GRACE BLOG DEVOTIONALS

 

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Service With A Smile!



“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of The Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

In the past, a visit to my in-laws was usually a treat for us, a pampering experience in the least. My mommy-in-law would plan ahead and make sure she would have at least one thing that would please each individual and would tingle every taste bud in my family.

Today, at their golden age, we have the privilege of serving them. Our most recent visit left me with more satisfaction than I ever thought I could experience. For the first time, I was allowed to take over my second mother’s kitchen. A woman’s kitchen is a very personal space. Not just anyone is allowed in my kitchen, messing with my things. So I know the honor that was vested in me this day.

When I was meal preparing, looking through cabinets, searching for tools and the like, I couldn’t help but feel I was finally giving back. And it felt deeply satisfying. Is this the fulfillment of that which Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive?” I have served others in many capacities in the past, but never felt so overwhelmed by the joy of serving as I did serving my precious in-laws. I know it is, in part, because I’m desperately seeking to frame each minute I spend with them and making sure I breath in each moment to permanently store it in the depths of my heart.

Nevertheless, I do believe His promise of being more blessed in giving will only become a palpable reality when we step forward to serve the weak; when we put self wishes and desires on hold in order to meet the need of our neighbor. You can have the best job in the world, earn a really good salary with benefits and a sweet paid vacation package, buy yourself all the latest technology and yet if serving is not at all in your radar, you miss out the greatest treasure you could ever grab a hold of, the blessing of your Heavenly Father.

We won’t always feel like serving. Sometimes we do it out of obligation, or because we have no choice. Oh but what a fountain of refreshing water awaits us at the other side of obedience and servanthood! It is not the flesh that will be rewarded or else we would glory in our own self righteousness. It is our spirit that receives the reward, and our soul that is grown a little more each time we give or serve joyfully and wholeheartedly. I promise you, you will not be a vessel large enough to contain all of the joy He will pour inside of you.

by Carmen Tanski
blogger of life


Husbands Love your Wives.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Ephesians 5:25-28 (ESV)

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1Peter 3:7 (ESV)

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I’m sitting in an empty parking lot waiting for my husband to come to the rescue. Finding myself in need of rescue seems to be a recurring theme in my life. Today it’s a flat tire (I really have to learn how to change a tire). I could start listing but it suffices to say that my husband has rescued me from quite a few self-induced potential catastrophes during the span of our marriage. There was the runaway dumpster that attacked my car once (ahem… I drove right into it), and the time he had to break into our house because I locked both our house keys inside and who could forget the time he had to push me around Disney World in a wheelchair because I nearly broke my ankle trying to sport some cute wedges one fateful Sunday morning?… I sure can’t. Ok, one more…my teeth…oh my, we should get them insured. We’ve paid for more dental work than anyone I know and I’m still spitting out teeth!

So I’m a disaster waiting to happen, don’t judge! No one’s perfect folks. The point is I’m grateful for my husband. He’s a take charge kind of guy. A man’s man and apparently, exactly what I need. I admit that the idea of needing to be rescued isn’t something I’m crazy about (mainly because I have to admit that (a) I most likely did something I wasn’t supposed to and (b) that there is not much I can do to get out of said situation myself…ouch). And I know that many women don’t like the idea of a man rescuing them from anything, call me old fashioned. Is chivalry really dead? If so, is that how we want it? Is there a place for it within the biblical concept of marriage? I know this whole biblical marriage thing is a big controversy to begin with, even in the church and I have to admit I have had my share of struggles with it. The question at hand is, what, if anything does my being a disaster in waiting have to do with the whole matter? Well, I did a little digging…

…Husbands live with your wives in an understanding way…

Oh my, my, my have I tested my husband in this area. I mean, the dumpster situation alone was enough to send him into hysterics, but it didn’t. I’m always amazed at how he manages to keep his cool when I cost us hundreds of dollars in repairs…I’ve blown two car engines and a transmission. This is definitely not my first flat tire and once I crashed our brand new car as I drove it out of the dealership. Yep. Believe it. He was definitely not happy about that one but he didn’t yell, belittle or overreact. He just rolled with it. On a more serious note, I’ve been very open about the fact that I struggle with panic disorder and GAD. In this area I can say my husband has been a rock for me. Never has he told me to “deal with it” or “get over it”. On the contrary, he has been actively involved in my recovery, even to the point of education himself on the condition. 
 
…Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
Now, I’m not saying that we have literally experienced this one, unless you count the time we were nearly flattened by a mac truck on the highway. I can, however, list the numerous occasions he has sacrificed significantly for my needs and even wants.
 
I’m not saying that the man doesn’t have flaws. I mean, he’ll be the first one to point out that he can be pretty awesome at being stubborn, and at wallowing in his “man-ness”. And, we won’t get into his amazing ability to hear me in imaginary Chinese. However, he has earned my trust and respect as his wife because of his patient and understanding ways. He has made it pretty easy for me to let him lead. He has never been harsh toward me. He has never given me reason to doubt his intentions. He has never belittled or disrespected me. He has always asked my input in decision making. He has always been my biggest fan when it comes to every single one of my crazy ideas (except for party planning because let’s face it, I can get pretty crazy). He is always the first to ask for forgiveness when we (ahem) “disagree”.  He has always worked hard to provide for our family. Perhaps most importantly, he has prayed with me, comforted me and held my hand in my dark moments, when my life felt like it was falling apart. 

He believes in his role as the spiritual leader of our home. He’s not like the bumbling buffoons the media has convinced us all men are like. He makes mistakes but he’s no buffoon, just a regular guy trying to be a real man. A real man loves his family, works hard and prays harder. He makes it easy for his wife to respect him and let him lead. A real man looks like Jesus to his wife and he remembers that just like Jesus came to rescue the lot of us sinners, sometimes he will be called upon to rescue his wife, even if it is from the snares of a rogue pothole, or a spider…ok, so I ran over a pothole…don’t judge!

 

Denise Cruz



Raising the Church

“He must become more important while I become less important.” (John 3:30 NET)

I have been around long enough to watch three different generations of bible believing, faith functioning and God worshiping church goers. I have observed the generation before me, my contemporaries and the new generation.

I have found commonalities and differences among all three, nevertheless one commonality stands out to me. For the most part, we all toil incessantly to bring up the next generation. We strive to make significant investments of time by depositing prayer and words into our children’s spiritual account, with the hope that one day they will make withdrawals that will enhance their life experiences and will help them stand firm on a strong foundation of spiritual stability.

This endeavor is not without setbacks and moments of seemingly failed work. I have watched some of my contemporaries leave the Way and fall back to a life of pain and suffering because of it. But I have also watched the return of many and the fulfillment of their parents’ efforts and prayers after all.

The kicker is this, our function as the predecessors of the next Church generation is very much like John the Baptist’s. We must become less important and step back, so that Jesus can freely step in and the investment of His word can yield returns in our children’s lives. John the Baptist understood his role in the big picture; so must we understand our role in the big picture of our children’s lives.

Continue to toil, making deposits of truth and love in your child’s life, daily. And also allow God to become greater than you in your child’s life, daily. It’s okay for God to become more important than us in our children’s lives. It is, in fact, very ok. God is, after all, as much their Lifeline as He has been ours and He has not failed us. Trust Him.

By Carmen Tanski
blogger of life


Hear His voice and obey without hesitation.

Deborah said to him, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you… (to) ‘Go, gather your men… (for) I will draw out Sisera (the enemy),… and I will give him into your hand’.  Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.”

Judges 4:6-8

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How is it that one can have all the tools and skills to do the job, but yet fail to do it?

Was Barak a coward?  Was he unqualified? Certainly not!  He was the leader of Israel’s army.  Then what was he lacking?

“Barak hesitated to lead the Israelites in battle. His lack of nerve forced Deborah to go with him, and subsequently the glory for the victory would go to a woman. We naturally assume that Deborah would be this woman, but we discover later that Jael, a Kenite woman, killed the notorious Sisera (vv. 17–22). Both women were heroines in a time when Israel’s leadership was mostly bankrupt.”

What Barak was lacking was Faith!  The LORD’s word was all he needed. When God speaks, His Word is enough. He doesn’t need to repeat the same command, promise or plan over and over.

When the president gives his address, the reporters don’t hope and wait that he gives an additional report for a reminder.  They go to the record.  When they need more information, they ask Him or his people the meaning for clarification.

If we start to lack faith or to wonder if we heard God correctly, we just go back to the record, His Word. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked” Ps. 1:1. When we go to “unwise counsel” we risk making the wrong decision. “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.…” Ps. 1:2. Let us learn to “hear his voice” that we may obey the first time without hesitation. For in obedience there is true blessing!

Orlando Marcano



The Cross

Take a moment and think about the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  What comes to mind?  Carlos, a Young Adult here at GFC, put it this way:

“When I think about the cross I think about pain, suffering, flogging, torture, ridicule, and humiliation. I think about betrayal and loneliness. The cross was a shameful place to be, created for the worst of offenders, and the Savior endured it for me. The thought of the cross brings me to my knees. Then the words of Jesus echo in my mind:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Luke 9:23

“…you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22

With these words, fear would be the normal response. And yet as I think about the cross, I can see the veil in the temple being torn in two.  I think about the Son of Man ascending up into heaven and the Spirit of God descending down unto earth. I think about strength, and endurance. I recognize the beauty of the cross, and I am taken over by hope, joy and peace. I remember the promises made to me.”

The Cross is so much more than a symbol of pain and torture.  Its not just death, it is life.  It does not bring fear, it breeds love.  It is not defeat, it is victory; His victory, our victory. Oh the wonderful Cross!
 


A Meditation on Grace

This is a world of cause and effect.

At school: If you study hard, you pass the test, if not, you fail.
At work: If you work hard, you get a raise, a pat on the back or a promise of a great future with the company. If you don’t, you get complaints and a list of things you need to improve on.
At the store: If you have money you can get those pretty pair of shoes or nice jacket. If you don’t, you have to be content with window-shopping.
A teacher will not give an A if the student doesn’t deserve it.
At work they will not give you a raise for doing nothing.
In this world, no one gives you anything for free. You have to give to receive. And yet there is the free gift of Grace.

I am very hard on myself at times and I am sure some of you are too. There is a lot of guilt and regret floating around in our lives. So much pressure on us to perform. As women, our worth in this world is based on how we dress, how we cook, what type of wives, moms, sisters, workers, or daughters we are. This is why it is so hard to accept the gift of Grace. It is almost unbearable to think that we cannot earn the Grace of God. Sometimes I feel God should take it away, because I’ve done nothing to deserve it. And yet there is nothing that can take his grace away from me. How can this be?

Philip Yancey said, “God is a God that gives gifts not wages”. His love for us is unmerited, and everlasting. His free gift of Grace is waiting for anyone who accepts it. Ephesians 2:8 says it like this: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—.” Hebrews 11 also says: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

Even though it is not in our nature, and we cannot see it, we must believe that God has given these gifts:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—  to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”Ephesians 1: 3-14
 
God broke the rules of humanity:
He offers salvation instead of condemnation
He offers to adopt us into his family instead of rejection
He offers a church, being part of the body of Christ, instead of isolation.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13

By Grace, God brought us together and made us equal. The labels of this world can no longer define us. The ways of this world can no longer guide us. We must rest assured that Gods love is so great that he sees us, not as our sinful selves, but through Christ. We deserve nothing, but he offers Grace. A Grace that is not earned, no matter how good we are. It is Free! All we need to do is accept it.
 
Lourdes Rodriguez
Young Adult Director and full time mom


A question for the ages!

Let see if you can answer these questions:

If knees were backwards, what would chairs look like?
If olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from?
Why is it that when you transport something by car, it’s called a shipment, but when you transport something by ship, it’s called cargo?         
Why does your nose run, and your feet smell?
What is the speed of dark?
One final one, If you had x-ray vision and can see through anything, wouldn’t you see through everything and in turn see nothing?

These questions obviously are a bit ridiculous. But the reality is that life itself is just full of questions isn’t it? I mean, if you examine your life you will realize that it is simply a collection of questions. What school do I go to? What career do I choose? What job should I take? Should I date him/her? Should I eat that? Should I get married/have kids? Where should I go, what should I do…the list goes on. And the answer to these questions will determine your outcome. But sometimes the questions are harder. Life gets complicated. An anonymous quote reads like this “Life is complicated, its confusing, and full of questions. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe we need the complicated to make us or break us. …Maybe it’s these questions that help decide how things will turn out, for it may be complicated but the answers are simple.” In many cases that is true, do you agree? But there is one very important question that you need to answer that will determine life’s final outcome. A question asked by Jesus a long time ago that still rings true today. The reason it’s so important is because if you answer it correctly, your life changes. If you don’t answer it correctly, your life still changes. “Who do you say I am?”

In the Gospel of Matthew 16:13-19 we see Jesus speaking with his disciples, and asks them a question. He says “Who do people say I am?” They answer him, “Some think your john the Baptist, some think you are a prophet.” Then Jesus asks, “But what about you?, who do you say I am?” Those are some deep words. You see back then Jesus was quite the buzz, the talk of the town. If it were today, there would be paparazzi all over him. Everyone wanted to know who this guy that performed miracles was. And Jesus is still the talk of the town. People are intrigued to know who he really is. You know a few years back, Time Magazine published a special edition entitled: “Jesus, who do you say I am”. They went deep into the history of Jesus to try and discover who he really was. Why were people so interested and still to this day are interested? Because everyone who had an encounter with Jesus was changed forever. And people want to know if it’s true. My life has changed eternally through Jesus, and that change happened because I answered this question.

So, who do you say he is? He calls himself the savior, 100% God, the one who will take away the sins of the world. The one who can mend you, make you new. Is that who you say he is? Or is he an afterthought. A religious piece of Jewelry you hang on your neck when you feel like it. The truth is, by yourself you will never truly trust and obey God because you don’t have the desire or ability to do so. Ephesians 2:1-3 says: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”

We cannot change our sinful condition. Jeremiah 13:23 says: “Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard his spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” Yeah you can do acts of kindness you can serve at a shelter or help clothes the homeless. But you are incapable of Loving and pleasing God on your own. That is where Jesus comes in. He is the only one who can cause a change in us so deep that it reroutes the path in which we take in this life. But I know it is hard to believe in something that you cannot see. And that has been the issue with humanity since the beginning of time. We have a problem with believing, with faith. We want proof. So we ask questions, and we ask a lot of them. But Jesus says, “Taste and see that I am good.” He says, “Blessed are those who believe and do not see.” Ravi Zacharias in his book “Has Christianity Failed you” says this “Once we understand Jesus in his own words and measure his claims and promises against our deepest needs, we will be surprised at just how personal and magnificent he really is-the way the truth and the light (John 14:6)-rather than being merely the focus of deviously rendered fictitious story lines.” You know I went with a friend and had some Indian food. From the moment I mentioned it to the moment he had the plate on the table he complained saying he wasn’t sure, he was scared, its going to be bad. The whole time I am telling him ”just try it, it will be good”. Finally he did and realized it’s not what he thought it was; it was good! Although Jesus is not like Indian food, the though process is the same. We fear trying it, we fear the change, Jesus asks us that question who am I and we do not want to answer. It isn’t until you take that leap and give it a try that you realize, It is good!

Jesus is the turning point in our lives. He is the one who can give strength when we need it. But you must answer the question he lays before you today “who do you say I am.” In fact let’s replace “say” with “believe”; who do you believe I am. Jesus died a painful death on the cross for you. He endured that pain for you. The bible tells us that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. We are all on the same sinking boat, and Jesus is calling from a distance, “Who do you say I am?” If your life is a mess, do you believe the words of Jesus in John 10:10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life?” If you are lost in this life trying to find meaning, can you believe the words of Jesus in Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost?” Even if you know Jesus, love Jesus, do you believe the words of 1 John 2:1My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous?” Do you believe he is going to be there when you feel like everything is going wrong? “Who do you say I am?” That is the question you must answer today.

 

Dave Rodriguez Jr
Young Adults Director