Grace Giver

When I awoke the other morning, I heard “Grace Giver” whispered in my spirit. I believe Grace Giver is an accurate description of God. He is the giver of grace. Grace is God’s gift to us.

Let’s take time to unwrap the gift of grace. Let’s meditate upon words of scripture and words of prominent Christian authors and speakers.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

Grace is the power of the Holy Spirit available to you to do
with ease what you cannot do by striving in your own strength.
Joyce Meyer

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
Ephesians 4:7

But grace is at the center of the life God calls us to—
and reflects the heart of the One who calls.”

John Ortberg

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.
II Corinthians 12:9

The true definition of “grace is the power of God,
not the unmerited favor of God.”
Bill Johnson

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.
Hebrews 13:9

Grace is the empowering presence of God that enables you
to become what He sees when He looks at you.”

Graham Cooke

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find
grace
to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

Grace sees potential – potential is more powerful than mistakes.
Grace sees what you can do, not what you have done.
Rev. Robert Reeves

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through
the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

II Peter 1:2

Grace: more than we deserve, more than we can Imagine.”
Max Lucado

(Calligraphy image done by our granddaughter Grace.)

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Seedlings

Our daughter loves gardening. While looking through seed catalogs, she decides what she wants to grow in her garden. Then she purchases the seeds. Zucchini – tomatoes – peppers – cucumbers.

Since warm weather is slow to arrive in New York state, she gets an early start by planting seeds indoors. Her seeds have become seedlings by the time she transplants them outdoors. I think the seedlings appreciate her TLC.

We can follow her example with spiritual seeds we plant in our hearts. Instead of looking through seed catalogs, we can look through our Bibles and find what seeds we most want to grow during the upcoming months. We, too, can give our spiritual seeds a head start by digging deeply into what scripture tells us about specific seeds.

Here are a few options of the spiritual seeds we can plant.

Faith
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.Hebrews 11:1 NLT

Hope
For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.Romans 8:24-25
Hope is confident expectation.

Love
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.I Corinthians 13:4-7

Forgiveness
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.Colossians 3:13 NLT

Joy
This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.Psalm 118:24

Although Jill gives her plant babies proper attention and extra nutrients, her seedlings are still delicate. However, they are one step ahead of seeds planted directly into the ground. The seedlings must be handled with care.

We will be wise to give our spiritual seedlings a little extra TLC before we transplant them into the world around us. The sprouts of our spiritual seedlings are fragile. They need our attention. They cry out for nourishment and water. Revelation 22:17 says, “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.II Corinthians 9:10 says, “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

Once planted in the garden, our daughter’s vegetable seedlings grow rapidly with abundant sunshine and rain. However, weeds also grow. Jill now has a new project – pulling weeds. This is a continual part of gardening throughout the season.

Our spiritual seedlings also like Sonshine and heavenly rain. Ezekiel 36:25 promises. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.” We will encounter weeds when are in the world. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” In these verses we not only discover weeds that need to be uprooted but we also learn how to get rid of them. Acts 3:19 tells us, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Yes! Let’s wipe out all the weeds that want to crop up in our hearts.

From one little zucchini seedling, Jill gets enough zucchini to make multiple loaves of zucchini bread, to serve many dinners that include some kind of zucchini dish, to eat it raw with humus, and still share some of her vegetable produce with us. One zucchini seed or seedling can grow into a plant that yields many zucchini.

Our harvest from a spiritual seedling has the same potential. For instance, let us take a little seedling of love that is allowed to grow to maturity. Ephesians 3:17-19 says, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. The amazing thing is that a spiritual seed or seedling grows best when shared with others. We want the fruit of our labor to be more than seedlings. We want fruitfulness!

Just as vegetable seedlings grow in fertile, watered and cared for ground, spiritual seedlings will sprout, grow and flourish in our hearts. I want to restate the last part of Ephesians 3:17 Living Letters,May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.Let us nurture and care for these tender sprouts. However, may we not be content with just seedlings. May our plantings produce godly growth we can share with those around us.

Hidden Mysteries

Have you ever found the perfect gift that you just had to buy for someone? Did you then hide the gift because it was not the right time to give it?  I think God does this with us.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Proverbs 25:2
It is interesting that God hides things. Although God interacted with the people of the Old Testament, He also chose to keep some things concealed. He revealed messages through pictures and prophecies but the people did not completely understand all He was saying and doing. I sometimes wonder if God hides things from us just so we will look for them. Today, I am searching for what He has hidden.

. . . filled with the full riches of complete understanding, so that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:2-3
Paul is talking about Christ being the mystery that was concealed in the Old Testament but revealed in the New Testament. He also emphasizes that there are more treasures hidden in Christ.

So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
Matthew 13:35
Jesus taught through parables. He fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 78:2. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old.” Sometimes His parables hid meaning and other times they gave insight. Although I have read Jesus’ parables many times, the Holy Spirit continues to give me fresh perspectives. I can discover things that had previously been hidden.

there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
Matthew 10:26

Jesus spoke these words as He sent His disciples out to “the lost sheep of Israel”. They were to reveal the Gospel’s hidden message.

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth
John 16:12-13
Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit. People were not ready or able to comprehend all that God still wanted to reveal. Now we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper so we can gain new understanding about God and His plans and purposes.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3
Although God has concealed things, He also desires to reveal things. He promises to tell us things we have not even thought about! When we need to hear something fresh and are able to understand more deeply, God will reveal it to us. I find this verse very encouraging.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29

Although Moses spoke these words to the Israelites, they still apply today. When God entrusts us with His revelations, it is our responsibility to share His insights with those who have not yet heard the gospel or do not understand it.

You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.
John 13:7

Jesus spoke these words to Peter while washing the disciples feet. However, I also hear Jesus saying them to us
today. The greater eternal purposes of God are beyond our comprehension. Our knowledge is limited while God’s wisdom is beyond measure.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 NLT

“What we cannot see” can refer to our lack of ability to see intellectually as well as impaired vision of the eye. Faith does not require us to know everything perfectly. All of us have questions for God. However, we need to be content knowing that what may now be concealed will be revealed in the future.
If I knew everything about God, I would have facts not faith. Faith allows us to accept the mysteries that God keeps concealed. It allows us to accept the limits of our revelation and honor God’s secrets. Although what our eyes see is easier to understand, faith is always more challenging and exciting.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
I Corinthians 13:12 NLT
It is still God’s glory to conceal some matters. As long as we seek deeper insight, God will give us
clearer understanding. The mysteries of God encourage us to grow in our faith. Personally, His mysteries keep me from becoming bored. I am not content. I always want to learn more.

God has purchased the perfect gift for each of us. He still hides the fullness of this gift. However, He gives partial revelations at the appropriate times. God is too big for us to fully understand with our finite minds. But, the day will come when we will completely know Him. What a wonderful promise! Meanwhile, what an awesome journey!

Up and Down

It all began when I wanted to ask my husband a question. He was in the basement, so I went downstairs. When coming back up, I paused. I asked God, “Do You have something to show me about steps and stairs today?”

When I reached the top of the stairs, I went to my desk. With my Bible beside me and my fingers on the computer keys, I was ready for a search. The following is what the Lord showed me.

Jacob’s ladder was the first Bible story that came to my mind. Stairs and ladders are similar.

Genesis 28:10-22 records Jacob’s dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder between earth and heaven. In this dream, God talked with Jacob. When he awoke, Jacob said in verse 16, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.God in heaven communicated with Jacob on earth. Finally in verse 17, Jacob described this place as the gate of heaven. Halley’s Bible Handbook points out that the ladder was a hint of the Promises of God that would culminate in a bridge between heaven and earth.

Jesus says in John 1:51, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man. Jesus is referring back to Jacob’s dream while also revealing the purpose of His leaving heaven and coming to earth. The BibleRef commentary says that Jesus was giving His disciples a tiny preview of the miracles to come. He was making a subtle reference to the reason for His ministry: to be the connection between men and God.

Jacob described angels ascending and descending. Jesus talked about them too. What does God want to show me about angels and stairs? Are angels ascending and descending for us today?

Leslie White makes some good comments on the website beliefnet. Leslie writes,Though we may not see them or know they are there, angels are watching over us, transporting blessings into our lives, protecting us from danger and helping us to glorify God better. . . .  Angels are fascinating spiritual beings. . . . When we get to heaven, we’ll probably be amazed to discover just how often God’s angels protected us or intervened on our behalf. Whether you realize it or not, angels are watching over you at this very moment. What a wonderful creator God is.” Leslie validates her remarks with numerous scriptures. I will include a few.

See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” – Exodus 23:20

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” – Hebrews 1:14

For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.”Psalm 91:11-12

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2

I went downstairs to ask my husband a question. I did not want to just shout to him. I wanted to be near him so we could talk. We were able to hear each other better when we were in each other’s presence.

I believe the message God wants to relay to me is that He wants to be with us. He wants to communicate with us. He desires to be active in our daily lives. God relates to us in various ways. He speaks through His Word. The Holy Spirit lives within us and is our Helper. God may give us dreams and visions. And, He sends His angels as messengers and warriors. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

God took the opportunity to show me His symbolic spiritual stairway while I was descending and ascending our basement stairs. I am glad God spoke to me in picturesque ways that I could understand. Like Jacob, I declare, “surely the presence of the Lord was in this place.”

Turn on the Light

You are the light of the world.
Matthew 5:14

Last week I shared about being salt. This week, I am thinking about being light. Through both images, Jesus is speaking about being a witness.

The very first verse of the Bible states that there was darkness over the face of the deep before God created the heavens and the earth. God’s first words recorded in Genesis 1:2 are, “Let there be light and there was light.” This verse describes physical light replacing physical darkness. However, as a witness, I am thinking about spiritual light overcoming spiritual darkness.

Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” Then Matthew 5:14 says, “You are the light of the world. How can I connect these verses of Matthew and John? I am reminded of Genesis 1:27, “God created mankind in His own image.So, if Jesus is light and I am made in His image, then, I guess I can also be light. However, I like to make a distinction by thinking of Jesus as the light of the world while I am a light of the world. I am like the moon that reflects the light of the sun. The moon has no light of its own. It reflects the light of the sun. I shine forth light, but my light is a reflection of the light of God’s Son.

When Jesus says that He is the light of the world in John 8:12, He goes on to say,Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.Jesus is explaining that He is the source of spiritual light that overcomes spiritual darkness. He declares in John 12:46, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should remain in darkness.

Ephesians 5:8 NLT says, For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light.’” I was not always light. I once knew what it was like to be in darkness without the light of understanding. I became light when I accepted Jesus, the Light, as my savior. Now it is my responsibility to be a light to those who are still in darkness.

Matthew 5:15 says I must not hide my light but let it shine. Matthew 5:16 emphasizes, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” My light is not to shine on me. My responsibility is to light the way for others to come to see Christ. I desire for God to be glorified – not me.

How can I be the light I am called to be? The natural realm helps me understand the supernatural realm. A lamp setting on a table will not emit light in a dark room if its cord is not plugged into a source of electricity. If I am to be a light to the darkened world, I must be connected to Jesus, the light of the world. The Holy Spirit is my spiritual cord. He is my connection. He is my helper. John 14:26 NASB says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

John 1:4-5 says of Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Light overcomes darkness rather than darkness extinguishing light. Light is more powerful. It exposes the deceptions of darkness and illuminates the brilliance of truth. Proverbs 14:25 says, “A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful. As a witness, I am a light sharing God’s Word of truth with those who have not yet been enlightened by Jesus. Sharing scripture is one way of witnessing. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your (God’s) word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Paul warns in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.(my emphasis) Choices I make affect how effectively and brightly my light shines to those in darkness. My actions are as much a part of my witness as are my words. I must be careful or my light will be very dim.

I Peter 2:9 NKJV declares, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. His own special people, that you proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. The Lord has called me into the light and now I am to go back into the darkness to proclaim the marvelous light of Jesus Christ. I have a testimony to share. God says in Isaiah 43:10, “You are My witnesses.” It is a privilege to be light for Him!

My Reader, are you a light?  Think about it every time you turn on a light.

Shake the Salt from the Salt Shaker

You are the salt of the earth.
Matthew 5:13

If I am salt, I picture myself being composed of little seasoning granules. My body is the salt shaker holding the granules of Christ in me.

As a believer, it is my responsibility to shake and share Christ-crystals upon those around me. In other words, I am to be a witness. In Isaiah 43:10, the Lord declares, “You are My witnesses.” Before Jesus’ ascension, He told His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He still says this to me today.

I want to think about how some of the characteristics of salt teach me to be a witness for Christ.

Before refrigeration became available, the chemical compound known as salt was often used as a preservative. If people had eaten improperly stored meat, they could have died from food poisoning. As a believer, God allows me to shake the salt of salvation upon those around me. My salt comes from God’s Word. My saltiness proclaims John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.Proverbs 14:25 says, “A truthful witness saves lives.

Salt is often added to food to enhance flavor. Some people’s taste buds are tantalized by a saltier flavor than others. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.Reading God’s Word is never bland. However, sometimes one needs a little extra flavor sprinkled upon the written Word. Maybe I can add a little extra saltiness to scripture by sharing how I have applied a specific verse to a personal problem.

I can strive to add flavor by sharing God’s favor. God’s favor is His grace. According to
I Corinthians 15:10, I know that the grace of God is with me. And, I Corinthians 12:9 assures me that God’s grace is sufficient. The presence of God’s favor is part of my tasty testimony. I can assure others that they too can have God’s flavorful favor according to Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

After eating something extremely salty, like potato chips or peanuts, I want a drink of water. God’s purpose for me as salt is to create a thirst in others for spiritual water. In John 7:37 Jesus says, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” I desire to shake enough salty Christ-crystals upon others to create a spiritual thirst.

I like the fact that I am salt according to Matthew 5:13. However, I do not want to be a salt shaker that never distributes the salt within me. Colossians 4:6 encourages me to be a witness by saying, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” David says in Psalm 1914,May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” May my words be palatable granules of glory to God and the flavor of favor to those around me.

My Reader, are you salt?  Think about it each time you use a salt shaker.

WHAT IS IT?

If I make something new for dinner, my husband may suspiciously ask, “What is it?” Although he is not a picky eater, he says he will not eat anything he cannot identify. I wonder if this is how the Israelites felt when they first saw manna on the ground. Did they want to eat something they could not identify?

God had led the Israelites out of Egypt and they were on a 40 year journey to the Promised Land. Their stomachs were growling and their spirits were grumbling. God heard. God responded graciously. The Lord said to Moses in Exodus 16:4 I will rain down bread from heaven for you.”

In the morning, the ground was covered with a variety of Frosted Flakes. Exodus 16:14-15 says, “Thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.’” Exodus 16:31 tells us, “The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.”

Manna” comes from the Hebrew word that sounds like “What is it?” To answer this question, we can say that manna was both physical and spiritual food for the Israelites. It was a type of bread that satisfied their physical hunger. However, it also had a spiritual purpose. The Lord concludes Exodus 16:4 saying, “In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow My instructions.” God gave specific instructions how they were to gather this bread. Whether or not they would obey His instructions would reveal their commitment to Him. Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you (the Israelites), causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Jesus makes a transition from the Old Testament bread of heaven to the New Testament bread of heaven. Jesus says in John 6:32-33, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” In John 6:35, Jesus declares, I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

In the Old Testament, manna was bread sent from heaven to save the Israelites from dying of starvation. They gathered fresh manna each day. Only on the sixth day could they prepare and keep it for the sabbath. In the New Testament, the Bread of Life(Jesus) was sent from heaven to save our souls from dying; we received salvation. We accept Him as our personal savior once and receive the gift of eternal life.

Bread is a basic dietary item – a staple for physical life. The Bread of Life is our spiritual sustenance – our assurance of eternal life. John 6:27 says, Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.

Manna was a prophetic shadow of Jesus. The Israelites asked, “What is it?” They were told manna was bread from heaven. Fast forward almost 1300 years. While Jesus was sharing His last Passover meal with the disciples, He gave a new meaning to bread. Jesus broke bread into pieces and told His disciples to eat it. I wonder if they asked, “What is it?” Jesus gave His answer in Luke 22:10,This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Today, “What is it?” is answered for us each time we take part in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and partake of the bread.

Before concluding, I would like to expand our question. “What is it you need?” Like manna, God’s mercies are new every morning. (see Lamentations 3:23) God provides fresh mercy every day. We are not stuck with stale bread or stale promises. May we pray as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:11, “Give us today our daily bread.” We need both the physical and spiritual bread the Lord provides. Taking some liberties, I translate Psalm 34:8 to say, “Taste and see that the Bread of Life is good.” Again I quote John 6:35 where Jesus promises, I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” As the Bread of Life, the Lord will supply all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)