Tag Archives: grace

Parting Words From The WORD…Grace to Come Back Home, Part 3

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at grace, particularly the concept of finding the grace to come back home. These conversations began after my pastor, Larry Scott, led a sermon series on this very subject. As I’ve mentioned before, the outline points are taken from his sermon, but I’m adding some details and insights I feel the Lord has given me to share. I pray this has been an encouragement for all of us. Click to find The Grace to Come Back Home, Part 1 and The Grace to Come Back Home, Part 2.

Here’s Part 3 of Grace to Come Back Home: There is No Condemnation for Those Who Belong to Christ

Let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to come back home to the Father. Disappointment, confusion, and/or despair are often reasons for the separation, but they don’t have to continue to keep us separated from Him.

We must remember there can be consequences for leaving God behind: We lose fellowship with the Father and the Body, we lose rewards and joy. Those losses are clear and evident, but do we realize we can cause others to lose as well? When we fall away, we lose our effectiveness as His children, possibly becoming a stumbling block in their own walk with God.

But regardless of how far we fall away, we can be confident in the fact that God’s door will always be open. As Pastor Larry said, God will never reject His children when they come back to Him. Here are some of the reasons. (There are many verses to support these points. I only include a very few.)

1.  Grace is unconditional.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:22 (NIV)

2.  Salvation is not based on performance.

…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…. Titus 3:5 (NIV)

3.  Jesus already took the punishment for our sin. Punishment is retribution for the past; discipline is training for the future.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NIV)

4.  Jesus understands our weakness. He’s not waiting to zap us.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)

 

5.  He doesn’t hold on to grudges. This truth is beautifully demonstrated in Peter’s life. After Peter had so blatantly denied Jesus three times, Jesus’ response to Peter after His resurrection was one of love and forgiveness.

After His resurrection, Jesus reinstated and encouraged Peter in John 21:15-19 by asking him three times, “Peter, do you love me?” In each incidence, Peter replied that yes, he loved Jesus. Jesus’ three responses were: “Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” In other words, Jesus was giving Peter the encouragement he needed to step out in faith again. And as the book of Acts clearly shows us, Peter–the same one who denied Jesus three times–boldly goes forth to preach powerful messages of conviction, forgiveness, and grace through the blood of Jesus Christ.

We started this series with Peter and we end it with him. Peter is you, and he is me. Although he loved the Lord, Peter, a disciple and one of the most intimate of Christ’s friends, not only fell out of fellowship with Jesus, but turned his back on him as well. But praise God, even when Peter was out of fellowship, his relationship with Christ wasn’t over.

And neither is ours. Broken fellowship does not mean broken relationship with Him. His grace never ends.

There have been times in my life when I’ve fallen far from God, but praise Him, I can never fall so far that I can’t find my way to come back home.

All we have to do is turn around, and He’ll be there. Arms outstretched, ready to receive me back into fellowship with Him.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…I Can Do It All By Edie Melson

happy girl free Edie(Thanks to my dear friend, writer and speaker Edie Melson, for stepping in for me today. Knowing my readers, knowing Edie, and knowing myself, I think we all can use this reminder. Thanks, Edie!)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

This was one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized. It’s a heady verse for someone like me. Someone who loves to say yes for two reasons— the sheer joy of being involved and the fear others wouldn’t like me if I couldn’t perform. It was a dangerous combination. But I truly believed this verse gave me the ability to say yes to everything, and God would provide a way.

Fast forward several years, and the price of saying yes began to take its toll on my mind and body. I no longer lived a life of joy and victory. Instead I was a slave of over commitment. And I finally broke. It wasn’t pretty. Diagnosed with severe depression and several other mental health challenges it took me months to recover.

It was a painful lesson, and one I had to learn to ever be able to move forward. When forced to give up everything, I thought I’d never get to do anything fun again and that everyone would dislike me. (Stupid I know, but it’s really what I believed.) Slowly I began to realize God’s plan didn’t involve me saying yes to every good activity or need within my community.ton of bricks free Edie

I also discovered that when I said yes to something that wasn’t intended for me, I was in the way. I’d taken a task from someone else and denied them the joy of obedience. I’d become a roadblock in the journey God had for them.

I’ve also learned not to equate a need with a call from God. By that I mean just because I see a hole that needs filling it’s not my job to jump in. God has proven perfectly capable of providing for the needs of those around me.

Now I’m living a much more balanced and joyful life. I’m still not perfect, there are days I just can’t say no. But He’s shown me that the things He’s given me weigh no more than a feather, no matter how labor intensive. But when I pick up a job or a burden on my own, no matter how small the time commitment, it weighs on me like a ton of bricks. That in itself makes me wary about saying yes without hearing from God.

To sum it all up:

I’ve learned that I really can do it all…as long as I’m not trying to do everything. @EdieMelson #blessed (Click to Tweet)

Today I encourage you to look at the balance in your life. Do you need to lay something down that’s intended for someone else? Are you crying out for rest because you’re carrying a load not meant for you? There is rest and peace, all you have to do is let go.

Edie Melson headshot-MaryBio: Edie Melson—author, editor, and blogger—is a leading professional within the writing industry, as well as a popular inspirational speaker and mentor. She writes for military families and veterans. Her first book is Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle. Her second, While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military debuts on May 12 2015. She’s also the military family blogger for Guideposts at While They Serve.

Her popular blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month, and she’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy, the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, as well as the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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Parting Words From The WORD…Need Joy, Peace, and Hope?

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

 

Joy, peace, and hope. Three words that can sometimes feel elusive and unattainable. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I love reading Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. In Romans, he taught about salvation, grace, righteousness, and how to relate to one another as Christians. I’ve read through and studied this book many times through the years. But today, as I was reading in Romans, I read this verse and saw some things I’d never noticed before.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Here are the new insights I found today:

  1. Paul’s not asking that we’d simply be filled with joy and peace, but that we’d be filled with ALL joy and peace. Every bit of it.
  2. When and how do we get all this joy and peace? As we’re trusting in Him. Not when we’re working hard enough or giving enough money or doing enough for others, but AS we trust in Him.
  3. And when we trust in Him, we not only get ALL joy and peace, but we also get so much hope that it’s overflowing!
  4. That hope comes by the power of the Holy Spirit. Again, not because of any works we’ve done, but only because we’re given it by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Joy and peace…all. Hope…overflowing.

And I receive them AS…not before or after or when, but as…I trust in Him.

I’m trusting Him today for joy, peace, and hope in your life and mine.

Vonda

 

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Parting Words From The WORD…Making an Idol Out of Hardship

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

As I spend time with the Lord, there are days when He whispers words of encouragement in my ear, when His love is comforting and validating and full of grace. And then there are the other times.

This week, as I read about idols and the warnings of what they are in our contemporary life, I heard a new definition. As a follower of Christ, I’ve been taught about idols, I’ve been taught not to put my confidence in a thing, position, or person, but to put all hope and rest in Christ alone. But in my study a few days ago, God whispered something new, something I’d never heard before.

Sometimes a conflict is an idol. Sometimes we put our hardships of life on a pedestal, visiting and revisiting it often, making sure we hold it up high for all to see.

The moment I heard it, my heart pounded in reply, “But God, You know what he…”

I can’t even tell you the story because if I’m honest, I know my motivation would be to–again–raise up the conflict and gain sympathy in your eyes.

Father, forgive me.

All that to say, could there be something in your life–something that isn’t a blessing, isn’t money or position or talent–that has become an idol? Has something bad been a way to gain something the world says is good?

Do you have a hardship, a conflict, a relationship on the pedestal?

If so, would join me in knocking it down?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:43-48

Create in me a clean heart, O God…

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…It Is Done or It Is Finished?

jesus holding cross lost seed dot com

I think I’ve mentioned that Gary and I are in the middle of a 18-24 month study of Revelation. It has been an amazing journey, digging deep and learning the details of John’s vision of the Tribulation. Prior to beginning this study, I knew about the Great Day of the Lord, but had no idea of the depth of the horror of it.

Every week has been eye-opening, but none so much as this week’s study of Chapter 16 covering the last seven judgements, the Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath. From boils, to blood-filled seas, to blood-filled rivers, to people scorched with fire by the sun, to darkness, and to a dried up Euphrates.

Finally, the seventh angel pours his bowl into the air and:

…out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” Then there came flashes of lightning , rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed…Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.
Revelation 16:17b-19a, 20-21 NIV

A loud voice from the throne shouts, “It is done!” and the earth shakes…And the price is paid for sin.

The power of those words immediately took me back to a similar scene. But at the cross, God’s Son shouts, “It is finished!” and the earth shakes…And the price is paid for sin.

Two three-word sentences that change the course of history. One gives life. One takes it away.

After studying Revelation for almost a year, it appears that the signs are clear and time is drawing near. God is serious. We must be, too.

I love Him because He loved me first, and gave His life for me.

Vonda

(I don’t think I’ve ever specifically asked you to share a post, but would you share this one? Somebody’s eternal life could depend on it.)

Image courtesy of LostSeed.com

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Parting Words From the WORD…We Remember…

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

As Christians, we know we have been set free. From the moment we truly give our hearts to Christ and seek to live for Him, we know our sins are as far as the east is from the west, hidden beneath the deepest ocean, and no longer remembered by God.

But we aren’t God. We remember. And we hold tight to those memories, giving an ear to Satan and his condemnation. Perhaps you’re like me and have a relative or acquaintance who never lets you forget how miserably you fail at being perfect, like Christ.

Sometimes believers even wallow in the failures themselves, convinced that they are worthless to God because of those failures.

But God has a different plan through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. The scriptures are clear that through Him we truly can be set free.

I once read this short verse about freedom and was surprised that I’d never really considered the power and profound truth it proclaims.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Christ died, was buried, and arose for our freedom from the slavery of sin. Paul instructs us to deny and refuse to carry the burden anymore.

We are new creations, freed from the old, delighting in the new. Praise Him!

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…How Good is My Sacrifice?

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

As we’ve discussed before, I’ve been competitive all my life. It doesn’t matter whether it’s leg-wrestling or a game of Pigtail, I WANT TO WIN!

We’ve also discussed in the past how easy it is to get lulled into the lie of a works-grace, especially if we’re naturally competitive and struggle with a check-off mentality. Oh, we know that salvation is only through grace and not something we have earned, and yet, when we least expect it, Satan can ratchet up the pressure and insinuate his lies into His truth.

Yesterday, as I continued my Bible study of Planted: Sit, Stand, and Walk with Jesus , Annie Pajcic addressed the subject of obedience. As I reflected on the topic of obedience, I remembered the story of Saul and how the Lord commanded him to destroy King Agag, all the Amalekites, all their families, and all their possessions.

But Saul had a better idea. Yes, he destroyed all the people, but he captured King Agag. He killed all the Amalekites and their families, but kept the best sheep and cattle. Bottom line, he disobeyed God.

Although Saul defended his actions by saying he did it for the Lord and saved the best animals to offer as sacrifices to God, Samuel responded with these powerful words:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
    and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
    he has rejected you as king.”
I Samuel 15:22-23

Samuel’s words reminded me that all the great things we may do for God don’t count for much if we aren’t sincerely following His commands. Are we following the letter of the law, but ignoring the spirit of it? Are we proclaiming Christ and Him crucified, but finding fault with everyone around us? Are we writing books to change hearts, but hardening our own hearts to the concept of grace for all?

Friends, we can write books and articles, create great programs, visit prisoners, go on mission trips, and give back more than the tithe, but if it’s done with a works mentality and a judgmental heart, if we’re not following the Lord’s commands found in His Word, our sacrifices of talent, time, and money are nothing more than going through the motions.

After all, obedience to His Word is greater than any sacrifice we may offer.

I pray God’s blessing on the works of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…You Wouldn’t Ask Me To Do That, Would You?

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Today’s Parting Words From The WORD is a rerun from March, 2012. I ran across it as I was searching to see if I had addressed a specific verse in a prior post. But when I found this one and read it, I was almost moved to tears…again.

I vividly remember writing the post, and even though more than two years have passed since writing it, it still stirs me from the deepest part of me.

On a day when we remember our freedoms and rights in America, are we willing to give up what we want for what He has for us to do?

What will He ask me to lay down? Will I be faithful to do it?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Most of us here are writers and speakers. It’s not only what we do, but it also cuts to the core of who we are. We often say we write or speak because we have to, that we feel God has given us the ability to communicate so we can share Him, the cure for a lost and dying world.

This past Sunday morning, my friend and writing sister, Edie Melson, posted her compelling poem, A Divine Obsession, in which she states a repeated refrain, “I write because I must.” And to that I say, “Amen, sister!” I read Edie’s beautiful post Sunday morning, took comfort in the truth of her words and God’s blessing on me as a writer, and headed to out the door to worship.

In Sunday School that morning we studied 1 John 2 and I was reminded again that God called John and Paul and Peter and James to be writers and communicators, just as He has called you and me. Of course, I’m NOT saying our words are the inspired Word of God, but I am saying He put in us everything we need to be able to spread His Great Name through the written and spoken word.

Praise and worship time brought me to that place where I want nothing more than to be in His presence, seeking Him and His will. Then during Sunday morning worship, our visiting pastor, Russ Chambers of Hingepoint Church in CA, challenged us with a powerful message about the cross.

I had had a great morning, starting with Edie’s vivid poem about writing, straight to Sunday School and the reminder that God had called me to write and speak, just as He called the scribes of His Word, right on to anointed worship before the Lord, and then to Russ’ message, to which I could nod my head and my heart in agreement.

But then Russ said, “Our personal preferences have to die.”

In that very moment, my writing and speaking and teaching and singing and acting flashed before me. A catch gripped my heart and mind. Surely He would never ask me to lay THAT down on the altar…would He? After all, He’s called me, gifted me, ordained me if you will, to be a communicator of the Truth of His Great Name!

But…what if…my goodness, I can hardly say it…what if He asked me to lay it all down?

I admit, I’ve had fleeting thoughts along those lines through the years, but it’s usually just that–a fleeting thought. After all, why would God choose us…only to later UNchoose us to be writers and speakers? But this time the possibility was real, more urgent, more in the moment.

Even as I write this, I can hardly wrap my mind around the concept. But as one who loves the Creator and all it means to call Him Lord, I have to accept that the day could come when He says,”It’s over.”

It scares me how much that thought scares me.

Oh, I can speak in my spiritual voice and say yes, we must be willing to lay everything down for Him and His sake. And I believe it with as much belief as my heart can muster. But if I’m honest–which I’m trying to be here–I hope He doesn’t ask that of me. The truth is, I don’t want to lay it down.

After all, as Edie so brilliantly wrote, “I write because I must.”

But as God clearly showed me this weekend, I cannot let my preference for and my joy in writing or speaking or acting or singing or teaching determine what I will or won’t do with my life.

I have to remember I’m merely a sinner, saved by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The time He has given me to be a writer or speaker or anything else could very well come to an end. But that wouldn’t mean my life as a useful tool of God would be over.

It would simply be the beginning of another new thing.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21 NIV

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts…regardless of what He has for you–and me–to do,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD…Amazing

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

I’ve mentioned recently that I’m doing the Bible study, Planted, by Annie Pajcic and I’m really enjoying it. Lots of insight into Psalm 1:1-3 and how we’re to sit, stand, and walk with Jesus.

And although every day’s lesson is great, yesterday’s was especially tender. I knew immediately I wanted to share it with you!

Annie shares how Robert McGee’s book, The Search for Significance, changed her life by helping her see who she was in Christ, that appearances and approval of others have no bearing on her worth. And they don’t determine our worth, either.

Then she quoted Romans 5:8 from The Message:

But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Romans 5:8 (MSG)

“God put his love on the line…sacrificial death…while we were of no use whatever to him.”

I’ve heard that verse all my life. Memorized it as a young girl in GAs. Proclaimed it as a speaker and teacher. But never have I grasped the concept as completely as I did when I read it this week.

I was of no more use to God than a clump of South Carolina red clay, but it was at that very moment…in all my filthy uselessness…that He sacrificed His precious Son for me.

Amazing.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD: At Least I’m Better Than Her

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Happy Friday, my friends! As you can see, I’m starting a new title for our Friday gathering around God’s Word. It dawned on me that perhaps I should at least give you a glimpse into what I’m thinking and the direction I’m going with the day’s Word.

Today, I’m so excited to share what God showed me one morning this week during my Bible study time. You know those moments when you’ve read a verse a hundred times during your life, and yet God suddenly shows you something new? Well, I had one of those moments this week.

I had started Judy Huitt’s Bible study Our Beloved, Our Friend a couple of months ago, but had to put it aside while we did a church-wide Bible study by Rick Warren, 40 Days in the Word. We finished a few weeks ago and I was thrilled to back to Judy’s study for the last few days of Our Beloved, Our Friend. On Tuesday this week, I turned to her last lesson, “Do You Love Me?”

Before I even looked at the references, I knew immediately at least one passage would most likely include the John 21 story of Jesus’ conversation with Peter after His resurrection, where He talked about feeding His sheep.

If you recall, three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him and three times Peter said “Lord, you know that I love you.”

Each time after Peter said he did love Him, Jesus responded with a command.”…Feed my lambs…” “…Take care of my sheep…” “…Feed my sheep…” And He ended it by saying, “Follow me!”

To me, it was a familiar, comforting story of Jesus’ desire for and command to each of us as Christ followers to live and love as He did.

But what caught my eye–and challenged my heart–was the rest of the story:

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?“ Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:20-22 (NIV)

“What is that to you? You must follow me.”

Jesus was saying, “What business is that of yours, Peter? You concentrate on what I’ve called you to do and I’ll deal with what I’ve called John to do.”

When we compare our successes and our failures with others…when we watch as spiritual leaders fall, and thank Him that we’re not like them…when we ourselves fall, and ask Him to make us like the stars of Christiandom…He asks, “What does her life have to do with yours?”

Jesus is simply telling me to follow Him and His example…and He’ll deal with my brothers and sisters, whether they rise or fall, whether they obey or not. My responsibility is to focus on my own heart and my own relationship with Him.

Then the Lord blew me away with another application of this passage. Some of you know that I have a lost brother who is not only lost, but fully antagonist to the Gospel of Christ. I’ve struggled for years as I’ve talked with him about the Lord. No matter how clearly I try to explain it, he can’t see beyond me and my past sin. Regardless of how passionately I deliver the gift of grace, he continues to point to my failures as blatant hypocrisy that he wants no part of.

The truth is, he can’t get to Jesus because he can’t get past me.

Now I know that the next time I have a chance to point to Christ as the only way to salvation and he points to my sin instead, I can take him to the words of Jesus: “What is that to you? Your relationship with Me has nothing to do with Vonda. You get yourself right with Me…and let Me deal with her.”

And praise God, He deals with me with a scarred hand of grace…instead of what I deserve.

That’s what I want for my brother.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

(Laughing Jesus image art courtesy of RobertWilsonFineArt.com)

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