"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 8, 2015
Grace means: the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
Honestly, there are times when I struggle with truly understanding and accepting the grace of God for myself. I know in my head what grace means, but have trouble believing it in my heart. I know that I'm saved and a child of God, but grace is a hard concept for me to fully grasp onto.
I am thankful for my upbringing and for the godly men and women that God placed in my life. I am grateful for my family and the teaching and example given to me by my parents. I love the church and people that I grew up worshipping with. So I don't want any misunderstandings of what I'm about to write.
I grew up hearing "hell, fire, and damnation" preaching. Everything was sin, or so it seemed. I regularly heard sermons that caused fear in my heart. We were told if we sinned, even unknowingly, and died or the rapture occurred before we had a chance to repent, then we would go to hell. I remember beginning when I was a young child, repenting nightly of everything I could think of, and also repenting of those sins that I may have unknowingly done. I did so out of a deep-seated fear of the consequences should Jesus come. I would wake up in the middle of the night and listen to make sure my family were all still there and I hadn't missed the rapture.
I basically lived in spiritual fear; which carried over to my adult life in many ways. I'm not speaking of a healthy fear of God, in the respect of regarding God with reverence and awe; but rather being scared of the judgement of God should death or the rapture occur, and I would have sin in my heart in that very moment and miss heaven.
Living like that can be very burdensome. We try to do everything right, from our actions to our thoughts, yet feel like we continuously fail and are never good enough. We end up feeling like spiritual failures and no matter how hard we try or how much we repent and pray, we are afraid that we're not measuring up to God's expectations. We fear that death will come or the rapture will occur and there will be sin in our heart and not hear God say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." I believe that faith in God then becomes blurred with being good enough.
Recently, I was babysitting my great-niece and rocking her to sleep. I was singing songs about heaven and thinking about how wonderful it will be. I was thinking about my aunt who had just passed away and all the family who were there to welcome her home.
Suddenly, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart about the grace of God. I had a moment of clarity where I truly understood that I can't be good enough or ever earn the grace of God.
Merit (theologically speaking) means: good deeds regarded as entitling someone to a future reward with God.
As I wrote earlier, grace is the unmerited favor of God. To me that means that I can never do enough good deeds or be good enough to entitle me to a future reward with God; but God bestows His favor upon me anyway. He does so because He loves me. He doesn't forgive me because I deserve His forgiveness, but because I ask it of Him; and He loves me more that I could ever comprehend, therefore, He unconditionally forgives me. God does so because He is full of grace and mercy.
See, I believe that God knows that there may be times when I'm going to mess up and have a bad day or have a bad thought or say something I shouldn't. But I don't believe that will keep me from Heaven, should I meet Jesus during one of those moments. Scripture doesn't say that in order to inherit Heaven we have to be flawless, perfect individuals. But the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from sin and covers our imperfections.
We should try to follow Jesus as closely as possible and live lives that glorify and please Him. We should never go out of our way to intentionally sin and do wrong, thinking, "Oh well, God knows I'm not perfect and make mistakes!" But I also don't think if I mess up or have a bad thought or say something I shouldn't or get angry or have a wrong attitude, and that should be the very moment that I enter eternity, that I will miss Heaven. I believe that the grace of God is greater than that for me, and for you.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT) says, "....'My grace is all you need (some versions say is sufficient). My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me."
See, we all need the grace of God, each and every day. God's power works best through our weaknesses. When we fail and sin, we repent and God forgives us. The power of Jesus works through us and helps us in spite of our imperfections. His grace is enough to cover our every sin!
I'm not sure that I'm conveying this in a way that is making sense, and I apologize if I'm being unclear. But I believe that God wants us to not live in slavery of fear of Him or fear of failing spiritually; but He wants us to understand grace and know that we can live in freedom and hope.
John 8:36 (NLT) says, "So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free."
Let's start living as those who have truly been set free by the Son of God! Let's live under the umbrella of God's grace, not under the heaviness and burden of fear.
When someone asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone who keeps offending us, Jesus responded that we should forgive them 70 times 7 times. I've been told that in the Greek language for that time, the expression 70 times 7 was about like modern English for a bazillion or infinite.
Jesus doesn't tell us to do things He won't do Himself. If Jesus wants us to keep forgiving others again and again, and we live up to that, He will also forgive us again and again.
Meatballs or Little Smokies
2 lbs. hamburger or 2 lbs. Little Smokies
1 (10 oz.) grape jelly
1 (12 oz.) bottle chili sauce or
1 can of chili without beans
If using hamburger: Roll hamburger meat into small balls; salt and pepper. Fry the hamburger balls in skillet (using a lid when frying keeps them from getting too hard). In a saucepan, put jelly and chili sauce. Heat and let them melt together. Drain the meatballs and put into the sauce. Let simmer for about 30 minutes. You could also put the jelly/sauce mix in a crock-pot, adding the hamburger balls after they are cooked.
If using Little Smokies, put all the ingredients in a crock-pot and heat until they are hot.
Note: You can use a can of chili without beans instead of chili sauce and it is still very good.
My Aunt Ruth passed away a couple weeks ago. One of her daughters has been going through her things and found a handwritten note, which was quite humorous, with this written on it:
"Dear Lord, I pray for wisdom to understand my man; love to forgive him; and patience for his moods; because Lord, if I pray for strength, I'll beat him to death! Amen."
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. - C.S. Lewis
We love you!
Loretta & Jon