The words were angry, tight and cold. We spat out syllables designed to wound, expose, pronounce, condemn.
 
And then we crouch behind dark curtains, grieving for the pain we’ve caused; the lack of laughter where we live; the friendships stalled or even broken. We cannot see a way back home, and time drags wearily toward night.
 
But there is light and warmth—and grace—for us. The Bible says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19). We reconcile when we restart the conversation pain has paused: we choose to move beyond this dry impasse into the ease and laughter we once knew. Because of grace, our friendly options flower like deserts do from nighttime rain.
 
The miracles of grace first happen to us and then through us. Because we are embraced by God, we learn the language that rebuilds: “I’m asking your forgiveness. I want us to be friends again.”
 
And somewhere God, who never pauses or desists, is smiling as we practice grace. The love that saves us makes us kind.
 
So stay in grace. -Bill Knott
We want the verdict we can’t have—to be both right and righteous; to win each argument on points, and yet be counted blameless.
 
But something in our quest to win undoes our fleeting grip on grace. “Love is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs,” (1 Cor 13: 5) the Bible says—and still we keep a tally sheet of wounds we’re waiting to avenge. We chase a kite tail in the wind to fix what gossip has besmirched, convinced that what we call the “truth” is ultimately more prized than love.
 
But only God can get it right. Only a wise and gracious Father can be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26).
“He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
 
The goodness of the gospel is not getting what we’ve earned. For there is One who took our lies, our lust, our longing to be right and washed them with His tears and blood. As grace replaces all our fantasies of justice for ourselves, we yield to the greater truth: “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
 
It is enough if only Christ is right, and through His grace declares us whole.
 
So stay in grace. -Bill Knott
We breakfast on the crusts of aging self-help theories. “Believe, believe in who you are,” we mutter as we face another thin and hungry dawn.
 
By lunch, we are negotiating losses, trying hard to still believe that “We are wise, and we are warm, and we are kind.” But conflicts with our colleagues and chasing three-year-olds around a house belie the bromides and bravura.
 
At supper, we go searching for our comfort food, the self-indulgent set-aside of all that didn’t work that day. “No one could have expected more of me than me,” we chant. Our sins were only foolish calories—not consequential, easy to explain.
 
There is, no doubt, a better way. The gospel taught by Jesus doesn’t ask us to think better of ourselves or imagine qualities that never have appeared. “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” (Rom 5:8) the Bible says. “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 Jn 4:10).
 
Grace builds our confidence in everything God gives. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus says.
“Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again” (Jn 6:35).
 
This is the manna for each day—“not I, but Christ.”
 
Trust what He gives. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott
The storyline is so familiar now. A kindly grandfather in some quiet town is found to be a gangster living under an assumed identity. A civic leader loses her elected role when her history is revealed behind a different name. We shake the dust off polished shoes in not-so-righteous indignation, for we prize honesty, we say.
 
And yet, we know this story well. Before we learned to count or read, the orbit of our life was willful, proud, and self-involved. To these we added faults we chose—the cruelties of school playgrounds; the teenaged gossip that cut worse than any knife; the damage done our bodies and our minds through substances and time ill-spent. Our failures ran much faster than our years.
 
And then, one day, the Father offered us a new and strange identity: forgiven sinner; healed outcast; prodigal brought home. He wouldn’t let us take a lesser role, but righteously insisted we accept our place as sons and daughters deeply loved.
 
So now we live with this assumed identity, and struggle with the Father’s robe we feel ineligible to wear. He is relentlessly insistent on this new life He’s given us: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean” (Acts 10:15).
 
To feel unworthy never means that we are unforgiven. Grace is the way we’re learning how to live within the Father’s house, enjoy His love, and welcome other prodigals back home.
 
Put on the awkward robe of grace. And stay in it. -Bill Knott
We’re no good at accepting gifts when we can offer nothing in return.
 
And so we wrestle for the restaurant bill, determined not to be obliged for what someone who loves us wants to pay. We writhe in proud embarrassment when gifted with a sum so large we fear we’ll lose our freedom to decide, to regulate, to choose.
 
We’re willing to be thankful so long as there’s no lingering commitment: we’ve traded Christmas cards and dinners. Our scores must all be evened, and all accounts be balanced.
 
And then the Father overwhelms us with impossibly good news—a flood of undeserved and unrequited kindness for which there’s not a payment plan: “In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us” (Eph 1:7).
 
There’s no way we can work if off: there’s no amount of painful, legal rectitude that ever can resolve our debt. God’s grace confronts us with a gift so great that we at last give up on ever evening the score. We learn to live as loved and liberated souls, and one day even revel in “the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7).
 
Receive the gift from God’s great heart. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott
When do we offer reassuring words? Whenever there is fear, perplexity or pain. Our words rebuild the vital bridge connecting pain to hope, to peace, to continuity.
 
“Don’t worry, little one,” we soothe. “Daddy’s going to be right here until you go to sleep.”
 
“You’ll be just fine,” we tell the anxious student on the night before the test. “You’ve studied hard: you know this stuff.”
 
“You’re not alone,” we whisper to a saddened soul who cannot see beyond the terrible calamity of now.
 
In these, we faintly echo all the Father’s reassurances. He both anticipates our fear and moves to heal it with deep promises of connectedness and peace. In one short psalm, we hear the same phrase 26 amazing times: “His steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1). The rhythm of His reassurance rolls through history, time, and all our fears until the message of sustaining grace becomes embedded in our souls: “His steadfast love endures forever.”
 
The arms that hold us in our grief are here: “His steadfast love endures forever.” When we are lonely, we recall: “His steadfast love endures forever.” When conflicts, large and small, besiege our lives, and we can hardly summon hope—“His steadfast love endures forever.”
 
Grace is the story of God’s endless and unbroken love. At every turn; in every hurt; when joy arrives; when hope renews—“His steadfast love endures forever.”
 
So stay in grace. -Bill Knott
“Who do you think you are?” the bully thundered, and we shrank back into some smaller self that could more easily escape or hide.
 
“Who do you think you are?” the college entrance essay asked, and we explained we were the product of suburban schools, or immigrants, or persons trying on new cultures. “I am a daughter; an orphan; a member of a racially exploited group.”
 
“Who do you think you are?” the counselor gently queried us, and we described our brokenness, our loss of self, our pain, to someone whom we paid to listen to our stories.
 
“Who do you think you are?” the Father asks. And how He smiles when we respond with joy and laughter shining in our eyes—“I am the prodigal come home. I am a son, a daughter of Your love. I am the one You never take your eyes off—even when I played the rogue, or spent Your wealth, or claimed I never knew You.”
 
“I am the child You pledge to always love. And even when I get it wrong, I feel Your grace, Your kindness, Your forgiveness.”
 
“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom 5:8-9).
 
You cannot earn the Father’s love. You cannot lose the Father’s love.
 
So stay in grace. -Bill Knott
When dreams of bright success have stumbled on the hard edge of reality . . . When every scheme for fame or followers has left the needle where it was . . . When all the crowd who live for now have gone on dancing down the boulevard—just then we learn the value of the love that won’t let go.
 
It’s father in the driveway saying softly as we pack, “You can come home again.” A colleague asks us on the elevator ride, “Are you OK? When would you like to talk?” A high school friend calls from a time zone far away to say, “I pray for you each day. What do you need just now?”
 
We learn the ceaseless grace of God from people still receiving grace. Their patience—their persistence—through the twists of all our wandering give substance to the truth we read in Scripture: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end” (Lam 3:22). From heart to heart and hand to hand, we practice love that rescues us.
 
And one day soon, we will be saying to some other soul—“What do you need just now?” “When would you like to talk?” “You can come home again.”
 
The grace we share is grace we’ve learned. The kindness never stops with us.
 
So stay in grace. -Bill Knott
 
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At every rounding of the year, we realize how much we need renewal.

On New Year’s Eve, we want to slam the door on the departing year, or banish memories of 2020’s pain and grief. But there are—and must be—great ties between the old year and the new.

We live in the same bodies: we inhabit the same homes. We remain related to the same family: we work at the same jobs. We worship with the same believers: we study the same Word.

It’s renewal, then, and not a clean break from the past, that offers us our greatest hope in 2021. How can our bodies be renewed? Will this year be the one when we’re transformed by the renewing of our minds? (Rom 12:2). How does a weary marriage find new sources of resilience and of laughter? Can dry and broken friendships be restored? We crave the ageless source of all renewal—the grace and mercy of our Lord revealed in the pages of His Word. 

Yes, grace renews what grace began.

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor 4:16-17).

So here’s to growing deeper, stronger, wiser, kinder in 2021.

Stay in grace.

-Bill Knott

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This painful year has made us clear on what we want for Christmas. Though Lexus and Mercedes-Benz are sure we want a gleaming ride with giant ribbons on the roof, we have no miles we want to drive. The ads all tease us with dark fantasies on Amazon or Netflix, but we still have our darkness to get through. The tech toys that we bought for sport have only one compelling use this year.

We want each other more than gifts. We want the long and lingering embrace of two-year olds who won’t let go; the bear hug from a distant friend; the real gatherings of real folk around a tree, a table, or a fire. We want the laughter never muted, carols sung by families on nights no longer silent. We want the deep security we find in holding, playing, eating with the ones we love in places we call home.

So Christ came down because He couldn’t bear the breach of space; the distance numbered in light-years; the loving words half-understood. He came to us in helplessness so we might know He needed love—our love, the warmth for which He fashioned us. He laid aside His rulership so that a two-year old could grip Him tight; a mother’s tears could turn to joy, and bitter, broken men could heal. He came to make the lepers dance; to be the face the blind first saw; to hear the deaf sing harmony.

His joy is us: we are the only gift He wants.

Accept the grip of His embrace. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

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