Archives for category: Moving at the Speed of Grace

To everyone who follows this GraceTribe blog, I hope you have moved over with us to normanramsey.com and our new self-hosted site. Please forgive any limitations or shortcomings you find there. Our new site is a work in progress and an opportunity to move forward to repentance.

What do I mean by that? The way of grace begins in repentance. We are called to believe in the Lord Jesus and share in a new prognosis God makes for our lives when we walk by faith. Then, we build up our most holy faith through prayer and all the means of grace to share in responsibility with the Holy Spirit for being conformed into the image of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is our new coach and director as we are called to bless others. When something’s got to give, we bring life by laying down our lives for the sake of the gospel. We breakthrough into newness of life.  This newness compels us to move forward to further align ourselves with the Lord.

We move forward to repentance now instead of back and forth on the pendulum of a sinner’s disposition. We have been made saints of God who are marching forward under the Good Shepherd’s leadership.

One of those expressions of God’s work in my life is learning how to communicate the gospel through the internet. Thus, this invitation to follow our new website for the daily GraceTribe blog and in the future much more.

I look forward to hearing from you and knowing you are part of the GraceTribe.

practiceWhen I was growing up we were told, “Practice makes perfect.” It wasn’t until later when my band director then my preaching professor told me, “Practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”  So what did I learn from that? Don’t be sloppy in my practice unless I want to be permanently sloppy in my performance. Don’t limit yourself by how or what you practice. Make sure, as the great golfer Ben Hogan said, practice always leads to improvement.

Now, take that wisdom and apply it to your general approach to things instead of learning a specific skill. Are you well practiced at being patient? Do you have faith and grace enough to trust God to work everything together for your good? Do you have enough to trust others and be a part of a process, be a part of a conversation, to improve things?

Or, are you well practiced at being paranoid? Jumping to conclusions?  Prejudging and then planting seeds of betrayal and bias into any process or conversation of which you are a part?

Unfortunately, I’ve practiced both in my lifetime but I am asking God for both me and you to stand ready from this moment forward to, as the New King James version of Luke 22: 19 puts it, “By your patience, possess your souls.” Or, as the NIV reads, “Stand firm and you will win life.”  Yes, let’s be well practiced in the things that lead us to share in Christ’s victory!

outoforderYou see this sign and what do you immediately know: something isn’t working correctly or is broken and needs to be repaired.

I was reading an article by Mike Adams on Townhall.com when I began to think of other ways we are hurt by getting things out of order. You’ve heard the old expression, ‘getting the cart before the horse’, but putting things in that order really is a funky way of moving a cart around, especially if it’s loaded.

Putting feelings before our will/our faith.  Feelings or emotions are the last things that should guide any decisions we make or conclusions we draw.  When we forsake our will and its adherence to the Truth of God’s Word to how we feel about people and things, we will always fall short of the truth. How? By focusing our aim on something that falls short to begin with. Not one of us is perfect or completely right so why would I allow my will to settle for falling short because I might feel better about it.  In the end, feelings don’t account for much. If I feel great about myself but I don’t trust Jesus, I’m still lost even though I feel good about where I am. If I feel terrible about myself but I don’t trust Jesus, I’m still lost even though I’ll be depressed when I die. Have faith in God and let your feelings follow.

Putting the praise of people ahead of the praise of God. This is a close cousin of  putting feelings ahead of our faith. Who is going to validate your life? Who tells you you’re good? If it’s people, know that you will be aiming at a moving target for what is an approved response.  If it’s God, know that the standard you seek to attain will be the same: yesterday, today, and forever, though not popular at given times, seasons, or places.

Putting convenience before our commitments. How many good things could we have accomplished if we didn’t give in to procrastination or momentary laziness?  How many times have we excused ourselves from following commitments by saying we will catch up to them later?

Making decisions and commenting on subjects before seeking the Lord in prayer.  How many complaints and conflicts can be diffused before they begin by simply asking the complainer or the conspirator, “How have you been praying about this?”  “What part of the Scripture led you to this conclusion or course of action?”

If you would like to add to this list, please do. How do things get out of order in your life or in the lives of ones you love?  Help me know where the turn-around battle needs to be fought.

Remember, being out of order is meant to be a temporary situation. There is nothing, by grace through faith, that can’t be restored or turned around.

encouragerWho have you encouraged, today?  Another person? Yourself?

Were your eyes open wide enough to see that moment when you could show mercy and act with kindness toward someone?

To the one you cut short or cut off, did you go back and apologize? Did it occur to you that they were already disappointed in themselves for what they missed?  Was it a help for you to double the impact of their disappointment?

Correction can rise from two different roots: the law or grace.  We all try to avoid being corrected by the law. I mean, the last thing anyone wants to see are those flashing blue lights in your rear view mirror.

But, when someone brings correction out of love there is no lasting grief or regret. We are pulled closer to where we need to be together.

The law drives a wedge between the one correcting and the one being corrected. Grace drops an anchor that allows us both to be steadfast no matter how stormy it gets.

Again, just checking, who have you encouraged, today?

refreshingHow do we avoid long dry spells? What do we do when we know we’ve reached a stalemate somewhere between faith and joy? We’re not doing anything wrong. We may have grown weary from doing the right thing repetitively. Jesus has prayed for us so we don’t get stuck in the middle of faith and joy and call it peace. Jesus has prayed for our joy to be full. So, how can we revive our joy and keep things fresh?

  1. We can make sure we’re abiding in Christ. We have habits that daily connect or reconnect us with Jesus.  We may need to designate space and time each day to ensure that happens. I remember when as a young boy, we worked the fields on the farm. Getting tired was inevitable. Feeling word down happened all the time. Because we knew it was going to happen, we always reserved a shady spot to set the ice cold water  and snacks. Reaching the end of a row we could take a quick break, take in that refreshment, feel a little bit of a breeze, and then get back at it.
  2. We can ask for revival and renewal in Jesus’ name. Turning to the Lord in repentance and prayer always opens us to a special season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3: 19)
  3. We can learn something new, especially something new about the gracious way God works in our lives. “I keep my eyes always on the LORD… You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16: 8a, 11)
  4. We can find someone who appreciates what we’re doing. If we’re getting tired doing the right thing, we can find someone who has been encouraged or blessed by our faithfulness. It’s not that hard to do and if you can’t find a human being handy, then ask the Lord to share through the Holy Spirit and remind you of the prize you are pursuing and the reward you will receive.

Which way helps you get your joy restored and elevated?  What’s the last thing you learned that reignited and awakened your joy?  Do you have people around you that affirm your gifts and strengths?

whenGodspeaksLast night, as we concluded our time of prayer and sharing of concerns, I was led to read from Isaiah 43. By led, I mean I knew there was a scripture I was supposed to read and opened my Bible to Isaiah 43. Before I could look any further, the leader of our prayer time called on me to read, so I did.

“But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior’…” (Isaiah 43: 1 – 3a)

As I read through the first 13 verses, I thought to myself, this really is a word from the Lord. How could I tell? How do we determine if the ‘word’ which impresses us is from the Lord?

  1. When God speaks, God’s unique authority is affirmed. There is no one else like God. This is why we affirm Jesus is Lord. No one can do the things He does: heal, forgive sins, have authority over nature, rise from the dead unless He shares in the unique authority of the Almighty. Jesus is the only-begotten. If you want a good translation or paraphrase for that term think – ‘the only way this can happen’.  Thus, the only begotten of the Father becomes the only way the Father is manifest among us. This is why, if God is speaking, the resurrection of Jesus and the authority of Jesus as Lord is confessed.
  2. When God speaks we are authorized for action. We will have the witness of the Holy Scripture and the witness and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to overcome our doubts and fears.  We will be prompted to see, touch, speak, and share in some concrete way. It may not make complete sense to us but we will hear enough to take a step.  Obey in that one step and more will be revealed and that first word confirmed through some sign of the truth being revealed and received, or through some sign of healing or deliverance occurring. Don’t come up short of this evidence by failing to act in faith.
  3. When God speaks, our attitude is appraised in a way that moves us towards humility and faith.  Be wary of those ‘words’ you think are from the Lord that are all sweetness and light or blessing and favor. Without fail, when the word from God is 100% encouragement, you should already know you face trouble and tribulation in the present and in the future and God alone will save and deliver you.

beginwiththeendinmindLook to Romans 8: 28 – 30 and the first summation of God’s way of grace I ever observed. The end of all God’s work is for those whom God has called to be glorified.  What does that mean? The Apostle Paul describes it in verse 39 as being unable to be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Lord’s Prayer describes being glorified as being delivered from evil. (Matthew 6: 13) The path of blessing describes it as receiving peace. (Numbers 6: 26)

As far as the afterlife is concerned, it is as if we are already there. Psalm 23 describes it as dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23: 6)

Putting on the armor of God has us wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6: 17) The picture of us matches the picture of Jesus in Revelation 1: 16, “out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”  Is it any wonder now we are to be called the children of light? “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5: 8)

Begin with the end in mind. Repent. Align yourself with the Lord. Completely surrender to God’s call upon your life in Jesus Christ. Your life from this day forward is for God’s purpose.  God has a new prognosis for the outcome of our lives: “whoever believes in him (Jesus) shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3: 16)

All of God’s precious promises, the first of which is the Holy Spirit, begin to shape our lives. The Word of God instructs us how to be the handiwork of God, our lives shaped and orchestrated to conform to Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2: 10) Then, as we cooperatively make use of all of God’s means of grace, God calls us again.  This time there’s a ministry into which God is sending us.

We represent the Lord as witnesses and ambassadors. We do not push our own agenda or look for some earthly cause to which we associate. The hand of God is upon us. The influence of the kingdom flows into everything we do and God looks to our activity and it is well pleasing in God’s sight. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing it.

Finally, we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High”, we “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”. (Psalm 91: 1) When we love the Lord, the Lord says, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him” (Psalm 91: 14 – 15)

Another way of translating, ‘honor’ is ‘make glorious’. Yes, that is the end of God’s work in us. Let’s begin with that end in mind.