agents of grace

Anyone who receives you receives me,
and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. [Matthew 10:40 NLT]

I wonder what Jesus saw on his disciples faces as he spoke to them?
How did they respond to his words about being persecuted and rejected?
What did they think about this mission that he was sending them on?

Perhaps he was, in this verse, assuring them that they were being sent out as ambassadors?
And that their kingdom mission was not only prophetic but helpful for those they touched.
Good words to think of when we remember that we are ambassadors of divine grace.

The Greek word for grace is χάρις or charis and for grace-gift it is xárisma or charisma.
In the scriptures grace is often portrayed as God working through his children.
I think that this is the normal way that the Lord dispenses grace into the world.

For sure there is an all encompassing grace that is directly bestowed in salvation.
Yet even in salvation, one normally hears of grace through a person's grace-gift.
Paul writes to the Romans of salvation coming through the grace-gift of preaching.

When I consider the word grace, I am more and more convinced of it's practicality.
When grace is needed, it normally comes through God working through a person.
It makes sense when one considers that spiritual gifts are given to be used to help others.

Consider the grace-gifts that Paul writes of in the twelfth chapter of Romans.
When I hear of the gift of healing I think of one person being used to heal another.
He writes of how a grace-gift can bring about the miraculous intervention of God.

Grace is something that we receive so that we can give it away.
The world, people, need the manifestation of grace and grace-gifts.
Our mission should be to be agents of divine grace to a lost and hurting world.

Thank you for grace Lord. Help me to be used as an instrument of your grace today.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

phony godliness

Whoever knows Me here on earth, I will know him in heaven. And whoever proclaims faith in Me here on earth, I will proclaim faith in him before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me here, I will disown before My Father in heaven. [Matthew 10:32-33 VOICE]

It is often said that Christianity is more about a relationship than a belief system.
This verse seems to testify to that aspect of the faith.
Those who know God witness, by their words and actions, to a relationship with him.

In contrast, religious folks who do not know God seem to live differently.
The Pharisees, religious leaders of Jesus' day, are good examples of such people.
In a letter to Timothy Paul describes such people as having a form of godliness.

The apostle goes on to tell Timothy that such people deny the power of true godliness.
In essence, true godliness is best revealed by people who manifest the Spirit's fruit.
These folks reflect the love, patience, kindness, forgiveness, goodness and peace of God.

Jesus is the yardstick and plumb line by which all godliness is measured.
Our godliness should reflect the power of God that we see in his life and teachings.
If it does not, then we are living a phony and impotent form of godliness.

I repent of my phony godliness Lord. Open the eyes of my heart to real godliness.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

the life of sparrows

Not one sparrow (What do they cost? Two for a penny?) can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t worry! You are more valuable to him than many sparrows. [Matthew 10:29-31 TLB]

I love the way that this passage speaks about the enormity and the smallness of God.
Nothing happens, not even the death of a bird, that he does not know about.
Despite this amazing ability to know all things, God actually knows us individually.

There is a holy and eternal aspect to ones who have been born from above.
A stark contrast to the temporal and finite existence of sparrows.
Birds, like the unregenerate person, have nothing in them that survives death.

Yet many embrace the idea that all humans have been born immortal.
These think that everyone survives death - some heading to heaven and some to hell.
They have embraced ideas that have their origins in Egyptian and Greek thought.

That said, I am not really wanting to debate immortality or life after death.
What jumps out at me is how Jesus is addressing the fear and worry of his disciples.
He tells them not to worry because he knows the future and he knows his Father.

That last part gives me much comfort because I also know the Father.
Not to say that I never worry - I sometimes do when bad things happen.
Yet I am able to lean into God and trust him because I know him and his nature.

Help us Lord to let go of control and trust you instead of worrying.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

going public

Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now. [Matthew 10:26 MSG]

Going public can be an extremely difficult thing to do.
For years, fears of scorn, ridicule and judgment kept gay Christians in the closet.
And for a very long time, the Roman Catholic denomination has covered up child abuse.

Being transparent about life, failures, mistakes and sins can be a very risky business.
For sure, there will be some who will judge you if you reveal yourself to them.
Many will try to fix you. Some will reject you. Few will embrace everything that is you.

Yet there is a freedom to be experienced when we blow the whistle on our secrets.
Keeping lies and secrets can weigh heavily on our hearts and our minds.
Having people in our lives that love us helps us to be transparent.

In reality, people cannot help share your pain if you stay closed in.
Many friends see our pain and want to simply share it with you.
I think that these loved ones are agents of God's grace to us.

So take a step towards transparency and find a friend that you can be real with.
Take a baby step. Share something small with them. Their reaction will guide you.
If your transparency elicits transparency then you have found a true friend.

Lead me Lord in ways that help me to transparent and real with my friends.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

a response to malignment

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. [Matthew 10:24-25 ESV]

These are sobering statements when you consider the way that Jesus was maligned.
He was persecuted and murdered by people who did not receive him or his ministry.
When I think about being like Jesus I think about this passage from Isaiah 53:
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
These words speak beautifully to the idea that being like Jesus is definitely not about externals.
Faith is all about having an inner strength and perspective that endures the bad treatment of others.
We are not above our teacher and as such:
  • we must forgive and not despair when we are mistreated;
  • we must not lose hope when we grieve the loss of ones dear to us;
  • we must cling to the goodness that is Christ when evil is all around us.
As we serve the Lord, it is incumbent on us to understand this aspect of discipleship.
Our attitude should embrace the idea that some will malign our motives and intentions.
Even so, our lives must be like the One who forgave those who murdered him on a cross.

Lord help me to be like you. Encourage me when I am rejected and suffer. I need you.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

spiritual survival

“When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived. [Matthew 10:21-23 MSG]

Love how The Message uses the word survivor as it paraphrases passage.
Other translations use words like endure or persevere to communicate Christ's message.
These words seem to beautifully describe what it means to be a Jesus follower.

US Senator John McCain died yesterday leaving us with a clear vision of survival.
For five and a half years he was brutally tortured in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp.
John had every reason to be cynical and angry towards the country that sent him to war.

Yet John came out of that POW camp better and spiritually healthier than he went in.
Instead of giving in to dark emotions he chose the path of optimism and hope.
His service then, and in the years following, revealed the true heart of a survivor.

John led the way in making peace with his one time captors when he returned to Vietnam.
Refusing to succumb to feelings of bitterness and thoughts of revenge he created hope.
I think that John showed us in his life what it really mean to be a spiritual survivor.

So I think that we should read this passage remembering what it means to endure.
If we endure horrific events and carry with us anger or bitterness, we have not survived.
Yet if we find faith, hope, forgiveness and compassion - then we have embraced survival.

Lord. We put aside everything that weighs us down. We press on with hope.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

spiritual words

The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words. [Matthew 10:20 MSG]

Jesus is giving instructions to his disciples about their mission trips to neighboring areas.
He has told them that they will be questioned and maybe even brought before authorities.
In this context it is easy to see why the Lord needed to assure them about how to respond.

In truth, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through us is more difficult than it seems.
We all want the process to be easier and the words to flow naturally from us.
Hear what Jesus says about this phenomenon from the seventh chapter of John.
He who believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Me], as the Scripture has said, ‘From his innermost being will flow continually rivers of living water.’
Faith changes everything - the way that we act and the way that we speak.
When we trust in the Lord, we are patient and exercise faith in hard times.
In essence, God will supply the words if we will patiently listen for his voice.

Patience can be the hardest quality to nurture but perhaps the most valuable one.
Yet long-suffering, a synonym for the word, requires letting go of control.
I have found that it is so easy to 'say what is on my mind' rather than to be patient.

There is a pure wisdom in waiting to speak as we wait on words to come from our heart
Yet often our words more resemble folly because they come from our heads.
In contrast words flowing from our innermost being are transformative and life giving.

Teach me to wait Lord. Help me to speak words of life and encouragement.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.