What we call “the gospel” is an announcement of our true standing before a holy God because of the saving work of Jesus, in whom we place all our confidence. It’s not the same thing as how we feel about ourselves, or an estimate of our progress in living a good life. Our emotions—including our assessments of our spiritual experience—are subject to the vagaries of weather, backaches, or what we ate too late for dinner last night. There are days on which for reasons we can’t fully articulate, we don’t feel “close” to God. That doesn’t mean anything more substantial than that we may be limited by arthritis, sports injuries, or indigestion. There must be—there is—a constancy about the gospel and its grip on our lives that isn’t changed by even our powerful emotions. “By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before Him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20). Jesus is more trustworthy than our feelings about ourselves. His word about our reconciliation to the Father is more true than any word we think or say. In living faith, our lives are hidden with Christ in God. From this deep certainty grow life and joy and peace and healing. Believe His word. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

Note: If you are blessed by GraceNotes, we invite you to subscribe.

It’s certainly part of God’s unfolding grace to not reveal how little we’ve understood until we’re further down His road. At first, we catch stray glimpses of ourselves—ungainly; sometimes tripping over stones; embarrassed, not repentant. We judge that we can quickly find our stride—that we can overcome our slowness by more practice. And then we learn that more is broken than we knew—that all that looked like confidence and legs was our attempt to fool ourselves, defend our pride, and keep our running reputation strong. We cancel all our marathons. At last, we learn how much we’re like that man beside the pool—the paralytic Jesus lifted from a life that hadn’t moved in years. Unless His grace renews our legs and hope, we’ll always miss the road the Saviour longs to share with us. If we knew all our weaknesses at once, and all up front, we might despair that even grace could lead us home. So it’s a mercy that we learn our ignorance and arrogance in pieces Jesus lets us know, accompanied by gentle, quiet laughter. His grace, just like His love, is always patient and kind. So stay in grace. -Bill Knott

Note: If you are blessed by GraceNotes, we invite you to subscribe.

Deliver me, O Lord, from cool and graceless places where the righteous cluster often to adjust their reputations. Save me from gatherings where no pulses ever quicken, where no tears are ever shed, where sinners are not swallowed up in oversized embraces. Keep me from walking into snares where theology is scrutinized, but no one wants to hear of Your tenacious love for me. Surround me, God, with those who know the pain of brokenness—and know how rich Your healing is. Encircle me with men and women unafraid of dirt—with those who know the words of hope. And do not let me stray from them. Appoint my steps to walk beside—among—the hurting and disheartened, for I will call to mind Your grace each time I recognize their pain. Anoint my lips with silence when I’m tempted to compare myself to those who just began their journey. Your grace is how I seek to live—to laugh, to weep, to learn, to grow—among the many You are saving. I want no better friends than those who pray with humbled heart: “Be merciful to me, a sinner.” Then my lips will sing Your songs: my heart will strike a higher key. Among those ransomed by Your love, my voice will be both loud and clear:

            “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me;

            Bless His holy name.”

So may I always walk with You, and stay in grace. -Bill Knott

Note: If you are blessed by GraceNotes, we invite you to subscribe.

Make covenants, not resolutions, as you walk into the year, for covenants give us company in keeping what we pledge. A resolution with no witness is too often just a wish, a good intention with nothing but our declining willpower to make the vital difference. The covenants we really need are bigger than our diets and more urgent than our visits to the gym. We need companions to whom we’ll make the most important promises of all: to tell each other just the truth; to remind each other of how good the gospel is; to continue walking side by side through any guilt or fear the new year brings. Agree with someone in your life—a spouse, a friend, another sinner saved by grace—with whom you’ll travel in days ahead—by phone, by app, by real steps on real roads. Pledge perseverance, not perfection, for walking with another sinner will reveal how much you both need constant grace. And when you stumble, as you will, a hand will lift you up, and brush you off, and help you keep on walking. As this year starts, invite some other to what Jesus now invites you: “Come walk with me: keep covenant.” That’s how you’ll stay in grace. -Bill Knott

 

Note: If you are blessed by GraceNotes, we invite you to subscribe.

The waning days of this old year remind us we ought never walk alone. We need three things to end December: forgiveness for the wrongs we’ve done; the healing of our wounded memories; assurances that we will have safe company in days and miles ahead. The gospel tells us we have all of these in Jesus. His blood alone removes our shame and stains. His reconciliation shields us from hard-earned, high-priced bitterness. His promise to stay with us—in every hour, in every age—gives courage on dark nights, and lifts our hearts when we can’t know the future. By grace, we walk away from sins—our sins, and those done to us through the pettiness or animus of others. By grace, we lose the need to sanctify our scars, or grimly tell our tales of injury. By grace, we stretch a hand into the as-yet-unknown future—and discover, to our joy, that we are grasped and held and loved and valued by the Lord who walks beside us. We dare not make this crossing by ourselves, for we will either fall back into what has been, or hide in fear of what may be. The grace of Jesus makes the new year safe for pilgrims walking homeward. “I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Heb 13:5) Jesus says to all who journey with Him. And for this moment, month, or year, our hearts are light, our spirits high. The road ahead is rich with kindness and companions. So stay in grace. -Bill Knott

Note: If you are blessed by GraceNotes, we invite you to subscribe.

In the middle of the carol, or the middle of the night; when the parties all are ended, and the sales all suspended; when our hearts are warmed by kindness never earned and not deserved—then we sense again the rescue that is Christmas. We were the people sitting in darkness, and on us the light has dawned. We were those aching for deliverance—from ourselves, from our stuff, from our sins, from our sadness. The gospel every Christmas—and each day throughout the year—is amazingly adapted to our shadows and our pain. For “the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5). For once—for now, forever —darkness doesn’t get to triumph. The empty will be filled; the broken will be healed. Eyes and minds will both be opened; icy hearts will start to melt. At Christmas, we recall that He was once delivered, and deliverance always is His plan. One tiny hand is stronger and more powerful than all the tyrants who have ruled. Never underestimate this Child: before Him every knee will bow—not only wise men and some shepherds. At Christmas, we may sing with joy what we will one day say anyway: “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11). Light grows. Hope rises. Grace will have the final word. So stay in grace. -Bill Knott

Note: If you are blessed by GraceNotes, we invite you to subscribe.

I hope you smell the balsam wreaths again this Christmas season. But I pray you also see in your imagination wreaths of fragrant incense rising up in heaven where Scripture says our Saviour “lives eternally to intercede for us” (Heb 7:25). I hope you hear the cherub choirs this Christmas, decked in bows, all shiny bright; but even more, the angel hosts that John the Revelator heard. They sing not only “Peace on earth,” but “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev 5:12). I hope you savor foods of Christmas—pies and puddings, cakes and cookies. But more than all, I hope you hunger for the food that one day soon will fill our mouths at the marriage supper of the Lamb. On a table miles in length, there’s even now a place card with your name on it, a table setting saved for you. Christmas is one story of the grace that fully, finally saves us. As we grow up into Christ, “who was, and is, and is to come” (Rev 4:8), we find news gifts, great passions, and fresh reasons to rejoice. Oh come, let us adore Him. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

Note: If you are blessed by GraceNotes, we invite you to subscribe.

We trade our gifts on Christmas Eve, or Christmas morn, or some convenient holiday. We wait to see a grateful smile, or wide-eyed wonder on a child’s face—all quietly aware our turn is next: the next gift will be handed us. And though this pageant brings us joy, and warms our hearts, we dare not say it represents the gospel, even though it’s full of gifts. Our calculations typically are tuned to give of equal value. We won’t embarrass others with extravagance that they can’t match, nor do we like the debt we feel when we receive “too much.” But heaven gave extravagantly when heaven gave us Jesus. He came with nothing in His hands but everything—all riches—in His heart. His greatest joy is in our joy—and in our inability to trade Him anything in return. Grace is a gift we cannot earn, and don’t deserve, and can’t repay. We don’t make things “even” by obedience, or costly sums, or kindly deeds that lessen obligation. He who “owns the cattle on a thousand hills”—and all the hills—isn’t seeking reciprocity. Accept the gift. Embrace the Child. Be overwhelmed with joy. And stay in grace. -Bill Knott

Note: If you are blessed by GraceNotes, we invite you to subscribe.

Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor of Adventist Review and editor of KidsView magazine.  www.adventistreview.org

Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor of Adventist Review and editor of KidsView magazine.  www.adventistreview.org

Load more