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When God Chooses Not to Rescue You

psalm-20-4

Moses had it good. He had a wife, a couple of kids, and a steady job that gave him plenty of time to enjoy the great outdoors—alone. It gave him time to ponder, reflect, and pray. Moses was content, I’m sure.

Then God showed up in a most flamboyant way. “Moses, I’ve got a mission for you. I want you to go to Egypt and rescue my people. They are suffering.”

Moses didn’t say no, but he offered every excuse he could think up as to why God should go away and choose someone else. God said, “Moses, I chose you. Go!” (This is my simple summation. You can read the Bible words for yourself in Exodus 3:1-4:17.)

Fast forward a bit. (See Numbers 11.)

Moses is now leading God’s rescued people through the desert to the Promised Land. The people are tired and cranky. They are especially unhappy with the food, so they start to complain. Moses decides he’s had enough. In fact, he has a meltdown. A mo-ment. (You know the kind.) In utter exasperation He goes to God, not with a polite request, but with a bold demand for relief:

“Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’  I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.  If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” -Numbers 11:11-15

His prayer made me laugh. My interpretation: “Lord, I don’t know what I did to make you angry, but surely it doesn’t deserve this slow and tortuous sentence of death by whiny toddler-adults whose lives I am not responsible for. I’m done. Kill me now.”

God chose to ignore that request. Instead he sent Moses some help.

I find that comforting. Sometimes God gives us hard assignments, missions that will push us to our limits and then some. We may be tempted to quit. If we choose to continue on though, knowing it’s what God wants us to do, we may start giving God all the reasons we can think of as to why He should choose to pass the assignment on to someone else. Then we may start begging for rescue, and if that rescue doesn’t come, we may start feeling picked on and betrayed.

But God doesn’t rescue us from the assignments He’s given us. He hears. He sees. He knows how we’re feeling and how deep the struggle is. But He wants us to finish the work, and He knows that deep inside, we really want to finish, too. (Come on. Admit it. You know it’s true.) We want to end triumphantly, hearing our God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21). And so, instead of rescue, God sends some kind of relief.

Psalm 20:1-2, a psalm David wrote for facing battle, says, “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.”

God answers. He protects. He helps. He supports. He gives us all we need to carry on. There’s no rescue required. We don’t need rescue from the missions He gives. We just need some God relief. We need to remember that when He sends us out on assignment, He helps us complete the task. Instead of pulling us out of the distress of it, He helps us through to victory.

Psalm 20 continues along this theme. Verse 4 says, “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” When our plan is to complete the mission, to help others and honor His name, He’ll give all the help we need for that plan to succeed.

Lord, victory is the desire of my heart, for their good—and mine—and for the glory of Your name. Thank You for seeing my struggle and for sending all the support and strength I need. I will carry on for You. You are my God and I love You. Amen.

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Progressing through Hurt with Hope

Progressing

“Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression.” -Deuteronomy 26:7

I like Deuteronomy 26. It shows a common progression through life – something we all experience, yet all in different ways. It also reveals the hope that comes from trusting God through it all.

As we travel through life, we all experience times of “misery, toil and oppression.” The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt. Most of us experience different kinds of troubles, trials, and pain. If we’re wise, though, we cry out to God through these times, knowing He will hear our voices and deliver us at just the right time. He did this for the Israelites – then He did it for them again and again. He has done it for His people throughout history. He has also rescued you and me from one thing or another all through our lives. Ultimately, He’ll come a final time to take us home to heaven where all suffering will go away for good. This recurrence of pain on earth will end.

Back to life’s progression. 1) We experience some kind of suffering. 2) We cry out to God. 3) He rescues us – in His time . . . at just the right time. 4) “Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household” -Deuteronomy 26:11. We praise Him. We thank Him. We celebrate His victory on our behalf.

But that’s not all.

Verses 12 through 15 talk about living faithfully for God after He rescues us. We follow our celebration of God’s goodness and our freedom with obedience and by reaching out to others who need rescue as well. Moses told the Israelites to care for the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless, and widows. We can ask God to show us who to strengthen, encourage, and comfort in His name.

And then, (yes, there’s another then) when we least expect it while we’re still living on this earth, we’ll probably get to go through the whole process again because, as painful as it is, each time we go through it, cooperating with God’s Spirit, crying out to God, He’ll draw us closer to Him. He’ll make us more like His Son. He’ll use our experience to build new skills that we can use to minister to others more effectively. He’ll reveal His glory in and through us . . . again.

You’re probably wishing I’d have left at least the first part of that last paragraph out. Me, too. But as I struggle through a season of crying out, I’m trusting that all I’ve written there is true. Our God is in control. He sees. He hears. He uses all for good.

“You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in obedience to him, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws—that you will listen to him. And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.” -Deuteronomy 26:17-19

We have declared that we will follow Jesus no matter what. God has declared that we are His treasure and He will keep His promises to us. This is what really matters whether we’re crying out, rejoicing, or serving others in His name.

I thank You, Lord, for Your continued interest in me. I know You will use every painful experience for good. In You all is redeemed. Please work in and through me as You want to for the glory of Your name. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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The Real Value of Bible List Verses

Fruit of the Spirit

“Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.”John 6:24

I used to be a big fan of list verses. That’s my name for the Bible verses that contain lists of character traits we all want more of in our lives. For example, Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 lists ways to identify love: it’s patient, it’s kind, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, it does not rejoice in evil, it rejoices in the truth, it always protects, always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres, and it never fails. Colossians 3:12 tells us what virtues to clothe ourselves in: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. In fact, verses 1-17 of that chapter are one big good stuff/bad stuff list.

All of these verses are helpful, and I am still a big fan. But over the years, there’s been a shift in my understanding of them. Now I love them for completely different reasons than I used to.

You see, I used to see them as to-do lists. I wanted to accomplish the getting of these traits into my life. My motivation was right: I wanted, and still want, to live a life that glorifies God. I thought developing these things in my life was what God wanted me to do.

The truth is, though, that I am not able to develop these things in my life. I need God to develop them in me. This is what He wants to do. God Is love, therefore His active Presence in my life produces everything on the Corinthians list. The Galatians list is called The Fruit of the Spirit for a reason; those virtues flow from Him. And even the virtues from the Colossians list come from setting our hearts on what’s above: Christ, now seated at the right hand of God. (See Colossians 3:1-4.)

The list verses have great value but not as to-do lists, things for us to generate in our lives in order to glorify God. In fact, in John 5:41, Jesus said, “I do not accept glory from human beings.” His glory comes from His work in our lives not from anything we try to do ourselves.

But when we look to Him, remain in His Presence, keep our lives rooted in His Spirit, we allow Him to work through us, producing all good things. The value of the lists comes from the way they help us recognize God’s Presence and work in our lives—or the lack of such.

The Real Value

In John 6:24, the crowds realized that Jesus wasn’t with them. They wanted what only He could offer, so they went in search of Him. We can do the same thing. When we realize that our lives aren’t as loving as they should be, that the Spirit isn’t producing fruit in us, that our spiritual clothing is becoming tattered, that’s our cue to drop everything we’re doing and seek Jesus with all our hearts. The Christian life is all about learning to be where Jesus is all of the time, so that He can continue to work in and through us for His glory and our good and the good of everyone around us. The lists, lists of things God produces, help us identify problems, so that we can know when we need to draw closer to our God.

When the crowds found Jesus, He gave them the only to-do list we need:

“Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’

“Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’” -John 6:28-29

We stick close. We believe. He makes us into people who bring Him glory.

Father, thank You for inspiring Paul and others to give us lists that help us see how closely we’re living to You. When we recognize actions and attitudes that don’t come from You, from Your Spirit, from above, help us to act on that cue to talk to You, to read Your Word, to enjoy worship and fellowship with Your people who are doing the same. More of You in our lives, Lord. That is all we need. Amen.


Do you want to learn more about drawing closer to God through prayer throughout each day? Read Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. Click here to learn more.

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Thanking God for What He Gives Us to Give

Thankful Giving

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’”Matthew 26:26

A new thought occurred to me when I read this passage yesterday morning. As many times as I’ve read the story of the Last Supper and heard it read during communion celebrations at church, I’m surprised—and thrilled—to have a new concept to consider. For me, it has come at just the right time. (Our God tends to work that way.) My husband and I are fairly new empty-nesters, entering what some generational researchers are starting to call our second adulthood. It’s a tempting time, a time when people are tempted to say, “We’re done! Let’s go play for the rest of our lives.” But we’ve still got a lot of life left in us—at least we still feel like we do—most days. We’re asking God how He wants us to spend this next phase of our life and thanking Him for every opportunity to serve.

This is how Jesus taught His followers to live. His actions at the Last Supper are the prime example for all of us.

Matthew 26:26 tells us that Jesus took the bread and gave thanks. I’ve always pictured this as Him saying grace before the meal, thanking God for the food as many of us do. But what I noticed yesterday was that, in this instance, Jesus didn’t give thanks for what He was about to receive, like we do at meals. He wasn’t simply and routinely thanking God for food that He was getting ready to ingest. Look more closely here. He gave thanks for what was already His, for what He was able and preparing to give—His life for us. Jesus gave thanks—then He gave.

Jesus gave thanks for the bread that represented His body which He gave away. He gave thanks not for what He had to keep for Himself but for what God had given Him to give away— to save everyone else.

It occurs to me that if we want to be more like Jesus, we have to realize that life isn’t about collecting and keeping and giving thanks for what we claim as ours. It’s about thanking God for the resources He provides that enable us to participate in His plan to provide for others wherever we see a need: our money, our time, our strength, our ideas, anything we think we possess. We trust God to care for us; we use His gifts to care for others in His name. And we celebrate the blessing of being able to do so. We give God our thanks.

First Peter 4:10 says it this way: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

What gifts has God given you that you can thank Him for and give away in Jesus’ name? Ask Him for what purpose He has graciously placed various resources in your care. Ask Him to help you use them to meet needs, and thank Him for every opportunity you seize.

Father, thank You for all of the resources You’ve entrusted to our care. Show us how to share them for the benefit of others, for the health of Your Kingdom now. In Jesus, we pray. Amen.

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Waiting, Ezekiel, and What Really Matters Now

I’m sorry I haven’t had much to say lately. I’m in a weird writing place. That’s not a complaint; it’s a statement of fact. Life is getting ready to change, so I’m preparing for its changes. I’m in a waiting place, praying the prayer of waiting. I posted a few thoughts about that last week. Here are a few more:

Prayer of WaitingThe prayer of waiting is both a prayer of preparation and a prayer of submission. It is both a prayer of hope and a prayer of surrender. It’s the prayer we pray when we’ve done all we can do and must leave the outcome in God’s hands because, for us, there’s nothing left to do but pray.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my husband and I are preparing to adopt a daughter from foster care. We prayed before we began the process. We prayed as we completed each task. Now we’ve done all we can do but wait and pray. Our all-powerful God is at work! We are excited—we are impatient. We are learning, again, how to wait.

Preparation: We’re praying God will prepare our hearts for our daughter and hers for us. We’re asking Him to show us anything we might have overlooked—anything else we can do to prepare. I’m reading the newest parenting books–and praying for our daughter as I do.

Submission: Just as we had to submit to the adoption agency: taking classes, filling out paperwork, inviting them into our home, accepting their final decision—the one we’re now waiting for, we’re also living in submission to God. He led us into this process. He led us to this waiting place. Waiting is our service right now. We’re praying while we wait.

Hope: This is a time of great anticipation. We’re expecting a child! A brand new family member will soon be moving into our home. We believe she’s out there waiting for us, too, and so we’re praying for her as she does. And we just can’t wait to meet her! Though wait we will—for as long as it takes.

Surrender: It’s tempting to try to hurry God along right now. Instead we must trust. Voicing that trust is part of the waiting prayer. We believe God will bring this new child into our family at just the right time.

It occurs to me that there’s nothing like the prayer of waiting to help us grow closer to God. Waiting is an essential part of our spiritual development. It teaches us to depend and trust. It reveals a lot about the state of our relationship with God.


I’ve also been reading through Ezekiel for the past few weeks. I’ll finish tomorrow. It’s a long book with a huge message, but it hasn’t generated a lot of devotional thought this time around. To summarize: I’m just so thankful that I know the Lord is God. Have you ever counted how many times God tells Ezekiel, “Then they will know that I am the Lord their God?” Throughout the book this phrase always follows God’s declaration of what He’s going to do to show the people that He is the Lord their God. It’s both sobering and prayer-provoking. What’s He doing or preparing to do in order to teach our world the same?

What’s also clear in Ezekiel, though, is that God goes to great lengths in order to help His people live the best life they can, the life they can only live within His Kingdom. God loves us deeply. He wants to bless us completely. But we have to surrender to His Lordship over our lives. It won’t work any other way. He Is capable and loving and worthy of our trust. Ezekiel shows us that even His wrath is designed to draw us to Him for our good.


Finally, regarding my weird writing place, with the new year came a renewed desire to write more. I think this has resulted in a temporary need to write less. I’m throwing off everything that hinders, prayerfully choosing the activities God wants me to continue, wrapping others up, claiming blocks of time for what matters most. Life is changing, and I’m adapting, anticipating whatever is to come with hope and joy.

Father, thank You for the people who will read these words. Help them through whatever seasons of life they are in right now, whether they are waiting or actively pursuing a goal, accomplishing something in Your name. Draw them close to You. Teach them what they need to know. Lead them wherever You want them to go. Please help us all to throw off anything that hinders us as we pursue Your Will for our lives. You are the Lord our God. We are thankful and blessed. Amen.

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The Conversation Begins: Bible Meditation

The Conversation Begins“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”Psalm 1:2, ESV

What kind of prayer does one write about two days before Christmas when one has already covered worship and thanksgiving? It has to be Bible meditation—a third kind of prayer that’s all about God, Who He Is, what He’s done, asking for, seeking, discovering Him and all the truth He will reveal.

We pray this prayer with the Bible open before us on the table or in our lap. We choose a passage, perhaps just a verse. We ask God to highlight words or phrases, to activate our imaginations so that we can see what He wants us to see, so we can understand something new about Him or what it means to live in His Kingdom.

When we meditate we read God’s Word and let Him talk to us.

Of course, this week I recommend meditating on verses from Luke 2:1-40 and Matthew 1:18-2:23. You may want to start by reading all the way through these passages to get a feel for the whole story, but then go back to whatever catches your attention. Read that verse or section slowly. Consider each word. Ask God about anything that confuses you. Worship, praise, or thank Him if the words call you to it. Then read the words again . . . and again, letting God draw your focus in closer to whatever He’s highlighting for you.

Here’s an example of how this works:

I’m currently reading through the Book of Jeremiah. The other day, my attention got snagged on Jeremiah 36:3. In this verse, God is talking to Jeremiah, sending him to deliver a message to the people. But God tells Jeremiah, “Perhaps . . .” That one word became my highlight for the day. I wondered why God, Who knows everything, would use the word perhaps?

I asked Him. I kept reading. I reread. I considered possible answers and asked God what He thought of them. Finally I let it go, choosing to trust in that moment.

Later, I chose to study the verse a little more carefully, moving from meditation to research. The ESV has God saying “It may be . . .” This shed a little light on the word perhaps. Yes, our God knows everything. But He gives His people choices. He presents opportunities, granting us the freedom to embrace them . . . or not. He wants us to choose Him and His way; He will not force us to obey.

That’s a discussion for another time, though. Today I just want to illustrate meditating on Bible verses as a form of prayer, a form of prayer that opens our minds to receive the day’s message from God. We prayerfully consider the words of the Bible that are before our eyes. We picture the scene in our head, seeking in God’s presence a deeper understanding of truth. We ask questions. We consider answers. We listen with our hearts for wisdom from God.

Father, help us when we read Your Word to see what You want us to see. Help us to read slowly, intentionally, contemplating each word until we find the truth You want us to consider for the day, to take in deeply for our life. We delight in these discoveries, Lord, for they help us to know You and to become more like You! This is our desire, Lord. Amen.

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Book Review: “Wicked Women of the Bible”

Wicked WomenWicked Women of the Bible by Ann Spangler is a simple retelling, in Spangler’s words, of twenty Bible stories involving women. In some of these stories, the women truly are wicked—as in evil. In others the women are wicked in the contemporary, ironic sense. For example, Spangler defines David’s wife Abigail as being wicked smart.

Though the stories are factual—these women did exist, Spangler presents them as historical fiction, telling readers what they may have been thinking or what their motives may have been. She includes footnotes throughout, citing sources and clarifying what’s fact and what is speculation on her part.

Following each story, Spangler includes a section called The Times. Here she presents cultural insights relevant to understanding what was going on and how the people of the day would have perceived events.

Spangler closes each chapter with a section called The Takeaway. Personally I think these sections hold the greatest value in this book. The Takeaway includes deep questions meant to help readers apply lessons from each Bible story to their own lives. This section makes the book useful for small group Bible studies, potentially prompting some lively discussions.

I thank Zondervan for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this honest review.

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Surprise Finds to Go with Yesterday’s Post on Prayer

Words Aptly SpokenI’m so excited! I just love it when this happens. This morning during my quiet time, I came to a passage of Scripture that illustrated yesterday’s post so perfectly. Later, while reading another book, I came across another thought that did the same. Coincidences like this just have to be shared!

First, the Scripture passage:

“‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘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. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.'”Psalm 91:14-16

The Bible doesn’t name the author of this particular Psalm, but he had touched God’s heart. God saw that this person loved Him and wasn’t afraid to acknowledge God’s name. God responded by blessing him with rescue, protection, answered prayer, His presence, deliverance, honor, long life, and salvation. God has different blessings for different people; He knows best what we need. But when our prayers come from a loving and sincere heart, God takes notice and responds.

Surprise FindsSecond, the quote from the book:

“Times with your tween daughter can be bonding times that help you focus on your relationship and convey the message that you are excited your daughter is growing up.” -An Arp Adage from She’s Almost a Teenager by Peter and Heather Larson and David and Claudia Arp, p. 16

What does a parenting insight have to do with prayer? When I read this quote, I couldn’t help but rewrite it: Times with God can be bonding times that help us focus on our relationship. They give Him the opportunity to convey the message that He is excited that we are growing up.

Prayer is so much more than talking to God about what we want and what we’d like to see Him do in our world. Prayer is enjoying an ever-deepening relationship with our loving God.


 

I’m sharing this post on the Thought Provoking Thursday Link-up. Click here to read more posts shared there.

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Book Review: “Glory Days”

Glory DaysMax Lucado’s new book, Glory Days, takes us through the Book of Joshua with courage and determination and God right by our side. I loved this book! It’s a quick read, but it’s full of knowledge and wisdom we Christians need. Someday I’m going to read it again, slowly, taking my time on all the questions for reflection included at the end of the book. For now, I’m savoring truths about Joshua and Caleb (my favorite as presented through Lucado’s eyes) and Rahab and several modern-day Promised Land dwellers whom Lucado introduces to his readers in this book.

Lucado starts out by explaining how we have three choices for our existence now: slavery to sin, free from sin but wandering in the wilderness, dwelling in the Promised Land. He then goes on to show us how we can experience that Promised Land life right now. Most chapters start with a Bible story from Joshua, some with a modern experience that parallels the Bible story in some way leading into that story. Then, as he reaches the end of the story, Lucado quickly switches, showing how we face similar challenges and can respond triumphantly by trusting in God to show us the way and to fight for us in order to glorify His name through us for all the world to see.

My words are not enough to express how highly I think of this book. Just know I recommend you read it! Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this review.

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Gracefully Removing the Labels That Hurt

Ugly LabelIn my current Bible study class, we’re studying the topic of grace. In this past week’s lesson, we looked at the story of The Woman Caught in Adultery. You can read the story here if you are not familiar with it.

To summarize, this woman was dragged before Jesus by a group of legalistic religious leaders who were using her to trap Jesus. They wanted to know if He would enforce the letter of the law and have her stoned or deny the law and condemn Himself. They thought they’d wrangled Jesus into a no-win situation. But Jesus simply told them to let whoever among them who was without sin throw the first stone. The crowd slowly dispersed. When the woman realized that no one had condemned her, Jesus told her that He wouldn’t condemn her either. He told her to go and sin no more.

At this point in the lesson, our group leader asked us what we thought became of the woman. My imagination grabbed hold of that question, and I found myself thinking about it long after I’d gone home.

The Bible doesn’t answer this question for us. We like to hope that after an encounter like that . . . with Jesus . . . in person, the woman went away changed, happily following Jesus and living according to His Word.

Realistically, though, this woman would have had some issues to work through. The religious leaders exposed her sin to the whole community. The people hadn’t stoned her, but she bore a label anyway. Adulteress. Dead woman walking by Jesus’ mysterious grace. How did her husband and family feel about her sin? Her lover’s wife and friends? Was she welcome at the Temple? In the market? Or was she branded an outcast? Shunned?

When people receive grace from Jesus and try to change their lives as a result, people who liked the way they were often try to pull them back into sin while people who were hurt by their actions are afraid to trust them. Jesus lifts people like this woman up out of the dirt, telling them to go and sin no more, but other people continue to throw dirt at them behind His back. If they throw enough dirt, people who are trying to change are tempted to give up in despair.

Label of GraceI don’t know if this is what happened to the woman or not. I’d like to hope everyone there was changed by that encounter with Jesus that day. I’d also like to hope that, even if the crowd wasn’t changed, the woman knew Jesus forgave her and found His grace to be enough. (It is, you know. This is true.) I hope that, if this woman did find herself a Scarlet Letter outcast, she chose to leave what she no longer had anyway in order to stay close to Christ. If you are in this situation yourself, clinging to Christ is the key. Let Him strengthen, teach, and encourage you as you pray He’ll also work in the lives of those who are causing you pain. “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.”James 4:8

When I consider this Bible story from the what-happened-next point of view, I realize how important it is to follow Jesus’ example of grace. As His impromptu object lesson revealed, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We find those words in Romans 3:23 followed by these, “and have been justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Justified: Just as if I’d never sinned. I learned that definition so long ago, I don’t even remember where. But it’s a perfect reminder here. When someone receives Jesus’ grace, that grace removes the sin labels. Therefore, our grace has to stop seeing those labels, labels that are no longer there. The shamed and humiliated adulteress has become the beloved daughter of our King. We need to learn to welcome her as our new sister and friend.

Since the afternoon of that Bible study, God has been working hard on me. He’s been bringing names to mind—people from the past, sometimes very long ago, whom I’ve labelled with concrete signs. The labels stick to people who’ve hurt me—or mine. I forgave but left the labels on . . . to protect myself . . . just in case. These labels don’t say things like adulteress. Instead, they say, “Dangerous! Beware.” These labels must come down. I must ask God for the grace to pray them down. I must entrust my heart to His care, and trust His work in their hearts as well.

At the same time, I’m realizing that there may be people out there I’ve hurt. Not intentionally, but maybe through a careless action, a misspoken or misinterpreted word. I’m asking God to give them grace for me—maybe even, if needed, give me the opportunity to make things right. I’m asking God to heal wounds given and received by filling all our hearts with His grace. May all the ugly labels go away.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for the grace You offer. Help us to receive it. Help us to pass it on. We’ve all sinned and fall short of Your glory, but You sent Your Son to make it right. Help us to remember the gift we’ve been given at such great cost. Help us follow Christ’s example toward us. Please make all the ugly labels go away. Help us to see each other as You do, so we can encourage each other along. Thank You, Lord. Amen.