It's All Grace

Amazing things can happen when you allow the Lord to work in your life.

Glass tongues

“If ONLY our tongues were made of glass . . . how much more careful would we be when we speak”?  by Shaun Shane

Our tongues are the strongest muscle in the body, proportionally speaking, so we can lift the spirits of our families and friends. What will you do with that which is in your mouth?  Bridle it or unleash it?  They both make a long lasting impact. Which will you choose?

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers”.  Ephesians 4:29

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue:  and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”  Proverbs 18:21

 

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What to Do When You’re Going Under

A much needed reminder as we tend to forget from one day to the next, what the Lord desires of us, and where we are to keep our eyes.
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” —Matthew 14:28-31
Whether you are four or forty, there’s nothing like a familiar and confident voice in the dark saying, “I’m here. There’s no reason to be scared.” Regardless of how many times you’ve been in a dark and unpredictable situation, hearing that voice can be the difference between sinking and safety.
Matthew 14:22-33 describes a night crossing on the Sea of Galilee when the disciples got caught in a storm. Jesus had sent them out in the boat alone. Interestingly, about half of the disciples were fishermen. They knew how dangerous the lake could be. It’s hard to know who was more afraid, those who knew what could happen or those who were wondering what would happen. Either way, there was a boatload of nervous men on the water that night.
As the wind and the waves threatened to take them under, Jesus walked by—on the water! Without a flashlight on board, all they could see was a dim figure making His way through the swells toward the boat. Their fear of the storm may have paled in comparison totheir terror over seeing a ghost! The disciples “cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid’” (vv.26–27).
Peter said to him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (v.28). He apparently concluded, If Jesus says I can walk on water, I can walk on water. As usual, Peter’s mouth and actions were about ten seconds ahead of his brain. But Jesus said, “Come,” and over the side of the boat Peter went. Imagine his wonder when the water held him up—like a kid playing on a waterbed.
Peter was doing so well, “but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me’” (vv.29–30). What went wrong? He took his eyes off the Lord. He forgot the reason he could walk among the waves. And when he did, fear entered his heart, and he started to go under.
Has that ever happen to you? When your eyes were on the Lord, life was good no matter what was going on around you. But the moment you changed your focus to the wind and waves, you began to sink.
Where are your eyes today?
If you’re going under, it may be because you are looking at the waves (of your health or the pitch and roll of your retirement funds). Maybe you’ve been listening to the howling wind (like the voices of doom and gloom constantly heard in our society). Possibly you have been taking your cues from what others are saying and doing instead of keeping your mind stayed on Christ (Isaiah 26:3).
But you can do better. Like Peter, if you get distracted and start to sink, it’s time to call out, “Lord, save me!”
What storms, winds, and waves in your life are distracting you from looking at Jesus?
What’s usually your first clue that you’ve taken your eyes off the Lord?
Lord, I don’t want every storm to feel like my first time out on the water. Help me remember all the times You have been faithful. Forgive me when I forget the constant demonstrations of Your care. Forgive the way I’m prone to wander. Forgive me when I am easily distracted. Thank You for being as patient with me as You are faithful to me. Continue to guide me toward greater faithfulness on my part. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Pastor James MacDonald
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Can You Hear Me Now?

And Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Mark 4:9

Numerous times Jesus includes the equivalent of saying, “Listen up!” when He speaks. His expression, He who has ears to hear,”makes us realize how often we use our ears for other purposes—to secure sun glasses, to keep our hats from falling over our eyes, and to hang jewelry. But we’ve got ears in order to hear. Jesus wants to provoke attention, even though He knows some will not listen.

When we look at the reasons why people don’t listen, we can group them into four categories. As you read them, do a spiritual hearing check-up by asking yourself, Am I like that?

Immaturity. People of all ages can have this problem. Immaturity is the inability to connect actions and consequences. The immature person doesn’t get it. They can’t make the connection between their choices and what comes because of those decisions. They need to discover the unbreakable law of cause and effect that God has established in the universe. If you choose to sin; you choose to suffer. That’s what’s coming. People frequently say, “I’m going to beat the odds. I’m going to cut the corners.” Then they hit a brick wall or disappear in a bottomless pit. Often, painful experience is the only effective teacher to improve an immature person’s hearing.

Rebellion. “My will. My thrill. You chill.” Those are the proud declarations of rebellion. “No one’s going to get between my will and my thrill! This is what I want to do. You back off! Don’t tell me anything.” Rebels won’t listen and they try to cut off any attempts by others to help. They are stuck in overdrive, headed for a wall—and they don’t care! But hardship and humiliation can make a rebel’s heart attentive.

Woundedness. Hidden hurts close hearts and ears. They can’t hear because something happened that left unseen scars. Sometimes in a family or a church things happen that few know about. The person holds it all inside and drifts away. They’re hurting, but don’t bring it out in the open. They can’t listen to reason because all they hear is their hidden wound.

Relationships. Peers could be the problem. Peers in the ears block fears. Warnings we should hear and be afraid of don’t register on our radar. Like a teen who feels the need for speed, with a friend in the passenger seat shouting, “GO!! GO!! GO!!!” There are many times we should be afraid, but we’re more concerned about impressing our friends and the people around us.

Most of us can relate to one or more of the reasons above. But He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Jesus’ words remind us He has spoken even when we are not listening. And His Word is always ready when we’re ready to use our ears for their designed purpose—to listen. Until we’re willing to respond to the truth He has for us, we’re not really listening.

How did you do with the hearing check-up? If you realize you are being influenced not to listen to the Lord because of one or more of these causes, it’s time to let God do some hearing correction. Ask Him to tune your ears to hear His voice.

Pastor James MacDonald

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What Are You Teaching?

Kids will develop what they “believe” based on where they are hanging out, or who they are hanging out with. Timothy was taught by his mother and grandmother.  Don’t you know that whatever those two women were excited about, he got excited too?

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When Forgiveness Isn’t Working

When you’re trying to forgive someone, don’t go around telling people how awful they were to you.  It’s hard enough not to hate someone without giving yourself a cheerleading squad.

The way to preserve peace is to make the best of everything; not to notice what has been said or done against ourselves!
“He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends. Prov. 17:9”
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Will You Quit?

Once you have homeschooled for a few months, have you found it difficult to stay motivated? Is homeschooling not quite what you expected — too much work? Giving up is not the answer — giving in to the Lord is.

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” James 1:3-4

Homeschool parents don’t always realize they are attending classes each day just like their children. God’s assignments may not be on a computer or in a workbook, but they are just as real and challenging. The basic courses of Patience for Parents, Forgiveness Forever, Endurance 101, and Sacrificial Servanthood cause us to grow more Christlike in our actions. We study the Scriptures and look for answers to new questions we face each day. We pray at test time, hoping to pass. We pray for God to grade on a curve, or at least to allow a retake.

God knows what He is doing. Both you and your children are being schooled at home. Together you will learn all the lessons of life He has prepared for you. Hang in there — it’s always too soon to quit!

“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (vs. 4).

Father, I don’t know if I have what it takes to keep homeschooling. Stretch me Lord! Help me to see those areas in my life that are slowing me down and causing me to stumble. Thank You for all You’ve done for me on the cross. Give me the strength and wisdom to keep going. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

AOP Homeschooling Devotions

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Retracting Mosquito Antennae

If we don’t look, research and educate ourselves about the Lord and HIS handiwork, we will miss SO much interesting facts about the ONE who not only created us, but created every creature and critter uniquely – ALL FOR HIS GLORY and for a purpose!

Psalm 40:5a  “Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done…”

Most people are aware that it is only the female mosquito that feeds on blood.  The male feeds on plant juices.  It is also easy to “see” the differences between male and females in most species.  The male has a distinctive pair of antennae.  While the female mosquito’s antennae are difficult to see, the male’s look like a pair of branched feathers coming out of its head.  And if it weren’t for a very special feature, these large, antennae would make it difficult for him to fly.

Each antennae is planted in a socket, next to which there is a pad made out of special protein.  This pad is actually a water-powered engine.  When flying, the mosquito’s antennae are flattened against its head.  But when he lands, he raises the antennae so that he can hear.  To raise the antennae, a small amount of water from his system is pumped into the pad that increases its size by 25 percent and causes the pad to unfold, raising the antennae.

Nature is full of so many wonders that it would be easy for us to get lost in them.  But every one of these wonders is designed by God to lead us to desire to learn more about Him — especially to learn from His Word that He wants a relationship with you through His Son, Jesus Christ.

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Why is Grace so Amazing?

But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ—by grace ye are saved—and hath raised us up together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:  That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:  it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.   —Ephesians 2:4-9

While all believers have a God-given measure of faith (Romans 12:3), what saves us is the work God’s grace accomplished in Jesus Christ.  No matter how big or small our faith, it could not be effective if God wasn’t graciously willing to save us.  We are saved by grace—through our faith in Christ.

G – God’s

– Riches

A – At

C – Christ’s

E – Expense

Scripture drives home the point: not a result of works, so that no one may boast. If it’s all God’s work by God’s grace, there’s no room to claim we contributed ANYTHING to our salvation.  Grace saving us through faith means we stop working to try to save ourselves!

Grace is unmerited favor.  It is in no way a result of your performance, your attitude, your victories, or your defeats.  Why is the fact that it is undeserved important?  If you had to earn it, you could lose it—or more likely, you would never get it in the first place.  If somehow you received salvation because of what you did, it wouldn’t be grace.  It would be wages or reward.

One of the ways we show the world how God’s grace is amazing is by living out that grace, as well as returning it to others.  We fall.  We get up.  We fall.  We get up.  Why do we get up again?  Because His grace allows us to endure.  His grace makes His strength available to us.  His grace will be sufficient no matter what we meet each day.

Whether you have been living in victory or defeat, if you are in Christ, God has graciously set His love upon you.  And that is truly amazing!

God’s grace is like an ambulance.  That ambulance does not arrive at your address, unless you have first humbled yourself acknowledging your need for help and assistance.  God gives grace to the humble.  (James 4:6)

** If you had to describe your own experience of God’s grace, where would you start?

When we realize just how much grace HE has poured out on our lives, we are humbled.

Lord, Your grace is amazing to me because the more I understand what You have done for me, apart from anything I could have ever done, the more I am convinced of my own helplessness.  Thank You that though I was lost, You came and found me.  I was sold into sin, but You bought me back.  I was a determined rebel, but You won me over.  This was all You.  I’m looking forward to an eternity of appreciating just how amazing Your grace has been toward me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Rat Language: More than Meets the Ear

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork…There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.”  Psalm 19:1,3

It was once thought that language was a relatively late development in the evolution of man.  Language among the lower animals was dismissed as a fantasy.  So, when the Bible speaks of the whole creation praising God, these same people said that this was just a figurative expression.  Now modern science has shown that many creatures DO have a language of their own — language that, we point out, can also be used to praise the Creator.

The human ear can detect sounds between 20 and 20,000 vibrations per second.  Many creatures that we once thought silent are busy communicating in sounds well above this range of frequencies, and we just don’t hear them.  Scientists have cataloged many of the calls of Norway rats that communicate at 70,000 vibrations per second and conclude that they have the richest vocabulary of calls with specific meanings.  Young rat pups screech a distress call that reaches the same volume as a jack hammer; yet, we are not able to hear it.

There is an advantage for these small rodents having such a high-pitched language.  Even though many predators, like cats, can easily hear these frequencies, the loudest call does not travel far enough to give away the location of the nest.

Language is a gift from our Creator; therefore, it is only fitting that the entire creation has language with which to praise Him!

Lord, help me to use my lips and voice in praising and thanking YOU at all times!

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Choose the Right Entrance

Matthew 7:13-14  “Enter ye in at the strait gate:  for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

The gate is wide and stands open.  You may go in this gate with all your lusts about you; it gives no checks to appetites or passions.  It is a broad way and there are many paths

The way to eternal life is narrow.  We are not in heaven as soon as we enter through the strait gate.  Self must be denied and corruptions mortified.  Daily temptations resisted; duties must be done as we will go through trials and sufferings.

We go through gates of many kinds.  However, some are more like turnstiles.  You know, like at airports and amusement parks?  Most of the time, they are one-way.  You go in and you don’t back out.

Jesus tells us to “enter by the narrow gate”.  He also speaks about the way being hard is the way that leads to life.   Going through a narrow gate in itself is uncomfortable, and now He tells us the way will also be hard.  Expect it.

There is also a wide gate. Many will go through this gate because it is easy.  It won’t require much of us.  We won’t feel uncomfortable and rarely ever make a sacrifice.  We will always be accepted by others.  All you need to do is say a prayer, admire Jesus, and say you believe in love.  It’s lazy and lets you move along with the current.  It’s what we do naturally.  But what does Jesus say it leads to?  Death.  Eternal death.

I had a friend one time who made a “profession of faith” and when things began to get difficult…I mean really hard…she told me, “If this is what Christianity is all about, YOU CAN HAVE IT!  I DON’T WANT ANY PART OF IT!”  After gasping at what she had said, I was stunned then sickened as I immediately thought to myself, “have I given her the wrong image of Christ?”  Since then, I have come to realize that there are people everywhere who want a ticket to heaven…but they want the easy road.

Many Christians think that trusting Jesus as their Savior makes life easy, and now that they have Christ, there will be nothing but smooth sailing.  That’s not what Jesus has told us – yet the contrary.  We will be constricted.  We will need to believe things we cannot see.  We will have to forgive those who hurt us, and be kind to those who really irritate us.  We will have to say no to some things that others are free to do.  We will be mocked, made fun of, and slandered.  We will standout and be very different at times when we wish we could just blend in with the crowd.  We may even lose our life.

What do we get as Christians?  Well, everything.  Even through all the difficulties we will encounter we can live with joy and peace.  We will have courage when others would cave in fear.  And best of all, we have the promise from One that cannot lie.  We have the hope of life eternal in His very presence.  I would say that’s worth some discomfort.

You have to choose:  narrow or wide?

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