The Blessing of Grace

We have all heard the conversation that goes something like this: “You’re lucky.” And the next person says, “I’m not lucky, I’m blessed.” I saw a license with the word ‘blessed’ on the plate recently. Without question, God has blessed us tremendously. However, can we say we are more aware of the greater blessing? Perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems a lot of people are more aware of material and physical blessings than they are of spiritual blessings. I read a section in Ephesians 1:3-14 and paused there because it brought to mind the rich spiritual blessings that are clearly laid out in that passage. It is essential to consider whether we value the nonmaterial, invisible, and imperishable spiritual blessings, the blessings of grace, more than we value material or physical blessing. Let’s check out the blessing of grace that Paul lays out in Ephesians.

  • God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. (v3) Is it not true that “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places IN Christ” is far greater than just being blessed materially or physically? Sweet things, as soon as we are united to Christ by faith, we possess every spiritual blessing in the heavens. Wow. Thank you, Lord!
  • He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. (v4) What a blessing, indeed!
  • God loves us and favors us. According to His will, He adopted us through Jesus Christ for Himself. (v5-6) God loves us and deals with us so graciously!
  • He redeemed us through Christ’s blood; we have forgiveness through the richness of his grace that he lavished on us. (v7-8) Thank you, Lor,d!
  • He made known to us a sacred secret. (v9-10) Jesus Christ of Nazareth will return to the earth and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
  • We have received an inheritance in Him. (v11) This inheritance encourages us to look with hope to the time when all true believers will be the Bride of the Lamb. Amen.
  • We were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when we heard the message of truth and believed in Him. He is the downpayment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory. (v13,14) Just as in legal matters a seal indicates ownership and security, so it does in divine affairs. Thank you, Lord, for sealing us with Your Holy Spirit!

I can’t say thank you enough Lord for blessing me in every way. Help me become more aware of Your great blessing of grace than I am of any other way I am blessed. Help me to prioritize that in my life. Thank you for spiritual blessings, thank you for allowing me to be holy and blameless in Your sight, thank you for loving me and adopting me, thank you for redeeming me and forgiving me, thank you for allowing me to know the sacred secret, and thank you for my spiritual inheritance. I desire to bear much fruit so that you receive all the glory. It is in the name of Jesus that I thank you, for I am indeed spiritually blessed!

In His grace,

Amanda

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The Purifying Love of God

The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8

The weight of this sentence is heaviest at the end ~ for they will see God. The pure of heart have a deep and driving desire to see God. The believer may see the Lord through a vision, when he comes again, or when they lay their eyes upon Him in eternity. The pure in heart should continually expect to see God’s character revealed through fellowship in the Word and with the Spirit.

A pure in heart believer will have motives which are unmixed and whose conscience is clean. Are your purposes driven by a heart that desires for God’s glory to be made manifest…come what may? Is your conscience unsettled, or is it at peace? We must welcome the Refiner’s fire, which is fueled by love because we are impure by nature and by practice and thus need this testing. Purity of heart will come by way of the refining fire, and the fire will have two forms. One way will be by the fire of affliction.

  • “Now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold, which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
  • “Count it all joy, my brethren when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
  • “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord . . . for the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives . . . If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children . . . he disciplines us for our good that we may share his holiness . . . Pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:5-10, 14)

The other way is by the fire of intentional self-sacrifice.

  • “If your right eye causes you to sin pluck it out . . . and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:29-30)
  • “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
  • “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

The commands God gives believers are certainly not too difficult or beyond our reach (Deut. 30:11). He instructs us to crucify the flesh (Galatians 5:24, Romans 12:1) and not to pattern our life after this culture (Romans 12:2). We are to renovate our mind so that we are able to recognize His perfect will (Romans 12:2). In order to follow God’s commands, it will be our responsibility to welcome the Refiner’s fire and practice self-denial so that the true joy of our life will be found only in eternal things.

In His grace,

Amanda

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Plant the Seed of Faith

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the sky nested in its branches. Luke 13:18

The typical mustard seed is usually 1 to 2 millimeters (0.039 to 0.079 in.) in diameter. When this tiny seed is planted, it grows into a bush reaching an average mature height of between 6 to 20 feet with a 20-foot spread. Under ideal conditions, exceptional plants can reach a height of 30 feet. Impressive growth comes from humble beginnings. Desire and welcome the Spirit’s teaching in your life, even when it is accompanied by correction so that your maturity is made evident to all.

The redeemed in God’s kingdom consists of the small becoming mature. Growth is anticipated and expected. We are to ‘take’ the seed given us (2 Corinthians 9:10) and sow it into the ‘garden’ of our heart. God will then provide the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7). Glory to God.

The mature tree described here in Luke has strong branches and thus provides a nesting place for birds. Likewise, our growth and maturity ought to provide glorious provision for other believer’s lives to grow in strength. Look and expect to see sweet fruit resulting from other’s growth. Growth and fruit are expected. Glory to God. Believer, reach out and ‘take’ the seed of faith Jesus gives (Hebrews 12:2, Romans 12:3) and plant it in the ‘garden’ of your heart and allow it to flourish; expecting God to do nothing less but great things with your faith! My eyes are on you Lord, perfect my faith (Hebrews 12:2)!

Two ways we plant the seed of faith in the ‘garden’ of our heart is by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17) and exhorting ourselves (Colossians 3:16) in His truth. God grows our faith when we make the effort to understand the magnitude of His grace. Grace always gives more than we deserve (Luke 17:9).

Jesus is THE source and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). It is His faith that we possess and He gives a measure of it to each one of us (Romans 12:3). Thank you, Lord for Your provision.

Lord, with the faith you have given me, I acknowledge and thank you for my Spiritual gift of (_____________). You intend for me to be profoundly effective in my gifting because is for your glory. Open doors of opportunity for me to minister to the body of Christ for Your glory alone. I desire to be found faithful.

In His grace,

Amanda

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God Eases Our Distress

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 16:3,4

He comforts us in all our affliction. Life seems to have a way of revealing the clouds among the silver linings. If, however, you are at peace with The Sovereign, the silver linings will always be more apparent than the darkness of the cloud. When affliction comes to you, it is often a good thing to allow it to be swallowed down at once as we do when we must take the bitter pill of medicine. Chewing the bitter pill does not make it go down any easier. In fact, it makes it all the more difficult because it gets in your teeth and remains on your tongue. God sends afflictions for His own reasons, and they are for our good. Lord, help us to not brood over our grief; as we will most likely hatch something we did not anticipate ~ perhaps a hornet that will come with other stings we never expected. Instead, let’s occupy ourselves with blessing God. This takes our thoughts off our troubles and places them on God; redirecting us to greater things.

He comforts us so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction. Rely on God to be your comfort in times of trouble. He is faithful and will encourage you greatly so that you will not only have enough comfort for your own need but will overflow in encouragement so that you may supply some else’s need; it becomes a multiplying effect. God’s comfort is profoundly effective in our life and produces a harvest for the benefit of many. The remarkable thing is, the provision of comfort received for our need is adaptable for affliction of any kind; not just one similar to our own.

We comfort others through the comfort we received from God. Since God gives in abundance, let’s be found doing the same thing. Let’s follow the Master’s lead and graciously ease the distresses of others because He has so kindly relieved ours. Thank you, Lord.

In His grace,

Amanda

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Learning The Best Conduct During Trials

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power, is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Paul spoke to the Corinthians (v2-5) about the person (most likely himself) who ascended into the third heaven (the hidden paradise) and what he had heard (and seen?), admitting that human words were inadequate to fully convey the experience. The New Testament gives glimpses of the coming Glory for the purposes of strengthening our faith and developing our holiness (2 Peter 3:10-14, 1 John 3:2, 3). Most likely, Paul was given the glorious revelation (v3) to fortify him for future service and sufferings (Acts 9:16, Romans 8:18). Revelation the New Testament gives is not aimed at satisfying our curiosity (Expositors Bible Commentary) but for strengthening our resolve.

Paul was embarrassed at having to boast of his experience (v1) to the Corinthians because his boasting would not have contributed to the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7) and because he desired to avoid the suggestion that he was in any way a special Christian; as he said, he was “a man in Christ.” Even though the revelation Paul received was an honor (v5), it did not add to his importance; it only served to equip him for service.

How can we learn the best conduct during trials? Paul’s behavior in 2 Corinthians illustrates the following:

1) He asked the Lord for help. His “thorn” was so troubling to him that he “pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away.” We should pray and ask the Lord for all of our needs.

2) Paul received a revelation of God’s majesty which fortified him for service in ministry as well as in suffering. Any revelation you receive whether it is from the Lord or from the Word, consider it essential equipping for ministry and for suffering and not merely as answers to questions or for boasting.

3) The answer to Paul’s prayer did not take the form he expected. The thorn remained, but so did his memory of the divine reply, “He said to me.” Even though the thorn produced distressing weakness at various times in Paul’s life, he would never lack sufficient grace to be a conqueror (Romans 8:35-37). By God’s grace, our acknowledged weaknesses will meet God’s full scope and strength (Ephesians 3:16, Philippians 4:13) so that the power of Christ will rest on us.

4) Paul learned that he would not escape all hardships. Therefore, he resolved to gladly boast about anything that would expose his weakness; enabling Christ’s strength, through him, to be made evident to all. When we come to the same conclusion as Paul and resolve to boast in our weaknesses instead of our strengths, we should most certainly expect Christ’s enabling strength to be made evident through us for God’s glory.

Paul found comfort and delight in the awareness of his weakness because it was balanced by the sense that the might of Christ would dwell in him and around him. The word for “rest” in 2 Corinthians 12 is like the word in John 1:14to dwell as in a tent, and suggests the thought that the strength of Christ was to Paul as the Shechinah cloud of glory encompassing him and protecting him. (Ellicott’s Commentary) Glory to God. Let’s boast in our weaknesses sweet things and expect the strength of God to aid us.

In His grace,

Amanda

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True Believers are Luminaries

Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Let your light shine before men. In other words, let the brilliant light of Jesus’ resurrection break forth through the very pores of your skin so that all may know that because of Jesus’ transforming effect on your heart you are fully equipped for His good works. Glory to God.

There are two ways you can consider the meaning of the word ‘shine.’ One is to manifest a bright light, especially by rays. This brings the sun to my mind. Since the sun provides our primary source of energy, life on earth would not exist if it were not for the sun. This bright star our earth revolves around shines with brilliance, and its rays reach down to earth, touching everything. Oh yes, the sun created by God holds a tiny resemblance to the Son of the Father. Eighty percent of the sun’s rays penetrate through clouds and fog. Expect the brilliant manifestation of God’s light in you to penetrate through the gloomiest, cloudy and foggy mind.

The relationship between the sun and earth also reminds me of our relationship with Jesus. We revolve around the Son; the Son does not revolve around us. We would not exist without Him. Just as we need the sun for energy, the energy for our strength to do good things comes from the Son (Ephesians 1:19, 6:10, Colossians 1:29, Hebrews 11:34, 1 Peter 4:11). Glory to God.

A second meaning for the word ‘shine’ is to perform very well. When we accomplish God’s good works, the brilliant light of God shines through us, and man can’t help but give glory to God.

Don’t grow weary in doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13) sweet things because it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good (1 Peter 2:15). True believers are God’s luminaries, so go forth and SHINE! I enthusiastically say in advance, glory to God!

In His grace,

Amanda

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Wisdom’s Beauty

She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your words and about your wisdom is true. But I didn’t believe the reports until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, I was not even told half. Your wisdom and prosperity far exceed the report I heard. How happy are your men. How happy are these servants of yours, who always stand in your presence hearing your wisdom. May Yahweh your God be praised! 1 Kings 10:6-9a

The Queen of Sheba is to be commended. She too possessed the riches of this world but desired what she lacked ~ wisdom. The reports of Solomon’s wisdom awakened her heart, and she desired to know more. She was not content with sending an ambassador to inquire on her behalf because that would not satisfy her. She decided to make the difficult journey so that she could stand in his presence and hear his wisdom with her own ears. What she did not realize was the joy that would accompany such wisdom.

The queen had great riches but loved the wisdom of God more. She knew what she possessed was not enough to solve the complexities that faced her people. She needed more than she had to give. A storehouse of possessions will not satisfy when the true need is the wisdom of God to provide answers to the toughest problems, the light to shine on the darkest places, and the strength the untie the tightest knots. Lord, I too have heard reports about your wisdom but I am not satisfied with reports. I desire to experience it for myself.

We do not need to travel long distances to stand in the presence of Wisdom. But a sacrifice will need to be made. Do you desire His wisdom enough to lay down your own intellect, stomp it to the ground if need be and see it as folly? That will be a great sacrifice, indeed. He promised that if we desire wisdom, all we need to do is ask for it, and it will be given generously (James 1:5). Take the faith that God has given and cry out to the Lord for His wisdom. We need it desperately.

God’s wisdom blows away the clouds of this age’s uncertainty and ushers in the light of joy. Ask for it. Wisdom is a beautiful thing.

In His grace,

Amanda

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The Baptism of the Spirit

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11

Praise God for HIS good works! Stand in awe that His good works never cease operating (Ecclesiastes 3:14)! Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire is a miraculous event that continues to this day and we are blessed that we can behold it!

Two baptisms are presented here in this Matthew verse. The water baptism for repentance is done when a person is old enough to repent of their sins and they are motivated to do this by their new heart and right spirit. Have you turned from your sins and now follow Christ and His ways? This requires a daily walk of faith. This robust faith makes your life holy and your speech devout.

John then baptized the repentant believer by immersing them in water. John did not add any efficacy to the baptism itself as it was the repentant believer’s character and intention that was the defining element of the baptism. The same is true today.

The baptism with fire is the more important of the two baptisms, for the servant is the one who baptizes with water, but the mighty Master performs the other and not only that but the Holy Spirit. This Spirit-fire baptism purifies and refines. We can view the Old Testament to see how fire often has a purifying connotation (Isaiah 1:25, Zechariah 13:9, Malachi 3:2-3).

I love the conversation between the disciples who were walking toward Emmaus and unknowingly met and spoke to Jesus along the way. As they realized they had been speaking to Jesus, the evidence they presented to each other was, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:13-32)

Acts 1:5 and 11:16 uses the term “baptized in the Holy Spirit” and it implies an immersion in the life of the Spirit.  Acts 1:8 indicates that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a conscious experience of power, boldness, confidence, and victory over sin. Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is a real, life-changing experience. Christianity is not merely the performance of rituals and sacraments. It is the life-changing experience of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ.

Repent, trust Christ, open yourself to the power of his Spirit, be baptized in his name, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

May the Lord direct our heart to God’s love and Christ’s endurance,

Amanda

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If Only You Would

If only You would tear the heavens open and come down, so that mountains would quake at Your presence — as fire kindles the brushwood, and fire causes water to boil — to make Your name known to Your enemies, so that nations will tremble at Your presence! Isaiah 64:1-2

Is there anything worse than the absence of God? Sin drove Israel away, and now in their captivity and distress, there remains nothing but bitter sorrow as they desire for God to return. They want His appearing even if that means His tremendous power will accompany it. This mighty prayer is spoken by people desiring God to no longer be absent from them. It is a passionate outburst, “If only You would tear the heavens and come down!” May we have the same passion when we cry out to God for renewal in our own lives because we cannot tolerate lacking His magnificent presence for one-minute longer! What if that means He intends to level our prideful places as a raging fire races through dry and dead trees and brush cleaning out what should not remain.

God is an absent God to many of us. Our sins, our ingratitude, our unbelief, and carnal security have driven him away and now we mourn him. (Spurgeon). Yes, it may all appear peaceful now, but just as the heavens seem peaceful before the dark clouds of a storm blow in, the appearance of peace is not authentic peace unless the Lord’s peace is present. When the Lord is near, the mountains of pride and sin are leveled. The fire of God’s love kindles our heart ablaze so that no frigidity remains, not even a hint of lukewarmness. Our heart is kindled to repentance, prayer, and love. This response makes the enemy less influential, and the opponents of Christianity are able to witness the presence of the Lord. Come, Lord Jesus.

May the Lord direct our heart to God’s love and Christ’s endurance,

Amanda


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Happy Days

Take delight in the Lord. Psalm 37:4

Greetings fellow sojourners!

Even though God gave over 600 rules to the Israelites, he did not want them to merely do his bidding. He wanted them to enjoy him ~ like family. So God set up festivals for his people; a break from routine in order to reflect on all he had done for them. These were happy, holy days.

Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement was so serious that everyone fasted in preparation for it (Leviticus 16:1). On this Day, the high priest sacrificed a bull for his and his family’s sin before sacrificing a goat for the sins of God’s people. The Day of Atonement showed both the holiness of God and the mercy of God. All people need to have their sin forgiven. Jesus, the ultimate high priest, “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

Feast of Booths. Five days after the Day of Atonement, God wanted his people to celebrate for seven days (Exodus 23:16, 17; 34:22). During these days, the Israelites camped out in huts made from tree branches (Leviticus 23:33-44). The Feast of Booths was a time to recall how God had taken care of his people for the forty years they had lived in tents in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:43). Eventually, this celebration included a water-pouring ceremony, which pictured how God had provided water for his people in the wilderness. In John’s Gospel, Jesus stood up on the seventh day of the Feasts of Booths and announced that God has again provided life-giving water for his people. He says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. Now, this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive.” (John 7:37-39

Passover. The Passover celebrated the time when God rescued his people from Egypt. For this feast, families sacrificed a perfect lamb (Leviticus 23:5) and painted its blood on the top and sides of the doorway to their house (Exodus 12:22). During the week following Passover, Israel celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This feast reminded them of the kind of bread God’s people ate on the night they were delivered from slavery in Egypt. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ sacrificed his life as the ultimate Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). By giving his life, he rescued his people from eternal death.

Pentecost. This feast occurred seven weeks after Passover and celebrated the crops harvested at the end of the barley harvest (Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:16). The focus of this feast was thanking God for generously providing a bountiful harvest. God’s people also expressed their thanksgiving by providing for those in need (Deuteronomy 16:9-12). The New Testatment teaches that at Pentacost, fifty days after Jesus’s resurrection, God once again provided for his people. He didn’t provide just a harvest of grain to gather into barns, but a harvest of men and women gathered into his kingdom by his Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-11, 41).

May we all remember the wonderful works of the Lord and His amazing provision in our lives. When my natural eyes refuse to see, help me visualize the bountiful harvest You indeed have allotted me. Your provision always meets my every need.

May the Lord direct our heart to God’s love and Christ’s endurance,

Amanda

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