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Grace Nuggets: Simple reminders of God’s great love for you.

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. Romans 12:12 (NLT)

“I hope”

Two little words ripe with expectation and emotion.

“I hope the car starts this morning.”

“I hope the doctor calls with good news.”

“I hope the job offer comes through.”

“I hope the bank accepts our offer.”

“I hope my son/daughter grows up to love God.”

“I hope [fill in your own words here.]”

The inherent problem with hope in the physical realm is that it almost always involves something in the present, in what we can see, hear or touch. Often times ‘hope’ is focused on the results of some action we’ve taken or tried to take in order to make our lives more complete, more whole, more comfortable.

But hope built on earthly standards is often subject to the whims of others. But in God’s economy hope isn’t about this world, it’s about eternity. Too often it’s easy to build our hopes for today on our own ability to accomplish something. We look to our past experiences to build future hope. That’s all fine and well if our past is squeaky clean, but for those of us who have a past littered with broken relationships and missed opportunities, building a hope for the future on the efforts of our past is risky at best.

“I hope the grades I got in school get me into the college I choose.”

“I hope the boss looks at my work record when he considers that promotion.

As a believer in Jesus Christ our hope is on the past, but not our past. Our hope is built on the past work of Jesus on the cross and the empty tomb. Our hope is built on spiritual position in Christ and not our ability to live up to someone else’s standards.

When our hope is built on what Jesus can do for us and with eternity in view it makes the troubles of this world pale. It’s the hope of our future, not the regrets of the past or the fears of today that give us joy and patience. It’s our walk with God built on study, fellowship and prayer that empowers us to forge ahead when the battle seems too big for us to handle.

Leave your past mistakes at the foot of the cross. Seek divine power to put your focus on the hope of our future with Christ. Let his word so richly dwell within you that you are able to withstand the attacks the enemy throws your way. Hopelessness comes from focusing on the past and present. Hope comes as we focus on eternal values and goals.

PRAYER: Father God, my past seeks to cripple me. The present tries to wrap me in worry and fear. Empower me by your Spirit to set my focus on a future with you. Give me patience to endure and wisdom to know how to pray as I forge ahead on this journey. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 (NLT)

Have you ever taken something apart and tried to put it back together again? No matter how hard you try the parts just don’t seem to fit together. When you finally succeed (sort of) you have extra parts and no idea where to put them?

Or perhaps you’ve broken something of great value like a vase or plate. Try as you might you can’t seem to get it back together. Some of the parts are chipped. Some are badly splintered they no longer seem to go anywhere. You finally come to the realization that it will never be ‘back to original condition.

If you have ever had something like this happen then you have a small idea of how God felt in the Garden of Eden. He had just finished the greatest accomplishment of ‘his life’ so to speak. He’d created the universe and the planets and stars and other heavenly bodies of course, but none of that compared to the pride he felt looking at mankind. Adam and Eve were his most cherished creation.

Every night he’d visit the couple and walk through the garden with them. They’d ask him questions. He’d find out from them what new discoveries they’d made that day. I don’t think this was some stuffy, theology-laced discussion time. There was laughter. There was excitement. There was love.

Then tragedy struck. For whatever reason, as a result of the disobedience of his masterpiece creation, the relationship was destroyed. Did God want to lose his best friends? Of course not. Did he miss the walks in the garden, the camaraderie, the passion? You bet. Would he do anything at all to restore that relationship? Yep. In fact he did.

The Bible isn’t man’s story of sin, failure and destruction. The Bible is God’s story of his earnest desire to restore the relationship he once had with us. Some people read it as some owners manual or guide book. Others read it as some Theological journal or textbook. Others don’t read it at all because they don’t realize its true indent.

The mystery of our passionate relationship with God is that it’s easy enough for a toddler to understand and deep enough to confound the scholar. Try reading the Bible from God’s point of view. If you are new to the process get an easy to read version of the Bible like ‘The Message’ by Eugene Peterson. Start slow, just a chapter or so a day. Begin with the Gospels. Jesus tells us that if we want to learn about God the Father we need to learn about him first.

Before you read ask God to teach you something new for that day. Don’t just read it for answers or to prove someone right or wrong. Read it to discover that God, unlike stuffy, guilt-ridden religion, earnestly wants to restore a relationship with you that was lost years ago. He loves you. He loves you more than anything. You are worth it and the Bible is the story of his plan to get you back.

PRAYER: God, I still don’t always get it. You are so powerful and so mighty, yet you love me enough to spend all of history to try to bring me back to relationship with you. There are so many things I don’t understand about you, about myself, about life in general. Thank you for sending your letter, the Bible, to guide us in restoring our relationship with each other. Help me to read it with new understanding and appreciation. In Jesus name, Amen.

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40-42

There are so many times in our lives when, like Martha, we get distracted. There are, after all, so many ‘good things’ that need to be done. People are being devastated by war, natural disasters, health issues and economic woes.

Then there are churches that need to be built and maintained. Youth groups that need planning. Worship teams that need to practice. Bible Studies need to be held. Accountability partners need to be met with. Prayer groups need to be held and nurtured.

And while we are doing all that, the laundry at home needs to be done. The lawn needs to be mowed. The car needs fixing. Grandma and Grandpa need to be visited…and don’t forget Aunt Tillie’s birthday card, (she never forgot to send you one). The house needs cleaning and painting. The kid’s homework and music lessons must be completed and school activities attended.

Is it any wonder we get tired? Is there any question why sometimes it’s hard to squeeze just one more thing into our lives? There are so many noble and worthy causes around us that need attention. So many people who need to hear about Jesus and to see his love acted out on a daily, personal basis. Kingdom work will never get done unless Kingdom people do it.

Maybe that’s why Martha was so intense that day. Maybe she saw how tired Jesus and his disciples were. Maybe she saw this moment as an opportunity to show Jesus just how much she loved him, appreciated him and was thankful that he raised Lazarus from the dead. Perhaps this was her act of worship to the most high God.

Christian author, Larry Crabb, states in his book “The Pressure is Off” that many Christians have burned out and given up on ministry and even church because they are just too tired and too caught up in life to fulfill the requirements of the Christian walk.

What Jesus really wants from us is to sit at his feet. He just wants to spend time with us; to share life with us. The other things need to be done, for sure. There are many ministry opportunities for us to involve ourselves in throughout the community, in our churches and in our family. But what Jesus really longs for is for you to spend just a few minutes at his feet. It’s time, not activity that builds relationship. He wants that relationship with you.

Time. Time in his word, the laundry will get done. Time. Time in prayer and meditation, the Sunday School lesson can wait. Time. It’s the one thing Jesus longs to have with you.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I confess to you that I’ve just been way to busy with good things to take time at your feet. I realize that the most important part of my day is the part where I sit at your feet. Empower me with your Spirit to make the time to spend with you so that I can have the energy I need to minister for you. In your name I pray, Amen.

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. Psalm 48:9

True worship comes from the heart. It isn’t about the songs we sing, the instruments we play or the type of service or religious tradition that we follow. Psalm 48 is a praise song Old Testament style. The writers of the Psalm recount the various victories that Israel had over their enemies. These victories didn’t come because Israel was a strong and powerful nation. These victories came because Israel served a strong and powerful God.

Jesus told the woman at the well that worship isn’t about a Temple, building or activity. Worship is about what is going on inside of you and where you are in the journey of life. Paul tells us more about worship when he says, “we are temples of God because the His Holy Spirit lives within us.” We no longer have to travel to a particular spot to engage in a specific activity for a predetermined amount of time.

Worship is also personal. Even though we can gather as a group to worship, it’s really about what is going on in our heart the counts. You can sing and perform worship songs in church and not really worship. You can stand or sit quietly in church and be in a deep state of worship!

Worship is about meditating on God’s great love. Do that now. As you read this verse again, think of what it means to have God’s unfailing love available to you.

God’s love is available to you during those times of financial distress when you realize that you aren’t going to make it. You may be in the process of losing everything, yet in the midst of that meditate on the fact that even though you don’t understand the ‘why’ you know God loves you and will see you through.

God’s love is available in your grief. He knows the pain of losing a loved one. As a father He watched His only Son be brutally murdered even though He was completely innocent.

God’s love is available when friends fail you. Jesus knew that pain. Every one of his closest friends turned their backs on Him when He needed them most. But He loved them just the same.

God’s love is available when relationships you counted on for a lifetime of fulfillment come to a brutal end.

Take time today to meditate in a quiet place, away from distractions. Ask the Father to meet you there. Focus your mind on the good things He has done for you. Trust Him to complete the good work He has begun.

PRAYER: Father God. There are so many distractions in life. I confess to you that my worship of you has been superficial for the most part. I’ve let so many things interfere with really meeting with you. Some of those things are good things like church activities and bible studies and helping the poor. Some are things that are sinful. All of them have kept me from really knowing and understanding you. In this quiet moment please give me one thing I can focus on about your love as I travel through the day. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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August 2022
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