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“And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage” (Ezra 9:8).

 

I’m not sure what it is about a certain man that stirs a friend’s dislike, but in her opinion he is not trustworthy. To be honest, even to me his smile seems a little false, as do some of his mannerisms. Yet—I really don’t know enough about him to determine his integrity. Time, I assume, will tell. My friend, however, has already passed judgment. She demanded of me, “Why doesn’t God just zap him?” With a smile, I looked at her and replied, “It’s called grace.”

Where would any of us be without grace? Grace is often defined as the unmerited favor of God. This is so true. But God’s Word reveals so much more about the depths of its meaning. Here are just a few of the verses that describe God’s wonderful grace.

 

  • Grace is a gift—neither bought nor earned. (Read Ephesians 4:7.)
  • Grace caused God to love us even while we were still sinners. (Read Romans 5:8-10.)
  • Grace justifies us before God. (Read Titus 3:7.)
  • Grace provides access to God. (Read Hebrews 4:16.)
  • Grace empowers us to live a holy life. (Read Titus 2:11-14.)

 

We could study God’s grace for many days without ever learning all there is to know. What I do understand is this: it’s for me . . . for you . . . for everyone!

The verse in Ezra quoted above refers to a little space of grace. God has given us a window of opportunity—a little space—to avail ourselves of His grace, to accept this free gift. Yes, as my friend suggested, God could just “zap” us and forget us. After all, we have all sinned and fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Instead, God loves us, imperfect as we are, and desires to empower us to live a holy life. His grace allows us the opportunity to become all we can be through Him.

Take advantage of the space He has given you to accept His gift of grace.

 

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7, English Standard Version).

 

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for allowing me a window of time to accept Your grace. I know I am a sinner, and it is only because of Your gift of grace that I can find salvation through You. Thank You for loving me when I was unlovable. I am forever grateful for the work You are doing in my life today. I am as far on my journey as I am because You offered me grace.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24).

Words can hurt, and words can also heal. It is so uncomfortable to be around someone spewing out harsh words to another. I cringe when I’m in a public place and hear hateful things being said. Have you ever felt like stepping up and giving some unsolicited advice? Once, before I even realized what I was doing, I actually did speak up to a stranger belittling her spouse publicly. Fortunately, she didn’t turn on me.

There’s an old saying—and your mother probably told you many times—that says, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all.” It’s good advice, but is there a reason we can’t always say something positive? Not really. The story is told of the sweet little lady who always had a positive comment to make regardless of the person being discussed. Deciding they could trick her into saying something negative, someone asked, “What do you think about the devil?” She immediately replied, “Well, he certainly is a busy fellow.”

The world would be a much nicer place for all of us if we chose to speak uplifting words instead of things that hurt and tear down. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” I don’t want to kill someone with the things I say to them. I may not cause a physical death, but I can kill their spirit, their self-confidence, their ambition, their hope. Careless words destroy. I want to speak words that bring health and wholeness to another.

Think about some things you hear in conversations around you. How many are positive? How many are negative or even destructive? As a little exercise, jot down comments you hear (or perhaps even say) during any given day. You may hear things like this:

 

  • Why can’t you ever do anything right?
  • You are never going to amount to anything.
  • I can’t believe how (stupid, clumsy, ugly, lazy, uncaring) you are.
  • Why can’t you be more like (fill in the name)?
  • You are the most (aggravating, obnoxious, thoughtless, annoying) person I know!

Or would you rather hear statements like these?

  • You have such a great attitude.
  • You always take time to listen.
  • You are so (competent, helpful, loving, dependable, bright).
  • Things seem to go better when you’re around.
  • Your smile brightens my day.
  • I see Jesus in you.

 

It’s the first month of a new year. This is a good time for us to work on developing a new vocabulary—one filled with positive, affirming words that will build up and bring health to those around us.

 

“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing” (I Thessalonians 5:11, New English Translation).

 

Prayer: Lord, make me conscious of the words I speak into the life of others. Help me to be kind, uplifting, and encouraging. May I never be guilty of speaking destructive or cruel words either to them or about them. Help me to guard my tongue and speak to others as I would like to be spoken to. In Jesus’ name I pray.

 “He showed me this: The Lord was standing there by a vertical wall with a plumb line in his hand” (Amos 7:7, Christian Standard Bible).

Sometimes I become excited about a project before considering how much work it will entail. When I decided to paint stripes to create an accent wall, I knew it would take a while. I wasn’t in a rush, so it really didn’t matter. Or at least those were my thoughts on Day One. The project did start easily enough, but it wasn’t quick and certainly wasn’t easy. You can’t paint stripes without lines. Lines must be straight. They must be evenly spaced,  straight up and down, not drifting left or right. If one line went astray, it would be easy for others to follow. All of them had to be in plumb.

I needed some tools to get this right, so I gathered up a carpenter’s level, blue painter’s tape, a pencil, and a ruler. Oh, and a ladder to precariously balance upon. Many hours of work later, I had an (almost) perfectly striped wall. Fortunately, it was a very small wall, or I’d still be painting.

If you are like me, things need to be straight, aligned correctly, or they bother me. My eye will constantly go back to that one point of imperfection. Who wants to look at a shelf or picture with one corner tilted down? Or drive a car out of alignment? Or look at flooring not installed straight?

And who wants to live a life out of alignment with God? Not me.

It does take the right tools to keep our lives straight. We need the Word of God, a good prayer life, biblical preaching by our pastor, and fellowship with other believers. Just as I had to touch up some of my painted lines on the wall, many times I must work to get myself in plumb with God’s Word and His will. It can be time-consuming, and I may not always feel like making the effort. But I must. If one area of my life does not conform to the Word of God, then soon other areas will also be out of alignment. I cannot allow that to happen.

I must make the effort each day to be perfectly aligned. I want the favor of God upon my life. I want to make Heaven my eternal home.

I want to be in plumb with God’s measurement. I want to “live straight.”

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14).

Prayer: Lord, Your Word is important to me. It is my plumb line, showing me areas of my life that are not aligned with Your will. Help me to always desire to live a life that conforms to Your commandments, a life that is pleasing to You. I seek Your favor upon my life every day.