By Grace

I know a young woman who has made a remarkable journey from a normal, upper middle class upbringing to a normal, upper middle class college education to living on the streets for five years as a heroin addict. Today she is fully recovered. She owns her own business, enjoys a happy marriage, and is a strong and passionate voice for others dealing with drug use. Her pain, suffering, and struggles are now employed in helping others understand addiction and recovery. To me, she embodies the possibility of complete and total transformation that comes through the grace of God. We do recover!

I thought of her this morning as I read Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. Paul underwent a tremendous transformation of his own, going from being a murdering persecutor of Christ’s church to being one of its strongest advocates. Most of what we understand about theology comes from Paul’s letters, and his work in taking the gospel all over the known world speaks for itself. He is the reason we have the church today, and his words still have relevance thousands of years after he wrote them.

1 Corinthians 15 (Common English Bible)

15 Brothers and sisters, I want to call your attention to the good news that I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand. You are being saved through it if you hold on to the message I preached to you, unless somehow you believed it for nothing. 

I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures. He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve, and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once—most of them are still alive to this day, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me, as if I were born at the wrong time. I’m the least important of the apostles. I don’t deserve to be called an apostle, because I harassed God’s church. 

10 I am what I am by God’s grace, and God’s grace hasn’t been for nothing. In fact, I have worked harder than all the others—that is, it wasn’t me but the grace of God that is with me. 11 So then, whether you heard the message from me or them, this is what we preach and this is what you have believed.

“I am what I am because of God’s grace.” Can’t we all say that? Where would you be without it? I know I would be lost. Paul gives God credit for the hard work he put in, realizing that is grace alone that enables us to do good works.

Is God calling you to transform some aspect of your life? Are you engaging in something harmful that requires a stepping away and giving it over to him? Are your relationships in need of repair? Do you need God’s grace to move on with your life in a new direction?

Lucky for us, God’s grace is abundant, amazing, and free to all who seek it. If addicts can recover and murderers can be redeemed, your situation can be changed if you yield to his will and his mercy. You are not alone!

God’s grace is ENOUGH.

Enough by Michelle Robertson

In You I Find Happiness

I had a surprising conversation last week with a young man whom I have known for years. He wrote me an email to let me know that he had recently been baptized. I cannot tell you the joy that exploded in my heart. This is a fellow who has had a strange and encumbered journey to this decision. He has been seeking peace all of his life, but many of his own choices in the past have taken him far afield of anything resembling peace. This decision came after a lot of deep soul searching and some very excellent discipling from a young pastor and a faithful church that has embraced him in his wanderings. I feel like he has finally come home.

This Sunday, we will remember the baptism of Jesus. It may surprise some folks to remember that Jesus was baptized. Since he is the totality of the forgiveness of sins and the One who brought the cleansing needed for new life, it is amazing to think that he himself was baptized by John. What a powerful reminder of the humility it takes to be a servant of God!

Luke 3 (Common English Bible)

21 When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit came down on him in bodily form like a dove. And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

The Common English Bible version is the first time I have seen the words, ”in you I find happiness.” What a marvelous take on that Scripture! Can you hear God saying that to you in those moments when you choose him over the world? ”In YOU I find happiness.” Hallelujah!

My young friend is working his way through what baptism means. He has expressed doubt that he was ”good enough” to be baptized. Oh, that we could somehow understand that there is no such thing as being ”good enough” to have a relationship with God! You can never be good enough, but the opposite is also true: you can never be ”bad enough” to be disqualified from his grace. Grace means that we are offered the unconditional love and unmerited favor of God, based NOT on our behavior, but on his amazing love for us. Period.

We understand baptism to be an initiation into the household of God. Initiation. That means that baptism is a place where we start our process of growing in Christ, not a place where we present some completed version of ourselves. It is the threshold of a lifelong journey where we study, pray, meditate, serve, and worship in our pursuit of understanding who God is, and whose we are as his children.

So keep growing. Keep learning. Keep praying. Keep striving. Keep putting yourself under the authority of God’s plan for your life, and never stop seeking the peace that he offers. You are God’s child, whom he loves!

In you, God finds happiness.

Come to the Water by Alice Rogers

His Grace is Enough

There is a mind-set among church people that if your ministry is dormant, it won’t come under attack from the Evil One. We think that as ministries catch fire through the power of the Holy Spirit and go “into revival,” it is more likely that attacks will come. This is a comforting thought, because it allows us to understand our trials and tribulations as evidence that we are doing our job in proclaiming the Gospel. It also is Biblical.

In the twelfth chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he confesses to having a handicap, or a “thorn in the flesh.” Much has been written about this. Was it a physical ailment? Did he have a speech impediment? Was it a mental disorder? What exactly was holding Paul back?

2 Corinthians 12 (The Message)

If I had a mind to brag a little, I could probably do it without looking ridiculous, and I’d still be speaking plain truth all the way. But I’ll spare you. I don’t want anyone imagining me as anything other than the fool you’d encounter if you saw me on the street or heard me talk.

7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty!

Paul correctly identifies the problem: he is under attack. His ability to receive God’s word, and the extravagance of God’s revelations, put a big target on his head. Satan tried his best to stop the revival by stopping Paul. Had Paul been ineffective, he would have been left alone. That realization didn’t make life easier, but it did lead Paul to one of the greatest revelations of his life:

At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

This is PROFOUND. Do you hear what Paul is saying? God’s grace is ENOUGH. No matter what physical, mental, relational, or spiritual thorn you are dealing with, God’s grace is enough. Do you believe that?

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Paul teaches us that yielding to a situation is the best way through that situation. God didn’t remove the Red Sea when the Israelites were escaping from Pharaoh’s army….he parted it so they could move through it. Where is God trying to help you move through something? Have you yielded to his power in your problem? Are you praying about it?

Paul discovered that when you allow Christ’s strength to move in on your weakness, you will gain strength. So be like Paul and just let Christ take over! God’s grace truly is enough, and it’s all you need.

Need a blessing? Take a look and listen:

Enough by Michelle Robertson