Category Archives: Faith

A New Look at Our Prayers

“What we usually pray to God is not that His will be done, but that He approve ours.”

— Helga Bergold Gross
Can we look at this carefully? Is that how we pray? Unfortunately, I’ve been too often guilty of asking God to approve my plans before I sat down and asked Him about His.
We share prayer requests. We ask for specific causes – healing, finances, relationships, employment. But did we ask God if that healing is our temporal idea of healing or His complete healing of our loved one in heaven?
We ask for finances, but are we in this financial place because here we have people to encourage and edify? Are we in this difficult relationship to be a means of bringing someone to God? Do we work where we work because our testimony is needed by our coworkers or our clients?
Let us resolve to find a quiet place, a holy space of time and silence in which to read His love letters to us and listen for His voice.

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Filed under Ambition, Faith, Prayer, Values

The Potency of Words

“The words ‘I am…’ are potent words.
Be careful what you hitch them to.
The thing you’re claiming has a way
Of reaching back and claiming you.”

— A. L. Kitselman

We forget the power of the spoken word. But the spoken word has a history. For the Christian, that history begins in Genesis .
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. ~ Genesis 1:3
He waved no magic wand. He didn’t pick up lightening in His hands. He opened His mouth and spoke the creative words.
On the other hand, we seem to have an epidemic of bullying in our society these days. And most of that bullying is done with the spoken word. Those words hurt the hearts and self esteem of the person being bullied. They can be hurt to the point of wanting to die. Or they can carry those words like a festering wound, crippling them for the remainder of their natural lives.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians  6:12
There is more to this world than the physical that we can see and touch. There is a spiritual dimension as well. We have a sworn enemy in that spiritual dimension. This enemy has great power only because we let him. We give him permission with our words.
We don’t intend to give him permission, but we speak aloud something we fear. And lo and behold, that fear comes upon us.
For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me,
And what I dreaded has happened to me.  ~ Job 3:25
That is because the enemy can hear what we say and use it against us. Read the entire book of Job. We frequently reference the patience of Job, but we seldom look at the root of his problems. He had done nothing to have all these negative things happen to him. He was in the middle of God’s will, doing all the right things. The enemy made Job the object of a bet. He bet God that he could get Job to deny God in the middle of adversity.
Then the enemy found the weak spot in Job’s life and hit him there.  Pay special attention to “For Job said”.
And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.
So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly. ~ Job 1:4-5
The spoken word has power.  Sometimes what we say becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you say “I’m clumsy” often enough, you will begin to believe it and excuse any clumsy incident as just inevitable. Like wise, if you say “I’m just too dumb” you will not try to learn.
Many of us remember the story of The Little Engine That Could. “I think I can; I think I can; I think I can…
Scour the scriptures for the truth God says of you, and repeat those truths aloud. The enemy cannot hear your thoughts, but he does hear what you say. Don’t give him a stronghold to make your life miserable.  If A. L. Kitselman’s quote is true, use it to your advantage. Speak only those things that are profitable.

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God’s Crazy, Lavish Grace

 God’s grace is radical. Extreme. Counterintuitive. He pours it out on the undeserving. God lavishes His grace on those not seeking it. He even generously extends it to those who hate Him and persecute His people. Saul of Tarsus fit that description. In the years immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus, Saul was the archenemy of Jesus’ followers. He did everything “possible to oppose the name of Jesus” (Acts 26:9). He went from synagogue to synagogue to punish Jews who “belonged to the Way” (Acts 9:2). He traveled from city to city to arrest them and put them in chains. He zealously and violently sought them out and put them to death.

Yet even while Saul breathed out murderous threats against the believers, God wooed him with His grace. Years later, in his letter to the Christians in Galatia, Saul (Paul) acknowledged God had “set me apart from birth and called me by his grace” (Galatians 1:15). God workedin Saul’s heart and mind long before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.While Saul worked strenuously to stop the Gospel message of Christ, God’s grace flowed all around him, preparing him for a life-changing meeting on a dusty road.

While Paul zealously tried to annihilate the Church, God pursued him. While Paul had his heart set on destruction, God had His heart set on Paul. And the same is true in our lives. When we were still running hard away from God, He pursued us with His grace. Doesn’t that just bowl you over?

Before God created the heavens and the earth, He chose to love you. He desired to make you His own, even before there was time. And He put a plan in place to make it possible. Before you ever knew you needed a Savior, the Father determined Jesus would be your eternal hope. Then with His lavish grace, He wooed you.

Throughout Scripture, God is the Initiator. Even in the Garden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin entered the world, God sought the sinner.(See Genesis 3:8-9.) While we were still His enemies, God proved His love to us in the most radical way. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8, NLT).

We do not deserve salvation. We are not worthy of a relationship with God. Yet He chooses to love us. He lavishes His grace on sinners and makes salvation possible through His own sacrifice.

By definition, God’s grace flows from His heart. It’s based on His bounty, His character. We do not merit His grace. We cannot earn it. Yet in His loving-kindness He woos us to Himself and freely pours out His grace through the death of His Son.

Then after our conversion,on the born again side, God still woos us. Through times of rebellion , complacency, grief, and struggle, God gently draws us back to Himself with cords of love. He calls us from our wanderings. He longs to protect us from pain of our own making.His crazy, lavish grace refuses to let us go.

This post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s new Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing.

Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

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Change and Dilemma

I keep wondering who is in charge of the changes in our culture. So many things that used to denote one thing are now used to define something entirely different.

For example, my business card for Reflected Light Ministries features a rainbow.  As a child I was taught that the rainbow is a symbol of God’s promise to Noah never to destroy the entire world with flood again. (You will see the irony when you learn that I grew up in a rural Kansas community that billed itself as The Flood Capital.)

God’s light reflecting on suspended raindrops creates the rainbow.  I would hope people would see only that in the rainbow on my card.

However, the rainbow of diversity and the LGBT community has usurped that common understanding of the rainbow.  Some of my friends have overlaid their Facebook profile pictures with the six color bands of red, orange, yellow, blue, green and violet.  They did so in joyous response to the supreme court ruling that same-sex marriage must be recognized in all states. That is their prerogative.

That decision grieved my spirit. I fear that God really meant what he said in some of the scriptures which prohibit homosexuality. Take for example First Corinthians Chapter 6, Verses 9 and 10:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Please also notice that it does not stop with homosexuality. It includes promiscuity and adultery, as well as those who put other things ahead of God, those who steal, those who are envious, those who drink to excess, those who speak harshly of others, and those who extort money. A whole bunch of us can fall into those categories.  I am extremely grateful that God is forgiving and merciful.

But you will notice that none of those other activities have  been approved by the laws of the land. Therein lies the difference and the source of my dismay.

That does not mean, however, that I cannot like and respect individuals who have made that choice. I can name several people for whom I have both respect and affection who live that way.  I’m not here to judge.

So what do I do? I do not want my rainbow confused with theirs. Mine does not carry a connotation of approval of these alternate lifestyles.  My belief system will not allow me to approve them.

But back to the card. Do I change my design because of the double meaning of the rainbow?

Let me know in the comments, please.

Thanks for listening to my dilemma.

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Big Brother? I Don’t Have One

Lori’s blog got me to thinking.  Having no siblings, I never had to deal with tormenting from an older one or nuisance from a younger. It was the ultimate impoverishment of my formative years. But having been so impoverished, I was highly privileged in many other ways.

First there was Attitie.  Actually her name was Ethel, but my infant tongue could not manage Aunt Ethel, so she became Attitie. She was a devout Christian. One of my earliest memories (I had to be less than three) is singing with her to the theme song of the Old Fashioned Revival Hour on the radio. Her radio was cathedral shaped and stood on a three-legged table on the east wall of their living room.

We’d end the song with “Hallelujah, Jesus is mine.”  And then we’d argue back and forth.

“He’s mine”

‘No, he’s mine…’  At that age I didn’t realize he could belong to both of us.

 …

Then there was Doctor.  He was H. W. Graves, community physician for the rural town in which I was reared. He attended my birth, stood as godfather at my infant baptism in the Lutheran Church, and functioned as my surrogate father til we lost him my senior year in high school.

My current library is filled with books of faith and inspiration which he inscribed “To Judith, date, name of occasion, with love, Doctor.”  He constructed a scrapbook for me on my twelfth birthday. It fills a three-ring binder with snippets of inspiration and teaching that he culled from his reading. And most importantly, it contains some poems which he wrote – just for me personally. The opening is:

You’re twelve years old today, dear.  /  And I’m past seventy-three.  /  It’s back to back we’re dreaming  /  But it’s different things we see…

It goes on to say that I look at a golden sunrise and an earthly  future. He looks at a golden sundown and an eternal future.

Much of who I am today is due to his love and nurture and teaching. I thank God that he put Doctor in my life.

 I thought all children knew this kind of love and caring. When it dawned on me many years later that my childhood experiences were not typical, I was aghast. I saw people I knew and cared about be devastated by the loss of a family member.  A person I thought knew Christ as I did lost a sibling. Of course, it was a grievous time, but the grief and hopelessness I saw called forth the words of Paul:

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  (1 Thessalonians 4:13  KJV)

I knew this dear soul needed a closer walk with the Lord, but I did nothing to help that along – unless you count my prayers.

Years later, my family was hit with a tragedy that made headlines for a year.  In the aftermath, people commented to me “You’re so strong” and “I don’t see how you do it.”  In fact, I’m not particularly strong. I simply know where to lean and that makes me look strong.  But I was convicted to share the power that keeps me going in the face of destruction.

That is why I write – and why I speak to women’s groups about forgiveness, healing, getting closer to God and intercessory prayer.

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The Grace Impact

 Good morning, Nancy. Welcome to Ephemera Captured.

 Good morning, Judith. It’s good to be here.

I’m so excited to see the release of The Grace Impact on April 17, Nancy. And I’m always interested in how a book project develops. Can you tell us about the genesis of this book?

The idea for this book began several years ago. In 2007 I submitted some stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul and a devotional book. The stories were accepted, which encouraged me to continue my writing journey. In sharing this with my friends, I wrote a short devotional in an email and added my publishing news at the end of it. This was the first issue of GraceNotes, my email devotional. It is now offered as an opt-in newsletter on my website, http://www.nancykaygrace.com. I have continued to send GraceNotes each month since then, even through some very difficult and trying times. The Lord encouraged me to keep writing and sending GraceNotes. Eventually I hoped to have enough devotionals to compile them into a book.

In 2012 I was at a point when I was very discouraged with writing. A book project that I started ended abruptly. I attended a writer’s conference to hear from the Lord about my next step. While there I pitched the idea for this book to CrossRiver Media called GraceNotes: Thirty Days of Grace. The manuscript was accepted. As I worked on it, the publisher noticed that in the past year several book titles included the word “GraceNotes” and suggested I consider re-titling it. After praying about it and researching possible titles, I decided on The Grace Impact. The project went from being a simple devotional about God’s grace to being a book on God’s grace that happens to be a devotional. This change challenged me go deeper in writing, researching, and showing God’s grace.

Most of us are familiar with grace itself. But what is the “grace impact”?NKGrace0231-214x300

God alone is able to set into motion what I call the “grace impact”. It is His ability to work in and through any situation, revealing His love and forgiveness to us, thereby drawing us to Himself, ultimately through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The initial impact of God’s grace to each of us comes by accepting salvation through Jesus. It continues in us and through us as our lives are transformed by yielding more to the Lord. As we grow in faith, we share God’s grace with others. Like a drop of water released on a smooth lake, the ripples of the grace impact continue to reach outward to many.

I love the idea of ripples on a smooth lake as a metaphor for our sharing God’s grace with others. Did you choose a central verse?

The theme verse for The Grace Impact is 2 Corinthians 9:8.

            “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always  having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

Tell us about the structure of the book, Nancy.

The book is divided into four sections. The first section looks at the grace found in God’s character and why He is able to make grace abound. God is able to reveal Himself to us, and chooses to do so. The promise of grace pulses throughout Scripture.

Section two is about the sufficiency of God’s grace, giving us what we need to live the Christian life. Once we interact and accept the grace of salvation through Jesus Christ, we begin to be transformed by the power of God.

Section three explores the sustaining power of grace in all things at all times. His grace covers every detail of life, not just the good things, but also the difficult, sad, and complicated things. That knowledge can give us the ability to walk confidently through life knowing our heavenly Father is with us every step of the way.

Section four encourages us to have an abundance of grace for every good work, sharing the blessing of grace with others.

At the end of each daily reading there is a section called “Deepening the Grace Impact.” There are additional scriptures for further study, questions for your own meditation, and a prayer. I’m working on creating a thirty-day online Bible study using The Grace Impact.

We’ll stay tuned for more information on your Bible study, Nancy.   But sometimes it’s hard to trust in God’s goodness when trials seem to overwhelm us. Can you speak to that issue?

In The Grace Impact, I share how the Lord helped me through cancer, the death of three parents within six months, and other issues. Trusting God is more than a feeling. It is a decision made on the knowledge of God’s character and faithfulness. Even when He seems quiet, God’s grace is ever present, sustaining us. God’s grace has carried me often, and I desire to share this hope with others.

I love your quote: “The key is in living life unedited—living every moment in His grace, unafraid of making mistakes.” Can you explain that further?

As a “recovering perfectionist,” I know the struggle of wanting to do something perfect and still being disappointed in my best efforts. I think many perfectionists wrestle with this issue. God has given me freedom in seeking excellence instead of perfection. Grace gives me the assurance that what I do, if I do it with the right attitude for the Lord, is good enough. Grace allows us to accept mistakes as a part of life and not fear trying again. The grace impact grants freedom and confidence to escape the bondage of perfectionism.

What’s the most important thing that readers will learn from “The Grace Impact?”

God reached into the world with grace, bringing redemption to the failures of people and transformation to those who were weak. God’s grace reaches us today and His forgiving love is available to anyone who will accept it. Once we embrace it, we grow in becoming grace-givers to this hurting world.

 What part can ordinary people play in embracing and replicating God’s grace?

God calls us, redeems us and transforms us. We become His agents in the culture today, sharing the word of grace and passing the gift on to others. One way of being a grace-giver is to share our resources with others. To carry this out, a portion of every book sale of The Grace Impact will be given to the Grace Orphan House (Siyon Social Welfare Society,http://siyonsws.com) in Aurangabad, India. It currently serves as home for thirty boys and fifteen girls who were street children. Grace Orphan House provides a loving Christian environment,education, three meals a day and a comfortable place for the children to live. Anyone who purchases the book continues spreading the grace impact.

Thank you for being with us today, Nancy. Where can we buy the book?Grace Impact Cover

It is available at CrossRiver Media’s website, http://bit.ly/1Ceuf94

or soon through Amazon.com.

Autographed copies can be ordered by contacting Nancy at nancy@nancykaygrace.com

If you would like to have Nancy come to speak to your group, she is available for meetings, banquets, or retreats.  She travels from northwest Arkansas.

Please visit her website at www.nancykaygrace.com for more information.

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Coming Attractions

Grace seems to be the word of the year for me.   I’m in a small group that is studying the disciplines of John Wesley which were quite stringent. And he found that without grace, they were of no use at all.

Many of us learned the acronym

  • God’s
  • Riches
  • At
  • Christ’s
  • Expense

as a definition of grace.

But, as usual, I run to the dictionary (thanks to my grandmother) and find this:

Full Definition of GRACE

1a :  unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

b:  a virtue coming from God
c :  a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
2a :  approval, favor <stayed in his good graces>
b archaic :  mercy, pardon
c :  a special favor :  privilege <each in his place, by right, not grace, shall rule his heritage — Rudyard Kipling>
d :  disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
e :  a temporary exemption :  reprieve
3a :  a charming or attractive trait or characteristic

b:  a pleasing appearance or effect :charm<all the grace of youth — John Buchan>
c :  ease and suppleness of movement or bearing
4—used as a title of address or reference for a duke, a duchess, or an archbishop
5:  a short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks
6 plural capitalized :  three sister goddesses in Greek mythology who are the givers of charm and beauty
7:  a musical trill, turn, or appoggiatura
8a:  sense of propriety or right <had the grace not to run for elective office — Calvin Trillin>
:  the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful
Just look at the primary definition, number 1. Imagine the impact of that unmerited divine assistance on a person’s life – on your life and mine.  There is no way we can earn God’s favor. He knows all about us, and he loves us in spite of our failings, not because of our few virtues.
Nancy Kay Grace knows about God’s grace.  Her devotional book, The Grace Impact, releases this month.

The Grace Impact is a first-grab option for times when life’s harshness assaults your soul. Full of stories, analogies and word-pictures to help you dissect your pain, each daily dose provides hope and help for a wounded heart.

—Marnie Swedberg, International Leadership Mentor

Nancy will  be here for an interview on Wednesday. Join us, please, for a cup of tea and a dose of grace.

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