Finding Hope in Amazing Grace

In my Bible study this morning, I was led to sing a hymn. It was Amazing Grace.

The fourth verse brought special meaning to me in this early hour:

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come;tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

The last few months have been a bit of a challenge in one particular area of my life—we all have those times, don’t we?

…thing is, it’s been an unexpected area, with predictable yet unexpected antagonism. I have standards—we all do—and those standards have suffered repeated violations which continue to interrupt the productivity of my time, my heart, my vision, my experience and even my ethics.

I’m being vague, I know. Please extend a bit of grace to me for my intentionality. There are others involved, and some caring discretion is needed.

Toils and snares

Grace has been what has brought me through them in the past, oh so many times… Grace is what will bring me through them now.

The book from which I was reading also recommended reading Romans 5:1–5. Well…that was a completely awe-filled thing to suggest!

Let me share those verses with you (from the New International Version), and understand that I’ve added the bold words, because they stand out to me and propel me forward:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Do you see the AWEsomeness of His Word? Oh, it is simply incredible!

Each day is a new day, and I needed to sing out those words this morning, and I needed to be directed to read some of my favorite hope-filled verses this morning. My Heavenly Father and my incredible Savior knew what I needed, and with an open Book, a voice and a precious Word, my cup was filled. My daily bread was gathered. The table was set before me.

I am grateful to always find hope in His amazing grace.

 


 

Advertisements

Great is His Faithfulness, Even in Grief and Mourning

CT.4-7
Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness, I say to myself,
“The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
~ Lamentations 3:22-24

The Comparison Trap:  Week Four, Day Seven… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

It’s been an insightful day. My takeaways are from the Scripture verses and from some of Sandra Stanley’s shared thoughts, but not too much from today’s devotional content. This has just been one of those days, but the Scripture still applies to the day.

I spent the afternoon and evening serving at church for the visitation of a friend’s husband who passed away suddenly on Monday morning. That friend has been a part of this Comparison Trap group study. Tomorrow is the funeral (on the day you’ll probably be reading this).

When I walked her to the restroom today on a break from greeting hundreds upon hundreds of people who had come to pay their respects and to honor her husband, she told me a story about the amazing love she’s seen poured out over her family.

Her husband was a state trooper, and the fellowship given to her by his brotherhood has overwhelmed her. Her coworkers took her car and had new brakes, rotors and other needed maintenance done on it when she had to leave it at work after hearing the news of her husband’s death. Her table-mates from the study and many of the women from the group and church stepped forward to bring food and serve in the kitchen with whatever needed to be done today.

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail,”  the verse above reads. The body of Christ has surrounded her through this tragedy, and it’s through His compassion she’s been able to see it in others.

“God is compassionate. It breaks his heart to see us struggle,”  Sandra tells us in this final devotional. It does, and His way of showing us His compassion is often by using others to display it.

“Great is your faithfulness…” 

The book of Lamentations is full of lamenting, wailing and grief. It covers pain, judgment, mourning and suffering. The book paints a picture of suffering so great that it is often difficult to see hope and to remember the promises of God.

But tucked away within the mourning of Lamentations, there are promises of hope to come. Within the heart of the message of this book, we can see that the writer expresses his confident assurance that God does not turn away from those who turn toward Him for help.

Tomorrow is the funeral for my friend’s husband.

In her grief, I want her to know that the Lord weeps with her, and it breaks His heart to see her struggling. His compassions never do fail, and His love for her will not allow her to be consumed by her grief. His mercies are new every morning, and His faithfulness in her life is truly great. The Lord is her portion, and her faith in Him will get her through the challenges to come.

There will be thousands of troopers who will stand in honor of this fallen police officer; there will be hundreds of friends and family members who will come to grieve with her; there are dozens of small group members who are praying for her; but, there is one Christ Jesus who will be there to comfort her and to bring her His hope in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

Great is His faithfulness. Friend, you are loved.


 

The Worthless Pursuit of More and More

CT.3-4
Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


Then he said to them, “Watch out!
Be on your guard against all kinds of greed;
a man’s life does not consist in the
abundance of his possessions.”
~ Luke 12:15

The Comparison Trap:  Week Three, Day Four… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

“We live in a world of accumulation,” begins Sandra.

We do. We crave abundance, and it’s almost scary how often we can catch ourselves thinking of more, more, more.

Sandra goes on to share the verses after the Scripture above. It’s a parable told by Jesus in Luke 12:16-21:

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.   17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’  18 Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.   19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?  21 This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’”

There are a few things to note from this parable, outside of the obvious sense of greed and desire to have more:

  • Verse 16 tells us the man was rich and yielded an abundant harvest while he was rich. Apparently, God had blessed the man. Whether or not the man was a “good” man is irrelevant; God had still given him a gift in the form of abundance.
  • Verse 18 tells us what was said by the man. Do we read of him giving thanks?  Of acknowledging God for the abundance given to him?
  • Verse 19 tells us what the man desired from his abundance. Does this show his desire to live for God?  For others?  Or only for himself?
  • Verse 20 gives us some of the answers to these questions. God calls him a fool. Just in case you are wondering…fool basically means fool in the original language. God wasn’t impressed with what the man decided to do with the blessings God had allowed the man to accumulate.

Sandra’s devotional Challenge for Day Four was to mark some boxes designating some of our abundance.

CT.3-4.1
The boxes I checked in the Day Four Challenge

I’ve visited countries where having just ONE of these line items would be living luxuriously. Some of you have lived in or served in places like that, too. Even so, the trap of comparison keeps us wanting more, doesn’t it?

We’ve been given the blessings in our lives for a reason.

We need to work harder on appreciating those blessings and using them for His purposes, as God often says something different to us than what we are willing to say to ourselves. The richness, wealth and abundance of life does not have to equate to the amount of property, the dollars in our bank account, or the possessions we tend to hold valuable.

“The accumulation of more is a worthless pursuit if what you are accumulating isn’t put to good use for God.”

The material possessions we seek and acquire can’t ever fully satisfy us in comparison to an intimate relationship with God. When we’ve been blessed by Him, it’s imperative that we focus on Him and on how He would call us to use those blessings. Let’s not be a fool.


 

Monday’s Musings — Weak Stems

TomatoStems.HS

I didn’t know.

I didn’t know that failing to put a fan in the greenhouse would give me weak stems on my tomato plants.

I bought an 8′ x 6′ greenhouse this winter from a warehouse club. I figured it would give me an easier start at gardening this year.

For the last few years, I’ve grown my tomato plants from organic seeds. The process was an eyesore in my family room for a few months … the shelving, the 30 containers, the grow lights… The seed starting was supposed to have been easier with a greenhouse.

I bought the greenhouse figuring the set-up in the basement would give the tomatoes a room of their own, and it would provide an environment where I could increase the heat and humidity to which they were exposed.

I started 30 tomato plants and 15 pepper plants from organic seeds in organic soil, and I put them in the greenhouse. They all grew.

I didn’t know I was supposed to put a fan in the greenhouse to simulate gentle breezes.

All of my tomato plants now have weak stems.

Weak stems weren’t something I dealt with when the seedlings were in the family room. I guess the air from the heat vent nearby was always enough to keep them moving.

My tomatoes are now outdoors getting acclimated to the weather, and they’ll go into the garden this week since the nighttime temps are finally resting in the 60s. They have weak stems, but I’ll plant them deep into the soil, I’ll baby them, and I’ll have expectant hope for them to thrive.

Sometimes I really dislike the winds I have to come up against in my own life. I’m fine with gentle breezes, but the winds … I feel as I could do without them.

Winds…you know:  challenges, problems, frustrations, heartaches.

As much as I don’t like the challenges, they have made me stronger. Without them, I’d probably be weak — much like my tomato stems.

But, I’m not weak; I am strong.
Someone has planted that within me.

_____________________________________________

Monday’s Musings–Fallen Leaves

Fall Leaves - Copy

It’s a breezy day today where I live. As I’m working at my desk, leaves are fluttering in the air and blowing across the yard and the meadows. It’s nice to not have to rake those leaves into neat piles or gather them to dispose of them elsewhere.

I often wish the challenges of life could just blow away like the leaves, but instead, they usually have to be dealt with directly. The leaves are dead, but challenges can bring us a life-giving perspective when we learn from them and see the possibilities about how they can be worked for our good.

If a challenge has been permitted in my life, I know—in faith—that He intends to use it for my good and for His good. I also know—in faith—that blessings will be found.

Something to ponder on a blustery, fall day…