Tag Archive | Grace

Thankful For Access to God’s Presence

In a recent discussion in our iConnect Bible Study group at our church, we were reflecting on how blessed we are to be living during this time in history. Because Jesus came to earth as Immanuel, God with us, lived a perfect life, died in our place to pay the penalty for our sin, and was resurrected and returned to the right hand of the Father in heaven, life is entirely different for those who have placed their faith in Him as Savior and Lord.

Last week, our Thankful Thursday post was on one blessing that is ours because of the era in which we live, the indwelling Holy Spirit who empowers, teaches, and guides us – and so much more. This week, I wanted to focus on another blessing we have thanks to the finished work of Jesus on the Cross and our salvation by grace through faith in our Redeemer.

This often forgotten blessing is spoken of in Matthew 2:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45, as well as referred to in Hebrews 9 and 10. And it marks the end of life under the old covenant and beginning of the new covenant of grace.

“And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭15:38‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The curtain of the temple, also called the veil, was a curtain believed to be around 60 feet long and four inches thick (according to early Jewish tradition) and made of blue, purple, and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen (see Exodus 26:31). It’s purpose was to separate the part of the temple called the Most Holy Place, which held the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat – the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence – from the rest of the temple where men entered. This veil signified that man was separated by God because of sin. It marked the boundary between God’s pure holiness and the wickedness of mankind.

‭‭Only the High Priest was permitted to enter the Most Holy Place, going through this curtain, and even he could only enter once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Before entering, the High Priest was to bathe and put on special garments, then sacrifice a bull for a sin offering for himself and his family. The blood of the bull was to be sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant. Then the High Priest was to bring two goats for the sins of the people, one of which was to be sacrifices for their sins and its blood sprinkled on the Ark. The other goat was used as a scapegoat, which symbolically carried on itself all the sins of the people and was sent out and released into the wilderness.

If anyone else entered the Most Holy Place, or even if the High Priest entered on any day other than the Day of Atonement, that person would immediately die. It yearly sprinkling of the innocent sacrifice’s blood on the bowl on gold lid of the Ark provided atonement for the sin of mankind for another year.

The size and thickness of the veil and the fact that it was torn in two from top to bottom make it clear that no human being could have accomplished this. It reminds us that in Jesus the final and full sacrifice for sin has been paid. And it also signifies the end of the Old Covenant of the Law and the beginning of the New Covenant of Grace.

Hebrews tells us that this curtain or vail was symbolic of Christ Himself, that the veil was representative of His broken flesh on the Cross.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:19-22‬ ‭ESV‬

On this Thankful Thursday, I’m eternally grateful that there is no longer a heavy curtain separating me from the presence of my Heavenly Father. I’m grateful that Jesus, through His substitutionary death on the Cross, removed the barrier separating us from God. I’m especially thankful for His invitation to draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace in my time of need.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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Five Minute Friday: GOAL

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post for Five Minute Friday. But this week’s writing prompt: GOAL, was too fitting for me to pass up. Recently, God has given me a new goal that has become my new purpose in life.

During May, I led a group of ladies in God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness through a mini-Bible study entitled Verse by Verse, Growing Closer to God. The study we used was written by Jodie Barrett and Donna Fender of Faithfully Following Ministries, and I had already planned to do the study so I volunteered to lead it in our group.

What I didn’t know at the time was that God was going to use this study to speak a very clear word to me personally, a word that has given me a new purpose in life.

As I went with our group of ladies through this study, I kept hearing one message over and over and over again. It was simply this: Your focus needs to be on finishing the work I have called you to do.

After losing our special needs and medically fragile son David last November, my husband and I had been sensing one long season of our lives was over and it was time for a new focus. For thirty-four years, meeting David’s needs had been the center of our lives around which everything else revolved. So both of us had been praying for God’s direction for the future. And during this mini-study, I found the direction I was seeking.

Writing has been a love of my life for several years, and it’s time to move forward with God’s plan in this area. In prayer, I’ve sensed two specific focuses for my writing, and I’m now in the process of taking my new Goal and turning it into a plan to make it more than just a wish. And it was time to put that decision down on paper.

I’m currently working on doing more articles for God-Living Girls and my blog, as well as in the planning stage of writing my first Bible study. Since I celebrated my seventy-first birthday earlier this year, I don’t know how many years I have to finish the work that God created me to do. But in this past month, doing that has become my burning desire.

Seeking God with Our Whole Heart

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord,” Jeremiah‬ ‭29:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This promise from Scripture is one of my favorites. It comes immediately after one most of us are familiar with, Jeremiah 29:11, which reminds us that God has a good plan for our lives, a plan to give us a future and a hope. Often, I see this verse quoted, with no mention of the following verses that are directly related to it. They speak of the focus that is to be present in our life as we realize God is good and His plan for our lives is good.

Earlier in the book of Jeremiah, we read a solemn warning of what was ahead for Judah (the Southern Kingdom of Israel) if they continued down the path they had been trodding (see Jeremiah 9). If they continued stubbornly ignoring God’s law, determined to follow their own desires, judgment was ahead.

Unfortunately, this stern warning had not been heeded, and that judgment had arrived. God used Babylon as His agent of judgment against Israel for their sins of idolatry and rebellion against Him, and in B.C. 587 Jerusalem was attached, the city destroyed, and the people taken into captivity to Babylon.

Jeremiah 29 begins with these words. “These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭29:1‬)

In this letter, Jeremiah gave clear instructions from the Lord to the exiles. They were to build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce, marry and have children, take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage that they in turn would have children, and seek the welfare of the city where they have been sent into exile. (https://www.bible.com/59/jer.29.5-7.esv). In other words, this would not be a brief interlude in there lives, so they needed to accept the consequences of their failure to obey God and live in the best way possible during this time.

In verse 10, Jeremiah gives them a promise that this time of exile will come to an end. Jeremiah writes, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

This is the setting of Jeremiah 29:11-14. The season of exile would come to an end, the people of Judah would return to their promised land, and in having gone through the Lord’s discipline they would have a hopeful future, as they chose to seek God with their whole heart.

While we have not experienced exile because of disobedience to the Lord, like Judah we are recipients of this promise. This is a conditional promise, requiring something from us. To seek God is to desire His presence more than His presents. While God has promised to never leave or forsake us, our awareness of His presence is affected by the depth of our relationship with Him. To walk in God’s presence daily, we must seek Him with our whole heart.

What does it mean to seek God with our whole heart?

  • It is to seek Him with a deep longing that makes the things of this world pale in comparison.
  • It is to recognize receiving life from Him is a vital necessity, something without which we can’t truly live a meaningful life.
  • It is to realize without Him we can do nothing of lasting value, and therefore make abiding in His presence daily our highest priority in life.
  • It is to respond quickly to the conviction of the Holy Spirit

Remember, we are seeking the presence of a God whose desire for us to live daily in His presence is so great that He sent His own Son to earth as a man, to live the life we were called to live but could not, and then to die as our substitute on the cross. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, was raised on the third day, and He now lives within us in the person of the Holy Spirit to empower us to live in a way that pleases the Father.

Once we have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as the payment for our sin and become children of God, we can seek Him with confidence that He desires a close relationship with us even more than we desire to walk close to Him. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, the way has been opened for us to encounter God based fully on His grace, mercy and love for us. All that is required for us to experience God is to set aside time daily to seek Him with ears open to His voice and a heart ready to receive and obey.

Original photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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Gratefulness and Peace Always

In last week’s Thankful Thursday post we looked at how the joy of the Lord and thankfulness are related (https://wordpress.com/post/hopeandlight.blog/4208).

This week we’ll be studying a verse from Colossians that links gratitude and peace.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Or as the same verse says in the Amplified Bible:

“Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions thatul arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].”

‭I especially like the Amplified version of this verse, because it defines “the peace of Christ” as an inner calm that comes to those who daily walk with the Lord. This is the kind of peace God has made available for us as followers of Jesus Christ, and this walk is the key to being thankful to God at all times.

God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness, a group I work with, it currently doing a study written by Jodie Barrett and Donna Fender of Faithfully Following Ministries and entitled Verse By Verse, Growing Closer to God. One of this week’s lessons was on the importance of having an on-fire relationship with God.

A relationship with the Lord that is not vibrant and alive does not provide the peace or thankfulness we desire. Just walking through the motions of picking up our Bible once a day, reading a few verses, and then putting it down and not applying what we read to our daily lives is of little benefit. But an on-fire walk with our Savior, where we abide with Him and stay attached to the Vine for nourishment and strength to do what He asks of us is the type of relationship that brings peace and gratitude.

The peace of Christ is not only the peace we experience when there is no conflict. It includes a sense of wholeness and well-being, completeness and totality, even in the midst of overwhelming trials. Ultimately, the peace of Christ in its essence is the very presence of Christ. It’s the peace that accepts the truth no circumstance is too big that it is beyond God’s control.

And with this inner peace that is born in relationship with God and grows as we walk close to Him through whatever circumstances that touch our lives, comes an attitude of gratitude. I saw this in my own life last November, when in the midst of a situation I had dreaded for years, the loss of our medically fragile son David, God gave supernatural peace.

That peace produced a gratefulness for the Lord in my heart, even in the midst of the deep sorrow and grieving in releasing our son to God’s plan. While the peace was a gift of God’s grace as I spent time in His presence daily, the gratitude began with a choice to be thankful in the midst of the pain. But with that choice, gratitude became a natural fruit of the inner peace.

Do you want to experience both peace and an attitude of gratitude that isn’t shaken regardless of the circumstances that touch your life? If so, the key is to make sure nothing blocks your view of God. Sin does that in our lives, so if the Holy Spirit convicts you of a sin that needs to be confessed and dealt with, don’t ignore it.

As Paul David Tripp said, “Our sin is what separates us from God, but it’s our self righteousness that keeps us from running to Him for the grace He willingly gives to all who come.” Humble yourself and confess any sin God shows you, receive His forgiveness and grace. And you will be set free to walk in God’s peace and with a grateful heart.

Are You a “God-fearer” or a Born Again Christian?

I’ve been doing an in-depth study of the book of Acts, and today’s lesson was on the beginning verses of Acts 10, which focus on Cornelius. Luke, the author of Acts, describes Cornelius as “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God” (Acts 10:2), yet as the chapter continues we learn he was still a man who needed to hear and receive the good news of salvation by grace.

My Christian life began in a series of Methodist churches, so when I read the following quote by Warren Wiersbe comparing Cornelius to John Wesley it stood out to me.

“In many respects, John Wesley was like Cornelius. He was a religious man, a church member, a minister, and the son of a minister. He belonged to a ‘religious club’ at Oxford, the purpose of which was the perfecting of the Christian life. Wesley served as a foreign missionary, but even as he preached to others, he had no assurance of his own personal salvation.

“On May 24, 1738, Wesley reluctantly attended a small meeting in London where someone was reading aloud from Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. ‘About a quarter before nine,’ Wesley wrote in his journal, ‘while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’ The result was the great Wesleyan revival that not only swept many into the kingdom, but also helped transform British society through Christian social action.”

This is also a good description of my life. From the time I was a small child, I was in church most Sundays. But like John Wesley and Cornelius, while I believed in Jesus Christ, I did not trust in Him alone for salvation. My trust was in my good works. That changed when I was in my first year of teaching kindergarten, when my eyes were opened to the need to trust in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross alone for salvation.

What about you? Are you like Cornelius at the beginning of this chapter, “a devout man (or woman) who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” (Acts‬ ‭10:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬) Are you a seeker or a true believer in Christ?

Salvation is by placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation. It is a gift of grace, based on what Jesus has already done.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans‬ ‭10:9-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Let His Light In

Today, I’m sharing a guest post by Sandie Heckman. Sandie is a member of God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness and does regular posts on our group Facebook page. Her posts are a big encouragement to the ladies in our group, since we can often identify with the challenges she faces and they always bring our eyes back on the Lord. Sandie blogs at https://soulwriterforhim.wordpress.com/ and is the author of Son Drenched. Enjoy!

Sometimes, it’s okay to get mad, really stomp your feet mad, hands in the air mad!

I tried to clean my bathroom this morning. Because I can’t stand long because of a botched knee replacement (makes my foot feel like it’s being hammered into the floor), because I can’t kneel down, because- because-because!!!

I have a scrubber with a handle and I sat on the tub to clean, and I started to curse (yeah sometimes I do). I yelled “stupid knee, stupid back – stupid body… and I kept scrubbing- crying and the more I rinsed the tub, the worse it got! My cat even came in and sat there staring at me!

“I quit” I yelled. My cats ears went back and he darted out of there as I hobbled to the kitchen, sliding my body against the wall.

I looked out my sliding glass door and saw the sun. I went out on my porch, sat down and cried the blues. Then I saw it! Trees dancing in the sky…branches with new green leaves shaking and moving to the breeze. Trying to slow down, I started praising God for all the good I could see outside…for my eyesight, even and for my daughter and mom, and the list kept coming.

Finally- He granted me grace and peace. Finally I allowed my soul to be cleansed in that moment. I let His light in and my wounded soul was refreshed- I praised God even more!

Sometimes we have to go to those angry, self-pity moments to allow ourselves to let all the grieving in our hearts go. I grieve for who I was and what I used to be able to do, but when I let the light of Jesus in -I know I’m renewed in Him.

We are not alone in this journey- He’s right here with us holding us in an embrace that heals our wounded hearts, bodies and minds.

Let His light in!

Sandie Heckman

Religious Lifestyle or Living Relationship?

1 Peter 3:15 instructs us as Christians to always be prepared to share the reason for the hope we have in Jesus Christ – in other words, to be ready whenever the opportunity arises to share our personal testimony of how we came to know Christ. I especially like the New Living Translation wording of this verse.

“… you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

During recent weeks, our iConnect Bible study class members have been taking turns sharing our personal testimonies of how we came to know Christ. The goal has been for each of us to prepare and share a brief, two to three minute testimony of our life before knowing Christ, how we came to know Him, and how receiving Christ as our Savior and Lord has changed how we live. Then, when God opens the door to  share this with someone who does not know Christ as their personal Savior we’ll be prepared to explain what God has done in our lives and what He is able and willing to do in their life.

This is my personal testimony.

I was born into a Christian family. My father and my mother had both accepted the Lord as their personal Savior at an old fashioned camp meeting revival before they were married, and by the time I came along over 20 years later, our family lived a Christian lifestyle.

Two of my earliest childhood memories are of my father sitting in his red leather rocker every morning before leaving for work reading his Bible, and of my mother kneeling beside her bed each night praying. And going to church was simply what we did – every time the doors were open. It was as much a part of my lifestyle as a child and teenager as going to school.

We attended a Methodist church that was at the end of the block where we lived, and I remember walking to the church early every Sunday morning. During the week, I also spent lots of time at the parsonage which was next door to the church, visiting with some of my best friends, our pastor’s daughter and another friend who lived next door.

My father was a deacon in our church, my older sister who still lived at home a children’s Sunday School teacher and choir member. And by the time I was in high school I was either working in the nursery or teaching the youngest class of children most Sundays.

When I went away to college in 1966, I continued to attend church. A large local Methodist church sent a bus to the campus to pick up students, and I seldom missed a Sunday.

When I graduated from college in 1970 and moved to the town north of Baltimore where I had a job teaching kindergarten, one of the first things I did after my roommate and I got unpacked and settled in an apartment was to start looking for a church. I found a nearby Methodist church and started attending. And this church is where my life changed.

At this church, my life changed when Christianity became more than a religious lifestyle. It became a relationship, a personal walk with Jesus Christ. It was in this church that I first understood that the only way to be a real part of God’s kingdom is by being born again. For the first time, I understood that my religious lifestyle wasn’t enough. I understood that my sin separates me from God, but that God had provided a way to bridge that gap.

Even though I had attended church all my life, even though I considered myself a Christian, for the first time in my life I recognized this wasn’t enough.

For the first time, I understood why Jesus had to die on the cross, and the steps I needed to take to benefit from His sacrifice.

  1. I now saw myself as a sinner who needed salvation.
  2. I understood that the just penalty for sin is death.
  3. I acknowledged that Jesus paid that penalty for me when He died on the cross.
  4. I recognized that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, one we accept by faith.
  5. I received that gift by faith, as I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. And I was born again – and since that day my life has never been the same.

My life as a new Christian began me down a new road, one that definitely hasn’t always been easy. But I’ve never regretted the decision I made so many years ago. Jesus has been with me, walking at my side, through every trial I’ve faced, and my relationship with Him has been my source of strength.

Do you have a similar story you can tell? If not, now is the time to take these same steps I took. Moving from religion to relationship has the power to transform your life.

If you’ve already received this free gift of salvation by faith, are you prepared to share the reason for the hope you have found in Christ Jesus? Have you taken the time to prayerfully prepare a brief testimony of the work of God in your life to bring you to salvation? Acts 1:8 says the Lord has called us to be His witnesses, to our Jerusalem (the city where we live), our Judea and Samaria (the area nearby), and to the ends of the earth. Are you prepared to be His witness whenever He opens the door for you to do so? If not, don’t wait another day to get ready.