Grace Wins

I was recently thinking about the concept of grace and usually when people talk about grace, they talk about about the undeserved favour of God and somehow sin always works its way into conversations about grace. Grace is presented as something we receive in spite of our sins, a blessing of God that puts us in this state where our sins are “covered” or rather the just punishment for our sins are stayed. A famous grace vs sin scripture is the famous question posed by apostle Paul, “Shall we continue in sin so grace may abound? (Romans 6:1)”

And while the depiction of grace as the unmerited favour of God which stays punishment of sin is true- for we are saved by grace through faith, grace plays a bigger role in the grace vs. sin dialogue. It is not only there for after the fact of sin; it actually plays a big role before that sin even happens.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good

Titus 2: 11- 14 NIV

In short, grace does not only offer salvation. It helps us to continue in that salvation until the we meet the Lord. It teaches us to renounce the things that pull us back into the old way of life, or things that gratify our worldly desires. So next time you feel that internal struggle whether or not to act in a manner that you know displeases God, that is grace at work. And whenever we submit our will to God and we allow the Holy spirit to lead us, grace wins! I leave you with the lyrics of this song by Matthew West titled “Grace wins”… Enjoy!

In my weakest moment I see you
Shaking your head in disgrace
I can read the disapointment
Written all over your face

Here comes those whispers in my ear
Saying who do you think you are
Looks like you’re on your own from here
Cause grace could never reach that far

But, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I’m down but I’m not out

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time

No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time

Words can’t describe the way it feels
When mercy floods a thirsty soul
A broken side begins to heal
And grace returns what guilt has stole

And, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I’m down but I’m not out

For the prodigal son, grace wins
For the woman at the well, grace wins
For the blind man and the beggar, grace wins
For always and forever, grace wins
For the lost out on the street, grace wins
For the worst part of you and me, grace wins
For the thief on the cross, grace wins
For a world that is lost, grace wins

Yours Truly

Hell0 2022!

Dear readers, we made it to 2022! At the end of every year, my husband and I set aside 3 days to reflect on our year, pray, and then set goals for the new year. 2021’s end-of-year reflections led to some encouragements from the scripture and my commitments which I would like to share with you:

God has started me on the course of this year with a mandate to be intentional about my thinking (Phil 4:8) and to be intentional about being holy and walk a spirit-filled life (Isaiah 4: 2-4; Isaiah 6: 5-7). He does not promise a problem-free 2022 but what He promises is to be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain (Isaiah 4:6). He promises that his grace will be enough and his strength will prevail through the uncertainties. He encourages me to bring my doubts and fears to him and not allow my experiences to shape my beliefs but rather that my beliefs shape the lenses through which I view all my experiences in this year (Isaiah 7:9). And finally and more importantly, He gives the blessing of His presence- He is the God of 2022.

“Do not be afraid, be strong and courageous, do not be dismayed, be careful and keep calm and do not lose heart. For I will be with you wherever you go. I will be your Emmanuel” (Joshua 1:9; Isaiah 7:4)

My anchor scripture for you for this year is from Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging

PSALM 46:1-3 NIV

Now regarding my commitments to you- last year one of my goals was to write and post at least one blog/ week and frankly, I failed woefully. This year I want to take on that goal again but also be intentional about my writing and posting schedule. What you can expect to see is at least one post every week on Mondays. I will also be launching a complementary podcast titled ‘Intentionally Me’ to accompany each post in the next few weeks- this way, this post can come to you in whatever manner you find convenient. Remember you can also subscribe to this site so that every post is delivered to your email on schedule.

I look forward to a fruitful 2022 of sharing my walk with God and together being intentional in living our our faith. Be encouraged! The Lord your God is with you!

Yours Truly

https://anchor.fm/intentionally-me/episodes/Hello-2022-e1d0ct3

Advent Calendar day 22: Season with Salt

Have you ever had a conversation about someone or something and felt worse afterwards? This year, a few of my conversations felt that way. There were lots of situations that I had very strong opinions about and did not hesitate to voice them out but I always seemed to feel less unburdened and more ungodly afterwards. I always felt like I had let myself down because of the flavour of those conversations which in my opinion were irreverent. Today’s readings is an admonishing about this exact issue:

But avoid irreverent, empty chatter, which will only lead to more ungodliness,

2 Tim 2:16 BSB

As the year comes to an end and I start reflecting on how I can be better in the new year, this will definitely be something I would watch out for: empty, idle, and godless chatter and babbling about people and situations and instead try to be flavour my conversations with grace and season it with salt.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:6 NIV

I have always wondered what it means to season one’s conversation with salt- I assume it was an expression that came from the ancient Near East. To take it literally, I look at the function of salt in adding taste, adding flavour, and preserving and I think this is what conversations with every one I encounter should be like. People should walk away feeling enriched and with their dignity preserved and that is what seasoning my conversations with salt mean to me. What does that statement mean to you?

Yours Truly

Advent Devotions day 3: But Grace!

This year I shared with you some of my worst days ever. Circumstances brought out the worst in me- I was angry a lot, frustrated a lot, complained a lot, secretly cussed people off in my heart a lot, and called people “idiots” more times than I would like to admit. Yes I know, those were not some of my finest moments and yet, God never decreased his grace and mercy upon my life. All year round, through my best days and my worst, God’s love remained constant and He did not deal with me like I deserved. Instead he saw me through His eyes of mercy and His grace covered me.

In today’s readings Paul eloquently shares this same sentiment:

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

1Timothy 1: 12-14 NIV

Yes, we know Paul who was once Saul of Tarsus, was not a great guy. He was very strongly opinionated as many of us are and did terrible things to the Church of Christ because of the things he once believed to be true. Frankly we have all been there… I have been judgmental, I have acted holier-than-thou and sometimes I have been a downright know-it-all. But the great news is that even Paul to whom at some point Jesus had to say to, “you have persecuted me enough.. haba!” (paraphrasing Acts 9:5)- even that Paul found grace and mercy.

God poured out his grace upon Paul abundantly; how much more you and I? There is nothing, absolutely nothing that you or I can do to deserve this grace and yet it is poured out for us so freely each and every day. Think back over the year… Can you identify specific areas where God’s grace was abundantly poured on you? Let’s give God praise for his unmerited grace and mercy.

Yours Truly

How will you bow?

Lets start with an exercise: Think about your best image of God. Who is He? What is He like? How would you describe Him to a 3-year old? For the past few weeks I have been reading the book of Job and although this will be at least the third time I have read this book, I am seeing it from such a new perspective. Job talks about God’s superiority and sovereignty in ways that are both awe-inspiring but can also leave you feeling very helpless before this powerful God. He says things like:

“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. What he tears down cannot be rebuilt; those he imprisons cannot be released. If he holds back the waters, there is drought; if he lets them loose, they devastate the land. To him belong strength and insight; both deceived and deceiver are his. He leads rulers away stripped and makes fools of judges. He takes off the shackles put on by king and ties a loincloth around their waist. He leads priests away stripped and overthrows officials long established. He silences the lips of trusted advisers and takes away the discernment of elders. He pours contempt on nobles and disarms the mighty. He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light. He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them. He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason; he makes them wander in a trackless waste. They grope in darkness with no light; he makes them stagger like drunkards.” Job 12:13-35 NIV.

Job and his friends described the God-man relationship in a manner where God is this inapproachable powerful being. They described God by his deeds; the things they had seen or heard or imagined Him do. Similarly, the Israelites’ perspectives of God versus that of Moses were very different. The Israelites looked to God for things: the meeting of their physical needs of food, water, shelter; protection from their enemies; healing from diseases and so on and so forth. The Israelites only knew God for his deeds but Moses’ relationship was different. He actually knew God for who he truly was.

He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel.

Psalm 103:7 NLT

Job’s characterizations of his relationship with God so far (up until Job 12 that is) is nothing compared to our modern-day- live-under-grace characterizations. While everything Job says about God’s nature is truth, God still invites us by virtue of grace into relationship where we can know him for who He truly is . Unfortunately instead of grace giving us the advantage of a deeper relationship where we can know God beyond our needs, many of us relegate God to the position of all powerful being who we call upon when we cannot figure out things for ourselves. This genie-in -the-bottle mentality pedaled as the essence of Christianity and preached as the “prosperity” gospel (although many of us will not deign to admit that we treat God this way) only serves to rob us of having a deeper connection to our amazing God.

This week in church the pastor made a statement that inspired this post. Now for some mental exercise:

Come back to your image of who God is and picture this: You are standing before God at the end of your time here on earth and then in enters Jesus in all his majestic splendor. In accordance with the scripture says that “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…Phil 2: 10ESV” you WILL bow, but how will you bow? Will you bow in reverent worship and recognition of the great King with whom you had formed a relationship with while you walked the earth? Will you bow in excitement that you’ve finally made it across the other side of eternity and you can finally get to see the full image of God who had been showing glimpses of himself to you all through your journey on earth? Will it be like meeting a date for the first time after years of zoom calls and facetiming? OR will you bow in abject terror of this God because your “genie” turned out to be nothing like you imagined? Will your knees buckle at the realization that you missed out on the great opportunity earth afforded you to get to know God and now you are in the presence of a stranger? Would you bow in shame, pleadingly asking for mercy?

So here’s the question of the week: How will you bow?

Yours Truly

P.S. The food box is going great! I will do a post about it in a few weeks but for those of you eager to hear about it: it has inspired something within the community and people have anonymously thrown in cans of food. Thanks to all who have donated so far and to all who have encouraged me through prayer and kind words. Together, we are on mission for God!

The big “V”

Vulnerability, the big V is something that you seldom see in churches. As far as I know…church leaders have never sinned in their lives! They never get discouraged…! They never feel like God has let them down…! Oh, and they do not get sick…! I grew up with this mentality of being a Christian and especially as one who was involved in church leadership. I always had to have it together and be well-composed especially for those who look up to me.

I recently listened to a TED talk by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability and I will summarize what I learned and how I apply it to my walk with God.  From Brene’s research which spanned over a decade she discovered that:

We are hardwired  as humans for connection however, there is one thing that unravels connection in society and this is shame. Shame is simply a fear of disconnection. “Is there something about me that if people knew then i won’t be worthy of connection?” [This reminds me of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they sinned; they hid from the presence of God because they were filled with fear and shame].

Shame is universal and is underpinned by vulnerability. Vulnerability is not comfortable or excruciating but it is necessary, and yet people struggle with it so much. According to Brene, we deal with vulnerability by numbing the grief, the shame, the fear, the disappointment, but unfortunately, we are not wired to selectively numb some emotions and leave out others. When we numb all the bad stuff we also numb joy, happiness, peace. We make the uncertain certain- so religion which used to be “I believe in faith and mystery” becomes “I am right, you are wrong. shut up!” We pretend that everything is ok and that the things we do does not have an impact on others.

Through her research, Brene discovered another set of people: A group of people who live life wholeheartedly and have a strong sense of belonging. What she found that those people had in common were that they had courage (to be imperfect), compassion ( to be kind to themselves first, and then to others), connection (the willingness to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were) and finally vulnerability.

Brene discovered that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and unworthiness but it also is the birthplace of joy, creativity, of belonging,  and of love. After listening to this talk I wanted to see what the bible says about vulnerability and I was led to many scriptures but I will highlight a few:

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  • Romans 7:23-24
  • 2 Corinthians 13:4
  • James 5:16
  • 1 Corinthians 2:3-4
  • 2 Corinthians 11: 27-30
  • 2 Corinthians 4: 7

If you read those scriptures you will see a common trend. Vulnerability is about declaring our weakness before others and before God. This allows God’s grace to flow. When we are weak, we leave room for grace to pour in. I will take Brene’s conceptualization a little further to say vulnerability is the birthplace of grace. It is the portal that allows us to receive more of God’s grace in our lives.  I am reminded of a parable of Jesus:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. Luke 18:9-14 NIV

The pharisee would not allow himself to be vulnerable even in the place of prayer to take a hard long look at his life. And when you contrast the Pharisee with the tax collector, the tax collector encountered grace and was justified (for we are justified by grace through faith.. Romans 3:23-25). I believe Brene was on to something here: those things that bring us shame, fear of disconnection, and unworthiness in other words those things that make us vulnerable are the things that we need to be the most real about with ourselves (because you cannot lie to yourself), to God (because He knows all things) and to others (because vulnerability in the place of confession with prayer, brings healing)

I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

Yours Truly.

P.S. you can listen to the Brene’s TEDtalk by clicking here