How Grace Differs From Mercy and A New Resource to Share

Insight into Christ's "upside down" kingdom...

Dr. Pam and Keith Harrison

This is a guest post by Dr. Pamela Harrison. She and her husband, Keith, are the co-founders of High Seas Ministries, a ministry dedicated to serving guests and crew members of the cruise ship industry. She teaches the complete Bible as presented in The 10-Day Bible Companion on ships and for groups on land. They are passionate about presenting God’s Word in a way that anyone can understand it and share it with others! For more on the Harrisons and the ministry, visit www.highseasministries.org, or send an email to pam@highseasministries.org.

Yesterday, many of us celebrated Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year.  The season of Advent—that glorious anticipation of hope, love, joy, and peace—begins next Sunday.  Soon we will push ourselves to the limit to meet all the requirements placed on us by others—and ourselves—at this busy time of the year.  But, for now…let’s stop.  Just for a moment. And consider this amazing, “upside-down” kingdom of Christ as the Bible describes it.

So began the "upside down" kingdom of the long awaited King of Glory!

A Very Different Kind of Kingdom

We get an early hint that God’s kingdom is not like man’s when we read of Esau’s forgiveness of Jacob in Genesis 33:4:

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”

Once Jacob finally got away from his Uncle Laban, he faced another challenge—his twin brother Esau, the same one he had deceived out of his first-born child status and blessing. He certainly had no reason to expect Esau to be anything but angry and bent on revenge, even after twenty years had passed, so he sent gifts ahead with his servants to ‘soften him up’.

Jacob soon discovered, however, that it was not Esau who would be given gifts in this situation, but Jacob himself, for Esau had forgiven him and greeted his younger brother with affection. Jacob, who deserved justice, received not just mercy, but grace.

In the 21st century—as in Jacob’s time—most people want to see justice done, especially justice for everyone else. When a wrong is done, we want to see that wrong avenged—someone must pay!

We see justice as “getting what you deserve.” Mercy, on the other hand, comes by throwing ourselves at the feet of judgment and pleading for the opposite of justice—“not getting what we deserve.”

What, then, is grace?

Continue Reading »

Your Back-to-School Insanity at the Intersection of Truth & Grace

Plus a FREE printable of 26 Scriptures on which to anchor your (and your kiddo's) soul during this stressful time.

Davi Nabors_margin

This is a guest post by my good friend Davi Nabors, M.Ed., LMHC, NCC. Davi is blessed to be the married mom of two teen boys, parenting coach, part-time triathlete, popular speaker, and writer. She’s on Pinterest and shares parenting tips and encouragement on her blog at www.TriParenting.com.

As I fly around town with two shopping lists of school supplies in one hand and a mile long list of To Dos in the other, my mind races in a zillion directions. The pressures of back to school make me feel like I’m the one back in the classroom – learning new rules, handing in papers, and fielding an onslaught of questions.

Sports physicals are due to the athletic office today. Are they still sitting on my kitchen counter??

            Will last year’s lunch boxes survive at least the first few weeks of school?

            What time do we need to wake up to get to school ON TIME this year?

            Whose class is the Nut Free Zone? Oh dear! How will my boys survive without PB and J?!   

            Don’t forget about the new rules for car line… Um, what were they, again?       

There is so much to think about, I start another list.

At least these questions have straightforward answers. Like fill in the blanks on a quiz, with a little research, I’ll be able to cross them off my list one by one.

But then the barrage of worry-based essay questions begin. These don’t have definitive answers and usually lead to a string of more concerns.

From the time my sons were in preschool, these questions have had the power to consume me, if I let them. My reasons for fear have changed over the years, but they never go away completely. Now that the boys are in high school, my mind fills with concerns related to the safety of my oldest who drives himself to school and plays varsity football with really big guys. And for my youngest. He’s entering his high school freshman year… Need I say more?

My mind is spinning as I continue to run errands. I try to invent solutions to all of my concerns- most of which have me in the driver’s seat trying to control each and every issue. Sadly, that translates to trying to control my kids with nagging and helicoptering. Not the parenting approach I desire or recommend.

Shopping, driving, list making, worrying, controlling … the art of multi-tasking takes on a whole new dimension. My head is pounding. I need an Advil.

And then I see it.

Continue Reading »

Why You Need To Break Up With Perfect

Amy Carroll 170 x 170This is a guest post by Amy Carroll. Amy is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries’ speaker team, the author of Breaking Up with Perfect, and the director of Next Step Speaker Services. Amy has been my mentor and coach and helped me answer God’s call to begin Making It Real Ministries. I adore her and think you will too! She lives in NC with her 3 favorite guys and a little, red dachshund. Visit Amy at her blog to join her in a journey toward more joy.

As I rummaged through the damaged store, I hurried toward a colorful decoration that caught my eye. A hurricane had ravaged the seaside store’s merchandise, but there were a few treasures left.

My prize that day was a papier-mâché figure of Santa Clause directing a band of animal musicians. Since my husband was a band director, seeing Jolly Old Saint Nick with his conductor’s baton poised made my heart sing even though it was a balmy North Carolina summer outside.

I carefully carried the figurines to the cash register and made them mine.

Nearly skipping with joy down the sidewalk, suddenly I tripped and dropped my fragile treasures. My face fell with dismay as I peeked inside the bag only to see pieces of Santa and his friends lying jagged and free-floating at the bottom.

When I got home, I gently removed the pieces and lay them out on a table. One by one, I drew a thin line of glue on the narrow edges and began to put them back together.

Click on the image above to read reviews, get more info, and get started breaking up with perfect today!

The results weren’t altogether terrible.

Santa’s pedestal is webbed with cracks and the beaver is missing a leg, but unless guests get too close, they’ll never know the trauma Kris Kringle endured. He’s broken but still beautiful, and a smile stretches across my face each Christmas as I unpack him from his protective box.

Why do I struggle to believe that others could see me the same way?

All of us have a level of brokenness from our own sin nature or from sin leveled against us. We all have cracks of insecurity, shards of sin, and flaws of failure, but for most of my life I’ve wanted to hide mine. I’ve wanted to glaze over my brokenness with a façade of perfection.

If I had found only a perfect Santa acceptable, I would have either tossed him after his fall, or I would have hidden him away in the box with the other outdated, worn-out ornaments.

That’s ok with an object, but we’d never do that to an imperfect person. We’re all in the same boat! So why are we afraid others will do it to us? That maybe God will too?

So we keep others at arm’s length, never allowing anyone to get too close, or we hide behind our walls of shame or false perfection. We try to earn acceptance and love with our just-right words and our thought-out actions, feeling more and more lonely all the time, when in truth…

Authenticity is the antidote for isolation.

Jesus doesn’t despise us in our brokenness, tossing us away or hiding the fact that He loves us. He gently takes our pieces and glues them back together with His grace, compassion, and forgiveness. If we’ll only lay down our masks of perfection and surrender to His perfecting work, Jesus lovingly sets us out for the world to see and claims us as His own.

I’ve been on a journey to break up with perfect, and I’m finding that my relationships with others are deeper than ever when I’m real about my flaws. In the process, I’m able to point to Jesus as the Perfect One, our ultimate hero, and I’m resting in the lavish love I’m finding in Him.

BreakingUpWithPerfectCoverAmy Carroll has written Breaking Up with Perfect for women who want to move past the pursuit of perfection into greater joy and deeper relationships. To get your copy, click here.

How about you? If you struggle with perfectionism, how does that impact your life and relationships? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Seven Essential “Waiting Places” God Uses In Our Lives

2015 Scripture Memory Verse 12

I HATE waiting! I’m not good at it. So, when my friend Jenny wrote the following amazing post about her experience with waiting, I drank it up. She captures the raw emotions and tangled thoughts that go along with the waiting process. I found her observations and her “don’t hide your crazy” style so powerful, I just had to share her post with you!

Photo courtesy of iStock Photo.com © justinkendra

Jenny and her family are missionaries overseas. You might think there are some typos in her post, but they are there intentionally. You see, where she is serving, the emails and such are subject to censorship. And God is a no-no word. So, she has to type it using a zero for the “o” so it flies under the radar.

I hope you love her post as much as I did. And if you do, be sure to leave her an encouraging comment on her blog! We writers LOVE to know if what we have agonized over matters to anyone or makes a difference. I know she would appreciate hearing from you.

Just click on the image of her post below to open it in your browser.

Jennys Post on Waiting-BLOG

 Scripture Memory Verse 12

On (or the first Monday after) the first and the fifteenth of each month I’m posting a verse I’m committing to memory. Scripture memorization is a challenge for me, but I made the decision at the beginning of the year to meet that challenge head on. So, if you’re joining me on the 2015 Scripture Memory Team, here is my verse 12.

Want to read it in context over on BibleGateway.com? Click here to read the third chapter of Lamentations.

Click to Get Your Printable Scripture Verses

How about you? Leave me a comment and let me know what verse(s) you’re working on right now. Or, how do you handle your waiting places? You can leave a comment by clicking here.