An old and wintry tale records a farmer’s frozen prayer: "God bless me and my wife, our son John and his wife--us four and no more. Amen." We smile, for we’ve known Christians who sometimes prayed like that. Sometimes we were those Christians. It’s in our nature to want good things for ourselves—and the grace and blessings of the Father are certainly good things. We spend our praying on the things we need—patience with our children; forgiveness for our wandering; stamina to get through one more week—or day. But it’s in the nature of God to give His blessings freely—to shower His grace on more than those who ask Him. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). And from our resurrected lives we pray for grace on those who least deserve it—the angry boss; the callous “ex”; the enemy whose joy is causing pain. Grace is an “all or nothing” virtue. If we’ve received it, we extend it. And we pray that other undeserving souls discover grace as well. Unclench your fists. Unfurl your heart. Pray widely now. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

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Those who most need grace from us are those who see us at our best—and at our worst; the people who share houses, schools and cubicles with us. They sleep on the other side of the bed, or in the bedroom down the hall. They are the parents who seemed never to believe in us, or relatives who expect us to give endlessly. They work in the corner office, behind the counter, or any of a hundred places where expectations sometimes clash. They differ on food choices, paint colors, politics and faith. In short, they’re near enough to know if grace has left its mark on us, if gospel values of forgiveness and reconciliation really fill the spaces of our lives. They see the choices that we make—to hold our tongues; to apologize when needed; to not hold grudges; to release our claims on vengeance. And they measure our religion, not by creeds or preached theologies, but by the cold cloth on a feverish night, and the love that has no need to shame. Grace can’t be sought from everyone, but can be shared with anyone. “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:11). “Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor 13:11). This is the sum of practical religion—adding grace, subtracting faults. Live the gentleness of Jesus. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott 

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Those who fear that a rich embrace of grace always leads us to be careless about following Jesus only illustrate how fear distorts reality. Grace is not—nor ever was—permissiveness. In the center of the story, Jesus dies upon a cross—because the Father’s perfect law required every sinner’s death, or the death of the only One who could atone for them. Grace is not—now or ever—forgiveness without consequences. Lashed and beaten, Jesus bore the punishment we earned, the wages of our sin. “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isa 53:5). Grace is not—nor ever will be—a declaration by the Father that rebellion doesn’t really matter. If nothing less than Jesus’ sacrifice could make us whole, trust me—no, trust Him: nothing matters more. It’s the deepest proof of the Father’s unfathomable affection for us that He whose law was terribly offended also offered us the way to be restored to Him. And it’s the greatest evidence of our sanity that we choose Jesus, healing, and renewal. Grace is what God says it is—love defeating brokenness. So stay in grace. -Bill Knott

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Jared Thurmon is ardently devoted to God's Word and coordinates marketing efforts for Adventist Review Ministries.  

Dr. Delbert Baker is the vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya. 

Brinda Kiš writes from Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she seeks to serve God through spoken and written words. 

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?”(Psalm 139:7, NRSV) “Searching the Obvious” focuses on how the Holy Spirit is ever active in our surroundings and in our lives, urging us to serve others. Personal stories challenge the reader to be mindful of our Christian Walk, recognize our own fallibility and slow down to ‘search the obvious’, the active presence of the Holy Spirit ever always around us. Dixil Rodriguez writes from Ohio, USA. www.adventistreiew.org

An old—and unworkable—policy from the Chicago trainyards once declared: “When two engines approach each other on the same track, neither can move until the other moves first.” It reads like an all-too familiar description of what happens when we find ourselves in conflict with someone. We stay put; we sit tight. We wait for the other to make the first move toward apology or reconciliation. Just as soon as our wounded pride is soothed and our correctness underlined, we’ll become—we promise—the forgiving persons we’ve pledged to be. It’s marvelously fortunate for us that the Father doesn’t act that way—that He takes on Himself the responsibility for moving toward us when we’re stuck in shame and brokenness. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19). Grace always moves toward pain and guilt and bitterness. It doesn’t pause to grind in wrongs, or tally all infractions and offenses. It seeks the peace for which we were created, the friendship that’s infinitely more valuable than the sum of others’ failures. “Be kind to one another,” the Scripture says, “tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph 4:32). And you will stay in grace. - Bill Knott

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On our best days, we just can’t save ourselves. And on our worst, the story is the same. When all our words are moderate and cheerful; when every deed is generous and sweet; when all our weaknesses recede, and all our strengths are trending up—we need God’s grace to save us from unholy satisfaction with ourselves. And when we’re stuck in bitterness and hurt; when we’ve got nothing good to say about ourselves or any of our peers; when we seem chained to old, destructive habits like prisoners to a wall—we need God’s grace to save us from dejection. The acts that save us all belong to Jesus. We offer nothing—deed or word, good or ill—that makes us more entitled to His love, or threatens His affection for the broken and the lost. “For there is no distinction,” the Word of God reminds us, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:22). Remember now the great unchanging, undeterred, and undeserved love of Christ. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

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Is grace, at heart, believable? ‘Of course,’ you say.  Why not believe?  It’s the noun that always follows “Amazing,” the tune the bagpipers skirl at dawn; the soaring hymn a tenor lifts into a vast cathedral. For some, it may be what the sermon is about, or what we learned in Bible class. But is grace believable at the baseline of our fears—in those tough places in the soul where shame and memory combust to make us cringe again, again?  Does grace reach down below the intellect, the wonderful idea, and heal those wounds we so much never want to show the world? At its heart—and in our hearts—grace offers us what no one else is giving.  Redemption is for real—for all those moments and those years we’ve blown it big and ruined all our future.  “All we like sheep have gone astray. We’ve turned every one to his own way.  And the Lord has laid on Him”—on Jesus, the only righteous one who ever lived—"the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6). It seems too good—too kind; too merciful—to be true.  And so we linger in the half-light of our fears, humming a tune we dream might yet be ours. The hymn has outlived every copyright.  God’s grace is clearly in the public domain. Make this song yours.  And stay in grace. - Bill Knott

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