Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us.

Since God chose you to be the holy people whom He loves,
you must clothe yourselves with
tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

You must make allowance for each other’s faults
and forgive the person who offends you.
Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love.
Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.
For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace.
And always be thankful.

Let the words of Christ, in all their richness,
live in your hearts and make you wise.
Use His words to teach and counsel each other.
Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

And whatever you do or say,
let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus,
all the while giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

~Colossians 3:1-17

I haven’t always lived like this in my Christian walk.

Oh Father, make me wise through Christ’s words. Let me be a true “little Christ” as I follow after Your Son. Thank you, Lord, for bestowing upon me love, grace, and patience. Empower me to fulfill Your will. I ask in Jesus’ name, amen.

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Embrace the Cross

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Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them,
“If anyone wants to become My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”
(Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)

When we preach that Christ was crucified,
the Jews are offended, and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
(1Cor. 1:23)

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
(Gal. 2:20)

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
(Gal. 5:24)

We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be destroyed,
and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
(Rom.6:6)

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.
(Rom. 6:8)

Since Christ lives within you, even though your body will die because of sin,
your spirit is alive because you have been made right with God.
(Rom. 8:10)

May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
(Gal. 6:14)

“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
(Matt. 10:38)

Embrace the cross
Where Jesus suffered
Though it will cost
All you claim as yours
Your sacrifice will seem small
Beside the treasure
Eternity can’t measure
What Jesus holds in store

Embrace the love
The cross requires
Cling to the one
Whose heart knew every pain
Receive from Jesus
Fountains of compassion
Only He can fashion
Your heart to move as His

Oh, wondrous cross our desires rest in you
Lord Jesus make us bolder
To face with courage the shame and disgrace
You bore upon Your shoulder

Embrace the life
That comes from dying
Come trace the steps
The Savior walked for you
An empty tomb
Concludes Golgotha’s sorrow
Endure then till tomorrow
Your cross of suffering
Embrace the cross
Embrace the cross
The cross of Jesus

Life Together

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I found the perfect spot in the library, away from all the bustle. I was thirty-one with two little boys at home and badly needing a day away to think.  I can’t quite remember if my second relapse had hit me yet, but I knew I was in much need of rest.  I found the perfect spot next to an enormous glass window overlooking the pond.  While sitting on a little couch tucked under the stairwell, I asked the Father to please guide me to do the right thing. “Cause, I desperately want to do the right thing.”  I took out my journal, my pencil, my Bible, and Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together.

The book had been on the shelf for years, but I hadn’t ever read it, thinking it was too “theological” for me to enjoy.  It’s not a very big book but, as I found, it is chock full of truth and wisdom for the church body to discern what living this life together “should” be like.  It’s a book that radically changed the way I understood I am to “be” in the body.  Practical spiritual wisdom for everyday life together.

God was faithful to guide me.  I understood the admonishment from scripture, “as much as it depends upon you, be at peace with one another.”  With tears streaming down my face, I wrote out the apology, understanding a heart-rending-deep-cleansing had been done.

God made it clear to me what the next step would be.  The apology was sent and now it was time to hope for reconciliation.  It was time to release the situation in order that Christ might deal…

“…spiritual love proves itself in that everything it says and does commends Christ. It will not seek to move others by all too personal, direct influence, by impure interference in the life of another. It will not take pleasure in pious, human fervor and excitement. It will rather meet the other person with the clear Word of God and be ready to leave him alone with this Word for a long time, willing to release him again in order that Christ may deal with him.”
~D. Bonhoeffer, Life Together

It might be time to read that little — powerful — book once again.

His Promise of Peace

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“One of the great wounds in life is the shattering of relationship — having a friend who turns on us and reverses shalom or what the Bible calls peace.  Betrayal is the experience of being set up, violated, and then discarded.  It is being used by someone who violates our dignity and then is unmoved by our pain.

Such betrayal, for whatever reason, isolates us in loneliness, doubt, and shame.  The connection we once assumed and enjoyed becomes a web of awkwardness.  We don’t know whether to speak to the estranged friend when our paths cross, or simply pass with eyes averted.  To the degree there is avoidance, suspiciousness grows.   If there is conversation, it is constrained and tight, marking the contrast to the way it once was.  This is the soil where blame shifting and slander can grow like robust weeds.

The memory of how-it-once-was burns a deep and hollow spot in the heart.  Memory haunts and self-doubt grips.  Why did it end?  What did I do wrong? Why does my friend no longer like me? The intense shifts between angrily blaming the other and cutting oneself with the shards of self-doubt are exhausting.”  ~Dan Allender

Allender speaks clearly of the chaos in the heart and mind when betrayal has been experienced.  It is a lack of peace in our deepest parts.  How…how, in those moments, do we consider Jesus?  How do we stand firm on the Rock when our minds are haunted with memories and self-doubt?  The constant cutting of oneself with the shards of broken relationship is not only exhausting…it leaves one bloodied and crying out for relief.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Jesus says I can live light and free.
Jesus says I can walk in unforced rhythms of grace.
Jesus says I can have a real rest and recover the life He wants me to live.

These are the promises Jesus gives to those who will follow after, and learn from Him.

Who is Jesus?  He is a true friend.  He does not “set us up, violate, and then discard” us.  He does not make promises He never intends to keep.  He is the one who sticks closer than a brother.  He is a husband to the forsaken bride crying in the wilderness.

He loves with an everlasting love and He gives an unshakeable peace.

Betrayal is soul-wrenching.  Its never-ending shattering peace gives way to many doubts and unanswerable questions, unless…

Unless…

You turn to Him.

Go to Him.
Lay down your burdens and confusion,
Your pain, and your doubts,
Your fears, and all your tears,
Your woundedness…

All of it.  Lay it down…at His feet.
Bow down and consider Jesus.

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
Says the LORD who has compassion on you.

“Come unto Me all you who are weary and heavy-laden,
And I will give you peace.”

A New Heart — A Right Spirit

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“I’m learning the insidious ways of denial.
For myself, I’ve needed to believe I was ‘good’ and did not recognize my ability to fall.
To see my depravity, up close and personal…ugh.”

~Me…from an old comment thread

Maybe it’s a need we all have, to believe we’re better than we are.
To hide from the disappointment and shame of living on this side of Genesis 3.

Our ability to self-deceive is frightening.
Most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it.
We blame others for the sin in our own lives.
Or, we hide behind coverings of our own making.

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
~Jeremiah 17:9

To begin to see the motivations of the heart is to take a frightening journey into the inner workings of the soul.

Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
~Proverbs 4:23 (NASB)

The springs of our lives flow from the heart.
If the heart is deceived and desperately sick, how can the source of our lives be clean?
A spring does not pour out fresh water and bitter water from the same opening, does it? ~James 3:11

Above all else, guard your heart,
For it affects everything you do.
~Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

The world tells us to follow our hearts.
“If it feels good, do it.”
But our hearts are the problem!

We want what we want when we want it,
and we’ll stop at nothing to get it.

I speak from experience…
Unfortunately.

No one wants to feel pain day-in-and-day-out. We search for something to satisfy. Food. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Relationships. Success. Video games. Clothes. Busyness. Anything to make the pain go away for awhile…

We tell ourselves it’s nothing. It won’t hurt to indulge…just a bit.  And before we know it, we’re: obese, alcoholics, addicted to pornography, promiscuous, in an affair, climbing the corporate ladder, walking over anyone to get to the top, spending hours in front of a screen in a fantasy world, buying more and more things to look better, staying busy with anything to stave off the pain…instead of looking for Real Life.

This is the state of our being since the Fall.
We all live on the other side of Genesis 3.
Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Have you ever seen what happens to a leaf when it dries out? That shriveled-up crunchy thing can’t cover nothin’! So what do we do? We gather more and more leaves and sew together our “covering” every day —  maybe many times a day — so people can’t see how very naked we are.

Our “coverings” won’t work.
They are only shriveled-up leaves.

Then…they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

We are cowering behind leaves as we hide from…
What is it we are hiding from?

Our self…each other. The memories…the shame.
And…The Only One who can help us.

They heard the sound of the LORD God …
and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God …

Are you hiding?

Are you ashamed when thoughts come to mind?

Is your covering not really covering anything?

Our hearts are deceptively wicked.
We need new hearts.
We need a perfect covering.

“If you only knew the gift God has for you
and who I am,
you would ask Me, and I would give you living water.”
~Jesus
(John 4:10)

Do you want a new heart…one that has clean water pouring forth?
Do you desire The Living Water of God?
Do you want Jesus?

Here’s a prayer of repentance you can pray.
He is faithful and just and will forgive you of all your sins.

He will give you a new heart.

Have mercy on me, O God, because of Your loyal love!
Because of Your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts!
Wash away my wrongdoing!
Cleanse me of my sin!
For I am aware of my rebellious acts;
I am forever conscious of my sin.
Against You – You above all – I have sinned;
I have done what is evil in Your sight.
So You are just when You confront me;
You are right when You condemn me.
Look, I was guilty of sin from birth,
a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.
Look, You desire integrity in the inner man;
You want me to possess wisdom.
Sprinkle me with water and I will be pure;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven!
May the bones You crushed rejoice!
Hide Your face from my sins!
Wipe away all my guilt!
Create for me a pure heart, O God!
Renew a right spirit within me!
~Psalm 51:1-10

Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst;
but the water that I will give him will become in him
a well of water springing up to eternal life.
~Jesus
(John 4:14)

Mysteries Revealed

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God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
So that no one might boast in the presence of God.

He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus,
Who became for us wisdom from God,
And righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
In order that, as it is written,
“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
~from 1 Corinthians 1

Know this first of all,
That in the last days mockers will come with their mocking,
Following after their own lusts, and saying,
“Where is the promise of His coming?
For ever since the fathers fell asleep,
All continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”

For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice
That by the word of God the heavens existed long ago
And the earth was formed out of water and by water,
Through which the world at that time was destroyed,
Being flooded with water.

But by His word
The present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire,
Kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved,
That with the Lord one day is like a thousand years,
And a thousand years like one day.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness,
But is patient toward you,
Not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
~from 2 Peter 3

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men:
“See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones
To execute judgment upon all,
And to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds
Which they have done in an ungodly way,
And of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts;
They speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand
By the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ
That they were saying to you,
“In the last time there will be mockers,
Following after their own ungodly lusts.”
These are the ones who cause divisions,
Worldly-minded,
Devoid of the Spirit.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith,
Praying in the Holy Spirit,
Keep yourselves in the love of God,
Waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
~From Jude