Tag Archives: Grace

Appearing to Boost Our Confidence

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“I’m going fishing,” Peter called out as the disciples were gathered. Six others joined him, and the seven men headed out to the water. For the past three years, these men have been following Jesus, but now, they are not going to see him on a regular basis. They may be a little disoriented as they wonder what to do, so they return to what they know:  fishing. After all, it was their livelihood prior to Jesus calling them, and they are professional fishermen.

The team of seven spend all night casting nets, but no fish. Spending all night on the water with empty nets was rare, but this was one of those nights. John 21 says, “At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they replied. Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So, they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore.” 

Peter discovers Jesus is the one standing on the shore, and he immediately heads ashore. Peter could have taken the time to pull in the nets and ride the boat to shore, but he’s in too big of a hurry. Peter’s need to get to Jesus compels him to jump in the water. Understanding why Peter was in such a hurry requires us to rewind through time.

Sometime earlier, Jesus said Peter would deny knowing him. The pressure would become so intense Peter would deny Jesus not one time, but three times. Peter is hurt by this statement, and he boldly proclaims it would never happen.

Some time later as Jesus is standing trial, the pressure mounts and Peter crumbles. He is asked if he is following Jesus, and Peter says, “No.” This happens three times, then a rooster crows and Jesus’ words hauntingly echo through Peter’s mind.

In this moment, Peter knows he has failed. The very denial Peter boldly proclaimed would never happen took place. Peter never thought he’d make that mistake. He never thought things would get that far out of hand, but they did. Peter could try to make excuses. He could try to explain the failure away, but reality is he fell short. He failed.

Perhaps this sounds familiar. We all fail. We all make mistakes, and there will always be moments in time we would re-do if possible. Mistakes and failures come in all shapes and sizes. Our stories may be different, but we can relate to the guilt Peter must have felt. This is why he was in such a hurry to get to Jesus.

Usually someone in Peter’s situation instinctively tries to avoid the hurt person. No one likes an awkward interaction or facing failures and mistakes from the past. But this isn’t the way Peter responds. The minute he realizes Jesus is on the shore, he jumps in the water and heads inland because he is confident.

This is not a confidence in himself, but a confidence in his Lord Jesus Christ. Peter is so confident in the Lord’s mercy and grace that he runs straight to Jesus. Scripture tells us we can share in Peter’s confidence.

  • 1 John 1:9 says, “…if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
  • Speaking of the Lord, David writes in Psalm 103, “He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.”

Peter’s confidence proves right. John 21 goes on to tell us Jesus boldly and gently reinstated Peter. We know Peter went on to be used by the Lord in a mighty way. Peter took his failures and mistakes to Jesus, and the Lord lavished grace upon him.

Because of an empty tomb, you and I can take our mistakes and failures to the Lord confidently knowing he will lavish mercy and grace upon us. We can follow Peter’s lead and go straight to Jesus in these moments. It is by grace we have been saved, and this not of ourselves, but it is the gift of God through Christ Jesus.

Peace in Uncertain Times

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They were afraid. The last hours and days have been anything but restful. Some in the group narrowly escaped fighting and arrest a few nights ago as an angry mob arrested their leader Jesus. They watched as the mob had him tortured and executed. They know his tomb is empty, but they are unsure of how or why. Thoughts of peace are replaced with a constant wondering about the next happening and how to get away from those who are against them. They do not know who is the next to be arrested or even worse, so they are gathered behind locked doors in a secret location plotting a path forward.

The disciples are consumed by fear and anxiety, but Jesus does not leave them alone. John 20:19 says, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

As the disciples are sitting in an anxious and fear-filled room, Jesus shows up to bring peace. The peace Jesus brings to the disciples is for the past, present, and future. They are surrounded by uncertainty, yet Jesus says they can have peace. And, the peace Jesus brings on this night is the same peace he offers to us.

We live in uncertain times. Some folks struggle with letting go of past mistakes, while others are fearful of the future. To all though, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus offers peace with God. Through his work on the cross, Jesus bridged the gulf between man and God.  Scripture helps us understand.

  • “Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us,” points out Paul in Ephesians 2:18.
  • He writes in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”
  • And Romans 8:1 proclaims, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Because of Christ, we can have peace with God. Yesterday’s mistakes are forgiven and forgotten, so we don’t need to feel guilty any longer. Just look at what he did for Peter.

Peter boldly stated he would never deny Jesus; he would follow him to the very end, but when pressure mounted, Peter crumbled. He denied Jesus not once but three times, and after the third time, Mark says, “Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.” Peter knew he made a mistake. The Lord also knew Peter made a mistake, yet Jesus brought Peter peace. He was present when Jesus appeared to the disciples, and the Gospel writers tell us Jesus appeared to Peter earlier in the day, restoring their relationship. Peter did not have the power to make peace with God, so Jesus did it for him.

To spite his failures and all that Peter had done wrong, Jesus brings him peace with God. Can you imagine the relief Peter must have felt?

What about you? You know you’ve made mistakes; perhaps you remind yourself of it daily. The Lord also knows you’ve made mistakes, yet Jesus comes bearing the greeting, “Peace be with you.” You and I did not have the power to make peace with God, so Jesus did it for us. To spite the failures and mistakes of the past, Jesus gives us peace with God, and he freely gives it to us. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “I am leaving you a gift,” and that gift is peace with God.

It is in knowing the Lord is walking with us that we find peace for the future. Again, Scripture helps us understand.

  • “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus,” writes Paul in Philippians 4:7.
  • Notice again Jesus’ words in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Because of an empty tomb, you and I can have peace even if it is a turbulent time. The world may be swirling around us, but no matter what happens, the victory is ours through Christ. Remember the promise of Romans 8:37, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Jesus isn’t leaving us alone to struggle. He is coming along side us and saying, “Peace be with you!”

Getting Rid of Guilt

Darkness engulfed New York in 1977, and guilt and fear overwhelmed a young boy. It took some time, but the boy’s parents finally discovered why he was so upset. Just as the lights went out, the boy had kicked a utility pole, so he was convinced he caused the great black out. Guilt paralyzed him until he realized the truth.

Guilt is something we all experience. A Psychology Today post reports, “We experience 5 hours a week of guilty feelings. One study found that if you add up all the moments you spend feeling mildly or moderately guilty, it adds up to a pretty significant chunk of time.” 

It is not that we experience Guilt which causes a problem. It is our handling of the guilty feelings which makes a difference. Guilt is a trigger that can lead us to action, and it can be used by the Lord to help us discover true peace.

Guilt can be the tool which drives us to the Lord. Our guilt can push us to fully accept the Lord’s grace. Those mistakes, those failures of the past can create much guilt, but we can be set free in God’s grace.

Psalm 103:7-14 says:

He revealed his character to Moses
    and his deeds to the people of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
    nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.

This Psalm is a reminder of God’s grace. We do not get what we deserve; we get far more! In his grace, we can find freedom in Christ. The Lord removes our guilt and replaces it with his peace. He removes the guilt from past mistakes and replaces it with a hope for a better future. When you think of your past, do you concentrate on the guilt of past mistakes or the peace of Christ’s forgiveness?

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Beauty of Harmony

It was a beautiful sight. All of Israel coming together to anoint David their king. The Bible records the Elders of Israel telling David they knew the Lord had chosen him. So, David made a covenant with the leaders of Israel before the Lord, and they anointed him king. Israel was experiencing unity and harmony at this time.

It may have been this event that prompted David to write the words of Psalm 133, reflecting on the beauty of harmony:

How wonderful and pleasant it is
    when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
    that was poured over Aaron’s head,
    that ran down his beard
    and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
    that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
    even life everlasting.

These words remind us of the beauty and peace harmony and unity bring. A harmonious and unified people of God have changed lives in the past, and can still change lives today. We may have our differences, but we also have common ground. We are all in need of the transforming work of the cross.

Max Lucado writes:

I spoke at each Good Friday service of a nearby Episcopal church for many years. On one occasion, I shared the responsibility with the bishop of the diocese of West Texas. He wore a robe and a large gold cross around his neck. My church background didn’t make me too keen on preachers wearing religious jewelry. So, I was less than impressed. And, I confess, even a bit judgmental.

But as he shared the story behind his gold cross, my attitude began to change. In order to assume his role as bishop, he had to leave behind St. Mark’s Episcopal, a church where he was loved dearly. The people tried to talk him into staying, but he felt it was God’s will to leave. The members, then, expressed their gratitude by making him this cross. Two hundred and forty-two households contributed gold pieces which were melted down and forged together. Some of the gold provided was from the wedding bands of widow and widowers. Three couples who had divorced and then reconciled each gave a set of wedding rings to the cross. One friend of the bishop was a bachelor who was rejected by “the love of his life” just days before the ceremony contributed her ring to the cross as a symbolic surrendering of the pain of his lost love. The cross includes a college ring as well as the bridge from a fellow bishop’s mouth. One mom donated some gold beads. When her son was four, he found them on a dresser, thought they were toys and damaged them. He died soon thereafter in an accident. She donated them on the day before what would have been his seventh birthday.

Two hundred and forty-two stories. Stories of celebration, stories of sorrow. Stories of peace, stories of pain. But when forged together they form the cross of Christ.

What happened literally with the bishop’s cross happens spiritually in every church that devotes itself to fellowship. When your story intermingles with mine, and our stories interweave with others, the cross is formed. When one hand holds another in a hospital, the cross is lifted up. When a conservative loves a liberal; when an Anglo seeks to understand a Hispanic; when the redneck and the tree-hugger stand side by side at the communion table, the cross is lifted up.

No matter our backgrounds, our socioeconomic status, or our political views, we have one thing in common. We’re all in need of grace, and when we share grace with one another, the cross is what is lifted up. How can you lift up the cross today?

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Freedom

No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. For some, those mistakes can cause them to hold onto a lot of guilt. However, the Bible teaches we can be set free from our guilt.

One day the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus by presenting a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Assuming they were telling the truth, there is no doubt she is guilty. She was caught in the act. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to remind us that no one is perfect. Then, he shows us an illustration of grace. He sends the unnamed woman on her way giving her a fresh start.

A little later as Jesus is talking to the religious leaders, He tells them the truth of the Gospel can set us free. Jesus says in John 8:31-32:

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

It was through the work of the cross that Christ set us free.

  • Romans 5:10 says, 10 “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.”
  • Romans 6:23 says, 23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

It is in this freedom we take on a new identity in Christ.

  • 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And, we are able to fulfill the purpose for our lives.

  • Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s handy work, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works which he has prepared in advance for us to do.

Knowing and accepting the truth of Jesus’ message brings freedom.

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Set Free

A crowd was gathered and Jesus was teaching. We are unaware of the topic; it could have been compassion or anxiety. We just don’t know. As he was talking, the door suddenly burst open and a group of men came running in pulling a slightly clothed woman behind them.

“We caught this woman in the act of adultery,” one of the men shouts. “The law says we should stone her. Jesus, what do you say?”

Jesus didn’t answer. John 8 tells us he began writing in the dust. He may have done this to illustrate the point he was getting ready to make or as an act of compassion toward the woman. For her, this could have been an embarrassing situation; she probably wasn’t wearing many clothes and there were several eyes staring directly at her. Perhaps Jesus put his finger in the dust to divert attention from her. Either way, the crowd demanded an answer, and Jesus gave them one.

In John 8:7, Jesus says, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 

Verses 9-10 continue, When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

One by one, everyone left until only Jesus and the woman were standing there. Jesus doesn’t condemn her. He doesn’t rebuke her for what has happened in the past or even for what happened that morning. Notice Jesus words in verse 11.

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Jesus set her free. In his grace he gave her a fresh start. Guilt she may have experienced was gone. Jesus set her free from her sin and the guilt it caused.

Likewise, we can be set free from guilt we may be experiencing. In his grace, Jesus can free us from the guilt of our past which may plague us.

  • Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • Galatians 5:1 says it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

The next time you feel guilty for something in the past, allow the Lord’s grace to replace your guilt with peace only he offers.

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the way, the truth, and the life

Taking in all this news was hard. There was a great deal to process as they had an intimate conversation with their leader. He was preparing the group for what was getting ready to happen. He was going to be handed over to enemies, and he was going to prepare a place for them. When the place was ready, he would come back and get them. Much was said, and Thomas was taking it all in, which leads to his question.

John 14:5-6 says, Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Perhaps Thomas was asking a question the other disciples wanted to know, but did not have the courage to ask. They would not be able to find the destination unless they had the address.

Jesus tells the disciples the address is him. The way to get to the place he is describing is him. Jesus is the way. It is in his truth and the life he offers we find our way into Heaven.

Jesus says no one gets to the Father except through him. No one finds the Lord’s gift of grace except through him. No one finds the Lord’s peace except through him. Jesus says he is the way, the truth, and the life. Forgiveness, peace, and life are found in Jesus.

Perhaps Thomas’ question is one you are asking. The address to the destination is Jesus. He is the way.

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resurrection and life

Jesus was close to Lazarus and his sisters. Lazarus was ill, so the family sent word to Jesus requesting he come and help Lazarus. Jesus does go and help Lazarus, but the Bible teaches he waited before going.

We know Jesus waited until Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days before helping. At this point, all hope had been lost. No one believed there was a chance Lazarus could be brought out of the tomb. However, the Bible records that is not the case.

John 11:23-25 says, 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus is getting ready to display his power over death. Life and death battled, and life won. Death’s grip could not hold Lazarus in the grave because of Jesus.

Because of Jesus, death’s grip cannot hold us in bondage. Jesus says he is the resurrection and the life. Ephesians 2 says it is in Christ we are made alive by grace. Jesus question to Martha is the same one he asks us, “Do you believe?”

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3 characteristics of the good shepherd

Taking care of sheep was a commitment, not just a job. Sheep required around-the-clock care and protection. A good shepherd would care deeply for his sheep, and he would tend to their needs in a compassionate way. The Bible teaches Jesus is our good shepherd.

In John 10:11 and 14, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.” This means Jesus acts toward us as a good shepherd acted toward his sheep. Here are just a few of the characteristics that make up a good shepherd.

A good shepherd knows his sheep.

A good shepherd knows his sheep. He knows everything about them. To many, sheep all look the same, but to their shepherd, they are unique.

  • In John 10:3, Jesus says, “…the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
  • “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me,” Jesus says in John 10:14.

Jesus knows us. He knows our thoughts, hurts, passions, and everything else about us.

A good shepherd goes ahead of his sheep.

Jesus says in John 10:4, “After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them and they follow him because they know his voice.” A good shepherd goes ahead of his sheep to keep them out of danger. He leads them to water and green pastures so their needs are met. As our good shepherd, Jesus guides are lives.

A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

Standing between the sheep and their predators is the shepherd, and he is willing to give up his life to save theirs.

Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Standing between us and the penalty of sin is Jesus. He laid down his life to save ours. He is our good shepherd.

David writes in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want.” And, the Lord is a good shepherd. He knows us and he tenderly and compassionately cares for us. Take a moment today to thank him for being the good shepherd.

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rivers of living water

It was October, and time to remember Moses striking the rock in the wilderness. The people celebrated for a week. They slept in tents and each morning they would draw water from the pool and take it to the altar. This was done to commemorate the Lord providing Israel water while they were in the desert.

Exodus 17 records the Israelites in a waterless place and grumbling against the Lord. The Lord instructed Moses to strike a rock, and verse 6 records water gushing out of the rock as the Elders looked on. The Lord provided for Israel’s need in a big way, so a festival was started to remember the Lord’s provision.

This week-long festival ended in a dramatic way. The daily water drawing was performed seven times on the seventh day. It was here Jesus revealed where one’s desire for God could be met. John 7:37-38 says, “on the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds. ‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to me. Anyone who believes in me may come and drink. For the Scriptures declare rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”

Jesus stands and shouts to grab the people’s attention. He stands and shouts because his news is that pertinent. “Is your soul thirsting for God? Come to me! Are you longing to feel God’s presence? Come to me!” Jesus invites everyone to come to him and satisfy the desire to be with God. He invites everyone to come to him to find the peace and forgiveness for which they are longing. Jesus invites the thirsty, weary traveler to find rest in him. He can grant rivers of living water for our soul.

Do you allow your soul to drink from those waters? Is Jesus a dot on your calendar or the center of your day?

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