Grace that is Sufficient

2 Corinthians 12:7-9: To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three time I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Max Lucado, in his book, In The Grip of Grace, tells a story that illustrates the sufficient grace of God.

Here is the scene: You and I and a half-dozen other folks are flying across the country in a chartered plane. All of a sudden the engine bursts into flames, and the pilot rushes out of the cockpit. “We’re going to crash!” he yells. “We’ve got to bail out!”

Good thing he knows where the parachutes are because we don’t. He passes them out, gives us a few pointers, and we stand in line as he throws open the door. The first passenger steps up to the door and shouts over the wind, “Could I make a request?”

“Sure, what is it?” “Is there anyway I could get a pink parachute?” The pilot shakes his head in disbelief. “Isn’t it enough that I gave you a parachute at all?” And so the first passenger jumps.

The second steps to the door. “I’m wondering if there is any way you could ensure that I won’t get nauseated during the fall?” “No, but I can ensure that you will have a parachute for the fall,” said the pilot.

Each of us comes with a request and receives a parachute. “Please captain,” says one, “I am afraid of heights. Would you remove my fear?” “No,” he replies, “but I’ll give you a parachute.”

Another pleads for a different strategy, “Couldn’t you change the plans? Let’s crash with the plane. We might survive.”

The pilot smiles and says, “You don’t know what you are asking” and gently shoves the fellow out the door. One passenger wants some goggles, another wants boots, another wants to wait until the plane is closer to the ground.

“You people don’t understand,” the pilot shouts as he “helps” us, one by one. “I’ve given you a parachute; that is enough.”

Only one item is necessary for the jump, and he provides it. He places the strategic tool in our hands. The gift is adequate. But are we content? No. We are restless, anxious, even demanding.

Too crazy to be possible? Maybe in a plane with pilots and parachutes, but on earth with people and grace? God hears thousands of appeals per second. Some are legitimate. We, too, ask God to remove the fear or change the plans. He usually answers with a gently shove that leaves us airborne and suspended by his grace.

This is one of my favorite Max Lucado stories because for me it illustrates how sufficient and perfect the grace of God is for each of us. We want more, we demand more, but God reminds us that the grace he supplies to each of us is sufficient for our needs. If we are completely honest, we would admit that we don’t believe that most of the time. We ask God for healing, a raise or a better job, or even a miracle. And God says, not yet, for now my grace is all you need.

May the grace and peace of God be with you!

Source Used: In The Grip of Grace, Max Lucado, pages 129 and 130.

 

 

Baptists and Pentecost

Acts 2: 1-13:  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

 Now there were staying in Jerusalem, God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, all I knew of Pentecost was from Sunday school lessons on Acts, chapter 2. I always thought that it was a strange story – a violent wind and tongues of fire that came to rest on each of the believers. I remember thinking at a young age that it must have been frightening to those present when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

I have since grown up and attended Pentecost Sunday services in Baptist churches where this important theological teaching is remembered and celebrated. My favorite service was when the congregation was asked to wear the color red (to symbolize fire) and to stand up and describe ways that the Holy Spirit had impacted their own lives. I still remember some powerful testimonies from church members that have since passed away.

John the Baptist had predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit as he was preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In Luke 3:16, John says, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

For the disciples of Jesus, these signs were important. They would know and begin to understand that Christ was fulfilling his promise of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit would empower the disciples to carry the gospel message to the “ends of the earth.” These men would be forever changed by the coming of the Spirit. They were no longer ordinary men, they were now given the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide, encourage, and strengthen  them on their mission.

As believers today, we continue to share in the gift of the Spirit and the internal change that occurs because of the Spirit that dwells within us. In Acts 2:38, Peter says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Paul, in the book of Romans, reminds us that the Holy Spirit is given by God as a gift of faith to those of us that believe in Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, it is possible for us as humans to experience a unique relationship with God. As believers, we are able to connect with God in such a way that would not be possible if not through the intervening work of the Spirit.

About ten years ago, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit during a difficult time in my life. I remember praying to God that morning on the way to work, asking Him to help me through a difficult situation in my life. As I prayed, I remember wondering how I would ever make it through that particular day. As soon as I reached work, I turned off my car and just sat there unable to get out of my vehicle. And suddenly, I felt a complete sense of peace and comfort go throughout my entire body. I was not sure what had exactly happened but I knew that God, through the Holy Spirit, was with me and would give me what I needed to get through that day, and the next day.

I pray that God will be with you in whatever difficulty that you find yourself in and will pour out His Spirit in your life so that you can find the peace and comfort of the Risen Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

Paul, in Romans 8:5-6 tells us that, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”

God’s Strength

Philippians 4:13: I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

The Apostle Paul penned this famous phrase in a letter to the early church at Philippi. Paul was writing to the Philippians, encouraging them to continue to be strong as they faced persecution and other dangers. Paul was also teaching them to be joyful regardless of  their circumstances. Paul pleaded with them to continue pressing on towards the goal, because through God, they would be given the strength to handle the many troubles that they would encounter.

As believers today, we strive to keep the peace of Christ in our lives. We know that the risen Christ is available to help us as we navigate through this world of pain, disappointment, and dangers. Christ told his followers, that He was giving us a kind of peace that the world knows nothing about. And he also told us to not be afraid and to not let our hearts be troubled (John 14:27). We can call on Christ at any time throughout the day or night, and that peace of Christ can help us through this uncertain earthly life.

There are people that I know and admire today that face their troubles and health limitations with an amazing sense of courage. They don’t let their physical limitations stop them from being the hands and feet of Christ in this world. They continue to have a positive attitude and show the love of Christ to everyone they meet. They get it – they understand what Paul was saying, that I can do all things through my creator God, who guides me and strengthens me. Nothing is impossible when God is involved, they will tell you. They tell you not so much with words, but in the way they live out their lives, refusing to let anything stop them from living a life that honors God.

Life has its ups and downs and we must gather the strength to continue on – to press on –  through life’s disappointments and difficulties. The Bible encourages us to look to our creator, redeeming, and sustaining God, who has promised to supply us with enough of whatever we need to get us through each day. Life is not always easy but as followers of Christ, we can attain a kind of peace that this world cannot offer. And we will be given the strength to face whatever difficulties this fallen world sends our way.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

 

 

Compassion

 

Scripture Reading: Luke 7: 11-17:   Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the coffin they were carrying him on, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

This is the first of three occasions that Jesus will raise someone from the dead. Jesus will later raise the daughter of Jairus and also his dear friend Lazarus. In each of these stories, the compassion of Jesus is something that stands out, as he brings these three people back from the dead.

In our scripture reading today, Jesus, his disciples, and a large crowd following him, are going into the small town of Nain. This group is a joyful group and they are likely praising God and celebrating because they are hearing the words and teachings of Jesus. Coming out of Nain was a funeral procession. This also large group, was very sorrowful, because a widow had now lost her only Son. For the widow, this last remaining son was her only means of support.

As this joyful group and this sorrowful group meet, we are told that Jesus saw the widow and he was compassionate towards her and said to her, “Don’t cry.” Jesus then commands the young man to get up and the man begins to sit up and talk. The gospel writer Luke then tells us that Jesus gave the now living son back to his mother. Now you have two groups that are joyful and “filled with awe,” and they all began to praise God for showing compassion to His chosen people.

There are many instances throughout the Gospels, that we witness the compassion that Jesus has for those that are living with disappointment and tragedy. Jesus shows compassion to those that desire to be healed from various afflictions and diseases. He comes to comfort those who mourn and to care for those whom society has cast aside.

As followers of Christ today, we are also called to seek out those who are “lost” and who desperately need to hear about the healing power and love of Christ. We must care for those whom society has cast aside and those who are in need of some kindness and compassion. It could be a family member that needs you to show them a little understanding and kindness. It could be a neighbor or a co-worker that just needs someone to listen and to understand what they are going through. Jesus has modeled how we should be compassionate and caring towards others, and now He calls us to show compassion towards everyone.

I saw a man today that I usually try to avoid. He is difficult to deal with and is always complaining about something. My day was not going very well and I just didn’t need him to make it any worse. This is a man that most people try to avoid, because he is usually  very difficult to deal with. As this man came my way, I found myself with nowhere to go, so I decided to stand my ground and at least speak to this man.

I asked him how he was doing and he began to tell me about his wife and the medical problems that she had been having for the last three months. After a few minutes of conversation, it was apparent that he just wanted and needed someone to listen to him. We talked for a few more minutes and he thanked me for my time and walked away. I promised myself that the next time I saw this man coming my way, that I would take the time to talk to him and not try and avoid him. That was God’s way of letting me know that I needed some more work on being compassionate towards others.

So go out into the world this week and be compassionate like Christ. One small gesture of kindness can completely change a person’s day. Take some time to be caring and compassionate towards those you meet, especially those who are sometimes difficult to deal with. For it is those people, that especially need some kindness and compassion in their lives.

 

In the Right Place

Scripture Readings: Philippians 2:13:  For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Psalm 139:13-15: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; you works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Matthew 10:30: And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

I have been asking myself lately if I am where God wants me to be. Of course, I believe that God’s plan is perfect but all of us at times struggle with where we are in life. There are moments when we just know that God is going to use us for something more, but we grow impatient waiting for God to put that plan into effect.

By email this past week, a friend and I were sharing with each other some struggles that we are going through. Each of us had completely different things that we were dealing with but we both were questioning if we were in the “right place.” As she shared some pain and doubt in her own life, she also wrote that she believes that God directs our paths and that He places each of us exactly where He wants us to be. She wrote, “He has a plan even if we don’t know all of it. God doesn’t make mistakes.”

The Psalmist, in Psalms 139, reminds us that our creator God, knew where we needed to be and where we would be, long before we were even created. God doesn’t make mistakes, He created each of us in His own perfect way. God is continually working in our lives to mold and shape us into what He wants us to be so that we can fulfill His good purpose.

My friends sent me another email and reminded me to acknowledge God and to allow Him to direct the path that I am on. She said, “We can both look forward to the sunrise in the morning and say, God I am in this place and I am trying to follow your will for my life, so direct the path that I am on and I will try to do what you call me to do.”

God is continually working in our lives, in the background most of the time, to prune away those parts of our lives that need attention. We are a work in progress and it is being put into motion by our God who created our “inmost being” and who continues to refine and purify us into a work of perfection. My friend and I both admitted that God still had lots of work to do before we could reach that state of perfection.

So remember, God has put you and I exactly where He wants us to be. We may be ready to move on to something bigger and better but for now we must realize that God continues to refine us so that we can be better equipped for that next stage of our life. For now, we must be content with where we are in life and remember to praise and give thanks to God, whose “works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

 

 

 

 

Thankful For Another Day

Psalm 118:24: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

How often do we take for granted each day that God has blessed us with? It is often very easy to get caught up in the trials and disappointments that surround us daily. We focus on the negative and forget that – this day- is made by God and it is to be lived to its fullest.

This week, I have arrived at home after some difficult and stressful days at work. Many days this week, I have felt frustrated, angry, disappointed and mostly stressed out from things that have gone wrong during the day. There is the temptation to go home and to be mad – mad at the world or mad at whoever you first encounter.

Fortunately for me, the first person that I usually see after work is my youngest daughter. I pick her up at school and just seeing that beautiful gift from God helps me to forget about the bad things that have happened over the course of my day.The second person I usually see is my second youngest daughter. Just watching her walk to the car brings a smile to my face. Of course I am also blessed with my aunt, who has always been like a mother to me, two older daughters and a wonderful wife. And I thank God each and every day for my family and the many blessings that I receive because they are in my life.

I have met many people this week that are unhappy with life and they are mad. They are mad at themselves, their spouses, their children and some are mad at God. They feel that life is unfair to them and they just want to feel sorry for themselves and give up on trying to make the best out of a difficult situation. In most of these cases, they have left God out of the equation. They won’t or can’t consider that God is there, present with them in their trials and their troubles.

If you have struggled this week then maybe it’s time to try something different. Talk to God and ask Him to be with you in the week ahead. Ask Him for forgiveness and tell Him that you want to feel His peace and mercy in the days ahead. Life is not easy and the life of a believer is not an easy life by any means. What helps is knowing that God is close by with us on our journey. He walks alongside us and He is always at work in our lives even though we don’t realize it. Stop listening to the negativity of the world and start reaching out to God. It will make a difference in your life and you will become a more thankful person.

Psalm 118: 1, 5-7a: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper.