Grace: Don’t Waste the Space

Posted January 30, 2017 by nessalynn77
Categories: Inspirational Thoughts, Uncategorized

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“What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  God forbid…” -Romans 6:1, 2a

Grace is oddly a much debated topic amongst believers.  It’s a simple but powerful and unique concept on which our salvation solidly rests. Without it, none of us would escape eternal damnation.  Such a small word contains in it the gospel of Jesus Christ and the great love of God for each an every one of us.

It’s no wonder we sometimes struggle to understand and explain this grace.  It is so different from any other earthly experience. Given so freely and extended so broadly, it leaves the average person looking for the strings attached.  Owing a debt that we could not pay, and at a time when we were least deserving, God extended his Love, sacrificed His only Son, bringing forgiveness, peace, and a brand new life, to anyone who simply accepts Him. That’s a lot to take in, and it’s only the beginning!  This grace flows constantly and continually to us as we live out the journey of understanding and fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.

So, in effect, grace is what allows us to get back on course with God, restoring a relationship that was severed by our sin.  Headed for certain death, grace performs a life-saving rescue operation and gives us clarity and access to get back to our rightful place and purpose– the purpose for which God created us and placed us on this earth at this particular time.  As if that is not amazing enough, it is grace that then gives us the awareness and opportunity to make the needed corrections to stay on course.

Think about it… the mistakes, bad decisions and outright detours from God’s plan that I’ve made since walking with Jesus, have without a doubt racked up enough repercussions and penalties to bury me so far under that I could never get back on track. Even after my best efforts, I haven’t done enough to deserve or earn the life that God desires and intends for me.

Enter his extraordinary grace!  Imagine embarking on the journey of a lifetime, finally understanding your direction and purpose and excited about your destination, only to miss a turn due to a momentary distraction, or make the wrong turn and end up lost in unfamiliar and dangerous territory.  Imagine being headed straight for  a steep cliff, unable to see the danger ahead because of the darkness all around.

God’s grace is so free and so abundant, that time after time as we so treacherously stray from the clear path He has laid before us, He affords us a safe space to turn around– a break in life’s traffic to get back on course.  His mercy holds back what we deserve and his grace gives us enough space to get back on course.  Because of the sheer abundance of grace, it is easy to take these opportunities for granted.  We often envision a God who exists only to rescue us from what we continually run back to.  But grace serves a crucial purpose that is far from indulging us in our weaknesses.  It does not exist to enable us to continue running from God and his will for our lives.  Instead, grace gives us opportunities that we would not otherwise have– a space that we couldn’t create or figure out on or own– because God loves us and wants us to experience a life so suited to who we are that only our Creator and Designer would know how to orchestrate such a perfect fit.

The moments of clarity where we can see that need to make changes, and the times we know without a doubt that we should have been harmed or destroyed by our choices, but instead escaped unscathed, these are the spaces created by grace.  They are openings in the narrow road headed in the wrong direction that give us enough space to turn around.  They are breaks in the constant traffic of life pushing us further away from our true course that allow us to stop and think about our position and direction, and where the road we are on is ultimately leading.

Don’t waste the space.  God is gracious and loving.  All of his warnings and every opportunity is a chance to avoid arriving at the wrong destination, one that he knows is ultimately destruction.

Thy Kingdom Come…

Posted June 26, 2015 by nessalynn77
Categories: Uncategorized

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Luke 17:20, 21

Today’s world is all about production, and maybe it was always that way.  People are drawn to commotion, fanfare, unusual display… be it good or bad, if there is something to see, people will flock to see it.  So our media is on a never ending quest to shock and surprise us, sometimes twisting a “nothing” story into an attention-grabbing headline, just to incite a response from readers, listeners or viewers who are hungry for the next big scandal or debate.  In this type of society, what is often lost is real substance and truth.  Seldom do you find a product, organization, or even a person that is as advertised.  All of the emphasis is placed on drawing us in, so much so that I’m not sure we are even disappointed any more when the actual content is empty and not fulfilling.  We just continue our search for the next “big thing”, and so spend our lives searching.

It’s no wonder that same mindset comes into play when dealing with God and his promises.  Instead of looking for substance and the practicality of the principles outlined in the word of God, we are drawn to the big production.  Smoke and mirrors, pomp and circumstance, the bigger the production the more authentic we believe it to be.  Jesus warned against this deception.  When asked about the coming of his kingdom, Jesus was always careful to point out that it wouldn’t be according to our natural expectations.  His first coming in such lowly fashion was a foreshadowing that God is not into the things that we are into.  We are awed by presentation, while God is all about actual truth and substance.  Since the fig leaves sewn together in the Garden of Eden, man has focused on extravagant outward covering to hide the shame of what we truly lack and long for.

Jesus warned us not to be fooled by the sleight of hand that is a good, enticing production.  A sure sign of the kingdom of God is that it requires no marketing strategies or catchy enticements… No neon signs or corny commercials, because unlike anything else ever, the kingdom of God delivers exactly what it promises.  There is no person or personality to chase after other than the King himself.  No running from place to place to see or hear the next big thing on a promise that this one will be life-changing.

“…Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.”

Luke17:37b

I’m always amazed at Jesus’ ability to reveal the simple truths.  In the midst of a frantic search, Jesus points out principles and doctrines that were there all along, but are so simple that they are hidden in plain sight.  The people of that time were also hung up on presentation and were looking for a kingdom that fit their traditional description of what a kingdom should be.  Today we look for the successful trappings of what ministry, salvation, and evangelism “should” be.  People tell us on television, social media and contrived video clips that they have the kingdom of God and can connect you to it, if you connect to them.  All of this ultimately proves to be empty and void of fulfillment.

The truth is simple.  In the wild, you can tell that there is food or a “body” to be feasted upon by the gathering of the birds in that place.  The kingdom of God is where ever God’s presence is welcomed, his preeminence reverenced, and his commandments obeyed.  There you will find his body, there you will find truth and substance that your soul longs for, there you will find a direct connection to him.  He longs to build his kingdom in us, if we forsake the facade of what we think it looks like, and embrace who he is and the principles he established in his Holy Word.   It is then that we become the kingdom of God on earth, and every one who encounters us has an encounter with the kingdom, not another “christian” promising the kingdom… but then and there they stumble upon a portal by which they themselves can enter and the kingdom can be built in them.  What a peace and a privilege to carry the kingdom of God in you!

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done…

There is None Like You, God. (Morning Worship)

Posted January 31, 2015 by nessalynn77
Categories: Inspirational Thoughts, Worship

Tags: , , , , , , ,

There IS none like you, God.

No one exists that can come close to your majesty and power, your greatness exceeds everyone and everything.  You excel above all others in goodness, in knowledge, in mercy, in might… in every way.  All goodness that exists comes from you, along with all provision, we are who and what we are because you allow us to be so.  There IS none like you.

There is NONE like you, God.

Not in heaven above, or the earth beneath, not under the earth or anywhere in space.  Absolutely none can occupy the place and postiion that belongs to you alone.  You alone are worthy of glory, honor and praise.  No one else can compare.  There is NONE like you.

There is none LIKE you, God.

Many idols have been erected with lofty goals of likening themselves to you, but none can do the things that you do.  None can hear and answer prayer, or be everywhere present at one time.  None can save and give everlasting life like you give.  Their peace is destruction, their way is death.  You are the only true and living God.  There is none LIKE you.

There is none like YOU, God.

You are the one who loved me when I couldn’t love myself.  You are there in the darkest hours, in the most shameful or hopeless moments of my life.  You are the one who defines me.  You are the Creator.  You are the one who knows me better than I know myself.  You are the one that has plans to give me hope and a future.  There is none like YOU.

There is none like you, GOD.

YOU ARE GOD.  Father, Jehovah, Elohim, Provider, Sustainer, Strength, Sovereign, Holy, Eternal, Wonderful, Merciful, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Lover of my soul… EVERYTHING.  THERE IS NONE LIKE YOU, GOD!

The Other Side

Posted January 28, 2015 by nessalynn77
Categories: Inspirational Thoughts

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I was talking to a friend today about some current adversity in my life and I was a reminded of a truth that has been resonating with me for some time now.  It was a good refresher for me and I thought I’d share.

There have been many times in my life where I have faced situations so stressful or daunting, or that appeared so gloomy that I literally could not imagine myself on the other side.  I couldn’t picture a day where I didn’t have those bad feelings or that anxiety gnawing away in the pit of my stomach.  Whatever the issue was, it felt like it was here to stay.  This piled on more feelings of despair and hopelessness.

After a while, experience taught me something very simple but profound.  I’ve learned on nights like this and through days like this to keep living, because sooner or later each and every time, I found myself on the other side of whatever it was.  Most times it happened suddenly, at a time when I least expected it.  Sometimes I didn’t even realize it until one day I just looked back and that thing, whatever it was, had become a distant memory.  The stinging had stopped, the ominous foreboding feeling was gone, and I… I was still standing!

I found this to be true that no matter how great or small the trial, there comes a day when it’s just over.  I remember encouraging myself in one particularly dark moment, and I was completely lifted by just the thought that God is so mighty, and so in control of everything, that at any given moment the turnaround I sought could manifest.  The last second could tick off the clock and this problem’s stay in my life would have to come to an abrupt end.

On the heels of this realization, came another that was just as helpful.  If God is indeed all powerful, and can indeed turn things around in a moment, the fact that I am dealing with certain things and He has allowed them to stay despite the pain they are causing me, means they must be serving a purpose.  There must be a lesson for me to learn, or something for me to gain by the experience.  As hard as it was to accept, I realized that my time would be better spent embracing the experience, as uncomfortable as it may be, instead of complaining about it.  I learned to allow myself to feel the pain, be grieved, even be angry, but get to the core of why, and what it is about the entire experience that can make me better.  This is a hard truth, and I must say I’m very proud of myself for arriving here.  I understand that it is these very intense, uncomfortable seasons that make and strengthen me, not the happiest or easiest ones.

Be encouraged, the presence of the trial is evidence of purpose, and the intensity of it is evidence that you are closer than you think!

God is Love

Posted January 13, 2015 by nessalynn77
Categories: Inspirational Thoughts

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”

Matthew 5:43, 44

As I watched the news of 2,000 Nigerians feared dead in a massacre carried out by Boko Haram, a lot of emotions lingered just beneath the surface.  I tried to brush it off and go about my day, until yesterday when I ran across the pictures of what looked like hundreds of the charred remains left lying everywhere.  I felt a variety of things, but the overwhelming emotions were shock, sadness, fear, and anger.  I thought it was important to feel and to recognize what I was feeling.  I think we lose compassion for others because sometimes things are so bad that it’s hard to see it and feel like you can’t change it, so we opt to just not see it.

I tried to understand how people just like you and me can think nothing of wiping out other regular people who aren’t doing them any harm at all.  I thought about the families torn apart, and how awful things must be right now for those who escaped but are stranded.  They escaped death only to face death again stranded on an island with no food.  I thought about the people burned alive suddenly with no time to even realize what was happening, and those who escaped to the surrounding brush, only to be gunned down.  It is completely overwhelming to think about.

When I thought about the people who did this, I felt a lot of anger, and I prayed that they would be stopped.  I talked to God about what is going on and I cried because I know He has the power to stop it.  But then I was reminded of the scriptures and how persecution like this will happen and continue to happen as the coming of our Lord draws nigh.  Yes, God can stop it, but it plays a part in his plan.  It’s difficult to truly grasp; to take in such suffering and savagery, to see evil on the rampage, and still know that God loves us and is in complete control.  But that’s the simple truth, God is in control.

Having that assurance, my thoughts turned to what God requires of us in the midst of persecution.  Because while Christians are enduring torture and massacre, I struggle to apply God’s principle with simple stuff like offenses.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8, 9

There is an inclination when being unjustly attacked to respond with hate of equal or greater intensity.  Wait… read that again slowly… the natural response when someone is hurting you, is to hurt them.  One more time… the natural, justified, normal way of dealing with the offender is to become what they are.  I struggled to understand the hateful, vengeful being that would indiscriminately kill masses of people and feel justified, but now I see how you or I can become just that.

I still pray that the killing be stopped, and I support military and government taking action to protect innocent lives.  However, I had to take some time to consider the hate that goes along with responding to such things.  Hate is never good, and never beneficial, yet when one has been wronged it’s the go-to driving force in a lot of how we respond.  God’s way is a lot different than ours, he commands us to love.  To a natural human mind it makes absolutely no sense, especially when you’ve been hurt.  But if you really think about it, MLK had it right, love is the only thing that can combat hate.  It’s crazy to think we can improve the situation by increasing the overall level of ill will and decreasing compassion.

I started with Boko Haram, but I’m going to end on a smaller scale, because all of the large scale violence also started on a smaller level just like this.  When I am offended, I must be careful how I respond.  The offender was once the offended, and because the hurt was so great, they chose to respond in kind.  They chose to become what hurt them, but it didn’t stop there.  Once you face your offender by doing to them what they did to you or worse, that becomes part of your arsenal, ready to be used any time you are offended, or perceive that someone is going to offend you.  The more this happens (and it will) you become exactly what you hate.  Or due to feeling powerless to even respond to the offender, all of the hate is suppressed until it is unleashed on someone totally innocent and undeserving.   You don’t want to know how I know.

In the end, I realize that God’s way was right all along.  It’s not the easiest choice to make to forgive, to love, to keep no record of wrongs.  But on all sides of the equation, it leads to he best possible outcome.

“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”

Romans 12:21

Keep Calm: God’s Got It

Posted January 12, 2015 by nessalynn77
Categories: Uncategorized

This little encouragement has been blessing me for a little while now.  A month or so ago I read the book of Esther during my morning devotion.  It’s a familiar story, but something that I really needed stood out to me this time.

“On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles and they were read before the king.  And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the kings chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahaseurus.  And the king said, What honor and dignity hah been done to Mordecai for this?  Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him.  There is nothing done for him.”

Esther 6:1-3

If you know the story, you recognize this scene.  Haman, the king’s right hand man had a vendetta against Mordecai and all the Jews.  Though he had just about everything he could ask for in the area of power, influence, and success, he just couldn’t be satisfied until Mordecai was destroyed.  Mordecai was just a humble Jewish man, who had nowhere near the influence that Haman had, but he had conviction and faith.

Mordecai angered Haman in an earlier encounter, where everyone was bowing to Haman because of his new elevation and status in the kingdom.  As he looked out and everyone validated his greatness by bowing, he noticed that Mordecai refused to bow.  Haman was incensed by Mordecai’s refusal and from that day sought to destroy him.  He already had in hand an edict to destroy all Jews in the near future, which he had deceived the king into giving him license to do.  But he had special plans for Mordecai to pay him back personally for injuring his pride.

It’s a long and intriguing story, with lots of lessons to glean, but what I took away from it this time was particularly useful and liberating.  On that very night when the king was restless, and ended up reading that particular account regarding Mordecai, Haman was finalizing his plan to destroy Mordecai.  Haman clearly had the upper hand and could seemingly make quick work of Mordecai and his entire people.  Have you ever been in such a position?  Maybe not as extreme, but have you ever had someone greater than you seek to destroy you?

“When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.  Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.”

Psalms 27:2, 3

The Bible is full of testimonies and encouragement that we do not have to fear.  Yet, fear tries to grip your heart and make you feel powerless against others who are powerful.  A lot of times the facts of the situation are true.  They are more powerful, and they are against you.  But still, you don’t have to fear.

As we see Mordecai’s story play out, God disrupted the sleep of the king at precisely the right time, and put Mordecai on his mind.  The king was the only man more powerful than Haman, who had vowed to exact revenge.  Mordecai didn’t lobby for the king’s support, in fact, it was Haman who was headed into the king’s chamber with confidence that he would have his petition granted.  He had already built the gallows on which he planned to hang Mordecai.

I was so encouraged by this story in scripture!  Sometimes we just don’t realize how awesome our God is!  You don’t have to spend time fretting about who is against you.  That can also be very difficult, because our judgment is flawed and we are bound at some point to judge someone disloyal when they only mean us good, or judge someone loyal who is plotting out demise.  But God shows us a better way.  We don’t have to worry about those things at all.  God is our Father!  Our Father sees behind closed doors, under the table, around the corner… he hears the conversation after the phone hangs up, or after you leave the room… he keeps watch even while you sleep.  The plots and schemes of your enemies are known to him even before they are known to them.  And with all of that, God is not worried.  He has the situation well in hand, and is not threatened by their plans.  It’s only a distraction, a production to strike fear into your heart, in hopes that you will defeat yourself by stepping out of the will of God in pursuit of defending yourself.

Instead, you can rest in knowing that you are his, and he is your defender, protector, advocate, and judge.  What a consolation! I’m convinced this is one of the more underused benefits for children of God.  A lot of time is wasted worrying, or trying to convince or appease the angry Haman’s in our lives.

 At the end of Mordecai’s story, his enemy hung on the same gallows he built for him, and Mordecai was elevated and along with his niece Queen Esther, saved their people from destruction.

Despite how it looks now, keep calm, and know that God is working.

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty… 

…Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.  He shall cover thee with is feathers and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. 

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day…

…A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee…

…There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling…”

Psalms 91 (excerpts)

Click!

Posted January 6, 2015 by nessalynn77
Categories: Inspirational Thoughts

Tags: , , , , ,

As I digested the news of the passing of the great sports journalist Stuart Scott, I thought about what a short time he lived, and mused that if I was to live so short a time, I would want to find and do something so impactful and true to who I am, as he did.  You could tell by watching him that he was made for the exact time and place in which he worked… and thrived.

“Click!”

It’s that sound that you listen and feel for to know that something fits, and has locked into its designed place.  The click signifies that something is functioning as it was intended.  Whether it’s a lid snapping on to a jar, or a puzzle piece nestling into the place that only it can fill, there is a sound and a “feel” that lets you know when it’s right.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

At this stage in my journey, I am keenly aware, and in some cases in search, of the “click”.  When I consider the vastness of the universe in time and space, it’s almost overwhelming to think that out of all the ages and eras, and all the places on the face of the earth, I was born where and when I was, to the family I was born into, raised the way I was raised, attended those particular schools, had the disposition I had, and lived the experiences that I did.  Any of those and many other factors, altered just a little, could make me a totally different person.  The same holds true for you.

But we are who we are by design.  Our experiences, both good and bad, are all a part of God’s plan.  You are a designed person with a designated space for which only you were intended.  The thing about design, is that it strives to create the best possible fit in form and function.  When something is designed to go in a certain place, it looks right, feels right, and sounds right.

“Click!”

In a pinch, something else can get the job done that was not designed for that particular task.  If you don’t have the right lid for the jar, you might use another lid, but if it doesn’t click securely into its place, it makes for a precarious situation, and increases the likelihood that things will get messy, and with one wrong move, all could be lost.  Have you ever been the substitute in a place you weren’t designed to be?  Never did click into place but got the job done?  There’s a lot of unnecessary heartache that goes along with situations like that.

I once heard a parable about a fish out of water.  When the fish is outside of water he seems to be a poor creature, unable to fly or move about.  Struggling  to even breathe, he flounders about unable to accomplish anything.  But when that same fish is placed into a fish tank, he hits the water, and “click” his genius is immediately evident.  He soars as though he’s flying, and moves about wherever he pleases with the greatest of ease.

There is a space that seamlessly matches the desire in you.  The “click” represents the moment where it all makes sense.  The way I do what I do has been a source of shame or frustration but in this space its genius is revealed and appreciated. I may have viewed something as a handicap my whole life, but in this light it is a unique treasure.

The “click” is a spiritual thing.  It’s the sound and feel that lets you know it’s right, though clicking into place is not always the most smooth feeling.  In the moments before something clicks into place, it’s usually a little tight, but once you’re over the hump, that is what holds you securely in place.  The tightness is the character development, the hard stuff that teaches you what really matters.  They say your gift will bring you there, but it’s your character that will keep you.

Don’t settle for being a place holder or substitute.  Listen for the “click”!

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6

Lord, even as you created us with purpose, you are able to bring us to the place in our development and to the physical space for which you’ve designed each of us.  We thank you for that place in our relationships, in our work, in our ministry.  We thank you for the grace to endure the tightness that goes along with the process, knowing that you are still molding and developing us to fit where you intend for us to be.  We give you praise for our flaws, and the things about us that even we ourselves sometimes don’t understand.  You do all things well, and there is a purpose.  We trust you and surrender to your will for our lives, knowing that you will bring us to where we belong.  To you belongs all the glory for ever!

In Jesus’ name, Amen!


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